by Nanice Ellis
Freedom is a very strong value for most people, but freedom can be
misleading in many ways.
You may appear to be free on the
outside, especially if you "come and go" as you please, but if you
are repressed by any type of controlling organization, no matter how
well-meaning, you may be living in a virtual prison with invisible
Although this article is written for anyone experiencing religious
repression, it is not intended to point fingers or judge spiritual
beliefs. Rather, the intention is to identify the serious
repercussions of repression, while also enlightening a path to
The first step is recognizing the
dynamics of organizational repression and how it seamlessly operates
through a system of disempowerment.
No doubt, many religious organizations use various forms of
repression in order to control church members so that they obey
religious doctrine, but the irony is that repression does not stop
people from indulging in "sinful behavior" and, in fact, it often
results in the exact opposite.
Statistics and direct experience clearly
demonstrate that the more rules and consequences a society has, the
more "illicit behavior" develops.
Although this applies to any religion
where repression is pervasive, and we are not just talking about any
one religion, the statistics found in Utah, USA exemplifies the cost
of religious repression.
Although Utah is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, it is
actually most known for its predominant religious culture.
On the surface, there is a strong
emphasis on family values, morals, and ethics - most people are kind
and appear relatively happy, but if you look at statistics, you
quickly discover that appearances are drastically deceiving, and, in
fact, countless "white picket fences" cloak dysfunctional dynamics
that top the national average.
Even though over 60% of Utah's residents are Latter-Day Saints
the Mormon Church) and Mormonism forbids the use of
drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and even tea, Utah has
one of the highest rates of prescription drug addiction in the USA,
as well as related deaths caused by opiate overdose.
The church also strongly emphasizes family values, and yet Utah's
domestic violence homicide rate is 13 percent higher than the rest
of the nation with domestic violence homicides accounting for 47
percent of all homicides in Utah in 2015.
Utah's child abuse statistics are also
among the highest in the country, and, in fact, statistics show that
more children are sexually abused in Utah than any other US state.
Taking all this into consideration, it is not surprising that a
study by Mental Health America ranked Utah the most depressed state,
which explains why Utah has the highest rate of anti-depressant drug
use in the USA.
Sadly, a devastating symptom of Utah's excessively
high prevalence of depression is the tripling of its youth suicide
rate since just 2007.
And, if all that is still not enough,
with similarly high statistics on rape and sexual assault, Google
search trends have ranked Utah the #1 porn capital of America, which
is quite astounding when you consider that the Mormon religion
condemns any sexual conduct outside marital relations, including
pornography and even masturbation.
Although there may be ways to rationalize these statistics, they
inevitably point to a serious issue that demonstrates the
repercussions of repression.
Many other studies conclude that the
fall-out of repression commonly results in some form of escape that
inevitably leads to an underworld of shame and secrecy, involving,
As we explore the dynamics of religious repression, please remember
that we are not singling out any one religion - we are talking about
any religion that promotes judgment, obedience and therefore,
Repression virtually always operates through a system of fear that
relies on self-judgment to drive self-regulation.
This means that
church members are taught to judge themselves according to religious
doctrine, and consequently, their fear of disobedience is intended
to prevent "ungodly behavior."
However, this ultimately backfires because it is human nature to be
attracted to those forbidden behaviors, and, therefore, those
behaviors become compelling.
As a result, one of two things occurs:
We suppress our desires, but
suppression often results in psychological disorders such as
anxiety and depression
We act on our desires in
secrecy, but the shame and secrecy of indulging in a
forbidden behavior can create an addiction to the behavior
or cause other types of dysfunctions
When it comes to repression, every road
leads to, and from, disempowerment - and when people feel powerless,
their behaviors become dysfunctional.
The Purpose of
Many religions began with pure intentions but whenever there is a
hierarchy of power and the potential for monetary gain, the religion
inevitably becomes a business and its church may even become a
Although local church leaders may have
high spiritual ethics, they don't always realize that they work for
a business and that many of the church's rules and bylaws are
intended to perpetuate profits.
Just as retail stores need buyers, all
religions need believers - followers - and this means that it is
necessary to foster a parish that blindly follows the faith and
doesn't raise questions that could threaten the (financial)
integrity of the organization - and therefore, repression is a
necessary component to its survival.
Most local church leaders are completely unaware of the consequences
that inevitably spring forth from religious repression, and because
they have no idea that repression leads to the behaviors it is meant
to inhibit, they unknowingly perpetuate the very "sins" they
When religious rules undermine the values they are meant to
preserve, those rules are self-sabotaging and obsolete.
The dynamics of repression are meant to be invisible from within the
organization, but when you observe from outside, the formula for
repression is easy to identify.
