Paul Duane Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is a sexuality and relationship coach as well as a licensed clinical professional counselor with a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Boston College. She did her doctoral dissertation on LDS women and sexuality. And on today's episode, we discuss everything from high-waisted mom jeans, to God's wife, to the power of lipstick, and everything in between.
You know, there's something about this business of letting the body lead the mind and how you put on a certain outfit. It can kind of modify your mind and your behavior. Do you see that?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife One hundred percent. Oh, yeah, absolutely. It's partly why I like being dressed up. I do it more than the normal person out there because I like it and I like how I feel and I like how I engage in myself. So I agree with that.
Paul Duane Love that. That's fascinating because as a kid it's easy to resent having to dress up to go places. But then as an adult, you start to realize there's actually something to that.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife There's value in it. I was talking to my mom and sister about this last night. My mother-in-law was telling me when she was a kid, she would dress up with gloves and a hat and get on the train and go into San Francisco with her mother to go shopping. And every one that was in the stores was dressed up. It was an event and it highlighted it as special. And she was saying how we just don't have that in society anymore. It's one thing if you have to always be dressed up, but it's another thing when you kind of never get to be.
Paul Duane I totally agree. It's interesting to see how the tables have turned on that.
You posted something on Instagram this morning that I thought was really, really interesting, and I'll read it to the audience: "A lot of us are terrified of pleasure. We think that righteousness and spirituality are antithetical to pleasure. Being anti-pleasure is as anti-spiritual as indulgent pleasure is." I thought that was really interesting because Mormonism and a lot of other Christian belief systems have this thing about demonizing sensuality and pleasure and things like that. I've been curious to hear you unpack that a bit more about our relationship between sensuality and spirituality.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife So this is something I've been thinking about more lately because I'm working on a book around this topic. It goes back all the way to Freud who talked about the id and the ego and the superego. When we're young in our development we don't have much ego, which is a sort of integrated self. We vacillate a lot between the id, which is this kind of indulgent pleasure, and the superego, which is about should and expectation and the denial of pleasure. And we equate the denial of pleasure to being a good person. So there's something primitive and I don't mean it's just religion that does this to people. It's kind of early developmental where it feels like those two realities are in competition with one another, that you're either out getting what you want, eating too much ice cream, or looking at naked ladies. Or you're living this dutiful, upright life that's devoid of pleasure. And I think Mormon theology and other theologies actually do aspire to an integration of the body and an integration of sensuality and being able to be more human as a pathway to being more spiritual and enlightened.
Paul Duane So you said something a second ago about it being primitive. Do you think that this instinct of having a conflict between those two drives has any evolutionary value?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife I'm not an anthropologist or a psychobiologist even, but I guess where my mind goes is that it can be very protective to be anxious about indulgence. So until psychologically you grow up a bit, to be in an anxiety-based relationship to pleasure or sexuality or sugar or excessiveness, it's probably protective to your overall well-being. And so when you're psychologically immature and still dependent, it makes sense that you would be ambivalent about pleasure. In adult psychological development, this integration becomes possible when you start becoming more at peace with your humanity, more at peace with sensuality, and more at peace with sexuality. But it's not just like, "I can do what I want." There's really an integration of the morality and the pleasure to create something qualitatively different and psychologically you can also navigate it and handle it.
Paul Duane Where do you think people get hung up on this? I was having a conversation with a friend last night who was sharing her journey on this very path of coming to a place of integration and being in relationship with her sensuality and her experience of pleasure. And it seems that that's a common speed bump. And so what do you think? What is that speed bump for most adults?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, I think there are at least a couple that comes to mind, and there may be many more that I'm just not thinking of yet. First of all, most people get handed a tradition and ideology around sensuality and pleasure that's very unhelpful. Both men and women do. I wrote my dissertation on LDS Women and Sexual Agency and I was looking at gender role ideology and how it impacts women's ability to be integrated sexually. And working with a lot of Latter-day Saint men I see a lot of negative impacts around the messaging and being at peace with one's sexuality and sensuality. So a lot of times well-intended teachers and parents, or parents who themselves are very anxious about sexuality, are handing down the same frame that they're stuck in because they can't see their way out of it. So there is clearly that piece that people are explicitly linking this denial of sexuality and pleasure with good. When I think about moral development, spiritual development, and sexual development, people that get caught in sort of black-and-white worlds or authority-based worlds also often come out of homes that were more chaotic or where there was abuse. So they don't trust the world. They don't trust the predictability of their own actions having a positive impact. So they are often drawn to a much more black-and-white authoritarian reality and will take refuge in a kind of rigid moral system.
