It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE
It’s Anxiety Week - Save 20% on our Managing Postpartum Anxiety course with code anxiety20.
LEARN MORE

February 20, 2024

July 20, 2022

How to Heal From Religious Trauma: Breaking Away From Restriction and Discovering Who You Are

E:
130
with
Dr. Quincee Gideon
Psychologist

What You'll Learn

  • The Relationship Between Religion and Identity
  • Why Questioning is Healthy and Shouldn’t Be Discouraged
  • Signs You Might Have Experienced Religious Trauma
  • Red Flags vs Green Flags for a Healthy Religious Environment
  • How to Heal From Religious Trauma and Find Your Own Path

Research has shown that religion and spirituality can be a fundamental pillar of resilience. But not all religious environments are healthy. Many of us had negative spiritual experiences and are searching for how to heal from religious trauma.

Today I’m joined by Dr. Quincee Gideon, clinical psychologist and specialist in religious trauma and cult recovery, to discuss religion, trauma, and the role spirituality plays in our identities.

Unpacking My Own Upbringing

I grew up in a strict Evangelical environment. During my upbringing, I received a lot of messages about what being a woman and being a mom looked like. 

When I was able to establish my own identity, I had to unpack and unlearn a lot of those messages. I spent time digging into my own beliefs and determining what I wanted for myself and how my religious childhood had impacted me. 

When I was able to establish my own identity, I had to unpack and unlearn a lot of those messages.

For many of us, spirituality is a healthy, fulfilling outlet that should be encouraged. But countless people find themselves battling restrictive, controlling ideals that come from unhealthy religious environments. 

Religious trauma occurs when we struggle to leave behind an indoctrinating, often controlling religious environment. 

Dr. Quincee broke away from her own toxic religious environment, and now guides others in the process of how to heal from religious trauma. I was excited to have her return to the podcast to dig into the topic of religion and discuss healthy vs unhealthy religious environments. 

The Relationship Between Religion and Identity

Our spirituality can be interwoven tightly into our identities. The beliefs system we are raised with shapes what it means to be a wife, a woman, and a mother.  

The beliefs system we are raised with shapes what it means to be a wife, a woman, and a mother.

Dr. Quincee said that when we start to pull apart religious trauma, our beliefs, and the specific roles we are taught, we have to determine what’s left of our identity. 

For some people, there isn’t much left—they have a lot of rebuilding to do. For others, pulling apart their religious beliefs can be a relief—for years, they have been yearning and fighting for moreand they just needed to let go of religion to grow. 

But Dr. Quincee said most people fall somewhere in between. They don’t quite know how to do motherhood, spousehood and womanhood in a new way, but they yearn for freedom and growth, and they can’t put the shackles back on. 

Why Questioning is Healthy and Shouldn’t Be Discouraged

It can be very hard to step outside of religious beliefs and start the process of pulling them apart. In coercive religious environments, the very idea of questioning is often associated with a lack of faith. 

Our ability to question things, to critically think, is a gift.

Our ability to question things, to critically think, is a gift. But in certain religious environments, we are programmed not to do so. There is an idea in some communities that what religious leaders say is absolute truth, and if you are questioning what you are taught, the devil is responsible, or you are just too far away from God. 

In these environments, questioning is viewed as a faith challenge—not a healthy process. This is a powerful technique in a coerced environment. 

Dr. Quincee pointed out that if you feel your nervous system activate while questioning religious beliefs or doctrine, it’s an indication that there’s some religious trauma there. 

She said that she often asks clients to think about:

  • The environment built around healthy skepticism
  • What happens when they are asked to disengage from it
  • How they respond when asked to disengage

If something seems off about any of those answers, the environment might not be healthy. 

Signs You Might Have Experienced Religious Trauma

Faith communities pose as safe places to help you connect with God, solve the mysteries of life, and get to the afterlife you desire. They offer safety from fear and insecurity. But when those communities become abusive, controlling, fear-based, and guilt-ridden, they suddenly become the most unsafe place to be. 

This often makes people feel that they themselves are the problem. They didn’t feel safe outside of the religious community, and they didn’t feel safe in it—so they often look inward and view themselves as the common denominator. That is the type of relationship with religion that can cause trauma. 

Some signs that you have experienced religious trauma include:

Delayed Sexual Development

If your religious environment has strict views on purity culture, it can create undercurrents that sex should not be enjoyed, or that it somehow makes you separate from God. This can be hard to overcome. Sometimes people that are raised in these environments find themselves struggling with their relationship with sex even if they get married within their religious community. 

They have been taught to pull away from sex, and then expected to flip a switch and have a healthy sexual outlook. Sexuality doesn’t always work that way. This can lead to sexual dysfunction or difficulty enjoying sex. 

