10 Steps to Back Away from Religious Abuse

Religious abuse

Religious abuse exists in every type of faith. Oftentimes, it is not the religion itself that is the problem but the people within the practice. This is precisely why it is hard to get away.

Most likely it began with an attraction of sorts, a need being filled, companionship, and a sense of belonging. But those positive feelings were soon met with conflicting emotions of isolation, inadequacy, guilt, shame, and distrust. The confusion feels like physical abuse without the marks.

Others who have left the religion are shunned, disgraced, and humiliated. You want to pull away but are unsure of how. Try these steps.

  1. Learn the signs of religious abuse. Memorize and identify when they are being used against you. Saying in your head, “This is abusive behavior,” promotes awareness and empowerment.
  2. Get a new perspective by sidestepping religious rituals. This is not about abandoning your faith. Rather it is about viewing things from a different perspective. Are you condemned for stepping back? Or is there grace?
  3. Make a personal commitment not to engage or tolerate the belittlement of others who don’t believe as you. Instead show compassion. Not everyone has the same level of knowledge or understanding.
  4. Study your faith for yourself. Read and learn directly from the original writings instead of trusting individuals or institutions to interpret. Abusive behavior discourages such practices.
  5. Make friendships with people outside your faith. This reduces the dichotomous thinking (us versus them) and the isolation that often accompanies religious abuse.
  6. As you learn more about your faith, intentionally question one of the accepted extraneous rules. Learn all you can about it and stand your ground. Safe individuals will welcome the discussion; abusive individuals will not.
  7. Refuse to put on a false front. Be consistent and honest about who you are and what you are going through. “Faking it” cultivates fraud and deception.
  8. Don’t make quick commitments. “I need to pray/think/meditate about that,” are good phrases to use and practice. Abusive individuals try to force immediate decisions before you can evaluate.
  9. Find a friend who has gone through religious abuse or seek out a professional counselor. You can’t do this alone. You will need someone to remind you of past offenses and hold you accountable.
  10. As you step completely away from the religion, remember that it is not the faith that caused this but the people in the religion. Healthier versions of your faith do exist.

When you seek out a new religious organization, remember your experiences so you don’t fall into the same mistake as before. Your new level of knowledge from your studies will help you to better evaluate safe institutions. In the end, your faith will be stronger because of your perseverance.

 

There is hope for your exhaustion.  Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Are You At Higher Risk For PTSD?

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study conducted in Japan analyzes brain scans of teens before and after the earthquake to see who is at higher risk for PTSD.  The study concluded that teens with weak front right connections in the brain had greater anxiety which can then lead to PTSD in traumatic situations.  While this is not conclusive and more studies need to be done, it is something to guard for if you have had prior damage in that area of the brain.  “The Magnificent Mind At Any Age” by Dr. Daniel Amen is an excellent book outlining other anxiety disorders and their relationship to the brain.  He also offers many suggestions as to how to deal with such injuries.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/22/brain-images-may-reveal-ptsd-risk-before-disasters/

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

9/11/01: A Day to Remember

Patriots’ Day Parade

Patriots’ Day Parade (Photo credit: mcritz)

For most people, remembering 9/11/01 is about remembering where they were when they first heard the news.  It is easy to recall it since it was such a shocking day filled with tragedy after tragedy and while most felt numb that day, recall of the event now includes emotions of great sadness, grief, despair, and anger.  The many days of confusion that followed 9/11/01 are more of fog compared to the moment in which you first heard the news.  That moment is imbedded into your memory as if it was yesterday, stirring up a mixture of both old and new emotions.  With each passing year, the memory refuses to fade as new memories are implanted into your head; instead it remains a solidly fixed and sober event.

But remembering 9/11/01 should not be so selfish.  It should not be about remembering where you were or who you were with or how you felt.  The people who committed the acts of terrorism on 9/11/01 were the selfish ones thinking only of their beliefs, their cause, their feelings, and their goal.  On that day, the terrorists focused solely on their agenda at the great expense of the lives of others.   No, this day, Patriot’s Day, should not a selfish day but rather a day in which we all remember one another and the sacrifices that were given both willingly and unwillingly.  For many gave their life, some had their life stolen, thousands of families were impacted and others worked tirelessly to save lives and clean up the debris.  For those individuals, this day has a different meaning as it was not just a national event, it was personal and it forever changed them as such.

Remember them.  Have you ever had to clean up after a disaster?  Maybe you have been in a natural disaster where things are suddenly not where they belong and destroyed beyond repair.  Or maybe you have had a smaller event such as a pipe bursting or a two-year-old on a rampage through your house.  While it is frustrating to see things get so out-of-place in such a short time, it can be even more frustrating to put things back together again.  Remember those worked after 9/11/01 cleaning up an unbelievable mess day after day only to discover an even greater mess beyond the surface.  The amount of discouragement must have been overwhelming, yet they kept going year after year.  For these individuals, 9/11/01 is not just a day; it is a series of events forever imbedded into their current memory.  And while they unselfishly gave of themselves to accomplish a task, they continue to give of themselves through the memories which repeatedly traumatize them.

