"I became aware that whenever I'd trusted my truth as a woman
and was loyal to it, it had become like a thread in my fingers, unwinding, guiding, taking me where I needed to go. When I denied it and refused to trust, refused to pick up the thread, I became lost, afraid, off-center.
The way to find your thread again is to be still and remember who you are,
to listen to your heart, your inner wisdom, as deeply as you can
and then give yourself permission to follow it.
If you can't give yourself this permission, then find someone who can."
- Sue Monk Kidd
You're making a new life for yourself. You're learning to find
your core self, your seat of intuition, your inner knowing ....and listen to it. Not: listen to obey, to submit, or to conform - like you were taught.
This time the listening is different. It's being still to remember who you are
(not to know who god is,
stepping outside yourself and dismissing yourself
in the process)
You are being still to remember who you are - to release and to reclaim, to reconnect to sacred you. It's expansive, freeing, soul-magnifying, grounding, earthing and unearthing, learning and unlearning, being sacred you.
These are the messages that spontaneously arise inside these days.
Isn’t that amazing?
It’s entirely possible to treat yourself with compassion and friendship.
And you can learn how to do that too.
These are some of the internal messages I used to have by contrast:
“You should have…”
“You have to…”
“You need to…”
Running my to-do list through my head constantly
Running an explanation of how I’d explain myself (my decisions) to others (so they would understand/agree)
I had a lot of “try harder, do more” messages. And a lot of “make sure others understand” focus. What kind of patterns of messages do you notice?
A lot of times our internal messages tell us about needs or pressures we’re experiencing.
What if we took a step back and got curious about them?
What if instead of immediately obeying them, or trying to get rid of them, we learned from them? They are holding information about needs that still need to be met and wounds that need to be healed.
Therapy - specifically IFS therapy - is amazing at helping you work through this. (CBT is also good for examining thought patterns - it helps you shift the thought patterns, but it treats them as nuisances to be dismissed instead of hurt parts that can be befriended and healed.)
I am letting go of what was oppressive and harmful to me, and getting to know the mystery of what is.
Healing from religious trauma involves internal healing and safety. Reconnecting to ourselves. Reclaiming what we’ve lost.
And it involves deconstructing our beliefs about god. For me, deconstructing beliefs has come after substantial healing and self-trust work was done. I didn’t have enough safety to even consider it before. Now that I am securely attached to myself I can.
Previously in my healing journey, I moved from an anxious relationship with god, to an avoidant one. I had some relative autonomy and safety there. But my conception of god did not change a whole lot.
Now that I’ve reclaimed trust in myself to decide what is good for me, what I believe, and what I will allow in my life, there is more space to explore what my connection to the divine looks like.
I am letting go of what was oppressive and harmful to me, and getting to know the mystery of what is.
What it looks like for me now is letting go of…
A hierarchical god (no more God the King)
A patriarchal god (no more Male only God)
A white supremacy god (no more benevolent/judgmental Master/Lord)
A parental figure god (no more authoritarian Father God)
This may feel freeing to see me write this,
…it may have just made you bristle with suspicion and worry,
…or you may have been here a long time and glad I’m here with you.
It’s okay no matter how you feel. You don’t need to agree with me. You don’t need to be where I’m at or ever be where I’m at. You need to be where you’re at. A place where you can find first safety and then possibly safety and spirituality together.
We were trained so early to defend god and the conception of god. What if you didn’t have to do that anymore? What if you were free to know god through all the intuitiveness and natural connection you had as a young child (but as an adult)?
I’ve been excited to discover that research is showing that it’s actually part of our human development to go through a process of spiritual exploration and growth. It is good for us to have permission and space to ask questions and explore our spiritual beliefs and practices. We get to decide what’s true and good for us. Any spirituality that is severe, rather than life-giving cannot be good for us. We have the opportunity to explore human nature, the world, the divine, the cosmos, and anything in between.
I need a conception of god that includes the earth and the cosmos, and also is relational. But my worth does not have to come from god noticing me or loving me. My worth is inherent. Your worth is inherent.
I know that I am connected with god. I can feel that wellness, wholeness, and connection. And I'm learning to embrace that it's okay to have mystery around that. To not have lots of labels for god. Even in the Bible, when god is pressed for a label they say "I AM."
