Episode Description: Even though the impact of trauma is felt most obviously in each individual, through the symptoms that show up in their thinking, feeling, and sensing, what causes such trauma, and the impact of it, spreads far beyond the individual. In this episode, Dr. Hillary McBride describes how spiritual trauma impacts our brain-body system, what post-traumatic stress is, and explores the systemic causes and effects of spiritual trauma. Guest interviews for this episode include K.J. Ramsey, Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza, and Mark Charles. The episode ends with a guided body-based emotion practice.
Content Note: this episode contains reference to sexual abuse; it also includes profanity.
Run time: 1:08:11
Release date: July 19, 2023
- Website: kjramsey.com
- Twitter: @kjramseywrites
- Instagram: @kjramseywrites
Roberto Che Espinoza
- Website robertoche.com
- Instagram: @drrobertoche
- Twitter: @irobyn
- Website: wirelesshogan.com
- Twitter: @wirelesshogan
- Instagram: @wirelesshogan
- Unsettling Truths (Coauthored with Soong-Chan Rah, 2019)
Bronfenbrenner, U. (2000). Ecological systems theory. Oxford University Press.
Farrell, D. P., & Taylor, M. (2000). Silenced by God—an examination of unique characteristics within sexual abuse by clergy. Counselling Psychology Review.
Fletcher, J. (2013). Freud and the Scene of Trauma. Fordham University Press.
Fricker, M. (2007). Hermeneutical injustice. Fricker M. Epistemic Injustice. Oxford Scholarship Online, 147-175.
Meyer, I.H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 674-697. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.674
Panchuk, M. (2018). The shattered spiritual self: a philosophical exploration of religious trauma. Res Philosophica, 95(3), 505-530.
Van der Kolk, B. A. (1994). The body keeps the score: Memory and the evolving psychobiology of posttraumatic stress. Harvard review of psychiatry, 1(5), 253-265.
Winters, G. M., Jeglic, E. L., & Terry, K. J. (2022). The prevalence of sexual grooming behaviors in a large sample of clergy. Sexual Abuse, 34(8), 923-947.
This podcast does not provide medical, counselling, or crisis services. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact your local emergency services. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not always represent the views of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries.
Hi everyone, Dr. Hillary McBride here. If you’re joining us for the first time, please head back to the beginning. Like chapters of an audiobook, this podcast is meant to be listened to in a continuous manner, with current episodes building off past ones. So, head back to the beginning to listen if you haven’t done so yet. Before we get started, just a reminder that this podcast was created for those with lived experience of spiritual trauma. If you have experienced spiritual trauma, I can’t guarantee that all of this will feel easy to listen to, but I can assure you that there won’t be a lot of Christian language, prayers, or scripture used. If you are listening to this and spiritual trauma is a new idea to you, I am so glad that you are here to learn more. When people without firsthand experience of spiritual trauma understand more about it, we can build communities where we love our neighbours with compassion and wisdom. This podcast also contains information and stories about sexual abuse. The details are not graphic but the content may be sensitive for some listeners. Now, onto episode two.
I want to talk to you about Sigmund Freud. Dramatic pause here for you to chuckle, spit out your water, shake your fist, or turn up the volume, depending on how you feel about his work. I know that many of you are going to think, “Oh leave it to the psychologist to get Freud into the conversation,” but there is a good reason for this, and it’s likely not what you think. Originally a neurologist, Freud’s theories are prolific, and as a founder of the talking cure (as psychotherapy was originally called), the field of mental health owes a lot to his work. Namely, he got us familiar with the unconscious—the way of understanding how there can be things going on inside of us and between us as people, of which we’re not even aware. Given how much of the world was and is still wrapped up in the “I think therefore I am” paradigm of humanness, in which our thinking and conscious, seemingly rational minds are at the centre of everything, Freud was way ahead of his time. But there is something else that not many people know about Freud, and that is his connection to the field of trauma. What may not surprise you is that there are politics at the centre of why you don’t know about this part of Freud’s work.
At the time that he was developing his theories and practice, the Jewish doctor was treating the daughters of Austrian aristocrats for hysteria (a whole other podcast should be dedicated to the problems of this term). In Western Europe, hysteria was considered a medical illness characterized by anxiety, disorganized sexual behaviour, insomnia, emotion disregulation, fainting, certain patterns of relational conflict, and alterations in mood. It was considered very difficult to treat and was confounding even the best experts. What happened as Dr. Freud started to use his methods of hypnosis and talking with these women is that they started to remember and describe experiences of sexual trauma—often with family members, often with their fathers. Freud believed them, and his theory of trauma was born. In his opinion, hysteria was the way that the patient’s body was communicating about the sexual trauma, especially when their minds, and the people they were in relationship with, wouldn’t allow these experiences to be told, or even believed.
To paint a clear picture, the doctors working with these young women—he makes the connection that what is causing their untreatable symptoms is the sexual abuse that was perpetrated by the men who are giving him a job. As the experts in Freud’s life tell the story, after he made these connections he presented his theory at a meeting of aristocrats, many of them his colleagues and also fathers of his patients. Accepting his theory would require them to accept what had been done to their daughters and the daughters of the men they knew. Instead, Freud succumbed to the pressure, changed his theory, and the emergent knowledge about trauma lay in the bodies of women. When the trauma to men following the war became too significant and prolific to ignore, finally a definition of trauma and what it does to the brain-body system began to emerge.
About all of this he wrote a letter to Fliess in September of 1897 stating his “surprise that in all cases, the father, not excluding my own, had to be accused of being perverse.” If he were to be able to maintain the theory, and the “realization of the unexpected frequency of hysteria, whereas surely such widespread perversions against children are not very probable.” In writing this, Freud showed us something he spoke of elsewhere in his theories—that when accepting the reality of what happened is profoundly disturbing, we are capable of pretending it did not happen at all. This, he called the defense mechanism of denial. Before he retracted his theory, it was quite elegant. He didn’t have the advanced technology that we do today to prove it, but what he began to say about trauma was as close to our current theories as you could imagine.
In his 2013 book Freud and the Scene of Trauma, Fletcher highlights some of what Freud theorized:
- Trauma does not disappear, even if we don’t talk about it, especially if we don’t talk about it. It lives in our bodies and keeps reappearing.
- It comes with a kind of physical and emotional charge, and that charge needs to be released from the body for us to heal. This is why things come back to us, over and over again in the form of our fears, and nightmares, and hauntings so to speak. It is our bodies playing it all out again, hoping it could be different this time.