Paul Duane So because of the chaos they seek something that's very easily definable, then that translates into their sexual life.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Right, exactly. Or, for example, somebody may be sexually abused so they will say, "Just dismiss this entirely." But it doesn't require that level of explicit sexual abuse. It can even be, "I don't trust myself. I don't trust human beings. I don't trust a partner because I've come out of a relational world that's unpredictable, chaotic, or abusive." So they shut down this integration and then they live in a more rigid psychological state.
Paul Duane So you're saying this can happen even to people that didn't have outright obvious abuse in their lives?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Yes, exactly. It's more like, "What's the relational world that I know" because we easily replicate it. And if it doesn't make room for your humanity and compassion for our basic flawed state and celebrate embodiment and sensuality, it's hard for a lot of people to carve a path that's so unfamiliar.
Paul Duane And when you say relational world, can you paint that picture a little bit more in terms of the childhood situation? What does that mean?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, for example, people that come out of more harsh systems grow up with this basic sense of non-safety. So they may know, "don't do this or dad will blow up, don't do this or mom will get really demanding." So they just learn a world that doesn't make room for their humanity. You know, you spill the milk and you have parents who blow up at you. There's this idea that there's no room to be human. But you also go and you expect that harsh world. You may want someone to love you, but you also tend to be drawn to somebody who will be harsh or you will be harsh and you don't expect a sense of freedom. So it's hard to take your clothes off and open your heart and body up and really be at ease when you expect human beings to be harsh and unforgiving.
Paul Duane So, okay, let me see if I'm reading this right. If you had parents that had hot tempers that were unforgiving, that punished you more than you should have been but weren't abusive, but just maybe too demanding, this can make it hard for you to be vulnerable sexually.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Absolutely. And vulnerable emotionally to even create a friendship where you really let yourself be knowable. A lot of people grow up living behind masks, "What do I think is acceptable?" And they may do it to themselves and other people, for example, they will be rigid with other people. So they're also not a good partner to somebody else. They have a hard time being accepting and compassionate towards others. So even though they may get through the act of sex or they achieve orgasm or whatever, there's a kind of inhibition or wall that exists. It's not that intimate, it's not that free, it's not that open-hearted. It doesn't evolve easily because they can't bring novelty and show parts of their erotic mind and self to the other because they're constantly managing, "How am I seen here?" And part of that, "how am I seen" is just human. We all do it. We all start in that reflected sense of self. But if you come out of a harsher world, it's easy to get stuck in it.
Paul Duane And from your understanding, what age ranges are we talking about here? What are these formative years?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife So there's a whole developmental literature around the evolution of morality and the evolution of psychology and relationships. And that literature is based on the most ideal or optimal and the minimal range. So you can't move out of an authoritarian black-and-white world that's focused on your safety much sooner than age seven or eight. Because you're so dependent and young you can't help but be self-centered because your psychological mind just doesn't know another world. But also, this preoccupation with safety is important, when you're seven and fully dependent. You’re tracking what's expected of me and what's going to keep me from being harmed and keep people taking care of me. When you're from age eight to about 18 is when you ideally begin to grow out of this first stage, but 30% of the population never grows out of that first stage. It's really true. They really don't. So they still live in a world that's much more authoritarian-based. They're looking for authoritarian figures. Age 8 to 18 is the psychology of civilization, which can be concerned with law and order, concerned with actions and consequences, holding people accountable, and everybody having a role within that society. Church organizations do a good job, actually, of facilitating the movement from that primitive into that kind of sense of contract with one another, that we all have a role and a place and a job and a duty. It's much more role-based, it's still based on how you're seen by others and you're trying to earn a sense of legitimacy by being a good part of that community and that society. It's a very important stage. And another 30 to 40% of the population will stay in that stage.
