Wednesday, May 30, 2012

PTSD and Religious Trauma { Part 2 }

My gosh.. what a response to the last post on PTSD and Religion!

Thankyou thankyou to everybody that took the time to share their journey and some of their own resources that have helped them along the way.

For anybody that happens upon this blog in search for help with any trauma from religion, I want to post the comments and the links and resources that were shared

~ Quivering Daughters by Hillary McFarland

I have not read this book personally but many people have been encouraged and the healing process has begun through the words of this book.
Hillary also has a website as well... this post on Spiritual Abuse was jaw dropping.

~ Kathy Escobar has a blog and wrote a whole series on deconstruction. Here is a link to the articles:  

~ Journey Free by Marlene Winell.
Marlene has some great information on taking steps to recovering/healing.. Steps to Recovery.

I had some really amazing emails from precious people walking out this very journey.
Many have asked what I have been doing to walk this out, and I wanted to share some of my baby steps to freedom.
Honestly, it's not very amazing or earth shattering.. lol.
I am soooo not an expert, but I will share from my own life and experience.


First and foremost you need to know that if you are walking through any kind of religious abuse and trauma, try to get in to see a counselor.

It is something that I have done myself in my own journey, and I highly recommend it!
I am not seeing a counselor now, tho I am looking for one.
It feels so good to talk with someone who is outside your situation and can be a friend.
I cannot recommend it enough!

~ When I started this journey 4 years ago, I really needed a lot of information. It was this hunger for truth, and different ways of seeing God and religion.
So I read books and blogs. I listened to podcasts. I needed input and information so badly.. it was like I couldn't devour it quick enough... like a starving person.
I followed my heart, now that I look back... and this is what I needed at the time.

~ As time has gone on, I found I couldn't sit in church anymore. It became so hard to listen to the confusing message being dished out and fed to the people...myself included.
So I stopped going.
My hubby wasn't ready to leave the church yet, so I would try going back with him...and end up not being able to go again.
This cycle has happened so many times.. it's funny now that I look back.
But as of recently, I decided to stop putting myself in that environment.
Because for me, it is toxic.
And it re-opens wounds that God is healing.
I have given myself permission to not attend church with my husband. It goes against every " good wifey" act of selflessness in me.
But it truly is NOT being kind to myself, it is inhibiting to the healing process that I have been in, so I am not. going. any. more.

~ I allow myself to feel.
Feeling was not something I was allowed to do growing up or as an adult. Tho I know this was a "family" thing, I feel it also is engrained in religious culture.
To feel is to be carnal.. is to be to be NOT ok with God.
So I didn't feel. I shoved it all down. And put on a smile.
Weeell, depression and angst and addiction later, I have decided to stop stuffing my emotions and feelings and let myself FEEL :)
It's good. It's right. It's what we are meant to do with emotions.

~ I journal.
Emotions come up, I write them out.
Author Paula Rinehart says, "Pen to paper.. Spirit to soul." Meaning there is no greater way to connect to your heart then to write it out. She really believes there is a great connection from pen to heart. I so agree.
So many times I will be writing out my feelings, and woosh.. in comes these beautiful, healing thoughts of love from God. No joke. He will encourage me and speak to truth to me, and there I have it right on my little piece of paper.

~ I purposefully surround myself with people on the same journey... friends who are seekers and lovers of Truth.
There will always be people in your life that you can't help being around.. like family per se.
But even family needs to have it's boundaries. I have stepped way back from alot of my family.
This time is a tender and precious time, and if being around alot of family causes you to take two steps back in your healing, then I say don't do it.
You are loyal to God and to yourself first and foremost, then to your spouse and children.
All others you are not.
Being loyal for loyalties sake at the expense of your own heart is utterly toxic. You might as well be being served poison by that person, and out of loyalty drinking it.

I do continue to read books and blogs... and listen to podcasts here and there.
But it is under one condition.

"Does this bring my heart life or death?"

 That is all I have to share right now... after you have read this, please take a moment to read the comments on these posts.. they are so rich in wisdom and love. Truly priceless!
I am so incredibly blessed and grateful for you and all you take the time to share.

