It’s only taken me 35 episodes, but we’re finally diving in to spiritual abuse and religious trauma! I have first-hand experience with the spiritual and religious abuse of fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity. But, I think it’s important to make it clear that any ideology can be a dogmatic ideology; and any ideology can be spiritually abusive. Part of healing from spiritual and religious abuse is being able to reclaim autonomous spirituality is being able to forgive ourselves for what we said, did, and believed when we were being held hostage by indoctrination. We didn’t have access to our agency or autonomy.
Kayla Felten, LICSW grew up in Chicagoland suburbs in a faith context called the Plymouth Brethren. While childhood was peaceful and she had a strong sense of safety and security, Kayla felt entirely unprepared for the mental, relational, and spiritual pain that her deconstruction journey inspired in young adulthood. From identifying that her body belongs to her, to grieving the loss of ‘beloved community,’ Kayla found her greatest supports on her Reclamation journey to be travel, dance, and therapy. Kayla now works as a Psychedelic Assisted Psychotherapist in the twin cities, MN while also facilitating support groups through the Reclamation Collective.
Kendra Snyder, LMFT, NCC is a North Dakota native who grew up in the conservative Evangelical Free Church. In high school she was deeply involved in her local church and attended bible college to pursue full-time ministry. While pursuing her graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Kendra endured a very painful, shaming, and isolating season within her religious community. It was these experiences that were the catalyst for deconstructing dogmatic beliefs and reclaiming her voice, intuition, and whole self. It has been through Kendra’s own therapeutic journey, authentic friendships, and creative expression through music and pottery, that she has found the support needed for grief and healing. Kendra offers psychotherapy through her private practice, specializing in religious trauma, spiritual abuse, and supporting those impacted by adverse religious experiences.
- Follow Reclamation Collective on Instagram
- Find a therapist who can support your healing of religious trauma
- Join a Reclamation Collective Support Group
- Learn more about Kayla’s work with psychedelic-assisted therapy
- Learn more about Kendra’s work with families and children
- Religious Trauma Institute
Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadIn this episode with the founders of Reclamation Collective, Kayla Felten and Kendra Snyder, we…
- share parts of our own stories with religious deconstruction
- differentiate between deconstruction and deconversion
- explore the vulnerability of children raised in fundamentalist ideologies
- discuss fundamentalist ideologies, including but not limited to religion
- discuss the boundarylessness and co-dependency between fundamentalist ideologies and their followers
- talk about the lack of language to discuss religious trauma
- explore the reclaiming of spiritual sensations outside of religion and how plant medicine, including psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, can aid us in expressing ourselves spiritually
- discuss how indoctrination impacts childhood development
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Hello friends. Welcome back to the podcast. I’m super excited about this episode. So I’m going to dive right in, in this episode, I am interviewing Kayla and Kendra, who are the founders of the reclamation collective we are talking about. Finally, it only took me 35 episodes, but we are going to talk about spiritual abuse.
And religious trauma. So before we get into the nuts and bolts of what the show is about, I want to introduce my guests to you. Kayla Felton grew up in the Chicago land suburbs in a faith context called the Plymouth brethren. While childhood was peaceful and she had a strong sense of safety and security. Kayla felt entirely unprepared for the mental, relational and spiritual pain that her deconstruction journey inspired in young adulthood.
From identifying that her body belongs to her to grieving the loss of beloved community. Kayla found her greatest supports on her reclamation journey to be traveled, dance and therapy. Kayla now works as a psychedelic assisted psychotherapist in the twin cities of Minnesota, while also facilitating support groups through the reclamation collective
and Kendra Snyder, licensed marriage and family therapist is a North Dakota native who grew up in the conservative evangelical free church in high school. She was deeply involved in her local church and attended Bible college to pursue full-time ministry. While pursuing her graduate degree in clinical mental health counseling, Kendra endured a very painful shaming and isolating season within her religious community. It was these experiences that were the catalyst for deconstructing dogmatic beliefs and reclaiming her voice intuition and whole self. It has been through Kendra’s own therapeutic journey, authentic friendships and creative expression through music and pottery that she has found the support needed for grief and healing. Kendra offers psychotherapy through her private practice, specializing in religious trauma, spiritual abuse, and.
And supporting those impacted by adverse religious experiences. So I have both of these ladies on the show today, we did a three way on zoom. And it was a really fantastic conversation that actually went about twice as long as I was expecting it to. So I’ve divided it up into two episodes. This is the first episode, episode 35.
Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadIn this episode, we are mostly talking about spiritual abuse and fundamentalist ideologies.
Including, but not limited to religion.
This episode actually was reported before a lot of the recent stuff I’ve been putting out on Instagram about whole like ideologies and fundamentalist belief systems. So it’s really interesting how, um, what I’ve been posting on Instagram. Is totally relevant to this conversation. And I think this conversation is going to give you guys who have been following along on Instagram.
A lot more insight into, um, how like ideologies function and the way that they set us up and set our nervous systems up to be codependent and boundary lists and how we can fall prey to fundamentalist ideologies and belief systems, even if they’re not religious. So when most of us think of fundamentalist belief systems, we think of things like conservative, evangelical Christianity or Mormonism.