Step 1: Powerlessness
When a church is built on the premise that people are
spiritually powerless without the religion, and must depend on
the religion's leaders, and/or following religious doctrine in
order to have a relationship with God, it sets the stage for
If you were born into a religion or any structured organization,
you probably had no awareness of transferring your power to this
entity, simply because you modeled your parents and other
abiding members, and more than likely, you had no idea that you
even had any power to give in the first place.
Nonetheless, any time we believe something has more power than
us, power over us or the power to provide something we think we
need, we instinctively relinquish power - inadvertently giving
our intrinsic power to that external source.
Once we give it away, organizations
can use it to control us any way they desire, and in most cases,
that powerlessness makes us blind to the very dynamic that
However, an external entity can never repress or imprison you
unless you give it your power, and, in fact, it has no power
over you without using your power against you.
Step 2: Conditional Worth
Through formal and informal religious teachings, church members
are taught strict conditions and rules that must be consistently
met in order to be worthy of church membership, family inclusion
and good standing in the community.
Acceptance and approval are the
rewards for obedience, but in order to meet the rules and live
up to the conditions, natural authentic expression must be
And when expression is repressed, disempowerment
Due to unrealistic expectations, it is impossible to meet all
the rules and conditions all the time, which results in
inevitable failure and consequently, shame.
But just the thought of disobeying
religious doctrine is enough to induce feelings of guilt,
impending regret, and fear of rejection, and, in fact, church
members are systematically programmed to feel unworthy to such a
deep extent that even secret shortcomings induce shame - in some
faiths, they must even be secretly ‘confessed' to the church
organization - and this allows religions to control each member
Preying upon the fear of unworthiness is a powerful strategy for
repression because there is no greater manipulation than
teaching people that their worth is conditioned on following
rules, especially when you consider that human beings
instinctively fear that unworthiness will lead to "tribal shame"
and abandonment, and our primitive instincts associate this with
the fear of death.
Furthermore, according to some religions, shame follows us into
the next dimension, making us unworthy of eternal salvation or
other heavenly rewards, and depending on the religion, if you
are deemed unworthy, your punishment for "bad behavior" might be
eternal damnation where your loved ones go to a heavenly
afterworld while you go somewhere else.
No doubt, the horrific fear of "tribal shame" and eternal
punishment perpetuates powerlessness and repression, but even
holy promises and impending dread are often not enough without
two more steps in the formula.
Step 3: System of Judgment
As parishioners portray an acceptable image and conform to the
standards that are dictated by the organization, they play the
game according to the rules by fulfilling roles, performing
required duties, paying dues or tithing (donations), and acting
according to expectations.
In order to make sure everyone is
complying, an invisible system of judgment is in place.
Although usually unspoken, church members are expected to keep
each other in line through "mutual judgment", which means that
your church community of friends and family are always watching
you (and you are always watching them) and if you break the
rules for any reason, someone you know might report you to
church officials who deal with you directly through punishment
or even rejection from the church.
But possibly even worse than
excommunication, your "sins" are publicized through community
gossip, resulting in "tribal shame" and feelings of
worthlessness that can cause deep emotional trauma, and with no
support from those closest to you, the repercussions of being
judged ultimately manifest - as demonstrated in the kind of
statistics I mentioned earlier.
One important thing to keep in mind is that that fear of "tribal
shame" (being shamed by one's community) always makes people
conceal behaviors that could be judged, and this leads to
secrecy - a device of disempowerment and division.
Step 4: The Invisible Power of
Virtually all dysfunctional behaviors and dangerous social
dynamics are held together by secrecy, and, in fact, the formula
for repression creates the space where an ‘underworld' of shame
and secrecy can grow unnoticed.
If no one is openly talking about their issues and everyone is
hiding their real thoughts and feelings because they are afraid
of being judged or reported, each individual silently believes
that he/she is the only one with any problems or concerns, and
believing you are the only one increases the fear of judgment
and consequences, thereby perpetuating more secrecy.
Even though you might be part of a
"tight-knit" religious community, when you have to hide your
real self or face intolerable judgment and possible rejection
for speaking openly, it is very common to feel all alone in your
own confined world - and this often results in anxiety,
depression and suicidal ideation.
Even though churches pretend to shun secrecy, they really depend
on it to keep church members repressed, and, in fact, the
Invisible Power of Secrecy is the glue that holds the whole
Without secrecy, large groups of
people could not be repressed - only through a system of secrecy
and separation can an organization maintain the blind compliance
of its followers.
While repression creates a world of secrecy, secrecy perpetuates
the cycle of repression.
from Repression - The Journey to Freedom
Recovering from religious repression is a journey from
disempowerment to freedom, and it usually takes a fair amount of
time - but in the end, nothing is of greater value.
