The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Dealing with Trauma: Protecting Yourself from Bad Counselors

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

When you are hurting, you are vulnerable, and there are many counselors in this world who enjoy taking advantage of vulnerable people. Plenty of these wolves call themselves your brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is a very unpleasant situation, yet this is the way things are.

Now by the time you are seeking help from a counselor, you are feeling pretty overwhelmed by your own problems. The more desperate you are for answers, the more willing you are to take a submissive role in the counseling relationship. Here is where things get even more dangerous, for when you mentally surrender your heart and mind into the hands of strangers, you have no way of knowing what they’re going to do with them. The counseling relationship is built on trust, yet there is no human alive who is worthy of your absolute trust. That kind of trust needs to be reserved for God alone.

We don’t want you to become lunch meat for some shady counselor, therapist or minister who is only interested in manipulating you for their own personal gain. Because these vipers can present themselves as sweetness personified, you need to go into the counseling session with your guard up and have some clear boundaries set in your mind. In this lesson, we’re going to talk about two principles that demon-led counselors use to get you under their control: suggestion and suppression. We’ll also teach you some critical perspectives that will help you be less vulnerable to these wolves.

THE GOAL OF BAD COUNSELORS

Bad counselors want to make you worse, not better, so that you’ll become utterly dependent on them. They are like a doctor who intentionally makes the infection in his patient’s leg worse until the whole limb has to be amputated and the man permanently loses his ability to walk normally.

Now before bad counselors can make you worse, they need something to work with, so they start sniffing around for any current struggles you’re having. Prime targets are the folks who are in the midst of some major faith crisis or emotional crisis. Maybe you’re feeling really insecure about your salvation. Maybe you’re reeling from the news that you have some inoperable tumor. Whatever it is, bad counselors are on the lookout for souls in distress. When they find them, they move in, oozing concern and flaunting some kind of credentials at you, such as education or experience or personal identity. “I’ve been there, and I know exactly what you’re going through.” Are they lying? You don’t know, but because you’re feeling desperate, you’re prone to believe them.

Bad counselors need to con you into trusting them as fast as possible. This is where the titles come in handy. Doctor. Minister. Prophetess. Healer. Personal testimonies are another very useful tactic, so out come the juicy stories of all the clients they’ve helped before you who were struggling just as you are today. Then there’s the touching: physical contact speeds up the emotional bonding process. Once counselors start with the empathetic hugs and the laying of hands, you will start feeling the illusion of an intimate connection forming between you and them. We use the term illusion because in the case of bad counselors, this connection is entirely one sided. They don’t care about you—they’re just using you. They are like a well-hydrated man who is holding a bottle of water while you are the man who is dying of thirst. The guy with the water has all the power, while the guy with the thirst has all the need.

THE GOAL OF GOOD COUNSELORS

Good counselors want to help you get better, not worse. They want to help get you restored to full functionality, like a doctor who carefully treats the wound on his patient’s leg until it is entirely healed. Good counselors do not want you to become dependent on them, they want you to gain confidence in standing on your own two feet. Now while there are some very earnest counselors in the world who are sincerely trying to help people, there are limits to how useful counseling is going to be when we’re leaving God out of it. God is the One who has orchestrated your current crisis and trying to resolve any crisis apart from God is not going to take you where He wants you to go. So the ideal counselor is the one who is sincerely seeking God’s wisdom in their efforts to counsel you, and one who considers the well-being of your soul to be of supreme importance.

DELIVERANCE MINISTRIES

Now because we need to be focusing on God if we’re going to find real healing, bad counselors try to woo you towards them by flashing their God connections. Here is where we get into deliverance ministries. Deliverance is a current Christian buzzword for spiritual counseling and the popularity of deliverance ministries is growing in the Church. Anytime you come across a group or individual who associates themselves with the deliverance label you need to stay away. Deliverance theology is a package of some very dangerous lies which are going to fill you with fear and get you bogged down in stressful delusions. For more about this, see Deliverance Ministries: Scamming You in the Name of Jesus.

