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Conference on Religious Trauma Aims To Equip Survivors for Recovery

Ideas about religious trauma often overlap with those discussed in the religious “deconstruction” and “exvangelical” movements, aimed at debunking toxic theology and restrictive religious environments.

Anderson said the symptoms of religious trauma are similar to those suffered by people who have lived in a war zone or in abusive environments. The recovery process, however, is different. Rather than working through being triggered by a car backfire, for instance, a person healing from religious purity culture, which glorifies sexual abstinence, might adopt a new framework for understanding sex and relationships, said Anderson.

Danielle S. Castillejo, whose Wayfinding Therapy practice specializes in healing racial harm, sexual harm and religious trauma, said helping clients recover from religious trauma often involves inviting them to listen to their bodies.

“A lot of times, when it comes to religious abuse and spiritual abuse, there’s so much of the body that you relinquish: your right to listen to your gut, your right to make decisions based on a good or a bad feeling.”

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Castillejo helps clients to discern what their bodies might need, whether it’s massage, acupuncture or doctor’s visits. Castillejo will be co-hosting a virtual booth at the conference.

All presenters at this conference come from Christian backgrounds, including current and former Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, though people of any religious background are welcome to attend. Religious trauma can impact people from any religion, the founders said, and they hope the conference will grow in religious diversity in future years.

Bakkar and Erickson are careful to point out that the conference is not anti-religion but anti-harm. The point isn’t to prescribe a religious or nonreligious path forward — there are plenty of deconstruction spaces for that. Instead, Beyond the Wound is about educating people about religious trauma’s impact on the nervous system and offering resources so attendees can choose their next step toward healing.

“You are not crazy. You are not broken,” Bakkar said about religious trauma survivors. Erickson added, “You make sense, and there’s hope.”

This article originally appeared here.