Leaving a Religious or Faith Group | JS Psychotherapy
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Leaving a Religious or Faith Group?

Leaving a religious or faith-based group can often be a frightening and traumatic step and these feelings could be overwhelming during the holiday seasons.

The religious group often functions as a family, offering support, resources, security and love to its members. Often, however, the love and support is conditional and demands compliance with the rules and mores of the group. When a member deviates from prescribed practice, the result can be harsh. In the extreme, it can lead to excommunication, treating the person who left as if she or he is dead.

As well as the external pressures, an ex-member will face internal struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt about leaving, shame and fear of punishment.

The infractions that lead to excommunication can range in severity from non-compliance with a dress code, or with other religious rituals, to questioning religious life, exploring one’s own sexuality or simply seeking an education outside of the sect.

Some feelings that faith group leavers experience include:

  • guilt and shame about leaving or about what led to excommunication
  • depression or anxiety
  • loneliness and isolation
  • a sense of loss and confusion about identity
  • lacking skills to function in wider world (vocational, educational, social, language)
  • overwhelmed by choices in the outside world
  • fear – waiting for lighting to strike, fearing punishment or hostility from group members
  • sexual confusion and issues around one’s relationship with one’s own body
  • concern about coming out about leaving the group or religion
  • difficulty making choices
  • struggle with having faith outside of group norms
  • grief and loss of family, friends, community, social and supportive networks
  • mourning the death of a previous lifestyle
  • anger

If you are or have left or are leaving a faith based group and have experienced any of these, psychotherapy can help you work through these feelings and help you rebuild a life outside of the group. Please do contact me with any questions about psychotherapy. I’ll be happy to help.

To find out more, you can call me on 07939 643382, or click here to email me to schedule an appointment in a safe and confidential setting.

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