Deconstructing your religious, spiritual, or political beliefs is not a betrayal of your community. Deconstruction of an ideology, dogma, or belief system is any reassessment, re-evaluation, and/or reconsideration of your beliefs. Deconstruction is a beautiful evolution of learning, growing, and having the flexibility and capability to change your mind. There is no framework for learning, growth, evolution, or ability to change your mind inside any fundamentalist ideology, including but not limited to religion.
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.
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.
- 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
If you missed the first half of this interview, please listen to Episode 35: The Spiritual Abuse of Fundamentalist Ideologies, Including But Not Limited To Religion with The Reclamation Collective.
In this episode, we continue to discuss religious trauma and…
- discuss whether Religious Trauma Syndrome as a diagnosis should be added to the DSM
- discuss how to mindfully reclaim and rebuild spirituality after religious deconstruction
- talk about sustainable deconstruction and the necessity for safe spaces for curiosity, questions, deconversion, and reclaiming spirituality
- talk about developing an awareness to hold how we have personally participated in harm, colonization, and supremacy while also acknowledging how we did these things because of indoctrination, brain-washing, fear, and guilt
- discuss therapy modalities that help those who are deconstructing/deconverting reconnect with their bodies
- dive deep into the disconnection from our bodies and from pleasure as part of religious trauma
- have an in-depth conversation on how to have boundaries with people who are part of a system without a framework for boundaries
- share some practical ways to set boundaries with loved ones who are still religious
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Hello everyone. And welcome back to the holistic trauma healing podcast. I am Lindsey, your host. I am sitting in my office right now, looking outside. At the snow that has, well, I guess I’m not looking at the snow. I’m looking at. The green grass that 24 hours ago was covered in two inches of snow. We got a white out freak blizzard.
Yesterday. That dumped a bunch of snow on us. And then now 24 hours later, the snow is all melted off and the grass is greener than it was before the snow came. It’s so, so weird. Anyway, I am back with Kayla and Kendra from the reclamation collective. This is the second half of our interview. If you missed the first half.
I suggest that you go catch it first. It was in the last episode, episode 35. And in this episode, we are going to continue talking even more about religious trauma. So first I want to introduce my guests, Kayla Felton, and Kendra Snyder to you. Kayla 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 is a licensed marriage and family therapist and North Dakota native. And she 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. And both of these ladies have their own personal websites.
It’s in addition to the work they do together at the reclamation collective. So all of that will be listed for you in the show notes. So you can go check them out further. Really excited to, just to dive into this episode though. So in this episode, we are actually going to define religious trauma as, the definition for religious trauma was.
Created in a collective effort by the reclamation collective and the religious trauma Institute. So we’re going to define religious trauma and we’re going to talk about religious trauma. , syndrome as a diagnosis and whether it should be included in the DSM five, we, also clarify that statements like all religion is bad or other generalized blanket statements is not really productive or healing.
We discuss how to mindfully reclaim and rebuild spirituality after religious deconstruction or deconversion. We talk about sustainable deconstruction and the necessity for safe spaces. For curiosity, questions deconversion and rebuilding. We talk about developing an awareness to hold, how we have personally participated in harm, colonization and supremacy toward others. While also acknowledging that we may have done these things because of indoctrination or fear of being, um, kicked out of the church or ex-communicated or fear of being pushed out of our families or whatever. So it’s a whole thing to hold space for both of those aspects of ourselves.
We discussed some therapy modalities that help those who are deconstructing or D converting to reconnect with their bodies since fundamentalist religions, , have a way of forcing us to disconnect from our bodies. We dive really deep into a discussion, about boundaries and how to have boundaries with people who are part of a system without a framework for boundaries. And we share some practical ways to set boundaries with friends and loved ones who may still be immersed in religion. So buckle up, enjoy this episode without further ado. Here is the rest of my interview with Kayla and Kendra from the reclamation collective.
Let’s like talk about religious trauma. So what is religious trauma? Is it a diagnosis? Is it something that our therapist is going to talk to us about?
Fill me in on that.