Paul Duane Of finding identity in their role.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife In their role and within their group. And many people are married within a role-based frame. You're the provider. I'm the caregiver. You take care of me. I take care of you. But it's more like you're earning a sense of self through what you provide, through what you do. But it's not as intimate. It's more intimate than a stage one marriage or a stage one relationship. But it's still highly role-focused and focused on a place in the community.
Paul Duane So what comes after that?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife When I say stage one, two, or three, I'm putting these in gross categories. So literature is much more nuanced around this. But stage three is kind of the continental divide in psychological development. I work from a differentiation-based frame, and so when people become more psychologically differentiated, they grow out of this need for a reflected sense of self for other people to define who they are. Now, none of us fully grow out of it. We all may long to or want to, but we all are still acutely aware of what others think about us and so on. But how much you define your life and your choices by it is a determinant of your psychological maturity. That continental divide is to move more into a deeper self-reference than an external reference. It is an integration of stages one and two. So it's not like “I'm doing whatever I want because I'm self-defining.” That's more stage one or two where you're rebelling against the authority. But this is more where you have integrated those ideals and those societal ideals and those societal contracts internally, but you're not as dependent on approval. And so you can think more autonomously and choose more autonomously and live up to, to use an LDS phrase, the measure of your creation and to be more uniquely who you are. Because you're not looking for everybody to tell you you're okay. Like when high-waisted jeans came back in my daughter and I were like, "They are so ugly." I was saying, "These are the thing that we wore in the eighties. I hate them." And about six months later, I bought a pair, and my daughter's like, "You're brainwashed." And I'm like, "They're cute." And I know someday I'm going to be looking at photographs and say, “What were we thinking?”
Paul Duane Isn't that funny, though, how that happens? These new trends come along and at first we're thinking, "Oh my gosh, how could that ever be a thing? What are people thinking?" And then, sure enough, a year later.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Right, we've been inducted into a way of thinking that we can't even see. We're so vulnerable to that as human beings, even if you're highly differentiated you still are getting influenced so much more than you know, and your mind's being shaped by your group way more than you know.
Paul Duane What do you believe the root of that is?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, survival. Groups matter to us. In differentiation theory, there are two things that matter to human beings always. And it's a cool part of being a human being, but it's also a source of a lot of pain. That is, we want to belong to our group. It is about survival. How does this group function? How do you know that you belong? How are you going to be protected by this group? Not being unfair to people is part of your own survival because people that are exploitative will usually get tossed out of the community. So we want to belong. We want to know if we have a place. So that's attachment. But then we want to belong to ourselves, to our own identity, to our own conscience, our own agency, our own uniqueness. And those two pieces are always operating. And when we're immature, it feels like they're in contradiction and that you get one or the other. Either I belong to you and do what you want, or I belong to myself and do what I want. But it fractures our relationships. And a lot of marriages in those primitive stages are just in a control struggle around who's going to prevail. So this is my long way of saying that belonging is a safety thing for human beings. If you think about how complex our societies are, there's not a single thing that doesn't affect and shape my life and my ability to survive that isn't highly dependent upon the minds and creations and creativity and offerings of other people. And so there's no getting around that.
Paul Duane So you're saying that your decision to finally buy high-waisted jeans is rooted in your instincts for survival?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Oh, exactly. I don't want people to be like, "Why is she wearing those low-waisted jeans, she looks nasty."
Paul Duane Your caveman ancestors would be so proud.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Exactly.
Paul Duane I love that. So what do you think about this idea? You'll be able to quote it for sure, but wasn't it Freud who talked about our idea of God is really just a template of our parental experience?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Yeah, I think that is a Freudian idea. And I can't remember how he said it.
Paul Duane But it's basically whatever your relationship with your father was is...
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife That's the interject.
