There is hope for victims of religious or spiritual abuse. It is not uncommon for someone who has suffered at the hands of a religious organization, leader, spiritual mentor or counselor to recoil from the event in a negative way.
Of course this type of abuse can take many forms… The abuse could be psychological or emotional in nature or physiological including everything from physical abuse to (thankfully more rare) sexual indiscretions. Primary psychological assaults include the loss of individuality or self-worth in an attempt to promote single-mindedness and ease of group management, loss of personal rights, intimidation and dominance.
Spiritual and religious organizations’ leadership rosters are often infiltrated by sociopathic or psychopathic individuals who are driven to exercise control over others whom they see as lesser or subservient. In the event that you have had the unfortunate encounter with such an overbearing individual; you must know that he or she may not be an adequate representation of the group or organization that he or she represents.
What happens if you ask questions or question authority? In a spiritually abusive environment one may experience ridicule for asking questions and you may sense an increasingly hostile response with threats of excommunication or threats of eternal consequences.
An extremely exclusive organization may promote isolation from outsiders, cutting ties to non-believers promoting an “Us vs. Them,” attitude. Other signs you might be subjected to potential spiritual abuse may include multiple markers indicating levels of spirituality (and/or entitlement), penalties for non-compliance and financial exploitation.
You may have been the victim of religious or spiritual abuse if:
- A religious organization or spiritual leader
- Defrauds via deception
- Exercises forms of mind control
- Emotionally exploits
- Psychologically abuses
- A spiritually-based group that
- Has a dual reality (insiders vs. outsiders)
- Secret rites or insider’s only, “truths”
- Critically denounces outsiders
- Expresses dire consequences for non-members
- Enforces compliance
- An organization that
- Denounces criticism
- Maintains a false public image
- Requires donation of one’s personal belongings
- Claims to have ultimate “enlightenment”
- Practices an elitist perspective
Protecting one’s self from dangerous, compromising or litigious circumstances is completely normal and necessary for self preservation, yet our defensive response is in the form of overcompensation. It’s not uncommon for a victim of this kind of abuse to turn their backs totally on all things of a spiritual nature.
Believing in a higher power can be one of the most empowering forces in your life; to completely reject the entire concept based on a single episodic experience, could have a devastating effect one’s overall quality of life.
Regardless of the excessive intensity of your experience, you can be among the many survivors of religious or spiritual abuse, with your faith firmly intact. Although you may have isolated yourself from all things spiritual in order to put a stop to the abuse, you can reclaim your spirituality in a positive and life-affirming way.
Whether you are struggling with these issues from occurrences of this kind of abuse in the past, or if you are concerned about victimization that may be taking place in the present, there is hope for you to realize a continued spiritual life, free from bondage or pain as a result of the person(s), group or organization who may have, or may be exploiting you, either indirectly or maliciously.
Unresolved spiritual abuse can have continued negative impact on one’s life harboring resentment, lack of trust, difficulty in inter-personal relationships; blocking personal achievement, abundance, happiness and preventing you from achieving your highest and best.
You can heal from your abusive past so that you can go on with your life no longer being a victim. Take charge of your life, embrace your spiritual healing and don’t let this experience from experiencing all the best things this life has to offer and start your healing process today.
As you peel back the layers of your experience, you may discover this has prepared you for your ability to reach out to other victims as a mentor to help them deal with the same challenges you have survived.
See you at the Recovery from Religious Trauma Event in Olympia, September 21st