The Circles practice was developed after an assessment of the SSA/LGBTQ Mormon community that was part of the investigative research behind the documentary film Far Between that portrays what it means to be SSA/LGBTQ and Mormon.
In the research, it was found that while there were plenty of opportunities to socialize with like-minded individuals in the various Mormon SSA/LGBTQ support groups, there were no formal settings for individuals to directly process their experiences, feelings, and beliefs regarding their sexual/religious conflict in a focused yet open-ended manner (outside of interpersonal and group therapy settings which tend to have multiple factors limiting access, i.e. cost, location, etc). The over 300 interviews for the documentary also revealed that while the most common advice given to SSA/LGBTQ Mormons was to “trust yourself”, many felt that either they didn’t know themselves well enough to trust themselves or they had learned to distrust themselves because they felt one of their most fundamental impulses (sexual orientation or gender identity) ran contrary to gospel teachings.
Additionally, because the larger scientific and religious communities still do not fully understand all the variables at play in the human experiences of both religion and sexuality (the phenomenological, psychological, biological, genetic, environmental, etc.) there is an urgent need for a self-discovery practice that helps individuals find – for themselves – the healthiest way to live as an SSA/LGBTQ Mormon that’s based on both empirical data and self-knowledge.
The core concepts underlying how the Circles practice functions are drawn from principles developed by theoreticians and mental health professionals such as Steven Hayes, Parker Palmer, Brene Brown, Lee Beckstead, Dan McAdams and more. The Eight Fundamental Questions at the heart of the practice, arose out of the over 300 interviews for the Far Between documentary. After processing the interviews to reveal the patterns of behavior and thought, the eight fundamental questions percolated to the top as the most salient and pivotal to understanding who we feel we really are and how we manifest it in our lives or in other words, how and why we choose to live our lives given the similar set of circumstances (i.e.: same-sex attracted and Mormon).
The purpose of the Circles of Empathy is to help you find clarity about who you are and how you want to live your life, personal agency to live the life you desire, and resilience to bounce back from set-backs. Ultimately, with the Circles of Empathy practice, you can find hope to achieve peace with all the things you care about most: your basic humanity, your relationship to family, your identity and potential as a child of God, how you treat others and how they treat you, and what it means to you to be a disciple of Christ.