Things like that, that we all know are fundamentalist religions, but until we’ve done the work to discover, what about this ideology violated my boundaries? What about this ideology or this belief system doesn’t fit with me and why? In what ways was my autonomy stripped from me? In what ways did I not give consent to this belief system or to the leadership of this belief system?
In what ways did I tune out the voice of my own intuition? In order to follow and comply with this ideology or this belief system. And it really doesn’t matter if the belief system is wearing across and a Bible, or if it’s wearing a social activism, hat or something else, like any ideology can be a fundamentalist ideology. And there’s a lot of spiritual abuse involved. There’s a lot of violation of autonomy, a lot of violation of boundaries. And I think this conversation is really, really important for everyone, not just those who are deconstructing or de converting.
From fundamentalist Christianity, although you will certainly find this conversation very helpful, but this conversation is going to be really helpful for everyone, particularly given the climate of things on social media and in the media right now, with regards to all kinds of black and white. Thinking and ideologies.
So in this episode, particularly we are talking about how indoctrination impacts development, especially for children. We are differentiating between deconstruction deconversion. We’re talking about developing language to talk about religious trauma. We’re also discussing, reclaiming spiritual sensations via plant medicine and psychedelic assisted psychotherapy and how we can explore ourselves spiritually outside the context of religion. Um, and then we’re talking a lot just about our own personal experiences. The three of us are sharing bits and pieces of our own stories that I’m sure you will resonate with all or part of what we discuss. So please enjoy this amazing interview with Kayla Felton and Kendra Snyder.
From the reclamation collective.
Hello, Kendra and Kayla from reclamation. Collective. Thanks so much for coming onto the podcast. We’re super happy to be here. Yeah. I’m going to crack a sex joke. I’ve never done a three-way on zoom before.
Yeah, that’s a good thing. I marked these explicit, okay. I am stoked because I have wanted to go really deep into religious trauma ever since I started the podcast. And I’ve been following you for over a year now and your work has just come up and I’ve been watching and the more I watch and consume what you’re putting out there, the more I was just like these ladies are, who needs to come on the show to talk about religious trauma.
So thank you for being here. I’m so excited to dive in today. Awesome. All right. Let’s start at the very beginning. How did you both get into religious trauma as the focus of your practice? Yes. Want to go first, Kayla? Sure. One thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of therapists that we’ve met all have a similar narrative of our own religious trauma narrative kind of brought us into this understanding of there’s a huge gap in not just services.
There’s also a huge gap in language of how do we talk about religious trauma narratives? Because so often trauma or religious trauma has been invalidated as not real trauma or that’s not really traumatic. That was just, you have a different opinion than your parents, and so I know that was certainly the case for me is that I, .
Definitely when I look back on my lifetime, I think I’ve been navigating trauma responses and religious context, probably for all of my, for sure. My adolescents up through young adulthood. And it was only probably in my last few years. As someone who identified as a Christian, that I started becoming conscious and aware of, Oh, I’m leaving church really angry, really bitter really triggered, honestly.
And I just go this with some of the folks I’ve held space with as well, that the last, probably 18 months or so that I was. Still attending a church. It was very rare that I would show up in that space sober, very rare. And so that was the indicator for me that this is not a safe space for authentic spiritual expression.
If I don’t even feel comfortable showing up in this space sober as I am. And I would say that my deconstruction journey started probably as a early teen started having more questions, just around, why are certain things seen as a sin and then throughout young adulthood and certainly through college I think I just.
Became so aware that so much of my religion, my faith identity had been informed by fundamentalist culture and also like white supremacist culture. And so for me, coming into this work, then as a therapist and realizing, wow, there’s so many folks who are struggling with these indoctrinated messages and trying to figure out how to reclaim or invite in new narratives and break down and deconstruct and shed the toxic narratives. They’ve been indoctrinated into, I really want to just hold some more space around that specifically. And so it was a couple of years back that a couple of my friends and I decided to facilitate a retreat.
And at the time it was just me and two buddies. I’m just holding a retreat to have some conversations around purity culture around patriarchy and just around religious trauma narratives. And it was such a lovely experience. And we got such. Overwhelmingly positive feedback at how just cathartic it was for folks to have the first time ever a space to really just talk about their deconstruction and or deconversion narratives.
So from that was about two. That was about two years ago. I think. So then from there I decided to take it a little bit more clinical direction, and that is how we got the reclamation collective. And now working with Kendra it’s been really nice to have this be therapist led and facilitated, but also therapists who also have personal lived experience with our own religious trauma narratives.
Yeah, thank you for sharing Kendra. What’s your story? Why are you doing religious trauma work as part of your practice? Yeah. Yeah. Similar to Kayla, like she started out by saying, a lot of us that are doing this clinically are finding such a deep, personal connection to the work and I was raised in a really fundamentalist Christian faith and was like the all-star superstar, Christian, youth group, kid and just totally dived in.