The journey begins when you choose freedom over repression and you
acknowledge that you have the right and ability to reclaim your
But, you must do it for yourself, and
you must be prepared to overcome resistance from those who are
invested in your repression, as well as those who are also
programmed to be repressed.
The following guide is intended to assist you on this journey:
Disentangle Your Worth
As long as your worth is conditioned on meeting unrealistic
religious expectations, you will consequently give your power
away, so it is essential to begin the process of claiming your
worth, and this requires you to release the need for external
approval and acceptance.
Deep inside, you already know that
you are unconditionally worthy, and you do not need approval or
acceptance from anyone.
Inevitably, this means that you must
stop seeking external permission, you must listen to your inner
guidance and you must learn to trust yourself.
Maybe your religion teaches that you must exhibit "perfect
behavior" in order to be saved, but salvation cannot be found
through perfection because,
first of all, you don't need to be
saved by an external source
second of all, perfection is
impossible to attain because it is unrealistic, and no matter
how perfect you may try to be, just like quicksand, the
perpetual pitfalls of perfection will suck you into shame and
secrecy at every turn
So, instead of wasting
energy by judging imperfect behavior (yours and others), why not
save yourself by practicing radical forgiveness?
Subsequently, as you generously
allow yourself space to breathe without perfection's punishing
hand, you will discover the space for exploration and
expression, and as you slowly fill this space, you will align
Find Objective Help
Find a counselor, therapist or open minded professional (or
friend) who is not connected to the religion in any way.
This should be someone who can
objectively support you, and if you so choose, help you break
free of repression (regardless of whether you stay or leave the
Also, consider that group support
can ease your journey out of repression.
If you cannot locate a local support
group, why not create one yourself? You might be surprised who
shows up to join you.
Healing the fall-out of repression requires the obliteration of
secrecy because when issues are revealed, it becomes impossible
for them to perpetuate in the same way.
Of course, disclosure alone does not
resolve dysfunctional dynamics, but without it, healing and
resolution are nearly impossible.
Putting an end to secrecy dissolves the foundation of religious
repression because once parishioners begin to share honestly,
the truth is exposed and it is not long before the organization
Open communication will likely bring hidden issues to a head,
and, as a result, things might seem to get worse before they get
better, but if you can ride the tide by being true to yourself,
the turbulent current will slowly begin to calm down over time,
and along with your power, you can reclaim your life.
Communication and information results in empowerment and
empowered followers stop following.
Plant Seeds of Higher Consciousness
As your fear subsides and your confidence grows, consider
"planting seeds" that get others asking their own questions.
Humanity's collective consciousness
is waking up, so a gentle yet thought-provoking comment or
question could be the tipping point, and when you provide seeds
of higher consciousness, it silently communicates that you are
someone others can open up to, when and if they are ready, and
you might actually be surprised where those seeds sprout.
Save Only Yourself
Supporting others on their journey to freedom is a beautiful
gift, but remember you are not responsible for anyone's
awakening but your own, and the more you try to save those you
love, the more you risk being pulled down to a level where you
can't help anyone.
Along those same lines, it is important to give up the idea that
anyone or anything can save you.
The way out of repression is through
self-empowerment and this means that each person must find and
express their own power.
If you expect or allow someone to
save you, or you try to save someone, you are only trading one
form of repression for another, and, therefore, nothing really
Discover the Truth
In the process of reclaiming your power, it is usually very
helpful to understand the hidden truth about the religion that
seems to have power over you, so do some independent research.
As you investigate, be open minded
and look for "holes in the story" - where details don't match up
or history doesn't make sense.
Discovering the truth may rock your
whole world but, along with many others on the same path, you
will recover, and once free from repression you can build a new
foundation on solid ground.
Discover 'God' on Your Own Terms
Most religious followers are taught that they need a "middle
man" in order to commune with God, and, therefore, if you want
to have a spiritual relationship with the Divine, you must
depend on those "certified" as go-betweens.
The truth is, you don't need religion or a religious "middle
man" in order to connect with God, and, in fact, no matter what
you have been told, a deep connection with the Divine can only
come through a direct relationship.
So, what would it look like to
discover God on your own terms?
This answer is unique for each of us, but one thing is clear -
the Divine Connection that most of us seek can only blossom when
we stop looking outside ourselves.
Only by going within can you
cultivate an intimate spiritual relationship with God, and in
this sacred space, you can finally experience the kind of
unconditional love that can heal you from the inside out.
As you begin to remember who you really are, the truth will
dissolve the illusion of powerlessness, shame, and unworthiness,
and you will be free to express your True-Self as you fearlessly
live your best possible life!
We are living at a
remarkable time of Global Awakening,
and, as a result, the restraints of repression are becoming obvious
so that we can finally free ourselves.
You are love, you are light and all is well!