Review

Healthy Responses to Spiritual Trauma

A review of Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma by Teresa B. Pasquale

Teresa Pasquale’s book, Sacred Wounds, dives deep into spiritual trauma and its long-lasting consequences in those it affects. She pulls from her own experience, both as a victim of religious trauma as well as working in therapeutic settings with trauma and addiction treatment, to create an immersive, well-defined perspective. Immediately, her tone is gentle, engaging and insightful, offering a trustworthy narrator with whom the reader can venture into the dark waters of spiritual trauma.

The first chapter introduces the reader to the author in an intimate storytelling of the author’s own experience with spiritual trauma. She then defines trauma and the different dimensions of traumatic experience to give the reader a solid foundation from which to understand trauma. Pasquale also outlines trauma survival responses, including the well-known flight, fight or freeze reactions as well as the newly defined submit-appease and tend-and-befriend. Fittingly, the first chapter ends with a healing practice of grounding yourself in the present moment, which helps set the stage for healing throughout the following chapters. Other healing practices are offered throughout the book to build on the common theme of not only understanding spiritual trauma but working constantly toward healing.

The second chapter offers an in-depth look at defining a number of common symptoms of traumatic stress, as well as what those symptoms look like within religious trauma. The author even lists some examples of some generalized traumatic experiences people have had within religious institutions.

In each following chapter, Pasquale introduces the reader to a new dimension of spiritual trauma, offering definitions of psychology or therapeutic terms and direct examples of how those terms manifest in real life. She breaks religious injury down into subtypes, always using real experiences. Her “Life Parables” sections offer personal accounts of spiritual trauma to outline the myriad forms it can take and how these experiences affect people in different ways. After many chapters, Pasquale offers simple tools for handling those traumas in healthy ways, suggesting activities such as meditation exercises, writing practice, and contemplation.

The last few chapters focus primarily on the healing process, beginning with an account of her own healing journey. She makes a point to emphasize that healing journeys are never as rigid as steps, and each one will have its own path.

Throughout her book, Pasquale draws the reader on a journey to explore our sacred wounds, whether realized or not, prodding gently to look deeper into our own experiences and to always seek healing.

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