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A Path after Religion: EMDR Intensive Story


“I kinda always knew on some level I didn’t believe, but I also felt like I had to go along with was only after I got married that something in me clicked, and I understood what had been going on in me for years, that I couldn’t yet put words to.”


Tim had been a member of a well-known religion, and had been kicked out after he stated he no longer believed. In one week he had lost his family, seen his marriage go up in flames, and his own parents disown him.


He had done some reading on the subject, and even found a therapist to work with, but he felt like the progress wasn’t getting to the heart of what he was trying to heal from.


“She is really nice, we talk a lot about the steps I’m making, she helps me make sense of some of the feelings going on, but under it all I feel like there is some sort of thing that needs to click, or release here. I bring that up, in my own way, but I feel like we just start getting into it, and then the session is over. It’s super frustrating, even though I don’t think she is doing it on purpose in any way. But it’s also the reason I had sought this out.”


Tim was wanting to heal from religious trauma, and had come to an intensive to do it. It’s a common request I get in my intensive work, due to my experience working with religious trauma. Often the ways religious trauma impacts are deeper than just the thought process, there is messages stored in the body that the individual suspects can be traced back to the religious experience, but they don’t know how to access or work with them.


This is what Tim and I started with, looking at the core events that had happen, and which one of these events held a “charge” for him. Which events really made him feel something in his body, no matter how small that thing was. In Tim’s case, after his reflection, he really was able to focus in on the moment the pastor told him he is was no longer welcome at the church.


“The problem is, he didn’t really say it outloud, there wasn’t this defined moment where he told me the doors of the church we were closed to me. And maybe it’s because I so badly wanted to get out, that I didn’t register how much that moment impacted me.”


Tim said this as we were processing some of the EMDR work he had done in the intensive. Tim had been able to access this, along with two other memories, that held so much of his pain, and helped him see that these experiences had given him a sense that he didn’t belong anywhere.


“It makes sense, post EMDR, that I would feel that way. If a therapist had said this to me, I think I would have dismissed it, but there is something about the way we processed these memories, something in me clicked as the EMDR did it’s thing. I guess it really came back to belonging, because if I don’t belong anywhere, what ‘right’ do I have to exist?”.


Tim didn’t heal all of his religious trauma in one intensive, but he was able to make huge inroads that he took back to his therapist the following week. From there we were able to do another two intensives, that helped him get to the parts of his body, that held such deep pain messages, that prior to the intensives he hadn’t been able to own.


It was this work, plus connecting with a religious trauma group that really helped him begin to make the next steps in his life and find a deeper measure of peace that wasn’t based on the religion he had just come from.

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