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RELIGIOUS TRAUMA

Break free from fundamentalism and find your true self

WHAT IS RELIGIOUS TRAUMA?

Religious trauma refers to the effects of growing up or living within an organized, fundamentalist belief system. You may be struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion, and understanding or coping with fundamentalist indoctrination. You may have many questions and doubts about your experiences and have no safe place to explore your thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution.

 

You deserve a safe, open space where you can have the freedom to explore, question, grieve, and rage. Whether you want to find a new expression of your faith, or make a permanent exit from the church, I'm here to be your ally and support.

 

I work from a secular perspective and have personal and professional experience with fundamentalist Christianity.

FEATURES OF FUNDAMENTALIST RELIGION

Marlene Winell, a psychologist and expert in religious trauma, provides insight into 'manipulations' you may have experienced while growing up in fundamentalist Christianity. The following list is taken from her book Leaving the Fold:

Fear manipulations

  • Eternal damnation - you must have acceptable thoughts and behaviors or you will go to hell

  • Apocalypse - the end times are coming, and if you are not raptured you will suffer on Earth for years

  • Isolation and vulnerability - the world is an evil place and life is terrible outside of the faith

  • Shame - people who leave the faith are bad and want to live in sin

Guilt manipulations

  • Christ's death - Christ had to suffer and die because of your personal sins

  • Responsibility for others - you must spread the gospel to others or their damnation is on your hands

  • Sin and perfectionism - you are responsible for your sins, but can't take credit for the good things you do

Mystical manipulations

  • Altered states - ritualized group practices (worship experiences) that induce strong emotions, leading to rededication of faith

  • Interpretation of private experience - positive spiritual experiences (i.e. a feeling of calm during prayer) are credited as evidence of the faith, rather than an outcome of a relaxed state of being or personal insight

  • Symbols, ritual, and ceremony - superstitious ideas about the cross, communion, or quoting the Bible

Denigration of self

  • You are inherently bad and your intuition can't be trusted, so you need God and must accept everything you are taught

Discrediting of the world

  • You must shield yourself from secular, worldly viewpoints, and trust only other believers

Group pressure

  • Expressing doubts is forbidden, you must maintain participation in services and small groups, and you are expected to keep up on personal devotions, prayer, and witnessing to others

The power of authority

  • The only source of knowledge is authority, including God and the Bible, so you must trust and obey

Thought control

  • Limited information - You had no education about other belief systems, and secular media was forbidden

  • Thought stopping - Thinking independently is wrong and sinful, your thoughts must be acceptable

  • Distortion of language - Words are assigned specific meanings (i.e. 'wisdom' means excluding anything that is not a divine commandment) or take on superstitious qualities ("taking the Lord's name in vain")

Closed system of logic

  • All outside information is rejected and everything has an explanation ("God is testing you")

#EXVANGELICAL

A growing social movement is emerging, highlighting discontent within the church. Whether you have experienced profound harm through authoritarian abuse, or you feel no connection to organized religion, you're not alone. 

DECONSTRUCTION

Deconstruction is the process of exploring and breaking down aspects of fundamentalist ideology that were formative during your past or present time in the faith.

Here are a few common areas of deconstruction:

​Purity culture

  • Rigid, binary gender roles (complementarianism)

  • Homophobia and transphobia

  • Shame about your body, sexual thoughts, and sexual activity

  • The expectation to remain pure and virginal until marriage

Patriarchy

  • Male authority and domination

  • Restriction of women and LGBTQ in leadership roles

The rapture

  • Anxiety about "signs of the end times"

  • Worry or panic when others are absent

Hell

  • Fear that leaving the faith will mean eternal damnation

  • Compulsive need to "ask Jesus into your heart"

The Bible

  • The ultimate authority on current and eternal life

  • Infallible and directly written by God

See the services page for a detailed description of my evidence-based approach to therapy.