Paul Duane That's your view of God.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife That's right. And I think there's a great deal of truth in that. I think sometimes people's idea of God is a step or two ahead of who their parents are. Sometimes I've had people who are in a lot of conflict with their faith or their sense of God write a dialog with God. I have them write what they want to say to God and what would God say back. And it exposes to me the God in their mind, and it's often a very scary figure, it's often like worse than my worst client.
Paul Duane You've read the Old Testament, right?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Right, exactly. And so a lot of times they shouldn't worship that God. They should disbelieve that God for their own ability to be free and to live well. And they need their sense of God to evolve. I think that we often start with that parent parental interject that we put on to God. But the way you live will change your view of what is God and what is good and what is divine. But you can't really understand it unless you're living in a higher way.
I was just meeting with a couple this morning who said, "You've been saying these words, but now I get what you've been saying." It wasn't until they finally stopped participating in their control struggle with each other and gave up the fight, dropped the rope as they say it, and then they stepped into an entirely different experience of the relationship, of sex, and of themselves. Much more compassionate, much more. But you can't understand it until you start to live it. Until you give up the sort of false gods that run your life.
Paul Duane Can we make this a little more personal? Will you tell me about your experience in moving from your conception of God being just a projection of your parents into your current experience of the divine?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife That might be a long conversation, let me make it efficient. I had parents that loved me. I mean, they were imperfect but I did have an idea of a God that knew me and loved me. And that was very helpful for me because when I was in middle school and high school I was socially super awkward. I had hair about a foot and a half off my head because it's quite thick and I got a perm, which was a very bad idea. And I had a scrawny body. And I had these coke bottle glasses. And I was genuinely socially awkward. I mean everyone is socially awkward in seventh grade, but I was really socially awkward. I really was. And so I had this deep sense of not being understood. And so I really was able to borrow the sense of a God that knew me and cared about me, and that was helpful for me. The only problem was that the God that I had in my heart and mind saw men as being more important than women because that was part of my faith tradition. It was also part of my parental system where my father, because he provided and was the leader and was a church leader, made the rules much more than my mom did. And so I believe God loved me, but that men were the gold standard and women were the silver.
Paul Duane So you felt a little bit second-rate in God's eyes because of your gender?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Yes. No question. Because of my gender and I grew up with the idea that men had authority and women did not. And women would defer to men. And men should be loving and caregiving and not be abusive and all that, but recognize that you are weaker.
Paul Duane Right now you're able to be so cogent about that. But what did that look like in your life when you were still there, but you weren't able to articulate it? How did it shape your experience in your life?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, I was definitely highly focused on men. I wanted to be enough. I wanted to be desirable. I wanted to be chosen. And I was like, "This is not going to go well for me." Again, remember the Coke glasses and I'm looking at everybody's high-waisted jeans, and I couldn't afford them. My family didn't have much money. And so it was that sense of I was less than, and I was less than not just men, but a lot of other women who were much prettier and who fit the ideals that I was being offered around what the ideal woman was, that seemed to be fitting it much better than I was.
Paul Duane So did that drive a sense of competitiveness between you and other women?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife I actually don't think it did because I didn't think I was going to win at it. I have to be honest. At the time, I wasn't thinking that way. I think what it really did for me personally was I think it drove me more into an interior life. I think I was trying to figure out, "Is this really the world I want to replicate?" Because I wanted to be married. I wanted to be loved by a man. I wanted in many ways to walk in my mother's footsteps because I loved her and she was a very important person in my life. She was a very loving and kind presence in my life. But I was very ambivalent about taking on her position. So I think because I was also very socially astute, I was really trying to figure out, "What is good and what is right. And do I believe in this idea? Is this really a true idea? Is this really who God is?" And so maybe unlike many adolescents, I don't know maybe adolescents were then thinking like this too, but I think I was really trying to figure out, "What is true. Who is God? Are women really less than men?" And I was not so much trying to get men's attention during that time because I didn't want it because I was afraid it meant I just had to fold into their life, marry them, have their babies, and be subservient. And I didn’t want that. So I just put my head down and didn't try to get male attention and just tried to find a path for myself, which was about me ultimately getting a Ph.D., earning my way through college, and growing myself out of an ideology that believed that women were less than men. It really wasn't until I really gave up that idea that I let myself get married and I married somebody who I knew did not buy into that idea either, but I was almost 30 by the time I got married.
