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“So You’re Going on a Mission!” Deprogramming (part 1) January 14, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Responses.
Tags: , , , , ,

At last we are at the end of this book.  (The 1968 guide for Mormon Missionaries, if you remember)

We’ve learned how to be a perfect Mormon robot, selling the product, living with no privacy, working incredibly hard every waking hour, not even thinking about subjects that aren’t approved to think about, and don’t forget to smile!

Now she’s finally going to talk about coming back home.

Chapter 23.  The After-Mission Adjustment

I’m probably going to quote more from the book in this chapter than I have for previous chapters.

“While it is possible to come home from a mission and fit right into civilian life again with no problems, most missionaries feel upon arriving home that they have one foot in one world and one in another.  They are temporarily lost, confused, upset.  For some, the adjustment is greater than the disturbing newness they experienced when first they went into the mission field, and it might conceivably last longer.” (pg 205)

This sounds like a description of someone returning home from a battlefield, or a prison camp.  I note that she has used the word “civilian” here, as if the missionaries had been part of a military operation, instead of unpaid salesmen.

“One of the first problems to be faced is the letdown in pace and tension.  There’s been a big rush to get home and see your folks.  But after the first excitements and warm greetings, suddenly there seems to be nothing to sustain or challenge you.  Mission rules, schedules, and routines no longer pertain, yet you find it hard to feel comfortable without them.  If you sit at a dinner table for a few minutes after the meal is over, you become fidgety because you feel that you are wasting time.  If you lie on the sofa to watch a TV show, suddenly you jump right back up because you feel guilty. If you try to stay up late at night, you find you suffer, so disciplined are you to waking at 6:00 a.m.  One sister who chewed her nails all through a movie made a dash for her date’s car the minute it was over.  He called to her ‘Where are you rushing off to?’  ‘Home,’ she replied.  ‘To do what?’ he asked.  ‘I don’t know,’ she replied, ‘I just have to  go’.  This girl was actually so restless after sitting still for 2½ hours that she felt she must immediately be doing something that really mattered, even though there was really nothing particular to be done at home once she got there.  She exemplifies one of the toughest problems: learning how to unwind.  In the mission field every minute counted, and had to be accounted for; every hour of every day was planned and scheduled.  When you get home and have time just to sit down and do nothing, you become nervous and feel as if you’re cheating.” (pp 205-6)

I expect this kind of thing from somebody who has escaped from North Korea, maybe.

“Furthermore, with the relaxing of tensions and responsibilities there frequently comes what is almost a grey emptiness.  You feel that the mantle you have been wearing over your shoulders must have slipped off, and this brings a feeling of guilt.  It is as though you have lost the spirit which you had in the mission field.” (pg 206)

I did some googling, and there’s something called “Adjustment Disorder”, or “Situational Depression”  Wikipedia Link  NIH Link

The NIH calls it “a group of symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms that can occur after you go through a stressful life event.”  Some of the symptoms can include sadness, nervousness, anxiety, lack of enjoyment, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping.  Sound familiar?

What treatment is recommended?  Cognitive behavior therapy, other kinds of therapy, and sometimes small doses of anti-depressants.  You know what isn’t included in the treatments?

“In order to thwart this letdown feeling in your spirits, you must get your mind off yourself and consciously work at staying busy.” (pg 206)

Continuing to subject yourself to what is stressing you out, that’s what’s not included!  The NIH says “Anxiety may be presented as “a signal from the body” that something in the patient’s life needs to change.”  Oh, no, says our author, don’t change anything!

“For example, participate in several phases of church and community work; bear your testimony often; consider yourself transferred to a new locality rather than having been released from your mission and volunteer for home teaching or stake missionary work; go to the temple often if there’s one reasonably accessible; keep on studying the scriptures, for now you have an abundance of time to learn what you could not while on your mission; stay close to the Lord by talking to him each day; write your mission president, contacts, and members rather than letting them drop out of their sight (you said you loved them, yet you never write to them); join a community service organization whose basic goal is to serve mankind.” (pg 207)

So our author’s solution to making the adjustment from an enormously over-stressed life back to a normal one is that you should simply keep yourself permanently over-stressed.   This sounds like the exact opposite of the right answer.  (I will say, I like the idea of the community service organization, as long as they don’t overdo it.  Doing something actually useful, while scaling back the level of crazy busyness, might help alleviate some of the transition problems.)

And you know what’s missing from her discussion? What about the missionary who had to come home early, the one who physically or mentally just couldn’t do a full two years of this nonsense?  In addition to all the other adjustments, they have this big cloud of “FAILURE” hovering over them. When I started googling about stress and returning Mormon missionaries, these missionaries kept showing up in the search as sometimes having real problems.  I don’t see any consoling words here for them, or any advice on how to re-adjust back into the Mormon community that pushed them so hard into going on mission.  They are just forgotten.

Since this discussion has already gotten pretty long, I think I’ll make this part 1, and do another post for the rest of the chapter.

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1. jim- - January 14, 2018

I’ve seen this. They really do look lost. They also run high in continued disappointment because no one still believes what they’re trying to indoctrinate. They come home knowing the LDS church is the only true church on the face of the earth, so why won’t people listen? It’s similar though in other disciplines when you only study one thing from one source for too long. Your reality is skewed terribly and you sound stupid. Your last post on this was funny. This one, not so much. They really act like pow’s but that’s the price you pay being in gods army. Sad And they went out with so little knowledge and their brains are now full.

Liked by 2 people

Ubi Dubium - January 14, 2018

Yes, a lot of this book is outdated, patronizing, and funny, but what the mormons do to these kids is really horrible.

Liked by 2 people

jim- - January 14, 2018

It is a two year sentence of hard time with indoctrination sessions. I’m glad I didn’t serve a mission but it was a stigma faints me from them on

Liked by 1 person

2. Anderson Connors - January 16, 2018

Her advice about how to counter Adjustment Disorder is just horrible. But I know it’s a real thing, and not just having to do with war or overseas missionary work. Even going to a weekend retreat or engaging in something as often as helping a poor family build a house can leave you lost and listless afterward.

Anything that’s high-intensity long enough to get you accustomed to it will have this effect when you leave it.

Liked by 1 person

3. Tish Farrell - January 31, 2018

Recently there was piece on BBC World Service about Salt Lake City becoming the new techie mecca rivalling Silicon Valley. One of the currently successful Mormon businessmen put his success down to mission training – that it made him a darn good salesman. Also lots of bright young graduates there, well set to toe the corporate line as the big companies home in on planet Utah.

Liked by 1 person

Ubi Dubium - February 2, 2018

Yes, if you want someone trained in selling a product, and not asking questions about it or making any demands on management, it seems like an ex-missionary is just the salesman you need. If they can sell Mormonism with a straight face, they can sell anything!

Liked by 1 person

Tish Farrell - February 2, 2018

When I was a student, my mother for some reason arranged for a couple of sweet Mormon girls to come and speak to me while she went out. When we got to the bit about the red-skinned peoples of the Americas being the fallen ones from the lost tribe of Israel, I was reduced to stunned speechlessness (I was studying prehistory at the time) They clearly believed it all.

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