Please continue to encourage each other and share what you do or have done to heal. 
Resources? Books? Steps?

xo Amy

Monday, May 21, 2012

PTSD and Religious Trauma

So… I want to talk about PTSD.
Especially the kind of PTSD that comes when a person has been raised and marinated in severe and strict fundamental Christianity.
I would really love to open up a conversation with anybody that would like to share on this.
I know some of my sweet blog friends just turned their head and raised an eyebrow after reading that sentence…. so it’s YOU that I would love to hear from. :)

Here is a list of PTSD symptoms.
Some new terms for this when religion is involved are Religious Trauma Syndrome or RTS.

I will share some of my own experience that has gotten my gears churning and gotten me wondering about this phenomenon.

It seems every time I start to step into a groove of living in peace and freedom in my journey with God,  I will have some kind of trigger bring a rush of fear, utter terror and doubt…

Whether it be I bump into a Christian friend who will start spouting off Christianize and all the "law" teachings of today's Christianity, or I go check out a church with my hubby, and the pastor starts spouting off law, law, law from the pulpit… or even if I just happen upon a article and read a article that has the same verbiage as I heard growing up in the church... whatever it may be!
You get the picture. It IS going to happen.. it’s life. And Christianity IS every were… I mean, I am a Christian for goodness sakes.
Just not THAT kind of Christianity!

These events seem to trigger some sort of "old thinking" in me.
And a voice inside my head that is critical and religious.
I am flooded with fear, doubt, and total terror that I am official on my way to hell.
That I have got God ALL wrong, and that He really is like what this passionate preacher is telling me He is like.
That I am just one, and look at aaaaaall of these people sitting here, believing what this pastor is preaching... they are so many, and therefor must know something I don't...
I must have it all wrong. I must have GOD all wrong.

And on and on and on the voice goes…

I call these times "hauntings"... and that is exactly what they feel like... being haunted!

My upbringing for my formative years was very religious…

I remember as a little girl wanting to please God so much. I would pray in fear every night and confess every sin I could think of so that if I died in my sleep, I would go to heaven.
My dad was a pastor, and for the sake of the ministry, my family had to keep quiet and keep secrets as to not upset the reputation of my family. Devastating secrets like molestation, incest and adultery.

And if we even dared talking about any of the family secrets we were shamed.
I was raised to distrust people. They couldn't handle any kind of personal information... never have "sheep" as friends. They will only hurt you and use the information against you.... you won't be a strong leader in their eyes if they know your struggles.

The teachings my heart took in were teachings of an angry God that could not look on me because of my grotesque sinful state. It was only through His Son Jesus’ blood covering me that He could glance my way. I was so dirty and ugly in my human weakness and sin, that God could not even look at me. He detested me, and was so offended at my sin.

I learned reeeeally fast that God was scary and completely off the charts a rage-a-holic.
Jesus quickly became my friend. Jesus was gentle and kind. He could look at me and He loved me so much. I used to sing to Jesus all the time as a little girl. I knew Jesus DID indeed love me.
It was His Father that freaked the hell out of me.

There was so much fear and shame attached to my view of God.
Intense terror of Him really.

All these views have been a true unraveling process for me over the past 5 years or so.
I see pictures a lot... and I have seen over and over again a picture of God on His knees in construction attire. He is knelt down on the foundation of a house.
And intensely looking over each and every brick that makes up the foundation of this house.
Tossing some into a pile, and replacing it, and keeping others.
It's a picture of me, and this journey I have been on with Him.

I have found that God is kind, and good, and unimaginably loving. His love is so great there isn't even a definition to define it.
I have found that He adores me, just the way I am, and He sees the good in me. I can come close to Him, and He lavishes His thoughts of love on me. Telling me how beautiful I am... how my light shines, that He is so proud of the person I am. He loves me, but he really likes me too.

So to hear these very religious and critical voices in my head about this God that I have come to know, is so devastating to my heart.
Because this loving God that I have experienced has truly set me free... and brought me into life like I have never ever known.
To lose this revelation of His heart, would mean going back into chains and bondage. I think I might actually die...first inside and then out.
His love has been the greatest gift I have ever known.. it is my greatest treasure.


I found this lady… Marlene Winell. through an acquaintance's blog… and was floored at what this Dr. shared about children that have been raised in intense religious environments, never being able to question or ask why, and how damaging it is to these children and their psychological growth.
Jaw dropping!
Here are some of the excerpts from her research….

