Today I’m here to offer up 11 reasons why it can be so difficult to heal when we grew up in a fundamentalist household, community, or culture.
To quote Pat McCabe, Woman Stands Shining:
“Christianity is such a foundational part of colonization that even if people aren’t believers, it is still in their field.”
If we grew up in a fundamentalist (household, community, or culture), we face some specific challenges when on our healing journey. Essentially, the fundamentalist culture we are embedded within has a particular way of looking at the world that interferes with the healing process.
So, without further preamble, I give you:
11 Reasons Why Your Attempts At Healing Your Fucked Up Fundamentalist Upbringing Haven’t Worked:
REASON #1: Approaching through the intellect not the body. We’ve been taught, whether directly or indirectly, to value intellect, reason, logic over the instinctual, intuitive wisdom of the body. As we are much more than our intellect/heads, approaching healing from the intellect alone (or predominantly) will not result in the whole-ing we seek.
REASON #2: Human-Centric Healing: We do not heal alone; we heal best and most fully in community with both other humans and our other-than-human kin. Deep healing requires a path of healing, a way to return to wholeness, that is more whole in and of itself (in that it is not just living-human-centric but that includes the other-than-humans as well — the ancestors, earth, animals, trees, waters…).
REASON #3: No Space for Grief: There is much to grieve and the cleansing waters of tears honor both our own pain and the pain of others. When we are told to ‘just get over it’ or ‘be strong’ or when there is a time limit placed on grief, our pain is minimized, erased, repressed, and often then resurfaces in a distorted form. Making space for grief and helping to normalize grieving is a necessary, ongoing part of the healing process.
REASON #4: Attempting to set boundaries without taking the ancestors into consideration: The root of many boundary issues (inability to maintain fluid/flexible boundaries with living humans) is ancestral interference. At the most fundamental level, our ancestors both are distinct from us and also live in us/are us; there is both separation and no separation. If we attempt to set boundaries without taking into consideration the wellness (or lack thereof) of our ancestors, the results will be less than what we desire.
REASON #5: Believing that all spirit contact is good/beneficial. Contact with the realms of Spirit can be joyous, expanding, uplifting, life-altering. It can also be frightening and fragmenting depending on who you encounter. Lack of discernment around who you are willing to engage can lead to decisions and experiences that put you in the path of harm.
REASON #6: Believing/being told that ‘feeling is healing’ and that if you just feel everything fully, the emotions/issue will resolve. ‘Feeling your feelings’ does not always lead to healing and is not always the answer. There are two exceptions to ‘feeling is healing’.
- Exception #1: for feeling to lead to healing we must be resourced (supported by wellness, love, loving humans, other-than-human guides, etc) to not just be overwhelmed and therefore re-traumatized by all we are attempting to feel.
- Exception #2: In order for ‘feeling your feeling’ to lead to healing, we must be feeling what is actually OURS. Attempting to feel/heal the feelings/emotions/sensations of others (unprocessed collective energies, the pain and unresolved trauma of our ancestors) is actually a form of boundary collapse and quickly leads to a situation of ‘too much, too soon, too fast’* for our nervous systems to process.
The very act of feeling our feelings in order to heal can lead to additional levels of trauma in our nervous systems if we 1) aren’t properly resourced and 2) are attempting to feel what isn’t ours to feel/heal.
In short, while there is deep truth to ‘feeling is healing’ there is also nuance and the need for discernment.
*my favorite definition of trauma as put forth by Resmaa Manakem in his book My Grandmother’s Hands.
REASON #7: Being afraid of your power. When people first start working with me, many are afraid of their own power (justifiably so). They’ve seen or experienced even well-intentioned, powerful people cause harm to others. They’ve seen or directly experienced the harm that is possible when one believes they are ‘right’ and acts from that belief, even out of love (big example: missionary work).
There is power in conviction and anything can turn into conviction (beliefs in witchy healing powers as well) and can cause (intentional or unintentional) harm. Fear of our power can lead to paralysis and unwillingness to take a stand for anything because we don’t want to (be inadvertently ‘wrong’ and) hurt others.
REASON #8: Continuing to wait to be ‘saved’ by something or someone: When raised in a fundamentalist family, we are programmed to wait to be ‘saved’ by someone external to us (Jesus initially but that quickly morphs into our fathers, partners, husbands, community or country leaders, doctors, science, etc etc). A huge part of healing the wounds of a fundamentalist childhood is realizing that we are the only ones who (with support; see Reason #2 above) can make the changes we seek.
REASON #9: Believing if you do enough of their own inner work, everything will shift. We do not exist in isolation and yet, there is a narrative that says we must heal ourselves, that our internal world reflects the external and so, if we do the inner work and change/heal ourselves, we change/heal the world.
While there is truth there, it discounts the greater truth that we are also a part of a much wider web of life. Further, this belief sets up patterns of shame and self-hatred (and of feeling broken) when we aren’t able to heal on our own and things don’t get better in the way we desire.
REASON #10: Being stuck in struggle and a story of self-sacrifice: Growing up in a fundamentalist community (or culture), we are programmed to give of our time, energy, money, and life-force to the church and community. Our very value and sense of self-worth stems from self-sacrifice.
When we leave these communities, these patterns of struggle and self-sacrifice come along with us, just taking different forms (giving to our boss, our partners, our children, our non-religious community vs to the church).
That, or, there can be a tendency to rebel and to try to hold on to our time, energy, money, and life force. We are no longer willing to sacrifice ourselves for others and yet, we’re still stuck in the story of struggle/scarcity: after all, the more I give/do, the less there will be for *me*…
REASON #11: Not realizing how our own power has been turned against us… how we are, in a sense, pitted against and fighting ourselves… ie: via autoimmune disease, chronic headaches/migraines (my personal go-to), patterns of self-judgement/criticism etc.
Turning our own power against ourselves is a protective mechanism and is rooted most likely in both ancestral + personal trauma and also in the pollution and toxicity of our current lifestyles/environment (again, even here, it’s just just us or even us + our ancestors at the center).
In truth, I could go on.
For example, now I’m thinking as well about perfectionism. In the Christian fundamentalist community I grew up in, one was expected to have everything in place — the yard, the house, your clothing/hair, your children, your spiritual life — for everything to be in perfect order, for you to be perfect — and for it all to appear effortless.
I’m thinking about how, when we are expected to get things right the first time/be perfect, how crushing it can be when our first (or fourth, or one hundredth) attempt at healing a specific [something] doesn’t yield the results we want.
Which leads me to consider…. 🙂 …ok, ok, I’ll pause here… 🙂
How about you? What has been sparked for you as you read through this list? What is missing? What do you notice in your thoughts, in your emotions, in the sensations in your body as you read this list?
Feel free to respond in the comments and let me know how this piece lands for you. I’ll read, witness, offer up a prayer (if you’d find that supportive), and respond with a heart and perhaps even a few words.
ps. dismantling the reasons mentioned above provide such fruitful grounds for healing and a return to wholeness. There are ongoing explorations around many of the above within the Witchy Healer Wisdom School and we’ll be diving deep into many more in the Witchy Healer Mentorship Program. If this kind of stuff lights you up (as it does me), I’d love to have you join me!
pps. the free Path of the Witchy Healer intro workshop is a great place to begin if you are new to my work or curious about my approach in general.
ppps. have you read my Healing Fundamentalist ebook yet? If not, you can get it here.