Episode Description: Although for many people it was the ideal, there is an individual and systemic cost to feeling the responsibility to save the world. Although it helps for a time, and may even be praised for being spiritually mature, being disconnected from normal human emotions has an impact on an individual. In this episode, we look at spiritual trauma through the lens of systems: both inside of us, and around us. This will help us begin to understand how the roles we played, and the defenses we used, disconnected us from the full experience of being human, and help us imagine another way forward where we can step more fully into who we were before who we were ever told we had to be. This episode features interviews with Mihee Kim Kort and Dr. Laura Anderson.
Content Note: this episode contains reference to sexual abuse.
Run time: 1:12:49
Release date: Aug 9, 2023
- Website: drlauraeanderson.com
- Instagram: @drlauraeanderson
- Book: When Religion Hurts You: Healing from Religious Trauma and the Impact of High-Control Religion
Mihee Kim Kort
- Website mkimkort.com
- Twitter: @miheekimkort
- Instagram: @mkimkort
Karmpan’s Drama Triangle
AEDP Triangle of experience. Read more about this in Hilary Jacob Hendel’s book, It’s Not Always Depression
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. It’s Dr. Hillary McBride here. If you’re joining us for the first time, please head all the way back to the first episodes. 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, if you haven’t done so yet, head back to the beginning and start there. 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 neighbors 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.
Okay, now onto today’s episode. I’m going to let you peek behind the curtain for a moment. If you haven’t gone to therapy, or if you aren’t friends with any therapists, or you haven’t taken any helping or counselling skills classes, it might be completely new for you to know that it is routine practice for therapists to practice our skills first on ourselves, and on other people learning the skills, before we take them into our clinical work with the public. The hope is that we do the work on ourselves that we’re asking other people to do. So, I was in this therapist training program a few summers ago, where, as part of exploring the wounds we carry into adulthood from our childhood, we learned about the roles we had to play growing up. The trainer had us discuss the roles we had to play to diffuse the tension in our families—essentially to be who we were expected to be to make sure that the system functioned with as minimal amount of conflict as possible.
A role doesn’t mean an actual scripted part in a drama per se, but it functions in a similar manner. When we look at dysfunction within family systems in general, like we’re surveying all the family dramas that we were to ever find, and the key parts that keep occurring, there are numerous roles that show up over and over again. There is the mascot or joker, who diffuses the family tension through humor, distraction, or jokes. I often think about this as the friend who, in the middle of a tense moment will say “and then I found $5”—or there was that “awkward turtle” comment going around a while ago. There’s also the lost child, who tends to be the invisible, forgotten, and silenced or self-silencing member. These are the people who are part of the pack, but we tend to not hear from them so much. And then there’s the scapegoat, who gets blamed for everything and absorbs the family drama. They’re the black sheep of the family. Lastly, there’s the hero child. The hero child or the golden child, is the one who represents the ideal. These are the children who are good, even at great cost to themselves, and are very perceptive about what makes them valuable, and how to do that. These are just a few of the roles that we see, but what’s fascinating is that in each role, no matter how it’s portrayed in our family growing up, or how much praise or punishment we got for being in that role—with each role, there is a benefit to the person and the system in some way. We take on those roles because it has a function to us and to others, or it has a function for the system as a whole.
So, back to the story. As this group of therapists were sitting around together, reflecting on our childhood experiences (this really sounds like the start of a movie or a dad joke or something), the trainer asks us to reflect on the roles we had to play growing up. He presented the various roles and asked us to raise our hands when the role that we identified with growing up in our family was called. You likely aren’t shocked to know that when he got to the role of hero child, almost everyone in the group raised their hands. A group of therapists—people who have dedicated their lives to helping others, hearing their pain, and helping them heal—were not surprisingly carrying the legacy of a childhood in which they learned that how they were to be good, or to be loved, or to manage the tension in the family system, was to serve others, and to give their life away for a cause, and then be valued for it. This obviously isn’t the case for every therapist. I know a lot of therapists who were also the black sheep in the family—wanting to talk about hard things, or carrying the pain of the family system. Or the lost child—the kid who was really good at listening, observing, analyzing it all without expecting to be involved too much in more obvious ways. But, in that room, the one that I was in, we all had a really good laugh at this. At least in this group of people, we found a way to make a career out of our coping stance.
I can think back on myself as a child with such tenderness and sweetness now, even a little wink in my mind’s eye. She was trying so hard to be a hero. I remember as a kid gathering groups of friends around who were struggling and giving them impromptu life coaching lessons in grade three, sure that I had the answers to help them with their sibling conflicts, or mediating between my friends when the esteemed Pencil and Eraser Club had a falling out. While I’m presenting the roles in this way, I’m reminded of the complexity of who we are as people. The things that we learned to do to manage our childhood pain can sometimes become the most meaningful, rich, and energizing qualities of our adult lives. I think of the child who escapes family conflict by withdrawing into their room to create art, only to become an artist in adulthood whose work touches so many people because of its depth. Or the child who manages anxiety of the fear of the future through escaping into their logic, becoming in adulthood a brilliant thinker, academic, or theorist. The mystery of being human seems to be that even in our pain, there can be beauty and growth, giftings emerging as evidence of our resilient spirit and capacity to adapt. And also that sometimes in the things that feel most meaningful and compelling, we find a strategy that once helped us survive—that, when going unchecked, or the pain that emerges from it going unattended to, can become a way to cut us off from the fullness of who we are, or could be.
If spiritually traumatic systems claim the label of “family” as a means of brokering unearned trust, then it may be wise for us to take that label on the nose, seeing them actually as the dysfunctional family systems that they might be—survivors bearing the legacies of roles that they had to play to survive these systems and keep the peace, some banished into the role of scapegoat, problems pinned of them so that others could have a place to point the finger, often those who challenge the system, tell the truth, or disavow the rigid and authoritarian expectations. And some still further banished into the role of lost child, silenced, and forgotten, often used in their own way, but never really quite given access to the inner circles of power. And, most often, the hero child, community members groomed from childhood to feel the pressure of eternity on their shoulders, others’ souls their responsibility alone, engendering and venerating a compulsive drive to rescue.
My name is Dr. Hillary McBride, and this is Holy/Hurt: A Podcast Exploring Spiritual Trauma and Healing.
