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Church Trauma

Church Trauma

Shunning and excluding church members from attending church or church activities can have a profound effect on a person. Humans like animals are drawn to tribes and packs or groups. People are social animals and so its important that they maintain a connection with other people. Being excluded from the tribe can lead to trauma.

Is Church Trauma New?

Church Trauma is not new. Centuries ago people were burnt at the stake for having an opinion. Today its simply easier for the church to try to correct what it sees as negative behaviour by shunning  a person.

church traumaAvoiding Being Shunned 

Church members who wish to avoid being  shunned become very focused on the social cues within the church and they will do their best to fit into the culture so they can entrench themselves further.

They will also willingly go along  with the churches doctrines and teachings without questioning it.  An insecure person will never buck the trend. They do not wish to lose their sense of belonging and meaning in life.

Church Tactics

Churches use shunning as a means to motivate their members to fall back in line. They don’t necessarily want to lose you. Church members are the lifeblood of the church.

Without members financial contributions and active participation in church activties including preaching door to door to attract new members the church would not survive.

Modifying or manipualting a members behaviour by shunning them in an effort to coerce members to be more like the others is a tactic that has proven to be quite successful.

An example of a church which uses shunning as a tactic to win back its members is the Jehovahs Witnesses. They of course do not see shunning as anything but a loving provision from Jehovah.  Ex- Jehovahs witnesses who are now permanently out of the organization have fought a long uphill battle to stay out. Many have not won the battle.

Disfellowshipped witnesses who have felt lost in the world have had to endure many nights of meeting (church-congregation) attendance despite being ignore by the majority of the congregation for months until they were reinstated. The feeling of being loved and belonging is stronger than the embarrassment of being alone in the meetings or being gossiped about.

Mental Health 

An important aspect to understand about Jehovah’s Witnesses, in relation to mental health, is that Jehovah’s Witnesses teach their members that any member who disassociates from them or is disfellowshipped is ‘mentally ill’.

Being labelled as mentally ill, on top of an indoctrinated fear of secular authorities, presents a barrier for shunned individuals to seek help from mental health professionals during their adjustment process. As ex members have nobody to turn to for help they naturally return to the fold and they quickly conform to the groups expectations.

Dealing With Church Trauma 

Unfortunately , trained therapists who specialise in church trauma are very few and far between. Understanding church doctrines is critical if you are going to help a person deconstruct scriptures in a healthy way. Forcing your own opinion on somebody who has been hurt by the church is not advisable. People who are hurting have to be taken on a journey of discovery in  a slow methodical manner. Trust has to be built between the therapist and the person seeking therapy.

If you are in need of counseling and guidance after exiting your church please reach out to us on our counseling page.

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