5 Things Survivors of Religious Harm Can Expect

faith deconstruction religious trauma Nov 15, 2022

After coaching 100's of women through a faith transition (and our own!) it's easy for us to guess exactly what you are struggling with because these 5 common themes pop up time and again with every person we work with. Each of these are NORMAL and EXPECTED given what you’ve been through.  So as you read through this list, do us a favor and let out a big sigh of relief, you're not wrong for feeling these!

 

1. EXPECT TO FEEL AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF GUILT

Guilt is the natural emotion your body produces to warn you that you have broken a rule. The bummer is, your body doesn’t distinguish whether or not it’s even a good rule to follow. We can safely say you’re probably breaking SO many old religious rules right now, yes? If so, expect guilt to be your new best friend. This doesn't have to be bad, in fact it will be your best indicator that you’re making progress. Keep smashing through the ceilings of all those old pesky rules!

 

2. EXPECT TO FEEL TEMPTED BY NEW FORMS OF FUNDAMENTALISM

Religion gave you a blueprint for life, and now it is missing. It is completely normal to be drawn to other ideologies to find that sense of safety and certainty again. When you find yourself exchanging one guru for another, simply pat yourself on the back and say, "Of course I’m doing this. I’m used to looking for truth outside of myself", and then gently realign and connect within.

 

3. EXPECT TO FEEL DEEP LONELINESS & ISOLATION

The social needs you have as a human are very real (we could reference 1 million studies here about how important social connection is for your well-being). Leaving a religious group you were once a part of is seriously hard on your nervous system.  This is normal. You’re not crazy.

 

4. EXPECT TO FEEL LIKE YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG

This cycle of self-blame is very familiar and is part of your old religious conditioning popping up! The narrative in religion is that if something feels bad then YOU are the problem and you’re doing something wrong (because it certainly can’t be God). This cycle of self-blame is the very thing you are slowly releasing right now so of course it will still feel present at times.

 

5. EXPECT IT TO FEEL LIKE A TERRIBLE BREAK UP

If religion was ALL bad, then it wouldn’t be hard to leave. We bet it was pretty great at times, like that old partner who made you feel so seen and loved, but the next minute blamed you for all the problems in your relationship. A big part of your religious recovery process involves allowing the grief to come. It's time to recognize the needs that religion fulfilled for you and find ways to fulfill those needs for yourself.

 

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