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Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

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posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:05 AM
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I know this won't be a popular post among some ATS readers and writers on this forum, but I'm going to post it anyway. I recently started a thread about missionary Pentecostals (and related Evangelical doomsday sects) doing damage abroad.

I know that it makes the most pious of those religions angry - seethingly, condemningly so - but the fact is that many, many people have been damaged, right here in the US, by authoritarian religions. This article is written by a mental health professional who has discovered that her 'label' for how people deal with losing their religion (or don't) has taken on a life of its own, and makes several very important points that I hope ATS will at least read before launching a flaming pitchfork at me (again.)

I honestly am trying to help this society - call me Progressive, call me a sinner or demon-possessed, call me whatever you like - but DO NOT call me a liar. I was one of the "less unfortunate" people who was exposed to Christian dogma as a baby and raised in that faith, but it was a faith that does not condemn people who walk away (see thread linked in signature to read my story and add your own).

Please note that I AM NOT, AND HAVE NEVER BEEN AN ATHEIST. What I did do, and continue to do, is study the phenomenon of religiosity itself, as well as investigate MANY DIFFERENT FAITH SYSTEMS, both Christian and non-Christian, and came away much more able to think clearly about these things.

Much, much later, decades after ceasing attending church, I began to learn psychology and counseling, and from there to practice it. Those of you who hate 'mental health practitioners' and believe they are charlatans will no doubt also flame me - but, the points made in this article are NEVERTHELESS important - and all of us should be aware of them.

I at first thought "f-it", I don't want to get bludgeoned again so soon by the thumpers, but on the other hand, like MLK, Jr. said and I've repeated before:

"We begin to die the day that we remain silent about things that matter."

Well, I'm not going to 'start to die today', and in response to a couple of recent threads pertinent to the mentality the following article discusses, I'm speaking again.

I AM NOT GAY, I AM NOT A SATANIST, I AM NOT A HATER OR DEMON-POSSESSED.
I'm an observer, and a change agent. It's "my calling." From whom? From my indwelling Spirit, I guess.

Now that my defense and disclaimers are preemptively out of the way, here we go:

Religious Trauma Syndrome: How Some Organized Religion Leads to Mental Health Problems

Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised. Winell is the author of Leaving the Fold - A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion, written during her years of private practice in psychology.

Over the years, Winell has provided assistance to clients whose religious experiences were even more damaging than [the article's author - see the article to read about her struggle with bulimia and faith]. Some of them are people whose psychological symptoms weren’t just exacerbated by their religion, but actually caused by it.

Bold and italics are mine, as well as the bracketed edit. Now, here is what Winell has to say about this damaging kind of religious indoctrination:

What exactly is religious trauma syndrome?

Winell: Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group.
...
As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will; Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

...RTS is a specific set of symptoms and characteristics that are connected with harmful religious experience, not just any trauma. This is crucial to understanding the condition and any kind of self-help or treatment. (More details about this can be found on my Journey Free; Resources for recovery from harmful religion website and discussed in my talk at the Texas Freethought Convention.)

There are a dozen or so anecdotal quotes from clients who have been helped by this lady included in the article.

I don't want to be sanctioned for posting more than I should - so, I'll just add two more points, and hope that readers will at least look at the article and do some thinking about these things.

What do you see as the difference between religion that causes trauma and religion that doesn’t?

Winell: Religion causes trauma when it is highly controlling and prevents people from thinking for themselves and trusting their own feelings. Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth. With constant judgment of self and others, people become alienated from themselves, each other, and the world. Religion in its worst forms causes separation.


Saying that someone is trying to pathologize authoritarian religion is like saying someone pathologized eating disorders by naming them. Before that, they were healthy? No, before that we weren’t noticing.


My aim here is to spread this information, to have people notice it, and bring the issue to the table.

Thanks for reading.
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: clarity
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)




posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:14 AM
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Oh no.
Here is the way for the govt to say that anyone that has ever attended a church may have a mental illness and can not be trusted with a firearm,



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:16 AM
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reply to post by butcherguy
 


NOPE! You didn't read the article, did you? Figures.
In fact, I doubt you even read past the headline!
It has nothing to do with gun control, nor does it treat "all religions". :shk:
Read it and try again.
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:25 AM
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Originally posted by wildtimes
reply to post by butcherguy
 


NOPE! You didn't read the article, did you? Figures.
In fact, I doubt you even read past the headline!
It has nothing to do with gun control, nor does it treat "all religions". :shk:
Read it and try again.
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)

I read your post in its entirety before I posted my first reply.
I am sorry that I did.

