09 Jul Leaving a religious or faith group?
Rebuilding life after leaving a religious or faith group
Leaving a religious or faith group can be a frightening or traumatic step.
The religious or faith group can function 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 the religious or faith group, 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 people who are leaving religious or faith groups 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
If you have left or are leaving a religious or faith group and have experienced any of these, psychotherapy can help you work through these feelings so you can rebuild a life outside of the group. Please do contact me with any questions about psychotherapy. I’ll be happy to answer them for you.
Call me on 020 7300 7243, or click here to schedule an appointment in a safe and confidential setting.