Episode Description: Often without knowing it, the contexts we come from shape our definitions of healing, sometimes leaving us crafting a definition of trauma recovery informed by the black and white thinking, rigidity, or individualism we are trying to heal from. This episode is all about healing. Instead of proposing a singular path for healing, or a specific narrow definition, options and possibilities for healing are offered at an individual and community level. During this episode you’ll also hear from William Matthews, Roberto Che Espinoza, and KJ Ramsey.
Content note: this episode references eating disorders.
Run time: 1:17:27
Release date: Aug 30, 2023
- Website: kjramsey.com
- Twitter: @kjramseywrites
- Instagram: @kjramseywrites
Roberto Che Espinoza
- Website robertoche.com
- Instagram: @drrobertoche
- Twitter: @irobyn
Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of posttraumatic growth: Research and practice. Routledge.
Cashwell, C. S., & Swindle, P. J. (2020). When religion hurts: Supervising cases of religious abuse. In Trauma-Informed Supervision (pp. 180-203). Routledge
Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2005). Attachment, evolution, and the psychology of religion. Guilford Press.
Stone, A. M. (2013). Thou shalt not: Treating religious trauma and spiritual harm with combined therapy. Group, 37(4), 323-337.
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.
Hey listeners, it’s Dr. Hillary McBride here. Thanks so much for listening. If you are listening to this podcast for the first time, please head back to the first six episodes. The podcast is meant to be listened to continuously, kind of like chapters of an audiobook where current episodes build off past ones. So, if you haven’t done so yet, head back to listen from the start. Before we get started, just a reminder that this podcast is created for those of you with lived experience of spiritual trauma. If you’ve experienced spiritual trauma, I can’t guarantee that all of this will feel easy to listen to, but I can assure you there we haven’t used a lot of Christian language, prayers, or scripture.
If you’re listening to this and spiritual trauma is a new idea to you, thank you so much for being here to learn more. When people without firsthand experience of spiritual trauma understand more about it, I believe that we can build communities where we love our neighbours with compassion and wisdom. Okay folks, here we are onto episode seven.
Although I’d been in treatment for a number of years by then, I don’t really think I understood what recovery meant until I was no longer active in my eating disorder. For so long my symptoms were invisible on the surface, but I was able to peer deeper and see that they were living just below the radar. I was still unclear about what it meant to be well, to be alive, to be a body. In the last phase of my formal eating disorder treatment, I remember sitting across from my therapist in a partially reclining chair, her notebook out and pen poised, and she asked me about what recovery looked like for me now. Up until then I had never really had to define it. I was pushed through a system where people told me what they expected of my eating. They told me what recovered bodies looked like, what recovering weight was like, what recovery thinking was like. I didn’t actually have to find my voice, or even know what I wanted. I just had to do what I was told. So, as she asked me that question, I remember sharing with certainty about my plan to do recovery the right way: not a trace of the eating disorder left, not a trace of the eating disorder detectible to anyone else or myself. Instead of the eating disorder being in control of my life, I would be completely in control of my life. I went on with this naïve and rigid masquerade of devotion and optimism, as I described how this version of recovery was something that I was committed to. I don’t remember the details of how we got from that idea to where we ended up in the session, but I remember that there were some questions, a click of insight and recognition, and a gentle unravelling. Somewhere between her skillful questions and my knack for process-based thinking, it came to me that I was approaching recovery the same way I had lived in my eating disorder: Perfection. Control. The constant moving target that was unachievable. Black and white thinking. Rigidity. Aloneness.
There is something so many of us do in our attempts to change things: we try to manage the healing in the same way that perpetuates the inner process that caused the hurt. I was doing that with my journey of recovery. First, I was trying to live and die by what I did with my eating and food—only this time, the obsessively restrictive goal would be my perfect recovery. It was in learning that piece of insight that I saw both the way out and how far I had to go. And somehow, I also started to feel the edges of that story dissolve, the one about being on a trajectory with a start and end point—where the start was the brokenness and the end was glowing awakened wholeness. I can feel myself taking a deep exhale even as I reflect on this—the permission to see that I don’t have to be somewhere else to be healed, or healing, and the awareness that there is always more to know, always more I can’t see, no matter where I’m positioned. There is always more about myself I can’t see, or know, more to discover, love, and claim. Including the awareness that I was good all along and never needed to be made unbroken.
That session relieved me of the pressure to do my healing journey differently, and reminded me that growing is meant to be good, and challenging, and easy, and hard, and beautiful, and uniquely mine, and somehow all together. This series of contradictions that make it hard for it to be one thing, or look one way, was exactly what I needed. I realized I needed to have softness and flexibility in my definition of recovery as an antidote to perfectionism—that itself would signify that something had shifted in me. I needed my recovery to encompass other elements of my life—things that had nothing to do with eating, or weight, or mental illness, or treatment. Being able to see the goal of working on my friendships and going back to school as part of my recovery would tell me that my recovery was underway already. And most perplexingly, allowing my eating disorder to be peripheral in my life without my own judgment, anxiety, or self-scrutiny, was for me the ultimate mark of my recovery. It was when I no longer measured my recovery, no longer lived my life by measuring and control the same way I had in my eating disorder, that I knew that I was in recovery. We can’t heal from control, by controlling what healing looks like. We won’t mend the wounds of our perfectionism by trying to do so perfectly. We will still be missing something we need if we try to shame ourselves out of shame. In many cases the very definition of healing, the marker well on the road to recovery, is actually being able to accept ourselves exactly where we are. My name is Dr. Hillary McBride and this is Holy/Hurt: A Podcast about Spiritual Trauma and Healing.
You might remember her from previous episodes, but this is K.J. Ramsey, therapist and author, talking about healing.