Yeah, we actually have we created with the religious trauma Institute, a definition of religious trauma. I don’t have it up in front of me. I don’t know if you do Kayla. Yes, I’m just getting it up in front of me right now. Okay. Yep. Yeah. Our definition of religious trauma is the physical, emotional, or psychological response to religious beliefs practices, or structures that overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope and return to a sense of safety and what we really try to.
Point out is that trauma is not just what happened to you. We can’t measure someone’s trauma by how scary was the event? How much danger were you really in? Because let’s be honest, our nervous system doesn’t even have the access to that much information to know. Is this a real threat or perceived threat, especially as a kid.
Especially as a kid. And I think that it’s also I might have a different word trauma response than my siblings did to the exact same things that happened under our household to the exact same things have happened in our youth group. We might’ve all had different body responses. We might’ve felt threatened differently perhaps based on different intersections of identity.
Or perhaps just based on. Different resiliency factors or just different fears that were just natural to what we already had fears about. And so a trauma response is a really a physiological it’s a body response. We don’t choose it. It doesn’t, that happens. And so different bodies are all going to have different responses to the same external stimuli.
And I think a lot of times we think of trauma as that external stimuli and we have to acknowledge is that. Actually we’re all gonna have different responses to that same stuff. And so unfortunately, sometimes I think this is exactly what gets exploited are used against religious trauma survivors is I grew up in the same house as you, and I’m totally fine.
That ever happened to me. And that’s where we have to hold space for the diversity of body responses and that our bodies are all responding differently and we might’ve grown up under the same household, but. I have very different triggers than my brother and sister have. All three of us have our own trauma narratives and our own triggers now.
And they look very different and we grew up arguably in the same context, same culture, same household. Yeah, I think that’s an important thing for us to just point out, because I think a lot of times people do have a lot of self-consciousness around Around qualifying their experience as trauma, or is traumatic.
And we Hey, actually, you don’t get to make this decision. Your body already made that decision. Your body already decided that this was traumatic. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. Thanks so much for clarifying that trauma is not the event. It’s the body’s response to the event. And so what is traumatic for one is just a shitty day for somebody else.
So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So is religious trauma syndrome? I know that’s a word. Is religious trauma syndrome, a diagnosis? Is it an official diagnosis? Is it in the DSM? As practitioners, where are you guys at with that? Yeah, it is not an official diagnosis. It is not in the DSM.
There’s two, I wouldn’t say two complete schools, but there’s different ideas out there about whether or not it should be its own separate diagnosis in the DSM. And. What Kayla and I the perspective we’re coming from is just like Kayla said, religious trauma is trauma.
It is an experience of trauma your nervous system being overwhelmed by a real or perceived threat. It is a real threat to you. Because your body is reading it as that. And so we’re, we come at it from this idea that there doesn’t need to be a whole separate diagnosis that takes religious trauma outside of the trauma umbrella, because it is trauma.
I would love to see more emphasis in the DSM. Under post traumatic stress disorder and other trauma pieces that specifically identifies the potential for religious and spiritual places more overtly, but it doesn’t need to have a separate diagnosis because it is trauma falls underneath that number. And not to mention the current kind of dialogue around treating it as a diagnosis can be really pathologizing of religion and religious practices. And this goes back to something we said earlier that, we. We support and celebrate wherever people land in their journey. So whether that’s reclaiming a portion of a faith practice or creating a whole new spiritual practice, we don’t want to say a blanket statement that all religion is bad or all religion causes trauma.
Does trauma and abuse happen within religious and spiritual places? Resoundingly? Yes, it does. But to say blanket statement, this is bad, or it causes mental health issues or syndromes is to throw everything out. And I I’m a believer that all humans have an element of us that is a spiritual being.
And I want people to feel the freedom to explore that and celebrate that. And for that to be really positive for them. So it’s just like any space. There’s a place for misuse of power and abuse and harm to happen. But we don’t want to just make a blanket statement that says all religion is bad and to pathologize it cause that’s way over compensating.
And we don’t need to separate religious trauma from the rest of that dialogue. Yeah. Yeah. And if I can just add to that too part of where I’m just an analogy that I think helps build language around this topic is we can, I think most people mainstream culture has validated that sexual trauma is trauma, right?
