You’ve deconstructed and deconverted and haven’t been in a church in years, except for weddings and funerals. You’re pretty clear on your beliefs – or lack thereof. So is it possible that the old programming is still impacting your daily life?
Absolutely. Here are several ways you may be seeing this stuff show up long after you’ve gone heathen.
- Weirdness about sex. Yes, let’s get this one out of the way, since it’s probably the most obvious. If you grew up within purity culture, and/or you’re one of us queer folk, you spent your whole youth being told that your natural thoughts and desires were sinful and wrong. Now you know intellectually that this was bullshit. Great! But sex isn’t exactly an intellectual experience. That programming runs deep. So, you might have some problems letting go in the moment or being fully present when you’re connecting physically with your babe.
- Perfectionism. Were you a member of one of those communities where there was a lot of “accountability?” A.K.A., everyone monitoring each other’s behavior, calling each other out, and the expectation of public (often tearful and dramatic) repenting? That’s a terrible way to live, when you feel like you will be publicly shamed any time you screw up at all. It’s actually a contributor to religious trauma syndrome. But even if you don’t have that severe condition, you can still suffer from anxiety and fear of making any sort of mistake.
- Gender rules and roles. You now know that gender is not simply a binary and you no longer believe in complementarianism. But underneath that understanding, you may subconsciously be judging yourself by outdated internalized sexist rules. This can look like body shaming, unfair expectations about parenthood, career goals, finances, or even expectations about who does what at home.
- Can’t say NO. Did you know? It’s okay to say no to people you care about. But it might not feel okay at all. Many religious communities hammer it home that we always have to help one another. There’s nothing wrong with helping. But I find that a lot of folks have this so ingrained that they can have a hard time prioritizing their own wellbeing. People will always ask you for help, for your time, your energy, money, etc. It’s your job to choose the limits. But you might not have been allowed to have limits before, so this can feel very uncomfortable.
- Pleasure without guilt. Now, some people will go off the hedonistic deep end when they leave religion, of course. But, not everyone. And I’m not even talking about orgies and drugs. I’m talking about just allowing yourself to enjoy regular life things for the sake of enjoying them. To let that be more important than other priorities, without guilt, some of the time. For example, to allow yourself a slice of chocolate cake without telling yourself it is “bad” or you are “cheating.” Or taking a day off, for yourself, to rest, relax, or play, without guilt. This is often difficult when we are raised with rigid work ethics, and control-based values, where pleasure, rest, fun, and indulgence are associated with sin and weakness.
And it doesn’t end here, does it? Of course not, we are just getting started. If this is resonating with you and you’d like to dig deeper, let’s chat.