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What is Spiritual Abuse?

One definition of spiritual is “Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.”  “Soul” may refer to the nonmaterial aspect of a person’s existence and/or to his or her “vital core.”

Spiritual abuse, then, is injury to or mistreatment of the soul, of the deepest and most intimate aspects of a person’s being.

In a practical sense, spiritual abuse results when individuals are deceived and or otherwise manipulated in ways that cause detrimental changes to core elements of the self, including:

·       one’s relationship to God,

·       religious/philosophical beliefs,

·       self-determination,

·       the capacity to think independently, and

·       one’s relationship to esteemed spiritual authorities, such as clergy or pastoral counselors.

Though often associated with cultic groups, spiritual abuse may also occur in mainstream religions when clergy or others misuse their authority or when individuals violate the ethical boundaries of pastoral counseling, proselytizing, or other kinds of influence situations.