I like found my whole identity. In that space and with that language and now looking back, I can see that it was very limiting and took significant amounts of myself for me. But I just was like totally 100% in and decided to go into ministry and actually went to a ministry school called the moody Bible Institute, which is getting a lot of limelight today or recently for their mishandling and gaslighting of a lot of abuse survivors and a lot of people being really shamed in their experience.
Yeah. So I went to moody and was just like totally all in, in the culture and participated and, pieces that are just really abusive and wrong and totally in congruent to my values. But that’s all I knew that was the only language. The only framework I knew. And when my partner and I got married, we moved up, we moved out to Colorado to actually go into full-time ministry.
And it was about a year and a half or maybe two years after we started that we had a really significant. Really massive trauma in our personal experience with that community where we were the victims of gaslighting, we were the victims of lies and basically systematic pushing out of leadership of the community in general.
And so it was this massive crisis where for the first time in my life in really significant way I’m looking at this massive and congruency between what is said and what is promoted with what we were experiencing on a daily basis, going from. Supposedly having this community that would take care of each other to being totally rejected and kicked out on the street for lies and misinformation that were spread about us by somebody who, is very insecure and and, all too often, that’s a really common.
Reality that people like become the target of some sort of cycle or abuse or someone’s insecurity and they get targeted and are kicked out of a community that is supposed to have their back So it was really that experience that opened the space for me to even just start looking. I was way too terrified before, even though I can look back and see these moments for many years before where I was really second guessing and questioning, there was just no space to even talk about it.
It was so terrifying to even let that be voiced. So that is when my, like really active deconstruction started happening, which was a little over a decade ago. And. It was honestly in the experience of finding people who had a totally different upbringing from me and sharing my story with them and then validating what the fuck is this Kendra?
What are you talking about? Just really validating my experience holistically and the mind control and gaslighting and That I really started to put the pieces together for myself. And it honestly was in those spaces where I was sharing my narrative and I was having.
Other people validate it. And then I was also having a lot of people who I formerly knew in those spaces, like from college or from camp or something else, finding me and us talking about our, beginning to deconstruction experiences that it really became clear that there is no space to talk about this.
There’s no language like Kayla mentioned. And. I want to talk about it. I want to create more space for it. And in my clinical practice I started, so I had already started my therapy practice and was not focusing on religion or spirituality or harm within religious or spiritual spaces, but it just over time, it started to show up in the clinical room.
And then when I moved out to Minnesota, I decided I really want to make this a focus of my practice because there are so desperately needs to be spaces where people have the freedom and the safety. Most importantly, to talk about it in a validating, affirming space. Cause that’s been so pivotal for my own healing journey.
Yeah, that I’ve wanted to hold that space in a clinical realm. And when I met Kayla, about two years ago, we just totally aligned in our passion and desire for creating space, for people to meet and share their own experiences and be validated that we both feel passionate about, Creating more language and training for clinical practices, but also making this language and support accessible to those where maybe counseling or therapy is not as accessible.
So that’s the hybrid of reclamation, collective and our practices. It’s a beautiful kind of mix. I think for both of us that we get to touch on these passions, both personally and professionally in these two different spaces. Yeah. Thank you both so much for sharing your stories. It’s so interesting how similar?
I like heard pieces of my own story and if my husband’s story in what both of you shared my husband actually graduated from one of the moody Bible institutes, I don’t know, sister schools are, one of those schools that they’re like really in cahoots with called Christ for the nations Institute.
So my husband graduated from there and we lived on campus and everything, and we’re immersed in that whole world. And Yeah. I think the thing that stuck out to me the most that both of you shared was the lack of language behind being able to talk about these experiences. That was the thing that was probably the hardest for both my husband and me when we were deconstructing was that we had friends and family members who were like, what is going on?
What are you guys doing? And. Nothing that we said made sense to them. Like there was not a language with which we could speak that helped them to understand what we were doing because you don’t question your fundamentalist, Christian faith. Like even to question it is. Doubt and doubt is sin, so you can’t even have a conversation about I’m questioning my beliefs because that’s like completely foreign, or I’m questioning whether I can actually believe the Bible is literal truth. And they’re like why would you question that? Of course it’s literal truth. There’s no language to have that conversation. And I’m really glad that we’re having this episode together because maybe we can help create some language for people to share their stories.
And it’s also interesting Kendra, because you pointed out that people that you had gone to college with, or camp with or whatever that y’all were having similar experiences at a similar time. And David and I have also had that experience where people that we haven’t talked to since high school, or since, church, 12 years ago or something are coming out of the woodwork and finding us on Instagram.
And they’re like, Oh my gosh, I had no idea. You guys had done this. I’m in this place right now. Please tell me it gets better. Please tell me it gets easier. Please tell me my family. Isn’t going to hate me forever. It’s heartbreaking what people are. Experiencing because they don’t have the words to talk about it and they don’t have resources available to find help.
And there’s no magic formula for how to deconstruct the belief system that you were. Let’s just say what it is that you were brainwashed to believe in. There’s it’s very difficult. So thank you both for for saying that about the language, because that certainly helps me to hear it from other people, especially professionals who are working in this and they’re like, there actually isn’t a language for it.
