Healing the Wounds of Complex Religious Trauma with Jenny Winkel
A podcast brought to you by the NARM® Training Institute
“NARM is not a protocol, it's a relational model, and the reason why that's important to know is because humans are designed to heal in relationship.” ~ Jenny Winkel
In this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Sarah Buino is joined by Jenny Winkel, MA, LMT, SEP, and NARM Practitioner based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Within her private practice, Jenny works with many forms of Complex Trauma (C-PTSD), with a particular interest in religious trauma.
Throughout the episode, they discuss how the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) can lead to a greater understanding of the complexities of religious trauma, a form of trauma that is often misunderstood, minimized, or dismissed. Jenny shares that NARM is so well-suited for healing religious trauma because of how well the model holds complexity. Jenny breaks down and defines religious trauma syndrome and religious abuse, specifically in the context of fundamentalist communities.
Jenny shares her experience of being trained early in her career in models that address post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As she integrated these models that address shock and event traumas and into her hands-on approach as a massage therapist, she began to see the limitations of approaching religious and other forms of complex trauma through the lens of PTSD. She then sought to find a therapeutic modality that would address the complexities she was seeing with the clients coming to work with her, particularly those that had suffered religious trauma. During a consultation with a NARM Therapist, she began to recognize the limitations of how she had been trained and the way in which she was working, and joined the NARM Practitioner Training.
“[NARM] just filled in all the gaps with my complex trauma clients, and not just with my clients, Sarah, but honestly, [with] myself,” Jenny shares. As she developed a deeper understanding of complex and religious trauma, she experienced a significant life trauma that led to her own spiritual crisis. This challenged her belief system in a life-altering way and she came to recognize her own religious trauma growing up within a fundamentalist family system and community. Her affinity for the NARM approach came out of her journey to heal her own complex and religious trauma.
Sarah and Jenny discuss what fundamentalist religion looks like, and the impacts it often has on individuals. Through her own experiences, as well as her clients, Jenny shares how she has come to understand that fundamentalist communities and families can be sources of comfort, refuge, and love, while also being sources of terror and trauma. Jenny shares her perspective on how religion can be a healthy, rewarding, and deeply meaningful experience. However, followers who are disconnected from their autonomy through guilt, shame, and even threat, often experience complex trauma. When a person is born into a fundamentalist community and raised by caregivers and community members who don’t support a child’s developing autonomy and sense of agency and choice, this can result in a child experiencing significant developmental trauma.
Jenny champions NARM for its ability to restore autonomy, agency, and reestablish the foundational relationship to Self. “When you work with a wise and seasoned [NARM] therapist or practitioner, you can feel that… they're not taking sides,” she says. “They're helping you navigate that interiority.” The episode concludes with a story from Jenny's practice, a beautiful example of the mind-body connection and the healing power of NARM in addressing complex attachment wounds.
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Jenny Winkel is a NARM practitioner with a special interest in religious trauma, a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, licensed massage therapist and owner of Salt City Bodyworks. She received her master’s degree in somatic depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Jenny is a mom of two boys, a recent convert to reformer Pilates and finds meaning in a well-crafted cup of coffee.