Psychological Trauma and Religion

Religion is a powerful source for emotional healing. At the same time, it can also be a cause or trigger of psychological symptoms.

Sheila hated going to church. Since a child, she’s been forced by her overcritical father to embrace church attendance and their ideas about God.

She recalled receiving frequent spankings from him whenever she refused coming with them to church. And, her mother trying to shield her from her father.

She eventually developed anxiety attacks whenever her parents fought about this as well as about other matters at home.

When Shiela grew up and attended university, she joined the Communists working underground among students. She became an overzealous atheist and crusader.

In Psychology Today, Dr. Josh Gressel writes in his article “When Religious Beliefs Are Psychological Symptoms”:

“ ... when are religious beliefs a problem, from a psychological perspective? ... I think there are two instances when my help is needed. The first is when someone has suffered some kind of psychological trauma that has created  severe distortion in how they view the world and God. The second is when someone is capable of a deeper and broader understanding of life and the world but doesn’t yet know it and so grips tightly to a more narrow religious worldview than is healthy for him or her.”

One goal of psychotherapy or emotional healing is to strike a balance between extremes. One is bigoted ignorance, and the other is extreme intellectual skepticism.

And there’s also the matter of healing one’s pain from childhood experiences so his or her experiences of God shifts realistically and perceptively.