6:32 K.J. Ramsey
So if spiritual trauma is the result of and the experience of being in any spiritual context, or system, or relationship where our full humanness—including our embodiment and our emotions—is not protected, or honored, listened to, then the healing of that trauma requires listening to the brave witness of our bodies: that that was harmful and continues to be harmful. And there’s a reversal of the curse on our physicality that must happen for us to heal. And so that’s inherently threatening in itself, because for those of us who have been taught to mistrust our bodies, for many of us our whole lives, to start to listen is inherently distressing. And so, you know of course, I as a therapist, am going to say, like learn how to listen in the context of a supportive relationship that’s safe, with somebody who knows how to help you not feel too overwhelmed, or like what we would say flooded, to restore, to have a witness. So, you know how Gabor Maté says trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness. We need to be witnessed, to learn how to listen to the witness of our own bodies, telling us what we need to be whole. We actually need that other human face and body, voice, even touch, to bring us back to that being a safe and good thing. But it’s our witnessing of each other that makes that way possible, and a way of welcome. So, learning how to do the courageous thing of letting ourselves be witnessed, and then witnessing ourselves, too, is I think the beginning and the end, and the way to healing.
Healing from spiritual trauma looks like so many things. There are as many paths to recovery as the people who are on those paths. There is no one single thing to do that is a panacea for all the pain, no one goal, no objective measure that it has happened. The more we can allow for each person to be different, and need different things, the more we are better able to collectively create systems where less damage is done, and more healing can take place. Allowing for different needs, speeds, and routes for healing, perhaps surprisingly, actually allows for more connection within the common to take place. Within that variability there are some common themes that emerge over and over again in the literature on healing, and the suggestions about the ways that we can repair. Think of this as a sentence stem, a series of experiments, or the beginning of a conversation to be had, adding what works, trying something on that feels new, but not so scary that it will overwhelm you.
You may need some of the following things for healing. You may need to allow yourself to admit that trauma has happened, or allow someone else to name that for you. You may find relief in allowing yourself the space to tend to the wounds. This can look a number of different ways. You may need to tell the story, or realize your body has been telling the story all along in the form of emotion, digestion, your skin, the tightness in your chest, your hair, the aches, the fatigue, the numbness, the blankness, the anxiety. You may actually need to learn that you deserve to have other people help you, and that even helpers who are qualified to help you don’t have the right to your vulnerability without earning it.
You may need to get away from specific spiritual communities, or leaders, or gatherings all together. Or, you might need to dig further into your spiritual communities, traditions, or practices to anchor you, separating them from the behavior of the person or people that hurt you. You may need to intentionally go towards other forms of relationship that feel therapeutic, and non-coercive, and know how to care for you—like individual therapy or group therapy or other kinds of community support. If you have been driven to over-work, and self-sacrifice, and serve others to the detriment of yourself, you may need to take time to receive care, and explore all the reactions you have to that. You may need to renegotiate your relationship with finances if financial abuse was part of the trauma for you. You may need to repair the bonds you severed or neglected, tending to the relationships that withered or were disconnected because of what the community or practices demanded of you.
This might mean learning how to build relationships with folks who were not part of your faith community and don’t share a similar past. You may need to create boundaries that are clear, and outline the kind of experiences and patterns of relationship that aren’t healthy for you, at least not now. This may be boundaries with people, or process, or systems—being clear about what you will and won’t do, instead of defining your boundaries by what the other person or people need to do differently. You may need to grieve or make space to grieve. There are many losses, measurable and immeasurable, existential and relational. This may mean feeling like time was lost, or years that things could have been different are gone. This may mean realizing that relationships that were healthy and loving were dropped, or careers and passions you could have pursued were left to wither. This may mean realizing how lonely you are after losing a community you were told was family. You may need to grieve your sexuality, you may need to grieve your relationship with your physicality, you may need to acknowledge what was lost because of the systems, the relationship, or the person.
But, you may also grieve what you lose in the present to give up on those relationships, or faith, or community that caused harm to you. You may grieve the relationships, a sense of certainty, clear plan for your life, and defined boundaries around behavior—or the sense of closeness you got, the feeling of meaning that was beautifully packaged and handed to you. You may grieve the loss of culture. You may experience the strange “bottom dropping out from under you” feeling that comes from realizing that something can feel good, and not necessarily be good for you, or good for you forever. You may need to start feeling your feelings, noticing your body, and paying attention to the stories you tell about your body. You may need to realize that feeling feelings is hard. It’s a skill, and not just an intellectual process, but requires you to actually trust yourself—and trusting yourself is harder than you likely know how to do on your own.
You may need to realize that the thing you think is trauma, sits on top of all sorts of other traumas in your life, or your family, or the systems you’re in, which was how it was so hard to see it as trauma in the first place. You may need to work backwards in time and connect with a younger part of yourself who learned things when you were very, very young. You may need to learn about the nervous system, and how our bodies learn, remember, and process feelings. You likely need to read about the words emotional regulation and emotion dysregulation, and explore healthy patterns of relationship and power. You may need to research what codependency is, and attachment styles, and consent. You may need to realize that so much information was kept from you, and accept that there is still so much to learn—and that not knowing, on the other side of scary, can actually feel like freedom, adventure, and the beauty of mystery. You may need to learn that you are good, that you’re deserving of love. You may need to spend more time than you think, at first, unlearning the stories you were told, and setting down the belief that you are unacceptable, defiled, and fundamentally bad. You may need to be compassionate with how long that takes, and you may need lots of reminders around you in the form of practices and people and stories that help you remember that to be true.
You may need to re-learn, or learn for the first time, that this life is yours. This body is yours. Being responsible for yourself, although at times overwhelming, is an honour. Because to care for you and love you, even when it is you loving and caring for you, is sacred work. And one day, just maybe, you may want to find a way to make meaning of it all. Even if that meaning is different than how someone else would make meaning. Even if that meaning is that there is no meaning. Even if that simply allows you to say: life is full of pain, and beauty, and here I am in the midst of it.
A few episodes ago, you heard me talk about parts inside of you and the idea that there are multiple voices, or selves, or developmental, or behavioral networks—whatever you want to call it—and all of these different networks or parts exist inside of your nervous system. This helps us understand why we can be a person who is both strong and fearless, and other times feels like a child in time out, or a part of us that loves to learn is right next to a part of us that feels like we need to be perfect.
When we experience trauma, there is often a part of us that gets stuck in what happens, almost as if there is a younger self inside of us who still lives in that moment, or moments, when the trauma happened. This can make it really confusing when we get out of a system that hurt us, or a relationship, or community group, or religion, and still feel like the old things we thought, or felt, or did, or believed, are with us now. Even if we worked so hard to leave them behind. Even years into our lives following the trauma, we can be surprised by the relics of that past experience living in us, right there waiting for an opportunity seemingly to pop into our conscious awareness—even if we have already worked so hard to change how we think. We can have changed so much, for the most part, but there are still these little fragments or clusters of ideas and feelings that float around in our system.