Yes, I am connected to the I AM that allows me to also say I am. And I am connected in all my wholeness to the wholeness of the Divine I AM.
If you’re looking for some additional community spaces to explore what you believe, deconstruct and reconstruct your beliefs, check out these options:
If you're looking for a place to reconnect to yourself and heal before, after, or during the exploration of your beliefs, please join me in my Trust Yourself Again group.
Kaitlin Curtice’s book Native was life-changing for me in exploring connection to Mother Earth, which my body and soul were craving. She weaves her Indigenous faith in with her Christian faith. You can have space and permission to explore what is good for you.
Richard Rohr also has an interesting exploration of a Christian perspective in his book The Universal Christ. He shares a theology where god is both universal and personal through the universal Christ. It feels like a place where the divine connection I naturally have in my body can meet and maybe make peace with some form of Christianity.
I’d love to hear where you’re at and where you’re hoping to be.
I am writing about Black History after February on purpose here.
I am so glad we have a month to celebrate Black Bodies, Minds, Beauty, and Ways of Being.
And I also have such sadness and frustration about all the limits we place on Black History in our country.
White people know they have to keep black history in it's place or they (we) know we will have to change.In that silencing, white people acknowledge the power in Black Voices. There are so many ways for the confining and compartmentalizing of black history. White people enact a paternalistic narcissistic belittling - the "there, there - you have your month to celebrate. Don't complain." They often give lip service to great black leaders while denying their philosophies and calls for radical inclusion and self-determination. Black History Month can even be an additional burden to Black Americans rather than space to celebrate. I really liked this article by Cole Arthur Riley about the impact of Black History Month. Is is really for Black Americans, or is it to soothe white conscience?
There is a concerted effort to censor black history out of the rest of our lives. I have given myself a whole new education from black queer feminist leaders who have radically healing ways of approaching our world because it was censored out of my life as a child. And there is a current effort by someone aspiring to the presidency of our country and currently leading my state to censor even more. To eradicate anything that isn’t exalting white supremacy norms.
There is somehow a misconstrued idea that if white people examine their colonizing history and brutal slavery, they (we) will be overcome with shame and won’t be able to handle it. And that white people’s psyche’s and their systems are both so rigid and fragile that they can’t handle the truth and change. When in reality the only way to have true mental, emotional and bodily health is to face reality and make our world a more equitable and just place.
I am so thankful for the Black Leaders, Thinkers, Activists, and everyday people who are teaching me how to re-examine what I value. How to envision a new, better way to live, one that is inclusive and empowering. One that knows I am not the one empowering, but the one who can step aside and appreciate the brilliance and power and beauty of blackness.
The very soul of our country and civilization depend not on measuring white "wokeness" but on stepping aside and amplifying the Black History that has been and is currently in the making.
* I really liked this article as well: It highlights a white man who had thought, as an evangelical pastor, that his primary challenges were rising secularization or late-stage capitalism. But he realized that “the real missionary challenge to Christianity in America is the way we have materially instantiated a white supremacist social order.” He adds: “It was as clear as it could have been to me. And I knew that my life was going to change.” I feel the same way. I will never be the same and I am better for it. If we all educate ourselves about Black History, Self-Determination, Beauty, and Goodness, our world will be a very different, much better place.
The Enneagram shows us our lens for the world: what is most important to us as we grow spiritually and what we need as we heal from religious trauma.
Quick Enneagram 101
If you're new to the Enneagram, or need a refresher, here are the 9 main types:
Want to be responsible, be better, to make things right
Want to be connected and helpful
Want to succeed and be recognized
Want to be unique and understood
Want to know and understand
Want to be loyal and safe
Want to make life interesting and fun
Want to have control over their lives
Want to have inner and outer harmony
For more basics about the Enneagram - what it is and how to find your type, read my article here.
Enneagram and Deconstruction
There are several layers of the Enneagram that I think are helpful for understanding your changing relationship with god/religion/spirituality, as well as healing from religious trauma.
I am including A LOT of information in this article. Feel free to take as much as you want and come back for more later. You can also reach out to me with questions, or to schedule a session to talk through what this means for you personally. I may also create a mini-course around this content in the future to break it down into more manageable bites.
