Just like deconstruction, religious trauma recovery can look different for every person. With that being said, they both have some basic stages and I want to break them down for you.
The thing I want you to remember is that these stages aren’t linear. You can go back and forth between two stages, or you could be in two or more stages at one time. Everyone’s different. So, take these stages as information to help you understand the core basics of religious trauma recovery and your deconstruction journey, but don’t think of it as a ridged road map you have to follow.
These phases are explained in depth in chapter 1 of the book ‘Leaving the Fold’ by Marlene Winell, Ph.D. (Side Note: Her book is geared towards helping people who have chosen to leave their religion. It’s ok if that’s not where you’re at. She doesn’t try to convince you of what to believe or not believe, but rather gives you knowledge to help you understand how religious trauma impacts us and how to recover from it.)
Ok, so let’s get into the phases.
Phase 1: Separation
In phase 1 you start to have questions or doubts about what you’ve been taught to believe. You may ignore this stage for a while, but eventually the doubts become too much and you start to research or ask questions. As time goes on you may find yourself starting to separate from your church, beliefs, or spiritual practices. This can include church, small groups, your devotion time, or prayer time. For some this can be quick, but for most this is a gradual separation that happens over an extended period of time.
Phase 2: Confusion
This is where you feel like your life has been turned completely upside down. You may feel as if you have lost your whole identity and struggle to get an understanding of yourself and life. Many feel as if they’re a balloon just drifting through the wind.
Phase 3: Avoidance
In this phase you may find yourself avoiding church or religion all together. It’s normal in this phase for people on the outside to feel as if you’re “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” but this is an important stage in your healing journey. Think of it this way. Many couples choose to have a separation period before they jump to divorce. For some this will help them heal and mend their relationship, but for others this separation makes it clear that divorce is best for both parties. The avoidance phase works in the same way. By separating yourself from church or religion it allows you the space you need to sort things out.
Phase 4: Feeling
This is the phase where you find yourself feeling strong emotions. For most people, this includes anger, sadness, regret, or grief. These are all important to allow yourself to feel. Your instinct may be to push them away but try to let yourself feel them. Sit with your emotions and let them guide you through your healing journey. Give yourself permission to feel.
Phase 5: Rebuilding
This is my favorite phase! This is where you rebuild your life. This can include rebuilding community, your identity, your purpose, and so much more. During this phase you take back choice and start living!
During my deconstruction I have been in multiple phases at one time. At the moment, I’m mostly in phase 5 and boy am I LOVING IT!
What phase(s) are you in right now?
What phase was/is the hardest?
If you already deconstructed, did you go through all these phases?
Comment below and let us know!