Questioning your deeply held beliefs?

Many people grew up with a set of beliefs that were given to them by their parents or caregivers. As they grow into adulthood, they may begin questioning whether these beliefs fit for them any longer. A person’s religious faith is often very important to them and can provide a great deal of comfort and meaning to their life. Rethinking these beliefs can be disorienting and may evoke significant confusion and fear.

If spirituality is a part of your past or present, or if you’re wondering how it fits in your future, you’ve come to the right place. At Summit View Counseling, you will find a safe place to deconstruct, reconstruct, and reclaim the form of spirituality that fits your current life. I provide an environment that empowers you to examine, question, challenge and affirm any or all of your past beliefs. The power to choose what form of spirituality you will embrace is yours alone.

Perhaps you need to heal from adverse religious experiences, want to explore your relationship with religion, or just need to work with someone who “gets it.” Maybe the version of God you were taught doesn’t make sense anymore, or your religious community has rejected you. Whatever your reason, you can find the power to find the spirituality of your choice.

How can past religious experiences affect me?

For many people, religion has provided life-giving and meaningful experiences. They don’t wish to change their religious beliefs because they haven’t been damaging to them. Other people have experiences that affect their life significantly and have caused them much pain. These people may develop symptoms that make life more challenging to them. Here are some common difficulties that people may have because of their adverse religious experiences:

  • Problems with self-esteem, believing yourself to be unacceptable to God.
  • High levels of guilt and shame.
  • Fear of death due to the possibility of eternal punishment in hell.
  • Fear of God’s judgement in this life, i.e., God will cause me or someone I love pain by bringing financial ruin, sickness, death, etc.
  • Perfectionism, fear of making mistakes and anger at yourself when you do.
  • Distrust in your own thinking and an inability to make decisions.
  • Having a lack of critical thinking skills, needing to be told what to think or do.
  • Distrust in and disconnection from your own emotions.
  • High levels of despair and grief.
  • Problems with codependency, people pleasing, and having a hard time setting boundaries with others.
  • High levels of shame about your sexuality.
  • Sexual problems such as inability to perform, avoidance of sex, or sexually compulsive behaviors.
  • Isolation and loneliness due to being rejected or shunned by your faith community.
  • Loss of meaning and purpose in life.
  • Anger, resentment, or rage for deceptions and lost years in your community
  • Hypervigilance, fear or PTSD

Some helpful definitions

The following definitions are from the Reclamation Collective, an organization dedicated to helping people heal from religious trauma and adverse experiences. We have found these definitions helpful in providing a language for the process of reevaluating and modifying spirituality.

  • Adverse Religious Experience (ARE) – any experience of a religious belief, practice, or structure that undermines an individual’s sense of safety or autonomy, and/or negatively impacts their physical, social, emotional, relational, or psychological well-being.
  • Religious Trauma – 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.
  • Spiritual Abuse – The conscious or unconscious use of power to direct, control, or manipulate another’s body, thoughts, emotions, actions, or capacity for choice, freedom, or autonomy of self, within a spiritual or religious context.
  • Deconstruction – The process of evaluating and altering ones previously held beliefs, lifestyle, relationship, or worldview.
  • Deconversion – The process of releasing and no longer claiming ones previously held religious beliefs or identity.
  • Reclamation – The process of claiming or reasserting a right to the personal expression of one’s humanity.

How do I reclaim my spirituality?

This is a process unique to every individual. For some it may take years to find the kind of spirituality that fits for them, for others it happens very quickly. It is important to note that there is no requirement to get it all figured out all at once. It is perfectly normal to take your time and grow through the process. I have found that it often works well to have a supportive person that doesn’t have any interest in imposing their beliefs on you. This is what I do here at Summit View Counseling. Your life is yours to choose, including the kind of spirituality you embrace. I am committed to holding a safe space for you as you wrestle with such important, life altering beliefs. If you would like to know more about how I can help, feel free to reach out so we can talk.