IG LIVE: What is Religous Trauma? (in Black Churches)
Dontá Morrison, PhDc
“The Black Church can no longer ignore the contributions of Black gay Christians and must begin the reformation work towards inclusivity.”
Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) occurs when an individual struggles with leaving a religion or a set of beliefs. It often involves the trauma of breaking away from a controlling environment, lifestyle, or religious figure. In some settings the symptoms of religious trauma can be similar to that of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
How does trauma from Black churches show up?
Cognitive: negative beliefs about self-ability/self-worth, binary thinking, perfectionism, difficulty with decision-making
Emotional: Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, loneliness, difficulty with pleasure, loss of meaning
Physical: Disembodiment/Disconnection from body, high blood pressure, headaches
Social: Loss of social network, family rupture, social awkwardness, sexual difficulty, or sexual compulsion/addiction
Cultural: Unfamiliarity with secular world; “fish out of water” feelings, difficulty belonging, information gaps (e.g.evolution, modern art, music, etc.)
(Dr. Marlene Winell, 2013)
How can it impact Black Gay men and LGBT people?
- Post sex guilt
- Decreased sense of self-worth
- Sexual compulsivity to cope
- Self sabotaging relationships
- Being unfamiliar with mainstream culture/isolation
- Struggling with fitting in and belonging
- Sleeping issues
- Eating issues
- Anxiety symptoms
- Depression symptoms
- Grief symptoms
Examples of Religious Trauma:
- Suggesting sickness/illness brought on by lack of faith (HIV status, Cancer).
- Loss of church community or family (Having to leave cause it’s unsafe or hostile)
- Being told not hate the sin, love the sinner
- Shaming being unwed, or having an abortion
- Emotional, sexual or physical abuse from church leaders, family members etc, because of anti-gay beliefs.
- Self judgement, internal shaming “feeling like something is wrong with you.”
How do we heal and unpack religious trauma?
- Setting boundaries with our church/faith communities
- Challenging Pastors/churches that create religious trauma
- Creating or seeking faith communities that are loving and supportive
- Sharing and making communities aware of the impact of doctrine
- Therapy/Coaching or peer support groups
- Talking with Pastors who also have a counseling expertise
For Reflection: Healing in The Black Church
When I go to church I feel _____.
I want to feel _____ in my church home.
I have a right to _____ in my church home.
Something that would help me heal from religious trauma would be _____.
My ideal church home would _____.