Spirituality And Trauma

Spirituality and Trauma Therapy in Philadelphia

Spirituality and Trauma Have you experienced trauma? Have you found yourself asking the question, “Why me?” Do you feel like your Higher Power has let you down or failed you? If so, this tip can serve as a guide to help you deal with your spiritual crisis. After having experienced trauma it is common to feel betrayed, let down, and/or confused by your Higher Power. Experiencing trauma tends to have an emotional, physical and spiritual impact. Human instinct is to try to make sense of the unexplainable. Healing from trauma frequently involves re-assessing ones personal core values and beliefs. This process involves exploring ones sense of justice, faith and nature of humanity, etc. Trauma effects ones perspective of the world. To help you in your recovery process we have designed the following guide. Consider the following suggestions to help you cope with your spiritual crisis following your trauma.

Identify how You are Feeling (spirituality and trauma). It is normal to question your beliefs after having experienced a traumatic event. To heal from your trauma and confront the resulting spiritual crisis, you will need to provide yourself with the permission and space to explore your beliefs. You may feel guilt or shame about some of the feelings you’re experiencing surrounding your Higher Power or your religious community. Part of healing is accepting the sometimes conflicting feelings as normal and good. Our hope is that you will be able to give yourself enough space to accept them in the in the moment knowing your feelings, attitudes or beliefs may continue to evolve with time.

Identify your New Thoughts & Beliefs(spirituality and trauma). In the moment focus on what it means that your Higher Power and your religious community let you down. Identify how you feel about your Higher Power and your religious community. To complete this task, ask yourself the following questions: What role, if any, do you believe your Higher Power had in your experience of trauma? How does your Higher Power view you? How has your relationship with your Higher Power changed since the trauma? In what ways do you feel alone/supported by your religious community since the trauma? In what ways has your traumatic experience influenced your relationship with your Higher Power or religious community? Give yourself time to process these questions and your responses. Initially try answering the questions in one minute. Try to tap into your gut feelings. Then in one week revisit the questions, but this time allow yourself the freedom to really ponder each question, and create more as needed. One week later, revisit the same questions, but ask a friend to help you talk out the answers. Then repeat this process. As you go through this exploration try not to get stuck in feelings of guilt or shame. If you’re stuck in feelings of shame, guilt or discomfort you won’t be able to explore these new thoughts and beliefs. Later, there will be a place to reconcile your feelings of guilt, shame and discomfort with your final thoughts about your relationship with your Higher Power. For now, the goal is to simply give yourself enough room to make meaning out of the unexplainable.

Set Boundaries With Others(spirituality and trauma). Remind yourself that you are on your own healing journey and that it is distinct from others in your life who may also be trying to heal from what happened to you. They too will question their values and beliefs, but not in the same way. We are all on our own journeys. Some of the important people in your life turn may be turning to their spirituality or religion as part of their healing process at the same time you feel yourself turning away. Thus your approach to spirituality or religion after the trauma may be different than those close to you. Allow yourself to do whatever feels right. This can be a difficult concept for people in your life who take comfort in their Higher Power. You may be pressured to pray or attend religious ceremonies. You may be told you would feel better if you turned to your spirituality or religion. You might be told your trauma happened to test your faith. You might be pressured to find the meaning in your trauma. Although the intentions are good of the people pushing you back towards your spirituality and religion you will feel confused as you experience a new resistance to this type of help that you may have once embraced. You need to give yourself permission to set boundaries with others to provide yourself with the room you need to explore your feelings and to develop a deeper sense of how you relate to the rest of the world. Be clear and firm about what behavior is okay and not okay around you. Understand that it might take some time for people to adjust to your new boundaries, especially if they personally believe religion is key to your healing.

