Here are 5 steps to recovering from abuse. I am focusing on spiritual abuse in particular:
- Admit that it happened. What I find with many people who’ve experienced abuse is that they can’t believe that such a thing happened to them in the church. It is repugnant to them that an organization that boasts about grace and love can be so mean and hateful. They can’t comprehend or acknowledge that people who are in the people-helping business are actually in the people-hurting business. So, don’t minimize it by saying, “Oh, they didn’t mean to,” or, “They didn’t treat me very well,” or, “I was wounded”. You have to be able to say you were actually and really abused… that you were treated in such a way that it hurt you.
- Recognize the symptoms. There are many symptoms of abuse, such as depression, withdrawal and isolation, low self-esteem, guilt and shame, not trusting others, nervousness and fear, emotional instability and crying, etc. Another aspect of this that I noticed when it has happened to me or notice in others is that their sense of God or the spiritual is damaged. The heavens are as brass. This is partially due to the fact that we may attribute divine power to those we trusted in the church.We might even acquire a strong distaste for anything spiritual, such as fast-forwarding spiritual music on our song lists. Also, the difficult question, “Where was God when this happened?” may arise. If we start trying to answer this question, there is no telling where we could end up. But we have to be open to the change this question invites.
- Talk with someone. It is important to talk with someone who understands abuse, especially spiritual abuse. When one is spiritually abused, an interior fracture can take place which will manifest itself in different responses. Some simply change churches. Some leave the church. Some leave Christianity. Some leave their God and their faith. Most consistently, many people experience their spirituality “freezing”, slipping into an extended dormancy or an eternal hibernation. Like broken bones, talking with someone can help your fractured spirit set in a healthy manner. You might become a Buddhist or an atheist, but your spirit, your inner self, has healed properly so that your new spiritual life is authentic and not reactionary.
- Write in a journal. A couple of weeks ago I recommended to someone that they begin writing in a journal. A week later we spoke and this person was amazed at how revealing it was. What this person discovered through journal writing was that there was a lot of anger coming out through their pen. This person wouldn’t have realized this without journaling. I’ve kept a journal all through my spiritual journey. It is an amazing tool which helps me understand myself and for processing all that happens to me. It is a very revelatory act. Journaling may help you acknowledge and admit the abuse, recognize the symptoms, and find hope for a way through the trauma. It usually helps your spiritual self heal faster and better.
- Appreciate the process. Many people consider the process of recuperation and healing as a necessary but unpleasant passage to becoming whole again. In fact, this process is the wholeness. There are no useless experiences. They are all fertilizer for our integration and maturity. This isn’t to say that you should stall in an endless cycle of the therapeutic process though. Did you know that doctors have their own doctors? Did you know that some regions require psychotherapists to employ their own therapists? These times of healing are rich with forgiveness, wisdom, compassion, self-awareness and confidence that would not be gleaned without it being appreciated.
I hope these help.