Have you experienced trauma, ritual abuse, programming, a loss of personal integrity, or anxiety/fear at the hands of a religious group, cult or organization? Are you questioning your religious beliefs and want to explore alternative ways of experiencing spirituality? Or perhaps you have experienced adverse effects from spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, or silent retreats? If so, please know that you are not alone and that help is available.
Spirituality or faith can be an important resource in people’s lives, and mindfulness and yoga are often sought out by those who are seeking to heal. But religion and spiritual practices can become problematic when they take away a person’s sense of choice, voice or self-determination. More importantly, practices that emphasize going into the body or breath too quickly before other skills are in place can lead very quickly to a triggering state of overwhelm and flooding for trauma survivors, for whom being connected to themselves and their bodies has not been safe. Similarly, practices that emphasize disconnection from emotion or dissolving one’s sense of self can also be problematic if your emotions were invalidated or dismissed and if you don’t have a healthy, embodied sense of self to start with. Shame, anxiety, psychotic breaks, depersonalization (loss of sense of self), derealization (loss of sense of reality), dissociation, spiritual bypassing, confusion, depression, panic attacks, hypervigilance, paranoia, and intrusive thoughts can accompany spiritual practices or religious involvement, and be counter-productive to the act of healing.
The Refuge is supportive of healthy spirituality and religious involvement, if these have been resources for you and this is part of your belief system, and also is able to help if you have had an experience that has made things worse. Contact us to find out more.
For Clinicians: If you are a clinician who incorporates mindfulness or yoga in your therapeutic work with clients, our Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness Training or Trauma-Informed Yoga Training may be of interest. Visit www.traumatrainings.com or www.traumainformedyoga.ca for more information.