The Particulars of Spiritual Abuse: Dissociation and Healing

This week, we’re re-sharing the second half of a series Rachael Clinton Chen and Dr. Dan Allender recorded last year on the particulars of spiritual abuse. Throughout their conversation, you’ll hear them discuss the effects that spiritual abuse has on our bodies, including dissociation and shame. Because spiritually abusive leaders rarely stop with mind control, they work to create a system in which they can control every aspect—including the bodies—of the people under their authority. Rachael and Dan also explore the long, slow movement of healing in the wake of abuse and the work of tending to small areas of growth, trusting that God is contending for us in the big areas.

No matter how long it takes, how can we begin reclaiming our minds and moving back into our bodies? What are the small steps we can take on the long road to healing? As we attune to that which is beautiful and true, and to that which honors the dignity in who we were created to be, we may begin living into the hope that trauma, death, and spiritual abuse do not have to have the last word.


“All abuse is evil, and all abuse breaks the heart of anyone who engages. But when it involves a spiritual so-called leader taking advantage of his or her position to access the heart and body of Jesus’s beloved, there is something in me that both wants to weep but also wants to rage. […] We’re dealing with really serious matters of God’s heart when we begin to deal with this topic.” Dr. Dan Allender

“Boundary violations become normative, and there’s this pervasive sense that it’s always my fault. So when harm gets reenacted, it’s like, why do I attract this? It’s true that I’m stained. There must really be something wrong with me, because this is so normal, so of course it’s my fault.” Rachael Clinton Chen

“The recuperative process is not just slow, but it’s going to be at times agonizing. […] If there’s not a growth of defiance, shame will eventually encroach and begin to take back all the terrain from this stand against, this movement away to ponder and open your heart.” Dr. Dan Allender

“Healing takes time. That can feel so frustrating. There’s so much that’s been lost, and the desire to reclaim and get to live into abundance and freedom is so palpable. And healing is a process that takes tending to the small, and trusting that God is going to contend with the big and mend.” Rachael Clinton Chen