The word rescuer might conjure different images for each of us. Perhaps what comes to mind is the first responder on the side of the road pulling someone’s body from a car wreck, or the community member fostering the vulnerable dog, the lifeguard at the beach helping someone caught in a rip tide. The things we do to rescue, and what needs rescuing from, might be where our minds go, but I want to invite us to step back, thinking about the role a little more analytically and systemically. Let’s consider its undercurrent and motivating factors. Of course we want to think about the importance of helping others, but also, what is often insidious in spiritually abusive systems is the way that selfless caring of others is taken advantage of and rewarded, looking as well at the cumulative costs on the person who is having to do all that rescuing. Let’s take a brief aside for some psychological theory. Step into my upper levels undergraduate classroom for a moment, and your sub for today’s lecture is me! When the word “rescuer” comes up in this way, I think of something called Karpman’s Drama Triangle, a three-part system of roles which keeps people stuck in drama by relegating one person to the role of victim, the other to the persecutor, and the last one to the role of rescuer. Triangles, when they’re used to explain systems of people, can be traced back to the work of Murray Bowen, a family therapist who saw that dynamics between two parts can easily cause tension, so involving a third party in the dynamic actually reduces the tension, albeit temporarily. When people are in a conflict, and they bring another person in, someone displaces that tension. And while this keeps people from actually addressing and changing through conflict, it can create a sense of stability for a time. The tension gets shifted around instead of being worked through—and with three people instead of two, there are more places for the tension to be held and dispersed.
In Karpman’s Drama Triangle, the victim is not necessarily actually a victim, but a person who acts or feels like they are one. They are usually convinced they are powerless, and nothing can be changed, and that any efforts to change are futile. Like with everything we do as people, there is a purpose or a payoff. To be the victim allows us to not have to face change, to take responsibility, or make choices. This role loves to have a rescuer come and save them, and a persecutor as someone to blame for feeling stuck. The rescuer, on the other hand, enables the person to stay a victim. The draw of being able to save or help them feels powerful, good, and useful, and gives a person a purpose. But, given how committed the victim is to staying a victim, the rescuer can’t necessarily get what they need themselves by being able to rescue—which is both a way to feel good and a way to avoid their own pain. They often feel guilty if they don’t rescue, and can become the persecutor themselves if the victims don’t change. The persecutor is sometimes also called the villain. This is the person who likes to blame and say, “It is all your fault.” They can often behave in controlling ways, blame, be rigid, and take a position of superiority. But when this is turned around on them, they may lash out at others or themselves and start to identify as the victim. The persecutor likely doesn’t know how to ask for their needs to be met in a vulnerable and relational way which doesn’t use power or control. So this might all sound familiar in a way, because you likely saw a drama triangle in your family, too, at one point or another. You might find yourself in one of the roles right now, too, or remember a time you were caught in a triangle like this. You found yourself hurt by a choice one parent made, and so you went to the other parent to complain about them. Or you saw it on the outside: friend A is always trying to help friend B solve problems with friend C. Sometimes it’s easier to tell someone else we are hurt than to tell the person who hurt us. For many of us, this is what we learned in our first family, what we often call in therapy our “family of origin.” Our families of origin are both our first experience of being in a group, of understanding and experiencing the pull of implicit group rules about behaviour and belonging—but they’re also these places where we learn so many of our skills for navigating conflict, or not, and end up being the places that we develop the voices that we end up carrying around inside our heads. We learn how to talk to ourselves, often, by picking up on how the people who cared for us talked about us and how they talk to themselves. Okay, the systems theory class is over for now, back to our regularly scheduled programming about spiritual trauma.
You might be wondering why I’m talking about family systems, and triangles, and Bowen, in a project about spiritual trauma. The idea hit me a few months ago before I started working on this when I was trying to explain to someone what is so particularly insidious about religious trauma. Often, in spiritual environments of high control, a person is told that they are bad to their core—an evil lives inside, and we are powerless to stop it from taking over and ruining our lives and causing our eternal suffering, unless—get ready for it—we are rescued by someone outside of ourselves: a system, a doctrine, a right way of believing that helps us get saved. You likely hear it all there: the victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer. In these spiritually abusive contexts, there is still a triangle created, but in these cases people are told that both the victim and the persecutor live inside of themselves. That leaves a person in a particular predicament, trapped, a war inside of them and the only way out of this conflict—and the only way to quell the storm of awful inside—is to have someone swoop in and provide the right way of being. I don’t in any way want to diminish the suffering that is involved in all of this. To believe that you are both evil at your core and powerless to do anything about it feels awful, creating a kind of existential distress that could torment a person their whole life. It would be understandable to create a powerful gravitational pull towards any system or story or belief that promised to alleviate the tension that’s felt internally. It doesn’t help at all that the system or person that promises to help in this toxic religious or spiritual dynamic is usually also reinforcing the continual badness of people. Said another way, this is like a doctor providing a medicine that both causes and treats a wound at the same time. The situation that aims to save is also the cause of the harm. The other, more obvious connection to religious and spiritual trauma, is how important it becomes to be a rescuer if other people are victims, and the persecutor is culture or the devil or their own humanity. If the persecutor brings not only distress or suffering, but torment and death that lasts for eternity, becoming a rescuer is compelling. But it’s also more than that. It ends up becoming essential, both for marking the saving of your own life, but also for demonstrating how much you care for others, as evidenced by a commitment to try to save others’ lives. In other words, this is described as the saviour complex. You might remember from the description I gave earlier in the episode that the rescuer does the rescuing as a means of neglecting their own pain or anxiety, shirking self-responsibility, and turning outwards instead of living in the present. The rescuer needs a victim to sustain this, and both wants a person to be helped, but could become deeply unsatisfied and lost without a person to fix or save. I can’t think of a better solution to the perpetual need of saving than to imagine that every person in the whole world is actually a victim.
Okay my friends, buckle up, the electric and incisive Dr. Laura Anderson is here to talk about all of this so much more eloquently than I ever could. If you are new to her work, then please go check it out and find her book When Religion Hurts You, out in the fall of 2023. She holds a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a PhD in Mind-Body Medicine. She is the founder of the Center for Trauma Resolution and Recovery, an organization that focuses on working with folks who have come through high demand, high-control religion or cults. And in 2019, she co-founded the Religious Trauma Institute. That is a long and impressive way of saying that she is basically the perfect person to be talking to us about saving and rescuing in the context of spiritual trauma. Dr. Laura Anderson.
