It is difficult to ascertain the lasting impact spiritual abuse has on victims. Although we are beginning to understand that prolonged anxiety and fear have an impact on victims as well as having a long-term psychological impact on victims, it is difficult to understand how this impact manifests itself in overall health.
Whenever an emotion is triggered in us, our bodies are instantly and unconsciously affected in very specific ways….To be healthy and functional, we need to be able to feel and connect to all of our emotions at different times, even to the less pleasant ones.
For victims of spiritual abuse who have experienced prolonged periods of anxiety and fear (i.e. stress-filled emotions), the journey to becoming healthy and whole emotional beings is often a long road. Victims of spiritual abuse must first identify themselves as having experienced spiritual abuse, then they must begin to understand their own triggers, then and only then can they work their way towards controlling their emotions in these trigger areas. This process may take years to implement.
In the meantime, their bodies and minds have experienced “survival mode” emotions:
Biologically and evolutionarily, all “negative,” or distressing, emotions, like fear, disgust, or anxiety, can be thought of as “survival-mode” emotions: they signal to the body and brain that our survival and well-being may be at risk, and are specifically designed to motivate behaviors and bodily responses that can most effectively deal with those risks and threats.
Being in a surivial mode for long periods of time greatly affects a person’s ability to truly feel love and joy:
when we’re in homeostasis we tend to experience positive emotions and feelings, like joy or love, and when we’re in survival mode we tend to experience negativeor distressing emotions and feelings. Indeed, the activation of a negative emotion like fear is precisely what throws our brains and bodies out of balance, into non-homeostasis or survival mode.
This only touches the emotional impact of spiritual abuse. The physical impact of spiritual abuse can include sleeplessness, digestive issues, migraines, heartburn, difficulty breathing, social withdrawal or isolation, and a myriad of other possibilities.
I have many people who come to me who are experiencing physical issues. As we talk and I get to know their story I begin to understand that the physical symptoms they are experiencing are unresolved spiritual abuse they have experienced. We are connected heart, soul, and mind. When we have experienced abuse in our souls, our spiritual selves, this can’t help but impact our minds and our bodies.
It’s a difficult thing to analyze and come to terms with who we are and what we have experienced, but doing this hard work leads to becoming more whole and healthy beings: in body, mind, and soul.