Spiritual (or religious) abuse is harmful and can be extremely difficult to deal with because it can be hard to identify. Your spiritual life is deeply personal. When someone threatens, shames, tries to control, or ridicules you because of your faith or their religious beliefs, it can be traumatic and have long-lasting effects.
What is religious abuse?
Have you ever heard of spiritual (religious) abuse? You may instantly think of religious or faith leaders abusing members of their congregation through shaming, controlling, or creating a toxic environment and culture within a church setting. Maybe you were part of a cult or had another painful experience related to religion.
While these are all forms of abuse, religious trauma can also occur within personal and intimate relationships. Spiritual abuse under these circumstances can be challenging to identify because victims and perpetrators often don’t consider the act abusive.
People of every religion and denomination can perpetrate religious abuse, and anyone can become a victim of it. Here are some examples of spiritual abuse as defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
- Preventing a partner from living out their faith
- Forcing children to learn a faith one partner disagrees to
- Ridiculing or insulting another’s beliefs
- Using a partner’s beliefs to shame or manipulate them
- Using religious beliefs or texts to rationalize abusive behavior
If someone uses religious texts or ideas to control how you dress, behave, identify yourself, make decisions, or manage finances, consider it a red flag.
Other Religious Concerns and Struggles
Perhaps you haven’t experienced spiritual abuse directly, but you’ve faced concerns related to your religion or spirituality. Everyone should be able to practice their faith safely, and no one should be forced to follow a religion or practice they aren’t comfortable with.
The American Psychological Association defines religious or spiritual struggles as “tensions, strains, and conflicts in relation to what people hold sacred.”
If you’ve experienced confusion, had negative beliefs about yourself or others, felt lost or isolated, or been in any type of toxic religious environment, you’re not alone. Many of my clients have struggled with similar concerns. EMDR and talk therapy are powerful methods to help you address and heal from religious trauma or unsettling experiences concerning religion and spiritual practices.
I offer both in-person and online counseling services in Colorado Springs (and surrounding areas), as well as online-only services across the rest of Colorado and Minnesota. Contact me any time to start therapy.