It’s 3:15am as I write this article. I woke in the night thinking about this topic as it’s been on my mind for some time, maybe months. To be honest with you though, I went to bed really early, like 7pm so I got plenty of sleep. I don’t want you thinking I’m sleep-typing!
I’m writing about this topic because I have to. Something in me is driven to expose the wrongdoings of manipulative people in places of spiritual authority and power. I could certainly write about cool places in the world and get more likes, but it’s about the information, not the popularity to me.
Between this blog, our YouTube channel and several Social Media support groups I participate in, plus hundreds of hours of reading books and watching videos, I’ve learned something very powerful by listening to hundreds of people: Spiritual Abuse affects the mind in exactly the same way physical and sexual abuse does.
The victim is tricked into believing “I need this, even if it hurts, is uncomfortable and people are warning me otherwise!”
Like a dog that returns to his vomit Is a fool who repeats his foolishness. – Proverbs 26:11, AMP
The Cycle of Abuse
I don’t mention often anymore, but I left what is considered by most of the world, both religious and academic, to be a cult. It is a modern Christian church that uses a parcel of truth, a pinch of authenticity and a sprinkle of love to create a system of dependency upon the leadership of the church rather than Christ – and it works, really well sad to say. Our loyalty was to the leader. We believed his pleasure was equal to God’s pleasure. If the leader said jump, it was as if Jesus said jump, and we jumped. Boy did we jump!
This system taught that you were unable to succeed in your Christian walk without this man. We went to church nearly 200x a year (3 services every week plus special times through the year) and it was ingrained into us that if we missed one of those services, Satan was beginning to work in our lives.
We were taught that this one pastor was the umbrella of protection against God’s wraith and against satans snares. His[Pastor] words were HIS[Jesus] words. His[Pastor] standards were HIS[Jesus] commands. There was no leading ‘of the spirit’. That was the Pastor’s job. The pastor taught, “If God has something for you, he will confirm it in me.”
In other words, you need this. You need this man to be under God’s blessings. You need this one individual person to succeed in life. If you get out of this persons control and things start to happen in your life that is uncomfortable, you’ll begin to think it is your fault, if you would just have listened to that person this wouldn’t be happening…
The effect is like a “pendulum of pain,” said Steven Stosny, counselor and founder of the anger and violence management program CompassionPower, which treats people convicted of abuse in the home.
Abuse victims will “leave out of either fear, anger or resentment,” he said. “But then, after the fear, anger or resentment begins to subside, they feel guilt, shame, anxiety, and that takes them back.”
Just waiting for the curses to begin…
Vomiting is a natural reaction of the body and it is usually caused by ingesting something your body rejects, something poisonous or contaminated. We hear all the time about food poisoning, eating food that is expired and harmful for consumption. If your body didn’t naturally dispose of that poison it would spread into your other and cause more disruption and perhaps damage.
There is something about the spirit that God gave us that behaves in much the same way. It is that sixth sense we talk about. That ‘something’ you can’t quite put a finger on but you know it is there. An internal discontent, a small still voice.
Admittedly, this was me in the months after I left the cult. I was literally waiting, daily, for the curses to begin. I stopped paying the church the 15% of my income they demanded and I was sure any day I’d get fired, the car would blow up, something major was going to come crashing down as proof that I’d really screwed up. But it didn’t.
As tension builds up in a situation of abuse, we are preparing to vomit, and like all of us, we swallow and drink water, focus, and concentrate, do everything we can to make it NOT happen. It is so uncomfortable I would rather NOT vomit, even though vomiting will get the yuck out. And just like the Cycle of Abuse chart – that tension rises until finally, the incident happens.
It comes out, the anger spills forth, we spit out what has been troubling us for so long and some of us take the leap and leave the abusive situation. The cult, the abuser. And then, fear kicks in.
What if he was right…what if God is going to curse me now that I left. What if my flat tire was God saying Hello! What are you doing?? What if my bad financial choices were God pulling the strings and spanking me for not giving my money to the pastor? What if…I’ve got to go back!
And this is where the dog returns to his folly as Proverbs 26:11 says. In fact, the entire chapter is about folly. The ingestion of things unsettling and poisonous is ignored, swallowed down and chased with a good shot of coverup hugs and celebration.
This phase always feels good – while distrust sits in the back of everyone’s mind, the kiss and makeup phase is fun – ask any long-term couple. The euphoric makeup scene always comes after great conflict or a fight.
The final phase of abuse settles in – the calm before the storm. The one benefit any counselor has in watching people return to abuse is knowing that the cycle restarts, and as painful as it is to watch, the great hope is that somewhere between cycles it becomes too much and the victim makes their final escape.
It is in this phase where the returning victim claims there was never any abuse. It was a misunderstanding. Sadly, we’ll even hear them say, It was all me, I got confused, I made stuff up, I let other people blind me to the love that he really has for me.
This is where the abuser smiles, extends love, makes promises, opens up. They will say things like, “I just held out hope you would come back and look, God answered my prayers!”, or, “You felt it, you know this is right!”. Pretty, enticing words that don’t actually cover up anything of what happened before – it just tickles the euphoric senses of the dog returning to its folly. The comfortable kennel that smells like it always did. The blanket is matted in just the same spots. It feels secure. The treats are just the same bacon flavored Kibbles and Bits as before. It feels like home…