Friday, September 25, 2015

Jesus wants me for a "shunbeam"...

There's a guy who regularly posts on RfM who is very witty.  I have to give him credit for the title of this post.  Some time ago, someone on the Recovery from Mormonism message board posted about how his family decided to shun him after he decided he didn't want to be LDS anymore.  And my witty fellow RfM aficionado quipped "Jesus wants me for a 'shunbeam'"... especially funny given that  he made a play on the title of a popular song taught to Mormon children.



"Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam" is a popular LDS primary song...

In the past, I have posted about shunning on this blog.  That post gets a lot of attention, which tells me that shunning is a significant problem.  It's significant enough that I think it warrants another look.  I want to offer some perspective to shunning victims.

While shunning is often done among members of certain religious groups, I think it also happens in other groups, especially families.  It's an extreme tactic to punish someone who has done something outside of a group's norms.  What some people may not realize, though, is that shunning is also done to keep other group members in line.  People who are vulnerable to shunning behavior are usually part of very insular groups and they rely on other people within the group for support.  The only way shunning can be an effective punishment is if the person being shunned cares enough to alter their behavior and fall back in line.  Otherwise, the person will simply fall out of the group.  However, to those who are doing the shunning or witnessing it, it can serve as a powerful deterrent from rebellion.

Shunning can be very hurtful to the person targeted, especially if the victim doesn't have many friends or family members outside of the group that is doing the shunning.  I have witnessed my husband being shunned by his "ex daughters"-- I call them his "ex daughters" because they disowned him, even though biologically speaking, he will always be their father.  I understand that my husband's daughters were manipulated and possibly even threatened into shunning.  I suspect that one of them was easier to convince than the other one was.  As the years have passed, it occurs to me that they are not only members of the LDS church, which encourages shunning when people go astray, but also their mother's very tight-knit and abusive family system.  They may have felt compelled to shun out of fear of what she might do to them if they didn't comply.

Bill stayed in his first marriage for almost ten years mainly because he feared his ex wife.  She had him convinced that no one else would want to be with him and that he was "damaged goods".  She pressured him to sever ties with other people who might influence him, like his mother.  When he finally did break out of the marriage, she got his children to shun him and even tried to turn his parents against him.  He became a threat.  When I came along, I made him even more threatening.  Fortunately for Bill, I am not abusive.

A lot of people think I am obsessed with my husband's ex wife.  Maybe I am.  Although I have since recognized other people in my life who are toxic, none of them compare to my husband's first wife.  I find her kind of fascinating.  It's almost like she opened my eyes to a phenomenon that was always around me, yet I never noticed.

Recently, a woman wrote to Dear Abby about a crazy situation her son is in.  The mom writes that her son "Pete" went to prison for six years and is now on parole for the next year.  Pete married a British woman he met online who works as a "professional psychic".  The letter writer thinks Pete's wife may have borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder.  Apparently, the "professional psychic" has been very abusive and has threatened to get her husband in trouble with the law.  Since he is on parole, a minor brush with the law could land Pete back in prison.  Pete needs help, but is in a uniquely delicate situation.  The psychic also has a daughter with whom Pete has bonded; he is hoping to get them citizenship in the United States.

Abby writes that Pete should go to the police and the emergency room.  Ordinarily, I might agree with her.  However, since Pete has a record, going to the police might cause him some significant problems.  Pete's wife knows this and has Pete under her thumb.  And, once the relationship ends, it's a sure bet that Pete will eventually lose contact with the child with whom he's apparently bonded.  If he's lucky, he'll just be shunned.  If he's not, he'll end up back in the slammer.  I think if I were Pete, I would look for help from someone who couldn't hurt more than help.  Indeed, if I were in Pete's situation and had the means, I might consult a lawyer.  Lawyers must follow very strict rules about confidentiality and may be in the best position to help him extricate himself from the situation he's in now.

Samantha Rodman PhD, another columnist, posted a letter from a mother whose soon to be ex husband had an affair with her best friend.  The letter writer is concerned because a mere two months after her ex left her, he and the former best friend are talking about getting married.  That would make the former best friend a stepmom to the letter writer's children.

Rodman writes that she thinks the woman's husband and ex best friend may be narcissists.  She explains that they may believe that they were "fated" to be together.  I think this is an explanation a lot of people caught up in such relationships offer when people call them out for their atrocious and irresponsible behavior.  I feel sorry for the woman who wrote this letter because she may very well find herself the object of shunning.  Her husband and former best friend are toxic people who are probably as charismatic as they are abusive.  On the other hand, the letter writer sounds empathetic, responsible, and decent... and those are exactly the type of people who often end up on the receiving end of abuse.

Make no mistake about it.  Shunning is abusive behavior and it can be very painful to be subjected to it.  Shunning leaves people in a vulnerable state.  However, I think it helps to remember that people who "want you for a shunbeam" are typically assholes and probably aren't worth your time anyway.  While it may be very difficult at first, the best way to deal with shunning is to branch out and try to bond with other people who are psychologically healthy and can offer support.  Of course, you have to be careful not to bond with someone else who is abusive.  Unfortunately, vulnerable people are like fresh meat to abusers.  That's why many abuse victims end up with others who don't treat them right.  Breaking that cycle is important, though, and is the only way toward happiness and freedom, even if it means leaving behind loved ones who don't see the light.

And remember... it's not a punishment to be shunned by assholes.  That's my motto.

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