I am in the middle of packing up to move. It is my third move in three and a half years. This time I am returning to help my elderly parents. Having an ill parent has caused me to think about my priorities and motivations. I am beginning to realize how the spiritual abuse I endured decades ago still impacts me. I have come to realize that the spiritual abuse has influenced me beyond what I thought. This blog explores the hidden impact and the choices I can make to break the pattern.
Packing up my life and uprooting myself is a pattern I have had throughout my life. I have lived in six states (on the east coast, west coast, southwest and northwest). Throughout these moves I have held on to photos, letters, post cards and other items that are memories of “friends” who are no longer in my life due to me no longer sharing their religious path. I might add, that these people were in my childhood faith, and in the churches and Christian college group I participated in. As I left the church and group, these people left me, and yet I packed and carried the mementos of them for more than 20 years.
They were “friends” who I prayed with, laughed with, proselytized with, cried with, and still love. But on the flip side they also tortured me. They prayed for me, admonished me, wrote letters warning me that I was walking in the darkness, and when my view of scripture did not align with theirs, they stopped associating with me. Yet I held onto their photos, letters, and other reminders.
I think what I was holding on to was hope. I was hoping they might escape, or apologize, or somehow return to me. But, as I contemplated packing this time, I decided to let go of them. I threw out the pictures, letters, and gifts. Holding onto the items was a way of honoring them, but it clicked, they were not worthy of my honor. Holding on was like holding onto my abusers. It was rewarding to cut those cords and draw my own line in the sand. I will not hold on and hold out hope for people who will discard me over a philosophy they hold as true.
The second thing I realized during this move is, I uproot my life and leave people behind without much thought. I think the roots of that are deep in the religion I was raised, which practices complete shunning of former members. With an announcement of only eight words, we were taught to shut off all emotion and cut people out of our lives. After I left, I experienced that complete abandonment. All trust in other people was broken.
In the fifth chapter of Breaking the Silence on Spiritual Abuse, by Lisa Oakley and Kathyrn Kinmond, it outlines therapeutic issues that people who have experienced spiritual abuse bring to the therapy session. One of the major issues is establishing the therapeutic bond. It is a challenge because the spiritually abused person brings fear and distrust. The person needs to trust the therapist because establishing trust indicates their ability to work through the issues, and to later find new community.
On the eve of my move, I wrote down the following questions: How do I create a community I never want to leave? How do I stop dumping one life to jump into another?
Ultimately, I am asking the question of how to trust and commit. How do I trust people and commit to community, which involves the risk of more pain and more loss? A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I am about to take the opportunity to create a community I never want to leave. One step at a time.
I have made a difference for this fresh start. I have physically let go of the painful reminders of the past. I let go of false hopes for reunions. I am choosing to hold onto people who are currently in my life, and I am going to invest in those relationships. I am going to risk building a community I will commit to.
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
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