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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 07:31AM

I'm nearly 39 years old and I left the church at 21 years old 6 months after leaving my mission. In the first two years after leaving I thought I'd fully dismantled everything Mormon in my life. But I was clueless about the imprint of Mormon culture and how I was carrying it with me into my new life.

Between my super TBM parents (pioneer ancestors, etc.) and their best friends in the ward leadership, I was raised without healthy boundaries. This really left me vulnerable to emotional manipulation especially by covert narcissists and but also manipulation or minor exploitation by lots of other people both good and bad, friends, employers, colleagues, men I dated (I'm gay) and even with internet friends (basically everyone).

I am otherwise a bright, charismatic, independent person who doesn't get taken advantage of in any other way. I was the golden child of my ward and my stake and it was clear to me that I was being groomed for leadership (my patriarchal blessing was insane) which now I look back on and see that it was not a compliment but proof of how effectively they'd hijacked and brainwashed my sensitivity, natural gifts and earnest intentions. It was not until I met a mentor in my field when I was 31 who began to tell me that I really did not need to be so giving, open, and available to people who hadn't earned such access. Before that, no one had ever told me I should not give so much of my attention and empathy; I guess most people are happy to take. That was a start, but because I was blind to the extent of my problem (I just thought I'd had bad luck).

After a traumatic experience with a covert narcissist (almost sociopathic) colleague, I was forced to face the issue. This person had fooled me into believing we were close friends with high mutual trust. She exploited, framed, and gaslit me (truly devastating experience from which I developed a nervous tick which I still have 7 years later) and yet because of her stature in my field, most people believed her.

Because of this experience, I was forced painfully to go very deep and evaluate the dynamics of all the relationships in my life. Since then I've been on a journey (without the help of a therapist, too poor) learning about boundaries. The more I understood about myself and the dynamics of my friendships, I've been horrified at how exposed and vulnerable I allowed myself to be with virtually anyone who seemed decent and good. My TBM parents were so idealistic, thoroughly brainwashed and naive about the outside world, the only rubric they gave me for whom to trust was based on gospel criteria; they gave me nothing that applied to the real world (let alone how to survive church power dynamics should I have stayed on as an adult).

I excelled in school and was very social, so non of the non-Mormon adults in my life had no reason to suspect that I was totally missing critical life skills for how to cope outside of Mormonism. One big downside to having charisma (not something I ever consciously cultivated or asked for) is that people are blind to your flaws (or distracted from seeing them) and it makes it harder to find out what they are since no one points them out (at least it's been my experience)

The deeper I dove over the years, the more I uncovered and I came to the conclusion two years ago that THE CHURCH SYSTEMATICALLY DISMANTLES AND PREVENTS HEALTHY BOUNDARIES FROM FORMING and this is KEY TO CONTROLLING AND RETAINING MEMBERS.

Take the worthiness interviews: boundaries invaded every time, and I have disgusting memories of how upset I felt by the questions that my bishop would ask me. OUT OF NOWHERE he asked me if I masturbated AND IF I THOUGHT ABOUT MEN despite my having given no indication of either. I WAS ELEVEN YEARS OLD. Then, he broke confidentiality and told my father the contents of the interview because they were best friends. If there were a hidden first crack in my faith, with hindsight I know this was it.

My parents also did not respect boundaries. I had to answer any question no matter how personal, no private space or private thoughts. Every hour of the week was accounted for in some way, letters were read before being sent, and the same happened on my mission.

I noted that women in my family had no boundaries and were Stepford-like in their compulsion to endlessly give and sacrifice, never complain or exhibit any needs of their own. It was never enough. It never seemed right to me and I watched my mother age into a shadow and a shell of the vibrant, fun person she was when I was young into an abusive, miserable person. She's a fully automated robot now. ABSENCE OF BOUNDARIES TURN PEOPLE INTO FULLY COMPLAINT VESSELS. THIS IS ABUSE. Stripping of boundaries should always be a red flag.

