BYU alumnus, psychiatrist speaks on post-mission habits, conquering shame

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Returned missionaries gather in the Wilkinson Student Center to hear from BYU alumnus psychiatrist. Attendees engaged in conversation with Dr. Alan Hansen about transitioning post-mission while developing good habits and conquering shame. (Cadison Carter)

Returned missionaries attended an event held by BYU Women’s Services and Resources and led by psychiatrist Dr. Alan Hansen on Thursday, Jan. 19.

Hansen spoke on the importance of developing new habits and conquering the potential guilt or shame resulting from no longer living at such a high level of consecration.

Hansen is a former BYU student who graduated with his Ph.D. as a doctor of philosophy. He now works as a psychiatrist at the Canyon Counseling Center in Provo.

“I think every missionary deals with struggles when they get home … not having a constant companion to talk to, I felt a lot more depression sink in or self-critical thinking,” Kellie Jensen, who returned home from her mission eight months ago, said. “It’s harder to motivate myself and connect without having that companion all the time.”

Attendees of the meeting, including Alana Bastain, expressed their struggles of transitioning back into “the real world” with their new perspectives and opinions derived from their experience serving. Feelings of guilt, loneliness, lack of purpose, lack of productivity and fear of the future were all expressed by several in attendance.

“When we come home, we can fall back into those bad behaviors and behavior traps and we just sink into shame,” Hansen said.

Hansen shared his experience working with returned missionaries who struggle to find self-worth and confidence once returning home from their missions.

“You get stuck and isolate yourself and then need to learn to behave in a way to stop those old habits,” Hansen said.

Hansen encouraged the returned missionaries to form habits or assess their current habits with the intention of forming connections with those most valued. He said the key is to analyze whether or not habits and actions connect one to their friends, family, God or other valued figures.

Returned missionary Tracy Adams said he was able to maintain his spirituality after his mission by taking charge of his own testimony. Adams said he seeks and finds opportunities to grow spiritually through personal connections, which was heavily encouraged by Dr. Hansen.

In his closing remarks, Hansen said behavioral perfection is not the deciding factor of worthiness. “Be careful with the kind of low-hanging fruit of ‘do this and you’re good, don’t do this and you’re bad,’ and look more towards worthiness as a state of the heart,” Hansen said.

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