When we learn things, especially over a long period of time, or early in our lives, they get baked into the structures in our brain responsible for the most automatic thinking and feeling. For example, we may have learned growing up that people from a different religion are dangerous and need to be feared. And then, even after having done as much work as we have to detangle that belief, and as much as our adult self believes otherwise, we might find ourselves still thinking defensively when interacting with a person from that other religion. This can get complicated if we grow up to become a person from the religion we used to fear, we can both want to be in this religion and sometimes have thoughts that are confusing and archaic, and we might feel like a fraud or at war inside of ourselves sometimes. In the example I just used, you could substitute the word religion for so many other things. For example: sexual orientation, gender, race, body size, culture, and so on. And it’s also possible that there is a part inside of us that hates where we came from and is embarrassed and ashamed to have been a part of that community, or faith, or relationship, that hurt us and others so much. Each of the parts that you have, whether they’re ones I named or not—they mattered for you. At some point in your life you needed them, and even if you don’t feel like you need them now, they are worth getting to know, building relationship with, exploring. They might even tell you why they’re still hanging around.
There might also be a part inside of us that holds all this unprocessed pain. I imagine this part to be like a bag that we hold behind our backs, funneling painful experiences and memory into that bag so that we don’t have to feel them, but there it is, this bag full of pain starting to overflow, and our strategies to manage it have to get more blunt and controlling just to keep the pain at bay. Or, there may be a part of us that carries the stories, behaviors, ways of coping, strategies, and beliefs about the person or system that was abusive. This is more actually probably more common than we may like to admit, but it’s so helpful to know about, and to talk about. So why do we go back to that story of saying “we’re bad” without understanding why this is happening? We are so good at learning, and adapting, and finding ways to stay safe, that often when we are around people who are powerful or important to us and they hurt us, we actually learn to map their minds. We map their behaviours so that we can begin to anticipate what they will do next. To learn to do this is to anticipate the ways we will get hurt and not be so surprised by them, to try to help us not be so hurt without seeing it coming. But it means that we can get good at knowing what will happen next in the situations of abuse, or trauma, or systems or relationship of power and control. And a part of us can still carry the memories of what would happen, what would have been said, and how to minimize that damage, long after we are out of that system. Sometimes we know this has happened because we think a thought that feels abusive, almost like it’s a thought that someone would have said to us, and if we trace it back we realize that the thought that we had, actually sounds a lot like that old leader, or that thing that our parent used to say. In a funny way it lives inside of us now, but originally it wasn’t our thought. It was a thing that someone else said to us in such a hurtful way, or so frequently, that we learned to internalize it, like a little mini record of their voice in our heads trying to keep us under control like they used to. Sometimes that little mini record player plays about and for us, but sometimes that mini record player plays about other people, too. In those situations we say or think of others the same way that others said things or thought about us.
Add to the list any other iteration or part of you that you’re left with that is painful, confusing, or seems out of place in your current life, or who you want to be when you’re grounded as a wise adult. These parts of us all might sound really different from each other, but the good news is that we actually want to respond to them in the same way. No matter if it’s shame or despair, or embarrassment or unprocessed pain, these are parts of us that developed for a reason, or are communicating something important about who we are, what we had to do to belong, and what injuries we still sustain from that time. Although it might seem confusing to imagine at first, given how much we might want to get rid of the part of us that abuses us or hates our past, even those parts of us have something of value to offer our lives now if we can be in relationship with them in a healthy way.
Here is where we come back to what you’ve heard me say in other times in this project: we need to do something different than what happened in order to help us heal. While in the past we may have believed that we had to banish something, the invitation here is to explore, and build a relationship with it. If in the past you tried to pray away your anxiety or fear, I’m suggesting that your fear and anxiety are like mini versions of you that actually deserve to be known and loved. If in the past you felt immense shame for compulsive masturbation, what I’m suggesting here is that you actually imagine that there is a person who lives inside of you, who feels the need to compulsively masturbate, and instead of shaming them you get to know them. You get curious about what they’re trying to say, or help you feel or not feel. If there is a part of you that hates your past, instead of hating that part, or even joining in with it and chiming along, see what it’s like to remain in the wise adult self who feels curiosity and kindness and compassion, and allow those qualities to help you be in dialogue with this part of you.
To do this, I actually imagine having tea with a part of me. Sometimes if I’m really struggling to do this, I will actually pour two cups of tea and sit down across from another chair. I dig deep, and find the self inside who is curious, steady, loving, and gentle. If I’m really stuck, I remember the last time I felt those things, or I imagine what it would feel like if I could feel those things again. Then, I start by greeting this part, rooted into these qualities in me as an adult, sitting across from this part I ask it some questions. And if this way doesn’t work, sometimes I write it out like a dialogue—either in a book, or type it out in different fonts in a document. It helps to remember that no matter what this part of me is saying, it is always from the past, a younger version of me. Something that developed in a different context that might feel like it’s needed right now. To do this, I find it really helpful to listen and look for the good intentions of whoever I’m with—how is this part in front of me trying to help me? Even the part of you that hates your past, who hates where you come from, is trying to help you. And if I just had to guess, I would say that that hate towards ourself is one of two things: it’s the internalization of the hate or abuse around us that we learned to internalize to blend in or survive, or it’s also there trying to push away the memories of what was and give you distance from it so you can heal. It is trying to help you be different because you really want to be different.
After hearing the positive intention, we can thank that someone that we’re with, ask this part to tell us their story and what they would need to know, what they would need to experience in order to heal, reminding them when I can of what I know to be true. I often like to do this by letting them know that they are valuable to me, and that I believe they’re trying to help me or protect me, which I really needed when I was younger or under attack or in danger—and in the present moment I’m safe, I’m in my home, and I’m drinking tea. I know who I am, and I know what’s true, and so I don’t need their help in the same way to keep doing that thing for me. I often remind them that I am the age that I am, and give them the story of how I got here to this age, just in case they aren’t quite sure that we really did grow up and get away from that last situation. We can do this even if the situation we feel stuck in is actually from a year ago, or last week. We are always growing up, we’re always learning more, changing, gaining insight, and moving forward.