And I think that will help people listening. Kayla, you mentioned something while you were talking that I thought was interesting. You said for people who are deconstructing or reconverting, so can we talk about what is deconstruction versus deconversion? Absolutely. This is actually a differentiation that Kendra and I really make a point to to differentiate between these these two paths?
So it’s deconstruction. That’s really just any type of reassessing reconsidering. Do I believe all of these parts should these all fit? They all make sense. And to be honest, every faith leader I have held space with in the last couple of years around the conversation of religious trauma and deconstruction have all acknowledged.
Yeah. Deconstruction has been part of what brought them to their current Lee held theology, is often like deconstructing pieces of theology or pieces of culture or pieces of indoctrination that. That no longer serve you or that never really served you. Whereas deconversion we want to make it really clear.
It’s different in that sometimes deconversion is a part of the deconstruction journey. Deconversion was part of my deconstruction journey, but not everybody’s deconstruction journey will lead to, or will include a deconversion. Deconversion is where you literally deconvert from a faith identity or you no longer worship within a faith community that you once did.
So I had been deconstructing my faith of origin for probably 10 years, at least before I deconverted and said, I no longer identify with this faith. I’m no longer going to show up in spaces, which are just about worshiping within this faith context. And deconstruction also is a lifelong process. So I will still be on my deconstruction journey for the rest of my days.
I am probably learning new messages that I will deconstruct in two, three, five years from now. This year I’m probably receiving new messages that I will have to deconstruct later in life. So deconstruction is really just like a beautiful part of, I think life. Evolution kind of learning and growing and changing and having the flexibility to do but certainly in a lot of our cultures, fundamentalist and otherwise evangelical cultures, there’s really not a framework for that kind of a flexibility that kind of learning, growing, evolving. And so that’s where it is really important to honor when people of faith are on a deconstruction journey.
I think it is hard for their, friends and family and their community of faith. To be able to understand that deconstruction is not inherently a betrayal of the community. Deconstruction is not a, I don’t think that. Any of this is correct. It’s that I’m actually taking the time to reassess and question what parts of this ideology, theology and culture fit and what parts maybe don’t fit.
Thank you so much for explaining that so well, so then I have both deconstructed and deconverted, but not everyone who deconstructs D converts. Exactly. Got it. Okay. That helps so much. That’s like such a great distinction. Yeah, so I have deconstructed and deconverted, and it’s interesting that my husband and my deconstruction journey.
When it started, we did not even have the word deconstruction in our vocabulary. That was it. Wasn’t something that we set out to do on purpose. It wasn’t like we woke up one day and we’re like, you know what, it’s time for us to start questioning our faith. Like he was a full-time minister at the time.
Like he was pretty well paid. We were very. For lack of a better word popular in our church. A lot of people were leaving other churches and coming to our church because they loved my husband leading worship. And so like we were in a pretty good place. And then I happened to come across a book called pagan Christianity, and I read that, or actually I sat on my nightstand for awhile.
Then I told my husband, I was like, I really think we need to read this together. Something in me is just telling me that we need to read this book together. And so we started reading the book and I’ll link to the book in the show notes for people who are interested. It’s actually very interesting pretty enlightening book.
And by the end of it, we were like, Holy shit this is how we make our living. And it was like this very heavy sort of anxiety inducing thing of We can’t really justify making our living this way anymore. And we weren’t even at the point of being like no to substitutionary atonement, no, to the Bible being translated as literal truth.
No, to the end times philosophy, like all of that kind of stuff. We weren’t even at that point yet, it’s just pagan. Christianity had showed us enough about church itself and the practices of most. Evangelical fundamentalist churches that we were like okay we still believe in Jesus. We still believe in the cross.
We still believe in the Bible. We still believe that all of these things, but we can’t justify receiving a salary for being in ministry anymore because we don’t believe that anymore. And I’m really proud of the way that we handled it. I feel like we handled it with a lot of integrity. We didn’t create any drama.
We didn’t go around trying to de deconvert or deconstruct any of our friends or any of the people in our church. We actually sat on it for a solid six months and we learned more and we questioned more. And then we formulated a plan to. Just move. And we were like, this is going to be the best way for us to leave this church without a scandal is to just say that David got another job in another town and we’re just moving and then we didn’t have to lie.
So he actually did find another job in another town and we actually sold our house and then he quit the job at the church and we moved. And not only, so we are originally from. The Texas panhandle which you guys are both in Minnesota. I can’t believe, I didn’t say that cause I’m in Minnesota too.
So we’re like all in Minnesota together now, but I haven’t always lived in Minnesota. I’m actually originally from Texas from the panhandle, which is like the reddest of the red conservative Republican counties in Texas. That’s where we’re from, like right smack in the middle of the Bible belt. And. So our whole family’s lived there.
And every male member of my husband’s family, both immediate and extended are all evangelical pastors, literally his brothers, his dad, his uncles, they’re all his cousins. They’re all evangelical pastors. And most of them live in the Texas panhandle or pretty close by. And so we were like, We don’t just need to leave this town.
We’ve got to let get the heck out of Dodge. Like we’ve got to leave the panhandle, we need some space. And so we did, we moved eight hours away and it gave us the space to really, again, we still didn’t have the word deconstruction in our vocabulary by this point. But it was like, now that we don’t have like mom and dad, looking over our shoulders and now that we aren’t, committed and obligated to go to every family holiday.