- When we can’t or don’t do this, the trauma creates what is called strangulated affect. The normal discharge of emotions is repressed, stuck in the body, causing symptoms like anxiety, pain, and illness.
Well Dr. Freud, you were wrong about a lot of things, but you were very right about that.
My name is Dr. Hillary McBride, and this is Holy/Hurt: A Podcast Exploring Spiritual Trauma and Healing.
What Freud got so right is that the stories of our trauma need to be told. Our bodies need to know we are safe in order for us to be able to go on with life, without our strategies for coping overwhelming us to the point that we become unfamiliar to ourselves, fractured from ourselves not just by the trauma, but also by how we try to manage the pain of it. The systematic exploration of trauma has led to the current understanding of trauma as being stored in somatic memory (that’s another way of saying body-based memory) and changes in a person’s biological stress response system. We now understand scientifically that the adage “it’s all in your head”—used to discredit, dismiss, and devalue people’s traumatic suffering—is scientifically incorrect. In fact, there is actually no such thing as something that is in our heads that is not also in our bodies. When something happens that overwhelms or scares us, our brain-body system activates a particular series of responses to help us stay safe. First, we look for help and ask for help, we assess danger around us, or we protest. The ability to reach for connection as a solution to our distress, or to communicate “I don’t like this” or “this doesn’t feel good” or “I need help”—all of that is wired into us from birth, and we don’t actually have to learn how to do that, we just learn more sophisticated ways of articulating it.
But if that doesn’t work, our brain-body circuitry tries another pathway of response. This one involves activating our major muscles and heart rate (among other things) to help us physically defend ourselves or get away. But if that approach doesn’t work, or the stress we have been through is so overwhelming and ongoing that there is no way out, our systems make the unconscious choice to shut down. Our bodies instinctively know how to preserve energy, decrease the threat by not drawing more attention to ourselves, and living in a kind of shut-down, non-real, pseudo-alive state that can range from depressive hopeless to overwhelming fatigue and barely conscious. What is fascinating about these states of overwhelm that occur before the shut down is that everything going on around and inside of us gets locked into this specific kind of non-verbal memory. The states of charge associated or paired with the people around—what they are saying, the place, the smell, the sound, the posture of our body, the time of day, the time of year, what we were feeling inside, even what happened before something happened, and certainly what happened after—can all get included in this sandwiching of sensation and overwhelm. Sometimes we can remember it and talk about it, such as when a specifically really awful thing happened that had a distinct before and after. But where it gets more complicated to sort through is when the situations creating the overwhelm are so normal, celebrated even, that they put our desire to protect ourselves in competition with our desire to belong and stay safe in relationship, making it really hard for us to know that we are storing memories of trauma that we’re building a personality structure around. Sometimes we have no memory of the overwhelming moment because we were so young our brain hadn’t started storing autobiographical memory yet. We just have these imprints of overwhelming fear, or we carry around a horrible feeling that we are fundamentally broken, flawed, and unworthy of love. Although nobody comes into the world thinking that about themselves, when someone has experienced harm at such an early age that they don’t remember the details, the feeling of the shame, the aloneness, and the fear can get woven into their sense of identity so intimately that it is hard to believe this is even a trauma response and not just the truth about who they are as a person.
Sometimes we don’t know that it’s even happening until we get some distance from an event, or a person, or a place or people, only to realize our bodies get hot, sweaty, we get a lump in our throat, just having someone mention their name, or hearing a song that we used to sing, or seeing the words on a billboard as we drive by a similar church in the next town over. Our bodies are so skillful at trying to protect us from what once hurt us that we can react as if we are experiencing the threat again—as if we are back in the event, or with that person, just by thinking about it, or when reminders of it happen including those same smells, sights, postures, times of day, words, or contextual pieces are present. A key feature of trauma is that these sensations, memories, and activations get locked into place during the trauma and stay stuck there, like if a light switch gets turned on as we rush down the stairs in the middle of night after hearing a loud noise, but the switch never gets turned off. Traumas, by definition, dissolve the neatly arranged ideas we have about time, blurring the categories of the past, present, and future—the pain and terror of the past alive in our nervous system in the present as we anticipate future distress.
In his seminal 1994 publication addressing trauma and the body, psychiatrist Dr. Van der Kolk highlighted how the stress of these overwhelming traumatic events create long-term reminders of what happened, which are associated with chronic changes in the body’s stress response system, and alterations in memory. This ongoing stress from the trauma alive in our nervous system changes the way our stress hormones are released in an ongoing manner and alters how we perceive the sensations in and around us. Because memory lives in our systems in a different way when it is traumatic, as opposed to the kind of memory you use when doing your times tables, the memories can not be integrated and processed the same way, leaving people feeling like they are constantly reliving the past traumas. This is often complicated by the frequent misinterpretation of neutral experiences as potentially threatening. There is so much more I could say about trauma, traumatic memory, dissociation, and the way it’s both exceptional and all around us. The scientific literature about traumatic stress is riveting. Learning about it all is like peeling back the invisible layers we tell ourselves as a society about how okay we are, how rational we are, how individual we are, how chaotic our inner worlds are. The neurobiology of traumatic stress and its healing is particularly elegant, surprisingly simple, and hauntingly poetic. Although from the inside, trauma feels chaotic and disorganized, our bodies really have so much order to them. What we need to heal is surprisingly simple. As Dr. Judith Herman says, trauma is “unspeakable, yet demands to be told.” Trauma demands to be seen, to be healed, to be held in community for us to know the aloneness and terror of the overwhelm is over.
If you heard nothing else of what I said earlier, I want you to hear these two things. First, that our bodies are central in the conversation about trauma and are actually having a conversation about trauma. Our bodies tell the story that our minds sometimes don’t know how to use words for—that our minds might not be ready to believe, even. And in doing so, our bodies are directing us towards healing. And second, our nervous systems, our minds and bodies, our individual experiences of being human, it’s not so individual after all. We are in relationship with others so foundationally that when people hurt us, it can devastate our sense of the entire world—but when others help us, it can be the foundation of our ability to heal from what happened. Right from the get-go when things were scary for us, our bodies knew how to look around to see who was there and who could help, literally. It’s called the orienting reflex, and it activates the muscles in our neck and eyes to see our caregivers, to see who’s around to find help. That drive that was right there from the beginning is still there, no matter how far from it we feel, waiting in the wings to help us find the places of connection that will help us on the road to healing.
