Processing Spiritual Abuse Through Therapeutic Photography

I took these images after listening to The Faith and Mental Wellness Podcast episode 42–an interview with Dr. Diane Langberg about spiritual abuse. This podcast was incredibly encouraging and insightful for me. It gave me a lot to think about, consider and process. Personally I felt encouraged, understood and uplifted by Dr. Langberg’s voice, words and compassionate message. And, for me, it brought up some challenging, heartbreaking, painful and truthfully empowering thoughts and experiences. I was having difficulty coping with some of the thoughts, memories, and feelings and somehow I found myself processing this through creating images with my digital and film cameras. The film photo is part of my Project 365 on film and that roll of film is still in my camera at the moment. I will share the digital images below. This process of creating images in relation to the experience of spiritual abuse in the context of the Christian church was very grounding and helped some of the unpleasant feelings move through me in that moment as I thought, focused, selected aperture and shutter speed, planned what I wanted to communicate, and moved with my camera to create specific effects. It also gave me a small voice to hopefully help share awareness and education about the painful experience of spiritual abuse.

Abuse takes away our voice. This is one attempt to reclaim my own voice and perhaps encourage fellow survivors to reclaim their voice.

For these images I used the Bible I’ve carried to church for approximately the past 15 years. Through spiritual abuse things become blurry, out of focus, unclear. The words of Jesus (the red letters in my Bible) get twisted, distorted, and blurred. It’s like I can’t see straight—telling myself, “I must be the problem, the crazy one…not the church, it’s a church so it can’t be bad or wrong.” I question myself, question my own sanity.

I am not really able to adequately express this experience in words. I suppose that’s part of the reason why I created the photos. For me it’s a painful, heartbreaking experience that I cannot fully explain with my words.

If this has been your experience, if you can relate to this, my heart goes out to you.

I will leave you a few quotes from The Faith and Mental Wellness Podcast, Episode 42: Signs of Spiritual Abuse and Beginning Recovery

“Abuse destroys what God intended us to be.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“Abuse typically shuts up voice—silences our voice and destroys safety of relationship.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“If someone hurts you and you say ‘ouch’ in some way and they don’t listen—that’s abuse.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“We fail our shepherds when we do not speak the truth—we enter into it [abuse] with them.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“You can’t be abused in any way and NOT be confused about God—this is a normal reaction.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“You are meant to have your own thoughts—don’t let that [abuse] stop you from having your own thoughts—it will take time, and that’s ok—God is patient.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“You need to be rooted in Christ—not in any institution.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“Getting out of the abusive environment and re-learning helps you grow in deeper ways than ever before.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

“Calling out abuse in the church is not anti-church—it’s bringing healing to the church.”
-Dr. Diane Langberg

Photos taken January 12, 2021
Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm f/1.4

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