A neuroscientist and I got caught in a conversation while in a NY elevator. He talked about his work with the brain and wanted to know what I did in treating survivors of religious abuse. We got into the story of The Unholy and how religious trauma effects not only the brain but the deepest recesses of soul. It didn't strike him as odd that I'd emphasize this; but, it did hit him hard, though, that he'd never considered soul as integral to trauma and its impact.

Well, thus goes it in the world of everyday, mainstream, mental health care. It still has a ways to go in terms of understanding that we are not only physical beings, but soulful beings whose most intimate aspect is that of psyche, soul. Psyche reels and is loaded with torment when traumatized by religious guilt, fear, and deceit. A young man once shared a dream with me in which God appeared to him in the form of a luminous woman who instructed him to enter into a hallowed place within the center of the earth and there escape the terror of living in a religiously rigid and angry family that incessantly berated him for not being "worthy in the eyes of god." He stated that he learned to go within himself, to "the place that for me was the center of the earth, the center of my being."  He fled within himself, to deep recesses of soul, to protect himself from the religious trauma of being raised by parents set on the dark side of religion. 

 A childhood diagnosis of attention deficit disorder led to a regimen of medication. He described it as "settling my brain but my soul was still quivering, shaking inside me." The brain can be dealt with, treated when injured by trauma; the soul requires patient tending and healing that requires what he felt was "a good long time."

In his adult years he entered depth therapy and furthered his understanding and experience of psyche, soul. He discovered that the ground of his being indeed lay within, in psyche. The woman who had come to him in the dream during his adolescence returned many more times to confirm her watchfulness over his life. He came to terms with the reality that for the rest of his life he would be in the process of healing from the damaging effects of having been immersed in the dark side of religion during his childhood. Fortunately, the psychological injury was not as bad as it could have been due to the dream he had had as a teenager. He responded quickly to it, went within himself and there found safety.

The dark side of religion disrupts brain chemistry and physiology and traumatizes the soul; but, auspiciously, the psyche comes during dire times, and she guides us to turn within and discover hallowed realms of soul, the center of our being so as to begin the process of healing from injuries sustained by the lash of the dark side of religion.  

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Comment by Paul DeBlassie III on August 4, 2013 at 7:30pm
Comment by Thom F. Cavalli, Ph.D. on August 4, 2013 at 4:56pm

I think the patient was far more fortunate than the neuroscientist, for until one engages his/her soul, they can only expect a compensation through symptom formation or a rather sterile existence. His anima dream saved his life! We might want to remind so-called objective scientists that psyche means soul and psychotherapy means ministering to soul. I actually love working with these scientific types, their one-sided rigidity lends itself well to very effective Jungian therapy. 

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