Like sexual trauma is super traumatic. And we see how it shows up for people. Years later, sometimes lifetimes that they’re across a lifetime, those trauma responses. Show up later from a traumatic experience in a sexual context. And I have not heard at least to my consciousness, my awareness.
I’ve not heard of anyone seeking to have a sexual trauma syndrome added to the DSM-V. And that’s I think, because we’re able to validate that sexual trauma is trauma. To me, that’s more, what my hope is that we can validate that religious trauma is trauma and that people are just. Perhaps it’s likely to have PTSD and see PTSD complex PTSD cycles, following , a traumatic experience in a religious context, as they made having a traumatic experience in a sexual context.
And again, we don’t need to pathologize sex. Of course, people are able to reclaim sex. Even sexual trauma survivors are some times able to reclaim sex as a beautiful part of authentic. Living and showing up in relationship and showing up in yourself. And so I think of these as very similar in that we don’t necessarily need to pathologize that your PTSD cycles are going to look so different because of the context where the trauma took place.
Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that because there was definitely a point in both mine and my husband’s deconstruction and deconversion journey when I really thought that one or both of us was going to end up. Minimally agnostic and maybe atheist. And the more that I personally began to lean in that direction of a spirituality, or what felt like a spirituality to me, the more it still felt like there was something lacking and I was really missing.
A connection to something higher than myself or a faith in something higher than myself. And the other thing that came up for me, especially as I was once I decided yeah, it doesn’t feel right to be atheist or agnostic. For me, that feels depersonalized. And almost felt like if I would have adopted those labels for myself, it felt like I would have done.
So as like establishing an identity of anger towards religion. And like part of healing for me, whether it’s healing from childhood abuse or healing from religious abuse or whatever is whenever I get to a place where I don’t have to be angry anymore at what happened to me, and I’m able to have compassion for the people who hurt me.
And that doesn’t mean that I have to like, meet their needs and show up for them in their lives. But it means they’re not taking space up in my head without paying rent, but then something else that came up for me and it still comes up for me to this day is the idea of fundamentalist, religion, particularly fundamentalist Christianity as a very colonizing force all over the world and very much so in the United States and how, when that doesn’t resonate anymore, which it definitely does not resonate for me.
I want to find. The spirituality of my ancestors. That’s what I want to connect to. That’s what I feel calling me. And because of colonization, it’s insanely difficult to find that for myself and actually just had a conversation for the podcast a couple of days ago with Daniel , who’s the author of ancestral medicine.
And he reassured me, he was like, it’s not that you’re not Googling hard enough. It’s not that you’re not reading enough. It’s not that you’re not searching. The information for how we, as white bodied people connect to our lineages is unavailable because it was taken from us by colonization. That we as white bodied people were colonized just as much as we call an ISED indigenous and black body people.
And that was really reassuring for me. And so I guess that’s the path that I’m on now is trying to piece together things from my lineage and my ancestry as a way to not only heal ancestral trauma, but also as a way to reclaim spirituality for myself in a way that is in alignment with the traditions that would have been practiced in my family a thousand years ago.
Does that make sense? Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I think we’re still seeing culturally right. That colonization process. That’s part of what I think is. Super harmful to a lot of people in fundamentalist, cultures and contexts is that if you do have a different intersection of identity than is approved of by your community, or you have a different belief or theology or ideology, or even just this question, even just, let’s start with just a question that challenges other people’s belief systems you will be pushed out.
At least your voice will for sure be pushed out. You actually, as a person also might be pushed out. And so we see this process as continuing Y and I think that as a queer person, too, I see how queer voices and queer people have been pushed out of community, even communities, in some cases that we want to be a part of, we want to be here.
We weren’t saying this to say that we hate it here. We are saying this so that you know who we are. And I see colonization for sure is also a part of a cultural process. And unfortunately, those of us who had this process indoctrinated into us, as I shared earlier in the interview that I know I have actively engaged in colonization.
As informed by what I was told Christ’s love looked like, felt sounded like it was, Christ’s love to be homophobic and to show up in hate speech. That was me showing Christ’s love or so I was told. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Wow. That’s heavy. That’s it resonates with me, but it’s I haven’t thought of it that way, but like Christ’s love was violating boundaries.
