There comes a time in many people’s lives when the religion of their birth no longer works for them. Whether it is a philosophical or ethical decision, an excommunication or family issue – leaving a religion can be one of the most traumatic experiences of life.
This is especially true of religions that are fairly closed and insular, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the LDS church. Studies have shown that leaving these “high-cost” or “new religious movement” religions frequently coincides with poorer health (Scheitle & Adamczyk, 2010), familial breakups, loss of trust in social institutions, and a short-term drop in faith (Buxant & Saraglou, 2008). A member who leaves the fold may be faced with pressure from family and friends who remain active. Their spouse may divorce them. They may suddenly find themselves without the tight support network, religious position, sense of identity, and underlying faith that may have defined them in the past.
If you are going through this now, you already know the bad news. Here is the good news: Despite these traumatic experiences, research does show that ex-members tend to re-adapt to life, and that many of the destructive effects of leaving a religion are only short-term (Buxant & Saraglou, 2008).
So – what can you do to get through this transition period before you feel comfortable in a spiritual belief system that is authentically yours?
Here are some ideas:
Rose Rigole is a psychotherapist in private practice in Costa Mesa and Los Angeles, California and is currently accepting new clients. She can be reached by telephone at (424) 571-2273, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via her website at http://www.counselingsocal.com.