Thank them.  These unselfish individuals deserve your thanks and gratitude for a sacrifice that hopefully you can only imagine but will never fully know from experience.  For most of them, recognition and thanks is nice but they did not do it for that reason.  Rather, they had a job to do and chose to do well.  Every day you have a choice to just do your job and get by with as little effort as possible or you can choose to do your job well and like the heroes of 9/11/01 do it beyond expectation.  The heroes had a choice and it is obvious by the outcome that they put aside their selfish desires and chose to live a life of service to others.  It is easier to say a thank you but so much harder to live by the example that was set before you of excellence.

Be them.  In the end, you have a choice.  It does not matter what your job is, who your family is, where you come from, or what your circumstances are in life, you still have a choice.  You have a choice to live a life that is selfish and focused on yourself or to live a life that is selfless and focused on others.  The terrorists made their choice; it was one of complete and total selfishness.  Some of the people who lost their life on that day did not have a choice; rather it was stolen from them.  But some of the people who lost their life on that day did have a choice; it was one of selflessness.  You too have a choice in how you live your life.  Are you going to be selfish like the terrorists or selfless like the heroes?

What a true monumental day 9/11/01 would be if the long-term outcome was a nation filled with individuals who became selfless instead of selfish.  For a few years following that day, there was a glimmer of hope that selflessness would be the final outcome however as the events of that day turn more selfish and focused on remembering where you were instead of remembering who perished, the hope faded.  But you still have a choice; you can choose on this Patriot’s Day to remember others and the sacrifices they gave and continue to give or you can choose instead to remembering yourself and how you felt.  Choose wisely because the outcome will determine the destination of our next generation.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

How Healing Emotional Wounds is Like Healing Physical Wounds

Physical wounds are easy to spot as they usually leave physical evidence of an injury such as a broken bone or blood.  They also leave emotional evidence such as anxiety or pain.  Emotional wounds, like physical, can leave physical evidence such as loss of appetite or sudden sickness.  They also leave emotional evidence such as depression or anger.  However they do not always leave evidence.  These wounds are much harder to spot because they have been hidden or denied for so long but far more devastating in the end if not properly addressed.

To heal from a physical wound such as a large cut, you must begin by realizing that you have a wound.  Then you need to asses if it is a wound you can manage or if it is a wound that you need help managing.  Your next step is to clean out the wound, stitch the wound up if needed, and finally bandage the wound.  Failure to clean out the wound effectively can lead to infection.  Healing from an emotion wound works much the same way.

Realizing you are wounded.  Emotional wounds are not as obvious as blood pouring out of your body but they do have some familiar signs.  They can stem from any number of traumatic situations such as a death of a loved one, sexual or physical abuse, car accident, divorce, unexpected pregnancy, bankruptcy or witnessing a crime.  Common signs of emotional wounds are depression, anxiety, anger outburst, isolation, change in interests, lacking enjoyment from life, and change in personality.  Realizing you are wounded and by what is the first step.

Assessing your abilities.  One of the hardest steps is to asses if you are able to manage the emotional wound yourself or if you need help managing it.  It is extremely important that you accurately assess your abilities as in the example of a large cut, if you are wrong about your ability to manage the wound, the consequences can be lifelong.  It is much harder to clean out an infected wound that has already been improperly healed than it is to deal with it when it is fresh.  If you have recently experienced a traumatic situation, being honest with your abilities can be a life saving event.

Cleaning your wound.  Thoroughly cleaning out a large cut can not only prevent infection but it will also help the wound to heal faster than if you left it alone.  Cleaning out emotional wounds means revisiting the traumatic event and allowing yourself the freedom to feel the emotional pain.  It is also a time to confess any responsibility you may have in contributing to the trauma.  In the event of a large cut, you may have been handling a knife improperly; in the event of a traumatic situation, you may have ignored warning signs of danger.

Stitching your wound.  Sometimes cleaning a large cut is not enough, you might need a few stitches to facilitate the healing process and ensure that it heals properly.  Stitching up emotional wounds means you recognize how other areas of your life have been affected by the trauma.  For instance, if your traumatic moment was verbal abuse by a parent, a spouse yelling at you could cause you to get overly angry and have an outburst.  The wound of verbal abuse needs to be stitched up before dealing with your spouse.

Bandaging your wound.  The last step in the physical healing of a large cut is to bandage it up to keep from re-injuring the area until it has fully healed.  Emotionally speaking, bandaging up wounds is granting forgiveness, accepting a loss or gain of life, being satisfied with less income or being peaceful in the midst of a storm.  Not that the pain has fully gone away or that there won’t be a scar left after the bandage has been taken off but rather there is calm where there used to be trauma.

All of these steps require time and patience with yourself and others as you begin to work through them.  The best part of reaching the end of this journey is the ability to guide others along the way because it is in watching their healing take place that you are able to find meaning in yours.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.