Christ’s love was evangelizing my boyfriend whew. That’s a heavy heavy thing to sit with and okay. With me talking about reclaiming my own spirituality and the two of you validating that and validating that you can end up, you can land back at religion. You can land somewhere outside of religion.
You can land at atheism. You can land at something else, like whether it’s spiritual or non-spiritual religious or non-religious, whatever you land on is fine. Thank you for validating that for people. So what are some ways that we can. Reclaim spirituality, like practically, what are some ways that we can reclaim that?
And then also what are some ways that we can deconstruct. In a sustainable way, because to me, sustainable deconstruction has to involve not only deconstruction of religion, but also deconstruction of colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. So what are some sustainable ways that we can deconstruct? And then what are some mindful ways that we can reclaim or rebuild, whatever it is that we choose to reclaim and rebuild.
I’ll just start out by saying that oftentimes these two processes are happening at the same time. You may start with starting your deconstruction journey, but hopefully after not too long, you will start reclaiming at the same time as you’re deconstructing things. It’s not something where you have to be fully deconstructed before you get to start the reclamation work.
These two can be happening simultaneously. And I think a piece with sustainable deconstructions, just acknowledging the pain, honestly, the trauma that’s part of raising consciousness of becoming aware of how much of you was never, you. How much of what you’ve been told is who you are and what matters about you may not be totally accurate.
And so it’s a really draining process for those of us who are shedding entire identities. So that’s when I think of sustainable, it’s okay, how can you sustain yourself though, to still stay in the game, stay engaged in the work to also be reclaiming identities as you’re deconstructing them.
Kendra, do you have any thoughts around that? But. I think that was really beautifully said. I think one of the ways, there’s so many things to talk about. Obviously we’re such a big fan of therapy and believe in that space and whether it’s official therapy or other spaces that are just affirming and create space for you to ask questions and to be curious and to wonder.
We need those spaces when we’re deconstructing, because I think that’s part of the trap of fundamentalism is there is no place to question. There’s no place to challenge or be curious. So curiosity to me is central to deconstruction and also reclamation. But I think one of the things to keep in mind with sustainable deconstruction is.
You will be feeling lots of new feelings. Most likely you’ll be having a lot of seemingly opposing realities. Like I talked about this with my, my, the people I work with is. We’re moving into a space of ambiguity. We’re moving into a space of gray and both, and which is a very different reality than what a lot of people grew up in one of certainty of absolutism, of supremacy.
And I am the savior. I know what’s right to really, truly a place of not knowing and more of a space of humility. And so creating lots of space, that there’s going to be a lot of tension as you’re asking questions and being curious. And I think that’s one of the most important pieces is like developing the skill of holding seemingly contradictory experiences or thoughts, or even realities, I think we’ve touched on a couple of times today. Just that it’s really painful to see how we have participated or perpetuated cycles of abuse or harm to other people or colonization or supremacy. And we it’s so crucial that we can hold that. As a reality, like I can own that. I was a part of this because I was indoctrinated because there was, it was maybe I had to be out of safety to keep myself protected in that system.
And now I see that this is this perpetuates harm, the silences, this hurts other people. So that’s an example of that, both and that we need to be able to hold as we move forward. Towards deconstruction and reclamation. And like Kayla said they have been overlapping only. And I think for the rest of our lives, in some capacities.
Yeah. Okay. I had a guest on the show recently Cyanna wand and she actually said something. It was like so profound. I immediately made a little macro and posted it on Instagram. She said a traumatized nervous system is a binary nervous system. And. W what you’re talking about, holding all of this complexity and this nuance stepping out of the black and white and into this gray area.
It’s very uncomfortable because there is no more certainty. There is no more absolutes. That’s a hard place to be. So if we’re working with the body, how do we get the body to be in a place of being able to be non-binary and its nervous system? What are some ways that you guys help your clients with that?