Cause we live so far away. We actually have some space. And so we just, we dived deeper down the rabbit hole. My husband actually went faster and deeper than I did. I was like putting on the brakes and he was like, I’m going to just, I’m going to get to the bottom of this, and I remember at one point him telling me, Lindsay, I fully expect that I’m going to question all of this stuff and I’m still going to arrive at Jesus being the truth.
That’s what I expect. And. Because this is true. I should be able to question it and it will still be true, even if I question it. So that’s where he started out. And within a year of my husband was like, I think I might be an atheist. And he actually didn’t end up at atheism. He deconverted. And now we both.
Have very rich spiritual lives and spiritual practice that is completely apart from Christianity or any religion. Anyway, I just wanted to share that story with you all. So let me ask the next question. Cause I mentioned the word brainwashing earlier and my ex my first experience with Jesus and the church was going to vacation Bible school when I was eight years old.
And this old pastor with white hair got up. And he asked the question of all the little kids who were sitting in the sanctuary. If you died tonight, do you know where you would go? And. Children aren’t dumb. So when we ask them that question, of course, they’re like no I don’t. But if you tell me where I need to go, then I’ll do whatever you say.
So at eight years old, I prayed and I asked Jesus into my heart and I was water baptized, not too long after that. And that was the beginning of my air quotes, walk with Christ. Looking back on that now. With that being my first introduction to Jesus and the cross and the salvation experience and committing life too, basically leaving that the Bible is the infallible literal word of God.
And that you were pledging to abstain from what the church has deemed to be sinful. As a woman you commit to being submitted to, your pastor or your husband or whoever the male authority is for where we were committing to using corporal punishment on our children because that was encouraged in our church.
And by our parents. So it’s you’re signing up for this like lifetime of this belief system. And now that I look back on it and I see that as my first experience with Jesus, I truly believe that I was like frightened into the arms of Christ. And if I had actually had a choice because telling somebody, if you died tonight to know where you would go, here’s how you don’t go to hell.
That’s not a choice that’s coercion. And that was like the beginning of spiritual abuse. So it’s happening to children and it starts in childhood. Can you guys share from your own practice and working with either your clients or your own personal experience, can you share. What your experience with spiritual abuse has been like, and is it pretty consistent that it starts in childhood for most people?
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That’s a great question. I I just first have to say, I still resonate with your experience. I remember watching this like Easter video, not on Easter, that had basically the alter call at the end. And I must’ve been like five or six. And you asked a really important question about does this often happen in childhood?
I think, I don’t know statistics to say like percentage, but I do think because like evangelical Christianity is deeply cultural. A lot of people are like born and ushered into this practice without their own consent. And now that’s not to say people don’t come into these faith spaces or high control spiritual or religious practices in their teen or adult years.
It’s definitely possible. But I do hear and experience a lot that a lot of it is in childhood. And the phrase that came to mind for me, Lindsey, as you were talking is like, This experience of the centrality of fear, like fear being the motivator for people, making decisions without full consent, without full understanding of the whole picture.
And when we talk about this with kids who. But, biologically don’t have a F a frontal lobe that’s fully formed. So that’s our big decision-making, analyzing part of our brain until we’re in our late teens, twenties for an old, kind of father leader, figure to be up on a stage saying.
This is the result of a decision tonight because you lied to your mom or because you stole your toy from your neighbor, to a little child that is a literal fear. So hell is a literal fear that is below me. Heaven is above me. And I just think that it. It comes from this place of motivation from fear and truly motivation from shame.
Like you are bad, you’ve done something bad, so something bad is going to happen to you. But fear is used as the main tactic to coerce people into making decisions based in their minds as a little child as literal fact. And that’s terrifying. I myself have experienced this, but I work a lot with people who identify with really.
Pervasive fear from childhood about hell, because it was locked into their brain and locked into their body as a literal presence. And when we’re little kids and we don’t have the language to express what our fear is in the same way that we could as an adult, it gets trapped in our bodies as fear.
And we express it so that, when you’re older and you’re potentially deconstructing or reconverting. We can develop a lot of intellectual understanding of hell isn’t real, or I don’t believe that’s the way a God operates, but our body still remembers it because we were teeny tiny. And so we can get into that where there needs to be a body-based approach for healing, some of these really indoctrinated deep wounds.
But I just think about. Yeah. The centrality of fear being the key that gets so many people hooked from a really young age. Because that’s the tech. Yeah. The big, the other big one for me was my salvation experience. And then. The in times experience of like you’re going to get left behind, and so I remember having nightmares for years as a child and as an adult, that in my nightmares, people were floating up cause the rapture was happening and I wasn’t going. And so that was the other big, the big fear one. So thank you so much. Kayla. Yeah. Can you tell me Kayla, what your introduction to spiritual abuse?
