Monday, April 2, 2012

No one has more authority in my brain than I do

Something amazing happened this weekend... or I guess... something amazing has been happening for a long time, and I got to SEE it this weekend.

I mentioned in my last post that I forgot about LDS general conference. That in itself is amazing. However, there's more.

They tell you to listen to conference and think about yourself. Apply it all to YOU. I used to do that. I didn't listen and think about what someone else needed to hear... or if I did, I beat myself up big.

"Jen, how dare you think that someone ELSE needs to hear this... that someone ELSE needs to change?? Just the fact that you THOUGHT that says that you are not a good human being. YOU need to change! Conference is for YOU. Change YOU!"

So, I'd try to apply every single word to ME. Which meant, if they said "give more to the poor" it didn't matter if I gave everything I could give, I needed to give more. If they said, "be less selfish and more forgiving," I looked for ways to be less selfish and more giving.

I tried so hard to do everything they said to do, and then felt horrible that I couldn't be and do everything.

I remember conference three years ago... My friend Amanda heard that it was going on, and called me from across the country. She was concerned. She was not the first to tell me that the speakers (both at conference and at church) aren't talking to ME, but she said it in a way that made sense to me. "Most of the people in the world need to hear that they could give more, serve more, and think of themselves less, but that is not YOU. Most of the people need a good reminder every six months to think about someone else, because they only do it once every six months. You spend most of your time thinking about everyone else."

She went on to compare general conference to a presentation she was giving on eating disorders to RA's at the college: Knowing that she was talking to people who liked to help others, and were college students, she figured there would be about five people in the audience with disordered eating. She was worried about giving certain suggestions or saying certain things, because she didn't want to say something that would hurt those five. She came to the conclusion that the sixty-five needed to hear what she had to say, and she had to hope that the five would be okay. Her analogy made sense. The leaders talked to the majority... The healthy thing to do would be to recognize that what they are saying is harmful to me, and stay away.

For the past three years, I've known that their words didn't apply to me... I've known that I am self-sacrificing to a fault... I've understood that I would sacrifice myself, my wants, my happiness, my life to make others happy... And that wasn't good... but still, every time I heard someone talk about forgiveness and selfishness and selflessness and service, I went crazy inside my head.

I didn't listen to conference, and it's quite possible that had I listened, it would have made me just as crazy as it always has... but when I heard what Uchdorf talked about, and what he said about forgiveness and holding grudges and loving, it didn't make me crazy.

It made me think, "Am I holding grudges? Are there changes I want to make? Are there people I am not forgiving that it would benefit me to do so?" I thought about it. I decided that there were a few places I'd like to make changes. Small adjustments that will make my life more full. I also thought about BJ's kids and BJ's ex, and I wondered what they would get out of it... Would they think about the way they are treating him? Would they think that HE needed to change? Would any of it cross their minds? I wondered how it would effect others who were super self-sacrificing... would they keep trying to sacrifice themselves in order to make other people feel good... I wondered about some of the abusive people who were listening... Would they use this talk to invalidate and hurt more people?

For the first time, I didn't let some stranger tell me what I should be thinking, feeling, doing. For the first time, I didn't give him authority in my brain. It didn't go in and take over so fast that I was left helpless... I thought about it, made a choice about what was important to ME. I got to choose. It feels amazing... I also got to wonder about the rest of the world without beating myself up. Words affect the people who listen and believe, and it's okay to wonder how the words will affect others.

Sunday night, I went to dinner at my parents and I was happy. Connected to myself and to them. On general conference Sunday. Today I feel peaceful and... happy. On the Monday after conference weekend. This is BIG. And awesome.

(And just to clarify, that doesn't mean I'm going back... It just means it doesn't all trigger the hell out of me. I'm pretty sure my brother said it best when he invented a new drinking game. He doesn't drink, but he decided a good game would be, "Everyone takes a shot whenever they say something that would make Jen cranky." EVERYONE would get pretty drunk off that.)


  1. fantastic...

    Yesterday, I had me DAD tell me that I should be wearing my garments. I'm thirty...something, and my dad is still telling me what underwear I should be wearing. I'm glad you took authority over your brain, it's a good example to me...

    1. It's been quite the process for me... and to have the feeling that they can say whatever they say, and it doesn't hurt me... that is beyond just a bit amazing.

  2. Jen, that is really good news. You're healing in such a positive way, I just really hope those you talked about here would benefit from Uchdorf's talk and quit holding grudges. At least you can, which is the most important thing for YOU, and you'll be happier to be able to move forward.

    Conference always unnerves me, not all the talks, but the self righteous ones (Oaks this time). Getting past the anger is a huge step. Way to go!

    1. I completely get the unnerving feeling at conference. I have literally ran away. (Like camping in Great Basin National Park, because there was no TV.) Running away didn't really help though, because people still shared... and I felt like I had to go listen or read it all anyway.
      I think it's also easier to get over it knowing that my family is accepting... If I had to face family that still used the things they heard at conference against me, it would be a lot LOT more difficult.

  3. Jen, how i love the message here! I struggle with this. I have come far, but the struggle is still there. What a great insight. Whether it is the Church or family or friends, there is something liberating about making the choice of who tells you what in your own brain. Thank you.

  4. I'm glad you were able to come over and eat with us and be happy. I like seeing you happy! I used to think that conference was the same for everyone as it was for me. I grew up coming home from school (back in those days there were 4 days of conference, not 2) and my mom would be listening to conference sometimes taking notes, sometimes doing dishes or whatever. It was a happy memory for me. Then I would talk to people about it and realized they didn't hear what I heard. To some it was depressing because they felt they weren't good enough or doing enough. To some it was uplifting and gave them the courage to do better or be better.
    Sometimes I would hear things and think "that is good but I need to concentrate on this right now." And some (like you) would try to do everything and it would make them a little crazy.

    I am glad you will still come around even though what I hear may not be what you hear. I appreciate that you are open and let us know how you are feeling. You are an awesome person and I love having you in my life.