The specific process of healing trauma is something we’ll give much more time to in later episodes. But we can’t understate how much information about trauma is itself a form of healing. In communities of faith where information about science, psychology, or trauma were often withheld or portrayed as threatening to faith, people are often left without a shared understanding of their own experience or without the awareness of the damage that is ever being done because of the lack of shared social tools for interpretation. This, according to Fricker and Panchuk, is called hermeneutical injustice. How can groups of people know they’re being hurt when they are deprived of the social understanding to identify that hurt, either when it happens outside of them and around them or when the markers of it make themselves known through the body? When we cannot identify what is happening to us, it is hard to have a coherent narrative which identifies why we might feel so awful inside, that points to appropriately the source of the injury as coming from an abusive system or toxic beliefs or leaders who manipulate or abuse. For many people, when we feel so awful inside the only answer is that we feel awful inside because we are awful. The echo of the anthem from our communities ringing in our ears: if we had tried more, had more faith, prayed more, said the prayer correctly, we wouldn’t be feeling this way. The feelings of anxiety or shame or self hatred are the mark of what happened to us instead of proof that we need saving—proof that we are bad, proof that we cannot trust ourselves. And we can disappear into a system a little bit more. To not understand what has happened to us and blame ourselves is actually part of how the problems in these systems continue. Thus, the understanding of what’s going on is part of our healing.
Knowledge and voice can be so healing, liberating, and empowering, that at times abuse of leaders intentionally keep knowledge about psychology and science from people to keep them powerless, afraid if they understood what was happening to them that they would see through the systems harming them and leave. This is not so different from how traumatic religious and spiritual contexts reinforce the swallowing of one’s voice. To not be able to speak about what happened, or is happening, is a symptom of the context. To be able to tell one’s story, to use one’s voice, even if just for oneself, can begin to heal the fragmentation, making visible what was invisible, and then allowing it to begin to heal.
Meet K.J. Ramsey. She’s a therapist and author who writes about faith, psychology, and living with chronic illness. Her writing is equal parts incisive truth-telling and poetic psychoeducation, and I trust her completely. She recently released her second book, The Lord Is My Courage, a book about her journey through spiritual trauma, and finding healing on the other side. Here she is, reading a piece of that for us.
17:43 INTERVIEW WITH K.J. RAMSEY
“Silence can soothe us and silence can scar us. I was raised for reverence, to sit still and silent in church, and to give people in leadership, especially men, unquestioning respect and honor for their God-given authority. I learned to raise my voice when grace amazed me, but relegate it into silence when harm alarmed me.
Silence is the arbiter of scarcity, the force of coercion and control that those who hold the most power wield to maintain the status quo. If power can only be held in the hands of a few, then pleasing them is what buys us belonging. So we learn to fold our hands and cross our legs and put a smile across our faces to hide our heart’s frown, all the while absorbing the bad, bad news that God is actually a power who must be pleased and love is just a reality we receive when we are good enough. I was taught reverence for the sound of a preacher’s voice and the pages of my Bible, but I was never taught to reverence the sounds of my own body and soul.”
And then after that I get into kind of how that resulted in how I couldn’t listen when we were starting to, like, be really abused by a spiritual leader. But that’s the context, and I think that describes what spiritual trauma really is. It’s both the active messaging that parts of our personhood are bad, and the lack of attunement and resourcing we are given around honouring our bodies and our emotions as good. It’s both what happened and what didn’t happen, and that’s what primed me for some really dark shit.
We’ve already started to sketch the nature of trauma, both its development and its healing, as experienced within an ecological system. If you are new to ecological systems theory, let me pause here to map out how the things we’ve talked about so far in the podcast are connected to where we’re going. I want to do this through the theoretical work of Urie Bronfenbrenner. As a developmental psychologist, Bronfenbrenner developed a theory in the 1970s about how our development as individuals is actually connected to the systems we live in. For some of you, that might come with a “duh,” and for the rest of us, this is actually a new way of thinking about our self. When we have been raised within individualism, and as an individual we identify most with our minds, it can be confusing, disorienting, enlightening even, to learn that the reason we feel and think the way we do about ourselves, and how we develop in general, is interconnected with our context. And our context can be understood as divided up into five concentric circles surrounding the individual. It can be absolutely paradigm-shifting to learn that the reason we even think of ourselves as individuals, is the results of the context we’re in. If we were born to different parents, in a different culture, at a different time, there would be a very different way of understanding me, you, and we.
The first circle surrounding the individual is the microcosm: the institutions immediately surrounding a person like their family, school, friends, and religious community. Then comes the mesosystem: this is the layer of interconnection between those in the microsystem, like how a kid’s teachers and parents interact, or how someone’s friends at church interact with their family. Next comes the exosystem: this is the social setting, things like social services, media, local politics, and neighbours. For example, a person’s experience of development could be impacted by how the removal of a social service the family needs creates stress in the family, impacting the person’s quality of life at home on the day-to-day. The macrosystem looks at overarching culture and its attitudes and ideologies. These change from generation to generation, and include values, and the identities required for shared membership in a culture. All of those concentric circles I’ve mentioned are situated within the largest, the fifth concentric circle, the chronosystem: this is environmental events, socio-historical circumstances, and the major shifts in a person’s life that can change everything, like a birth, a death, or a big T trauma.
Bronfenbrenner’s theory was first used to understand child psychological development, but we now know that development is happening in every moment throughout the lifespan, and is impacted on a regular basis by the systems we’re embedded within. Trauma, no matter if it happens during our critical years of development, at a single point, or over many years in our adult life, all of that shapes how we come to experience ourselves as a person. Culturally—due to the nature of psychology, and psychology’s historical over-focus on the individual and their cerebral and intra-psychic reality—trauma has been understood to exist within the person. This is even how I defined it earlier: it is not the thing that happened but our physiological response to it. That’s a part of it, for sure, but that highlights the white, individualistic way of thinking about identity that has resulted from Western European thought, androcentrism, and colonialism.