Has been like and how you’re dealing with that. Yeah. First, just want to make commentary on what you both were just talking about with the just with the indoctrinated messages and how that impacts development. We have a whole conversation discussion that we facilitate in our deconstruction support groups around the
developmental impacts of indoctrination. And so we’re just like taking inventory of what are some of the messages that you received as a child about what it. Means to be a child. What is your role and purpose and value as a child and as a human. And how does that, how are you still holding onto those same anxieties fears per separations?
Obsessions right as an adult, how do those still show up? And I just wanted to share one piece for me as a child was the indoctrination about for sure hell, but then also have that. If my friends went to hell, I internalize that as my fault because I did not evangelize to them. And so that’s obviously a big quintessential element of evangelical cultures.
And I grew up in a fundamentalist, otherwise evangelical theology culture. And for me that was super heavy because I think that as a child, I had a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of unmanaged anxiety. And unfortunately of course that means I showed up in some pretty toxic relationship as the toxic.
Person as an abuser, because I would approach a lot of relationships in childhood, as I have to tell you something, because I have to say to you, so that savior complex got indoctrinated into me really young and unfortunately impacted a lot of the relationships that I had in childhood. But anyhow, so that, so I definitely see the connection between that and spiritual abuse of it’s a very nuanced conversation to have as well.
Our parents being abusive by passing on their culture, onto their children. And I’m not gonna, I don’t have a blanket answer for that. And I do think that we are coming into spiritual abuse dynamics and assessing that children really have zero power in that dynamic. Zero access to their autonomy and zero conceptualization of being able to choose what they believe they were born to that culture.
This is what they’re being told is absolute truth. And it’s absolutely true for everyone. And so I do think that there is an abusive dynamic that is worth exploring that I explore with a lot of my clients and we hold space for the nuance of this does not mean that your parents did not, or do not love you.
Yeah. Yeah, they are. Yeah. Cause like for my parents they didn’t know any better, I can’t like, yeah, it’d be easier to be like, they were adults and they had the ability to, make a choice or say no, or ask a question or whatever. And they didn’t. So they’re responsible, but honestly that’s what makes religion many religions, especially fundamentalist religions.
Harmful is because it’s not just that the children don’t have the choice, but the adults don’t know. They have a choice either everybody’s indoctrinated, everybody’s brainwashed, everybody’s living and making decisions out of that same place of fear. And, I don’t blame my parents by any means for raising me in that environment.
My husband doesn’t blame his parents either. We have a lot of compassion because especially for one set of our parents, they’re still very much in that environment. And we have a lot of compassion for that. But it’s still really interesting to think too. I’ve never actually asked my self the question before, like where my parents abusing me by raising me in this system.
That’s a hard, that’s a hard thing to sit with. Yeah. Also echo. So you did it with your friends. I did the missionary dating thing, so I would date guys and find out they were unsaved and then I would use our dating relationship to evangelize them. And I have a lot of big regrets about that. Yeah.
I just want to validate. That’s a pretty common piece. I think of the reclamation journey, is being able to forgive yourself what you didn’t know when you didn’t know it and forgive yourself for the things that you did when you were being informed by indoctrinated messages. About what Christ’s love looked like, felt sounded like.
And as we’re reclaiming language and building language and holding space for new thoughts, we start realizing, Oh, I was told that Christ love looked like colonization. I was told literally that Christ’s love looked like disregarding people’s boundaries. That’s what I was told. And so I think a lot of the reclamation work is really holding space to forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know and what you had no access to know what would have been dangerous in some cases to know.
Yeah. Because in, in not doing what you were taught, Christ’s love was you risked your own ostracization from the community. Yes. Yeah. So I have a note here. You’re going to have to tell me, what is your introduction of spiritual abuse survivors within the Yogi and plant medicine community? Yes. So that was what brought me professionally to the work of holding space for spiritual abuse survivors and I had already started doing work with the recreation collective.
And I had a friend who a little bit more connected into some plant medicine communities in Minnesota, and she had connected some dots. I knew that we have some chronic abusers for sure, in our midst. And so asked if I would be able to hold some space for survivors within those contexts.
And of course I was very interested in doing that. Because I think spiritual abuse, we often think of that as just happening in religious contexts and it most definitely does not just happen in religious contexts. However, I do think that those who have already been abused in a religious context, who have deconverted, for example, may be especially vulnerable to find themselves in a new co-dependent community or high control.
Community or context or relationship and not really have those red flags go off because that’s how we were introduced to relationship. That’s how we were introduced to community. So I do think that spiritual abuse is still something that’s a high risk factor, even for people who have deconverted until you have deconstructed.
What about your co-dependent community was abusive? What about your codependent? Community was codependent. We’re going to be really vulnerable to finding ourselves in new codependent contexts, because quite frankly, that is an intimacy that I still long for. I have not been able to find a new beloved community with the amount of intimacy that I had in my fundamentalist culture of origin, where I was born and raised into a community where my parents were born and raised.
Into that community, there’s a lot of intimacy and also a lot of familial relationships. I was related to a number of people from my culture of origin. And so spiritual abuse is just become a real big focus for me. And it’s beautiful. It’s come full circle that I started holding this space for Minnesota folks and.
