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.
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?