Why I No Longer Condone Inner Healing Prayer Ministry, Part 2: Reasons This Happens
Before I write about the reasons, first, you need to know about the aftermath. In case MF or AF ever read this, I want them to know. This is the aftermath, and these things are still true after over a year’s worth of time, space, and processing.
The aftermath is a no-man’s land where I still miss them intensely and don’t quite know how to wrap my mind around the fact that THEY ARE NO LONGER IN MY LIFE WHEN THEY SAID THEY WOULD BE.
The aftermath is me – and often my husband – fielding questions from my littles as to where “Mama MF” is, or when they can talk to her, or why they can’t text her. There are no easy answers to these questions, and we shouldn’t be the ones having to answer them anyway.
The aftermath is having a picture of MF and AF, folded up, in my wallet, that says “I love you!” that’s been there for 3 years now (ever since whenever they sent it to me in the mail along with something else) because I can’t make myself throw it away. It hurts too much to look at it, but it would hurt worse if I put it in the trash. I will either throw it away – if at some point I give up hope that things can be resolved with them – or I won’t. I can’t possibly figure out which would be more painful.
The aftermath is trying to figure out a way to explain to my husband why his borrowing of the coffee mug that THEY gave me (with their ministry logo on it) nearly causes me an anxiety attack because THAT MUG IS SPECIAL BECAUSE IT WAS FROM THEM. Even I know how irrational (and probably stupid) this sounds. I try to say to myself: They don’t love me anymore. Maybe they never did. But I still guard The Mug, and anything else they gave me (which is luckily not that many things) with a pathological level of reverence. This makes no sense, and I’ve tried asking myself for an explanation but I don’t have one.
These things – these gifts – are simply souvenirs now. Souvenirs of a time when I felt like someone gave a shit when no one else seemed to. Guess it’s a good thing we got that sorted. Maybe one day I’ll be ready to let them go. Maybe I won’t.
The aftermath is when I don’t even know what I believe about God anymore, because MF and AF were – supposedly – the two women in my life who were closer to God than anyone else I had met. And if this is how God treats people, or if He is okay with this, or if He has no word of correction or exhortation for these women… and if this is what people closest to God do to people who are hurting… then I want no part of it.
I no longer believe in hell (which is somewhat coincidental and not directly related to this situation), but if hell did exist I have already lived it several times over, so I don’t have any interest in worrying about a hell that might still be coming for me. (Bring it on, lightweight.)
The aftermath is the mockingjay pendant MF gave me that hangs from my rearview mirror (because I AM THE MOCKINGJAY, obvs; I am Katniss). I can’t take it down.
The aftermath is all the songs I can’t listen to without remembering the exact place and emotional state I was in when MF introduced me to that artist or that song. Worship music. They make me ache for her, for the mother she was to me, for the mother I can never have.
The aftermath is when I continually have imaginary conversations with MF (and sometimes AF, though I am less concerned with her) in which I reiterate variations of It’s okay to go “I’m sorry, I got overwhelmed. Shit was blowing up for me behind the scenes and I made some bad choices and it hurt you and that’s the last thing I ever would have wanted to happen and I’m so fucking sorry.” Because I would be able to accept that. LET ME BE YOUR FRIEND. LET ME FORGIVE YOU. GIVE ME A CHANCE TO GIVE YOU THAT BECAUSE I WILL. But it’s not okay to go “You misunderstood, we didn’t do that to you.” It’s not okay to refuse to deal with the mess of me THAT YOU MADE. And just FYI, I still worry about you. Even though YOU hurt ME, I am still worried that things will not go well with the board of directors. Although it would be more just for things to NOT go well, I am worried they will say hurtful but true things to you and you will not be okay. I don’t want you to suffer but I do want you to learn… and maybe grow… from all this.
And then I wake back up to reality and know that those conversations probably won’t ever happen and I feel lost all over again.
So here are some reasons my story, and the types of things that happened to me within a ministry setting, is frighteningly common.
I have personally observed the following things to be true specifically about conservative evangelical Christianity. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and these are listed in no particular order.
Please understand that I cannot speak for other religions or other expressions of this religion. However, having said that, if you observe any of these issues in any setting or situation, be very very cautious about associating with the people involved.
1. There is a power dynamic set up from the very beginning, where the minister is “one up” because they are ministering and the recipient is “one down” because they are “sick.”
Oftentimes this starts innocently enough; when someone seeks help (especially for an emotional problem) it is assumed that the person from whom they are seeking help is more emotionally healthy in that particular area and thus has something valuable to contribute.
That’s reasonable. You don’t go to an alcoholic to get sober.
But unfortunately this also puts already-vulnerable people in a position in which they can easily be exploited. Many ministers let this power go to their head, and they are unwilling to entertain the idea that they might be wrong – in thought, intuition, or opinion – while in relationship with the person to whom they are ministering. If the person receiving ministry dares question or disagree with them, their opinion or concern can be written off because they are the “sick” one; the “crazy” one.
