Trauma effects: Example in the faith-community

Crisis is defined as the perception of a critical incident that produces subjective distress causing the person the inability to cope and function at their normal levels of performance. Crisis can serve as an opportunity to learn and grow, however if the person is not able to work through and regain normal functioning the probability of a crisis cycle may develop causing emotional and mental health dis regulation.

(Kanel 2007)

Loss is at the heart of every trauma and crisis. (Wright 2011) Loss is a death that causes one to have to readjust to their original way of living creating a new normal. The death can come in the form of a physical death, debilitating health functioning, loss of a relationship, death of a dream or idea, loss of a community or social status and position. With each of these, additional unrecognizable losses join the list of suffering that requires a grieving process. (Cisney, Ellers 2007). This grieving process or lack thereof exposes trauma effects.
The brain was created in an amazing and profound way causing the specific body organs to function and behave according to the messages that are relayed to that particular body part. Cognitive brain functions (mental process that induces behavior) takes each life experience through the lens of the five-sense stimuli creating an interpretation of meaning known as the perception. When new experiences are happening, our brain retrieves information that was previously organized and filed from a similar situation, influencing how a person acts or reacts to the current circumstance. This process is usually outside of the conscious awareness of the individual. Therefore, stimuli from outside sources trigger an internal warning bell (the traumatized brain) causing a response of learned behavior. (Riegler, Riegler 2008) The consequence or result of this learned behavior causes physical bodily symptoms, manifestations of wrong thought processing or interpretation of external stimuli, and spiritual soul wounds.
The body’s memory has the capacity to observe, measure and repeat behavioral responses. The frequency of a particular outcome, to a perceived reality, reinforces the belief system that an exact consequence follows the certain stimuli, therefor calling for the same precise behavioral/bodily response. Psychology researcher Sir Frederick Bartlett defines memory as, “a reconstructive process rather than a reproductive one…Guided by schemata, generalized knowledge structures about events and situations that are constructed based on past experiences.”(Riegler, Riegler. 2008. P.13)
The term “sweet heart” has won the young girl unwanted affections from a person in the past. In the new Foster home the church family smothers the child with what they believe to be love in affection calling the child sweet heart. Although the person is different and the location is not the same, the term of sweet heart causes the young child to reconstruct the scene while her body starts to react to the thought of the unwanted attention she anticipates is coming. Real physical pain penetrates her body as she runs to the lavatory to discard the content that has risen-up to her mouth. The next time the family prepares to return to church psychosomatic symptoms will explode and declare war in the mind.
The initial trauma is being relived and the child’s cognitive mental processing steps up to bat. The invitation to return to church has set off unguarded dynamite manifesting deliberate offensive behavior toward the host. Survival is the name of her game, yet at the expense of self-destruction. The perception of her last visit experience, in which she revealed evidence of real physical pain, has added church as another unsafe place to be.
The child’s mind has now reinforced the intention of pain with the term of endearment which produces intense mental and emotional turmoil. The perception screams that those who exhibit what they term love cannot be trusted therefore they must be avoided at every opportunity. This new wound cuts deep to the inner soul while blocks are added to reinforce the wall of safety, solidifying the destructive patterns of isolation.
The soul or spirit of a person encompasses their mind, emotions and will. The encoding of life experiences inflames the belief system surrounds a particular situation. Those beliefs stir up emotions which put the will into gear affecting behaviors. “If the infected soul is not healed it will die from fear and unforgiving hatred. ” (Herbst 2008)
The motivating vow of the will locks in the defense mechanism to strengthen the belief system. The belief, “I am not safe at church.” Pure unadulterated care has been turned into the war zone. For the young child who now declares that church (and therefor God) is not safe, “love provokes an army of strong holds. (Scholl-Henderson, 2007) Exposures of true love are now a trigger that reinforces the lie, people are not safe. The more others try to prove their love and care is real, the more the traumatized brain digs deeper and manifest volatile destructions on themselves or others to try to prove that their lie is real.

How will you respond, “When trauma comes to church?”




In the beginning

In the beginning, God, created…MAN. Created, not spoken into existence as all other creation, but, created! I can imagine the trinity working together, as a fine artist painting a portrait. “Father, hold still! I need to see the locations and diameters of the liver, spleen and kidneys. Now the brain. Let me see. O such fine intricate detail of energy communicating between each segment.”
As a master sculptor leaning over His subject, He scoops the soil, packs it and designs each body part into the required shape and size. He stops a moment to get the excess dirt out from under his fingernails, brushing left-over fragments from his robe. Not one particle may be out of place to jam the fine working machine of the brain. Like a Swiss clock, finely tuned, the brain is the master piece that communicates to all other parts and organs providing exact, down-to-the second, timing for superior functioning. The figure in perfect form accepts the breath of life. The rhythm of the heart beats in succession with the flow of blood through the veins. The brain sends signals coordinating the flow, the heart-beat, the intake of air. There is life, wholeness and communion between the creator and the created.

In unity, the creator and the created walked the garden enjoying fellowship and intimacy. The radiance of love and attunement poured forth in secure peace interacting with the joy of pure contentment. The belief, what was spoken by the creator need not be given a second thought, was secure until questioned by another being. This interrogation brought about a crisis of the belief system. When crisis or conflict arise, emotional and mental reasoning causes a person to acknowledge their original view of God and how that plays into the current situation. The battle of the mind twists and turns, probing the perceptions to distinguish truth from lies.

