What is “spiritual trauma”?

To understand spiritual trauma, we must first come to understand the nature of spirit in human beings or what has often been called the psyche.  Remen (1999) says that spirit is not morality, or ethics, or the psychic, or religious dogma.  Spirit is that part of humanity that is reaching for that which lies beyond.  

I have noticed that most resources on spiritual trauma will pair the spiritual with the religious but this is wrong.  Religious beliefs are a way to connect to the spiritual but they are not one in the same.  Most world religions believe that their own religious beliefs are the only way to the spiritual but this is also not correct.  As Remen (1999) says, “Religion is a bridge to the spiritual–but the spiritual lies beyond religion.  Unfortunately, in seeking the spiritual, we may become attached to the bridge rather than crossing over it.”

Spiritual trauma, then, is when anything injures the spirit.  Perhaps the religious bridge was shaky or collapsed during crossing.  Perhaps those that taught you about spirit paired it with morality, ethics, or religion.  This can be a form of trauma in its own right.  Perhaps you were abused in the name of God (however “God” was defined).  Perhaps your spirit was completely denied or neglected for a variety of reasons. 

One religious leader taught that there are five primary aspects to human nature–heart, soul, mind, strength, and neighbor.  Our heart is human emotion, the soul is the spirit, the mind is mental health, our strength is physical health, and neighbor is social connectedness.  When I help clients look at all aspects of their well-being, the spirit is often the most neglected.  Some clients have never considered their spirit, or have not known how to define it, or say, “I’m not spiritual,” (meaning religious). 

But, we are all spiritual.  We all need spiritual nurturing and well-being.  It is my hope that through this blog and related resources, you will be able to connect to, nourish, and heal your beautiful spirit.  If it has been traumatized, it is longing for healing.  You’ve come to the right place. 

Remen, R. N., (1999).  On defining spirit.  Park Ridge Center Bulletin, 7(4).  Retrieved http://www.mnwelldir.org/docs/spirit/defining.htm