Paul Duane What brought you to that place of letting go of that idea?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, a lot of hard-earned struggle and a daring, starting in my early twenties, to think what I thought and to not keep deferring to what I was told. To think and to believe in a God who valued my honest pursuit more than compliance. And so that's when I started letting myself really think my thoughts. And I believed in a God who could handle my thoughts and could handle them even if they were wrong. And so that there was some room to think about them. And the more I started stepping into what I felt was true, the more my life was opening up and the more I could feel it was true and that I really wasn't second class. I had strength. I had something to offer. I wasn't going to live my life in that way.
Paul Duane So that's beautiful. This idea that there is a God that can handle your thoughts even if they are quote-unquote wrong. That's such a fork in the road. I want to dive in a little further. What was the impetus for that fork in the road? What inspired that for you?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife So something I think I've appreciated a little bit more as I've gotten older and looking back on my early experience, is I had parents who weren't ideologically rigid. They were all in with Mormonism, they were "all in" in the church. My dad served and my mom served. We helped build the chapel here. I mean, in terms of action, we had people in our home, and we were doing all of those things. But my parents weren't like, "You should think this and don't ever question." There was never that. There was freedom to question and think within my family. And so I wasn't afraid of my questions within the context of my most core group.
Paul Duane Oh, that's cool now.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife So that was very helpful. But I also felt like our family was little less than others because there are all these other better families that do believe everything and have testimonies of everything. And so I still felt like a second-rate citizen in the church in many ways because I did have questions. So I decided to go on an LDS mission as a way to really pursue my faith wholeheartedly. To give it everything I had. To read scriptures. To serve unquestioningly. To obey. And to kind of say like, "God, please give me the answer. I will give everything up for it. I really want to know what's true and I don't want to struggle my whole life with questions." And so the short story is I went into a crisis. I obeyed everything. I did everything. I put all my questions aside. But shortly before my mission ended, I kind of went into a full-on crisis of faith and said to God, "This is it. I'm not going to eat till I get an answer. I've worked my butt off for an answer. I deserve one."
Paul Duane You went on a hunger strike.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Yes, I did. And then 48 hours in, I thought, "I'm going to eat just a little bit. I'm going to modify it a bit." But four days into that I really was in what I would call full-on pursuit, like, I needed to know. And on the fourth day of that, I got what I knew was my answer. And it was on Semana Santa in Spain, which is Holy Week. I was watching a Catholic celebration. There's this deep Catholic tradition with floats and people walking behind them, shrouded in black, who've lost someone in the last year. There's just a lot of Catholic tradition and ritual that plays out in, Semana Santa. So I was there watching these processions, and this idea just came to me, that I knew was the answer. And that was that there are false traditions everywhere and it's your job to live honestly and to pursue what's true and align yourself with what you believe is true. And I just knew that's what I had to do. And I wasn't hearing it like that's my particular calling. I heard it and thought, that is true and that is scary. It was scary because I wanted all the answers handed to me and I wanted the safety of it. I didn't want the moral responsibility of having to discern and live honestly. So I knew it was the answer, but I was not excited about the answer because I knew it would cost me socially if I started to own my own thinking. And it took me a couple of years to live that out a little more courageously and to start really leaning into it. But it helped me to believe that God knew me and that it was okay even if I wasn't understood. That living truthfully was the path to good and freedom. And I could then tolerate--and that's the right word because I really like people to like me, I really do--but I could tolerate the invalidation of thinking through and honestly pursuing what I believed was good and true.
Paul Duane So the thing that allowed you to tolerate that discomfort was this belief that God loved you anyway.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Right. It's a way of like integrating a relational reality. Going back to this desire to belong, it was belonging. I carry this very much like, God cares what I do. He cares if I'm honest, cares if I'm earnest, cares if I do the right thing. It's helpful. It's like an internalized relational frame that I think promotes my courage.
