As a former ordained Orthodox Rabbi and ex-religious Jew, I know firsthand what Religious Trauma looks like.
(In fact, parts of this site still bear testament to the time when I was devoutly religious and taught Jewish meditation; I have a policy to not delete content I created even if it no longer aligns with my world view)
Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is a term coined by Dr. Marlene Winell in her groundbreaking book on the subject, entitled “Leaving the Fold“.
I knew all about the symptoms of religious trauma in my life, but the term RTS encapsulates the entire experience into a convenient label. Some of the symptoms of religious trauma, and the journey people often need to take when leaving religion, include:
- Shame around sexuality – sexual repression is a hallmark of many fundamentalist religions, using terms like modesty, purity and condemning everything from bare skin to masturbation.
- Fear of a vengeful God – you’ve been taught that sinning would lead to punishment and going to hell.
- Loss of meaning – instead of every thought and action having a higher purpose and contributing to some sort of utopia in this world or the next, you often find yourself grappling with a mundane and pointless day-to-day existence.
- Loss of community and a sense of belonging, often replaced with judgement and ostracization from people you used to consider friends.
- Loss of trust – there can be feelings of betrayal as you confront beliefs that you were told were true your whole life, and instead need to learn your own judgements and intuitions to figure out wrong from right.
- Loss of direction – after spending years being told exactly what to do and how to do it, stifling your own needs and desires, it can be hard to know what you even want to do in your life, be that your career or your day-to-day activities.
For those who didn’t grow up with religious trauma, it can be hard to imagine the extent, qualitatively and quantitatively, of religions influence in our life. It permeates every aspect of our lives and sinks very deeply into our psyche, especially if you were born into it.
Why People Leave Religion
People leave religion for different reasons. I find that it’s often a combination of one of the following three factors:
- It never really worked for you. Even if you were raised in it, you remember being bewildered by certain practices, disconnected from key narratives, and rebelled inwardly or outwardly against what you were taught. You left as soon as you were able to.
- It didn’t align intellectually. You had philosophical questions that were never answered and constantly raised questions which were often silenced or explained away. It may have taken years of grappling with these ideas until you were ready to leave.
- It didn’t align emotionally. There was a disconnect for you between what you were taught and told to feel, and what you actually felt. Maybe it was an inability to experience God’s love, or actually being angry at God, or maybe it was feeling bothered by specific laws within the religion, like patriarchy, gay rights, or supremacist views; emotionally misalignment means there were big parts of the religion that rubbed you the wrong way.
My own journey out of religion was primarily an emotional misalignment with some intellectual struggles. There were questions I raised for years which bothered me emotionally, and it was a painful divorce that finally severed my connection with God and religion.
Healing from Religious Trauma
Experiencing any of those factors above can take a toll on us – we often spend years stifling our own inner voice and intuition because it keeps causing us problems of misalignment with the community and its beliefs.
When you do finally leave, you basically need to rebuild your entire world from scratch, and you often lack the emotional tools to do so. You’ve never been allowed to look inward for answers (and no, talking to the Jesus that lives in your heart does not count), and you were often taught that the best way to deal with difficult emotions or urges to stifle them.
Growing up, I was surrounded by people who never smiled, who thought emotions were something you turned on and off at will, and who valued intellect only and belittled emotions (while showing remarkably little intellectual honesty).
Hypnotherapy for Religious Trauma
And this is where Navya hypnosis can help.
Firstly, it is a powerful tool to re-write your narrative and your past. Much like the movie Inception, you can actually use tools like regression and guided visualizations to re-create traumatic narratives from your past and heal them to create a better future.
It can be a painful, but very cathartic process, to re-explore your past experiences with the help of your newfound knowledge and your adult emotional resources.
Second, after just a few sessions, you’ll actually gain lifelong insight into your own mind, and acquire powerful tools for self-regulation and personal growth which you can continue using throughout your life.
You’ll learn how to instantly tap into resource states that can improve your mood and heighten your confidence, you’ll learn how to relax your body and manage stress, and you’ll learn how to take a compassionate, accepting, and non-confrontational approach to the many conflicting emotional parts that are part of being human.
I don’t believe in Good and Evil, especially not within ourselves. I believe we are all trying our best, and have defense mechanism that are often outdated and no longer serve us.
If you’re committed to personal growth, which you undoubtedly are, because the journey out of religion is a painful and uncomfortable one, then Navya hypnotherapy can be a valuable resource for you as your proceed down your own path of independence and freedom.