16:45 INTERVIEW WITH DR. LAURA ANDERSON
When I was going through my own deconstruction process, a really pivotal moment was a few months after I had ended a domestically abusive relationship, and I was going through my journals and trying to piece together: how did this all happen? And I got to this point where, in my journals I felt very confused because I couldn’t tell if my abusive ex-partner had said certain things or if that was God and the church, and the leaders in the church. It was very difficult for me to distinguish whose voice that was. And, for me, I was a therapist at the time who was actually specializing in domestically violent relationships. I had a lot of resources kind of at my fingertips. And so I just started digging in and noticing all of these correlations between what we might consider, like, a spiritually abusive environment, or a system that is built on dynamics of power and control, and how it so closely ties to the dynamics of power and control in domestically violent and abusive relationships. And, you know, as we’re talking about that role of the hero, the rescuer, you know, that sort of thing, I think in religious contexts and systems we’re looking at this being this first invitation, right. God loves you so much. Jesus died on the cross for you. At least in, you know, evangelical Christianity religion, there’s some sort of a saviour figure that saved you. This person who’s worthless, who should not even be allowed to take a breath. And you are kind of ground down into this worthless thing—but then there’s this saviour that’s there to pick you up, and to literally and figuratively give you life. And, in a way, it’s a little bit love bomb-y. And we see this in abusive relationships as well, where there’s this flooding of all these things that I can do and be for you—you know, the knight in shining armour analogy, but in this case in religious context, it’s the saviour figure who’s coming to save you from yourself and give you the life that you’ve always dreamed of, that you’ve always wanted. And I think that can initially get people into a system where they’re now saved, where they are now able to experience life in a whole new way. But just like abusive relationships start to then move into a period of tension, I believe that also happens in religious contexts as well—where they go, well, you know if you’re really passionate about what you were saved from, wouldn’t you want to share that with others?
19:21 Laura Anderson
And it starts to become a little bit more tension in this push-pull of like—well, if you really were committed to this saviour figure, then you would want to share that with everybody else. You would want to share your own story. You would want to share what God has done for you and how your life has changed. And it really can become this—rather than a gift, it becomes a responsibility. And it slowly then, also then morphs into, it’s not only how I reflect what has been done for me, it’s my responsibility then to share that with other people. And if I don’t, that actually calls into question if I’m actually committed to my saviour. And I think that that then becomes part of our identity in religious context—where we then have this expectation that everything that we do and say and how we relate to others has to be reflective of not only this person or this figure that saved me, but what I want you (whoever you is) to accept as well. And we frame it as a gift, right? Because that sounds really good. But in reality, it’s coming from our place of obligation to rescue you. And so, it also then becomes this very, very heavy burden that we carry. And I’m a huge believer that when we hear these messages and participate in these experiences over and over, they become embodied. And so that even if we were to leave a context or an environment like that, we still are embodied with those messages. And we just tend to play them out in a different way, whether that’s in relationships, family contexts, you know, peer-to-peer relationships, advocacy work, social justice—all sorts of different ways where we are then proselytizing for a different message, but it still is those same dynamics at work within us.
I want to come back to this. Like, I think that at first blush, or if someone’s really steeped in the system, they might look at this role of being the hero, the rescuer, the saviour, the evangelist, and think like, no this is, this is really good—like how can there be a cost to this? And maybe for people who are disentangling from it a little bit, there’s a little bit more awareness of what you’re mentioning about obligation. But I guess I’m curious if you could talk a little bit more about—what does a person lose when they are having to save everyone? Or what is the cost to a person’s identity, their self knowing, their connection—like, their way of being in the world?
21:51 Laura Anderson
Yeah. I think that when we are taking on that identity of the hero, the rescuer, I must save you. It’s not necessarily aligned with our authentic self, because we’ve tended to take on the identity that the system, or the family, or the relationship has told us. So, to be a true believer, here is what you say, here is what you do, here’s how you act, here’s how you relate, here’s how you dress, here’s the things you laugh at, here’s the things you don’t laugh at. There’s a lot of prescription involved in that. I remember a pastor of mine telling me a long time ago that truth in life was prescriptive. Everything was prescribed for us, and so therefore, you know, there wasn’t really that much room to show up as an individual if it did not match the prescribed way of living. So when we take that on individually and we say, “Okay, here’s my prescription, and this is what it means to be a human, and I’m now supposed to save others,” then we are saving them to this idea of who we are supposed to be, what life is supposed to be, rather than offering them the ability to show up as themselves and live freely as themselves.
Yeah. What is the impact on systems around us when this is in the cultural water? Like I wonder if you can take a—draw a link for us between an individual who has internalized a message, who feels they have to save, feels burdened by that, their sense of self has eroded. And then when you multiply that by an entire nation’s number of people—kind of what does that do to culture? Can you talk about some more of the systemic legacy of this?
23:32 Laura Anderson
Yeah. I really think that ultimately it creates a very us versus them mentality. So, when we bring out—here’s this prescriptive identity, and even though we’re calling it “saving others,” you know, whether that’s to God or to something else, and we say here’s essentially the right way to be and to live and to exist in this space—that means that anybody that does not subscribe to what that is essentially becomes dangerous. In our nervous systems, difference often equals danger. And so when I am believing that here is what is right or good or true, and anything outside of this is dangerous, it means that the human that doesn’t believe this is a dangerous person, which sometimes can give us reason to, you know, just distance ourselves from them. And maybe that’s kind of the most generous way we can exist. But in other cases, it can give permission to harm other people. Whether that’s through overt physical harm, whether that’s through hateful language or speech, whether that’s through creating narratives that ostracize and oppress. And so, because that “difference equals danger” is living in our body as part of our identity, it really can create this systemic dynamic that if you are not for us, you are against us. And that leads to all sorts of then divisions within—whether that’s familial settings or, you know, towns and cities, and workplaces, all the way to countries, I think. I can look at different dynamics within the United States, where I’m at, and other countries as well, where if you don’t believe certain things, you are considered to be dangerous or harmful. And that happens with multiple different systems and subjects and groups of people. So I’m certainly not singling out, you know, it’s only these people. You know when we look at a spectrum, it’s multiple, you know, multiple points on the spectrum tend to have this dynamic. And again, it goes back to, on that nervous system level, if we believe difference is danger, then we want to be surrounded by similarity. It comes back, then, to the individual nervous system—this makes me feel safe, and gives me a sense of identity and belonging so that I can know how to exist in this world. I still vividly remember the day I was standing in my kitchen, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, mission trips were colonization trips.” It was a very, very humbling moment. I can have so much empathy for my younger self or, you know, the groups that I was a part of, because I really did believe I was doing a good thing. I was taught that all my life, and I believed that. I went into it with that heart, with that motivation. And yet, as I learned and I grew, I was also able to say, “Oh wow. Yeah, that was really, really harmful.” And, you know I was listening to a podcast earlier today, and the host was saying something about, kind of this dynamic of White—capital W, Whiteness—really the underlying motivation is power, it is control, it is to be the determiner of right and wrong, and good and bad, and just and unjust, and it really is—it’s coming from this place of wanting to have power over other people.