SUGGESTION & SUPPRESSION

God designed us to be frail little creatures. We become easily stressed and easily overwhelmed by both negative and positive experiences in life. Now we use the term trauma to refer to negative experiences that greatly upset us. When we say someone is traumatized, we mean that they’ve gone through one of those experiences and they haven’t recovered yet. Essentially, the traumatized person is psychologically stuck in the past and they are unable to move themselves forward.

Let’s say your older brother throws you into a pool when you’re a little kid. You don’t know how to swim and you nearly drown. All that choking and sinking and believing that you’re about to die is a very traumatic experience. If this trauma isn’t properly processed, then you will grow into an adult who is terrified of being around water. The terror you feel is really a flashback to the terror you felt as a child. Now when we talk about processing a traumatic experience, we are talking about acquiring a positive change in perspective which causes us to no longer feel stressed by the memory of what we went through. For example, as an adult who never processed your near-drowning experience as a child, you view all bodies of water like monsters who might somehow suck you in and kill you. But once you process the experience, you come to realize that your childhood is long over and past memories can’t hurt you. You learn to see that water is not a conscious monster who is out to get you. You realize that you can take swimming lessons and thus learn how to keep yourself afloat in a pool. You come to see that your brother was just horsing around and not really trying to murder you, therefore it is unreasonable for you to keep holding a grudge against him. You are able to forgive, learn new skills, and move on with your life. You are no longer afraid to get in a boat or walk on the beach. Your past trauma stops inhibiting your present activities and your future goals. But because of what you’ve gone through, you now have a lot of compassion for people who are locked up with fear. These are the positive results of healthy processing: instead of being controlled and limited by our past experiences, we are changed by them in positive ways.

Experiences in life are supposed to change us. The goal of processing is not to revert back to who you were before the trauma happened. You want to become someone better—someone who has matured in character and developed a deeper trust in God. A good counselor tries to guide you through the stages of processing to help you come out in that better place. A bad counselor tries to keep you stuck in trauma and permanently crippled by the past. Any counselor needs you to voluntarily cooperate with them before they can lead you anywhere, and this gives you an important element of control.

Now if you hit your thumb with a hammer, it really hurts, and it feels very traumatic in the moment, but you will be swift to recover. But if someone molests you or if you are bullied at school or if you are abandoned by your parents, then we’re dealing with a whole new level of trauma. The hammer hurt you physically, but these other events leave deep emotional and psychological wounds which take a lot of time to heal.

Now as a human, you have four main components to yourself: spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental. You can be hurt in one or more of these areas. When multiple areas are affected, healing takes longer. The more severe the damage is to any one area, the longer it will take to work through the stages of healthy processing. Timing has a lot to do with how traumatized you are by a single event. Things that happen to us when we are children do a lot more damage than things that happen to us as adults. In addition, the first time any particular kind of trauma happens to us is the hardest to deal with. The first time we get our heart broken is much more devastating than the second time. The first time we become suicidal is more devastating than the second time. Part of the reason for this is the sheer shock of experiencing a new kind of pain. When you’ve never experienced being burned, the first time you feel that particular kind of nerve pain it is very frightening. The point here is to realize there are many factors that go into determining how deeply we are impacted by a certain experience, and those factors vary from person to person. One girl gets laughed at in third grade and she shrugs it off and goes on. Another girl gets laughed at in the same classroom and she is devastated for years afterwards. Your temperament and previous life experiences all play a part in determining how you will react to various experiences.

The second important thing to realize is that healing from the past takes time. One woman gets raped and she seems to spring back fairly fast, while another woman has a horrible time for many years. It’s easy for that second woman to feel like something’s wrong with her because she’s taking so much longer to move on. Well, no, this isn’t how it works. Each situation is different and there are so many complex factors involved that comparing yourself to others is of limited value. Certainly it can be encouraging to find support groups where people who have gone through similar experiences get together and share their stories, but such groups can also hold you back when they turn into cesspools of stagnation. Many people choose not to do the work that is required in processing the past. Instead, they turn their crippled state into something to boast about and everywhere they go, they let people know about the terrible thing they’ve gone through.

