religious trauma podcasts

Religious Trauma Podcast Haul

Here are some podcast recommendations that deal specifically with religious trauma:

1.The Bad Christian Podcast: “asking questions and challenging evangelical Christianity and have found the same problems widespread across cultures where authenticity is low and desire to control people and their behavior is high.”

2. Can I Say This At Church Podcast: “A weekly podcast dealing with honest and open questions about faith in our God and what that means as we as a church wrestle with those questions.”

3. The Deconstructionists Podcast: “Listen, consider, explore, evolve, grow and keep moving forward… transcend AND include.”

4. Dirty Rotten Church Kids Podcast: “Millennial dads figuring out life, art, and culture on the other side of the evangelical bubble.”

5. Evangelical Podcast: “Coming to terms with a messed-up subculture, one conversation at a time.”

6. IndoctriNATION Podcast: “A weekly podcast covering cults, manipulators, and protecting yourself from systems of control.:

7. MindShift Podcast: “I am interested in helping people to reconstruct their identities after leaving religion, be it a cult, evangelical Christianity, or any group with undue influence.”

8. Poema Podcast: “Spirituality, creativity, and reclaiming the art of conversation.”

9. You Have Permission Podcast: “A resource for Christians to my right and to my left, as well as former Christians and non-religious folks; anyone who finds themselves asking difficult questions about God, science, prayer, fate, suffering, evangelism, and more.”

10. Deconversion Therapy Podcast: “The humorous podcast about religion.”

11. Exmormonology Podcast: “Because sometimes life after Mormonism needs a little study.”

12. God is Grey Podcast: “Conversations that promote intellectual, sex positive, science affirming Christianity.”

body image

Improve Your Body Image Satisfaction with Instagram… Seriously!

Written by Rachel, Eichberger, our Masters of Science in Couples and Family Therapy Intern

How many times have you scrolled through social media platforms and been overtaken by a hopeless, discouraged feeling as images of thin-ideal, white bodies zoom past view? You’re not alone. These images of unattainable, altered body images seem to dominate algorithms and then contribute to viewer body dissatisfaction across genders and ages in the United States. For individuals identifying as female, “body dissatisfaction is pervasive with 91% of women indicating that they prefer an alternative body size or shape and this dissatisfaction remains relatively stable across the lifespan” (Wallis et al., 2021, p. 1). Ultimately, body dissatisfaction can lead to the “development of risk factors for eating disorders in adolescent girls, including body dissatisfaction, internalization of appearance ideals, drive for thinness, and dietary restraint (De Vries, Peter, de Graaf, & Nikken, 2016; McLean, Paxton, Wertheim, & Masters, 2015; Tiggemann & Slater, 2016). 1

So, what can be done?

It seems unrealistic to completely unplug from social media in our society. This presents an opportunity to determine if platforms like Instagram and Facebook can be used for a shift and positive change toward body image acceptance and self-love. Studies have shown that Facebook can indeed have a positive impact when harnessed correctly. For example, a study conducted with mothers in Australia demonstrated that after frequent views of non-thin ideal images and body positive content, participants may have decreased body dissatisfaction. Some of the moms set goals to “change attitudes and behaviors about body functionality, improved self-compassion, and reduction of internalization of the thin-ideal.” 2

If you find yourself seeking content that doesn’t leave you feeling ostracized, less-than, or even hopeless, consider following body-positive influencers for exposure to non-conformative content. Here are a few posted in “20 Body-Positive Instagram Accounts to Follow Right Now” by Kaitlin Pirie:

@theshirarose | Eating disorder therapist, LCSW + body positive style blogger. 🌈🦄 🏳️‍🌈 Fat positive + Health At Every Size. NYC ✈️ LA

@mynameisjessamyn | HBIC. @theunderbellyyoga @jessamynscloset. Author #everybodyyoga #yokebook. Podcast @dearjessamyn. Advocate @wegohighnc

@laura.iu | 🧁Anti-Diet Dietitian • She/Her 🌱Inclusive Nutrition Therapy • Intuitive Eating • Body Liberation ✨Learn how to feel good in the body u already have

@theantidietplan | 🛋 NYC Psychologist 📖 Author of The Diet Free Revolution 👇🏻

1. McLean, S. A., Wertheim, E. H., Masters, J., & Paxton, S. J. (2017). A pilot evaluation of a social media literacy intervention to reduce risk factors for eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50(7), 847–851. https://doi-org.echo.louisville.edu/10.1002/eat.22708

