Navigating the uncharted paths leading away from Mormonism is a rigorous stroll through the park at best, and a disastrous, life shattering crash course at worst. Identifying and knowing the potential pitfalls, potholes and cliff edges can help to avoid or minimize the damage these threats pose. Below is a list of pitfalls I have identified through both my own journey and other fellow postmos. Each threat is also reviewed in more depth below the list. Please feel free to add any additional pitfalls or thoughts.
Potential Pitfalls in the journey out of Mormonism
1. Disclosing too much, or too soon
2. Identity Crisis (yours, and theirs)
3. Missionary Efforts
4. Not being present
I believe that we ultimately only have power and control over ourselves, and even that is limited. Because of this, I approach this subject from the point of personal responsibility and control. It's easy to be in the game of blaming all of our problems on others, whether there's any truth to it or not. While the philosophy and approach I describe in the paragraphs to follow may be less conventional, I hope you'll find it useful for yourself or others as you continue this journey.
Disclosing too much, or too soon
When I first discovered that the church wasn't true, I was excited and rushed home after work to tell my wife, with little to no thought on how that might affect her, or our relationship. Fortunately, my wife took it well and has since embarked on her own journey away from Mormonism. However, that is probably the exception and not the rule. Far too often this news sends our family running to dig in their heels or down some other path we hadn't anticipated or desired.
Whether it's your spouse, kids, parents, extended family or friends, breaking this news too soon, or with too much detail, could put you in a place you didn't want to be. I believe there is some wisdom in the saying, "what they don't know, can't hurt them". This isn't to say we shouldn't ever tell them anything, but being the ones with the knowledge leaves the responsibility on us as to what we feel others are capable of dealing with, not that we can control their reaction, but anticipating to the best of our ability what their reaction will be and how to direct their reaction in a more positive direction. Communication is nearly instant in this digital information age and once anything is disclosed to anyone, be prepared for that disclosure to end up everywhere. By anticipating and limiting what we communicate to both what we feel others can handle, and with what we are prepared to deal with, we can somewhat minimize the pitfalls that disclosure can threaten us with.
Identity Crisis (Yours)
In Mormonism, we are conditioned to identity ourselves very much by our beliefs. When our beliefs in Mormonism collapse, it can feel like our very identity and self is collapsing and dying with it. Anything from our beliefs in Mormon teachings, to Jesus, to God may all now be up in the air, if we choose them to be. This is where we can manage the collapse so that we don't end up in the rubble along with our now defunct beliefs. Take the collapse of beliefs one at a time, when you are ready to face each fear and hurdle respectively. You can wait until the dust has settled from the great and spacious building before investigating whether Jesus is still your savior. Whether God exists can come even later. Learn to trust yourself and face these challenges at your own pace.
Just as importantly as managing the rate and extent of your collapse of beliefs, is to formulate your new identity less by beliefs, and more by your inner self and nature. The most dangerous beliefs are those which become inseparably integrated with one's identity. Should these beliefs ever be challenged, it will fill as though your very self and world is being challenged. So have your beliefs, but keep them at arms length from your core identity. In this way, you can drop and adopt beliefs and suffer little to no consequences. I'm not just talking about spiritual or religious beliefs, but any and all beliefs that are formulated from external influences, past, future or present. Your core identity shouldn't require any external factors to be true for you to be at peace. For example, your new identity of self shouldn't be based on a belief that your TBM spouse needs to leave the church with you. Keeping all of these beliefs at arms length will place you on a much firmer foundation with little to no threats to upset your peace.
Identity Crisis (theirs)
Because Mormons base so much of their identity on external (church) beliefs, their identity will be threatened just by you disclosing your disaffection and exit. Your spouse and family's identity of an "eternal family" will be shattered, as now they may no longer qualify for the highest degree of heaven, and you will no longer be among them either way. Respecting how much we can influence this collapse of identity in others, will hopefully help us be more gentle in how we approach them and maintain these relationships. Be ready to give lots of assurance to your spouse, family and friends that you still love them, that you are still a good person, and that you don't plan on leaving them. This can soften the crisis of identity they are facing and help create a new normal.
Ours, not theirs. Too often when we discover the fraud and truth about Mormonism, we think we'll be able to help others see what we see. While there may be some in our circles who are open enough to see it, the majority of them will not be. If the student isn't ready, there isn't a teacher in the world that can get them to see it. Until their need to know the truth is greater than their need to stay comforted, our efforts to convert them will be mostly counter productive at best and permanently damaging to our relationships at worst. If and when they become ready, they will come to you or others who can provide the guidance they need. Your best tool in helping anyone is to be your peaceful, authentic self. The peace you emanate will say more about where you are in life than anything you can put in front of them.
Not Being Present
We have all probably heard the saying, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but Today is a gift, that is why it is called present". Where ever you may be in your journey, make sure you take time to be present and find peace in what you are going through right now. Just like a roller-coaster, sometimes you'll be experiencing thrilling bumps and other times frightening drops. But in each of these times, if you focus on what is in front of you in this moment, you will likely discover that all of the power you need to face your challenges is there when you need it, right now.
Don't dwell too much in the past, as doing so will only give it power to upset you right now. The past can be helpful when reviewing or applying a lesson learned from it, but otherwise it is just distracting you from being fully present and at peace right now.
As for the future, unless something needs to or can be done in this moment to plan or prepare for it, let it be. It will get here soon enough, and when it does, that will be the only moment that you really have power to navigate it; when the future becomes Now. If you can't be at peace and fulfilled in this moment, you cannot hope for the future to save you and bring peace to you. When the future becomes now, it will no longer be the future. Unless you learned to be at peace in the moment previously, you'll still be looking for some other future event to bring that peace and fulfillment. Whether that is your spouse or family leaving the church, your family accepting you the way you are, or some other goal, if you can't let it go and be at peace right now, with each breath and passing moment, you likely won't be at peace if and when any of these other goals happen. Your spouse may never leave the church; your family may never accept you. If you continue to base your identity and peace fulfillment on external sources, you'll likely remain in disappointment. Put peace and happiness where control exists, within you, in this moment. All that you have ever needed to be at peace has always existed within you, but only in the moment.
Please share your own pitfalls and thoughts.