That’s a great question. I specifically use a couple of therapeutic modalities that are more body-based than cognitively based. And one of those is EMDR. I use a lot of sematic, experiential pieces where I’m asking people maybe for the first time to notice sensations. Tap into their body in ways that they’ve never done before.
And, a common theme among people who have left high control religious or spiritual spaces is that they have actually had a complete severance of their body, like of their connection to their body is what I mean. Feeling sensation in their toes or those butterflies in their tummy, or, understanding what what an an emotion feels like in your body is so foreign and honestly, very scary.
It’s very, it’s a very slow process because we don’t want to overwhelm the nervous system. We want the nervous system to know. I can notice these sensations in my body. I can notice these emotions and feelings and how they show up and I don’t have to be threatened by them. So that looks like very slow, progressive work of helping someone tap into their body and build more comfort with the whole spectrum of emotion and moving from another place of binary.
There’s bad and good emotions to all emotions are information and we need space for all of them. And we need to create a relationship with our whole spectrum of emotional reality. And that’s so integral to our body because, we were, we first experienced the world through our body.
That’s the first place of knowledge that we get and receive and give input. But oftentimes a lot of traditional talk therapy starts with a cognitive understanding, which we really need to. To tap into the body’s sense of knowing, especially to unwind and undo a lot of those toxic harmful really restrict protective indoctrinated messages of trauma that are stored in our body.
And I just wanted to add on to that. I think that in a lot of fundamentalist and otherwise evangelical cultures, part of that indoctrination is literally demonizing certain emotions. And so I think a lot of the work that I do is holding space for, it seems like you’re feeling you’re having a guilt or shame cycle triggered by the fact that you’re acknowledging you’re angry.
Let’s talk about that. How do we start deconstructing the shame and honestly differentiating the shame cycle from the actual emotion that deserves to be honored because that’s actually as Kendra said, it’s information that might inform you on what you want to do to not have to sit in this uncomfortable, but deeply important and informative emotion.
And so I think that. That’s something that I noticed is that a lot of the folks I hold space with and in therapy and in support group settings really are having to navigate, what do we do with this entire emotion that is anger. And what do we do sometimes with the emotions that come up around anxiety, right?
If you were told in the past that that’s just because you don’t have enough faith or you’re not casting enough of your cares upon him or XYZ, here’s the antidote, here’s what you need to do to fix. The bad emotion, right? It really takes a lot of deconstruction work. Just getting to come to a place where my clients can engage with me with this emotional language, with emotional rhetoric, because even the emotions themselves trigger their own guilt and shame cycles just for existing.
Absolutely. Yeah. I’m so glad that y’all brought up the disconnect between the mind and the body. It’s created by all of this, because definitely Christianity does not fucking want you in your body, especially if you’re a woman, right? Don’t get in your body because if you do, you might discover that you’re a goddess and you actually can like, please yourself and you don’t actually need like the patriarchy at all.
So I might have a little bit of bitterness towards the patriarchy, just a little bit. That’s a beautiful emotion. That’s going to probably inform a lot of what you do with your life’s work Lindsey. It totally does. It totally fucking does. And especially like what I relate to the most about Christianity disconnecting me from my body is Is my sexuality just because purity culture was so indoctrinated into me and it was an I talked about this in episode 14 of the podcast actually did a whole episode on purity culture, but it’s worth mentioning again that how, like, when you’re told as a woman that.
Or as a young girl that your duty as a wife one day is to meet your husband’s sexual needs, because that’s going to be his number one need. And if you don’t meet those sexual needs, then he’s going to go find his needs to be met somewhere else. And that he might even be justified in doing that because you’re not being the godly wife that you should be.
When you’re told like, Don’t think about sex. Don’t talk about sex. Like definitely don’t watch anything with sex in it. Don’t touch yourself. Don’t do any of this, but then you get married and suddenly on your wedding night, if you made it to the alter as a Virgin suddenly somehow a switch is supposed to flip and you’re all of that suppression is supposed to somehow magically turn on.
On your wedding night and you’re supposed to like, know what you want and how to please your partner. Obviously your partner is heterosexual and this, situation because you’re definitely not gay because if you are, then you ha that’s a whole nother set of problems. So like in my very white, very SIS, very hetero, normal, marriage, I’m supposed to have denied myself the ability to even touch my own body.