What that misses out on, though, is—according to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory—that our bodies exist in a context. Our trauma was allowed to happen because of systemic factors; our healing, or our difficulty with healing, is also rooted in the larger systems we are a part of, what they believe, who has power, how much connection we have, the skills of the people we are connected to, how we were protected (or not) through it all. In trauma language, we call this pre-, peri- and post-traumatic factors. That is, what happened before, during, and after a trauma. We can sort those even further into the five concentric circles of the ecological systems theory to see that while our felt reality in light of our trauma is very much experienced by us, as material selves, we are ensconced within the systems around us. Ideally those systems support our development, but that’s not always the case, particularly when it comes to spiritual trauma.
I want to introduce you now to a friend of mine, Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza. Roberto is special to me as a friend. My personal life is richer because they’re in it, but they also have a public voice that I keep learning from, over and over again. Particularly as they speak to the various layers of Bronfenbrenner’s systems that shape our development. As a neurodivergent, non-binary, transqueer, Latinx public theologian and philosopher, who is also ordained as a Baptist Minister, with a PhD in the study of religion, Roberto’s work and life keeps calling us back to more of ourselves, towards community, embodiment, justice and collective healing, and telling the truth about the legacies of the systems that we live in to do so. If Roberto has something to say on a topic, I want to listen to it. So, when he agreed to talk with me about spiritual trauma, I knew he would share a perspective that I didn’t want to go without.
24:57 INTERVIEW WITH ROBERTO CHE ESPINOZA
The thing that comes to mind is just my own experiences with people who are in religious leadership, clergy, pastors, who couldn’t hold my complexities as a human being. And the one example that I have that seemed to play out in different ways, in many different communities and I think with different people, is during my ordination process in Chicago two-and-a-half decades ago, a white gay man said to me—he was the interim pastor—a white gay man said to me, when I identified as queer, his response is: “You have an allergy to yourself.” And I think that that is emblematic of a lot of us who are on the margins of the margins, who are different—we experience this barrier in religious leadership that ends up being an acceleration of harm that gets played out in different ways.
What I mean is, when I am being told I have an allergy to myself, it causes shame, it causes discomfort, it causes me to disconnect even more to myself when I’m already struggling to be present, to be a part of a community that at the end of the day just can’t hold my complexities. And I think this is one of the primary ways that spiritual trauma happens, is this inability to create a container, hold space, be in connection with those who are radically different, that there is this requirement for those who are different to assimilate into a norm. And I think that is dangerous, and I think that ultimately causes a lot of spiritual harm and trauma. And I mean it was the moment, the catalyst that caused me to leave the Church two-and-a-half decades ago. You know, I had come from Texas where I had sort of understood myself to be different, sexually and gender-wise. At the time non-binary didn’t exist, and transgender did, but I didn’t understand myself as transitioning from point A to B. I understood myself in occupying the grey matter of gender. And I think because I was illegible to this white gay male pastor, that then meant that I couldn’t be accepted, and therefore I couldn’t belong.
And it was a real tragic breakdown for me, because I lost everything that had shaped and formed me up until that time. And I think this happens in a lot of different ways to darker skinned people, you know, “you’re just too black” or “you’re just too brown,” right? This harm that happens when those in power, those in leadership, require a certain assimilation or a certain form of connection. And I think people like me who are trans, non-binary, Latinx—so of colour, of a different culture—also someone who is neurodivergent, you know, I just am a complex being that needs that in reciprocity when it comes to connection. So that’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about spiritual trauma, is just sort of my own leaving the Church.
I think in that circumstance that I was just reflecting on, I think it’s an abuse of power. And in the example I just gave, here’s someone with a lot of power who can make or break a process. And I think religious leadership is often in that space, in that position that is able to start or stop, make things happen or not. And it just comes down to an abuse of power. And, you know, people ask me all the time: do you think there are healthy forms of power? I do. It’s, you know, healthy forms of power are ones that don’t cause harm.
In my practice, there is a thing that seems to happen quite frequently. People start therapy because something feels unbearable inside, or in their lives, or they see that the coping tools they’re using to manage their distress isn’t working or is actually making things worse. The drinking they are doing to manage their anxiety is creating issues in their relationship, the obsessive rumination that made sense in a situation a long time ago when they weren’t safe is now keeping them up at night, or they suddenly feel episodes of panic but they don’t have any idea why. They can’t sleep or they hate themselves, but everything in their life seems pretty tolerable otherwise. So, what’s happening doesn’t make sense. As we start to peel back the layers, learning about what life was like up until this moment, it’s not unusual for there to be a conversation about trauma and how the injuries, big and small, charted their nervous system’s development moving forward to survive, or to guard against similar injuries.
Especially when the conversation is new for someone, the language of trauma can feel so unfamiliar, even hyperbolic at times. They might say, “No that’s not me. What happened wasn’t bad enough for us to use the word trauma.” When I hear that, especially as an expert in trauma, who has just heard their story and witnessed and assessed their symptoms, I imagine that someone is handing me the strategy they used when things are really scary or overwhelming. As the story goes, someone has it worse, if this is not so bad then I can actually get through. The intellectual defence is powerful and useful, and can also get in the way of us looking at what happened to us and understanding its impact. Another thing that happens when we start talking about trauma is we draw on the existing knowledge we have, which culturally is still pretty slim, and people start wondering if they have PTSD. If you are listening to this and wondering that yourself, it may be helpful to hear more about what PTSD is. PTSD is the acronym for a disability called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which we use for the most part in North America to understand the criteria that need to be met to receive a psychiatric diagnosis, the criteria for PTSD fall into a few categories:
A: a person experiences a major stressor. There is direct exposure to the stressor, or they witness the trauma happen to someone else, or learn that someone close to them, like a dear friend or family member, experienced a significant trauma, or they repeatedly encounter the details of trauma through other people—like in the case of therapists or first responders.
B: their body tends to re-experience the trauma in at least one of a few ways. We call these intrusions because they are unintentional, unchosen, and they interfere. Unwanted upsetting memories, nightmares, flashbacks, serious emotional distress, or physical reactivity after remembering the trauma.
C: they are trying to avoid the external or internal things that remind them of the trauma, like thoughts and feelings.
D: they experience negative changes in their thinking or day-to-day feelings about life. This can include exaggerated blame of others or oneself for the trauma, depressed or angry mood, feeling isolated, extremely negative thoughts or beliefs about themself and the world, difficulty feeling enjoyable emotions, or changes in memory as it relates to the trauma.
Although it’s not required for the diagnosis, people often also experience irritability, risky behavior, feeling keyed up or on edge, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, or feeling like the world is dreamlike unreal, or their body is detached from who they are. These symptoms have to last at least one month after the event and significantly impact their relational, social, and occupational functioning in a negative way.