Delayed Social Development

Sometimes in religious households there is a restrictive environment around TV shows, music, or even exposure to other children. 

When children grow up in this environment and then seek less restriction as adults, they might have a difficult time relating to their peers, understanding pop culture references, or engaging in healthy age-appropriate activities. 

If you feel judged around others, or uncomfortable going out around other people, it might be an indicator of religious trauma. 

Delayed Emotional Development

Another sign of religious trauma is if you have been told that your feelings are wrong. If the answer to emotions was to submit yourself to God, you might not have learned to process a range of emotions in a healthy way. 

Restrictive religious environments might not provide opportunities for emotional expression. This can lead to depression, anxiety, or an inability to manage and cope with emotions. 

Red Flags vs Green Flags for a Healthy Religious Environment

But Dr. Quincee was quick to point out that spirituality itself isn’t a bad thing. In fact, when people don’t have a spiritual connection or a set of beliefs, they are often more vulnerable to cult-like groups. Religion can be a source of comfort, resilience, and strength for many people. 

So how can you determine which environments are healthy and which are potentially harmful? There are several signs to look for. 

Red flags for an unhealthy religious environment include:

  • Not being able to leave without consequences
  • Restricting emotions
  • Having expectations to give up anything—time, resources, or money
  • You entered the environment because of a personal trauma

Green flags for a healthy faith community include:

  • Being able to leave at any time
  • An encouragement to express a full range of emotions
  • No expectations for giving anything up
  • Healthy skepticism is not shamed

Dr. Quincee also pointed out that when you are evaluating these red and green flags, a helpful tool is to apply the expectations to an entirely different situation. If you were locked in a home and not able to leave without any consequences, that wouldn’t be healthy. It’s not healthy for a religion either. 

She also expressed that the consequences don’t have to be external. The most manipulative cult leaders will never have to create their own consequences—they will allow their followers to build their own prison cells.

Leaving an unhealthy religious environment often comes with massive psychological consequences. For example, if you have raised children in the environment, you might wonder what leaving says about you as a mother, or how it will impact your kids. Sometimes, it becomes easier to stay than to face those consequences. 

How to Heal From Religious Trauma and Find Your Own Path 

When people start to realize that they are in an unhealthy environment and they leave, they are often in a very vulnerable place. 

This can lead to “cult hopping,” where people leave one toxic environment but end up finding another one—even if it’s just a conspiracy group online or another non-religious environment—in an attempt to fill the psychological vacuum left behind. 

That’s why Dr. Quincee recommends focusing on healing from trauma and recovering first and foremost when coming out of a toxic religious environment, rather than seeking a new spiritual community. 

Eventually, once you heal and gain perspective, you will be able to form healthy boundaries and create a new relationship with religion. 

Once you heal and gain perspective, you will be able to create a new relationship with religion.

Connecting with a therapist who understands trauma is a big part of recovery. Other important healing techniques include finding new ways to fill your time, outside of religion. 

Dr. Quincee suggests discovering your hobbies and interests. In toxic religious environments, personal interests are often used against people,  so they learn to shut them down or put them on the back burner. 

After leaving an unhealthy faith community, spend time trying new things. Take classes, use groupons, and start to see what you like and don’t like. 

She also suggests making a list of cultural references you don’t understand and start looking into them. Watch shows you weren’t allowed to watch. Do things you longed to do but couldn’t. Give yourself the opportunity to have access to the things that were restricted from you. 

As mothers, this might even look like exploring sexually, trying new things to determine what you like and don’t like. 

Most of all, remember that you have your whole life ahead of you, full of chances to experience things, find joy, and chart your own course. 

If you’re struggling with trauma, our Wellness Center is here to help! Connect with a mom therapist near you. Book your free 15 minute consult.

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tags:

religious trauma

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood, Pregnant, Trying to Conceive

Share Now:

OUR GUEST

Dr. Quincee Gideon
Psychologist

Quincee is a licensed psychologist that specializes in religious trauma and cult recovery.  She takes science-backed ways of understanding trauma in the brain and body to help trauma survivors recover.  She owns Woven Together Trauma Therapy, a trauma-specialty practice in Los Angeles and Traumastery, which is an online space for religious trauma and cult recovery.  She has a growing monthly membership of survivors of religious trauma coming together to learn the psychology behind religious abuse while getting some peer support along the way.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.