*I want to emphasize that the information about each style in relation to deconstruction are hypotheses I'm exploring, and I would love to hear from you what it's actually been like for you to provide the most accurate information. You are the expert on yourself. These frameworks are just to give you clarity about what you already know is true. Anything that doesn't feel like it fits, doesn't fit.*
Each number fits into one of the main 3 ways of interacting with the world. Thinking, Feeling, and Doing. We all have all three. We all need all three to be balanced. And at the same time, we each have one that feels the most natural and that we go to first to understand and interact with ourselves and the world around us.
Types 8,9,1 are Body or Doing Types
I hypothesize that people in this triad are more likely to deconstruct in their bodies first. With embodiment work, healing from purity culture and embracing sexuality and erotic energy. Healing the body is the first step to healing.
Anger is primary emotion
Embracing anger as medicine rather than an emotion to be suppressed may also be an important part of this healing since anger is a primary emotion in processing their experiences.
Autonomy is primary need
These types may emphasize the need for space, self-determination, and boundaries in their spiritual transition.
Types 2,3,4 are Feeling or Heart Types
I theorize that these types start their healing with their emotions - reclaiming all emotions as good, living and embracing all their emotions. Healing their inner child, their identities, and the shame they feel is key to starting the healing process.
Shame is primary emotion
These types internalize shame as their core wound and core state. Knowing that they are good at their core and can shed the shame may be a key factor in their healing and growth.
Attention is primary need
In this triad, grieving relationships and communities they've lost may be the focus. And needing to restore their relationship with self is going to be a huge part of their healing. It is also helpful to think through how their attachment with god/religion/spirituality is changing.
Types 5,6,7 are Thinking or Head Types
I am guessing that these types start their healing by examining and deconstructing their beliefs. When the beliefs of the evangelical/fundamental system no longer make sense, they start questioning and pulling on the thread that unravels their rigid belief system. Confronting the fear of the high-control system and letting it go may be the primary way of starting the healing process.
Fear is primary emotion
In this triad, there is a focus on avoiding or neutralizing fear. Because they are head types, the fears may have taken the form of fear of eternal torment, thinking/believing something wrong, and conflating beliefs with identity. These types may need to re-establish personal authority instead of looking for outside authority and credibility, or find healthier, less rigid information sources to inform their changing beliefs.
Security is primary need
These types may need to re-establish where their security comes from and find a new equilibrium. They may need to focus on establishing eternal and external security as a main part of their healing process.
The Social Style is the strategy each type uses to get it’s needs met.
Types 3,7,8 are the Initiator/Assertive Style:
Stereotypically they might think: I am the center of the activity, I’m what’s important here. I take action first instead of waiting for others.
In deconstruction, these types may be louder about their deconstruction and take action quickly once they've decided about the changes they want to make.
Types 1,2,6 are the Cooperator/Dutiful Style:
Stereotypically they might think: I am here to be of service - How can I meet others’ expectations? How can I be responsible?
These types may have to release responsibility for others' feelings about their faith transition, and focus on cooperating with and being loyal to themselves first over their evangelical community.
Types 4,5,9 are the Soloist/Withdrawn Style
Stereotypically they might think: I am not a part of what’s going on, I’m different, I don’t fit in, I need time away before I can reconnect.
In spiritual growth, these types may need time away in quiet, contemplative practices, and the freedom to not have to explain themselves yet.
The Harmonic Groups show how each person copes when they do not get what they want. They reveal the fundamental way our personality defends against loss and disappointment. They show the way we cope with conflict and difficulty.
Types 2,7,9 are the Positive Outlook Group
They focus on their good intentions (2's), positive experiences (7's), and the good in their environment (9's).
In deconstruction, these types defend against disappointment by avoiding seeing certain things clearly:
- 2's: their own neediness, disappointment, and anger
- 7's: their pain and emptiness
- 9's: problems with their loved ones and environment
To find full healing, each type will need to face what they've been avoiding and give themselves space to grieve.