DEFENSE MECHANISMS

Now because we are such frail creatures, there is a limit to how much stress we can deal with in a given moment. If that limit is surpassed, then our minds resort to several defense mechanisms. When we’re talking about psychological defense mechanisms, we are talking about instinctive behaviors or mental processes which you engage in to protect yourself from a perceived threat. These are things you fly into without thinking about them ahead of time. We exhibit many such behaviors in everyday life. For example, you are too ashamed to face the fact that you have a problem with lust, so when you’re out in public with your wife and she says, “I saw you check that woman out just now,” the words “No, I didn’t,” instantly fly out of your mouth. Denial is a very common defense mechanism. Denial is how we try to push threatening concepts away from us. Why is it so hard for some alcoholics to admit that they have a problem? Because they are in denial. It is very crushing to our pride to face the fact that some liquid is enslaving us, so we deny this truth.

Denial comes in many forms. Suppression is when we try to stop ourselves from feeling emotions which we find threatening in the moment. For example, you are a child and your father is abusing you. This makes you feel very hurt and angry. But as a child, you depend on your father for things like food and clothes and a place to sleep. If you express your true feelings, you are afraid that your father will retaliate by kicking you out of the house, so you suppress your true feelings and instead try to convince yourself that you aren’t really bothered by how your father is treating you. Suppressing our emotions is like trying to cork a volcano. Over time, pressure builds until we finally explode. Suppression ends up being a self-harming activity, but we often feel like it is the only way we can make it through very stressful situations.

Now in extreme cases, we find ourselves in an all-out crisis where we are feeling attacked on so many levels of our being or so deeply attacked on just one level that conscious suppression is too difficult to manage. Here is where our brains will automatically kick in with their most extreme defense mechanism of all: that of blocking out the memory of what happened to us. This is called amnesia. Amnesia can be partial or total. For example, a soldier who is brutally tortured as a prisoner of war might remember sitting in his cell, but he might have blocked out the actual experience of being tortured. Amnesia is the brain’s way of saying, “If I try to deal with this right now, the whole system is going to blow a fuse, so I’m going to lock this memory away in a closet where it won’t be able to hurt me until I am safe again and able to deal with it.” Amnesia is an automatic emergency response. We don’t consciously choose to block out memories in these cases, our brains block them out for us. Now just as suppressing emotions increases our internal stress load, blocking out memories also results in stress. Merely forgetting about something doesn’t make our experience of it any less real. Blocked memories act like virus programs that have lodged in our computers and keep disrupting normal functions. Dreaming is an important time in which our brains do some self-maintenance, and when we have a bunch of blocked memories haunting us, sometimes we end up with terrifying nightmares that we can’t remember the contents of. Other times we find ourselves flying into a panic when we’re around certain things that remind our brains of the memories they are trying to keep hidden away in our subconscious.

Now when we’re stuck in denial, it’s very natural to see ourselves overreacting and honestly not understand why we are so upset. Here is where good counselors will try to gently help you lower your internal guards and face the feelings and fears that you find threatening. But bad counselors will try to take advantage of your honest confusion to plant false memories into your mind.

THE POWER OF SUGGESTION

Once you view someone as an authority figure in your life, their analysis of you has a major impact on you. You are far too quick to blindly accept whatever assessment of you they dish out, and here is where bad counselors really show their claws.

“In my experience, people experiencing this kind of anxiety were molested as children. Obviously you were molested and you’ve blocked out the memory of it.”

“These nightmares you’re having are clear evidence that you have demons inside of you. It’s going to take a lot of prayer and work to drive them out, but we can do it.”

“This depression you’re experiencing is a result of the soul tie that was formed when you slept with that prostitute. You won’t get any peace until the tie is broken.”

“When I hypnotized you, you spoke about a time when your father raped you. I know this sounds strange because you have no conscious memory of this event, but your subconscious remembers and it is deeply tormented. Until we get this memory to surface into your conscious mind, you’ll never find healing.”

When you blindly accept statements like these, you end up being traumatized in a whole new way. Because the reality is that you weren’t molested, you aren’t possessed, there’s no such thing as soul ties, and your father never raped you. Bad counselors will just make up horrific stories like these without batting an eye, and if you blindly believe them, you’re going to end up in a nightmare of confusion, fear, and paranoia as you let them rewrite your entire past into anything they want it to be.

