2. Have you personally experienced spiritual trauma or do you just study it?

For those who may have interest, My Story is under the tab About Spiritual Trauma Recovery. It is a bit long, and in all honesty, it took a fair bit out of me. I was kind of scared to put it OUT THERE, and yet, I knew that there were a number of people who had been spiritually abused and/or traumatized. I had been inundated with the message(s) of “you’re just bitter with the church,” “you’re making it up,” “it couldn’t have been THAT bad,” among other things. I gave up talking about it, although I was pretty grieved with the whole thing. I sought out counselors (sadly, some of the counselors said those messages), and some helped more than others. Now that I am in the field of psychotherapy, and have been for a while, I have developed a stronger discernment as to which counselors are good and which are not so good.

Because the topic is taboo to discuss, even now, there are few, if any professionals trained in this. There are probably fewer of those who have actually experienced this. When I was healing, I had to assemble a bunch of different treatments, as I felt comfortable, and find what worked (and for how long) for myself. As I began to work with others, and heard a lot of “I failed recovery” or work with some people who had experienced a form of spiritual trauma (heavy on the shunning and manipulation if one didn’t toe the line on “truth”), we worked together on finding ways to build trust back in themselves (many times I heard, and still do, that people who have been spiritually traumatized feel like they were duped, and they should have known better), building trust in others, in churches or like institutions, and sometimes even God, if these were issues which they wanted to consider. We also worked on controlling anxiety or rage surrounding having to encounter church, religion or spirituality with family members or friends who enforced a “superior spirituality” and were manipulative or just unpleasant to be around. There is a lot of grief and loss of family, friends and just a sense of community, as well as a sense of identity.

There is usually a lot of talk around reconciliation and forgiveness. I am of the opinion that it isn’t always necessary to forgive, and one can forgive some parts and not others, and not completely implode. Reconciliation is a whole different concept, and not as interrelated as one would imagine.

I make every effort not to broad-brush a group of people who hold a given set of beliefs, as I was on the other end of a broad-brush myself. I know some wonderful, kind, compassionate and loving people who hold a set of beliefs that I just can’t wrap my head or heart around. I know some people who are just awful, and they share my belief system entirely. And, as the old adage goes, it isn’t what you say, it really is how you say it, and how someone says something usually carries more weight than the verbiage alone. Actions do speak louder than words.