27:01 Laura Anderson
And, you know, that was never taught in our “mission trips trainings.” Right? It was never: we’re going there to have power over other individuals. And yet when somebody, anybody comes into a situation, and in this case, in so many cases, it really is white saviourism of saying, “Hey, we have the answers for you. We’re going to come into your culture, into your space, and tell you that what you are doing is wrong because it’s not the way that we are doing it.” There’s this, really, the saviour piece of it is, because we have a saviour for you. It’s the saviour we’ve created. And again, I can empathize with people who haven’t done work around this and believe that they’re doing the right thing. And yet we know, and research even tells us, like, that is not helpful. In fact, that is quite harmful to individuals, not only on a very, like, logistical level where groups come in and start building projects, that are, you know, done in a very shoddy way or they don’t finish them—to creating problems that were not there before they got there. And so I think that it’s really important to recognize that. And that comes from that dynamic of power and control that we’ve been talking about—when we are believing that I have the answer, I have the right way, that is going to shift the way I interact one-on-one with my friendships. It’s going to interact with the way that I function within my culture at large, but it’s also going to determine how I see others outside of me and then how I interact with those other people and what I determine they need in order to be more like me.
You might remember that before we talked to Laura, we were talking about what we call the Drama Triangle. It’s a relational configuration made up of a rescuer, a victim, and a persecutor. While we’re on the topic of triangles, I want to introduce another triangle to you. This one really helps me make sense of the trauma that happens to us within certain spiritual contexts. This is called the Triangle of Experience—or, in some contexts, the Change Triangle—and it comes out of my training in a kind of therapy called Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy, or AEDP for short. The Triangle of Experience provides a map for our inner worlds, and helps to explain both why people are stuck and why people experience so much distress or struggle to feel calm, confident, connected, and compassionate. If we were in person together, I would pull out a white board and draw for you an inverted triangle with the point at the bottom. So you can go ahead and imagine that now, or if you’re taking notes or have something beside that you can write on, you know what to do.
Imagine that the sides of the triangle are actually arrows pointing to the bottom of the triangle, the place that represents what we call our core emotions. Up on the very top right, we find what’s called our inhibitory emotions, and over on the left side, we find our defenses. So now let me talk you through what that all means and how it’s connected to spiritual trauma. As people, we have emotions. They are core to who we are as being human. But even more than our personhood and our identity, what I mean by that is that emotion is actually wired into our species. We are born with the instinct to feel feelings and express them. Think of that little baby, the one who doesn’t have the words to talk about being angry or sad, excited or scared, only shaking limbs, tears, cries, smiles, and laughter. The research about core emotions, or what we call “affect” in the clinical and research world, varies every so slightly from researcher to researcher, but the main unifying theory suggests that there are states that our bodies get into that are important for our social and physical survival. These states have impulses wired into them, and those impulses are somatosensory—they are bodily before they are ever words or thoughts. When we name these physiological states of charge or communication that we’re born with, we call them fear, sadness, anger, disgust, joy, excitement, and desire (or sexual excitement). These physiological states of arousal are wired into us from birth. They’re actually written into our bodies, and they help us solve problems and communicate what’s important to those around us. Remember, our systems evolved a long time ago, and sometimes the impulses we have don’t make sense when we’re sitting in a fancy coffee shop drinking a latte reading a book, but they do make sense when we remember that our bodies evolved these responses in more primitive conditions, where signalling to other members of our tribe if a berry was poisonous or rotten, or there was a threat on a horizon, would make the difference between life and death—not just for us, but for everyone we know. Core affects each have a purpose: they get us away from danger, in the case of fear; they protect what we value, like anger; or they communicate loss and the need for comfort, in the case of sadness; they help us celebrate and expand and feel pleasure and satisfaction, like excitement and joy; and they take us in the direction of satisfying our needs and wants, like desire.
So already you might have a reaction to this. You wouldn’t be alone if that was the case. Desire, you might say, in us from birth? No way! Anger, good and part of protection of what we love? Absolutely not! And fear—how could being weak ever be a good thing? It means you don’t have trust, right? Well, I’m about to explain to you why you’re having the reaction and where that comes from. So your only job right now as you’re listening to me is to notice your reactions and to try to stay with me here just a little longer. Remember what I said about emotion being wired into us from birth and signalling to those around us what we need? Think about this: a baby can’t say “Mom, I’m hungry, I need that top up of milk. You must be stressed and forgetting I’m hungry, so just wanted to politely remind you that I’m a little thirsty.” No, that’s not how it works. A baby cries to get the caregiver’s attention because that’s all they have at their disposal. The adult holding the hand of the child about to cross the street has fear show up in their body when they see the car coming straight at them around the corner. The fear comes with this shot off adrenaline and activation in the muscles in the legs and heart and pupils widen; the person can then quickly jump back off the street onto the curb and pull the child with them. The child sees the normally calm parent’s face change and immediately knows there is danger. They get scared, too, but it helps them act fast and stay close to the caregiver. Emotions are as much physiological as they are social. So when we grow up and have feelings, they are meant to be seen and supported by those around us. They’re meant to be felt and interpreted in relationship. Especially at the beginning when we’re learning what they even are. Here’s the problem: not everyone around us loves our feelings. Family, culture, community, religion, peers, educational environments—the key people around us and their beliefs show up, too, and communicate to us the rules of belonging. They might see our anger and shame us with anger of their own. We might have fear and be told to dismiss it, to shove it down. Sadness, pleasure, and excitement—the feelings we show can provoke a response in which the key people in our life communicate that these feelings that we have shouldn’t be there, that somehow they’re bad, can’t be trusted, they’re dangerous. And more often, we aren’t told that directly, but we learn through our experiences that when we feel anger we are left alone or disciplined; when we are sad we are told we are selfish; when we feel excitement and joy we are given embarrassed looks and scoldings about pride; and desire is never, ever, ever to be mentioned, especially when we see it on TV, when the TV program is immediately changed to something else. The communication about emotions can be covert or overt, but the point for many of us is that we learn to keep the peace, to be “good,” to stay in connection—which, to a child, is as important as shelter and food. We learn to be safe and avoid more harm or abandonment, and we learn that in order to do that, our feelings have to go away.