I hope you catch lots of flies with your vinegar.



edit on 27-3-2013 by butcherguy because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:29 AM
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reply to post by butcherguy
 


The facts are the facts. I fully expected this sort of reaction.
I posted this article because at least some people might be helped by it. You want to call them "flies"? Oh, the irony.
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:29 AM
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I can understand a certain amount of guilt and angst....that must be overcome, then the loneliness of self ostracisisim sets in.......
Its a tough row to hoe.....and what does one replace misguided faith with?
trauma for a lifetime no #.....
So what makes you a non athiest by the way?
intelligent design?..
Personally i myself an escapee from the Mormon cult.....
I find it comforting to know that God doesnt likely live on a star called Koleb.
and that JOE SMITH was just that....joe smith......product of the freemasons he started with.



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:31 AM
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reply to post by stirling
 


So what makes you a non athiest by the way?
intelligent design?..

Just the "design" itself, I guess. And a few personal experiences of a spiritual nature.

What are your thoughts about the article? Had you heard of the increasing number of websites and orgs that are opening their doors for the people who've been hurt? I'm glad they're out there.
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:40 AM
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I don't like religion. By all means believe in a superior being but as soon as humans try to 'organise' groups around it, using human fallibility it has to go pear shaped.

Most religions probably started off meaning well. As a total atheist who can find explanations in science, which can be more amazing than any god ever will be, I can even find truths in the bible [albeit not god related].

Then a lot of time passed and people started meddling with the ancient wisdom and changed it to suit their own goals. As soon as that happens, the religion around it becomes useless. Literally.

That out of the way, I have to say that religion for certain mental illnesses can be a good thing, especially if the person doesn't understand the functioning of the brain. For example if you suffer from anxiety but can't get your head around neurotransmitters, meditative calming or neural reprogramming, then just simply believing in a big being that looks after you can have an immensely calming effect. [I have suffered from anxiety and OCD and hypochondria for all of my life BTW but I control it with knowledge and the former mentioned ways].

Of course only if this person doesn't get sucked into the 'extreme' crowd. Then these things can be exacerbated because most religions of this world [apart from Shinto and Buddhism - which isn't strictly speaking a religion] are based on FEAR.
I feel sorry for those with mental illnesses that are taken in by religion. I can even see how I would be close to suicide if I'd believed in all the fear mongering that is going on, so how bad would it be for someone with Schizophrenia, Depression or like me Anxiety and OCD?

The first step for any human to be able to see through the sham that organised religion is: Education.
Reading up on many religions, understanding the reasons behind them and also including Science.

However the truth is that most people on this planet are not interested enough, most humans are still very uneducated even/especially [?] those living in Civilised countries. Actually it is as bad as to say that most of human kind is still as thick as a plank. That doesn't make us bad people at all but it makes us vulnerable.

There will always be people who can see the truth but alas they are the minority and as much as I would like to see others to be keen to learn, it will never happen. I learned that a long time ago and have since stopped trying to enlighten others.

S&F for your thread but I can tell you now that nobody who should be interested in this is going to either read, nor understand nor care for the truth. Just like drug addicts, the will to understand and change can only come from within each individual. Sad but true.



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:46 AM
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reply to post by Hecate666
 

Thank you so much, Hecate! Very good points.
One of the q/a bits in the article goes like this:

Aren’t these just people who would be depressed, anxious, or obsessive anyways?

Winell:
Not at all. If my observation is correct, these are people who are intense and involved and caring. They hang on to the religion longer than those who simply “walk away” because they try to make it work even when they have doubts. Sometime this is out of fear, but often it is out of devotion. These are people for whom ethics, integrity and compassion matter a great deal. I find that when they get better and rebuild their lives, they are wonderfully creative and energetic about new things.


