Breaking free

Marlene Winell, a psychologist and former fundamentalist Christian who coined the term Religious Trauma Syndrome, has identified ten nine 'steps to recovery' from harmful religion. She has advice for each stage, some of which may be helpful to ex-Christadelphians or people considering leaving the community. Read the full article at Journey Free


  1. Extremely good points (where was number 10?)and rundown. Number 7, coming out, is the hardest for this chickenheart.

  2. I thought the advice in 9 was good. "Embrace this life instead of worrying about the next".

  3. One of the most important steps for me was no. 8 - learning to feel like a full member of the human race, and realising that that I wasn't exempt from caring about issues that affect humanity and our long-term future. Not that I ever used my faith as an excuse for irresponsibility (e.g. on the environment), but Christadelphianism does tend to encourage apathy and fatalism on many global issues. Realising that we're probably on our own and no divine power is going to step in to save us creates a greater sense of personal and collective responsibility. Also greater positivity when you realise that all the good that has ever been done has come from human hearts.

  4. Hello Everyone - I left the Christos a few years ago and have no intention of going back to them or any other religious organisation.

    I was severely damaged by the bullying, secretive, dishonest and generally dysfunctional culture of the Christadelphians and the Christadelphian family I was brought up in. I have PTSD, with my upbringing and emotional abuse from the Christos and my Christo family playing a very significant part in traumatising me and ultimately, resulting in me being diagnosed with PTSD.

    I have had 18 months of specialist trauma therapy with two excellent, compassionate and knowledgeable therapist. I have sought the help of a psychiatrist and a psychologist (privately so as to get the best help and quickly).

    For anyone who has/is experiencing trauma, is experiencing anxiety - my heart goes out to you. I found this to be the most frightening and terrifying (I use the word frightening advisedly) experience of my life.

    Everyone asks this question so I will answer it in advance - no, PTSD does not only affect soldiers who have been to war and been under periods of threat of death. Emotional abuse and a shaming & blaming culture such as is found in the Christadelphians can do the job just as well!

    With regard to the Breaking Free article I agree with what has been said but add my own observations, which have helped me - they may help you. Talking to someone may help but be careful who you talk to - Christadelphians are known to gossip. In other words, choose carefully, someone who 'gets it' and has the self-awareness and willingness to listen to you - really, listen to you without, judging you or telling you what you 'should' do.

    'It's ok to not be ok' - the Christadelphian culture looks for perfection - this leaves no room for admitting that you find life tough or that you are really struggling. As part of the healing process it is crucial, that you very regularly say how you feel. For me, I did not know how I felt and trauma therapy is really helping me to identify my feelings. It's ok to cry and it's ok to laugh as long as it is genuine, real and authentic. And quite often, I felt numb, stuck, terrified or did not know what I was feeling - but it's ok to not be ok.

    Practice self-compassion on a daily basis. Have plenty of sleep (if you can sleep!)- if, you can sleep more, things improve. For example, treat your self to a massage - very good for trauma as trauma and PTSD often shows it self in the body. Seek help from wherever is needed.

    Like the article says, read about the subject of trauma. Learn to understand that the cold, unfeeling religion of the Christadelphians is not normal and very unhealthy. (I recall Christadelphians showing their emotions being referred to as "emotionalism" - how sick is that to think that showing your emotions is something to be avoided and an 'ism'?) Remember that trauma is as much about what was not given to you (lack of emotional warmth, no encouragement to build you up etc) as it is about any active abuse such as physical bullying.

    Learn about co-dependence, shame and false guilt and how that can keep you locked into not recovering. If needed, find support groups/therapy etc which will help you both understand and recover from this stuff. I have found both recovery groups and therapy enormously helpful in breaking free of this but, in small steps. Melody Beattie has written some excellent books on co-dependency. I highly recommend reading her books as the Christadelphian religion is hugely co-dependent and therefore sick!

    Co-dependency is also referred to as 'relationship addiction' and plays an essential part in all the other addictions - such as alcohol, drugs, sex etc.

    Hope this helps - will write more when I can.

