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I can’t find peace till it burns.

When we’ve been hurt by people who represent church or God, it’s so common to struggle to be ok while they continue on, seemingly unaffected, successful and fine. It can feel like we can’t find peace till it all burns to the ground.

That sounds dramatic and perhaps a little petty, but I understand the anger, the sense of injustice and power imbalance. I’ve felt it too. I’ve written about it before.

I find myself with friends or clients where these sorts of conversations come up, “why should X person, group, denomination be allowed to continue on large retainers, while people are struggling to put food on the table?” Or, “How can these people continue on, so smug and saccharine sweet on social media when we know their private lives are falling apart and they’re dodgy af?” And this one from people close to the various inner circles, often behind muffled, nervous laughter, “Maybe I’ll go to the media, do you think I should?”

When it’s friends I have these conversations with we keep it light so as not to drive ourselves batty but there’s no shortage of cuss words and references to punching things.

When it’s clients we talk about the anger.

We talk about how anger is the right response to having a boundary violated. How it’s a sign you’re not being treated in ways you deserve, that it’s possible what you’ve experienced is abuse. Anger can stir us to action too.

We talk about how it’s understandable, the desire to burn it all down, to kick a hole in the wall, and how usually the healthiest response is to stomp around the block or do a high intensity work out if you can. Even punching the air or singing loudly can help.

We so often believe and are taught that anger is unhealthy and needs to be managed and suppressed. But anger is human and is good information. If we’re not used to feeling it, we can mistake it for rage and think we’re going too far when really we’re testing out what it could feel like to express what we need and speak up when we’ve been hurt.

Bottom line, when those in power hurt us and betray our trust, and stay in power, enjoying people’s support and continuing on like nothing has happened, it can be crazy making.

Turning to face ourselves, filling our cups, shutting down the tabloid accounts and avoiding drama can help. We don’t often have much control over what others do or whether or not they get what we think they deserve. Releasing ourselves from that can be so freeing. Find someone to talk to and some go-to self-soothing tools that work for you.

Try this vagus nerve exercise next time you’re feeling angry. Take a deep breath in and working with your particular body’s range, curl up in a ball as you slowly exhale. Chin to chest, hands tightened as fists, arms crossed and in, knees to chest to the best of your capacity/ability. You could do this on the floor or sitting on a chair. Hold this pose for 10-30 seconds. Keep breathing deeply and exhaling slowly. Then open yourself up and stretch your arms out wide. Repeat up to three times.

Working with the vagus nerve, (part of our parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for how we feel, and our emotional agility) helps us have greater agency over our emotions and brings us back to a sense of feeling grounded. It also increases our emotional range so we can become more comfortable with feeling.

Acknowledge your anger, your pain and disappointment and try to name the specific emotions you’re feeling. What happened to you wasn’t ok. Then release those that hurt you to the process of life, focussing on your own freedom and wholeness.

If you’re struggling with the impact of religious trauma or high control religion, reach out. I see clients online Australia wide & in Marrickville in-person.

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