Does Your Religion Consider Your Sexuality Unacceptable And Shameful?
Are aspects of your sexuality at odds with your religious or spiritual practice? Do you feel like you are hiding parts of yourself from your family, friends, and community? Are feelings of shame and fear keeping you from exploring your sexual identity and desires?
Perhaps you are curious about or identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, but your place of worship and religion are not accepting of queerness. Or maybe you are heterosexual but feel conflicted about your sexual desires and expression, due to pressure from the church. Whatever your sexuality or sexual orientation, you may feel concerned that you will never be able to reconcile your identity and your religion, creating a disconnect within yourself and with your community.
These feelings of shame and confusion can create disruptive emotional and physical symptoms. You may be experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety about being “discovered” for who you really are. Or perhaps you have developed so much of a stigma around your own sexuality that you have shut it off completely, denying yourself of your most innate desires. A persistent denial of your truth will only lead to feelings of inauthenticity, inadequacy, distress, and isolation.
If your sexuality is causing you to struggle with feeling free in your church and finding acceptance from yourself and your religious community, it may be time to explore solutions with a therapist in a warm, supportive, and nonjudgmental environment. It is possible to integrate your sexuality and spirituality; you do not have to choose one or the other.
Shame Is A Common Result Of Religious Teachings About The Body
Exploring and understanding sexuality are essential aspects of every human’s development. Every person is endowed with sexual identity, but many religions tend to stigmatize the body and its desires from a very young age. We may have been brought up in a church or religion that forbade masturbation or same-sex attraction and that disparaged sex acts outside of the context of a heterosexual marriage. If we grew up veering even slightly from this strict definition of “acceptable” sexuality, the impact of shame can be hugely detrimental to ourselves and our development.
More and more research is being done on the effects of exclusivity and unacceptance on churchgoing populations. From a young age, children growing up in strict religious contexts are conditioned to demonize their bodies and view them as dangerous, especially as sexual urges begin to develop during adolescence. For children and teens who grow up in atmospheres where sex is predominantly considered sinful, they often assume that their own desires and urges are wrong—especially if they pertain to the same sex. Growing up in such an environment of blanket judgment and conformity will only lead to secrecy, shame, and fear.
If, from a young age, we recognize that there is something “wrong” with who we are or who and how we love, we may train ourselves to cut off that part of ourselves completely. We will develop patterns of getting into toxic relationships that don’t serve us or pushing people away for whom we truly care. As a result, we don’t live the full capacity of our lives and instead of thriving, we regress into negative cycles of thinking and behavior.
But by cutting ourselves off from our truest self, we are doing a great disservice to our own potential and to those around us. Denying ourselves of the sexual desires we maintain (but have been deemed unacceptable by others) is like deciding to cut off an essential part of our bodies. The denial of that part will only lead to a disconnect with all other parts of ourselves.
Fortunately, however, therapy offers the objective, individually-focused opportunities to explore all of the fears you may have around “coming out”—whether that exists in the form of a queer identity or as a heterosexual person who simply wants to embrace their sexuality fully in a positive and empowered way. I am here to offer you support and help you to reconcile your identity and your beliefs. And I am confident that theologies exist that are fully ready to embrace who you are while offering a meaningful spiritual philosophy.
Therapy Offers The Opportunity To Integrate Your Beliefs With Your Sexual Identity
As a therapist, I am here for you and your journey. I am prepared to meet you where you are in the process of defining your sexuality and find solutions based on your needs. In our sessions together, you will be empowered to explore and process your sexual identity with unbiased counseling around coming out, finding ways to be honest with family and friends, and integrating your spiritual beliefs and religion with your sexuality if you so choose. I will help you to understand where internalized shame occurred in the past and how it is holding you back now.
Through relational and somatic psychotherapy, we will work together to establish a brain-body connection that encourages more compassion for and re-integration of the self. I believe that you are the expert on you and trust that you have everything you need to bring about healing. I am simply here to offer guidance, acceptance, and care as you begin the process of seeing your body as a powerful vehicle of wisdom rather than a source of shame or discomfort.
Using such somatic (body-based) therapy methods and psychoeducation, I will work to provide you with education about how shame impacts the brain and body. Over the course of our sessions, you will develop a newfound understanding of the way you carry yourself in your body as a result of internalized shame. Working to dismantle it, you will begin to see your emotional and physical symptoms dissipate. By orienting and attuning to your body, I will support your nervous system in returning to regulation rather than feeling “stuck” in crisis mode.
The work of reintegration empowers my clients to recognize that a whole self is possible and not just a fragmented one. Since achieving an MA in counseling at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in 2013, I have been successful in helping my clients to bridge the disconnect between their faith and their sexuality. I know from this work that it is possible to reclaim your sexuality and integrate your faith if you so choose.
You can be loved, accepted, known, and wanted by both yourself and others. It’s time to bring light into the parts of yourself that have been left in the dark, clouded by fear for too long!
Perhaps you are considering counseling services in order to integrate your sexuality into your spiritual framework, but you have concerns…
I am afraid that I will either have to give up my sexuality or my religion and that I can’t maintain both.
I am not here to judge you or your religion. Rather, I am here to support you in learning how to integrate both into your life. In our sessions, we will explore what is happening to your body when you discuss certain aspects of your faith—do those conversations bring you peace? Do they bring you anxiety? From there, we will evaluate solutions for areas of discomfort so that you can find a healthy, balanced way to incorporate your belief system into your sexual identity.
I worry my community will disown me if I openly explore my sexuality.
Therapy is a safe place for you to be raw and vulnerable without the pressure or doctrine of your religious community. This is meant to be an exploration of your most authentic self, and as such, you are in charge of the journey and what you do when you get to the destination. You will always be the one who gets to decide if or when you choose to involve your community.
What if I don’t like what I find while I explore my sexuality?
I offer a compassionate, nonjudgmental environment where we can work together to navigate discomfort and insecurity. And I assure you that whatever you figure out will not be a process that has to be done alone or in isolation. I am here with and for you.
A Complete And Unfragmented Life Of Self-Love And Acceptance Is Possible!
If your religious upbringing has created feelings of shame around your sexuality that have kept you from being honest with yourself and others, it may be time to reclaim your sexuality in the context of therapy. If you’re interested in learning more and/or scheduling your first session, please reach out!
Please note that while we do offer in-person sessions during COVID-19, we adhere to all safety protocols. Otherwise, we are offering telehealth sessions for clients who do not require touch modalities.