As we become more culturally proficient in the language and understanding around trauma, it is important to know a few things about PTSD and the diagnosis.
- Not everyone who has PTSD will know that they have it.
- A diagnosis is an agreed upon cluster of symptoms that help clinicians and researchers agree upon something enough to give it a name, so that we can begin to understand how that something develops, and then test treatment for it.
- But a diagnosis is necessarily exclusive. Most people who have trauma will not have PTSD. In fact, some people who have experienced the most profound trauma do not have a PTSD diagnosis. How could that be, you ask?
- Well, PTSD is a diagnosis that orients around one specific thing, what we call an index event. That is the first criteria I listed above, a singular major trauma. For some people, it can be hard to identify a single event when there was a whole lifetime of them, or when the event was more of a context: a community they were a part of that was dominated by power and control, abusive religious doctrine and leadership, and people who endorsed it all as the ultimate right way to be treated and belong.
Although there are some people who experience religious or spiritual trauma who will receive a PTSD diagnosis for a variety of reasons, there are many other ways of classifying the acuity of the impacts. This could include post-traumatic stress symptoms, disorders of extreme stress not otherwise specified, or complex PTSD. You might remember the name Judith Herman. I’ve mentioned her a few times already. She’s a psychiatrist whose major contribution to the field of trauma studies is the reification and classification of complex PTSD, and the resulting course of treatment—a name for what happens when the trauma occurred at an early age, lasted for a very long time, escape was impossible or unlikely, there were multiple traumas, and the harm happened by those close to you, even those who you trusted.
The chronic nature of fear associated with so many traumas, particularly at an early age, in relationship, massively reorganizes the stress response system. People learn that there is no way to get away, or that the people close to them can’t be trusted. And even when they leave the situations where the trauma occurred, they often feel hopeless or empty, angry and distrustful towards others, feeling permanently damaged or worthless, experiencing dissociation, lots of physical symptoms with no specific organic cause, suicidality, and the general sense that no one can understand how they feel or what happened to them. Again, here is where knowing what is happening and why you feel that way is actually part of the healing process. Being deprived of the knowledge that organizes these experiences into categories, with which other people can identity, can undo the aloneness of the pain and help someone realize that they are not broken—that these are actually very normal and human experiences when we as people have been hurt so consistently by people who should have taken care of us. Believe it or not, there are even more layers. The criteria seem objective, but we know that people are more or less likely to be diagnosed based on where they’re living, their social identities, and who is doing the diagnosis.
While recognizing that trauma, as it lives inside of us, is so severe that it can completely disorient us to the world and who we are, labelling it as a disorder is a misnomer in my opinion. When we say that something is a disorder, we usually hear or imply that the person is disordered—the person is the one with the problem. But any trauma expert knows that’s not true. When someone experiences trauma, it’s the community and the context that is disordered. People rarely go on to develop PTSD if the first time they experience a traumatic event they had a relational context which celebrated their bodily experience when they were afraid and helped them climb back up the ladder of stress response to experience relational and physical safety. When people get a PTSD diagnosis, it is usually our communities, our systems that have the disorder, not the person. The person, in their nervous system response, is just doing what socialized humans do when they experience scary or overwhelming things and they’re alone without a way to discharge the fear that gets stirred up in their body, or the capacity to stop it from happening again. What we know is that trauma also alters gene expression—a field of study known as epigenetics—and that the impact of trauma can go on for multiple generations. Even if the index event happened to a single person, if their communities or customs for creating safety are inaccessible, the person’s genetic material can change and they can pass down the effects of trauma to those that come after them. Our cultural perception that a disorder lives in or belongs to a single person highlights the long-lasting legacy of colonization and our perception of ourselves as more separate from each other than we actually are. It neglects the ways that as much as we have learned to think otherwise, we are interwoven with those who have come before us, those who are around us, and those who come after us.
It was through the research work I did for this podcast that I found Mark Charles’s work, and I am so glad I did. He writes and teaches on the complexity of race, North American history, and Christendom, and is leading the way of truth telling and conciliation in America. I wish his work was mandatory as part of my formal education and my faith. He ran for presidency in 2020 in the United States and is the co-author of the book Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery. He has so much to say on the legacy of spiritual trauma that there is a whole episode at the end of this series dedicated to the conversation I had with him, but I wanted to introduce his voice into the conversation now. Here, he introduces himself better than I ever could.
38:44 INTERVIEW WITH MARK CHARLES
(Mark Charles’s introduction in Navajo): Yá’át’ééh. Mark Charles yinishyé. Tsin bikee dine’é nishłí. Dóó tó’aheedlíinii bá shíshchíín. Tsin bikee’ dine’é dashicheii. Dóó tódích’íi’ nii dashinálí.
Hello, my name is Mark Charles. And in our Navajo culture when we introduce ourselves, we always give our four clans. We are matrilineal as a people and our identities come from our mother’s mother. My mother’s mother is American of Dutch heritage, and that’s why I say Tsin bikee’ dine’, loosely translated that means I’m from the wooden shoe people. My second clan, my father’s mother, is Tó’aheedlíinii, which is the waters that flow together. My third clan, my mother’s father, is also Tsin bikee’ dine’. And my fourth clan, my father’s father, is Todích’íí’nii, which is the bitter water clan. It’s one of the original clans of our Navajo people. I also want to acknowledge I moved from my home on the Navajo Nation to Washington, DC about seven-and-a-half years ago. And where I live now is the traditional lands of the Piscataway. And I want to honour the Piscataway as the hosts of the land where I now live. I want to thank the Piscataway for their stewardship of these lands. And I want to just publicly state for your podcast, how humble I am to be living on these lands today. So it’s great to be with you Hillary, thank you for inviting me to be on today.
The challenge I find when we talk about trauma, is most people understand trauma as something that afflicts the victim. And so, someone who is on the receiving end of abuse, someone who is on the receiving end of violence, someone who has something happen to them that may be outside of their control, they are often identified as “they are the recipients of this trauma,” “they are the victims of this trauma.” And that is the way a lot of our conversations around that is framed, and that’s not inaccurate. You know, the boarding schools—the residential schools as you call them in Canada—were a very direct form of spiritual trauma that was enacted upon Native students who were taken from their homes and raised in these military-style boarding schools, and the punishment and the rejection, and all the stuff that they received—forced assimilation and so on that happened in those boarding schools—did cause a very specific spiritual trauma in that. And there’s a lot of dialogue out there around that type of trauma. And I think that’s all good. And, you know, when I usually frame the dialogue around that type of spiritual trauma, I frequently will talk about kind of the progression of what you would call a PTSD, which is a post-traumatic stress or even a post-traumatic stress disorder.