2. Inner healing ministry is advertised like it’s a product that Christians need, but like any product, the basis for its appeal is on the idea that you are “broken” or “damaged.”
I don’t want to go too deeply into the concept of universal multiplicity, but I would encourage you to hop over to Beauty After Bruises and read You Did Not Shatter.
There’s this idea taught in a variety of settings that little kids – babies even – are born with a unified and cohesive personality and that trauma shatters it. But the problem is that there is actually no neuroscience to prove or disprove that. And by observation and experience and even basic logic it’s quite unlikely that that’s true (or even possible).
People can be observed at every stage of life as being not just one, but a collection, of ego states at any given time and at different times and in different situations. The idea that ANYONE is a single unified personality – ever – is mostly a social construct. We see people as “one” unified ego state because that is what we are socialized to see. That is how we are raised to interpret people. But it’s an illusion.
People move in and out of differing and opposing ego states all the time. It’s far more likely – IMO – that people are born as a collection of ego states and trauma prevents them from coming together as a team.
Whereas healthy parenting – for those lucky enough to experience it – helps the person learn not to put up walls between their ego states, and dysfunctional/insensitive/abusive parenting teaches the person to wall off the aspects of themselves that are categorized as problematic.
But you probably won’t find any inner healing people who believe or teach that, because they can’t sell you a product if they can’t convince you you’re broken.
Probably one of the quietest – but largest – breakthroughs I had after the fallout with MF and AF came when I told MF in an email: “I have outgrown the need to let other people define me in terms of how ‘broken’ or how ‘fixed’ they think I am.”
Framing others as damaged, once again, automatically casts the ministers in the role of undamaged and reinforces the power dynamic mentioned above.
And the problem is that people are out there teaching these things – that we are damaged, that we are broken, that we have “shattered” – as if THEY KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE. There are teachers out there teaching about all these different facets of inner healing and presenting things as known facts, when they are simply opinions, at best.
I don’t have a problem with someone standing in front of a crowd and saying “I believe x y or z might be possible and here are the things I’ve observed that make me think so but there is actually no measurable proof,” but I do have a problem with someone portraying themselves as a knowledgable teacher and teaching things they can’t possibly know for sure. Once again, it sets up the teacher as being the exclusive source of information and the students can ONLY learn it from THEM.
I can’t count the number of times I was told when immersed in inner healing prayer ministry that I was “too broken” or “too damaged” to help anyone in my current state, and was vehemently discouraged from even entertaining that thought until I was “totally” healed. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was fucked up. For a lot of years. And I wasn’t exactly actively pursuing a career in inner healing ministry during that time — I had my hands full just trying to survive from day to day. But at those infrequent times when I did mention being interested in using what I learned as I healed to help others at some future date, it was made to sound as if only the ministers were qualified to judge when I was healed “enough” to be of use to anyone else. (For your edification, this is bullshit.) I’m not arguing with the idea that a person needs a certain level of stability and self-awareness before trying to reach out to anyone else as the helper. Those things are important, both in terms of avoiding sawing the limb off that they’re hanging onto, and to avoid doing damage to anyone else. But I do take issue with the thought that the prayer minister is the only one who can be the judge of someone else’s emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
I am both self-aware enough to know my limits, and also emotionally intelligent enough to know what I can and can’t offer to other people. I’ve been a moderator in The Dissociative Initiative for several years now and I know when to get involved with hot topics and when to take a hard pass. And as far as I know, my blog has been marginally helpful to many people – even if only to assure them they are not alone – the entire time I was being ministered to.
All this aside, it’s just one more area where the idea is reinforced that an abuse victim cannot trust their own judgment. Granted, our judgment can be skewed – years of trauma and abuse can do that to you – but the solution isn’t to make us totally dependent on someone else. The solution is to strengthen our own ability to make good decisions and trust ourselves.
3. Bad boundaries. Like, really, really bad boundaries.
Conservative evangelical Christianity sucks ass when it comes to boundaries. It really does. Some churches – including one I was part of – actually teach bad boundaries as a core doctrine (citing Galatians 6:2 where the Bible says we should carry each other’s burdens). Once I started actually forming and enforcing healthy boundaries, I couldn’t un-see all the areas where Christianity has really, really bad ones. For instance, when I invited my neighbors over for dinner for the first time, after having just moved to the neighborhood a month prior, the wife immediately began telling me extremely personal details about her life. When we’d only just met. She seemed to have no problem with this because it was part of – as she told me – her “testimony.” And I used to be largely the same way. Being an introvert, I may not have been as openly detailed as some of my extroverted “spiritual family members,” (air quotes) but I used to believe that people were entitled to intensely personal information simply because we were quote-unquote spiritual family. Only in retrospect does this seem extremely strange. There are many more examples I could give you, but instead I will defer you to this article.