I ended up having a number of folks, even from religious context, also coming to hold space and that support group setting. And from that in the last year, I’ve started to pursue psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. And so now I am able to introduce medicine and help people facilitate these spiritual sensations outside of a spiritual or religious context where they may have been harmed or abused in the past.
And this has been a huge part of my reclamation journey is being able to hold this space. As people are really trying to reclaim the spiritual sensations and assess for what is me. What is authentically me, what is my intuition versus what is my trauma response versus what is the toxic narratives that I’ve been indoctrinated in my whole life?
So it’s a lot about I incorporate a lot of internal family systems and our child work into my second. Yeah. Like work right now, but it’s really about taking inventory of what are the narratives are trying to release or let go of from your actual body, because we know that’s where they’re stored.
And then what narratives are you seeking to invite in to your body to start informing your worldview to start informing how you show up in relationship? Just inform how you want to express yourself spiritually, which can be such a triggering journey for folks who’ve been so harmed for their spiritual expression, because their spiritual expression didn’t look like, feel like, sound like the mainstream narrative or how the leader or the leaders Or the folks with authority, including parents, felt that spiritual expression was supposed to look like, feel like, sound like these very limiting box options.
Yeah. Oh my gosh. Nobody can see me doing this because they’re just listening and not watching the video, but I was like doing the Arsenio hall like fist bump thing, whatever that’s called. Cause I’m so excited about this. Huge fan of psychedelic medicine. The other thing that.
What you were saying about the fundamentalist ideologies and children, and how, when this is the culture that we’re raised in, then we seek that in other places, even if it’s non-religious spaces like, plant medicine, communities, yoga communities people probably do it with their like CrossFit group or like whatever.
Like it could literally be anything. And it’s like people who grow up in fundamentalist ideologies, their nervous systems are primed for that type of interaction. And even if they’re like, I’m swearing off of religion.
Like I condemn this religion. I’m deconstructing, I’m de converting. I’m leaving it. I’m like, no, whatever. A year later they’ve picked up a fundamentalist ideology about something else. So they’re like the loudest voice about plant medicine, and they’re like telling everybody, you have to use plant medicine and you have to, this is how it works.
And that’s the thing that they’re like on the soap box about, and that becomes their other fundamentalist ideology. I’m seeing it now on social media, especially with like cancel culture has become a fucking religion man. And it is fundamentalist as well. Fuck, because if you don’t buy into that ideology hook, line and sinker, if you deviate from it at all, if you try to have your own narrative, if you ask questions, if you’re like, Hey, something isn’t sitting right with me here, there’s something weird going on.
Then you’re like, you’re going to get canceled yourself. And it reminds me so much of fundamentalist, religion. It’s so icky. But I have compassion and hold space for those people because. Very likely their nervous systems were primed to that’s how they get connection. That’s how they get validation.
That’s how they build relationship. That’s how they feel like they belong. And so it’s very easy to like hop from one fundamentalist ideology to the next if that’s the place that you’re operating from, would you guys agree with that? Yeah. And I think a fundamentalism is a thinking cycle and relational pattern fundamentalism for me is not about theology.
It’s literally about how you approach the concept of absolute truth and yes, there absolute truth. And can you possess absolute truth? Own it’s I possess it and it’s absolutely true for everyone. I make this joke in a lot of the trainings that I facilitated around. Have you ever met a fundamentalist, Yogi?
Have you ever met a fundamentalist vegan? Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Wrong with finding something, tapping into something that works great for you. That’s beautiful. And I think that’s a lot of where we see a lot of defensiveness and a lot of triggers coming up. When we talk about religious trauma or spiritual abuse in a context that another person has found sacred, another person has found.
Super helpful and super conducive to their authentic spiritual expression. I understand why it’s hard to hear that someone who you love, who taught you things that you know, who who has really held space to honor your authentic spirituality has also held space to really harm another person. And so I think that’s also where like implant medicine, for example, I think people do get really defensive, but like, how can you say that this is a problem.
We already have the war on drugs, which has a supremacist movement already coming at us. How are we supposed to be able to talk about the beautiful parts of what is possible with medicine? If we still have people saying this isn’t getting done. And it’s But people are getting harmed and we actually do have to find a way to hold space for the nuance of, yes, this can be a beautiful therapeutic growth experience, but also it can be used and has been used and is used at times to exploit, to manipulate, to gain power over another person.
Yeah, man. That’s real dude. That’s good. As I used to say back when I was a Christian, that’ll preach in your pipe and smoke it. Hallelujah. Your okay. So then let’s talk about that then. That’s a great segue into like what I don’t hear you guys saying is that all religion is bad. I don’t hear y’all saying that.
Kendra. Do you want to talk about that? Is all religion bad is part of deconstructing and D converting, like swearing off of religion altogether. What does that look like for somebody who like they miss that connection with God’s spirit nature, wherever it was that they were getting their tank filled in fundamentalism in Christianity before, and they don’t want to get their tank filled there anymore, but what’s the option if they don’t want to be an atheist.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I appreciate that question because that’s something that Kayla and I are both really passionate about is not perpetuating. The tendency to, to have fundamentalist thinking patterns in new spaces, because we’re all looking for love and belonging. We’re all looking for acceptance.