And a PTSD is an individual diagnosis for someone who’s experienced usually a single horrifying event. So if you’re assaulted or if you’re in a battle, or you’re in a car accident, you can have what’s called a PTSD. It’s an individual diagnosis. It affects you mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally. It’s kind of this all-encompassing condition, but it’s individual from a single event. There’s also something, and not as many people are aware of this, of what’s called a complex PTSD. So, a complex PTSD doesn’t come from a specific event, it comes from a series of events. So, if you get PTSD from being assaulted, you can get complex PTSD from living in an abusive relationship. If you get PTSD from being in a battle, you can get complex PTSD from living in a war zone.
And psychologists, as you are well aware, have observed that the symptoms of a complex PTSD can be observed in the children and the grandchildren of the people who experienced the trauma. There’s not an exact understanding of how it got there, but they can definitely observe it, the symptoms in the children and grandchildren—future generations of the people who experienced that trauma. And then we have what’s called an HTR, Historical Trauma. And this was first observed in Native communities. And HTR is not an individual diagnosis. It’s actually how psychologists understand the dissatisfaction in a broad community. So it was observed in Native communities after residential schools. You can see it in the States in African American communities after enslavement and segregation and Jim Crow laws. You can see it in Japanese Americans in the US after internment camps. You can see it in Jewish people after the Holocaust. I frequently refer to HTR as a multi-generational communal manifestation of a complex PTSD. And so, when you’re preparing to discuss things in a public setting, I find it’s very helpful to be aware of the PTSD, the complex PTSD, and the HTR that most likely is going to be present in my audience. So if I’m speaking to a room of Native people or other marginalized peoples, or women, I will be very aware of the history and of what happened within that community, and either warn people about possible triggers or make sure that people are aware of the content of my discussion so that we don’t derail the conversation. And being aware of the PTSD, the complex PTSD, and the HTR is very helpful in engaging in these types of dialogues.
And so, you know, when you look at the spiritual abuse of the Church, and especially as a Native man, I look at the way that the Church has literally weaponized the scriptures. And it uses the scriptures often in ways we’re not even aware of. One of the examples I will use frequently is, you know, for example, I was reading the Bible with my daughter—this was several years ago. We were reading the Bible before she went to bed. We were reading the book of Genesis, and we were reading about Sodom and Gomorrah. Now I remember the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah when I was in Sunday school with the flannelgraph and all the things going on. And the judgment comes on Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot and his family escape. And God says to Lot’s family, “Don’t turn around.” And Lot’s wife turned around and turns into a pillar of salt. And it’s a lesson about being obedient to God and not looking back. And that was very much ingrained in me when I was in Sunday school. But if you read that story, right, the whole story, Abraham, God said he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. And Abraham is bargaining with God for—he’s negotiating with God for the fate of the city because his nephew lives there. And he starts at a hundred and gets all the way down to ten, and he stops at ten because I am assuming he knew the size of Lot’s family and that ten would be a safe number of righteous people living in the city, so if he got to ten he would save the city and save his nephew. And so the angels go into the city as men and they go into Lot’s house and they’re staying with Lot. And right as they’re in the house, the men of the city come knocking on the door and they say, “Hey, send out those men, we want to be with them.” And Lot, protecting the men, say to the men of the city, “Don’t do this. Here, take my daughters, they’re virgins.” And I’m reading this to my daughter, right. And I’m like, I looked at her and I said, “Honey, no man—I do not care who they are—ever has the right to speak about you or to you that way.”
And the problem is, is we teach this lesson in Sunday school, and we pinpoint Lot’s wife who turns around—and she does turn around, turn into a pillar of salt. And what’s troubling about that is that passage portrays a God who is more concerned about a woman who turns around than a man who pimps out his daughters. Right? If you want to understand why there’s so much abuse in the Church today, especially towards women, we have to look at what we’re teaching in our Sunday school, where we are literally giving our young children the lesson that God is more concerned about a woman who turns around than a man who pimps out his daughters—and that’s one of the seeds of incredible spiritual abuse. So the same way we just talked about how the scriptures have been weaponized against women, right? And they portray a God who is, again, more concerned with a woman who turns around than a man who pimps out his daughters. And in much the same way, the scriptures have been weaponized against people of colour and marginalized people, other marginalized people, and especially against Natives. And we see this in the boarding schools where you know the message is, “Hey, Jesus is white, like the majority culture. And he really demands that you worship him in an assimilated manner. You have to learn English. You have to understand our customs. You have to give up your pagan ways. And you have to even give up your own creation stories and your relationship with Creator. And you have to embrace the creation story that’s in the book of Genesis.” And, you know, all of these things. And this is where it becomes incredibly damaging. Once the scriptures get weaponized and you have the majority, the dominant culture using these scriptures to oppress other people—the challenge with that is the people doing the oppression feel justified.
When the impact of the trauma is based on the person’s system, and the lasting impact it has on them, it can start to leave us feeling a little disoriented. Perhaps there is too much subjectivity in that definition, especially when we come from systems which have taught us to mistrust our bodily knowing and made us disavow what we experience. Because of some degree of familiarity with things that are traumatic in the culture at large, we are better at identifying the individual and horrific events which are likely to create a profound and traumatic imprint on our lives—sexual violence and physical violence are typically more easily identifiable. When someone was hit and there is a bruise, we can point to something and say, “Yes, that is awful and harmful, and something definitely happened to you that caused the trauma to your body.” But we might need more help identifying dynamics, cycles, and behaviors which are more commonly occurring at the individual and systemic level when it comes to spirituality. These are often harder to identify, especially when we’re used to them. I’ve combed the literature, clinical and scholarly, and summarized the common factors below. Spiritual environments, relationships, or contexts which are most likely to result in trauma, include the following: control, consequences, compliance, codependence, and culture.
