Spirituality can be a beautiful thing, a healing balm for the hurting trauma survivor. I believe as survivors we all have a right to our unique beliefs and faith. Yet there are some spiritual beliefs and principles that, when taken too far, can be distorted to blame or shame victims of abuse or other forms of trauma, proving harmful and limiting to the healing journey. It’s important to shed light on spiritual frameworks that may hinder or impede a survivor’s journey to authentic healing and can perpetuate a larger victim-shaming discourse in society. Here are seven spiritual philosophies that can be misused to blame the victim and enable abuse.
1. The idea that there is no separation. Spiritual gurus like to promote the idea that we are all “one.” This is true to some extent: we are all humans, having a similar experience of consciousness, living in an interconnected world. What affects one, will inevitably affect another (unless they are protected from the effects by a bubble of privilege). Yet the idea that abuser and victim are “one” tends to minimize and deny the reality of the abuser’s pathological behavior, which makes them far less united with the rest of humanity and society as a whole. The truth is, while we are all interconnected, abusers rarely have any respect for that sacred interconnectedness; they are more prone to being divisive and hateful to bolster their false sense of superiority, their selfish agendas and their lack of empathy or compassion for anyone other than themselves. They pose incredible harm to their loved ones as well as the larger society.
The abuser makes himself or herself distinct and separate from the victim by engaging in horrific acts of emotional, psychological and physical violence. When used to excuse the abuser, this philosophy outright denies the fact that some abusers have no ability to empathize or show remorse for their behavior, which is a large part of what makes us human. This philosophy can be exploited to justify horrific assaults on the victim’s identity and erosion of beliefs, urging him or her to reconcile with the abuser under the idea that we must treat the abuser like everyone else, like ourselves, rather than a perpetrator who needs to be held accountable for their actions.