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


  1. Yes! I guess it's almost eight years ago now for both hubby and I. We were lucky to go thru the same stages at the same time;) we did very similar steps to yours;
    - counsellor
    - surrounding and finding friends to support
    - time away
    -books( one key one was Wisdom Distilled From the Daily by Joan Chittister and other monastic spirituality as well as Brian McLaren, New Christians by Tony Jones, Generous Orthodoxy ( Brian) , On Religion by J Caputo, berry Wendell's freedom sex and community and economy, monoculture, Freakanomics, religulous, and lots more;) ect)
    - stopped church because it feeds the cycle.
    -podcasts( Peter Kreeft, Tony Campolo)
    - my hubby's blog and events Called to Question and all the guest speakers including atheists and religious professors
    - creating living friendships
    - when we were ready we also included back into our circle fundamentalist friends whom put relationships first. They stretch us and we stretch them but it works if love is there.
    - yoga group
    - meditation
    - blogs like momestry
    - strengthening our marriage and concentrating on life gradually to the point where spirituality is first and foremost but often goes without saying in every breath...
    Hmmmm I could go on but I think you are doing great! Great support, great voice!

    1. Oh K.. thankyou for sharing some of the resources and life giving activities of you and your hubby's journey. Beautiful!
      I am making notes on the books and podcasts you listened to :))

    2. Religulous is a sarcastic movie on Religion. It made me laugh and cry. The rest of the books are part of the journey- some are more about economics but since religion currently is based on economics as well, I find that if we change our perceptions spiritually we also need to change our perceptions of culture, economics, and environment and poverty releasing ( Half the Sky is another) and "Eat Pray Love" Just read a varied amount of journey s( Gahndi is good too AFTER you read New Christians or Generous Orthodoxy and Brian's other books- oh along with THE GENTLER GOD. THis one is so KEY. Gentler God.) The podcasts: Peter Kreeft is a catholic who thinks out of the box- I like his thoughts on Beauty ( He loves Tolkein) Tony Campolo is a conservative christian who breaks all the moulds. He challenges other conservatives on love and marriage, equality and releasing the poor.
      Brene Brown is also amazing as well as "Being Happy without Being Perfect.
      As for counsellors- Find one who has no religious affiliation but has morals. Or pick one on the liberal side of things:) Or who is professional enough to not allow religion into the sway of things. DO NOT GO TO SOMEONE IN THE CHURCH FOR COUNSELLING. It always has an agenda.:)

    3. K -
      I have only one addition (but for me the pivotal one since I seem to be more visual than verbal): allowing myself to explore creative journalling/art. Using a quote or verse, I would interpret it with anything from crayons to magazine words and pictures and paint. When I began this process a decade ago, I had not allowed myself the freedom to express myself in this fashion since my indoctrination into my family's form of christianity at age 9 or 10. Much of what came up was helpful in my therapy sessions.

      Just a thought.

    4. Jenny:
      How lovely and what an important addition!!! Art mediums really helped me too. Sinking myself into inspiration and beauty ( deeply spiritual...Beauty the Invisible Embrace is a beautiful book...ha! can you tell I like to read?)
      I did many collages too. I would love to see pics of yours- do you have some on your blog or website?

      Amy: I recommended you in my last post- I hope that is ok:)

    5. always ok to recommend, K! Always :)

      Love love love all you and Jenny shared here.. awesome!

      Anything else comes to mind, please free to add more!


  2. In my last couple of years ministering to folks who experienced spiritual abuse, they really struggled with the idea of talking to a counselor. Many were in fear that a counselor would try to talk them out of their faith. So finding a counselor that would respect their faith was hard for them. They also were leery of talking to a 'Christian' counselor because they feared more spiritual abusive dogma. It's such a sensitive area for many victims. Hillary's book is amazing. I read parts of it to my teen daughters when we left a cult and it really opened our eyes to what the dogma had been doing to our family. I also recommend Darrin's book The Misunderstood God. Learning to trust people is difficult because cults put so much fear into their followers. Fear of anyone outside the group, then when you leave, you fear everyone inside the group and it leaves you feeling very lost and alone. The more blogs like this that show our experiences gives them hope and a way to find support from other escapees. Another great healing resource is John Lynch's short videos about grace. His channel is called Truefaced.