There is usually high degrees of control in the system or the relationship where someone, or some system has a lot of power—either self-appointed or conferred by someone else, and they use it to control others. The power is enacted in a top-down manner. The control can be exercised regarding behavior or one’s thinking. This comes with rigid rules and, not surprisingly, severe consequences for breaking those rules. The consequences could include rejection from the community, public or private shaming, or the expectation of eternal conscious torment in hell, or the threat of any of these. These severe consequences usually create conditions where a person feels that they have to be compliant and is usually told that compliance is expected of them. This compliance can take the form of perfectionism and adoption of the values, behaviours and speech, rigid internalization of these rules and black-and-white thinking, a fear of questioning, and the idealization of the values held by the person and the community, a high degree of anxiety about non-compliance, and the fear of being found that being non-compliant, or disobeying, to the point that a person might begin to doubt their own reality. They might ask, “Did I do that thing well enough to be off the hook?” But when another person or system has so much power and demands total allegiance and alters the person’s ability to trust themselves, make decisions on their own, and know what boundaries they are entitled to, a person has become codependent to the leader, community, or system. This codependence shows itself in the diminished sense of self, the giving away of personal power, in some cases the disavowal of a person’s sense of rights and agency and voice as a whole, and the unquestioning giving away of trust. They can look to someone else for approval, be unable to make decisions on their own, be unable to feel their own feelings, and may not be able to trust themselves. All of this happens and is supported to continue because there is some sort of cultural factor—either in the community at large, dominant culture in the broader sociopolitical context, or the culture of the person’s first family and early development.
Control, consequences, compliance, codependence, and culture. I chose those five words because alliterations help me remember things, but something is lost with each word that we choose. So, I want to introduce some more complexity and nuance into the description by including examples from research about how this all plays out on a systemic level, with a specific group marginalized in many churches, just to round out the way I’m describing this.
As I mentioned previously, research is sometimes slow to catch up on what we know otherwise in our bones. Religion and spirituality can be helpful for our growth and development as people, but they can also be otherwise, and the clinical and academic communities in my discipline are finally catching up on how true this is. We now have very well-established bodies of literature highlighting the trauma of cults, sexual abuse by clergy, and child abuse by spiritual leaders. But there is increasing evidence to show that the evangelical church has done particular harm to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, two-spirit, or other individuals who identify themselves in affirming ways. In 2022, Hollier, Clifton, and Smith-Merry published a paper in Clinical Social Work Journal, entitled Mechanisms of Religious Trauma Amongst Queer People in Australia’s Evangelical Churches. The paper presented the results of original research which explored the process through which the queer members of the church communities experienced psychological trauma. The authors first presented something called minority stress theory, a concept linked to the LGBTQI2S+ community through the scholarship of Meyer in 2003, who identified that being a member of a minority group comes with significant stressors that have lasting psychological and physical consequences for a person and many in that minority group. Often, these included experiencing prejudice, social rejection, feeling the need to hide or conceal parts of their identity, and internalization of prejudice—in this case homophobia—or assimilative or ameliorative coping strategies. This is thought to be the same for other groups of people who are marginalized by dominant culture, like racial and ethnic groups, women, neurodivergent or disabled folks, immigrants, and people from low socioeconomic groups. This theory and the research that surrounds it is essential. It shows in the science that the constant and cumulative stress of discrimination and microaggression is real, it’s lasting, and it can be profoundly damaging.
The researchers interviewed individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia who had spent at least two years in an evangelical church. The researched identified that the trauma to this population was caused by the following things:
- Having their identity mischaracterized or encountering misinformation or stigma.
- Being told that they were a threat to the community and their community needed to be shielded from them, especially children.
- Their sexuality was erased in some form and they were not listened to or were made to disappear.
- And lastly, they experienced relational distancing. They were edged out of their communities in both overt and discrete ways, and those who tried to stay were subject to leaders’ efforts to make them change.
Not surprisingly, these experiences impacted their social, psychological, and spiritual health in profound and enduring ways. Some of them received diagnoses of complex PTSD, they were unable to walk past a faith community without having a full body activation of the symptoms of trauma. The research helps us validate the impact and damage that members of this community—and many other marginalized communities—have felt but been unable to name. Not surprisingly, the findings showed that often in communities where great harm has been endured, that beautiful, resilient, and powerful solutions to suffering emerge, too. The strength to go on comes at a great cost, but is nonetheless always visible where groups of people have been wounded by those with the most social power. And the evangelical community would do well to learn about what love and faith means from the people who carry the traumas from the rejection of the Church. There is a lot of parallels between what happens at the systemic and individual level, and it may not surprise you to know that it’s really hard for individual experiences of trauma to happen without there also being more widespread systemic issues. In the cases of things like clergy sexual abuse, it rarely occurs without there being organizational or relational processes in place that ignore, actively hide, or even support the way that clergy can perpetrate abuse against church members. And even if that’s not the case, it is appropriate to acknowledge the failure of systems that occur when clergy are left to suffer on their own, without any places to share about their private or personal struggles with mental health concerns, their unprocessed trauma, repressed sexuality, or addiction. It is faith environments which don’t allow leaders to be human, need breaks, have emotions, need psychological and community support outside the Church, that create leaders who are more likely to hurt others and themselves.
Understanding these factors helps us answer the question: how does this happen? This can be a question we ask about individual experiences of abuse in religious contexts as well. In the cases of trauma where a stranger jumps out in a dark alley, there is an identifiable event that happened, as well as a before and after. Like I mentioned earlier, in trauma theory we call these pre-, peri-, and post-traumatic factors. But often in the case of individual abuse in religious environments, like clergy sexual abuse and sexual misconduct for example, the lines around when something began, how long it lasted, and when it ended, are harder to identify. The confusion leaves us wondering how it all happened, and the communities then direct blame towards the survivor. Survivors often blame themselves as well, thinking that abuse is so easy to identify or that they should have known that was what happening was happening and they should have been able to stop it. This is wishful thinking and an overly simplistic understanding that only serves to perpetuate victim-blaming narratives. A more skillful understanding of the research findings, and the theories of abuse at the hands of people who have power, leads us to the conversation about grooming behaviours.
