Exposed writing is both terrifying and exciting. It’s not typically my cup of tea, so I have been surprised at just how much I’m enjoying it. There’s a part of me that feels like my time is already stretched too thin and I should stay in my lane. Another part of me wakes up and feels so alive again, being able to engage with my passion. A deeper drive resides within me around discussing religion through a psychological lens. There’s a rich story of who I am, based comparatively on who I once was. My passion was once my poison.
Notably, sharing so personally reignites painful religious memories. I grew up in a fundamentalist religious bubble. Writing gives me an artistic voice to share what I’ve learned and give it some value, rather than hiding the pain. Expression and creativity seem to bring back that spark for life. I’ve noticed when I go through low points, I’m inactive in those areas. Maybe that’s also a key to balance; as is sarcasm and chocolate.
Growing up, my engagement with religion felt like living in hell. I needed to adhere to the doctrine of salvation and lead a pure life to get my eternal reward. It was mostly fear driven. As a kid, our church hosted “Hell House” during Halloween. There were several rooms acting out spiritual warfare. We displayed theatrical productions of evil demons collaborating with homosexuals, addicts, and other Biblical outcasts. Demons danced in delight around an operating table, while Satan stood over a young girl’s head during a staged abortion. At my private Christian school, we were shown videos programming students to view the secular world as dangerous. It was “us versus them.” We were trained in intolerance.
Translating these memories through my current therapeutic lens of psychological abuse brings up tremendous grief. Through a mother’s lens, I recognize how casting demons out of young children and provoking fear of God to create obedience was cruel.
I didn’t understand why I struggled with self hate. It makes more sense to me under the circumstances now. That raging inner critic thought it was “loving me” by punishing me, but it was also pushing away any compassion I could offer myself.
The part of religion I dearly miss is the community and that deep sense of belonging. It’s frightening to step out of what’s comfortable and safe. But sometimes, that is what it takes. I realize others who have left their harmful religion or cult have felt isolated too. I’d like to quickly specify a difference between religion and spirituality. Religion is a specific set of organized beliefs and practices. You can be religious, but not spiritual; or spiritual, but not religious. Spirituality involves connecting, or re-connecting with oneself. Engagement will be different for each of us. Spirituality allows for adaptation.
Losing religion can extinguish any sort of desire to re-engage with faith at times. But that faith can be reimagined to become more personalized and powerful as we evolve too. Maybe we surrender. Admitting we hold only a few pieces of this puzzle, we can enjoy “going with the flow.” Since everything constantly changes and experiences are fleeting, flexibility is essential. To me, it’s how we hold the balance within the seasons; how we exercise the adaptable parts of ourselves in accordance with the sun or storm.
Mixing counseling and shamanism is a fun recipe! In a recent energy healing class, the instructor shared that she achieved spiritual enlightenment through meditation. My spiritual growth often looks like brutal lessons driven by a MAC truck before another personal recalibration occurs (and being a four on the Enneagram reveals my dance with the dark side may be a little more flirtatious).
There are perks of rebuilding after trauma. It’s incredibly healing to reclaim that personal power. After being captive, coming home to yourself feels foreign at first. Post-traumatic growth can include several layers of healing. It also unlocks a magnitude of freedom, which could never have been experienced without the storm.
Walking away from harmful root conditioning affords you a new lease on life. You start to recognize you’ve always been the author of your life and grab your pen back. Everyone will have a different answer, so investigate who YOU are. Invest in your own unique awakening.
Don’t allow anyone else to author your pages.
Laura is a mental health therapist who runs a private practice in Evergreen, Colorado and claims to be the #2 tree hugger in the city. Laura’s specialty is focusing on rebuilding after trauma, and gaining self-acceptance through an Internal Family Systems model (bridging clinical counseling with ancient spiritual wisdom.) She graduated with her masters degree from Regis University with honors, and is finishing a four year shamanic apprenticeship. To contact her for a session, visit her website www.AwakenedLotusCounseling.com or text 303-747-3467.