If you’re not sure what to say, you can imagine someone you love and trust to be gentle and curious, to sit across from this part in you, and imagine them or you, or even me saying to it:
I believe you.
I believe you are important, and having something to say that is worth listening to,
I believe that when you are heard, we can work together so that you don’t have to work harder than you need to, and I do this all while appreciating you for the ways that you kept me safe so long ago.
Sometimes giving up on what we once knew, as familiar and right as we once thought it was, is actually part of the cycle of growth and rebirth. Sometimes the thing we need to lose, or set down, is not the story of our past, or essence, but how we learned to get away from what is inside of ourselves. Or in my adaptations of the words of a Jewish Mystic from the first century, it is when we lose our lives—when we set down what we had to believe in order to survive—that we actually begin to figure out what it means to find our very selves.
Once again my friend William Matthews.
26:38 INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM MATTHEWS III
How did you heal? How do we heal? What are some of the things that need to happen? What do we need to know?
26:45 William Matthews
I think that’s a hard one because healing can look similar and also different for a lot of people. I think for me, one of the things I had to do was to allow myself to feel all my emotions—something I still struggle to do—but even naming that and allowing space for emotions that felt taboo. For instance anger: I grew up in a family that struggled to show anger, mainly because anger can be destructive. So if anger ever rose up in any of us, it would always instantly have to be squashed. No one could actually really show anger. You could have something completely wrong happen to you, but I don’t think I grew up fully being allowed to display anger around injustice. I could share my frustrations, I could talk, but I always had to do it in a certain way. So for me in my healing, I had to learn that it was okay to be angry, and it was okay to display anger. Especially when it came to issues of injustice, whether corporately or personally. And creating space for me to just rage. I needed friends that could just let me rage. That was a first thing. I would say after that, another way I had to heal was letting go of the why, and not internalizing so much of, or trying to put a meaning behind, situations that have happened to me. I don’t know the why. I had to just finally say I don’t know why they’re doing that. I don’t know why they’re treating me this way. And I had to give up the why and just focus on what was happening to me and how I could best support and protect myself from that. And it’s tough because I want to know why and especially growing up Christian, I feel like I was taught to always seek the understanding and to seek the spiritual reason behind this. Maybe there’s sin in your life, maybe you did something. I come from a family that loves spiritual warfare motifs. So maybe somebody in the bloodline committed a sin three generations ago that makes you want to, etc. You know we understand you know epigenetics a bit, but also you know people get to make their own decisions. Like not everything I’m doing is directly connected to my ancestors five generations ago or something bad that they did at least. And so I had to let that go, the why. And also know that it’s not helpful. And also there’s no way for me to know, even if there is a why there’s actually no way for me to know. So don’t focus on it. Focus on what. What are we going to do now in light of this, in light of this happening? A phrase I love that I’ve used often is taken from Iyanla Vanzant when she says, “I’m not a victim, though I’ve been victimized.” And sometimes in the process of marginalization, or healing from marginalization, you can feel like a victim, and you probably should be because you have been victimized. But also not internalizing the narrative of inferiority, that though I am not a victim, I have been victimized. And you can acknowledge the experience of hurt, harm, trauma without creating a whole personality and identity based around it, because that’s not helpful either. Even if it’s true, it’s not helpful. So I had to move from the why to the what. What do we do now? How do we move forward? How do we create better boundaries? How do we create safety in the midst of harm?
26:46 William Matthews
Maybe part of alleviating the fear of spiritual trauma is to change your perspective and mindset on authority. Whose authority are you under? Whose authority are you not under? Growing up religious, I always felt like I was under the authority of people who are older than me, people who are perceived to be spiritually wiser, stronger, and more mature. But actually, authority has been placed back into my hands. From a Christian perspective, God has given us the Holy Spirit, and through the Holy Spirit we have authority over our own lives. We have authority to regulate our own emotions. We have authority to allow who comes in and who comes out of our lives. And I believe we are, as the scripture says, a kingdom of priests, people who open doors, unlock doors of our own souls. And, so, when you think about healing spiritual trauma, think of yourself in a powerful place. You are now in the center seat of the soul. You are now in the place to which you have the control, not someone having the control over you. Because spiritual authority has been loomed over us in order to create subservient people, in order to dominate and control. But actually, you have the power, we have the power to shape our own lives, to shape our own realities, and to shape the world around us.
I have learned, both from working with others and from my own healing journey, that research and research articles can be so helpful in the process of healing from spiritual trauma because data that is arrived at in a rigorous way and peer reviewed and speaks to what is common across groups of people, can appeal to the desire for certainty, clarity, and sense-making when so much has been flipped upside down. It can be tempting to switch one authority for another or defend against our anxiety and grief with information, but there can also be power, healing, and humanity, in the right kind of information, delivered in the right kind of way. So, with that in mind, here are some research findings about healing from spiritual trauma that I wanted to highlight for you.
In 2018 Cashwell and Swindle published an article called “When religion hurts: Supervising cases of religious abuse.” Although this is an article geared towards therapists and their supervisors, there’s actually a lot we can glean about healing from spiritual trauma in this article. The authors begin by highlighting that overall, the research literature has shown that spirituality and religion have the potential to be resources for people experiencing trauma, but that it is also possible for religious and spiritual practices and community to contribute to client problems, or even worsen symptoms of mental health issues. The authors highlight the tension of working through spiritual trauma in a way that both honours the person and their personal experiences and development, recognizes that something religious or spiritual is implicated in the traumatic experience, but also holds that spirituality can be a powerful resource for healing from trauma. When working towards healing from spiritual trauma, it’s important to remember that we all might need different things—and that your healing journey might look very different from your neighbours’. We may want to disentangle our religion from our spirituality as well, sometimes people find it helpful to walk away from both, or they may want to hold onto both. All of those are allowed, and the choices we make about what we do and what we need may change from season to season in our lives. Working with a therapist who can hold all of that is important for those of you who will be doing therapy.