Foreign thoughts, feelings, emotions and threatened beliefs turn inside out and upside down in anguished war with disobedient behavior. Unimaginable emotional and spiritual death ripped apart the secure attachment man had with his God. The brain which was designed to trust and be in reciprocal relationship, dependent on the creator, chose to look at another option. That option brought new experiences of doubt, confusion and ultimately a separation breaking the communion of man with the creator.

Man was experiencing a crisis and needed to find a new normal for living. His thoughts in this separation formed belief patterns that started to redesign and shift the intended patterns of brain functioning. What God had created, declaring “it is good!” took on new forms of operating that brought about dysfunction. Trust had been broken. Man missed the mark of perfection that he was created for. The only way for healing were acts of submission, forgiveness and redemption.
Mankind has continued to be under the banner of death in physical, emotional and spiritual well-being redeemable only through the submission to the standards of God in a state of repentance. This forgiveness is a gift to be received by all, allowing a right-standing relationship with God the father and Jesus the Christ, God’s son.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Romans 5:15 “But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and the God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.”

James 5:16a “Confess you sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Getting to this level of healing we need to understand (our) brain and identify the battle that wages in our thoughts so that we may distinguish between truth and false-hood.

Hebrews 9:12 With His (Jesus) own blood- not the blood of goats and calves- He entered the Most Holy Place once for all times and secured our redemption forever.

With the acceptance of God’s gift of redemption,  man can be reunited in full attunement and peace in pure love with the creator and reciprocal relationship like man experienced in the garden.  When this relationship between man and the creator is not solidified, the mind will continue to rage war with belief systems in a state of crisis.

When a person is thrown into crisis and trauma, 9 out of 10, look to the church (Faith community) for answers.  How will you respond, “When trauma comes to church?”


Trauma among us

Trauma is a word used in many venues to describe negative exposures to life threats that conjure up pictures of bloody victims lying wide eyed on the floor while their children crouch, peering out of the closet door with wet smear stained faces and matted hair clinging to dried salt from tears; Mass school shootings that baffle the world in a blurred confusion, as pictures of children wandering aimlessly trying to figure out where they belong and what is happening, shutting down whole communities in a numb and helpless experiences; Pictures of refugees flash across the television screen, seen clothed in scant material and flimsy shoes, holding the hand of their small child who runs to keep pace with the adults, walk through intense weather conditions, carrying little if anything to find safety, yet, are turned around at the boarders. The word trauma often comes from a perspective that it is ‘out there.’ The thought of trauma challenges even the most intellectual mind to comprehend that trauma lives among us.

Trauma walks beside us in community as we pass our neighbor in the grocery store. Her shoulders slump, eyes downcast dart quickly around the circumference of her environment to catch any movement that could present danger to her. She is also the lady that slips into the back pew of the community church, arriving late at the beginning and ready to dart before the end of the benedictory prayer. Shame is her gown that shrouds her in defeat. Her crown, the jabs and blows that she tries to hide under her hair line and cosmetics. Her belt of truth comes from the years of abuse that chain her mind in thoughts of failure as a mom, wife or woman, lack of worth to share the few strengths and gifts that she hides from eyes that could exploit her, resignation that she is no use to the church family. Her feet are covered with learned-helplessness heavy with clay that has formed from isolation allowing only the shuffle of disgrace depleting any confidence that she has some place to be, to belong. This woman has the head knowledge that God loves her, but, she is desperate for Jesus with skin on. She may flinch or straighten into cold cement that cannot be moved or opened to receive love that is genuine.

With mock repentance, the gentleman that shares his struggle of addictions or relationship issues with his family is applauded for being transparent. The focus of onlookers remains on the humble expressions of the man as his family slides down the bench in shock and disbelief. Church participants do not understand the aloof attitude that is evident from his wife or the rebellion from his children. Though he stands in his position among the fellow men and banters easily with others, saying all the right words and phrases, his private home-life situation is screaming from the clamped, tight, lips and averting eyes of his family. Physical violence such as pushing his wife down a flight of steps or back handing one of the children who does not respond to his demands quick enough is common place. Verbal assaults slash like paper cuts and penetrate like the venom of snakes. The family needs to use a flashlight when walking so as not to step on the shards of splintered glass that hide in the carpet ready to rip flesh unaware of its presence. This family is being reduced to a mere existence while being hammered closer to the ground by biblical verbiage that reminds them of their assumed place.

A new family moves into the neighborhood ready to connect and be part of the local church community. Both parents are professionals and are heightened to the status of pedestal sitting when others find out the composition of the family includes adopted or other special needs children. Leadership is excited of the potential helps this couple bring, yet when the reality of the special needs for the children is presented leadership takes a few steps back and wrestles with suggested changes that could enhance programs for all children/participants needing some extra accommodations. This couple has lack of resources to allow them some time without direct line-of-sight to their children to assure family safety. Boundaries that may get over-looked, due to the belief that Christian love is being exhibited, may cause severe volatile behaviors from an individual who has experienced traumatic abuse. The lack of understanding trauma effects on the brain may cause a disconnect from the one (family) that needs safety precautions put into place and the congregation. The lack of positive inter-relational connectivity in meeting dire needs for survival may not be acknowledged or respected.

Are you ready to acknowledge trauma among us,  “When (this) trauma comes to church?pexels-photo-984953.jpeg