I'll close my testimony ;) with a plug for the Netflix show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show that I watched only because I adore Tina Fey. I was caught off guard in season two when the show masterfully combines post-cult therapy with absurd, Dada-esque humour. I didn't know I had so many issues and personality quirks in common with a girl who'd been imprisoned in a bunker for 15 years by a "reverend", and it really shook me up. Seasons two and three arrived in my life during the time when I was really beginning to set boundaries and fully understand the trauma I'd been carrying from the Moromon church. Coupled with the impossible optimism of Kimmy and the song "Sometimes the only way to go, is to just go on!" and therapy from a drunk therapist (Tina Fey) boosted me on my journey.

I am mindful of boundaries now with every new person I meet. In the beginning it was awkward as a 36 year old trying to practise incorporating boundaries into new and existing relationships. I definitely saw an exodus of some friends and associates who were revealed as freeloaders, even lost a man I thought I'd loved, but I am 100% glad (wish I'd done it sooner!).

I got much better with practise and I can't begin to express how liberating and freeing it has been. It's opened up a new paradigm for how I see myself in the world. I'm still someone who loves people and cares about humankind collectively, but I know better how to protect myself from emotional grifters and snakes in my job. I can't imagine what my life would have been like had I actually been raised with boundaries, but now I celebrate that I actually learnt to do it at all when I did.

I could go on with the anecdotes, but I think I've established the argument. It's triggering to talk about this stuff anyhow, but I saw a thread on boundaries and felt compelled to share. I hope it helps someone who doesn't even know they need to take better care of their boundaries.

Remember: It's wonderful and good to want to be selfless all the time, and laudable to want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but trust is not something that should be given without observing people and looking out for red flags.

I ask myself: "am I wanting to share my goods, time, work or information with this person because I am addicted to the rush that comes from giving or have they actually proven me that they are deserving/trustworthy?" "Is my level of giving actually sustainable?"

People wait for you to set boundaries, if you don't they will set them; if you are unaware, you'll go along with them and get hurt or be controlled. It's your life, start making sure it belongs to you! :)

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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 07:39AM

I'm now laughing at my typos. One of the best things about leaving Mormonism is realising that perfection is not only not real but also a perverse idea to begin with. Cheers to imperfections.

My mother loved to use that story about sin: "if there is a fly in your ice cream, would you eat it or throw it out?" LOL, now I'd get a spoon and flick it out and eat the rest. Perfectionism is madness.

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Posted by: GNPE1 ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 12:09PM

Ironically. Mormons put up the ultimate boundaries when peers don't go along with the Nazistic ways that their so-called religion manipulates them by coercion & intimidation


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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 09:18PM

GNPE1, what a great observation. I guess I'd never connected the two before. They only boundaries they have are the ones that run through their parasitised hearts. Thank you.

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Posted by: Badassadam1 ( )
Date: June 13, 2018 02:27AM

ExAmmon Wrote:
> I'm now laughing at my typos. One of the best
> things about leaving Mormonism is realising that
> perfection is not only not real but also a
> perverse idea to begin with. Cheers to
> imperfections.
> My mother loved to use that story about sin: "if
> there is a fly in your ice cream, would you eat it
> or throw it out?" LOL, now I'd get a spoon and
> flick it out and eat the rest. Perfectionism is
> madness.

Thank god for imperfections. But FYI there are spelling and english nazis on the board. The badass knows trust me.

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Posted by: Testiphony (can’t login) ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 09:40AM

Nice to hear that you’ve got your head above these significant events in your past.

I’d like to unleash you on my neighbor (annoybor is how I refer to him now). He just couldn’t handle a good thing (that thing was me saying “hello”), and felt it appropriate to open my car door as I was pulling in, so he could be “helpful” and remove my temporary parking sticker.

It was another signifier of his lack of boundaries. He’s vexed that I don’t speak the language of broken boundaries. He’s lost the privilege of me saying hello.

I’ve got the Asperger’s, so my need for strict buffers and separation is perhaps more marked than the neurotypical.

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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 18, 2018 10:10PM

Testiphony, How frustrating for you, especially with the added dimension of having Asperger's. I hope now the boundaries are working for you.