2. Wallis, K., Prichard, I., Hart, L., & Yager, Z. (2021). The Body Confident Mums challenge: a feasibility trial and qualitative evaluation of a body acceptance program delivered to mothers using Facebook. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 1–12. https://doi-org.echo.louisville.edu/10.1186/s12889-021-11126-8

 

commitment

Safety in Intimate Relationships: Commitment

This is the fourth in a multi-part series on Safety in Intimate Relationships. Check out the previous blogs on Physical Safety, Emotional Safety, and Intellectual Safety!

When I have conversations with people about safety in intimate relationships, often the only thing that comes to mind is physical safety. However, safety encompasses more than that.

Here are some signs of commitment safety in a relationship:

  •  You’re certain about where you stand in your relationship.
  • You can communicate about your level of commitment.
  • Your levels of commitment are compatible. Neither one of you is moving faster than the other is comfortable with.
  • You can distinguish between promises and commitments. Promises are stated future intents regarding specific acts/events, while commitments are both demonstrated by behaviors and consistent thoughts and beliefs.

Safety in relationships is worth prioritizing!

Note: If you are feeling unsafe in your relationship, please reach out to The Domestic Violence Hotline or your local domestic violence organization. You deserve to be safe in your relationships.

purity culture

Religious Trauma & Purity Culture

Note: This post contains specific language about sex, physical bodies, and a brief mention of sexual assault.

In purity culture, expectations for behavior are based on strict, highly stereotyped gender binaries. There are acceptable behaviors for boys and men, and different acceptable behaviors for girls and women. Purity culture is not a strictly “Christian thing,” though it did reach popularity in Evangelical Christianity in the 1990s.

Here are some of the dangerous myths of purity culture:

1. Virginity is a measure of your worth.

So many women, both friends, and clients have told me some variation of the story of their sex education. In a large assembly, a woman or girl’s virginity is compared to a flower. The flower gets passed around from person to person, getting bumped and bruised along the way. By the time the flower makes it up to the speaker, it doesn’t look nearly as pretty and fresh as when it passed through the first set of hands. The speaker then asks, “Who wants this flower?”

The implication is that if you’ve had a sexual relationship with anyone prior to marriage, you are bruised, broken, and less than. This narrative is particularly damaging to survivors of sexual abuse because their abuse is being re-perpetrated while it is emphasized that they are worthless (and worthless) because of a crime that was committed against them.

Moreover, people aren’t flowers. Or chewing gum. Or used tape. (All analogies that have been used!) Sexuality is not a finite resource. In fact (hold on to your hats!), virginity is a social construct. It’s not something that can be held in your hands, measured, or objectively seen in any way. Even the hymen isn’t a good “measure” of virginity, since nearly everyone with a vagina does not have an intact hymen (or vaginal corona) by the time they start menstruating. Otherwise, the menstrual blood wouldn’t have any place to go!

2. Sexuality is a switch that can be flipped.

In purity culture, sexual feelings and responses are rejected as unsafe, unclean, and impure—until marriage. At that point, it’s as if a switch can be flipped, and suddenly the newlywed couple can give and experience pleasure in their marital bed. In fact, often, it’s the exact opposite. If you’ve been told that your body is sinful and bad your whole life, engaging in a healthy, loving physical relationship can feel wrong. This goes for both men and women. Though women, being the recipients of more degrading messages of purity culture, often feel it more intensely. Men and women alike have reported panic attacks after engaging in sex with their spouses for the first time. Some have physical reactions, including hives, vomiting, and even migraines. It’s almost impossible to set aside the myths of purity culture just because of two magic words (“I do.”).

3. Girls and women are responsible for boys’ and men’s sexual behavior.

Much of purity culture puts the responsibility of “purity” on girls and women. They’re told to cover up (from the least extreme examples of covered shoulders, collar bones, and skirts or shorts that are, at minimum, fingertip length; to the most extreme examples of long sleeves and long skirts, even in sweltering weather in which boys and men are allowed to be shirtless and wearing shorts of any length) and remonstrated to “never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Romans 14:13-23). (NOTE: I’m no Biblical scholar, but the rest of that passage talks about how everything is clean in the eyes of God and includes the line, “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” Seems to me that there’s a bit of selective listening going on when people quote the first line only.)