Gain Perspective(spirituality and trauma). There are many approaches to spirituality and religion. To broaden your knowledge and help you determine what feels right for you talk to your religious leaders as well as atheists. Talk to people or religious leaders from other faiths. Speak with members from an interfaith community. Reach out to family or friends who have differing takes on spirituality and religion. You will be exposed to new ideas and differing opinions. You will be introduced to new ways you can integrate your spirituality or religion into your life. Trust yourself that through these dialogues you will be able to gauge what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with. Sometimes it is only through discussions with others that you can hear yourself.

Incorporate What is Important to You (spirituality and trauma). Determine what aspects of your spirituality and/or religion are important to you and you are comfortable with. Perhaps you need an entire break from spirituality or religion or perhaps there are certain habits or traditions that you would still like to incorporate into your life. Also consider ways you can modify spiritual or religious activities that are important to you to better fit your current needs. Do you still enjoy spiritual meditation? Are you comfortable attending certain religious ceremonies but not others? What about religious celebrations at a friend’s or family member’s house? Are there certain spiritual readings or prayers that you would still like to say on your own? What about certain spiritual or religious traditions? What about meeting with a spiritual or religious figure outside of service? Determine which aspects, if any, of your spiritual or religious practices you would still like to incorporate into your life.

Establish Your Own Relationship with God or Your Higher Power(spirituality and trauma). Give yourself permission to let your relationship with spirituality evolve based on your traumatic experience. Listen to your gut about what feels right or genuine for expressing yourself. Rather than focusing on behaviors, focus on the connection you have with your Higher Power. Maybe instead of attending a religious service you learn to feel connected to your Higher Power by going on a hike or sitting in a park. Experiment with different activities that help you feel at peace and connected to something larger than yourself. Try a creative outlet such as journaling or painting. Other survivors find themselves connected to a Higher Power through meditating or deep breathing exercises. You may also be able to incorporate a specific prayer or religious tradition into meditation or deep breathing. Helping others may also provide you with a way to feel connected to a Higher Power. Volunteering may also provide you with the space to interact with other religious people outside of your place or worship. While none of these activities is practicing religion in the traditional sense, they allow you to be spiritual and connect to your Higher Power in a different way.

Go at Your Own Pace(spirituality and trauma). You will likely experience external pressure from others who believe religion is very important to your healing and may urge you to reengage your spiritual or religious community. However, only you can determine when you are ready for certain spiritual or religious activities. If you decide to engage in spiritual or religious activities that you are not comfortable with just to please others, you will likely feel worse. You will also lose the space you need to heal and confront your spiritual crisis. You will be putting others needs before your own. In addition, if you engage in spiritual or religious activities to please others, people may begin to take advantage of your flexible boundaries. You may feel pushed by others to do even more! The only pace you can heal at is your own. If you feel angry, sad, irritable, uncomfortable, disgusted, overwhelmed or panicked at the thought of or while engaging in a particular spiritual or religious activity, then you are not ready for that particular activity. When you have this type of emotional reaction use this opportunity to explore your feelings towards religion and spirituality. These emotional reactions can serve as a benchmark for where you are and what you need in confronting your spiritual crisis.

Be Patient. During your healing journey you need to be patient with yourself. For survivors whose religion was an important part of their life before the trauma, they may experience guilt and shame when they find themselves at odds with their religion after the trauma. Trauma shatters a person’s core beliefs. To cope with the guilt and shame you might experience remind yourself that it is normal and healthy for you to question your values and beliefs after your trauma. Keep in mind that healing is a process and your feelings towards religion and spirituality will also change. You must be patient with yourself as you confront your spiritual crisis.

As You Heal…you might find that your previous spiritual or religious ways as a whole no longer fit for you. Some survivors may not be bothered by this change. They feel their new spirituality or way they practice their religion is a better fit for them. Other survivors need to mourn the loss of their religion as they once knew it because it is another thing they feel the trauma has taken from them. Also remind yourself that it is okay to try and push yourself back to where you were spiritually or religiously before the trauma because it is part of your exploration. Find what works for you as you continue your spiritual and healing journey.