Religious Trauma Syndrome (CTS) occurs when an individual struggles with involvement with a religion or a set of beliefs that have led to their indoctrination. It involves the trauma of breaking away from a religious community, once thought of as an only, or right way of living. Living in such a community can be exhilarating at first, with a high level of support and sense of purpose, which lasts for only as long as a person is part of the community and subscribes to their beliefs.
When doubting the beliefs of the religion, leader or community, a person can be overcome with a sense of shame and confusion. Everything they thought of to be good and right, is suddenly under question and can lead to a profound sense of cognitive dissonance over what really is true and what not.
This black and white way of experiencing life lacks the world of color and nuanced intricacies of what is available for us to experience. Being either right or wrong, validated or invalidated, worthy of life or not becomes an unsolvable puzzle, unless filled in with tinctures and flavors of variation to form a picture of which the blacks and the whites are only fine outlines of events, time periods, or characters.
It is important to learn the skills of coloring in one’s life in order to find and create meaning and purpose. Without that, the dangers exist, that an escapee jumps into the next shiny situation, which leads to mismatched values and unhappiness. This is true for anyone who has suffered trauma and had to temporarily abandon their inner self, to get through the external circumstance.
CTS can be similar to the results of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD,) which is the trauma resulting from personal relationships with low/non-conscience individuals, commonly referred to as narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths.
In the movie “Holy Hell,” the followers of the Buddhafield religious movement commented that the feeling of comradery and community was so strong during their time there, that it was easy to turn a blind eye to what they inherently knew wasn’t right. This statement indicates the strong need we humans have for a sense of connection and belonging. Leaving a life of familiarity behind for that of uncertainty takes a lot of courage. I would argue to say that the mere exhaustion that follows such an act, can easily be the hook for a follow-up episode of different kinds of indoctrination or codependency.
In the Netflix series “My Unorthodox Life,” Julia Haart shows what can go right, when a person successfully breaks away from a life that limits one’s personal development and the right to make individual decisions based on self-reflection and intuition.
For many others though, religious indoctrination has not taken such an extreme form. For many the struggle lies in recovering from these kinds of inharmonious beliefs, whilst in the midst of family and friends, who still live by it.
It doesn’t really matter how we look at the topic of RTS, it is clear the the results lead to a feeling of loneliness, being misunderstood or misplaced, feeling a lack of belonging, and lack of identity, which further leads to issues of self-worth, difficulty in decision-making, and often anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction and so much more.
Quite understandable, RTS makes it difficult for a person to trust, as the lenses of guilt, shame and fear follows their trail, directly from the belief-structures these individuals are trying to let go of. Inability to trust, inevitably leads to relationship difficulty and a potentially victimised relationship with personal resources.
Nan Wise outlines in her book, “Why Good Sex Matters,” what is called The Pleasure System. The Pleasure system is one of seven systems representing our most basic emotional needs. Without all seven of those emotional needs met, a person will struggle in one area or the other, although any imbalance will show up in your sexual expression, but more on that in another article.
In my understanding, the pleasure system is connected to the Sacral Chakra, which is the leading center of sensuality. It is the center where you explore different tastes and textures and develop an “appetite for life.”
What is sensuality?
Sensuality is the ability to guide through your body’s senses, rather than your mind. It holds the ability for enjoyment, and prioritizing enjoyment. A deeper sensuality can differentiate between subtle feelings or stress, dissonance and the feelings of true harmony and safety. Sensuality is guided by a felt sense, and thus keeps one connected and true to the experience of oneself, as opposed to promises, ideas or beliefs of another.
So here are a few ways that you can use your sensuality to overcome RTS, or related issues:
- Change your beliefs
Beliefs are formed when there is a strong emotional response, together with a command and/or consequences – real or perceived, positive or negative. A strong emotional response happens when all of your senses are involved. Thus changing your beliefs will require that you feel and experience new wholesome beliefs with your whole body and senses. Let your new beliefs feel good, true to you and give you a feeling of openness all through your body.
- Know your values
How do you know what is important to you? You feel it! Without the guidance of an outside force telling what is right or wrong, good or bad, important or not important, it becomes your feelings’ job to discern your choices. The thing is, only once you’ve experienced what makes you feel good, through your sensual nature you are able to discern that which doesn’t. Practice feeling good without outside provocation. A good way to do this is to say no to something. If you feel relieved, albeit secretly, then you know it’s not your thing. If you feel really disappointed, then you may be on to something.
Through knowing your values, you regain your sense of self-identity and pride.
- Actively do things that make you feel good!
Yup, it’s not enough to just know what is important to you. Taking the steps to prioritize those things is once again another courageous gesture. Here’s the thing… when your desires are clear, boundaries become a by-product. That means, that the more you assert who you are, the easier it becomes to distance yourself from that which you are not.
If all of this work sounds intriguing to you. Feel free to reach out to discuss how I can help you on your journey. My recommendation is the Find Your Mantra coaching session. You may further benefit from a Chakra Reading or Holistic Healing session.
I am Amanda, a trauma-informed Holistic Healer, who also became a certified sex educator, in order to open the conversation where it matters most.