The extreme example of girls and women being responsible for boys’ and men’s sexual behavior can be found in the victim-blaming that surrounds women who report sexual assaults by prominent evangelicals, from Jessica Hahn to Ashley Johnson. In purity culture, girls and women are not taught about agency or consent—their bodies are for others’ consumption, not worthy in their own right.

What things were you told about purity culture? How have you seen purity culture play out in your life, or in the lives of others?

religious trauma

What is Religious Trauma?

Over the past year, I have undergone specialized training in treating religious trauma. This type of trauma is a kind of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that Restoration Counseling defines as “a group of symptoms that arise in response to traumatic or stressful religious experiences.”

Of course, this is not a new thing. The initial writings about it were done in 1993, and the term Religious Trauma Syndrome was developed by Dr. Marlene Winell in 2011.

While religious trauma is not an official psychiatric diagnosis, here are some symptoms:

  • Extreme guilt and/or shame
  • Feeling isolated or like you don’t belong
  • A loss of community
  • Feeling lost or directionless
  • Feeling disconnected from your body
  • Shame or disgust when engaging in freely-chosen sexual activity (during or after)

This is not to say that all religious or faith experiences bring about traumatization. Religious trauma is brought about by Adverse Religious Experiences (AREs). This can be, “Any experience of a religious belief, practice, or structure that undermines an individual’s sense of safety or autonomy and/or negatively impacts their physical, social, emotional, relational, or psychological well-being.”

Some examples of AREs are:

  • Being told that you are fundamentally flawed, wrong, or disgusting
  • Having been discouraged or judged for asking questions or engaging in critical thought (NOTE: This is one of the signs of Coercive Control in spiritual settings.)
  • Being told that only your organization/denomination has the “right” answers
  • Feeling more guilt and shame than love and belonging
  • The community or leaders telling you that a fundamental part of who you are (i.e., gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, age) is bad, wrong, or somehow less worthy of love

If you have experienced any of these symptoms or triggers, it’s important to find a therapist who is trauma-informed and can understand your experiences. For more information read our previous blog on unpacking religious trauma.

trauma

Unpacking Religious Trauma

In order to begin to unpack religious trauma, practitioners, as well as clients, must understand three key terms or stages. The emotions associated with these phases can vary, depending on your stance on the issue of organized religion. Here is a basic overview:

Deconstruction

  • The person begins questioning the teachings and doctrines of the organization.
  • One may continue to attend religious services, but experiences anxiety and distress (usually prompted by cognitive dissonance).
  • The person will probably still continue to identify publicly as a member of their faith but may express doubts to trusted or safe people.

Deconversion

For some people, deconstruction leads to deconversion. This occurs when the loose threads are pulled at so much, the entire piece starts to unravel. Sometimes, this occurs because of the reaction of others around them to the deconstruction process.

For example, if I am told that I cannot ask any questions or have any doubts, I am likely to leave the conversation entirely when my questions reach a critical mass. (I even hesitate to use the word ‘conversation,’ because conversation implies that there is a back-and-forth discussion, which cannot happen when one party shuts down the other one completely.)

In deconversion, people often experience:

  • A profound sense of loss (of community, ritual, and/or relationships), usually prompted by people in their faith rejecting them.
  • Anger or hostility toward their particular denomination, themselves, or religion in general.
  • Searching for another community or practice to replace the lost community and practice.

Reconstruction

For others, deconstruction leads to reconstruction. Essentially, this is when the person takes the part of their faith experience that works for them and rejects the parts of their religion that have been harmful. In the training I have completed, practitioners are told that a potential pitfall of reconstruction is going from one controlling, abusive religious group to another. That’s why it’s very important that during the process of deconstruction and reconstruction, people are given appropriate skills to assess the health of any organization, religion, or faith community they consider joining, as well as the skills to build up the disconnect between self-esteem and self-worth.

procrastination

What is “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?”

Here is a guest blog from one of our current practicum students, Abigail Overstreet. Abigail is in the MSSW/MSCFT dual degree program at the University of Louisville Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work.