The article also goes on to say that there are some specific tasks of healing when working in therapy, specifically the following: owning the experiences as abusive and traumatizing, coming to terms with how those experiences impact one’s belief systems, making space to grieve the losses, and building new community, especially when the religious community is lost. This article reminded me that, for some, leaving a religious community that was traumatic might be a marker of a certain kind of religious privilege. If one’s world is tied up in a community and culture, and years of family tradition, to leave might be impossible—perhaps a catastrophic loss or a violation of deeply held values that a person wants to retain. For others who have varied social connections, leaving a specific community after trauma might feel like a relief with immediate benefits. The authors went on to say that those who have experienced this kind of trauma might be more likely to struggle with articulating that the experience was abuse or trauma; they might struggle to hold others accountable and might find it difficult to explore the impact this had on their beliefs and spirituality moving forward. For some, the perception that they are speaking ill of the church or their religion might come with profound guilt and fear, making it difficult to categorically define the experience in such a way that would support them to process the impact it had on them. Some may be forced out of their religious communities, which can compound the experience of loss with a felt sense of shame and rejection. The authors also highlight how central power dynamics are in the process of religious and spiritual trauma. They identify that when God is thought to be at the centre of the traumatic experience, that it can create a profound sense of powerlessness that extends beyond the context within which the event even occurred. If God is responsible, and God is everywhere, it can feel like there is nowhere that they are safe. It can be helpful to recognize how patterns of abusive power may show up in a person’s life in multiple ways, and in numerous relationships.
Therapists working with spiritual trauma, despite their own background, need to be comfortable talking about spirituality—seeing spirituality and religion both as something that can help, be a neutral presence, or create trauma or exacerbate mental health conditions, and they must be able to attend to how their own biases and beliefs shape their clinical work. It’s my hope that no client would present to therapy to process spiritual trauma, and after describing how prayer was used as a manipulative tool by clergy, they have their therapist try to pray for them. It is also my hope that no client would show up to therapy wanting to work on spiritual trauma and have the therapist assume that it meant they no longer held dear their theological convictions or spiritual practices. In both cases, whether it’s spiritual bypassing, or the therapist’s own reactions, this is misattuned—and what I know about therapy is that good therapy is attuned therapy.
The second article I wanted to highlight was published in 2013 by de Castella and Simmonds. It is called, “There’s a deeper level of meaning as to what suffering’s all about: Experiences of religious and spiritual growth following trauma.” This is a part of a bigger conversation about growth following trauma, but I hope to offer a little slice of insight on it here. Some profoundly impactful research was published in the ’90s by researchers Calhoun and Tedeschi and it was all about post-traumatic growth. In short, it was part of the positive psychology movement that meant to course correct from the overly “illness” and suffering focused direction of psychology as a discipline. They found that although there are profoundly negative, and often long-lasting impacts to trauma, some people experience some positive outcomes after something traumatic happens. This research suggests that following trauma, some people develop new understandings of themselves, or the world, and how they relate to others, and they begin to think about the future differently, and how they can live life more intentionally, with purpose or direction. Research in the early 2000s showed that post-traumatic growth had something to do with spirituality and religion, and that for some people, religion and spirituality can play a role in predicting if post-traumatic growth will occur.
A reminder here: spirituality is, among other things, the inborn desire and search for meaning, interconnection, and the sacred. And trauma is, among other things, a wound to the spiritual, a shattering our assumptions about the world and connection, the memories of the terror or powerlessness living inside of a person’s nervous system. But in this study of survivors of various forms of trauma, de Castella and Simmonds found again that one year after the traumas, post-traumatic growth had occurred for these individuals, and that it was deeply connected to their spirituality. While spiritual trauma is a particular kind of injury to one’s spirituality, the findings from this research are hopeful in that they suggest the ways that the instinct inside to search, yearn, and connect may remain intact, or may be accessible still, and may support the kind of post-trauma healing that goes beyond the management of anxiety and stress and memories, into the kind of wellbeing that we would all hope for on the other side of something awful. The authors identify that for participants who had experienced post-traumatic spiritual and religious growth, the spirituality they experienced before the trauma was central. Following the trauma, they experienced an inner yearning and desire for connection, they understood their challenges and changes as part of their spiritual growth, they sought to find or make meaning in their suffering, they experienced a sense of sacredness in the here and now, and they learned through the trauma about the difference between religion and spirituality, and found that following trauma their sense of spirituality deepened and their formality of religion changed or softened. Not surprisingly, the participants in the study had a fundamental change in their worldview, but found themselves rediscovering who they were following trauma, including both discovering and choosing new likes and interests and friends, including learning to see themselves as strong for what they lived through, and they felt a change in their values and priorities, wanting to honour vulnerability and relationships instead of achievement and material gain. And, not surprisingly, a sense of social connection and support was intimately connected to the experience of spiritual and religious growth following trauma.
What was not considered in this article is folks who had spirituality or religion as a central feature in their trauma. No one with clergy abuse, public religious humiliation, or complex trauma resulting from childhood abuse that was spiritualized by parents, or other things in that category. And, as is the case with all qualitative research, it’s not meant to be generalized to all people, or suggest in some way that a person who is not in the study should behave or think like those who were in the study. So it has its limitations in applicability. But reading it had me thinking: What if we could learn things from this article about how to help with post-traumatic growth? What if that meant that no matter what we call it, or if we want to identify with religion or spiritual practices following the spiritual trauma, we were able to access the knowing that
- Trying to find or make meaning can be helpful,
- Talking about what happened with others who can witness you or understand is also helpful
- And remembering that after trauma you can make choices about yourself and about who you want to be and what you want to matter to you, and that there are things you can learn about yourself even now, because of what you endured.
I think it can be tempting to slap a nice story on the struggle to try to make something beautiful of this, in a way that kind of smells like spiritual bypassing, and I always want to remember that the scientific literature shows us that we’re always learning, always growing, always capable of changing our minds, right up until the moment we die—and that trauma, no matter how devastating, early, and long-lasting, can never take this ability away from us. It seems even in its devastating blow to our spirits, that trauma is not more powerful than the drive inside of us to survive. I want to always hold that truth close to me, and hold the hope of it for others, too—and I think it’s possible to hold that hope without minimizing the devastation of the wounding.