Causes of Religious Trauma Syndrome:
Authoritarianism coupled with toxic theology which is received and reinforced at church, school, and home. This results in:

• Suppression of normal child development – cognitive, social, emotional, moral stages are arrested
• Damage to normal thinking and feeling abilities -information is limited and controlled; dysfunctional beliefs taught; independent thinking condemned; feelings condemned
• External locus of control – knowledge is revealed, not discovered; hierarchy of authority enforced; self not a reliable or good source
• Physical and sexual abuse – patriarchal power; unhealthy sexual views; punishment used as for discipline
Cycle of Abuse
The doctrine of Original Sin and Eternal Damnation cause the most psychological distress by creating the ultimate double bind. You are guilty and responsible, and face eternal punishment. Yet you have no ability to do anything about it.

You must conform to a mental test of “believing” in an external, unseen source for salvation, and maintain this state of belief until death. You cannot ever stop sinning altogether, so you must continue to confess and be forgiven, hoping that you have met the criteria despite complete lack of feedback about whether you will actually make it to heaven.
Salvation is not a free gift after all.
For the sincere believer, this results in an unending cycle of shame and relief. It is a cycle of abuse.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on this… it is very interesting to me.
I am still really grappling with this whole theory.. wondering if it’s really valid or just some silly made up wishy washy syndrome.
But, see! Even that statement right there shows that there is still that critical and cynical religious voice inside… that haunting voice of my father and mother is who that is. ugh.


Please feel free to share and converse.. I am so interested in hearing what your own heart thoughts are on this issue.
Is there such a thing as PTSD and religion?
Or is it just a bunch of BS?
xo Amy

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sin, arrows and missing the mark.

Goodmorning, loves..

I was thinking on the word, "sin" this morning.

Probably because yesterday we spent the day with some friend that live here in Colorado, and they are very very evangelical and religious.
They are utterly sweet and so full of grace, but the word, " sin " came up a lot yesterday.
It hit me as funny because I haven't thought of the word, " sin " in a looooong time!

It was a really nice visit, but I am still trying to find my space inside religious conversations. I want to just embrace every person and love them no matter what their religious beliefs are....but my listening entails alot of nodding up and down, and I don't want that to come across as agreeing with them when I don't. lol... ah me!

 Anywho, we got home, got the kids to bed, and my hub, brother, and sister-in-law and I started to chat about our days.
Eventually we got on to the topic of sin.
We all shared what a negative word it had become in our lived because of all of our religious upbringings.
My brother and I being raised evangelical Christians, and my hub and sis-in-law being raised Catholic.

It was a great conversation about religion, politics, love and life.

If I asked you today, what comes to mind when you think of the word sin, what would you say?? 

Words like:

Bad behavior.
Something God hates.
Something I need to deal with and get out of me to be close to God.
Something that keeps God away from me.
God's kryptonite.

It's a really harsh word!

But what's funny is it's true origins come from verbiage that is used in archery.

Sin simply means: to miss the mark.

That's it.

You pulled back your arrow, you shot towards the bulls eye, and you missed it.

Now, what an archer would do, is they would simply re-adjust them self and try again.

Which brings up another word... repent.

Repent simply meaning to turn and walk the other way..

If you use the example of an archer missing the mark, to repent would mean that I am going to adjust myself and try again.

I made a choice that wasn't life producing, I see it, and I make a different one.


Nothing weird. Nothing that repels God. Very simple and so love filled.

It's mind blowing how messed up these words have become by men and their own filters and interpretations.

I honestly don't think God is offended AT ALL by my missing the mark.
Anymore then I am with my own kids.
The God I am getting to know bends down, says, " Come on love, let's get up...let me dust you off, and let's try something different."
And that is that.

I can't remember the last time I said sorry to God for anything that I have done.
Because when I miss the mark it has nothing to do with Him.
To myself.. yes.
To others.. yes.
But to God.. no.

I have found in my walking this journey out with Him that He is fully confident that I am going to figure it out.
God has set into motion some pretty nifty laws that are so present in every human beings life.

~ The law of cause and effect.

~ The law of reaping and sowing.

These laws teach us.

They are there to direct and to guide.

