by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
Keep reminding yourself of how much God loves you. Choose a scripture, song, inspirational statement that you can remember throughout the day.
While I began this practice shortly after being tossed out of the church, I must credit my friend, Jennifer Boykin, with the term “Obsession Appointments.”
For years, I obsessed over what was happening to me at the hands of church leadership. It occupied my thoughts almost every moment of every day. It impacted my job, my family relationships, my friendships. I lived every moment with the fact that church leadership had determined that I was such a terrible person that I could not even rock babies in the nursery or bring treats to my sons’ youth group gatherings, let alone sing in the choir or even attend Sunday School classes. The result was that in all of my relationships and activities, I felt a scarlet letter was emblazoned on my chest for all the world to see.
I obsessed over every conversation the leadership had with me, telling me I could not attend, particpate, serve. I obsessed over every sermon and the ways in which they were directed at me, or, even worse, applied to everyone else except me – like sermons on grace and forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation. Sermons on going to those who have harmed you or whom you have harmed and making reparations. Sermons on serving out of reverence for Christ – something I was not allowed to do and so could not fulfill in the church.
I also obsessed over every attempt that I had made to resolve the situation. Every email that I sent asking for meetings, begging for help, asking for forgiveness. I obsessed over every look and interaction from the pastor and other leadership. I talked my husband’s ear off (yes, he’s a saint), my best friend’s ear off, a couple of new acquaintance’s ears off. Still, I obsessed.
During those first few weeks after being told that we were not to return to the church, as I began to change my thinking about what God really thought about me and felt toward me, I also began to realize that my obsession with all of those things was like an addiction. An addiction that I needed to curb if I was going to heal.
So, I started limiting the amount of time I would allow myself to think about what had happened or even to talk about it. I started with only allowing myself to think about it for 15 minutes while driving to work (I have a 40 minute commute), 15 minutes over my lunch break, 15 minutes on my way home, and a 15 minute conversation with my husband. After that, I would turn on the radio or music, remind myself of the brain changing scripture or thought I was focusing on that day, or busy myself with something that would occupy my mind in such a way that it was difficult for me to think about my obsession – like reading a book or magazine, talking to someone who was unaware of my church experience, preparing for work, etc.
Every few days, I eliminated one of my obsession appointments until the day came when the only time I had one was when I would talk to someone about my experience – usually because they needed the encouragement of knowing they were not alone in their own spiritually abusive experience.
Now, I usually only think about my spiritual abuse when I am working on a blog post, reading other’s experiences, or helping others. It’s no longer an obsession for me to replay the spiritually abusive situations that happened to me over and over in my mind. My thoughts about what happened are focused on helping others.
If you are like me and have been obsessing to the point that it affects more of you life than you would like, or that is healthy, consider limiting your thinking to obsession appointments. Make them at times that you aren’t doing other things – like I did with my commute and during my lunch times at work and dinner with my husband. Then gradually eliminate them. Replace them with beautiful, meaningful, or even mindless and mundane things like television.
If you have struggled with obsessing over the spiritual abuse you have experienced, please consider sharing in the comments below. We can all encourage one another in this journey of healing.
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