Violent storms often take weeks, months, or even years to calculate and assess the full scope of the damages done. Several years ago, I visited the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and the remnants of a tropical storm/hurricane were still visible many months after the storm. The amount of debris that needs to be removed, the homes that need new roofs, knocked down trees and so many other items that have been left in the trail are visible for longer than one might expect. These situations are understandable.
It only makes sense given the size and scope of any given storm. What about the topic of internal injuries? Edward Welch’s seminal work, Blame it on the Brain relates stories of head injuries and the patients attempting to recover from serious trauma. Welch writes, “Like all head injuries, obvious improvements may occur for up to two years or longer. Some people, however, report that they never make it back to their previous level of functioning.”
What is so interesting about these injuries is that nobody would perceive the person as injured by looking at them. They look normal. They appear to function normally, but what can’t be seen is how the injury has done permanent damage to their ability to reason and perform cognitive functions that were simple in the past. These injuries are internal.
The subject of this website is spiritual abuse and spiritual damage. What about the victims of these damages? How do they fare? While the dramatic effects of long-term spiritual abuse may not inhibit the ability to function normally there are hidden effects at nearly every turn. These dissipate as time goes on. One example might be the effect of a certain song or a set of words and how it might trigger the abuse victim. Hearing an oft-repeated phrase can send someone into a virtual tailspin. Their mind races and they are transported back into a reality they left and hope to never return, but they are powerless over the feelings that overtake them.
One person that I knew of had to remove themselves from a church service if certain songs were played. Some people can’t go down certain roads or go past the place of their former abuse, it simply brings up too many bad memories. This is all internal and non-measurable by those around them.
Relationships are one of the most difficult areas to overcome. Especially for married couples that were often pitted against one another in the name of benefitting their marriage. It is hard to find the right groove again. These can take years and even a lifetime to battle through. Old habits resurface easily when frustrations or stressors enter into life. It is easy to lash out and say incredibly hurtful things.
I could go on and on.
What can be done? Is it appropriate to return to church since this is where the spiritual abuse happened? Let me first say, yes, but it is not easy. It’s not easy to trust. It’s not easy to find a place that understands where you’ve come from. Most pastors are ill-equipped to deal with you. They might be the brightest theological mind of their time, but unless they understand the abuse dynamic, they will have trouble counseling you.
Seek qualified counseling. I am for secular counseling. Counselors that specialize in trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. I realize you’ve probably been told secular counseling is of the devil, but these (especially the good ones) will be sensitive to your religious leanings. Assuming you have continued in the faith, and I pray you will. It wasn’t Jesus that damaged you, it was those claiming to speak for Him that did it, and they will be held accountable someday.
Get active. Get your body moving, get outside and get fresh air. Walk with your spouse and have deep conversations about what happened. Do some pushups. I’m not joking. Get active in speaking out against them. A bully will never quit until someone smashes him in the face (metaphorically of course).
There is much more I’m sure, but I hope this will at least help you get started.
If this site can ever be of service please don’t hesitate to reach out.