Because even if nobody else knew, God knew, God fucking knew God is Santa Claus and he knows when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake and he knows when you’ve been bad or good. So you better be good. That it makes you, I was like ahead walking around without a pelvis for the majority of my life, because I didn’t know what I wanted.
I’d never been encouraged to figure it out. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do because I was always told that was wrong. I didn’t feel confident in my body. I felt shamed because I wasn’t ever allowed to expose my stomach or my shoulder or my breasts or whatever else. And like it really in these very subtle.
But repeated ways, especially when you’re a child, it just drills that message. And to you that like you don’t connect with God and your body, you don’t connect with yourself and your body. And I think that was probably one of the most damaging things for me about religion was that it completely robbed me of connection to my body.
Absolutely. Especially when one of the core tenants of a belief system is. Your body is inherently evil and distressful. If we’re starting with that premise it’s yeah. How can we have a relationship with our physical being, yeah. And, just to add onto what you were saying, Lindsay.
Yeah. All of that combined just cuts us off from our physical experience in the world and our body and all of its beauty. Yeah. Yeah. And it also just, not just minus the shitty sex stuff which dear God, I don’t know why we’re consulting pastors about our sex lives. I just don’t understand, like they don’t know anything more about sex than we do.
They haven’t been allowed to be in their bodies either. I don’t understand. So I think a lot of people, I know me included, like I don’t want to hear that. What I grew up with was trauma was traumatic. I don’t want to hear, especially if I’m still in it, I don’t want to.
And I did get very defensive for a long time. That wasn’t my experience. I’m sorry that your church did that to you, but that’s not what my church did to me. You’re making it, and then after I came out of it and I started talking about it openly, then I had those people sending me those messages.
I’m so sorry that you were treated that way. That is so wrong, but the love of Jesus is just unmatched, just and you can’t tell them that they’re wrong because their experience of Jesus may be amazing. It may be awesome, but. It’s they’re not able, like you were saying earlier to hold space for the fact that like this thing that I participate in and that is enjoyable to me and whatever, it might actually be really harmful for somebody else.
So for people who are listening and who are either on a path of deconstruction and or deconversion, or are maybe just now dipping their toe in the water of questioning their faith and their belief system how do you. Help us know how to have like boundaries around people who approach us that way and try to invalidate our stories.
That’s a beautiful question, Lindsey. That’s pretty much what employs the reclamation collective is boundaries with people who are from a culture that doesn’t have a framework for boundaries. Especially when we talk about the power dynamic, right? We have to take inventory of these power dynamics and acknowledge that some of us come from cultures, myself included where there was no framework for setting boundaries, with someone who had authority over you.
And there was no framework for receiving a boundary from someone who I had authority over. In fact, for years, when I had people set boundaries with me, I internalized that as persecution. That’s one option or as a personal attack that I was being told, I was bad because I needed to have a boundary set that was already like a perceived failure.
The fact that someone had to set up boundaries meet, or the third possibility is I internalize that as personal attack or as a punishment, right? Like the, I still centered myself in other people’s boundaries. When they was at a boundary with me, I was like that’s because you’re prioritizing yourself over my feelings and realizing I’m just centering myself and this other person’s self-advocacy and they can have any reason they have for why they want to be in tune with their sense of safety.
Okay. So I would throw a fourth one into that mix because this is the one that. Has been used against my husband and me, and one that we used when we were like, definitely in Christianity, which has when people came at us with a boundary or with a disagreement or whatever they’re deceived. They’re just saved.
The double has corrupted them and they’re deceived. And now we all have to add their name to the prayer chain and pray for the deception to be lifted from them. So that would be the fourth one that I would ask. So gaslighting. Oh yeah, for sure. Yeah. It’s just Oh, you’re setting a boundary with me and I don’t like it.
Thus it’s invalid. Thus it is sin. Thus it is the devil deceiving. You.
The fact that you’re setting a boundary, that’s triggering my sense of reality. My sense of supremacy of I know everything and I’m right. And I can’t be challenged because if you challenged me, you’re challenging God. And that’s the fundamentalist thinking cycle, right? We’re talking about people who don’t have a framework for boundaries.