If we could step back and take off all the heaviness of the "sin management to please God and make ourselves clean and except-able so that He will stay with us" message.

If we could realize the truth that God knows us deeply. He knows our humanness.
That He created all of us...our light and our darkness.
That He truly is NOT surprised when I miss the mark.

If we could but realize that He has this whole thing set up to teach and direct us to what is life giving and what is death producing in our lives, to our loved ones, and the world around us...

If we could just step into the simplicity of this, then we would be taught daily what is good for us and what is not.

Being all bound up with the sin message in my own life for so long only caused  my heart harm.
It completely messed up my own internal gauge, and caused me to run to behaviors that were done in secret and were very destructive to myself and my family.

Shame makes it's entrance as well, and there is absolute devastation.
The mean and hurtful words that come from shame about myself, my person, my heart and my intent group me into the same space as words like whore, shit, ugly, dirty, hopeless, useless, selfish, self serving, and without value.

All of that brings no honor to anybody, especially to myself... God's priceless, precious treasure.

It truly devastated me. I think had I not been rescued by God out of all that madness, I would have died. I think I would have killed myself. It would have destroyed me.
My heart breaks for those inside this message still.
The sadness when I am around it, and children that are immersed in it is so overwhelming.
It's hard to be around it at times.

Because what I am learning is that the way of Truth IS the way of Love.

And Love speaks to me that I am lovely. I am good. I am perfect. I am my Papa's shining one...His sparkly Amy who He finds great joy and delight in.

Love reminds me that I am learning. I will make mistakes. I will miss the mark. I will re-adjust and make a different choice.
Truth says that in life, mistakes are going to be made all the time...
To try anything is going to guarantee you that you will make mistakes...and it's ok.
Because that is how we learn.

Isn't that wonderful? I am going to say it again.

Making mistakes is how we learn.

This is the message I am teaching my children. No more shame for them, and making them feel like shit because of a childish mistake or because they didn't know the effect of something and tried it.

In my home we words like mistake, and choices.

And knowing that to try anything most likely will involve mistakes, missing the mark...but it's part of the trying.

I so long for my children to be raised inside this beautiful truth.
I so long for every image bearing child of God to know this.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

How do you view making mistakes?

So much love today... and gratitude for you!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday ramblings..and some pretty pics :)

Hi sweets <3

Just wanted to share some of the Colorado beauty with you... we have been exploring and taking drives all over the place... :)

Thankyou so much for sharing in this journey with me.
It's a really interesting space to choose "Faith" over "Fear" some days.
I like faith so much better tho.
Less grumpy, more peaceful. Yep faith please.

So ok, first things first... we HAD to find the library :)

And this is just a quick pic driving through town in Lafayette... aren't the mountains gorgeous!

One of our ventures was to drive up the mountain to Estes Park...  this is my son Josiah :)

We stopped when we saw these young caribou... this was so cool because as a girl raised in AZ, we have NEVER seen such a sight before!

And they were just there.. so used to people gawking.. didn't pay any attention to the crazy lady with the camera :)

So beautiful!

In Estes Park, there is the famous Stanley Hotel where the Shining was written and some of the movie was filmed.
This is one of the views from the hotel's parking lot.

They also had this really cool old fire truck... the guys loved it!
My girls wouldn't get out of the car, saying it was too cold ;) 

 And of course they have a Stanley car in the Stanley Hotel..the brothers who created this car, also opened the hotel.

It's a pretty cool story actually... if you don't know it, indulge me a sec...

Basically one of the Stanley brothers became sick with Tuberculosis, and they had heard that people that moved to the Colorado region were cured of this disease.
So that is what they did.. they up and moved their families to the Estes Park area, and the brother who was sick with Tuberculosis was completely healed.
Knowing they would never move away, they opened this Hotel.
And that is the history of the Stanley Hotel.
There are rumors that there have been ghosts and extraterrestrial sitings there... lots of weird energy in some of the rooms there.

And of course Stephen King went there and wrote the story The Shining.
I watched that movie once...sneaking peaks while my brother and sister watched it once... and that was enough for me!

Another really beautiful view of the mountains from the Hotel.

The Stanley :)

Estes Park, Colorado :)

Just some fun beauty I wanted to share with you, loves!

More to come!