As it pertains to Part 1 of my story, boundaries were screwy from the very beginning, and I couldn’t see it because it just seemed normal to me at the time. MF knew me for years before I was ever a ministry client. That alone would have probably caused a psychotherapist to recuse herself from being my therapist (at least, according to my most recent one). But because this is ministry and not psychology, that boundary was crossed. Having the boundary blurred between what kind of relationship we had was the next major blunder. Was I her spiritual daughter? Was I a client? When could I contact her? What was okay and what wasn’t, as far as the nature of our interactions – not just from my end, but from hers? If she had been a psychotherapist and I were a client, those boundaries would have been made known – and adhered to – from the beginning. Because it was a ministry, they weren’t in either case. Ironically, healthy boundaries was a topic that MF and AF taught about regularly from behind the podium. Yet neither of them necessarily seem all that great about applying those teachings to their personal lives.
4. Cognitive dissonance is normal.
Conservative evangelical Christianity is founded on cognitive dissonance. God loves you, but if you don’t do what he wants he will send you to hell. You are made in God’s image yet you are a piece of shit because the first man and woman disobeyed eons ago and you inherited the consequences. God loved his son but chose to kill him for your sake. Etc. They pick and choose which verses should be taken literally, which should be taken figuratively, and which should be disregarded altogether. The way the Bible has been translated (mostly by white men of affluence, by the way) has rendered it full of contradictions, and this is presented as normal. Anyone raised in conservative evangelical Christianity is just so used to the cognitive dissonance, they barely even notice it. This is what allows them to believe one thing and live a life that directly contradicts what they say they believe. It undermines their basic humanity by eroding their conscience.
I believe that came into play with MF and AF (although I have no direct way of knowing, so please understand this is just my opinion). In a person who does not have a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance, they would easily see the hypocrisy and utter immorality of telling another human being that they love them, yet sending them into life-threatening danger after every session, when they had the resources to step in and intervene.
5. Being challenged is written off as being “persecuted.”
Rather than genuinely considering another person’s questions, disagreement, or criticism, those statements are written off as “persecution.” In fact, the more of any of those things you receive, the more you are considered “being attacked” by the enemy and it is taken as a sign that you are surely doing so many things RIGHT. Do you see the closed loop that this creates?
6. There is no accountability within the ministry setting.
I won’t say this is true of every single ministry within existence, but I will say that I’ve never observed any ministry – inner healing or otherwise – that had any genuine accountability of any consequence. In the one in question (that I was involved with), since they are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, they have a board of directors — but everyone on that board was chosen by MF and AF. So of course they’re going to choose people that already approve of what they’re doing and are very unlikely to question them or pursue conflict resolution for the best interest of the opposite party.
7. The role of the minister is confused with the role of God in the healing process.
I’m sure sometimes this happens innocently, but sometimes it is perpetuated by the minister themselves. The idea of God healing the person becomes intermixed (or subtly replaced) by the idea that the minister is healing the person, and it can often be pinned on the minister’s anointing or ability or even the closeness of their relationship with God. I was talking with a friend of mine about this just the other day. This is perhaps why people are afraid to question a minister – because (whether the minister encourages this idea or not, and don’t tell me none of them do) questioning the minister or ministry becomes equated with questioning God.
It doesn’t help that many times the things the minister says or does are reported to be directly inspired by God from their personal meditation time. They will claim God directly told them x y or z, and that’s where they learned it. What is someone supposed to say to that? How is someone supposed to disagree with it? Where does human error and lack of self-awareness of one’s shortcomings come into play?
Even in the process of attempting to resolve this situation with MF and AF and ultimately having to go to their board of directors, several people have called me “brave.” Which confused me. Because telling the truth and refusing to tolerate any more gaslighting or abuse is just part of my own principles of self-love and self-respect that I try to live by, nowadays. According to my own moral compass, the choices I had to make were clear to me. But perhaps the perception of being brave was coming from the inability of others to stand up to people like MF and AF, because of the association with it of questioning God himself. I don’t really know.
8. There is a certain intrigue/mystery/elevated status involved with being willing to work with people who have DID, especially if SRA is involved.
I don’t know if this played into what happened with MF and AF. But I have known it to be true in other circles. The idea that you have the skill and the maturity to handle a case of DID/SRA is almost a status symbol in the realm of inner healing. We are the ultimate trophy, the sign that you have truly “arrived,” and are Good At This. If you can help a DID/SRA heal, you can do anything. Or so people seem to believe. It’s gross, but it’s true.
So these are just a few reasons that shit like this goes down. I’m sure many more could be added. This is not actually meant to sound like a diatribe against all of Christianity. But there are problems with the conservative evangelical strain…namely, that it’s toxic and dysfunctional. EDIT: I was going to write a Part 3 for all this, but have decided not to.
Thanks for sticking around and sticking with me.