Many people raised in hardline churches suffer from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome:
1. nightmares about church or family members,
2. avoidance of church or religious or family activities,
3. over reacting to stressful situations that remind them of the controlling attitude of the hardline church.
This is understandable. I remember hearing that the most threatened primitive tribes have the most dangerous and traumatic initiation ceremonies. This ensures that the group remains tight and exclusive, and guarantees the survival of the group even in a surrounding society that is hostile to the group’s identity.
When I was a schoolchild I was encouraged to have confrontations with teachers about singing religious music with instruments of music instead of a capella as my church understood the New Testament to teach. We also had confrontations about dancing or swimming in gym class, the celebration of Christmas as a religious holiday, not attending extracurricular activities on Wednesday night and Sundays, the teaching of evolution in biology class, etc. These humiliating confrontations served as initiation rituals that helped to solidify the child’s identity with the hardline church. They proved to the child and to the congregation that the child was truly a member of the group, willing to sacrifice.
Other traumatizing events in a hardline church upbringing are disciplinary rituals that the church uses to keep the members committed and in line. Withdrawal from the unfaithful, not eating a meal with a member who has left the church, public rebukes from the pulpit, all serve to both traumatize and to keep members in line.
Besides the actual items the church does, there is also the home life of the child growing up in a hardline church: from the pulpit the discipline of spanking is emphasized over every other form of child discipline. But any parent who attends a hardline church is functioning at a primitive level: perhaps age ten to twelve years old. They want simple answers to complex problems, and they want problems to go away quickly, so screaming, threatening, yanking and shaking are quick ways to get a child to obey and get the problem out of the way. All of these can help add up to Post Traumatic Stress symptoms.
Curing PTSD: talk about the trauma–some research indicates that if you can zero in on the worst story and tell it 20 times, then that can relieve the PTSD symptoms in seventy percent of cases. But if the trauma was pounded in early and long term, then it is probably going to be a long term cure. It is better to have realistic expectations of yourself as you recover. You may not be able to handle family visits very well at first, or at all. Don’t judge yourself for this. You may not be able to handle people judging you morally or religiously. This is normal for what you have been through. Just keep talking about it.