Types 1,3,5 are the Competency Group
Each type in this group wants to be competent in different ways:
- 1's by being correct, organized, reasonable, sensible
- 3's by being efficient, capable, and outstanding
- 5's by being the expert and maintaining detachment and clarity
In deconstruction, each type tries to manage feelings by:
- 1's: repression and denial. This leads to rigidity in the body. 1's tend to want to work within the system and be good in the system's eyes. To heal they will want to focus on their innate goodness apart from a system or rules, or at least finding a healthier, less rigid system to evaluate themselves by.
- 3's: repression and focus on achievement. They look to others for feelings cues. 3's want to work with the system to a point. They may want to take some time away to go inside and check out their own feelings as a part of their healing.
- 5's: abstracting feelings, emotional detachment, cerebral processing. 5's like to be outside of the system's rules. Paying attention to the feelings and body cues they have will help them process through not only the doctrinal changes but the way their transition is impacting them.
Types 4,6,8 are the Reactive Outlook Group
They look for a rescuer, understanding, support, and self-reliance.
- 4's especially want someone to understand and see them.
- 6's want to both be the strong one and have support.
- 8's want to need others as little as possible.
In deconstruction, each type tries to deal with their fears:
4's fear they will be abandoned so they try to hold on to supporters, possibly playing hard to get. In their healing they may want to strengthen and embrace the level of support and allegiance they have in themselves.
6's fear they will be abandoned but also fear becoming too dependent on others. 6's can struggle with self-doubt, and can learn in their healing to trust themselves as a credible authority and a loyal self-supporter.
8's fear they will be controlled. Intimacy and vulnerability by caring too much can feel scary. 8's healing can include welcoming, or at least making peace with, their need for connection and support for full healing. Finding a new, supportive, low-control environment may be a big part of their healing.
The 3 instincts and what they focus on:
Health & Wellness
This instinct is the most cautious. People with this instinct may take longer to examine things, think through cost/benefits, and make decisions. They may avoid taking the risk of making changes in their community and beliefs until it is necessary. It may also feel to this instinct like people who are changing quickly are making "rash decisions." However, when they do decide to take action, they are excellent at being prepared. They may need to focus on their personal wellness, and making their home a comforting place as part of their healing process.
Reading & Interpreting
Bonding & Affiliating
Contributing to the Group
This instinct will focus on how the community around them is interacting. Is everyone meshing and working together? Is this social system working, fixable, or broken? They may be aware of the power structures in the community - how authoritarian it is, and if power is being misused, for example. They may also be attuned to each person's roles in the social system. Leaving this system and starting from scratch may feel like a huge relief or terrifying, when that is how you know your place in the world. People in this instinct are especially equipped to begin and support new healing communities because they are so good at creating bonds among a group.
This instinct is the most likely to take risks and move quickly. They may be the first to leave an unhealthy system or be willing to question or try on new beliefs. They can let those that need more time know what it's like on the other side. They also need to be cautious of jumping into similar groups with charismatic leaders. This instinct can learn from the other two how to take enough time and listen to their inner cues of safety before they commit to another group/community.
Healing Core Wounds
We all have certain beliefs about ourselves that we formed in childhood. Part of the way we form our personality is by reacting to these beliefs in such a way that we feel better about ourselves. Here are the core wounding messages for each number and the lost messages that bring healing.
In healing from the religious wounds we've experienced, these core beliefs can inform some of our journey. I think we all need to recover the lost childhood messages of healing, but the one that matches your type may be especially important to pay attention to.
It's not okay to make mistakes > You are good
It's not okay to have your own needs > You are wanted
It's not okay to have your own feelings and identity > You are loved for yourself
It's not okay to be too functional or too happy > You are seen for who you are
It's not okay to be comfortable in the world > Your needs are not a problem
It's not okay to trust yourself > You are safe
It's not okay to depend on anyone for anything > You will be taken care of
It's not okay to be vulnerable or to trust anyone > You will not be betrayed
It's not okay to assert yourself > Your presence matters
(Riso and Hudson, The Wisdom of the Enneagram p. 31, 34)
Making Sense of Your Healing Journey
What was it like to see that others are walking through their deconstruction in similar ways? To have some clarity about why you've experienced a certain kind of pain through your envolvement with evanglicalism, and have a specific path for healing? I hope it is comforting and enlightening. I would love to support you in your journey. Email me to share your experience and schedule a session to work through this more.