For some, the conversation about post-traumatic growth is and needs to be off the table, certainly when coming from the lips of others. In fact, you’re welcome to be angry that I’m even bringing this up, and I want to thank your anger as a marker of self-protection to not rush you out of the pain that you are allowed to feel as long as it takes to feel it. But for those of you who are just learning about it now, and feel a kind of tug inside of you—I’m curious to know what this could mean for you, to know that there could possibly be something for you not just healing, but a kind of growth on the other side of trauma. I also bring this up because I think that at times, when we have experienced the rigid and controlling views of belief that often go along with spiritual trauma, we can become so indoctrinated with the hierarchy of religion and beliefs that the thought of a changing faith or spiritual practices can only be conceived of as dangerous, shameful, and a kind of loss. We might have been conditioned to believe that change of faith, or an abandonment of some kind of belief as a kind of negative thing, instead of seeing it as the very kind of growth we’re craving, the freedom we were praying for, and hoping for all along. It’s my opinion that sometimes it is a mark of growth that we can leave behind the beliefs and values that hurt us so deeply. Sometimes it is the mark of growth that we can find a way to separate what was untrue and hurtful from what remains true, without shaming ourselves for not having to see the difference in the past. Or, depending on where you are and what language you like to use, we could say it’s the hand of God that holds people close as they walk away from certain kinds of beliefs about God that hurt themselves and others. There are so many ways of defining growth, and growth following trauma can look so many different ways, sometimes not feeling victorious and whatever we thought growth would look and feel like. All that to say, who is to say that one thing is growth and not the other? And who is to say that we could even know what is growth by looking at it, especially when we might be right in the middle of it?
The last article I want to share was published in 2013 by Alyson Stone, in the journal called Group. It is titled “Thou Shalt Not: Treating Religious Trauma and Spiritual Harm With Combined Therapy.” In it, Stone starts by highlighting how few resources there are for those who experience spiritual wounds because religions and spirituality is most often understood—even in the academic literature—as a source of meaning, connection, and strength. This is true for many, but it has also left clinicians, and those experiencing spiritual trauma, without good, evidence-based interventions to help people heal from the spiritual trauma. She highlights the work of Winnicot, an important voice in the psychology world when it comes to attachment and child development, and discusses the psychological harm from growing up and having to develop a kind of false self to meet the expectations of family and society. The rigid religious belief systems result in people having to develop false selves slowly over time, and early on, just to fit into the categories of what’s acceptable. According to research by Griffiths in 2010, people with spiritual trauma rarely seek therapy, the effects of the wounds linger underground, and are often uncovered as slowly as they are developed, within the context of a relationship or relationships where there is psychological freedom to say or think or feel whatever needs to be said or thought or felt, and without the resulting frustration from fear of judgment or punishment. Stone addresses that exploration of attachment is central for the process of healing. For many people, their relationship with God was an attachment relationship. She highlights Kirkpatricks’ 2005 work about this, recognizing attachment relationships with God can be like an attachment relationship with parents or partners: secure and stable, anxious, dismissive avoidant, and fearful avoidant. Even once a person has left a religious or spiritual environment that was abusive, or has changed their beliefs or practices, these deeply held patterns of relating to God and others can still be how a person orients to the world. Thankfully, these internal maps for connection and relating can change.
Understanding trauma highlights something important. It’s a disruption to us, in a way that is useful and healthy. It seems to defy the ideas that make us think of ourselves in the fragmented ways we have come to, seeing each individual as a system of mind, and body, and brain, and interbeing, and reminding us of our interconnection with other systems, our place in the larger networks of life around us. The more I work with and understand trauma, the less I believe that it is an individual phenomenon. Our perception of it being about individuals—just minds, just bodies, just this person or that person—that itself is a symptom of our traumas. So there is no way for us to talk about trauma, and the people who experienced it, without talking about the context within which it emerges. And there are things we can do intentionally, particularly those who are leading spiritual communities, to create systems which are less likely to create harm for any of us, or to all of us. I believe that even though we are good at our core, we still sometimes behave in ways that hurt each other, we misunderstand one another, and we make choices or act in ways that make it difficult for our neighbours to flourish. When we know how to repair those relational wounds and take responsibility for them, we can begin to create communities where people can thrive. Here is another snippet from my conversation with Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza.
47:39 INTERVIEW WITH ROBERTO CHE ESPINOZA
I think the call for healing, for holistic healing, is in the body. Not just our individual body, but our collective body, our communal body, our cultural body. And when we take that seriously, when we take the quality of connection with attaching ourselves to ourselves, or remembering ourselves—I think that’s how we heal. And it’s iterative, it’s tedious, it’s an everyday practice. You know, every morning I wake up in a body that I don’t know, and I sit on the edge of the bed and I place my bare feet on the carpet, and I root my feet into the ground, and I imagine roots going out of my ground. And that’s how I heal. Along with, like, therapy every week and spiritual direction every month and, you know, medicine every day, you know. It takes a diversity of tactics.
Right. And there’s something you kind of alluded to there though, that you left, you left the community. Even before knowing how to root yourself into the ground, and maybe even before therapy, and maybe even before medicine. You got away somehow.
48:47 Roberto Che Espinoza
Yeah, I think that it was incumbent upon me to figure out what was next. And I didn’t think returning to that community—which was a white, privileged, affluent community—I just didn’t think they were my people. And, you know, I think now—people reach out to me all the time, are you pastoring anywhere? You know, are you convening people? And, you know, always my answer is no, no I don’t do that. But the best times that I’ve had that feel like religious experience, or spiritual, are when my table is full, where the food is flowing, where there is a flat hierarchy, where there’s quality of connection happening, where there is abundance in kind of emotional capacity and reflection. And I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think the vision of church—as I understand it from reading the stories of Jesus—is a really great vision. I just think we are deeply compromised and are unable to attain that vision because of capitalism, white supremacy, the war machine, the ways in which we have constructed power and our ideology, I think it gets mixed in there. I often say we don’t know how to be human with one another. That’s part of the reason why church doesn’t work anymore. We have relied on what I would call a passive epistemology, where we’re being spoon fed from the pulpit to the pew. And I don’t think that was the vision of church. I think the vision of church was to be this mutually reciprocal community. And community is to be connected in union with one another. And I think community has compassion. And if we know the Latin root for compassion, it means suffering with. And I think that we don’t know how to do that as people in relationship with ourselves and each other, or in community.
So healing would look like not only being connected to our bodies individually like you said, but healing the collective body, being in union, suffering with, dismantling power structures, dismantling hierarchy.