Bad counselors try to exploit very real principles of human psychology. We really can succeed at blocking out painful memories from the past, and we are often confused by our own behavior. Counting on the fact that you feel totally trumped by their “expertise”, bad counselors will feed you the most traumatic lies that you are willing to swallow. Multiple personality disorder, demon possession, alien abductions, sexual abuse—whatever line you’re willing to swallow is the line they’re going to use on you. And the more you spill your guts to them, the easier it is for them to figure out the most effective way to con you. Now as we said, these vipers can act like the sweet, loving, clones of Christ, and you’re a confused, vulnerable mess, so how can you possibly protect yourself from them?

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM BAD COUNSELORS

1. You are not alone.

Whether or not you are a Christian, you were created out of love by a God who deeply cares about you. That same God is with you 24/7, and He is always listening to you and always focused on you. So there is no sense in which you are walking into that counseling office alone. You are with the One who made you and He is the One who you need to be putting your trust in, not some human being.

Bad counselors need you to feel isolated before they can really get their hooks into you. They want you to see yourself like you’re floating helplessly amid the dark, churning waters of a stormy ocean. The more alone you think you are, the more likely it is that you will cling to them like a drowning man clings to a life raft. The more you see your counselor as your savior, the more readily you will accept anything they say and do anything they tell you to do. This is why you must refuse to give them this kind of leverage in your mind. People are not your saviors.

2. God is the One who hurts and heals you.

You were created to be in a relationship with the One who made you. Now building a bond between the created and the uncreated is a complicated affair. Putting you through painful experiences on earth is a vital part of how God draws you closer to Himself. God is like a brilliant Sculptor and you are like the block of stone that He is working with. God has a breathtakingly beautiful design in mind for you, but it’s going to require a lot of precise chiseling to get you there. The chiseling is painful, so He doesn’t do it all at once.   But now and then He needs to pound hard to dig out some large chunk of rock that is in His way. When God brings traumatic experiences into your life, He’s setting the stage to push you to a whole new level with Him. It’s like He’s hammering away a large obstacle and moving you an exciting step forward in your development. The key for you is to realize that God is the One who brought that experience into your life and to understand that He did it for a good reason. God breaks us down in order to rebuild us even stronger than we were before. Everything that God puts you through on this earth is for your long-term spiritual best. Everything He does to you is about strengthening your relationship with Him.

3. God is personally guiding you in life.

You are not alone, nor is some human counselor your only connection to God. God works directly with every human soul, and He is always talking to you. You often don’t recognize when God is speaking to you, but He is speaking nonetheless and your soul is constantly responding to Him. Any counselor who tries to downplay God’s involvement in your life needs to be avoided. You are not some lonely outcast. You are not being ignored. God is with you at all times and walking you through each day. Nothing happens to you in this world by random chance.

4. Your human counselor is not God.

It doesn’t matter what holy sounding title some human is flaunting. Prophet, minister, pastor, healer, intercessor—they’re all just human beings. Human beings are not God and God is guiding you personally, so don’t just accept what any human tells you without praying about it yourself and asking God to confirm the truth of it to you. When God is affirming something to you, it will ring true in your core. When God speaks to you through any channel, you will feel encouraged and hopeful, not scared and overwhelmed. God’s Voice will always have an uplifting effect on your soul. Is it uplifting when some counselor suggests you’ve blocked out the memory of being raped by your father? No, it’s terrifying, overwhelming, and frightening. This is not God talking. Pay attention to how advice makes you feel. Always ask yourself, “Is this advice making me feel hopeful or discouraged about my future? Is this advice making me feel wanted or rejected by God? Is this advice increasing or decreasing my level of fear?” When God is speaking you will feel hopeful about the future, you will feel wanted by God, and you will feel a decrease in fear. When demons are speaking, you’ll feel just the opposite of all these things. Listen for the Voice of God.

5. You have the right to disagree.

Refuse to play the role of a doormat with your counselor. You do not have to agree with anything that they tell you. Don’t let them push you into making hasty decisions. When they say something that distresses you, say, “I’ll need to think about that.” Just because a counselor is convinced that they are right about something doesn’t mean they actually are. Who brought this trial into your life in the first place? God did. Who is sitting right beside you as you talk to your counselor? God is. Who is personally guiding you in life? God is. God is not your counselor. Don’t just assume that God agrees with everything your counselor is saying. When you go home, take time to pray about what was discussed and ask God to show you what to keep and what to discard.