Paul Duane You talked on another podcast a while ago about this idea of transactional faith. And I'm hearing you say that you believe in a God that cares if you're good and honest and true and decent and those sorts of things. Can you reconcile the idea of God caring about it with transactional? Actually, let's back up a little, will you define what transactional faith is?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife This is me doing the definition off the fly. And I think transactional faith is my own phrase. But the idea that I have in mind is this vending machine idea. It's more of a superstitious notion of God. It's a way of trying to get control through compliance. So if I obey all the rules, then I'm going to be protected from the vulnerabilities of life. If I defer my agency and wishes and thinking to the system, that I'm going to be blessed for, that and I'll be protected and given a golden path and mansions on the other side. And when we're in that more primitive thinking, that I talked about earlier, that's a very tempting idea. It's a very compelling idea. I don't live in a psychological reality where I think I'm any more protected than anyone else. Good judgment might protect me. Good choices might protect me because of the impact of the choices themselves. But not a god that's rewarding me for good choices.
Paul Duane Will you sort out the difference? So you're in this place now where you don't believe in a vending machine god and you believe in a God that still cares about what you do and still has an opinion on what you do.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Yes. Right. So that's a relationship that inspires my courage for me to be my best self. For me to function in a godly way, i.e. the good. So it's a way of inspiring my courage. But it's not about, "I'll protect you from evil in the world. I'll protect you from hard things." I just don't believe that. I don't think I'm any safer than any other person that God loves--which is all of us--from living in an imperfect world in which bad things happen to good people. And so I don't think that way. The most I have control over is the wisdom of my judgments. And I only have a little control over that because we're all blind to things and we're all blind to ourselves and our own minds and our own limitations often. But living wisely will yield good fruit because you're not having to live in the negative consequences of dumb choices. There is a place for an obedience frame because it at minimum protects you from highly negative impact. It's a good place to start.
Paul Duane Like stay out of the road when you're six.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Yeah, exactly. Don't touch the hot stove. There is a protective aspect of that, but it's a starting place, not an end in itself.
Paul Duane So pardon if I'm asking something that's overly obvious. So I'm hearing you say you believe in this god that cares what you do, not a vending machine god, and not a god who is on the hook to protect you from stuff and a god who's not playing favorites with you or anything like that. So what motivates you to please and honor God?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, I don't know that I think of it as pleasing God, but maybe that's there.
Paul Duane I mean, it sounds like you care about God's idea of you.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Yes, I do but I think it's a little broader than that. It's more because the good is the path to freedom. And what I mean is the more that I live with integrity, the freer my life is, the freer I am psychologically. The more beautiful life is, the more self-respect I have and the more respect I have for humanity. The more self-compassion I have. So it's the only way to live. I mean, there's a selfish aspect of it.
Paul Duane Yeah, it's very practical. What I'm hearing is very pragmatic.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife It's not worth doing this lesser thing. It might feel good in the moment, but then I have to live in the consequences of that. And I want to self-correct. I want to live as well as I can because it's the only way to really live. I see the cost of people living indulgently because I work with people all the time. I see the cost of lacking courage, of not being morally courageous, of just seeking other people's approval. There's a high cost to the individual. There is to the relationships too, but that ultimately is to the individual. A lot of people are polluting the air and then they have to breathe it. They're wrecking their relationships and then they have no peaceful relationship to exist within. So even at times when I'm like, "I don't want to be nice because my husband's pissing me off." But even if I can get it back to, "But I want to be the kind of person who’s fair. And I want to respect myself and I don't want to undermine my relationship because it's a really hard way to go ultimately, even if it feels good right now." So I guess I believe in God and I believe in the good. And I believe that it is the path to true freedom and joy in a world in which there's a ton of suffering. So there's no other antidote. And it's not a perfect antidote. Suffering is still real. And, you know, we're all going to die and say goodbye to the ones we love most and it's unbearable thinking about it. But to live life well, to love wholeheartedly, to embrace the precious life that we live, I don't know of another way to do it.