51:17 Roberto Che Espinoza
I just think that it’s bound up in relationships, and I think that certainly the Global North and the West is failing at relationships. And we’re too tied to things like platform culture, celebrity culture, you know, we expect people with a platform to give us the right dose in a message or in a tweet or in an Instagram post. And, quite frankly, the reliance on that kind of material or information, it may seem innocuous, but taken to the extreme it’s frankly quite dangerous I think. Because it separates our self from our self and each other, and we become reliant on a kind of cult of personality. I’ve always been very wary of that, which is why I try to be in conversation with those who follow me on social media, and actually compost platform culture into community. Because I don’t think that, well, I just don’t think platforms will save us.
Is there anything else that you would want to say before we end here?
52:27 Roberto Che Espinoza
Only that I think people can embody a spirituality that is whole and wholesome and healing.
Like that’s a possibility.
52:40 Roberto Che Espinoza
Yeah. I think that those of us who have been harmed by the Church or by institutions, or people in leadership or power—even though we may feel bereft of belonging, there is belonging to be had. And it’s first becoming curious about ourselves and then each other, and then learning how to suture the attachment wounds that we carry.
In addition to what we’ve already spoken about so far in this episode, here are a few more ideas about how to build healthy spiritual communities:
- We need to support the psychological health of community members instead of expecting people to perform good behavior as a condition of belonging. This means encouraging members to have boundaries, make choices about how much or in what they participate, honouring their autonomy (instead of expecting or demanding them to share parts of their story or life without it being earned). It also means people shouldn’t be shamed or belittled when they leave, if they do need to leave, and that community members are encouraged to have connections with those outside of the community, instead of being expected to be more insular and isolated.
- Creating space for diverse worldviews while still maintaining thoughtful dialogue, mutual care, and respect for others’ choices. This requires a community to learn how to tolerate emotion, experience emotions, and then learn how to regulate them. Respect for others also requires building a community in which people are supported to respect and care for themselves. It also requires critical thought and the use of reason in coming to conclusions or making choices.
- Having support and care for leaders which allows them to be humans, and ensuring leaders have accountability, can receive feedback, and listen to each other. Leaders who wield power as a weapon to create hierarchy in which they are superior do not create communities where the people who are below them on the hierarchy can ever thrive. Communities need leaders who can self-reflect on their challenges and limitations, and work with others who have giftings that they do not, instead of assuming that they can do it all themselves. Leaders aren’t exempt from the same standards of behavior that all other members of the community adhere to. Leaders are allowed the same kind of care that everyone else in the community gets access to. No one is expected to have unquestioning loyalty to that leader. And no leader should be expected to be perfect or should be expected to shoulder the demands of an entire community on their shoulders alone. Leaders deserve to have good mental health care without this implying that they are morally or spiritually inferior.
- Instead of using fear, guilt, and shame as motivators to change behavior or create adherence to a belief structure, healthy spiritual communities are motivated by love, connection, health, and promote the flourishing of the people they are created by and for. This means not believing they are more valuable, or special or holy, than anyone else—both inside the community or outside of it.
- An appreciation for the complexity of embodied experiences, and awareness of how many spiritual communities have been places of disembodiment and self-fragmentation. This means recognizing that we are bodies, and our bodies are worth caring for and honouring. Again, making space for emotions, trauma, disabilities, and movement. It also means becoming aware of the ways that the socially-created hierarchy of body ideals has infiltrated faith—including the moralization of fat, disability, race, and gender—and finding ways to disentangle the spiritual practices and community from perpetuating body-hierarchies, the ones that communicate that some people are not good or some people are not loved by God.
- Consent and the right to participate or not participate, as well as disclosure around specific rituals and practices, occurs to avoid coercion and coercing people into practices which are mind altering, require significant commitments to time, and energy, membership, or money. People should not be punished or judged if they choose not to participate. And unrealistic promises for healing, transformation, or supernatural experiences shouldn’t be made. It can be so easy to mix spiritual practices with manipulation that many of us may not even know it’s happening, or that we’re doing it, when we have witnessed it in others consistently. Some obvious examples of this are making suggestions for people to behave or think a certain way or believe something—in such a way that confuses a person about their ability to choose or makes them think that if they do what was suggested that they’re obeying God or fulfilling a prayer request or are making people pleased with them. This could also include not making assumptions or interpretations about others that you don’t have the knowledge or permission to make, and then wrapping them in spiritual language about divine insight and words of knowledge. Regardless of the spiritual community’s position on spiritual gifts, being thoughtful about how they are used in such a way that still respects others—asking for consent without coercion matters here. After prayer, manipulation around money and service come to mind. To build communities which allow for people to participate in non-codependent ways which support them to belong in a community as healthy individuals.
- Work to make space for the aspects of human experience which are painful without spiritual bypassing. Encouraging the community to grieve, feel sadness, tell the truth about pain, and experience emotion in the body without encouraging defenses, or reaching for superstition about the prosperity gospel. Allow for doubt, uncertainty, grief, curiosity, and the changing of one’s mind.
As I think about the process of healing, I am reminded of how often the journey can feel so unpredictable, so winding and disorganized. We can be anxious for the distress to be over and ask the question “how long will this take?” But in the same way that trauma and the effects of it are non-linear—uncontained to a singular moment of time, pulling us into the layers of existence between our tidy categories of time—healing, too lives in these spaces. Sometimes what we thought was the beginning of the injuries, we realize was actually the beginning of when the healing was taking place. What we thought was fine, was when the wounding was taking place, and when we realized it was not fine, that was when something began to mend. Sometimes we think we are recovering, or recovered, and others do, too—and we are really just starting out, and sometimes it is when we can look at the places of wounding, and really look without turning away, that there is proof of more healing than we may ever know. We want our trauma to be a singular event, and often we want our healing to be a singular event, too. But when we think of it that way, we miss so much of it—both what hurts, and what heals. I’m imagining that so much of the process of labeling and seeing the trauma is actually, if we look closely enough, part of our healing—especially when we do this as systems and communities. Bearing witness to the trauma, coming close enough to listen, imagining the pain of those who are hurting, our own pain, has something important to say that is often proof, already, that something new is beginning to grow.
