Leaping into Possibilities with Religious Abuse Recovery II By Laura Hogzett MA, LPCC, EMDR

Recently I may have stumbled on one of those breakdowns people say happen in their 40’s.  This must be that “mid life crisis” I had heard so much about as a kid.  I thought it was more about buying a convertible, or a toupee. 

Maybe it started getting thick for me when COVID hit.  Doing psychotherapy from home, while my partner worked remote, and our four children pretended to homeschool, while sharing the same internet became overwhelming for all of us.   Sometimes I could sneak out, leave the city, and drive up to the mountains.  Encompassed by the tall trees and beautiful Colorado landscapes, I could get centered.  There’s a simplistic serenity, and a freedom being alone in nature that provides recalibration.  

During that time I also got my first tattoo. Are you even surprised it was trees?!  For the record, I did get four of them, so my kids were included in the sentiment, but I can see the argument for a mid-life crisis too.  

We each know how hard the last few years have been individually, and there’s no denying that something is shifting.  Collectively, we’ve experienced some extreme division and traumas.  

Witnessing someone in pain can be excruciating.  Being a therapist you don’t get a free pass either. I recognized the NEED to be closer to the mountains and live closer to the trees.  Luckily, yet reluctantly, my family got on board.  We sold everything and moved into a quirky old fixer upper.  It took everything we had, and it wasn’t easy to deconstruct what we had grown comfortable with.   It was exactly what I needed though. We all have our things, whether it be sports, pets, water, music, yoga, hiking, writing, yodeling, juggling, or whatever.  It’s fun to create our unique favorites to build a roadmap back to ourselves when we’re struggling.  For me, it’s mainly in nature.  Don’t even get me started about those majestic deer. 

I’m no stranger to pain. A tiny people pleaser from the beginning, and I just wanted everyone to be happy.  I was born into a family culture that believed we needed to be saved correctly, then remain pure in order to hold salvation.  If I sinned and failed to attone properly before my death, I could find myself being rejected at the gates of heaven, causing God to turn away His love forever.  Even our tv shows, toys, songs, stories and lifestyle revolved around keeping us in this bubble outside of the secular world.  There were Biblical verses often spoken and memorized to condition this too.  Our community firmly believed in this framework, yet there were scandals covered up left and right.  

The thing about being sinless was….well…  I’m actually a human.  So, in my best interest, I created a “protector part” to assist me achieve this idealized image of who I was supposed to be.  She made sure that even when I was alone, I was still holding myself firmly accountable, guarding even my inner thoughts about secular things.  This developed in an early childhood stage where my brain accepted these ideas as absolute truth. I didn’t know any different.  And it loved me so much that it was protecting my soul.  Under those circumstances, I’d say she was an excellent protector. 

I have more compassion for the inner critic’s objections now, but my original goal was to extinguish this part of myself completely.  I tried unsuccessfully.  Only as I have learned, we can’t get rid of our parts.  We are composed as a whole, and a collection of them.  This protective part held me to a higher standard than others.  Yet, I had more forgiveness for others’ mistakes.  If any part of us is unwanted and exiled, we are not whole.  After dancing with “internal family systems theory,” (IFS) I began treating myself with a curious lens, rather than condemnation. That part didn’t need to be extinguished, it desperately needed compassion, and deserved to heal.  

Our brains are complex and absolutely miraculous.  There are five different types of brainwaves shown in current research:  Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta and Gamma.  Whenever we are just thinking, talking and communicating we operate in Beta, which is 14-28 cycles per second.  In heightened consciousness, Theta brain states range between 5-7 cycles per second.  Children are said to operate predominantly in a theta state until around age seven, which helps to explain how complex trauma can linger into adulthood.  

Talk therapy is done in a Beta state with reasoning with logic.  For complex trauma, talk therapy didn’t seem to be enough to reach the deeper layers in some clients.   Eye movement reprocessing and desensitization (EMDR) seemed to be triggering for some with complex PTSD.  Theta was the brain state I wanted to integrate into counseling to reach these deeper seeded wounds.  I wanted to find something more efficient and effective without the retraumatization.  Reaching deeper into harmful core beliefs, and listening to unburden our exiled parts could be more effectively healed in a Theta brain state.  As I excitedly searched for ways to enhance our brains from beta to theta states in psychotherapy, I recognized I’m very late to this party.   People have known about this concept for ages.  It knocked the wind out of me for a moment when I realized:   I had been manipulated in the Theta brain state.

The church was excellent at repeatedly manufacturing Theta brain frequencies, getting me into a highly impressionable and vulnerable state of mind.  Through worship, prayers and indoctrination in large groups, I was programmed to believe whatever I was told by those in authority.  

When I talk about religious abuse, I mainly focus on the victims, so they can heal and find relief from the painful experiences.  This can include developing protection from future abuse occurring, and creating healthy boundaries.   Deconstructing systematic harm can create opportunities for positive long term change.  Growing up in my home church, greed, sexual misconduct, physical abuse, addiction, child sexual assalt, manipulation, and psychological abuse was the undercurrent. It was also intentionally covered up.   We can’t heal what we won’t reveal.  Pulling back the curtain to shed awareness about what’s been going on doesn’t feel good for anyone, even the whistleblower.  But allowing abuse to continue is abuse.  I would like to add something I feel is extremely relevant and important.  

It’s easy to point the fingers at those who are abusing others.  It’s also easy to forget that those people are hurting too, and they’ve got some exiled parts that are raging.  They are in pain, and are just human like the rest of us.  We are in this healing business together.   Self consciousness in IFS includes curiosity, compassion, connection, and calmness.  It isn’t looking at performance as a barometer for worthiness.  It’s looking to unburden an exiled part that feels so far from feeling loved, it’s gone mad.  

We are all connected!  We rise together, and we can’t leave anyone behind. We are created with a divine spark and each one of us deserves to heal, no matter what.  Sometimes it can include accountability too.  But the belief that we are unforgivable is an inner critic convincing us that this too must be earned.  

Since we are the sum of our parts, we do a disservice to ourselves and others by getting tunnel vision about these isolated parts becoming our sole identity. When a difficult or exiled part resurfaces, it could be considered a soul invitation. Maybe we are spiritual beings having a human experience after all. We could be prompted to incorporate some shadow work, so that we can achieve a deeper wholeness within ourselves, which spreads into connection with others. 

I’m not sure we really have a clue how much potential there is to rebuild.  We are collectively participating in an evolution as humans, and I think we’re ready for more connection.  

As clinicians it’s exciting to lean forward into new discovery, which includes opening up the possibilities for alternative medicine practices.  For me, it means introducing at-home Ketamine treatments for clients to utilize during psychotherapy.  I believe we can safely use this dissociative anesthetic to reach higher consciousness while processing complex trauma, and recreate Theta brain states for deeper  healing potential.  Practiced in indigenous ceremonies, plant medicine has been incorporated into healing for ages.   Implementing Theta brain waves should be a sacred space created where YOU are in charge of your opportunity to evolve as an individual.  Please be wary of anyone asking you for something in a heightened and impressional consciousness state.  

I’ve enjoyed learning through research about the benefits of clinical journeying, but I would like to try it for myself before I begin using it with any clients.  So, I’m going to be taking this month to finish training, and participate in some journeys myself. At this moment, I recognize, I don’t know what I don’t know.   I’m also willing to find out more of what that means.  I’ll be back to share more of the experiences.

New possibilities blooming with Awakened Lotus Counseling July 2022! 

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.