So, why does this happen you might ask? And I would love to tell you. We tend to store inside of our bodies the maps of what we’ve learned early on or growing up. We feel scared and we get shamed. Then when we are in relationship with other people, we do to them what was done to us. This isn’t the kind of memory we can even articulate or narrate; it’s the kind of memory that is stored in our bodies—kind of like riding a bike. We call it procedural memory. If you’re thinking back to your childhood, you might imagine that your parents did to you in your feeling states what was done to them by their caregivers when they were a kid and they had feelings. Unless, of course, your parents made the conscious effort to try to do something different, they probably handed over to you a map of emotion that was handed to them. There can be a million reasons why our feelings are hard to tolerate for our parents, and how that is connected to life events of our parents, our parents’ parents, our culture, race, gender socialization, age, and so much else. But one of the factors most related to this project is the culture of our religious and spiritual contexts. Some parents have actually been told by faith leaders, disguised as child development and psychology experts, that kids’ emotions are bad, that their wanting is sinful, and that these instincts inside of them need to be shamed, hit, or neglected out of them. Yes, here I’m talking about the famous “paddle with holes” phenomenon—which, let me be very clear, is child abuse covered in Christian wrapping. If you aren’t familiar with this, there are certain fundamental teachings that promote corporal punishment, or hitting children, and base this teaching on certain uses and interpretations of Bible verses. A paddle with holes is designed specifically to be even more painful. Some of the religious values we or our parents were raised with communicated that feelings were untrustworthy, bad, or even sinful. Fear, many of us were told, was proof we didn’t trust God. Anger, a mark of a wicked heart. Sadness was proof that we didn’t have the joy of the Lord. Excitement, well, it was okay if it was about something God was doing, but not about our own accomplishments or who we are. Desire? Unless it was for the Lord, forget it. Want nothing except what you are told to want.
So what do we do as people when that happens? Little developing systems taking in the world around us are so adaptable, learning very quickly what is not okay, or gets us punished or makes us feel unlovable. Without it being conscious, in development our nervous system will always choose connection over autonomous self-expression. But because our emotions are wired into our bodies—in the same way digestion, and blinking, and fatigue after that late night are wired in—the way we get away from our feelings, or perform our “goodness” and stay in relationship is to move up the triangle. So you might remember me saying that at the bottom of the triangle where the bottom point is, is affect—all of these core emotions wired into us. But as we move up the triangle to the top right and left corners of the triangle, we see something else: our inhibitory emotions and defences. At the top right, we see inhibitory emotions or inhibitory affect. As an overall category, inhibitory affect includes the following emotions: shame, guilt, and anxiety. It shows up in our body the same way that the other feelings do; it has a kind of energy and impulse to it. But here’s where it’s different: it is something our nervous system learns to do to get away from core feelings, and it signals, in a sense, that we’re getting close to something that we shouldn’t be getting close to. It warns us by making us feel horrible so that we can back away. Here’s an example: if growing up my emotions weren’t allowed—let’s just say I was told that anger is a dangerous thing for a Christian woman to feel—then my system would learn to do anything it could to get away from the anger. And anytime that anger squeaked through the door, I might feel guilt. For example, “Oh I did a bad thing by getting angry there,” Or shame, for example, “I am bad and I am a sinful human for feeling anger.” Or even anxiety, for example, “I feel worried, and what will happen to me now that I got angry, who saw, what will happen next, oh no, I shouldn’t have, God will punish me.” These aren’t feelings in the same way that they communicate our needs and help us find solutions, but are feelings in the sense they really do feel like something in our body, and usually something we learned to feel in relationship to something else. A really common one I hear people talk about is shame as inhibition of desire. A person hears that desire is wicked, feels desire or expressing it some way, and is told it’s sinful or dirty—and this happens over and over again, so many times that person internalizes that shame to the point that even if no one is around telling them what they’re thinking, feeling, or doing is bad, that there is an inner monologue shaming them, and they happen to believe it’s the voice of God, the Spirit convicting them.