I agree with much of what you say....and for some it is not interesting, nor acceptable. But if I can prevent just ONE LITTLE CHILD being given the maltreatment their parents or their parents' church wants to impose, I'll have done some good.

edit:
P.S., WHAT is that monstrous-looking thing on your avatar now? Your little creatures are so icky-looking!
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:47 AM
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Thank you for finding this, OP...

I did my thesis on the fall of Rome and I am convinced that religion substituted what the diminishing army could not control. Leading others by fear is a common theme in our world. I personally don't break the law because I am afraid of the consequences.

Breed fear and you have control; the very thing some governments are doing today.

At least the issue is being recognized and publicized, but some people are so caught up, they can't see the forest for the trees. The first step is realizing there is a problem.



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:47 AM
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"Religion is a defense against the experience of God." -Carl Jung

This is what happens when a religion looses its connection to mysticism. It becomes an empty, traumatic, stale defense mechanism against the genuine experience of numinous liminality.

edit on 27-3-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:50 AM
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Originally posted by wildtimes
reply to post by butcherguy
 


The facts are the facts. I fully expected this sort of reaction.
I posted this article because at least some people might be helped by it. You want to call them "flies"? Oh, the irony.
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)

The 'flies and vinegar' was simply regarding your treatment of a poster because their reply didn't fit in your rules of engagement. Maybe you have never heard that used in conversation before.

Regarding the facts you speak of,
I google searched 'Religious Trauma Syndrome' all the hits seem to lead back to Dr. Marlene Winell. She seems to be the one 'Dr.' that uses the term. Almost all the hits are blogs and lead back to her.
I was looking for something from maybe the NIMH or Mayo Clinic....
But didn't see anything. Hmmm.
edit on 27-3-2013 by butcherguy because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:50 AM
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reply to post by Invariance
 


Indeed. There are hundreds of "I got out (and how hard it was)" stories on the web (if not thousands upon thousands), and there is no doubt in my mind that family "systems" (or traditions or generational faith) do harm to people. It makes me sad.

Thank you for supporting the cause.



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 09:59 AM
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reply to post by butcherguy
 


Meh.
I know full well what the rules of engagement on ATS are - and wanted to preempt posts that will accuse me of being gay, demon-possessed, evil, and other things. It happens every time. Why did you choose to be the first to do so?

Do you have any points besides trying to imply that the article represents - or that I am - a gun-control proponent and God-hater? (I own and know how to use guns).
I've heard of 'flies and vinegar.' That was lame...and pointless, and off-topic. What is your POINT? That this fact is not well-enough known, or long-enough established, for this to be recognized as a real problem? Pretty obvious it's a big, big problem.

Mental health in this country is something that needs to be addressed. And illness and trauma need to be treated, or better yet, PREVENTED. That means finding the root causes and identifying them properly, rather than just pulling victims out of the rapids, drying them off and giving them a blanket and a pat on the head and sending them on their way, we need to STOP THE PEOPLE throwing them off the bridge in the first place!!

The way to do that is education and exposure of the real problems. (And there are plenty of reasons beyond religious trauma.)

Anyway, yes, I read your initial post. Point taken.
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 10:03 AM
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reply to post by wildtimes
 



Meh. I know full well what the rules of engagement on ATS are - and wanted to preempt posts that will accuse me of being gay, demon-possessed, evil, and other things. It happens every time. Why did you choose to be the first to do so?

Please read my first post on this thread!

I accused you of nothing.

Here it is:



Oh no. Here is the way for the govt to say that anyone that has ever attended a church may have a mental illness and can not be trusted with a firearm,

I said that it could be a way for the government to do something.....
Not you.




What is your POINT?

Well, the one that I made about how this term (RTS) is accepted by mental health professionals at large....
You could help with that maybe?
edit on 27-3-2013 by butcherguy because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 10:05 AM
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The reason religion exists is to help people make sense of events which would otherwise be incomprehensible by relying on unseen, hidden forces.

For me personally, it is virtually impossible to deny a belief that there is some ‘divine order’ at work in the world – we see it in nature and in life events. Some chalk it up to coincidence while others will profess it as ‘Gods Will’. Some events are even manufactured of our own doings… In the end, trying to make sense of life’s mysteries is seemingly a rather incomprehensible task.