Because he often says things better than I could, in the words of Rilke: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. To live the questions now. Perhaps you will, then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
If you are on the journey of healing, I want you to know that I have hope it will not feel like this forever. I have seen enough people heal from unimaginable things that I have hope, limitless and unshakable hope. And my hope is that you, too, can recover a steady self. That something new can grow in the space where the injury was, and that you can peel back the stories you carried like coats on your back, finding again under it all what was always true of you before you ever learned otherwise. If you find it hard to hope, please borrow mine, and know that I’m carrying yours for you until you can find it on your own.
1:01:59 CORE STATE MEDITATION
The purpose of this practice here is to connect with our core state. The self inside that is always there, that has always been there. That is curious, compassionate, courageous, kind, creative, clear, coherent, and collaborative. One of the fastest ways that I know to get access to this is by sinking into my body and connecting with my breath. And so I want to invite you to join me. To adjust how you are resting, sitting, laying, or moving. Finding support in the structure of your body—either by rooting your feet down, shifting your seat in the chair, or allowing your body to be supported in some way by the environment around you.
And on your own time, I invite you to bring your awareness to your breath. Noticing the quality of your breath. And allowing these breaths to go as deep into your belly as possible. Inhaling through your nose, and exhaling through your mouth. If you are in a place where there isn’t anyone around or where you feel comfortable enough to do so, I invite you to allow those exhales to be as loud, instinctual, unsettling as possible. You might join me for a few rounds.
[Hillary inhales and exhales three times]
And notice how you feel as you begin to drop down through your breath into the very core of who you are. Continuing to follow the flow of your breathing, imagining that each exhale that you take allows you to go deeper and deeper into the core of who you are. You may not be used to having this much time and space, and so the invitation here is to luxuriate in breath. Allow yourself to really experience each component of your breath from inhale to the pause when your lungs are full, to the exhale, and then that special moment and pause right before you take a breath in again. Again, allowing this cycle to bring you deeper and deeper into yourself. If you arrive in this space with something that’s concerning you—a worry—I invite you to imagine setting it to the side. It can be there waiting for you for when you’re done. But this is a moment to give yourself the gift of your own breath. Presence and connection to the very core of who you are. An opportunity to arrive here and now through your body and to experience this. This moment. If it feels good for you, you might imagine me joining you. Perhaps us sitting next to each other. Or you could imagine someone that you love or who loves you next to you. Or, you could imagine yourself being somewhere where you feel totally at ease being on your own.
And if you haven’t done so already, on your next exhale I invite you to really touch in on this place inside of you that we want to call your core self. A kind of unshakeable steadiness. This is a place inside of you that is always sturdy, no matter what is happening inside of you or around you. That is no matter what, rock-solid and cannot be disturbed. It’s a place that inside of you has an abundance of support and resources. A connection to truth, to kindness, to love, to compassion, and it is there for the taking, every moment of every day. The same core rock-solid self that’s inside of each of us. Here, you have the courage to face what’s challenging. Here, you have the kindness to attend with nurturance and compassion to those around you, and to yourself. Here you have a kind of calm—like the bottom of the ocean floor no matter what is happening above you, if it is waves, if it is lightning and thunder, if it is sunshine—here is a still, calm place right at the core of who you are.
Even if you don’t immediately locate this, that’s okay, just imagine what it would feel like if you did find it. How would it be to make contact with that place inside of you. To really get to experience it and to know that it was there all along. Take a few more breaths to really surround this place. As if every time you take a breath in and out, you thicken it somehow. You strengthen and fortify your experience and memory of being in this place inside of you. And if there are any young parts of you that feel active, maybe scared, doubting, reluctant, whatever it is, any young parts of you, just let them see that this is you. Let them come and snuggle up next to you, becoming aware of everything that is inside of this core place in you. Letting them know that they’re connected to you and because of that, they get access to this too now. They might not have had it before, but they do now.
And you might widen your field of attention, just becoming aware of us here together. Thinking about me sharing these words with you. Or thinking about whoever might have directed this to you. This resource. Allow yourself to settle into a kind of support here. Maybe even noticing if you can access some gratitude or connection. And you might bring your awareness even a little bit further to think one layer out, into the community of people who are also doing this practice right now. Or have done this practice before. And you could imagine all the people who have ever touched in on this place inside of them or taken a moment to slow down and feel what is so solid and right inside of them. And you might imagine to your left and to your right, all the people in time right now doing this. And you could imagine looking over your shoulder and seeing all the people who’ve ever been before you who did this. And then maybe looking ahead to see all the other people who are to come, who will do this very practice. Who will know this place inside of them, too.
And maybe as you look a little bit more closely to your left or right you see someone or some people around you who know that this place exists inside of you even if you forget it. Even if you lose touch with it, they know. They believe that it’s here. And as you pull your attention back even further you can really see that you are surrounded by a sea of people who know this place inside of them. Sensing in to how there is so much around you. There are so many people around you whether you know them or not, or make contact with them or not. Who know this place too. And can hold the hope for you to live here again. Seeing the sea of people as an ocean of resources that you can draw from. Reminders of what’s true about you. And the invitation here is to touch base with various forms of support, first, the place that lives inside of you in your own body that you can access with your breath. And then between us, and you, and people you know, and then even more globally and across time. Notice how that feels. Perhaps you can really take in how profound it is. Perhaps letting it build hope inside of you. Letting it fill you up. And again noticing if there are younger parts of you who have a hard time with this, and again, inviting them just to notice from beside you, that although it may have been hard to access this before, you can now. And as a result they can, too.
And lastly I’ll leave you with three integration practices. Bring to mind again who else knows about this part in you. It could be someone that you have intimate relationship with or someone who you’ve only heard of, but you know holds this as a place that exists in you, too. And then think of who it is that you’d want to send a message to from this place. A wish, a prayer, a thought, a hope, a note of love. And just imagine sending them your kindness, or gratitude, or love. And then bring to mind a future version of you who will need to know that this exists. Imagine linking them with this particular moment. So that when that happens they’ll have the memory of being here in this feeling with you. And like we did before, let’s land this experience by taking a few rounds of breath.
[Hillary inhales and exhales twice]
Thank you so much for being here for today’s episode. The Holy/Hurt podcast was written and recorded by me, Dr. 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 Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza, K.J. Ramsey, and William Matthews. 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, like me. 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