The existential and spiritual pain of shame, the consuming nature of anxiety, and the sickening feeling of guilt are often so intolerable that we move over to the other corner of the triangle to manage them. There lie our defences. I like to describe defences as anything we’ll do to get away from feeling. Blame, avoidance, picking up our phones and scrolling on them, numbing out, using substances, even at times masturbation or eating, not eating, playing video games, denying, dissociating, isolating ourselves, talking nonstop to not leave room for our own feelings or other people’s, making jokes in moments of pain, intellectualizing things to try to figure them out (especially things that can’t be figured out), violence or aggression, controlling, over-functioning and helping other people even when they don’t need help, and in some cases the use of spiritual practices. If you’re paying attention you might start to notice some discrepancies in that list. Wait a second, how can you keep saying sexual desire is good and a core affect, and masturbation could be a defence? How could eating and not eating both be defences? And if spirituality is a core feature of our humanness, how can spiritual practices become a defence? If you’ll step back, you’ll see that the thing itself isn’t a defence, it’s how something is used that makes it a defence. It becomes a defence when it’s used to get away from another experience. The kicker here is that it doesn’t always happen consciously. If we have been doing something to distance ourselves from our feelings for a very long time, we can get so skillful at it, so polished, that we don’t even know that it’s happening. It just starts to feel automatic. It may be the people around us who notice it more than we do—but that gets harder when they, too, are defensive in some way. A really significant defence in the religious and spiritual community is something we call spiritual bypassing. The term was coined by John Welwood in the 1980s to identify the process of using spirituality as a defence. It means that we sidestep, skirt around, or avoid underlying emotional issues or problems in our lives or systems that we’re a part of. We wrap something up in a spiritual package; we give it nice language, which has this added benefit of garnering moral value in the eyes of others so we also avoid other people’s rejection. I believe this happens more than we know, because it is so automatic, and so venerated in some communities, that not only is it not thought of as a form of avoidance, it is considered the very best, most ideal way to be. Inside Christian spaces it can show up inside internally when we try to cover up our pain with our prayers, our mantras, and promises that are positive, keeping us from getting close to the core of the emotion—and like a compulsive ritual keeps us from feeling the anxiety or fear that we were just feeling moments before. It can look like believing you are spiritually superior for not having access to your emotions or feeling like you succumb to them. It shows up when we interact with others, minimizing their suffering or celebrating their pain as a part of God’s plan, praying away their issues, responding with platitudes, or rejecting the experiences of others that force us to face pain—their pain, our pain, and the pain of others. This happens in Christian spaces and other spiritual contexts, where non-attachment and self-denial are seen as signs of spiritual maturity, or the message of “positivity only, no bad vibes here,” is given.
It might not surprise you to know that in spiritual communities, spiritual bypassing is very hard to work with. As a form of avoidance, it is so valued and reinforced that it can be quite challenging for a person to even know that it’s happening, and to do without it can feel quite terrifying, reassociating a person to the anxiety, shame, guilt, sadness, fear, or anger—disgust even—that they feel inside, taking their coping strategies away temporarily. When I’m working with this in my practice, it can even be outright befuddling for a person who has been praised for being skillful at spiritual bypassing to realize there might be something harmful about praying away their fear, or whatever it is. The goal of the triangle—and explaining here to you—is ultimately to help us be better connected to what’s actually happening inside of us—to have a healthier, more whole, embodied experience. Turning towards our inner experiences allows us to be with them, minimizing the avoidance strategies that we’ve used to get away from our feelings. This allows us to feel our emotions, and ultimately allows them to move through us, a process that has a beginning and an end. It might seem confusing at first if you’ve never learned this growing up, or were told your emotions are harmful, but actually, it is trying to manage the feelings by defending and suppressing them that’s harmful, not the emotions themselves. When we learn how to feel and allow feeling to move like a wave through our body, the way that it naturally wants to, the feeling actually passes. Perhaps not in that instant, especially if there’s a lot there to feel, but feelings do end. It is the feeling of them that allows them to move through us—not the suppression, the shaming, control, or avoidance. If only faith-based parenting groups understood affective neuroscience, I like to dream that this would mean that, instead of strategies of abuse, control, domination, and shame, that parents would have been equipped themselves to learn to feel their own feelings as a mark of the goodness of their created bodies, then passing that message onto their children and further out to their communities. It is not the feeling itself that cannot be trusted, but the systems that did not allow us to feel, rather, that need our watchful, loving eye. Ultimately, what is supposed to happen with this model is that it allows us to track where we are. Am I defended? Am I an inhibitory affect? Am I in core emotions? Ultimately directing us towards emotions as a bodily process that we can learn to listen to, feel as sensation, and allow them to build and rise, and complete all the way on the other side, returning us to our natural state of core self. This is what’s on the other side of that wave of feeling. Our core self, or sometimes called core state, is our natural wired-in default setting as a human. Here we can be clear, calm, connected, compassionate, courageous, creative, and collaborative. It is where all of our systems are wired to live when we are not feeling an emotion that signals something important is happening or needing to defend against that process.
This might be revolutionary to hear when we have been told over and over again that we are wired to be bad right from the start, and that we need to be rescued from our fundamentally depraved nature. It might grate against a deeply-lodged belief that you are utterly unacceptable, unlovable, and bad. I am here to tell you that from a scientific, psychological, empirical literature-informed perspective, that this is actually not the case. You were born—just like all of us were born—with the capacity for goodness inside, right at our core. We never questioned that or thought otherwise until something else was reflected back to us. In some situations, it is possible to pick up the story of our badness accidentally, including in situations where no one ever intended us to believe that. Sometimes the mind of a child does that; they don’t have any way to make sense of why something hurts so bad except to blame themselves, and their conclusion, in the mind of a child, is that I am bad, I must be responsible for this, and so therefore I caused it, and this is proof of my badness. Of course, children don’t think it through that explicitly, but that’s how it feels inside. But I do believe it is a form of spiritual and psychological abuse to be told that you are bad, and that badness is your fundamental nature and at the core of who you are. If any of that feels familiar, if this happened to you, I am so sorry. I wish right now that I had a time machine to go back into those moments, to grab the microphone, so to speak, or put my hand on your shoulder—or, if you would allow me to pick up your tiny little baby self and hold you close to me, looking you square in the eyes, I would want to tell you that you—exactly as you are, exactly as you came into the world—are good. It is at the core of who you are to be connected, to feel with others joy and pain, to want to help, to ask for help when you need it, to feel ease in your body, to want good for others, to have hope for the future, and to have love in your heart and wonder in your eyes. That has always been true of you, and I know that because I believe that it’s true of each of us. Being told otherwise should have never happened, and I wish I could have protected you from that then, but I’m really glad that I get to tell it to you now.
I find the Triangle of Experience so helpful when thinking about spiritual trauma for a number of reasons. Here are three:
- First, as I mentioned earlier, many of us were told that the thing under the feeling is badness, not our core state of goodness. That’s a pretty big deal. It can change our lives, and our relationships, our view of the past, our view of others—if we can believe otherwise.
- Second, inhibitory emotion is often seen as the conviction of the Spirit instead of a socially-acquired break mechanism that signals what we had to get away from to know that we belong. It can also be proof that you don’t know what is true about you—you have anxiety because you don’t believe God holds your future, and that is so confusing.