    1. Lisa, it's so true! I have had to work out my own fears of counselors. There is nothing like talking to someone who you build a trust relationship with, who has a trained ear and can help you navigate. I have friends that have had incredible experiences with counselors. I long for the same... but thankyou for bringing this to light, it's so true.

  3. I love this! :) I have a similar story to you as well.

    Read books on perfectionism and shame and toxic patterns. (Books by Brene Brown were amazing)
    Writing/blogging/talking about the pain for the first time.
    Learning how to be the parent I want to be, and in the process learning how to parent myself.
    Started counselling.
    Limited open-heart interaction with fundamentalist freinds and family.
    Started forging a new supporting/living community.
    Started a pattern of self-care and discovering what we like and what makes us happy and healthy.
    Put together a list of blogs that help me remember to care for myself (I call it my Mama Therapy list. lol)
    Attending a liberal accepting church on occasasion when we feel up to it, the people there never cease to amaze us.
    Living life with complete honesty, without apologizing for who we are.

    1. Melissa, your journey has helped me hash out my own... not that you were offering all the answers, but just knowing I wasn't alone makes all the difference.
      Thankyou for sharing how you have walked this out... beautiful!

  4. Oh Amy...this whole post is a lifeline to me. I am not one who can look back and say "this is what I did" b/c I'm still DOING it. I have given myself permission to stop going to church. There is not one person irl where I live who understands let alone really accepts where I am so blogs like this bring me hope.

    Taking to heart every single suggestion here. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.


    1. Patti, loves to you and so much freedom!

  5. Don't forget Martha Beck! Loved her book "Leaving the Saints" where she talked about her journey out of Mormonism.. I am now reading her book "Steering by Starlight". I love how she talks about the process of learning to live from you heart.. How the first part of the process is dissolving. She uses the beautiful picture of a caterpillar and how when it is in the cocoon it literally dissolves into a goop of undifferentiated cells. And if you tried to hurry the process of the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, you would have a weak butterfly that wouldn't last long. That is how I have felt through my whole process.. Just vulnerable goop! lol! To go from a mindset of absolutes and living out of my head to now a place of vulnerability and living from my heart has been the greatest gift I have ever received!

    I think the one thing I have realized from this process is that my beliefs that were created on the foundation of fear, confusion and manipulation just had to go... Stuff I had been told versus what I have personally experienced.. it had to go! It did not benefit me and just kept me in my head and in my hell! Yep! a whole lotta hell going on in my head and I really didn't like God at all! I remember at the very beginning of my journey reading a woman's blog where she had become an atheist because of the pain she had experienced in Christianity. I sat there and thought " I would love to just be freed of this god for one second without damning my soul to hell!" Because the god I knew was crazy! and mean! and I personally thought I was doing a better job loving people than he was cause I wouldn't keep creating beautiful children just to damn them all! That was my religious god..

    I have personally come to the point where I believe we are all really seeking the same thing. Religions, beliefs, mindsets, all boil down to either one person or another's "God" experience or just their personal opinions. We try to wrap thoughts and words around these experiences but that is the best we can do and no one person has it all figured out because I think God is way more vast, expansive and way bigger than our heads and words. But when we try to make God a bunch of beliefs and thoughts then our ego gets in the way and does a lot of damage to ourselves and others even to the point of destroying an entire civilization that doesn't think like us!

  6. Oh friend
    you know how I love it when you go here
    so much to say on this, thus my late response and comment
    i needed the time to do so, and the days here have been full
    so now that I have so time to offer you my undivided attention here I am!
    I will start with a list of reads that were impactual on my journey back to myself.....

    "Captivating" by Staci and John Eldridge
    this was the first "religious" book that really introduced me to the amazing love God had for me
    it gave me a veiw of myself as being precious
    a crowning jewel...never had I felt that before in religious literature
    I read a lot of of what I should and should not be doing...more rule bound, nothing that fed my wild woman spirit
    so this book brought on the beginning of an awakening

    "Twelve Extraordinary Women" by John husband bought me this book around the same time my awakening began, now I have to admit I did not finish it. BUT just to know that a man took the time to write and up lift women in the bible was so freeing for me, as I was brought up in the place of women being one step behind and for the most part silent...there were there to tend to children and make coffee...that was what I saw
    "Jesus Freaks" Vol I and II by DC Talk....awesome stories of people standing for their faith...always inspiring

