Having read this summary of spiritual abuse, please consider those people who come to Streetcar and are recovering from Complex PTSD:One aspect of spiritual abuse that sometimes gets overlooked is the trauma of it. Most folks associate trauma with a catastrophic event. Let’s be crystal clear: Not all trauma is the result of a sudden catastrophic incident such as rape, kidnapping, or combat.
This type of trauma may take months or years to produce, and it involves eight ingredients which produce a recipe for trauma:
1. Authoritarian leader(s)
2. Enforced powerlessness
3. Denial of personhood
4. Imposition of an ascetic lifestyle / conforming behaviour
5. Forced isolation
6. Psychological bullying
7. Suppression of emotions
8. Metaphysical “stoning” of a person’s soul
This type of trauma is similar to that described by POWs from World War II and Vietnam. It is trauma that results from being powerless and abused day after day, year after year, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
While spiritual abuse victims may or may not suffer physical abuse, their souls are torn and bleeding. It is the proverbial “death by a thousand cuts.”
Built into all spiritual abuse is the low-grade trauma and ongoing damage done to the psyche of the followers involved. There is attrition of spiritual health that results in emaciated souls every bit as sick as POWs. And there are the verbal and spiritual beatings that Dale Wolery from the Clergy Recovery Network calls “metaphysical stoning.”
It is trauma caused by the Word of God used like the thrust of a spear, the constant threat of God’s displeasure and eternal damnation, and the death of dreams and relationships. This is real trauma: the trauma of the soul.
For people with Complex PTSD, it is very common for their memories to be triggered by sights, sounds, smells or even feelings that they experience. These triggers can bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional and physical reactions, such as raised heart rate, sweating and muscle tension.
I would like to suggest that we have a specific topic on Streetcar for spiritual discussions or questions of theology etc, so that those who are recovering from spiritual abuse can choose to read or not read that topic.
We should be very aware of how we can trigger others by what we say. Many people here on this forum have been abused by leaders who used scriptures against them. We need to be constantly aware that we can so easily trigger them, by our use of scriptures and religious cliches.