6. Avoid physical contact.

Don’t let a counselor get hands on with you. This just makes it harder for you to maintain a safe emotional distance and it also undermines your confidence in disagreeing with them. If a counselor tries to push physical contact on you, cut ties with them. This includes the laying on of hands for prayer. There is no reason why a counselor needs to touch you in order to pray for you. Don’t let anyone sell you the absolute lie that they can help your soul connect with God by physically touching you. This is utter rot. God is already with you, and your connection to Him is spiritual, not physical. Be very guarded against any counselor who tries to say you need them to help you stay connected with God. If anyone tries to say such a thing, cut ties with them immediately—this person is trying to undermine your confidence in God and increase your dependence on them.

7. Stay alert.

Do not accept any form of therapy which involves you getting into some trance like, meditative, or hypnotic state. While hypnosis has its place, such things should not be explored in the early stages of any counseling relationship. No responsible counselor is going to try and dig into your subconscious without first taking the time to get to know you. Dredging up suppressed memories too quickly can result in greater trauma. Cut ties with anyone who pushes you to get in some utterly relaxed, unguarded state around them. You need to stay sharp and think critically about the things they are telling you.

8. Don’t pray with your counselor.

Praying is when your soul talks to God. It is an extremely intimate thing, and your counselor doesn’t need to be eavesdropping on your personal conversations with God. Don’t let your counselor pressure you into praying out loud with them. If they offer to pray for you and you don’t like the idea, then politely refuse. If they don’t respect your request, then cut ties. You don’t need people to intercede with God on your behalf. If you are okay with your counselor praying for you, don’t just agree in your heart with everything they say. Listen and think about it. Take that time to ask God to help you recognize when He is speaking through the counselor, if at all. Pray before you meet with the counselor and ask God to help you stay focused on Him and recognize His leading in your life.

9. If you get uncomfortable, leave.

At any point during the session, if you start feeling something inside telling you to get out of there, then do it. You do not need to explain yourself. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to leave.” Counseling is supposed to be a voluntary activity. You don’t have to commit to anything, and you don’t have to agree to sit out a full session with someone who is making you uncomfortable. Don’t let someone’s good reputation or past success stories make you feel obligated to stay. If you’re uncomfortable, leave, and remember that God is guiding you.

10. You don’t need counseling to heal.

Healing comes from God, not people. God might choose to work through a human counselor in your life or He might not. Don’t accept the theory that you can’t possibly get over the past unless you see a counselor. God created the universe from nothing; He is certainly skilled enough to help you process the past. People are not your saviors.

11. Don’t validate memories that you don’t have.

If a counselor starts proposing that certain traumatic events have happened to you which you have no conscious memory of, do not just accept their theory as correct. Pray about it. Remember that many counselors abuse the power of suggestion to manipulate people. If your gut is telling you that you’re being told a bunch of baloney, then cut ties. Remember that words do not control you. Just because someone speaks some grim prophecy or past analysis over your life, it doesn’t mean those things are true.

Even if you are repressing some awful memory, who is guiding you in life? God is. He will bring all things to light in the proper time. Don’t let a counselor push you faster than you are ready to go. Don’t let them tell you that unless you agree with their assessment of you, you’ll never find peace. It is God who brought the trial into your life and it is God who will resolve it. Remember that all trials are carefully orchestrated by God to help you in the long run. Sometimes it’s a long process, but you aren’t going to get stuck as long as you are listening to God and counting on Him to guide you. The danger comes when you let some other human being take the role of God in your life—giving them blind trust that they do not deserve and closing your mind to the possibility that they could be totally wrong in their assessment of you. You are not alone; you are with God, and He is guiding you in life.

CONCLUSION

You should view all advice from a counselor as mere human opinion which needs to be confirmed by God before you will attach any import to it. If God does say something to you through a counselor which really helps you, give Him alone the glory. You don’t want to become dependent on any human vessel—only on God Himself. God is the only One you can absolutely trust.

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