According to Sigmund Freud, religion is a mass neurosis and exists as a response to deep emotional conflicts and weaknesses. A by-product of psychological distress, Freud argued that it should be possible to eliminate the illusions of religion by alleviating that distress. This approach is laudable for getting us to recognize that there can be hidden psychological motives behind religion and religious beliefs…

I think there is a stratification of belief levels that causes the variety of psyches in which some are seen as problematic, however, when citing this particular vein, we should also take into account the ‘success’ of ascribing to that belief.
Faith in something is a powerful thing, it’s just sad that many have chosen to take advantage of that for less than altruistic ideals (i.e. money, power, control etc. etc.).
Even with all our modern thinking and technology, we’re still quite a superstitious lot me thinks.
Ps:

Strong spiritual values were positively associated with increased rates of current depressive disorder and decreased rates of current alcohol use disorder. Using "atheist" as the reference category, Catholics had higher lifetime odds of single episodes of depression whilst Protestants had higher lifetime odds of anxiety disorder and lower lifetime odds of alcohol use disorders.

Source 1
Source 2



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 10:11 AM
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reply to post by BlueMule
 


True say

If organized religions weren't so preoccupied with control, many people would have lots of faith.
The truth is out there, but it's not financially feasible to let people know.

Breaking their Will written by Janet Heimlich is about RTS, An article on celebacy and it's effects, a CNN article, are all writeups not authored by the doctor in the OP's article. They are all discussing Religious trauma and it's effects. There are so many more articles I can find!
edit on 27-3-2013 by Invariance because: added links



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 10:18 AM
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reply to post by butcherguy
 


Well, the one that I made about how this term (RTS) is accepted by mental health professionals at large....
You could help with that maybe?


"At large" professionals deal with all sorts of different causes and symptoms, and most are specialists in, for example, domestic abuse, marriage counseling, children and families (that would be me), PTSD, etc. It has been recognized for decades that some forms of religion are neurotic and counterproductive. That it's just now receiving a 'place' as a specialty is the nature of counseling. Mental health makes progress, just like science and medicine do. As we learn more, our ability to help and the tools of our skill-set grow.

Like the article pointed out, anorexia and bulimia were problems before they got 'labels.' Awareness was increased.

Can this lead to hysteria and over-diagnosis? Government interference? Absolutely. No argument with you there.

That's why we need to promote increased learning, continuing education, and try to minimize further damage just because there's been found a "meme" or label for a syndrome or cluster of behavioral and emotional problems.

It should not, obviously, be used indiscriminately, but carefully. Try a google search for "toxic religion". Might find more sources that will interest you.
Also, a poster above provided ex-text and sources to back up the article's point at least to some degree.



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 10:20 AM
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reply to post by explorer14
 


Thanks very much for this contribution. Yes, it's not a new idea. William James and Carl Jung are two more examples of psychologists who have studied the phenomenon extensively.



posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 10:39 AM
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reply to post by Invariance
 


Thanks for adding even more sources!


Here's a link to William James' classic work: The Varieties of Religious Experience: A study in Human Nature Published over 100 years ago, based on a series of lectures he gave at a university during the last couple decades of the 19th century. It provides an overview and lots of anecdotal information also, on how religion can affect people.
The contents page:

Front Matter
Lecture 1 Lecture I RELIGION AND NEUROLOGY
Lecture 2 Lecture II CIRCUMSCRIPTION OF THE TOPIC
Lecture 3 Lecture III THE REALITY OF THE UNSEEN
Lecture 4 Lectures IV and V THE RELIGION OF HEALTHY MINDEDNESS
Lecture 6 Lectures VI and VII THE SICK SOUL
Lecture 8 Lecture VIII THE DIVIDED SELF, AND THE PROCESS OF ITS UNIFICATION
Lecture 9 Lecture IX CONVERSION
Lecture 10 Lecture X CONVERSION--Concluded
Lecture 11 Lectures XI, XII, and XIII SAINTLINESS
Lecture 14 Lectures XIV and XV THE VALUE OF SAINTLINESS
Lecture 16 Lectures XVI and XVII MYSTICISM
Lecture 18 Lecture XVIII PHILOSOPHY
Lecture 19 Lecture XIX OTHER CHARACTERISTICS
Lecture 20 Lecture XX CONCLUSIONS
Back Matter
edit on 27-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)






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