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Posted by: Aquarius123 ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 11:32AM

Exammon, I am thoroughly inspired by your message. You really understand about boundaries. I wish I had realized these things much earlier in life than I did. You are a brave, insightful, and very intelligent person.

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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 18, 2018 10:18PM

Dear Aquarius123, I very much appreciate your kind words. It was empowering for me to write this post and it makes lemonade from lemons to hear that it was positive for you too.

For me talking about this stuff can be a bit of a tightrope, balancing the benefits from talking about it to being triggered to think too much about my anger about how I was treated in the past. I am a fan of the radical honesty that abused and marginalised folks (this includes ex-Mormons) have been practicing on social media in the last decade; I think it really helps those suffering in silence to feel seen and seek healthier paths of self-esteem and kindness.

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Posted by: S.H. ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 11:47AM

Thanks. I needed to read that. I had always considered my family extremely controlling, but everything you say is right.

I really hate being around my family for the exact thing you describe. Really makes me think back to being a missionary and being taught the manipulation pattern. I've never used it since the mission.

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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 18, 2018 10:20PM

I'm glad. That "commitment pattern" is a very powerful tool usually used for evil. I think there are a few things in it that could be used ethically, but generally quite dangerous.

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Posted by: thedesertrat1 ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 02:28PM

With me you only get one chance at confidentiality. If you violate it we are done. I don't care who you think you are!

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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 08:05PM

thedesertrat1, Very wise. I learned early on that no one in my world would keep a confidence. I never felt close to my grandmother again after I shared something non-controversial but private that she'd promised to keep a secret. Within 1 hour my parents had a full download.

I am the eldest of 5 and was closest to the youngest two. My youngest brother and I continued to have good rapport a few years after I came out. When I came out it my parents did awful things to me and I chose to be homeless rather than stay in that torture. I can still remember the exact moment that my chronic PTSD happened right in front of them, at their hands. Ever forgiving and wanting to still love my parents (?!? more like Stockholm syndrome) I caved in to occasional invitations to visit in the years after.

On one visit only my youngest brother was around and we went on a walk. He was about 15 years old at the time. Out of nowhere he asked me when I first knew that I was attracted to men. I told him that mom and dad had told me I was not allowed to discuss that topic with him but he begged me and promised he would not tell them. I love my brother, he is (was?) a very sensitive, resilient, pure soul and I could not deny him. So I trusted him and shared a few PG-rated anecdotes from my growing up. He seemed to really appreciate what I shared with sincerity.

When I got back to my apartment, within 4 hours I received a raging phone call from my mother and father and I was "punished" for at least a year (lol). I didn't feel angry at my brother, only I felt very sad for him that he did not have the strength (personal boundaries) to hold on to the hot potato he'd begged to hold.

70% of the reason I bothered to maintain contact with my parents from 2001-2010 was that I did not want to lose my youngest brother and sister. I loved them so much and felt an almost parental responsibility for them.

But in 2011 after meeting the aforementioned mentor (an amazing independent woman) I finally had the strength to see how my parents were the source of almost all my pain, that they were my abusers. I was 1 year into living with my partner (of 4 years at the time, still together today) and this new-found support and realisation, I wrote them a letter to stay out of my life. It was the hardest decision I've ever made besides coming out, but guess what? I have never once regretted my decision. The fact that I've never felt a single pang of guilt has been astonishing and very affirming.

2011 was the beginning of taking my life back. I can't say that I am not angry at them sometimes, but most of the time I feel nothing in regards to them or my family. Absence of feeling has been incredibly healing and divinely reassuring if only because I did not expect to feel so okay after doing it; I expected to endure pangs of regret but they have never come. I finally escaped the bunker.

I left the door open with my two youngest siblings after this, but they never tried to keep me in their lives, and though I feel wistful over these two occasionally, I know I cannot save everyone. It will always be tragic to have lost these two beautiful souls to the Morg, but saving myself has been a full time job, especially with the hardships I've faced as an adult. I don't guilt myself; I refuse to marinate in survivor's guilt. Boundaries are crucial to staying healthy and I give myself the gift of freedom from guilt.

