The Most Important Thing

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What do you believe about God?

When did you first start to believe this?

How does this belief cause you to feel about yourself and God?

Teresa Pasquale is a licensed therapist and author of the book Sacred Wounds, A Path to Healing From Spiritual Trauma. In a podcast I listened to yesterday, I heard Teresa say something I have been thinking about ever since. She said what we believe about our spirituality is the most important thing in our lives, and so many times we allow others to dictate to us what we believe. Her words brought up a moment of deep grief over all that I had lost in my relationship with God, because I had allowed others to cause me to doubt what I had experienced and believed concerning God.

As a trauma survivor and codependent, I have in recent months come to understand that one of the ways my nervous system responds to threats is by fawning. Fawning defined by Pete Walker in his book Complex PTSD, From Surviving to Thriving is:

A fourth type of triggered response (which) can be seen in many codependents.(Codependency is defined here as the inability to express rights, needs and boundaries in relationship; it is a disorder of assertiveness that causes the individual to attract and accept exploitation, abuse and/or neglect.)I have named it the fawn response…the fourth ‘f’ in the fight/flight/ freeze/fawn repertoire of instinctive responses to trauma. Fawn, according to Webster’s, means: “to act servilely; cringe and flatter”, and I believe it is this response that is at the core of many codependents’ behavior.

When I think I am in danger of being harmed by another person one of my first responses to protect myself is to fawn. It feels painful and humiliating to admit that I given others what they want in order to survive. We have all most likely done this at some point in our lives. Our boss calls us into his office and tells us if we don’t redo a project up to his standards, we might lose our job. It would be easy to apologize for falling short of his expectations, even when we knew we had done exactly what he’d asked. When our livelihood is at risk, sometimes we sacrifice our own voices in an effort to save ourselves. While there may be certain times in our lives that this type of behavior seems necessary, a lifetime of these patterns of behavior results in a person losing sight of who they really are, which is the case for many of us who grew up with childhood trauma.

In my own story, the only way I was able to survive in my home with an alcoholic father was to give him what he wanted. Because when he did not get what he wanted, there would be hell to pay. One example was when I spilled a whole gallon of sweet tea on the kitchen table. We had just sat down to eat, and the syrupy liquid spread across the table running down onto the floor. His first response was to raise his voice and scream at me for being so stupid. I immediately began to apologize and clean up the mess. Even while I was cleaning up, he continued to fuss and shame me. I told myself I had to learn how to be more careful, so I would never do something so stupid again.

What does all of this have to do with what I believe about God?

Sadly, many of my beliefs about my Creator were of an angry God who expected perfection from me. He was the voice inside my head telling me I was bad, stupid, and would never amount to anything when I made a mistake. I learned in the trauma coaching class I recently completed that these types of beliefs about oneself are called The Lying Triad and it’s Dark Guard. It is not uncommon for children who have grown up with abuse and trauma to believe about themselves:

They are to blame for their abuse
They are bad and unworthy of good things
They are shameful
They are powerless

Sadly, we begin to believe because people treat us badly that we are bad.

Sadly, we begin to believe because people treat us badly that we are bad.

I had projected onto God what I had experienced from my earthly father. I lived a large part of my life in fear that I was going to mess up and spill the tea, and thinking that God was going to make me pay. Every bad thing that happened in life caused me to wonder what I had done wrong.

I believe it has always been God’s desire for me to know the truth about Him and myself. Thankfully, as an adult kinder people entered into my life who treated me with care. One such person was a doctor that I worked for. After he prescribed me some anti-anxiety medication, not long after my father had passed away, this doctor told me that God was a loving father. Because he was a person who modeled this to me, I was able to consider that maybe God was not who I thought He was. He encouraged me to read a few Bible verses. As a result of reading these passages, I understood that God loved me and was nothing like my abusive father. I share more about this experience in this post.

However, even after this experience with God it didn’t take me long to forget what I had learned when another abusive person entered into my life. This time it was a religious leader. I had no idea of the unprocessed trauma in my life when I asked him for help, and became entangled in a toxic relationship with him for the next several years. Sadly, it is not uncommon for abuse victims to be abused again. I heard someone say recently that trauma that is not transformed is transferred. I have found this statement to be very true in my own life. However, the opposite is true as well. Trauma that is processed with a safe person is transformed and not transferred. Abusive cycles stop and true transformation can happen impacting future generations in a positive way for years to come. I believe this is God’s ultimate plan.

What do you believe about God?

When did you first start to believe this?

How does this belief cause you to feel about yourself and God?

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. John 2:24

3 Comments on “The Most Important Thing

  1. Pingback: Linkathon! - Phoenix Preacher

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