Paul Duane Love that. We've talked a little bit about the idea of our father figure and how that is a template for our conception of God. But what about mom? What is the power of mother in our experience? Or how does our experience with mom shape our experience of the divine?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, I think we definitely need our feminine divine. LDS theology provides for a mother and father in heaven, but mother in heaven, as I grew up learning about her, was not up to be discussed or understood she was too...
Paul Duane Off-limits.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife To pedestalize to even be talked about. And so there is this idea that even the most ideal feminine is still less than. So that's kind of a painful idea. For me it was. And I remember when I was at Brigham Young University taking a women's sociology course and the professor had some early hymns (I don't know what their origin was if they were LDS in origin or another) that were in celebration of mother in heaven. And I remember as we sang them in class it brought me to tears because it made me realize I was longing for her. And to only identify with the male god and that the ideal was male when I was female, was something I'd done my whole life without fully recognizing the cost to my psyche and self in doing so. I do think about God as mother and father in heaven, as a feminine and masculine divine.
Paul Duane I have a theory about why we don't talk about mother in heaven. God's divorced and there's a restraining order.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife I think I heard Louis C.K. do something like that. It’s pretty funny.
Paul Duane I hope I didn't steal it from him.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife No, I don't know. I can't remember exactly how he did it, but it was something like that.
Paul Duane We only have a few minutes left and I've got 100 questions that I wanted to ask you about. But speaking of the divine feminine. Things are really wacky in our society right now. Would you comment a little bit on what divine femininity looks like in a modern woman?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife You know, it's a little scary for me to start talking in gender roles, and I'll say, why. Because gender roles have been so often used to limit and restrict who people are. I sort of grew up learning to be feminine or to be the ideal female was to be passive, nurturing, and accommodating. Basically, men are the show and women are the backup staff. And so there was a kind of rebellion in me to that idea, like, "I'm going to do what I want to do." Which I think is fine, too. I think it's healthy because all of us are an integration of masculine and feminine to some degree. But what I think has sometimes been lost in our society and in a lot of sexual relationships and within the psyches and souls of a lot of men and women, is the ability to belong to who you are as a masculine or feminine character. So I don't want to over-stereotype. I like a lot of the Daoist notions of masculine and feminine and there is...
Paul Duane The idea that we coexist, that we all have both energies?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife That we coexist, that we shape one another. Exactly. That kind of yin and yang idea. And so the feminine would be more yin energy. It's more intuitive and earthy and emotive and sensual and creative. Where the masculine is more structured and so on.
Paul Duane Was your initial hesitation at my question based on this idea that we have both energies within us and it's a misnomer just to say, "Well, we're going to talk to the biological women right now about your feminine energy."
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife And the more we evolve the more, in some ways, we live up to our preferred energy, but also integrate more of the other side as well. So we become more broader and flexible. So I hesitate to define father in heaven as assertive and relaxed and mother in heaven as intuitive because it kind of pulls me back to a more primitive way of thinking that I don't like. I think that in some ways what has happened as I've gotten older and less dependent on approval is I'm more willing to be who I am and to embrace my natural feminine self. I have a lot of masculine energy too, that's true as well. But I love femininity. I love dressing up, I love dresses. I know that doesn't define femininity, but I'm just saying, it's such an amazing part of being human and there's so much capacity and strength and wisdom in it. And I think a lot of women in this over-identification with the masculine, it’s like this dis-identification with themselves as a way of trying to claim legitimacy. And I feel like I sort of did that for a while. And it's like allowing myself to fully be female, woman, and my feminine self and know that there's real strength in it. And I think when I stopped trying to earn it and just started to own who I am, well, I at least know what it feels like in me but that's different from the next woman or man that is embracing who they are in a strong way. It's when you stop living with apology or trying to be what everyone else tells you to be and you allow yourself to stand in your strength and be who you are, that blesses your life and the lives of those around you.