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And so one thing that I often recommend to folks who are wanting to set a boundary with their family of origin or another person from their religious culture of origin is start with saying that you, what you like, what you care about, what you’re trying to save her in the relationship, and then make it clear.
This boundary is so that I can have a relationship with you. I want to show up in spaces with you. That’s why I need to know that you’re not going to talk about how gay people are going to hell. I’m not going to show up in spaces where I can’t stay in tune with my sense of safety, but I want to show up in space with you because I love you.
So you’re being able to start with, I’m setting this boundary because I want to stay in relationship with you. Not because I’m trying to get out of it or get you or shame you for being you. It’s a stash approach. Yeah. You say it against the sandwich approach. You start with okay. I want you to hear that.
I really want to remain in connection with you. And here’s the boundary. We can’t talk about why I’ve left the church and the other end of the sandwiches. Thank you so much. I really want to stay in connection with you. Thank you for honoring this request that I’ve made this boundary, this kind of baseline for us moving forward.
The piece I would add to that too, is, because. Kayla was saying, there is no framework for boundaries giving, like placing boundaries in place or engaging with other people’s boundaries. I oftentimes have discussions with people around how we need to be prepared for our, when we establish a boundary for it to be pushed pretty continuously.
So it’s like we have to establish a boundary and we have to be ready and willing to hold it there because like we’ve talked about our prior communities of origin. Part of our duty was to push people’s pantries, to get them to think the way we wanted them to think, to get them to realize that they were, going to hell in a hand basket.
And so we should anticipate that type of engagement is still going to happen. Now it doesn’t mean that we have to put up with it at all. That can be a part of a boundary system. So I talk about kind of these layers of boundaries with people. If I establish a boundary at point a and someone is trying to push me beyond that, Maybe I have to then go put a, like a 0.1.
So another step before a, if they can’t respect that, I don’t want to talk about why I’ve left the church. Then maybe our conversations are limited to what our kids are doing. Or maybe I have to add another layer to that too. And eventually we sometimes might have to get to a point where someone is so blatantly disregarding our.
Boundaries are stated boundaries that we can no longer protect ourselves that we actually have to exit out of that relationship altogether. And, that’s often the point of a lot of pain because exiting out of relationships I think was never something that was talked about for me at all.
Didn’t matter who was doing what to me. And boundary setting is really challenging first and foremost, but then to get to a point where we say it’s no longer safe for my nervous system to be constantly bombarded by these threats or by these challenges when people are blatantly disrespecting my own.
Boundaries and autonomy. We sometimes do have to make that hard choice and to realize that person is not us. It’s that person who can’t respect the line in the sand, that’s their own work of understanding what boundaries actually mean. Not that we have failed in some capacity. Yeah. Now it feels like an appropriate time to bring up with the boundaries that I think evangelical Christianity has created like a world of Fon types.
With the font trauma response of changing and modifying ourselves to avoid conflict. And it starts with changing and modifying yourself to please God, right? Like you have to change your fucking sexuality because that’s what pleases God, or you have to change the way you dress, because that’s what pleases God, or you have to change how you believe, because that’s what pleases God.
And so you’re changing yourself to please God, and then you change yourself to fit in at church and you change yourself to fit in at the youth group. And you change yourself to. Hopefully be perceived that you’re not like living in center or something. And like it’s like constantly modifying and changing yourself to fit inside this little box that they want you to fit in.
And what that translates to later on, at least for me it did is that I was outside of Christianity. I was outside of all that. I’m like, fuck yeah, I’m out of the box. But the problem was is that I still had this like massive fond response. So whenever it did come time for me to set boundaries, Like not only was setting boundaries, almost impossible for me, but then sticking to those boundaries was even more difficult because that fond response, like every time I tried to stick to a boundary, there was that part of me that was like maybe they are right.
Maybe I do need to change for them. Maybe I am being selfish by saying this, maybe I am wrong. And so I was constantly second guessing myself. Can you guys share with people who are like hardcore Fontan types, help the Fonz? How can we. Come out of first of all, having awareness that we were fawning for our entire lives, if we were raised in evangelical Christianity or any fundamentalists.