Research and theory about grooming in cases of sexual abuse by coaches, parents, family members, and clergy, has been around for a long time, but research specific to faith communities has been emerging more lately as a result of investigations into the widespread clergy sexual abuse in the US Catholic Church that happened between 1950 and 2002, in which a total of 4,382, or approximately 4% of the active priests in the US Catholic Church had accusations made against them. An article published in 2022 by Winters, Jeglic, and Terry titled “The Prevalence of Sexual Grooming Behaviors in a Large Sample of Clergy,” highlighted the ways in which this kind of sexual abuse occurred. It’s estimated that, in general, across all populations and contexts, about half of all sexual abuse involves grooming. There are factors unique to church systems which create even more opportunities for grooming to occur. And in churches, the number of sexual abuse cases which involve grooming are closer to 90%. McAlinden defines grooming as the manipulative tactics a person seeking to commit sexual abuse may use to lure the victim into an abusive situation, while simultaneously avoiding detection from others and reducing the likelihood the victim will disclose.
Grooming usually includes five stages:
- Identifying a victim. Usually people who are compliant and trusting of adults, are lonely, need a parent figure in their lives, are seen as troubled in some way, or spend a lot of time away from others.
- Getting access to them and isolating them from others.
- Building trust. Here the perpetrator is charming, seen as having a good reputation, affectionate, seen as a pillar of the community, communicating frequently, providing rewards, treats, or gifts.
- Desensitizing them to sexual and physical contact. Asking questions about sexual experiences, accidental touching or distraction while touching, desensitization to touch, or creating opportunities for undressing or pornography use.
- Maintaining abuse. This happens when the perpetrator makes the victim feel responsible, explicitly says not to tell anyone or that no one will believe them, convincing them it is normal, threatening harm or rejection of them or their family if they tell, or encouraging specialness or secrets.
While grooming is similar in many contexts where it occurs, research by Farrell and Taylor from 2000 showed that clergy often also use spiritual manipulation to exploit their authority. This includes the respect they have as leaders in their community, as being understood as in persona Christi, or a stand-in for Christ on earth. Because others see the clergy member as trustworthy, even if grooming has occurred, survivors may doubt that they will be believed if they tell anyone, or anticipate the profound loss of community, conflict, or public shame that would incur should anyone tell what has happened.
It’s easy to hear all of this and feel profound grief and anger. We might feel fear if listening to this and recognizing the content is close to home in some way—perhaps even some numbness if we have not yet been able to process our own experiences, or our trauma has made us disconnect from our own feelings, or we’ve learned to dissociate to tolerate the challenging experiences. All of that makes sense. All of that is allowed. All of it can be here.
One of the problems we face—in a widespread way, culturally—is the inability to feel feelings, in their fullness, in our bodies, for as long as it takes for them to move through us. We rush through them, skirt around them, numb them, and do so because feeling feelings can be scary. But also because many of us, whether we know it or not, carry the cultural legacy of religious and spiritual trauma which made us think that the bodily sensations of our emotions would lead us astray, hurt us, or jeopardize our belonging. So, I want to create an opportunity to remind us that even now, in learning the information we never learned, in the feeling of feelings we were never taught to feel, that we can begin to heal—and that when we heal we join in the current of people, before, beside, and after us, who are also on the journey of healing.
So, I want to invite you to join me in a practice. As we end our episode today, I want to invite you, as much as you’re able right now, to root your feet into the ground below you. If you’re walking, you might slow your pace or just sense the contact your feet have with the ground. If you’re sitting and you’re able, you might let your feet land softly on the floor below you. If you’re outside, you might take your shoes and socks off if you can, putting your feet in the soil. Reminding yourself for a moment, that you are held up, that your body, through your feet and your feet’s contact with what’s underneath you, your body is supported and held up. And if at any point this feels like it’s too much, you might simply bring your attention back into your feet, noticing the pressure between your feet and the ground below you. If you want to join me in this practice you can start by scanning your body and noticing what you feel. It would make sense if there was a lot of feeling. It would make sense if there wasn’t much feeling at all. It would make sense if there was one specific feeling. But even the absence of feeling comes with a kind of sense to it. Maybe an emptiness, a numbness, a dullness, something we can also feel in a way. So as you bring your attention inside your body, see if you can notice and track what you sense there.
As you notice it, you might recognize it as something familiar—perhaps something that has a name like anger or disgust, fear or sadness, or relief. Or maybe a bunch of those at once. Let’s see if you can give that sensation, that emotion, your attention for a few rounds of breath, as if you were saying to that feeling with your attention, “You’re allowed to be here.” If it feels like there’s too many feelings, you might pick one to focus on. And as you pick one to focus on, you might notice if there’s a sense of where it lives in your body right now, noticing if it’s contained to one part of your body, and there are other parts of your body within which you don’t sense that feeling. In a sense you’re feeling the edges of that feeling, recognizing that there might be parts of you that are not completely taken over by it.
And as you let this feeling know with your attention that it’s allowed to be here, you might imagine the kinds of things that you would say if someone that you loved had that feeling. Like, “I’m so sorry,” “That makes sense,” or “Tell me more,” “I want to hold it with you.”
And if this is where you want to land—or maybe it feels like it’s too much—if it’s true you might tell that feeling that you’ll come back for it later. And if you do actually say that, it’s a good idea that you follow through. Building trust with yourself comes from keeping these promises to yourself—that if you set something aside, that you do come back to it later if you say you’re going to. So, if it makes sense for you to come back to one of these feelings later, think about when you might be able to do that or what supports you might need to help you with that.
And sometimes if a feeling isn’t quite complete, it can feel really good to use some movement to help us nudge our way through the intensity of it. Maybe you want to stretch, take a few big breaths, or shake, or wiggle your whole body. Perhaps pausing, ending by placing your hands on yourself, if that feels comfortable, and allowing yourself to take a few big exhales.
Thank you so much for listening. I’m really, really glad that you’re here.
The Holy/Hurt podcast was written and recorded by me, Hillary McBride. Executive producer Leslie Roberts. Sound editing by Bradley Danyluk and Micaela Peragallo. Music and scoring by Jon Guerra adapted from the album Ordinary Ways. Strings performed by Valerie Guerra. Logo and art from Courtney Searcy. This episode’s guests are K.J. Ramsey, Roberto Che Espinoza, and Mark Charles. This podcast was made possible by Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries. Sanctuary equips the Church to support mental health and wellbeing. They provide free resources that meaningfully engage the topics of faith and mental health. The content is developed in collaboration with mental health professionals, theologians, and people with lived experience of mental health challenges. These resources prepare communities of faith around the world to raise awareness, reduce stigma, support mental health, and promote mental wellbeing. To learn more and access these resources, please visit sanctuarymentalhealth.org