5 Steps to Recover from Spiritual Abuse

This is my cartoon, Church PTSD, which is available as a digital download or print. It is far too relatable to many people. That's because church trauma and spiritual abuse are far too common. 

Spiritual abuse is a repeated exercise designed to break down your defenses, through the proxy of being spiritual guidance or holy ordinance. 

"Church PTSD" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

5 Steps to Recover from Spiritual Abuse

1. Admit that you were spiritually abused

in the church, that an organization advertising love was actually abusive, that people in the people-helping business were actually in the people-hurting business. Don’t minimize or dismiss it. You must say you were treated badly. Admit it.

2. Recognize the symptoms

Which include depression, withdrawal, insecurity, guilt, shame, distrust, fear, doubt, crying. Our ideas about God suffer because we conflated those we trusted with God. Everything spiritual is now repugnant. “Where was God when this happened?” “Where was I?” Where could these questions lead? Be open to the change these questions invite.

3. Talk with someone

Talk with someone who understands spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is serious. Some change churches. Some leave the church. Some leave the faith. Some leave God. But for most, their spirituality freezes into hibernation. Talking with someone helps your frozen spirit melt. You will change, but your spiritual life is now organic and authentic, not foreign or reactionary.

4. Write in a journal

Write in a journal and discover how revealing it is! I’ve kept one for decades. It’s an amazing tool for personal growth. A revelatory act. You won’t believe what you uncover about yourself. Journaling helps you acknowledge and admit the abuse, recognize the symptoms, and find a way through the trauma. It helps you heal faster and better.

5. Appreciate the process. 

Many consider recuperation as the unpleasant road to wholeness. But this process IS the wholeness. Doctors have their own doctors. Therapists have their own therapists. The healing process is rich with forgiveness, wisdom, compassion, self-awareness and confidence that wouldn’t be gleaned without it being appreciated. It deepens us.

Much love, my friends!

If you'd like to learn more about spiritual abuse you can read my blog post, What is Spiritual Abuse?

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