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My Experience with Religious Trauma

Trigger Warning. This could be triggering for people who have experienced abuse. Please read at your own discretion & do what you must to take care of yourself.

I have seen many stories about terrible experiences with religious groups. My personal opinion with these religious groups that participate in the harming of others is that it comes from a desire to control & manipulate. It comes from a superiority complex & a shaming of shadow traits within first the leaders of these groups & then the projection of that shadow onto followers & the world at large. Do I believe that all religion is "bad", of course not. I believe that there are groups all over the world that put religion in it's rightful position & live by the principles that they feel are most beneficial to the growth of themselves & humanity as a whole. I believe that most religions have at their very core the desire to help alleviate suffering & bring unconditional love to the world. It is when dogma is attached to religion & leaders do not deal with their insecurities, trauma, & shadow that it becomes dangerous. I personally believe God to be as fluid & multifaceted as the many expressions of itself we see on a daily basis. Not just within human form but in all forms of life.

I know I have a limited view of God & I embrace that in my spiritual practice. Human interpretations of God & his will make it very difficult to understand who or what God actually is. I do not claim to know anything more about God than what my experience has shown him/her/it to be. I am sharing my experience with religious trauma to help others out there who do not understand how people can claim to be of God & yet do some of the most horrendous things known to man in the name of God. This is my experience, my truth, & part of the story of who I am. Take what is helpful & leave the rest.

My Encounters with Religion

Let's talk about my earliest encounters with religion. My grandmother was a religious woman as well as my aunts. We were made to go to church like a lot of kids & the church was literally a half mile up the road so no excuses right? I was never comfortable in that church. I don't know how comfortable I was supposed to be as a young kid. I always felt like an outcast. I don't recall anything that was said or done that made me so uncomfortable, I just was. Plus the issue of having suitable dresses to wear & having to wear slips & pantyhose made the situation worse. I developed a complex about clothing early on in life due to not having clothes that fit me properly or having enough clothing. My mother did her best to keep us girls clothed but I remember always having anxiety about it. This still crops up in 2021 in dreams of me not having the proper clothing to participate in things & having major anxiety about simple stuff that I can just go out & buy now. Anyway, back to the story...I do not recall any trauma that occurred during those years from the church. Other than me feeling like a lot of people knew about the abuse & neglect going on in my home & did nothing to help. It was also something that I had to participate in that I didn't want to.

Fast forward to being 18 years old & having just experienced an incestuous rape. With the history of childhood trauma that I had, this was just another kick to the gut that I didn't do anything about because I had tried before & no one really cared so I just moved on. I had decided I was going to the military to escape & nobody was going to stop me. I wanted to be like my father in that regard, I do not understand why but I did. Before I went to basic training, my best friend started dating this guy who destroyed her in so many ways & we eventually landed back in the church. That's where you go when life busts you up instead of therapy in those days. I followed her there because hey I was escaping the nightmare that was my life & this couldn't possibly be any worse...

My Deep Love of the Church

Folks let me just say that I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THE EXPERIENCE OF THE CHURCH WE JOINED! We were young, full of energy, & hungry for what God had for us. We were free from the sufferings we had endured & were ready for whatever God wanted us to do. We sang in choirs & traveled & I received a lot of relational healing during that time. I felt I had found my place in the world.

Jump forward again to when myself & my friend group wanted to learn more about God & did not receive approval of our studies from our pastor. Long story short we were punished for going to see an Apostle teach about the Five-fold ministry. If you don't know what this is it is the titles of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, & Teachers that the bible speaks about in Ephesian 4:11-13. We learned about it & we each began to determine what we might be & wanted to know more because we felt this was a call to ministry for us, it gave us our purpose.

In what I believe was an effort to try to keep the young energetic members in the church because we brought a lot of excitement to services, the pastor punished us. He removed us from the choir & committees we loved to serve on. We were heartbroken. The next Sunday morning that rolled around. I remember standing in my kitchen & deciding that I wasn't going back to that church. I knew that something was wrong with the way this was being handled. The pastor actually told us that we didn't need to learn anything other than what he taught us. My best friend called me & I told her I had decided not to go back. She said she decided the same.

Word got back to us about a curse that was spoken over us. The pastor said that he had a vision of our caskets at the front of the church. He spoke death & poverty on us. This was so devastating to us because this man had been like a father to us. Up comes my abandonment & betrayal wound & it was cut wide open once again. This was the first of a series of blows from the shepherds we had come to trust & serve. I was also struggling with my sexuality. I wanted so badly to be pleasing to God but I had what I felt to be a sin that I couldn't get rid of. None of my leadership would touch it & we all know what has been interpreted in the bible about the issue so I suffered in silence & developed this obsession with finding a husband who I felt would heal me of my attraction to women. The scripture that I used to bolster this was Proverbs 18:22, "A man who findeth a wife, findeth a good thing." I don't know why I used that scripture but I did (I will write a post about the trauma of this later). Much of this lead to my disillusionment with the church & rebelling against it as I tried to find my way. It took a lot of work to find a concept of God that wasn't stained by what people chose to do in God's name. I am still a work in progress in this area but I choose to live by the simple principles of kindness, compassion, & unconditional love.

The Path Forward

Looking back now I have forgiven each of them because I understand that people do desperate things to keep them comfortable & to avoid pain. No apologies have been given & I personally do not need them. We will experience pain as we walk the road God & healthy self. How we handle that pain is very important. We can choose to no tend to it, let it fester, & bleed on all of those around us or we can take the hand we have been given & play it to the best of our ability. What will you choose? Please let me know your experience with this if you have any. You can comment on this post, email me, or DM me on Instagram or Facebook. I look forward to hearing how you are moving along your path. If you have experienced this type of trauma & don't know how to get over it please reach out to me. Do not suffer in silence. You are cared for, loved, & valuable in this world.

Until next time my friends, I'll see you along the path.

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