RESOURCES MENTIONED

RELATED ARTICLES
February 20, 2024
January 31, 2024
Postpartum Rage vs. Parental Anger: How Social Expectations Create Overwhelmed Moms
E:
210
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder and CEO of Psyched Mommy, licensed clinical psychologist
February 20, 2024
January 24, 2024
You’re Not an Angry Mom: Why We Experience Mom Rage (and What We Can Learn From It)
E:
209
with
Minna Dubin
Author of Mom Rage: The Everyday Crisis of Modern Motherhood
February 20, 2024
January 17, 2024
What Causes Mommy Brain? The Role of the Invisible Load on Forgetfulness and Brain Fog
E:
208
with
Dr. Jodi Pawluski
neuroscientist, psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
January 3, 2024
How Parents Can Avoid Information Overload: Maintaining Confidence in Our Decision-Making
E:
206
with
Cara Goodwin
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 29, 2023
Prioritizing the Invisible Load of Motherhood: Valuing Our Own Time and Letting Go of Mental Labor
E:
201
with
Whitney Casares
Founder and CEO of Modern Mommy Doc
February 20, 2024
November 15, 2023
Breaking Generational Trauma Cycles: Healing Our Past and Moving Forward in Motherhood
E:
199
with
Dr. Mariel Buqué
Psychologist and the author of the book Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma
February 20, 2024
November 8, 2023
Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Perfectionism? Reframing the Concept of “Perfect” in Motherhood
E:
198
with
Katherine Morgan Schafler
Psychotherapist and author
February 20, 2024
October 11, 2023
Embracing the 7 Types of Rest: Why Moms Are Exhausted and What Actually Helps
E:
194
with
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith
Board-Certified internal medicine physician and award-winning author
February 20, 2024
October 4, 2023
Interpreting Newborn Hunger Cues and Sleepy Signs: How to Learn Your Baby’s Needs
E:
193
with
Sharon Mazel
Author of Bite-Sized Parenting: Your Baby’s First Year
February 20, 2024
September 20, 2023
Managing Mom Anxiety: Why Millennial Moms Are So Anxious and How to Overcome Our Fears
E:
191
with
Dr. Lauren Cook
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
September 13, 2023
Embracing Power as Moms: Reshaping Dynamics In and Out of the Home
E:
190
with
Claire Shipman
NYT Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
September 6, 2023
How to Raise Confident Kids: Breaking Cycles of Negative Self-Esteem
E:
189
with
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
Founder of The North Star Developmental Clinic
February 20, 2024
August 23, 2023
Understanding Sensory Self-Care: How Overstimulated Moms Can Regulate and Regain Calm
E:
187
with
Holly Peretz
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
February 20, 2024
August 16, 2023
Navigating Matrescence: The Roller Coaster of Becoming a Mom
E:
186
with
Dr. Catherine Birndorf
Co-Founder and Medical Director of The Motherhood Center of New York
February 20, 2024
July 26, 2023
The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss
E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate
February 20, 2024
June 21, 2023
Myths About Toddler Behavior: How to Reclaim the "Terrible Twos"
E:
178
with
Dr. Cathryn Tobin
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
March 29, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 2: Facing Pregnancy After a Traumatic Birth
E:
166
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 22, 2023
Birth Trauma Part 1: How Birth Trauma Impacts Our Family Decision Making
E:
165
with
Kayleigh Summers
Clinical Social Worker
February 20, 2024
March 15, 2023
Real Self-Care for Moms: Why Mindset Matters More Than Massages
E:
164
with
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin
Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
February 8, 2023
Overcoming Mom Guilt: Rewriting the Motherhood Contract and Charting Your Own Path
E:
159
with
Libby Ward
Founder of Diary of an Honest Mom
February 20, 2024
December 28, 2022
Coping During Postpartum with No Family Support: When Reality Clashes with Expectations
E:
153
with
Emmalee Bierly and Jennifer Chaiken
Founders of ShrinkChicks
February 20, 2024
November 23, 2022
The Mental Load of Motherhood: How to Address the Imbalance of Household Labour
E:
148
with
Gemma Hartley
Journalist and Author
February 20, 2024
November 16, 2022
Surviving the Baby Witching Hour: How to Cope With Colicky and Fussy Babies
E:
147
with
Dr. Whitney Casares
Pediatrician
February 20, 2024
November 2, 2022
How To Deal With Toxic Positivity As a Mom: What To Do When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings
E:
145
with
Whitney Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 19, 2022
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave: Navigating the Emotions, Difficulties, and Challenges
E:
143
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 12, 2022
How to Know if You Have Postpartum Anxiety: Red Flags to Watch for in Pregnancy, Birth, and After Baby
E:
142
with
Dr. Sarah Oreck
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
October 5, 2022