The phrase “bedtime procrastination” is first credited to this 2014 study from the Netherlands. The addition of “revenge” seems to have first started appearing on Chinese internet sites in 2016, according to Health.com. Since then, the term revenge bedtime procrastination has found its way onto social media platforms, especially after writer Daphne K. Lee publicly tweeted, “Learned a very relatable term today: “報復性熬夜” (revenge bedtime procrastination), a phenomenon in which people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late night hours.”

Although delaying sleep to finish ‘just one more episode and/or chapter’ is a very human experience, the repeated procrastination of sleep to meet some interpersonal need is most often found in overworked people. Populations that are predisposed to this habit are parents of young children, students, caregivers, or professionals with poor work/life balance. In some cases, the habit of revenge bedtime procrastination formed during a busy season of life and has continued even though the need for it has passed.

What to Do

-Take an honest inventory of your daily activities and see where your minutes are being allotted. Those ten-minute social media scroll breaks add up—one of the easiest ways to tally your phone usage is to activate your phone’s ability to monitor your screen time.

-Learn to be present in the current activity and space. When you’re at work—do work, when you’re home, be fully engaged with your family and your leisure time. Obviously with the pandemic, this separation of physical space has become easier said than done, but if it is possible, devote a singular space or consistent set of hours to your work and then step away. Stop devoting today’s mental energy to tomorrow’s tasks.

-Stop setting yourself up for failure and recognize your limits–even Clark Kent only published one newspaper a day.

-Seek out respite services or rely on your support network to get some critical ‘me-time’ while caregiving or parenting.

-Speak to a counselor/therapist about time management and sleep hygiene strategies if you’re still struggling. We at True North Counseling are here to assist you.

intellectual safety

Safety in Intimate Relationships: Intellectual safety

This is the third in a multi-part series on Safety in Intimate Relationships. (Check out the previous blogs on Emotional Safety and Physical Safety!) When I have conversations with people about safety in intimate relationships, often the only thing that comes to mind is physical safety. However, safety encompasses more than that. Here are some signs of intellectual safety in a relationship:

  • You have similar interests and hobbies, or can appreciate one another’s hobbies.
  • Your thoughts and interests can be shared with your partner without fear of ridicule.
  • Mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict can be found.
  • You feel supported in your goals and dreams for your life.
  • You can communicate openly and truthfully.

Safety in relationships is worth prioritizing!

Note: If you are feeling unsafe in your relationship, please reach out to The Domestic Violence Hotline or your local domestic violence organization. You deserve to be safe in your relationships.

emotional safety

Safety in Intimate Relationships: Emotional Safety

Emotional safety is essential in our relationships with others. How do you know if you’re emotionally safe in a relationship?

  1. You can talk to your partner about emotional subjects without worrying about how they’ll react.
  2. Your concerns are taken seriously by your partner.
  3. A partner doesn’t use things you’ve told them in confidence against you.
  4. Your partner doesn’t share things you’ve told them in confidence without your permission.
  5. You can tell your partner about something that they’ve said/done that has upset you without them becoming angry or upset with you.

Emotional safety is just one component of relationship safety. Stay tuned for additional safety in intimate relationships information!

Note: If you are feeling unsafe in your relationship, please reach out to The Domestic Violence Hotline or your local domestic violence organization. You deserve to be safe in your relationships.

 

domestic violence

Safety in Intimate Relationships: Physical safety

When I talk to people about feeling safe in their relationships, usually physical safety is the first thing that comes to mind. When someone says they feel unsafe in their relationship, we almost automatically assume that their partner is hitting them. However, physical safety goes deeper than that. Below are some red flags for physical safety:

  • My partner has drawn back a hand as if to hit me.
  • My partner has thrown objects around me, but not at me.
  • My partner has hit walls, tables, beds, or other objects when angry with me.
  • My partner has broken objects belonging to me.
  • My partner has hidden objects belonging to me (cellphone, keys, debit card, etc.)
  • My partner has verbally threatened to hurt me, pets, children, or themselves.
  • My partner has verbally threatened to call (or has called) welfare, immigration, or child protective services without justification.
  • My partner has displayed weapons to threaten me.

The two most dangerous times in a domestic violence relationship are when the abused partner attempts to leave and during pregnancy. On average, a person will attempt to leave an abusive relationship seven times before separating from their partner. But your safety and your life are worth it.

Note: If you are feeling unsafe in your relationship, please reach out to The Domestic Violence Hotline or your local domestic violence organization. You deserve to be safe in your relationships.