Converting Towards a Faith
Converting to a new religion is a difficult and sometimes seemingly daunting process. It is common for many people who convert to experience an initial "honeymoon" phase -- spiritual experiences have been wonderful to feel, and new community has been welcome and life-changing. As time passes, however, the adjustments and expectations can weigh heavy. People may question the process they began. They may feel betrayed by the initial ideals or understandings they assumed would be in place. Simple concepts become more complex. There is a new culture to assimilate to, new expectations and responsibilities to live up to, and new doctrine to understand and contemplate. They may have lost family and/or friends along the way who did not support their conversion process; if not lost, maybe significant relationships have shifted in some profound way. This last part can be particularly devastating and heartbreaking.
Change is just hard – even when the change is overall a positive one, and one of choice.
Some options one can consider:
Have patience for yourself and the process. Don't expect too much too soon. Understand that adaption periods are normal and necessary.
Create good boundaries, even with well-meaning people, as to how much you can offer the new community.
If you have traditions, beliefs and/or practices that you still find useful from a prior faith, continue to integrate those in your daily life in ways that you still find meaningful.
Reach out to the support networks that are built into the organizing structure you have joined. Most churches and communities have programs that are meant to help new members adapt. Speaking directly with the ecclesiastical leaders can also help someone make sure feelings and needs are understood. This takes the risk of vulnerability and yet can be effective in getting the support that is needed.
Be patient with loved ones who have rejected your choice. Often with the time they need to adjust to a process they felt initially threatening or unwelcome, they will be more accepting.
Work with someone professionally, like a life coach, who can offer you support through an initial transition phase.
What types of things have readers found helpful as they converted towards a new belief system and community?
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST has been in practice as a mental health professional for over 20 years, primarily working with issues of relational health, faith transitions and journeys, and sexuality. She writes a blog called "The Mormon Therapist," and hosts the podcasts "Mormon Mental Health," and "Mormon Sex Info."