Protecting Maternal Sleep: The Relationship Between Sleep Deprivation and Postpartum Depression
E:
141
with
Dr. Nicole Leistikow
Reproductive Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
September 21, 2022
Encouraging Independent Play: Why Unstructured Play Matters and How to Foster It
E:
139
with
Susie Allison
Founder of Busy Toddler
February 20, 2024
August 31, 2022
Why Does a Messy House Give Me Anxiety? How to Stress Less About Cleaning and Keep Your House Functioning
E:
136
with
KC Davis
@domesticblisters on TikTok and Founder of Struggle Care
February 20, 2024
August 3, 2022
Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: Why Support Matters and How to Find Resources to Help
E:
132
with
Dr. Wendy Davis
Executive Director of PSI
February 20, 2024
July 27, 2022
Overcoming Working Mom Guilt: Why Moms Should Never Be Ashamed to Be Ambitious
E:
131
with
Lara Bazelon
Law Professor and Author
February 20, 2024
February 16, 2022
What is Matrescence? The Transition into Motherhood (And Why Being a New Mom is Hard)
E:
108
with
Dr. Katayune Kaeni
Perinatal Psychologist
February 20, 2024
February 2, 2022
Discover Your Personal Core Values
E:
106
with
Dr. Cassidy Freitas
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
January 26, 2022
When Mommy Rage Strikes: How to Prevent and Control the Anger
E:
105
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
January 5, 2022
Sleep Training Doesn't Have To Be Scary
E:
102
with
Dr. Aubrie DeBear
Founder of Baby Sleep Dr.
February 20, 2024
January 19, 2022
Carrying the Mental Load: How to Redistribute the Burden and Give Moms More Freedom
E:
104
with
Eve Rodsky
New York Times Bestselling Author
February 20, 2024
January 12, 2022
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression: How to Spot the Signs So You Can Seek Support
E:
103
with
Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis
Reproductive Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
December 29, 2021
Decluttering: The Secret of an Easy to Tidy Home
E:
101
with
Katy Wells
Declutter Expert
February 20, 2024
December 22, 2021
100th Episode: Erica’s Husband Tells All
E:
100
with
Frenel Djossa
February 20, 2024
December 15, 2021
The Pressure to Get It Right
E:
99
with
Dr. Jen Douglas
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 24, 2021
Overcoming Gender Disappointment
E:
96
with
Dr. Renée Miller
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 17, 2021
Adding a Sibling to Your Family
E:
95
with
Bryana Kappadakunnel
Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 10, 2021
Regulating Your Nervous System
E:
94
with
Dr. Quincee Gideon
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
October 13, 2021
Momming With ADHD
E:
90
with
Dr. Melissa Shepard
Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
October 6, 2021
Supporting NICU Moms
E:
89
with
Kristin Reinhart
Registered Social Worker
February 20, 2024
September 22, 2021
Working As A Mother
E:
87
with
Dr. Courtney Tracy
Founder of The Truth Doctor
February 20, 2024
September 8, 2021
Caring for the Postpartum Brain
E:
85
with
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Neuroanatomist
February 20, 2024
August 18, 2021
Is Breastfeeding Worth Our Mental Health?
E:
82
with
Johanna Phillips
Maternal Mental Health Specialist
February 20, 2024
August 11, 2021
Exploring Mommy Wine Culture
E:
81
with
Michelle Smith
Addictions Counselor
February 20, 2024
July 28, 2021
When Treatment Becomes Trauma
E:
79
with
Dr. Quincee Gideon
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
July 21, 2021
PMS or Something More?
E:
78
with
Dr. Nichelle Haynes
Perinatal Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
June 23, 2021
The Self-Compassionate Mother
E:
74
with
Dr. Kristin Neff
Associate Professor and Author
February 20, 2024
June 16, 2021
The Overstimulated Mommy
E:
73
with
Larissa Geleris
Occupational Therapist
February 20, 2024
June 9, 2021
Mom Brain
E:
72
with
Dr. Jodi Pawluski
Neuroscientist and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
June 2, 2021
OCD in Postpartum And Motherhood
E:
71
with
Jenna Overbaugh
Licensed Professional Counselor
February 20, 2024
May 26, 2021
Whole Brain Mommying
E:
70
with
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Neuroanatomist
February 20, 2024
May 19, 2021
The Perfect Mother Myth
E:
69
with
Dr. Sophie Brock
Sociologist
February 20, 2024
April 28, 2021
A Deeper Look into the Mother Wound
E:
66
with
Bethany Webster
Author
February 20, 2024
April 14, 2021
Breaking Cycles And Interdependence
E:
64
with
Sian Crossley
Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
March 24, 2021
Managing Screen Time Without Guilt
E:
61
with
Dr. Elizabeth Adams
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
April 7, 2021
Melissa Bernstein's Journey with Depression and Anxiety
E:
63
with
Melissa Bernstein
Co-Founder of Melissa & Doug & Author
February 20, 2024
March 3, 2021
Overcoming Resentment in Our Relationships
E:
58
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
February 24, 2021
Understanding the Mother Wound
E:
57
with
Bethany Webster
Author