The Personal Terror of Religious Trauma

Valerie Rice | May 26, 2021

Once upon a time someone mentioned that cult behavior from a religion was fine if the overall intent was good. Sounds legit, right? RIGHT? So do the ends justify the means? Yes, it is still mental health awareness month. I did promise, after all. Today is story time of an example from my past highlighting cult brainwashing.


Please keep in mind that this is a sensitive topic, painfully extracted from a fragmented part or myself, who prefers to remain nameless. But it is an EXCELLENT example of mind control. Okay. So. Once upon a time (story format makes it easier to tell, try and keep up, okay?) my mother died. Yup. Just like that. And then a year later my father remarried a woman he barely knew. None of this is the point, that is why we are breezing past it. The part I want to get to is the conversation around the temple and my acceptance of my father’s new wife as a mother. Okay? Good.

I was told, by many people, that the spirit of my dead mother had appeared to them and told them to tell me that this was fate. Yes, my dead mother was playing telephone from beyond. Why? Because I was not faithful enough, I was impure, she was disappointed in me, and so on. My job, of course, was to correct my behavior, smile, and rejoice in my new mother. After all, my dead and therefore useless one wanted me too. Oh, how could this backfire, you ask? It couldn’t possibly! I had been told that my dead mother was very much alive in another world waiting for me to act right. Now, she can’t tell me this herself, no, just everyone else. 

What a wonderful way to explain the death of a parent to a child entering puberty. It was an even better way to shame the child into accepting a new marriage before healing from the trauma of the loss. Throw in a whole lot of creepy cult messages and a father who was probably not sure what he was doing, and Ta-DA! You get me. But it isn’t their fault. They were brainwashed, too. Or was it? Well, who knows, I’m in therapy. But that’s another thing.


May is almost over, and I am so sad that it is both mental health awareness and EDS awareness month. Add to that my low health, and I may have to just keep it up next month, too. There are many ways in which the average person can stumble into the need for mental health services. You could have long term issues, or short term ones, and both are valid. I guess the moral of the story is: Be brave, and be well.

Published by vrice2010

A mother, an author, a nerd. After many years working in the fields of mental health and developmental disabilities, graduating from the University of Phoenix, and pouring my talents into my local community, I decided to spread my wings and reach a wider audience.

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