- Third, defences are confusing too because they’re both proof of our badness—for example, your mental health struggles are a sign you don’t have faith, and your substance use means you don’t trust God, and you know, fill in the blanks—and, you better overwork like the sevant Jesus, pray away your fear, spend all your time and money giving everything to this community to protect you from the dangers of the world, or have a good theology so you don’t have to feel fear of what happens to you after you die. Our defences become both the thing that creates pain and shame in us, and also something that we become valued for.
If you’re doing a word count on how many times I’ve mentioned fear or anxiety, or you’ve sniffed it out while I’m talking about this theory, you’re actually onto something here. In systems that are dominated by power and control, fear is behind the wheel, and fear is often the very thing that people are told they are not allowed to feel. To feel fear is often to be aware of danger. And to prohibit people from feeling fear is to disconnect them from the mechanism that would signal they are in danger and need to get out. It is very hard to leave a system that is hurting you if the mechanism in your body that signals when you are being hurt has been demonized and you’ve learned to mistrust it.
I think there are two really helpful takeaways in this context when it comes to the triangle. The first is that it can be so relieving to know the information. Our shame can decrease, and we might feel a spark of insight or recognition that relieves us to know that there is a map for making sense of our internal distress. And the second pertains to the map itself: we have a trajectory forward. This helps us know what we might do next to help us reconnect with our core self. Whenever I share the triangle with people, I like to start by mapping out where they are on the triangle. This also helps me—when I can get a sense of where I am, I immediately know where I need to go next. We might start by recognizing that we are in our defenses, or inhibitory affect. If that’s the case we can ask ourselves: what feelings or feeling might be underneath this, and what might I be trying to get away from right now? Sometimes our feelings are about the right now, and other times they’re here, waiting for our attention, because there was never any room to feel them in the past. If we are not getting away from our feelings somehow, or we can manage to get underneath our defenses or the strategies that keep us away from them, we might be able to tell that we’re feeling something—noticing sensation in our bodies and the intensity of a rising emotion—but it can help to slow down and ask: what is the feeling I feel in all of this? Sometimes our feelings show up first as the words we give them. Especially if our bodies are hard to stay with or trust or sense, we might notice the word sad, or angry, scared, happy, or some other feeling word resonates with us, but it’s hard to feel the sensations of those emotions. After all, emotions are energy that rises and moves and communicates through the body, but when we have learned to mistrust our bodies and the signals our bodies send, it makes sense that it would be hard for us to feel, or even to know what to do with that information. To get back to our core state, we actually have to be with the feelings. The first step towards that might be learning the profound, but novel information that your feelings are good, they’re in your body, and they can be trusted when you build relationships with them and learn how to feel them. Each emotion, like many things in nature, comes in a wave form. It increases, we feel it build, we might feel our old instincts to suppress or get away from it come up—but if we can stay with it as a series of sensations, it will peak and come down the other side. And on the other side will be some instinct, insight, or direction on how to act and where to go next.
If feeling feelings is new for you, it can feel so scary. In particular it can feel scary—and you might have the need to diminish the process or reject it altogether—if you were shamed, belittled, rejected, devalued, punished, or left alone with feelings when you had them growing up. Those responses from others, especially if they were important people in your life, are often still lodged inside your nervous system. Those responses are there to do the job of keeping you in line with other people’s expectations or values, especially if deviating from them would have wounded you in some way. If you notice that come up, you might just try saying something like this to that part of you that is trying to suppress or defend against the emotion: “I am so grateful for you and how you helped me belong and survive in that environment. I’m all grown up. I am here now, and knowing what I know, I actually want to try to feel this feeling—even if it’s only just a little bit more than I did before. And if it gets too much, we can slow down or stop.” Here are some of my favourite strategies to support us to stay with the building of feelings as they rise. All of this depends on actually knowing that you’re feeling something. If feelings in a general sense are new to you, you might pull up something called a feeling wheel—we’ll have one for you in the show notes—and you can scan through that to look at different emotions. Sometimes having them listed and grouped in front of you helps to hypothesize about what might be stirring inside. And once you have an idea, a name, or a sense that an emotion is present, try some of these steps:
- First, remember it’s not dangerous. You might say to yourself, “I can feel this and survive.”
- Next, try tracking where it’s going in your body and what it’s like. What’s the quality of the sensation? Where is it? What does it want to do? How does it move? Where is it going? Does it feel like tightness or expansion? Does it feel hot or cold, or both at the same time in different places?
- As you notice some sensation, try to just keep your attention on that. You could breathe into it, imagining that you’re breathing right into the heart of the feeling and allowing the breath to surround or support the sensation. You could also imagine watching it with your mind’s eye. I like to call this bird watching. When we bird watch, there is no agenda—no need to fix or change the birds, nothing but watching what the birds do next, keeping track of their motions, and trusting that they will come and go as they please. When we bird watch, we just keep our attention on the sensation and see what happens next.
- We might notice a word comes to mind, or an image or thought, or a desire for action. Keep track of that and then return to the felt sense in your body.
- If we know that we are feeling something and we’re scared to go into it, we might bring in a person we trust just to be with us as we do that. Being with someone who we trust, who we know will listen to us, and make space for our feelings, and can help us if we get stuck, can help us feel a little bit more brave. I like to say that connection alchemizes fear into courage.
- While we might sometimes have the urge to run with a feeling—to let our fear pick us up and carry us away, or our anger might make us want to yell out loud and hit something—in situations where we don’t need fight or flight to save our lives, what is healthier and most necessary is simply staying with and feeling the actual sensation of the emotion. Underneath the desire to run away might be a jittery electricity running up and down our legs. The anger might come with a burning wave of heat and tightness in our arms. Noticing that hurt, just allowing ourselves to feel it, actually won’t make us hurt anyone or ourselves. The feelings in our bodies, as they are, are not dangerous to us or others. If we can see that our anger wants us to move us, to use our arms, we can squeeze our fingers, or jaw, or take some heavy breaths out. Fear might ask us to jump up and down or squeeze our legs or move them really fast on the spot. Feelings are not created to inflict violence, but rather, feelings are for protection, expression, flourishing of self, and for community. When we can slow down and stay with them, we can see what is so, so good about a feeling.
