What Is Spiritual Abuse?

Photo: getty
What Is Spiritual Abuse?

Spiritual abuse is one of the hardest types to overcome because it involves a person's faith and belief system.

Most commonly, spiritual abuse can be found in a religious organization in which a leader creates a culture of shame and control over members of the congregation, as explained by the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

What is spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse is an attack on the mind and spirit.

RELATED: The Agony Of Being Spiritually Abused By Religious Narcissists

Spiritual abuse breaks a person down and strips them of their autonomy and self-respect.

Spiritual abuse happens most commonly in religious organizations that become cult-like.

Their spiritual leaders have lost focus of what they preach and instead take to abusing their position of power.

There are many kinds of abuse — physical, emotional, mental. But there’s one you might not even know about — spiritual abuse.

This type of abuse can happen to anyone at any time and it is to be taken as seriously as some of the more well-known abuses.

Regardless of relationship status or connection to a spiritual (or religious) world, this kind of abuse may present itself in your life at some point or another.

That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize the signs.

It’s important to note that spiritual abuse can go along with other types of abuse, but the rest falls under the main abuse which is spiritual.

RELATED: My Abusive Relationships Gave Me Dating PTSD (Plus, 12 Signs Of PTSD Caused By Relationship Trauma)​

For example, the Catholic faith has faced accusations of priests who have molested altar boys.

Catholic spiritual abuse that leads to scandal would be an example of both physical and spiritual abuse.

Not only have they performed an illegal sexual act, but they have created spiritual turmoil in the victims.

Most likely, these boys lost a connection to God due to the fact that they have been hurt by someone who is supposed to represent their faith.

Any person who inflicts damage upon your spiritual or religious outlook is considered to be spiritually abusing you.

This abuse does not discriminate based on religious organization or spiritual movement.

Despite the general way of thinking, spiritual abuse is also a possibility in relationships.

RELATED: How To Spot The Signs Of An Abusive Relationship Using The 'Power And Control Wheel'

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, signs of spiritual abuse in a relationship include:

  • Ridiculing or insulting the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
  • Preventing your partner from practicing their beliefs
  • Using your partner’s beliefs to manipulate or shame them
  • Using religious texts or beliefs to minimize or rationalize abusive behaviors such as physical, financial, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Forcing the children to be raised in a faith that your partner has not agreed to

RELATED: Everything I Wish I'd Known Before I Fell For An Abusive Narcissist

Although you may be brought up differently than your partner, it’s important to create mutual respect for each other’s spiritual or religious beliefs.

Parents can also spiritually abuse their children, maybe without even noticing.

Good Therapy states that encouraging single-minded thinking and not allowing your child to explore other religious practices is abusive.

You should not force your child to adhere to certain beliefs if they don’t want to themselves.

As a parent, you must foster a safe environment that permits self discovery.

Likewise, if your parents are guilty of pushing their own beliefs onto you, recognize that you have the freedom to accept your own teachings.

Some other ways spiritual abuse reveals itself is through people who tell you how to feel in certain situations or not being able to explore original thoughts.

Re-evaluate what it means when someone creates a war between you and your mind. “Any time we split off from conscious awareness of our own inner world, we are being spiritually abused,” as said by Psychology Today.

RELATED: 7 Phrases Master Manipulators Use — And How To Shut Them Down​

What to do after you’ve recognized you’re being spiritually abused

If you feel in danger, it’s necessary to get help immediately.

Talk to someone you trust or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline which is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233.

Perhaps the situation isn’t as serious. If that’s the case, it may be time for a sincere conversation with the person who is responsible for the spiritual abuse.

It’s possible that the person isn’t aware that what they’re doing is affecting you.

Talk to your significant other about the way their words and actions are making you feel, for example.

It can be challenging to address wrongdoings of our parents. Nonetheless, they should know that their pressure is becoming too much to handle.

The hope is that whoever you’re confronting will receive what you have to say and want to make a change.

Through your open and honest communication, they will be able to see that they have made a mistake.

You must also be prepared for the opposite. They could be upset and unwilling to stop the spiritual abuse.

Advertisement You deserve to be happy! Get help today from the comfort of your home from BetterHelp, the largest therapy service, to change your life for the better.

If this happens, it might be beneficial for you to assess their importance in your life.

Although you probably don’t want to remove someone from your life, you must be weary of those who are being unkind to you — spiritual abuse is no exception.

RELATED: 15 Undeniable Warning Signs Your Relationship Is Abusive​

What to do after you’ve recognized you’re being spiritually abusive

Sometimes the last thing we want to do is admit when we’re wrong.

However, it shows maturity and growth. Plus, if we really want someone to feel loved in the relationship we’re in, we must make sure we’re doing our part.

There’s nothing saying you can’t correct your mistakes and start over.

If the person you have spiritually abused is willing to forgive, hope is not lost and things can be mended.

Remember that your partner has the right to different spiritual or religious beliefs from your own.

Approach their beliefs with an open mind and perspective that’s ready to learn.

If you have been spiritually abusing a friend, child, or someone you mentor, it will be significant to form a dialogue that allows for genuine understanding.

RELATED: 7 Things That Look Like Love (But Are Actually Emotional Abuse)

You can right your wrongs and stop the abuse.

Apologize for what has occurred and ensure that it won’t happen again.

Begin to recognize any negative thoughts or feelings that could lead to further abuse of the spirit.

Don’t discredit the power of spiritual abuse. It’s just as serious as other forms of abuse and should not be overlooked or diminished in consequence.

If you feel in danger or know someone who is, get help immediately by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233.

RELATED: My Husband Raped Me On Our Wedding Night — And I Didn't Realize It​

Isabella Pacinelli is a writer who covers relationship, self-love, spirituality, and entertainment topics.

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!