When you find others who were raised in the IFB, you know exactly what they went through. The spankings, the abuse, the strict rules and more are common ground. But what if you are in a relationship with someone who was raised in a normal household? Or maybe you find yourself hesitant to make new friends because they'll think you're weird because of certain triggers that set you off.
And if people won't ever understand it, why bother?
It is true that helping someone understand IFB and its abuses is not easy. But if you take the time to figure out how to help them understand you, you can also open yourself up for better and more rewarding relationships.
Accept They Will Never "Get It"
Often people get frustrated with their partners when they think they don't truly understand what growing up IFB was like. How could they?
Some people might have experienced similar traumas like sexual or physical abuse. Spiritual abuse is its own animal. Unfortunately, the IFB often layers spiritual abuse on top of sexual and physical abuse demanding that the victim forgive the perpetrator so that God won't be angry at the victim. And once the forgiveness is accepted, it is expected that the "forgive and forget" rule applies. How can any normal person understand this?
More than likely they never will because it makes no sense. We are literally asking them to make sense out of nonsense.
Teach Them Your Triggers
You could be walking in a grocery store and see a family walk by with all the females in the group wearing long skirts and it triggers you. Or you could see a news story about a family where the parents were arrested for beating their kids. Or someone is threading a belt around their waist and you find yourself flinching from memories of spankings. Or it could be something as simple as having someone say they are going to pray for you.
You start to get angry or sad. Your mood can switch in a heartbeat because face it...you have PTSD. Don't expect your partner tor friend to know why this happens or how to predict when it will happen. You need to educate them on your triggers and why they trigger you.
Also, plan ahead. If you know you're going to a partner's family for a holiday where you will be expected to hold hands, bow your head, close your eyes, and participate in a blessing over a meal, talk about it beforehand.
Learn To Use Your Words
Children raised in IFB are normally not allowed to have certain emotions. Anger, pride, and hate are frowned upon and often will result in spankings and other physical abuse followed up with a prayer for forgiveness for having a natural human emotion. It often takes years for an adult out of the IFB to be able to say, "I'm mad at you!" to a partner. Try telling a friend that you were promoted at work and your boss was singing your praises. Pride before a fall!
It might take some work but push yourself to say things like "what you said really hurt my feelings" or "I'm proud my hard work paid off and I got a raise". Lightning will not strike you and you won't suddenly be struck with cancer.
People in your inner circle want to hear you. They want to know how to be the best friend or partner to you. Allow them in.
Consider having them listen to some podcasts from survivors of spiritual abuse or books from therapists or memoirs. IFB Overcomers has spent hours researching and curating resources on our website. This allows them to do it at their own pace and could be a great stepping off point for discussions between you. This is great too because often survivors don't know how to communicate what they went through. Reading other stories can help them see how deep and often insidious the abuse goes.
Imagine being raised in foster care. Imagine being born in a third world country. Imagine spending your whole life in a wheelchair. We can all imagine it, but we don’t really know what it is like. The same with non-IFB people and IFB survivors.
They understand fear, hate, love, sadness, etc. Being afraid is being afraid. Being sad is being sad. Tune into that when working on your relationships. The base emotions that we all feel.
The problem comes in when we want people to see our pain as worse than someone else’s. Some people get into almost ranking their pain against other people’s pain. It can almost become a compulsion as often people will listen to someone’s story of sadness and while they are talking about it, IFB survivors can often be thinking “That’s it? That’s why you justify being depressed? Wait until you hear about my childhood!”
Again, learn to truly listen and empathize with people. You’ll be amazed at how much better your relationships will become. Deeper and more sustained.
IFB Overcomers is an online resource for those who have left Independent Fundamentalism and are looking to heal and discover themselves. With a podcast, webinars, forum, blog and resources, we hope to help retrain your heart and mind from the mindset of the IFB and help you not only survive but overcome and then thrive!