Paul Duane I love that so much. That is so beautiful. To wrap things up, you know, a lot of the people that listen to the show are interested in the idea of authenticity and living on their own terms and living true to themselves. And it sounds like you had pretty cool parents. They sound like really exceptional people and. And you did a really beautiful job of explaining how that created an on-ramp to your spiritual experience and the way you conceive of God now and your relationship to the divine and to yourself and to other people. There are people who are listening to the show right now who are saying, "Well, Dr. Finlayson-Fife congrats on your awesome parents, but mine were horrible and I'm stuck and I want to live authentically. I want to free myself from these things, but I'm really, really stuck." What would you suggest for people who are coming from that place that see it in you, they know it's possible for themselves, but they're just stuck.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well. Let me see, what's the simple answer there's so much to say there. One thing is that when you grow up in a certain system, you can't see it usually. It's like you're swimming in the goldfish bowl and you don't know another world because it's the one that your mind is wired up around. So any good therapy or good learning process is in many ways waking you up to the system that you grew up in, but also the system that you are participating in unwittingly. So many good clients of mine come by it honestly. They learned a harsh world, and then they are reinventing one in all of their relationships. And they don't want to. It's not like they're like saying, "Oh, I'm setting out to make relationships as miserable as the ones that I knew as a child." But they don't know another way. We use the word faith as linked to a kind of morality. I see faith as courage because you have to be willing to break from the system that your mind finds comfort in, even if it's miserable. You know how to be a self within that. And you still take the courageous path of doing better, offering better than what you received, and therefore getting to live better. A quote from Dr. Sncharch, who is a mentor of mine, one of his quotes that is my favorite, "You don't think you're way into a new way of living or behaving. You behave your way into a new way of thinking." And that's back to the clients I was talking about earlier. It's like they started taking more courageous choices, confronting their own participation in the marital misery, rather than always focusing on the other and trying to get the other to change. They started changing their own behavior, and a whole new world opened up to them. A new way of thinking that they now understood not just in their minds, but throughout their whole sense of being. But there's no other way to do it than to see yourself accurately and act better. Act more in line with your higher self. And you act your way into a wiser ideal, a wiser God. I'm not as invested in the idea of an anthropomorphized God, although I find it easier to relate to that. But I'm more invested in who is the God you worship. It's exposed through your actions. So even if you're like, "I don't believe in God" and you're self-serving well, that's the God you believe in then. That self-service is the name of the game. But that God will bless you through your tortured life. So you want to be careful who the God is that you worship because of what it creates.
Paul Duane It's interesting, this quote you offered from your mentor that we behave our way into better thinking. This ties right into what you did at the opening of the podcast. You put on some lipstick. You said it makes you smarter. Is that what you said?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife I said, that brings my IQ up. I'm claiming my feminine self.
Paul Duane I love that. For people who are really wanting to step into their authenticity more, what is it behavior that they can do that will lead their mind more into this authenticity?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Well, you know, the golden rule is a brilliant one. Do unto others as you'd have others do unto you. If you could just hold yourself to that moment to moment, day after day, you'd act your way into a new way of living.
Paul Duane Wow.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife It's a simple one. What are the things you do that you know drive your spouse crazy and you know it's legitimate? The truth sets you free, but the truth kind of hurts. But what's something you know that you do that's indulgent and unfair, and if you were to stop doing it, your world would start changing? The way you impact others, how trustworthy you are, and how you feel about yourself. It just takes some courage though. And it's easy to just fall asleep again and have your habits take over. But if you stay awake you have a chance, a fighting chance of climbing your way into a better life.
Paul Duane I love that. Dr. Finlayson Fife, thank you so much for your time today.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Paul Duane That's a beautiful note to end on. Hope you have an amazing day. And I really appreciate you sharing all this with us.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife Thank you.
Paul Duane There you have it. Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, thank you so much for your time. I immensely enjoyed that conversation. Hope we get to do that again sometime. There are obviously a hundred other rabbit holes we could easily jump down. I hope you enjoyed the show. If you want to get in touch with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, you can do so in a couple of ways. First of all, follow her on Instagram. You'll find her @Finlayson-Fife. Or go visit her website Finlayson-Fife.com. The easiest thing to do is to just drop by the show notes SocialAnarchist.com and I've got links to her website, her social media, and everything you need to know about Dr. Finlayson-Fife.