Funny enough the older brother with whom I was not close when I was younger is now the only person I hear from. He calls 2-3x a year and while he's been in contact for 4 years or so, only a year ago did I finally allow myself to trust that he is not putting up some elaborate front as a liaison to my parents and the church (yes, trust is now something I can rarely full grant anyone, but even this vulnerability I keep a secret as I don't want to give away any of the power to protect myself from more abuse. I think it may be unhealthy how hard it is for me to trust, hopefully someday I'll find more peace in that deptarment, but better safe than sorry)

This middle brother has on paper done all the Mormon stuff, four kids at 32, married a TBM Mormon, but I'm proud of him because since he got married he's been prying away independence from my parents' manipulation. It's been healing for me to share with him my insights on the unhealthy and abusive behaviours of our parents whenever he brings up his frustrations. It gives me some hope to see that he wants to break the cycle with his own kids. As of 2018 he is now in therapy (!) and in our last conversation (without me ever having coached him) called the church a cult. He's doing it and I am really proud of him.

He gives me unsolicited updates on the parents, and though it's very sad, it is deeply validating to hear how extreme my parents have become. Apparently after I cut them off, the doubled down hard on my beloved youngest two siblings and from what I hear they're deeply codependent with my parents and irretrievably TBM Mormons.

As they say when flying, secure your oxygen mask first before you try to save anyone else. It goes against what I was raised to do, but if I hadn't, I'd be dead (no joke).

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Posted by: catnip ( )
Date: June 13, 2018 12:57AM

Not long after I became literate, I began to keep a diary that my grandmother gave to me. It was wonderful, having the freedom to write whatever I was thinking, with no fear of reprisals, because it was MY diary. Until my mother found it.

Moving right along, that was one VERY uncomfortable experience. It taught me to HIDE things. I taught myself to write backwards, in a foreign alphabet. I used weird sentence breaks and punctuation, too, so that it was obviously not just a transliteration.

After meeting my BFF in 8th grade, I taught her my system of writing, and we used it to write to each other - notes in school, when we attended the same school. When we talked on the phone, my mother would insist that I use the phone only in her presence. When BFF and I were in second-year Spanish, we began to use Spanish when talking. My mother went apesh!t and began screaming "ENGLISHENGLISHENGLISH!!" so loudly that we could not converse.

We began a tradition that lasted well into our adult years. On New Year's Eve, one of us would call the other at the stroke of midnight (this always involved coordination - making sure that parental phones did not ring, etc.) and then, hidden in the privacy of our own rooms (we were both only children) we would talk and talk until sometimes three or four in the morning. It was delicious!

It is amazing, how clever you become at deception, if other people insist on being snoopy. Being an adult and having the freedom to declare boundaries is SO much nicer.

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Posted by: bluebutterfly ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 03:24PM

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am the same age as you and only until recently have I realized that my life is full of narcissists. I agree that being raised in Mormonism breaks down one's ability to recognize and set healthy boundaries, leaving us vulnerable to emotional abusers.

Right now I'm in the process of examining all of my relationships too. I left the church 20 years ago, but I was only disillusioned about tssc 2 years ago (learned about the nasty underbelly of tssc). Along with this came the recognition of abuse and toxic relationships. My eyes are opening more and more. I'm seeing red flags like never before in some of the people I've always trusted the most. It's painful.

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Posted by: ExAmmon ( )
Date: June 18, 2018 10:23PM

bluebutterfly, I appreciate your comment and I am really glad to hear that you are already looking out for the red flags. Now that you can see them, there is no turning back. It will be painful, but it's just growing pains. I promise it will get better and the initial pain will open up new doors of opportunity for more meaningful and rewarding experiences and relationships. If you need someone to talk to, I'm here to listen.

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Posted by: Babyloncansuckit ( )
Date: June 12, 2018 08:13PM

Boundary dissolution. Yes Virginia, there is something in the Kool Aid.

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