Feelings, as difficult or uncomfortable as they are, can only last so long. There are waves of them, but the peak of the intensity is not meant to exist indefinitely. Our bodies wisely know how to move us through that and discharge the energy. As long as our defences don’t get in the way, on the other side, we feel ourselves slow down, settle, take deeper breaths, and our muscles just get soft. Often, then, in that place of stillness, we get a sense of what needs to happen next. Doing this over and over with little feelings helps us build trust in our bodies and our capacities to stay with feelings as they rise and fall in a bigger way. Learning that I can sense the little contraction in my belly of nervousness, or the slight drop of my shoulders of disappointment, helps me know that in the future I can venture into the bigness of my biggest wave of fear, or the depth of the largest wave of sadness. How we respond to our feelings can help us build trust with ourselves.
You likely remember her from a previous episode, but here again is Mihee Kim-Kort.
When it’s this innocuous, like you’re saying, what do we do to heal from the wounds that we’ve collected, that we might not even know that we’ve collected?
1:02:20 INTERVIEW WITH MIHEE KIM-KORT
Oh man, that is such a good question. Yeah, Lord. I mean, I think that, I mean spaces like this, where you have a chance to sort of kind of crawl back—I mean that’s language from a religious studies scholar, is you kind of crawl back through history—you know, sort of through all that rubble and try to name—you pick up some of those pieces and sort of name some of those pieces. And to have that chance, you know, to have that question even being asked—to even have the possibility, you know, presented to you is I think one way, is one step. You know naming, yeah naming and sort of telling those stories. I often think about my dad saying to me, you know, that the sort of the best healer, or the greatest healer is time. And so not even, like, the passage of time, but to give time and space to that, you know, thinking and questioning and struggling and grieving. And I guess finding other folks. There’s a group called the Progressive Asian American Christians, and it was formed shortly after the 2016 election. And it was a space that—like, there just had never really been much of a space for Asian American Christians who weren’t just simply the product of these evangelical ministries and missionary projects. I mean, granted, a lot of folks in that group were like me and grew up in mainline denominations, and even folks who grew up in mainline denominations and had no experience with that sort of evangelical community—but I think there’s something about having a space to sort of talk out and have that be sort of reflected back to you through other people’s stories, and sort of confirmation and affirmation—you know, kind of puts you back together. You know, puts those pieces back together. Really is like a healing in that remembering, you know like putting those pieces back together. Yeah, I think that’s it for now. And eating good food, you know getting together with people and just eating really good food. And thinking a lot about, you know how we find that healing, you know, that spiritual and emotional and mental healing, like, deeply within our bodies, in our flesh and blood, and I think that that’s such an important part of addressing these issues around spiritual trauma—you know, that it’s something that is deeply within our bodies and embodied.
While there can be spiritual trauma in obvious places, like churches, synagogues or temples, communes or ashrams, there is the possibility of spiritual trauma wherever there are groups of people. I believe that this happens when we devalue others, when we have leaders who manipulate and control and trick people into following them, when we have institutions that to try to cover up their mistakes by discrediting their accusers or pretending that something bad never happened. But there are less obvious forms of spiritual trauma: people telling children that they are born bad; communities who ostracize, problematize, and shun others for their disabilities, believing they are broken and in need of healing prayer. And then there is this: the whole stealing of Indigenous land and building a nation on it based on the Church’s Doctrine of Discovery, but wiping this from the dominant culture’s history books to tell a story that covers up what really happened. I believe it is possible to be experiencing spiritual trauma, and either benefiting from it or perpetuating it, without ever knowing that it happened. While seeing this can tempt us to back our way into our bypassing ways, and our defences, our strategies for avoiding what is—blame or shame—I urge you to consider the words of one of the prophets of our time, Audre Lorde, who in the ’80s wrote “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” It will take something different than the tools we were handed in the midst of spiritual trauma to build communities where that doesn’t happen. And it happens each time we refuse to believe that we are bad, and when we have the courage of an open heart to stay connected to the pain within ourselves, the pain we see and have caused in others—and it’s in the sting of hope that comes from the telling the truth of what should not have been and of who we really are.
In our coming episodes, we’ll talk about healing, and more of the systemic issues connected to spiritual trauma on a broader, cultural level. In the meantime, I am imagining us sitting in my living room, next to the fire—and no matter where you are, or where you’ve come from, or where you are going, I am looking at you and saying, “I am so glad that you are here.” I want to end today’s episode with one of my favourite poems. I read it often when I’m about to speak about emotion and healing our relationships to ourselves. It is called “The Guest House,” written by thirteenth century poet Rumi, and translated to English by Coleman Barks. Here’s the poem:
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
1:08:19 GUIDED PRACTICE
I want to end today’s podcast episode with a practice around emotion. And if you want to take more time with this, I want to encourage you to pause, only pressing play again when you’re ready for what’s next. We all have different speeds of encountering the information that emerges inside of us. So we’ll start perhaps by adjusting our posture. You can give yourself a little bit more attention—you might notice what feels good about how you’re sitting or standing or moving. Maybe if there’s something that doesn’t feel good, you can make an adjustment. And I want to invite you to notice if you’re feeling or what you’re feeling right now. Perhaps pausing to notice where the entry point to feeling is—if it’s through sensation in your body already, or if it starts through your mind, if it starts through language. And as feeling or awareness of feeling becomes available to you, try to notice what happens inside. What’s it like? One of my favorite ways to think about this is, if an alien came to this planet and I was going to try to explain to them what this feeling was like, how would I tell them what it actually is, what’s happening inside of me? If you want a deeper practice or something to do a little bit further, you might try thinking about a contrasting emotion, bringing that to mind and then switching back and forth between them to notice the differences. If you were connecting to a feeling of anger, you might pick something else on the other end of the spectrum, perhaps something like ease and satisfaction. Just noticing when you bring anger or a memory of anger to mind, what happens in your body? And then when you bring satisfaction or ease to mind, what happens in your body? You could also try going back to a time when you felt each of the core emotions. And perhaps you go back to that image shared earlier in the audio of me sitting next to you—and if not me, then someone you love or trust or feel close to, even if you don’t know them personally. And as you’re feeling what you’re feeling, you could imagine them looking you in the eye, or sitting next to you holding your hand, or their arm around your shoulder, telling you that you are good, that you are loveable, just as you are.
Thank you so much for joining us today. 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 Laura Anderson and Mihee Kim-Kort. 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