    Mad Max

    Learn that what happens in emotional abuse is that what was done to you, you tend to do to yourself! That has been my experience and self-compassion and having people around you who build you up really helps.

    1. Thanks, Mad Max. I agree that it's hard in Christadelphia to admit that you're struggling with emotional or psychological issues. I think the general assumption is that 'true disciples' don't have these issues because the answers to all our problems can be found in the Bible. When people realise that's not true they can be left feeling confused and depressed. I'm glad you were able to find such good support.

      CDs do tend to focus on the intellect rather than the heart, and this deep-seated suspicion of emotion and self-expression is just one of many reasons why I left.

      The two things are probably linked: emotions are considered extraneous and unimportant, therefore they are denigrated and ignored, therefore emotional problems are also treated dismissively. Everything can be cured by more Bible study - a sound intellectual doctrine is all we need to be happy and healthy. Apparently.

    2. Mad Max, I can relate to much of what you said. The journey to recovery can be long and difficult but it sounds like you've made some good progress and discovered a lot about yourself too. Well done for taking the steps to seek help and look after yourself! I'm sure it has not been easy.

      When I left the religion I also saw a psychologist over the course of almost a year, to discuss many issues I had struggled through, including major depression. I've always been super critical of myself and this came up time and time again when chatting with the therapist.

      Life does improve over time, and the longer you're out of the Christadelphians the clearer you can see through their control mechanisms and weird beliefs. A lot of it only seemed normal because we grew up with it. Childhood indoctrination is the number 1 reason for all religions today.

      Take care, and always be kind to yourself :)

    3. Thom Jonas writes:
      "A lot of it (the indoctrination) seemed normal because we grew up with it".
      So true, and unless one can get, somehow, outside the bubble within which this indoctrination entraps a person, then it is difficult to view rationally Christadelphianism for what it is, its failings, and what it can do to a person.
      I hope Mad Max will emerge from the trauma a more restored to reality person, and enjoy what life can offer. It does seem that this is happening.

  5. Hello Everyone - and thanks so much, for the supportive comments they are so welcome.

    I have posted anonymously, because some of my family are still in the Christos and I want to protect my self from almost certain abuse from the Ecclesia I grew up in and from my own family! My trauma therapist was relieved that I had posted anonymously as she thought it dangerous to reveal who I am and I 100% agree with her! How sad, that this is the state of affairs but hey, I now live more and more, facing life how it really, is.

    Some books I highly, recommend for understanding the problem and how recovery happens: Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody - this covers the obvious forms of abuse including, intellectual and spiritual abuse. These two forms of abuse are particularly relevant to Ex Christadelphians. And there is an accompanying workbook Breaking Free which is equally excellent.

    One book I think is especially, relevant to Christadelphians in active Christadelphian addiction, is: Workaholics Anonymous Book of Recovery by Workaholics Anonymous. I am thinking in particular, of Christadelphians who get addicted to speaking and work (as I did) and, like all addictions things get worse in so many ways until you reach burnout. Some people tell me that I can't be serious about work being an addiction - I have never been more serious! In my own case, I worked compulsively for quite a few years at the end of which, my marriage was on the rocks, my GP thought I may never, work again and I wanted to take my own life for the first 3 months of being off sick!

    And here's the most interesting bit: the criteria for PTSD is identical, to that for burnout! For those of you who have had burnout, you have had PTSD! I realise this includes quite a few Christadelphians. If you do not get help, this stuff tends to get worse ... and worse ... and worse.

    I have Complex (multiple traumas over extended periods) PTSD. But I am now symptom free and for the first time in many years, excited about my life and the future. I have such, gratitude to being alive and no longer being terrified all the time etc.

    With respect to CPTSD & PTSD, the book widely recognised as the, definitive work is: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker.

    With respect to Building a New Life, I highly recommend The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson. This challenges the very concepts of what "being selfish" really means (and does not mean) and the author speaks from personal experience of major trauma in her life and her successful recovery.

    I started writing a book about this kind of stuff quite a few years ago, but only now, do I feel like I might be able to continue writing this book, with something worth saying about the problem and, recovery.

  6. Thanks Mad Max and all the very best for the future and your new life.


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