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Religious Trauma Syndrome

Much has been presented about religious and other kinds of cults, the reasons for entering and the abuse from inside.

A fine article by Valerie Tarico about Dr. Malene Winell, counselor for 20 years for men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion, reviews not only a closely related subject but, like what we know about cults, is also relevant to NKT.

"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. Many people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you.

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. Tthe problem isnʼt just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black and white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.

In addition to anxiety, RTS can include depression, cognitive difficulties, and problems with social functioning.

Authoritarian religious groups are subcultures where conformity is required in order to belong. Thus if you dare to leave the religion, you risk losing your entire support system as well.

Leaving a religion, after total immersion, can cause a complete upheaval of a personʼs construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, and the future. People unfamiliar with this situation, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create.

Religious groups that are highly controlling, teach fear about theworld, and keep members sheltered and ill-equipped to function in society are harder to leave easily.

A common personality type is a person who is deeply emotional and thoughtful and who tends to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their endeavors. “True believers” who then lose their faith feel more anger and depression and grief than those who simply went to church on Sunday.

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.

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.

Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-controlgroup can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped."

Sure sounds like what hundreds of NKT survivors experienced...along with being thrown out of their rental spaces, attacked on the Internet, illicit contacts with their employers and threats of lawsuit if they don't shut up.

NKT has caused much pain, many know it, most of the rest will recognize it sooner or later.