And then how to start up into our power and into our integrity, to be able to set and stick to boundaries with people who are trying to push them, especially like family members and an old friends.
One thing that I hold a lot of space for when people are saying that they want to set a boundary, is I already start the process of, and what is the plan for when this boundary gets crossed? Because a lot of times I think that’s what puts us into that fond place of, we actually were maybe hopeful that we were just to be respected.
And I think that then that kind of does put us that deer in the headlights of what do I do cause I don’t know what to do then if you’re refusing to cross, you’re refusing to honor my boundary. How do I do that? And so I talk a lot about when you’re setting a boundary, how are you going to maintain your boundary?
Because ultimately that boundary is for you and by you and it’s about you. So a lot of times I talk about how, when you set a boundary and say, Hey, I can only show up in spaces where my sense of safety is honored. And here’s what that looks like, then that is going to unfortunately be your kind of follow up then is if and when that boundary gets crossed, you saying I can not show up in spaces where my sense of safety is not accessible.
And kind of reminding folks that is actually what is going to have to be the aftermath of the boundary. Getting crossed. As I cannot continue to do this to my nervous system, I cannot continue to do this to my inner child. I cannot continue to do this to me is showing up in spaces where I’m going to continually feel attacked gas lit, disrespected or evangelized or prof lights, too.
I would say too, in addition to that, because Lindsay, I so resonate, I am such a fun, I that’s my go-to. And and so part of what’s helped me in this place, reclaim my power, especially around boundary setting. Is. If I notice, so let’s say I set a boundary and someone pushes it and I immediately collapsed okay.
Yeah. They’re right. I need to renegotiate this. And I somehow allow that bunk boundary to be crossed. Or I take down my own boundaries. What I’m trying to say. I take it down because I feel pressured or shame or anything like that. I it’s so crucial that when we realize we’ve done that we just, we name it.
We name that old pattern for ourselves, and we empower ourselves to come back to that person and say, Hey, remember when I told you this, that’s actually I’ve realized that isn’t my truth. This is what I need, because that’s actually how we create a new a new psycho behavior in our mind is we’re basically giving ourselves a redo.
I think especially for fond types, it happens so quickly. We just like. Like fades, you fall over and it’s you wake up and it’s gone. And that’s a pattern of safety. It’s a pattern of self protection. So we don’t want to shame ourselves for that. But when we come to the realization that We need a further, we need a stronger boundary or we need to re correct something with someone that we go and do that.
And that we surround ourselves with people who can know that we have this tendency to fun and can have kind of our back like. Let’s talk about how you want to go back to this person and reestablish a boundary that actually meets your needs. So not being afraid to do a redo and have people in your corner that are really championing you who, and that could be your therapist.
If it’s even just one person like a therapist or a trusted friend who can talk this process through with you and be the point person you come back to and say, Oh my God, that was so overwhelming. Or that was so hard. Or I’m worried how they’re thinking. When they’re thinking about me, how they’re going to respond.
I think those are two really crucial pieces to keep in mind. That’s good. That’s good stuff. Thank you so good to have people to support us to do that, even if it’s a therapist. 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.
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. Yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. 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 touched my heart very much on a personal level because I really enjoy talking about my own deconstruction and deconversion experience. It’s not a trigger for me anymore. It’s like something that I actually really enjoy talking about and helping other people with.
So thank you for holding this space with me.
Okay. I’m so grateful to Kayla and Kendra from the reclamation collective for coming on and having such a lengthy conversation about religious trauma and spiritual abuse and boundaries and all of that. I just, I got so much out of it and I hope you did too. If you are interested in checking out Kayla and Kendra’s work at the reclamation collective or enjoining any of their support groups or in finding a religious trauma informed therapist links to all of that are in the show notes of this episode, show notes can be firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash podcast. And this is episode 36.
As a reminder, this is the second part of an interview that I did with Kayla and Kendra. You can find the first part in episode 35 and as always, please follow me on Instagram at I am Lindsay Lockett.
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