    "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren
    "One Day my Soul Just Opened up" by Iuanla Vanzant (have gone through this one twice)
    "Breathe" by Keri Wyatt Kent
    These books are interactive in the sense that you journal as you you Amy I think journallling is an imperative part of the journey, the sojourn and you don't have to be a writter to do so...these books are great because they prompt the reader to write with questions and such...helps for those who are a little timid in this area
    Also these books taught me to make intentional time for spiritual interaction and take practice to form a learn to make space in this busy busy world where there are just so many things that can fill our time
    these books helped me to take the time, to make the time for my spiritual growth and intention

    "Pilgrims Progress" by John Bunyan I have loved this book since I was a was published in the late 1600's and this mans story who wrote it is fascinating and it was clear this book was way ahead of it's time...leading me to know it was Divinely given to him...this book is such a reflection of how I see my life...the life pilgrimage of a seeker, beautiful.

    I think to describe every book might take a little time so I will jsut list some of the more influential books that your readers might want to pick up : )

    A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle...dry at times but so informative and expansive
    MisUnderStood God by Darin Hufford (as was mentioned above)
    The Shack by William Paul love love
    Broken Open by Elisabeth Lesser...amazing
    So, you don't want to go to church anymore by Jake Colsen...eye opening for the unhappy church slave
    The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey...for the critical mind
    Love Wins by Rob Bell...for the courageous soul
    The Gutter by Craig Gross...for the piece of reality
    Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd...changed my life, brought me fearlessly back to a place I had left in myself due to shame and oppression...brought me back to the feminine of God...I cherish this book
    Women Food and God by Geneen Spirituality/God is a part of all that we do...excellent book
    The Wishing Year by Noelle OxenHandler...a womans journey
    Lessons in becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn...a womans journey
    Quivering Daughter by Hillary McFarland...a womans journey...very revealing(as mentioned above)
    The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach...a love story
    just to name a few : )

  7. part two:
    currently I am marinating in Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
    and this is a tkae your time kind of book...journal as you is so rich in information...but perhaps not for everyone
    it delves deep into the psyche of women and unfolds the deep truths within is a book that embraces the Wild Woman that lives within each of us and helps us to understand her..thus further understanding ourselves and our place in this world..I am engrossed in this book

    on my to read list I have:
    the Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford
    The Feminine Face of God by Sherry Ruth Anderson & Patricia Hopkins
    Tramp for the Lord by Corrie ten Boom
    The Age of Miracles by Marianne Williamson
    The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg
    Breaking up with God by Sarah Sentilles
    Sacred Living vs Living Scared by Monique MacDonald
    Your Secret Name by Kary Oberbrunner
    To the Mafia with Love by Marta Estrada
    When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd
    Rest by Keri wyatt Kent
    (just a few things to read)

    Each of those books above offered me something for my journey. I may have not agreed with everything in them, but they offered me a step towards my truth.
    I believe less and less in right or wrong
    I believe more in just doing

    I had an encounter with Jesus at the beginning of this year
    I was on my spiritual path and low and behold there he was off to the side
    we were in the lush forest
    the minute I saw him I rushes up to him and asked him if I was on the right path...He looked down at me with such love and joy...the joy was so huge that flowed form him
    He began to laugh and took my hands and said with great exuberance " Of course you are Catherine, you are on the right path."
    He went on to tell me that whenever a choice is made towards spiritual growth, whatever that choice is, we honour those who have gone before us, who have died for such things. he told me that any choice made, no matter how big or small, makes a difference, matters. it is not about right or is about making the choice and following through.....then I saw standing with him hundreds of men and women from over the centuries who had died for what they believed in...beside him was Martin Luther King and on the other side stood Buddha and then all the others stood behind him throughout the trees....Jesus said, "When you walk your Spiritual Path actively, you honour all of us and all that we have gone through for our cause. our movement for Spiritual Freedom. Some of us have died for this. You honour us when you live out your Spiritual Practice, whatever that looks like. Whether is be a prayer a month or a daily practice you honour us and we bless you."

    For me the more I learn the further I am called away from the institution and closer into relationship.
    I could go further into hat but I think this comment is long enough : )
    We are loved
    we are love
    love is all that matters
    when we filter all things through love
    we just can't go "wrong"

    love your heart friend
    love your courage
    love the gift of you that you give to others

    when we sojourn together
    as a tribe of women
    the journey is just that much richer : )

    love and light

  8. wow had to put those in two parts
    love you