We’re all looking to find ourselves. And when we’re coming out of a space that has told us for our whole lives, who we are, what we should think, how we should show up in relationship. And if we’ve never done the hard work of understanding those patterns and understanding how we’ve lost touch with our body or lost touch with our intuition, we are very susceptible to have a pendulum swing where we go and replicate that same pattern somewhere else, because deep down the core desires are so natural.
But we have to learn to reinvite or reconnect to that intuition, that body connection your choice, your autonomy, to decide what is true and right for you. So that’s a big passion about the reclamation. Collective is we are not prescriptive. We have no agenda about where.
We believe anyone should end up we validate the full and wide and multifaceted spectrum of people’s deconstruction process, whether that leads to deconversion and reclamation journey. Yeah, that’s something that is pretty fundamental to it, to what we stand for. And I’m trying to remember what the other part of your question was.
I think you answered it pretty completely. What I’m hearing you saying is that reclaiming spirituality, whether it’s religious or non-religious is like totally an individual’s choice. And it doesn’t mean they haven’t deconstructed. Absolutely. And it looks so different for each person.
I’m sure the three of us could. Could discuss just the nuances of our own deconstruction and reclamation journey. And that’s a big part that I think a lot of people struggle with is like, how do I move into this place of owning choice of owning my body and my autonomy? Because that’s terrifying when we move out of a space that has been so prescriptive for our whole lives And I think, one of the things we talk about in, in one of the workshops we present is really creating space for curiosity and openness and places where you can try on things that maybe were.
Never allowed or shunned or shamed, or you’ve always had a curiosity or interest in and really try them on in your body and see how they feel giving yourself the full permission to seek what fits for you, but for you to decide for it not to be. Projected or put on you by any other percent because that’s really what high control fundamentalist religious spaces are missing that borders into that line of abuse that we were talking about earlier, where if someone’s voice is not included.
Then they do not have autonomy. They do not have the ability to consent and that is super dangerous. And that’s what we’re helped trying to help people reclaim. But I have to just say it is fucking terrifying to do that process of who am I, what do I like? What do I want? Is it okay to be who I am and what I like and what I want?
Yeah. Yeah, it’s totally thank you for validating how fucking terrifying it is.
Let’s wrap up what’s going on for you, ladies? What are you teaching? What’s new at the reclamation collective?
We are just getting ready actually to go ahead and open our spring season of support groups for registration. We’re going to have six different support groups, offered a couple of new ones that we’ve never offered before. I’ll just go through and share the support groups that we’re holding space for and hopefully seasons to come.
We’ll still be offering versions of these same support groups. We’re going to have our deconstruction support group for all genders. That’s just a general inviting all people, whether you are seeking to reclaim. Within a faith context or not, you are welcome and wanted and our deconstruction support group.
And then we also are going to have a spiritual abuse support group specifically for women. That is how we’ve been running this thus far is that we’ve only been running this for women because we know that women are specifically targeted in a lot of religious and spiritual communities and contexts by faith leaders.
That’s me the second one. We also are going to be offering another season of our reclaiming your voice. It’s our BiPAP focus of facilitated processing support group around religious trauma. And then also we have a deconstruction support group specifically for men that is going to be the first time that we’ve been running that also facilitated by another therapist, Kendra and I are not facilitating most of these support groups at this point.
And then we have a queer focus, spiritual abuse support group. So this is another step in trying to eventually be holding space for spiritual abuse survivors of all genders. But we also know that we have to go in order of who is getting targeted. And this season, we’re looking forward to having our first queer focus, spiritual abuse support group.
And then lastly, I think that was five. And so then lastly we’re going to be running our first season of a spiritual power inventory group for spiritual and faith leaders. So it’s specifically going to be a space for spiritual and faith leaders to come and take inventory of the power dynamics in their relationships.
Cool. And when when is the sign up for all of these and how long do they last? Our support groups lasts for 10 weeks and we’re going to be going from may to the first week of July for this round, for this season. We would suggest that people sign up as early as they can.
Yeah, for sure folks already on our list our email lists waiting to be informed when those support groups open up. And the last round of support groups, all of our supporters filled up completely. Yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. And actually one more thing, a religious trauma-informed collision directory on our website on reclamation, collective.com. We highly recommend that we are still in the process of having representation from every state across the country, but we have well over half of the States in the United States represented and a few collisions from Canada as well.
So our hope is to continue to expand that so that folks can find a therapist who is informed in religious trial work in their state. Okay, so we’ll have links to. Everything that people need to know about in the show notes of this episode.
Thank you ladies so much for being here. This was a pleasure. It was like, it touched my heart very much on a personal level because I really enjoy talking about my own deconstruction and deconversion experience. So thank you for holding this space with me. 📍 Did you enjoy the show? Awesome. Here’s what you can do next first. Make sure you’re subscribed second. I really appreciate it. If you took a few moments to rate the podcast, finally, you can partner with me to keep putting this healing information into the world for just $5 per month. You will help keep the show ad free and freely available. If you want to go deeper and connect with me and other trauma healers in community, I invite you to join the trauma healer circle. This community is where the magic happens. You get access to bonus podcast.
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