PODCAST: Trauma, EMDR, and “Himpathy”

by | Mar 30, 2023 | Podcasts | 33 comments

Trauma and EMDR
Merchandise is Here!

We talk so much about trauma–but what it is?

How can we address it? 

And what makes some people more likely to sympathize with the perpetrators of abuse rather than the traumatized victims?

One of the big things we’re realizing in our launch group for our new book She Deserves Better is that we often use terms that we don’t really understand. So today we’re going to talk with therapist Jenna Mountain about the definition of trauma, and a particular therapy–EMDR–that can help people get over trauma.

And we’re going to look at how our teaching to teen girls (and to people in general) actually grooms us to dismiss trauma victims, and have sympathy with the abuser. We’ll share a study that shows why people dismiss the victim, and then walk through She Deserves Better to see how the messaging to teens actually mimics these toxic teachings pretty much entirely!


Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

2:00 Research on handling abuse allegations within organizations
8:00 Do girls have to cover for boys’ sins?
25:15 Where do we place our sympathy in abuse stories?
30:45 It is never okay for grown men to be ‘intoxicated’ by children
34:40 Jenna joins + defines trauma
41:10 Why talk therapy alone might not be enough
54:30 Different Christian approaches to therapy + how to find the right therapist
1:06:00 An early ‘She Deserves Better’ review

Why do we sympathize with abusers?

A new study was out just last month called “Moral Foundations, Himpathy, and Punishment Following Organizational Sexual Misconduct Allegations,” (and you know how we all love new studies!), looking at the three ingredients in a community that cause by-standers to sympathize with the abuser rather than the victim:

  • Deference to authority
  • In-group loyalty
  • Emphasis on purity

Rebecca and I loved seeing that list, because we have chapters in She Deserves Better that deal with each of those three things, and how we need to make sure that our daughters don’t grow up with this, but rather become discerning. 

So we walked through examples of all three things in the teachings we give to teen girls, and then show how we can do better.

Then Keith joins me for a quick segment where he looks at the book Every Heart Restored, meant for wives of porn users, and see how the authors consistently tell women to have sympathy for the man, and not for the woman. It’s crazy.

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Jenna Mountain: What is Trauma and EMDR?

Next, Jenna Mountain, a licensed counselor and certified sex therapist and certified EMDR provider in Dallas, Texas at Aspen Haus Associates joins us to describe what trauma actually is, and how EMDR can heal it.

I had known that EMDR is amazing, but I hadn’t actually realized how it worked in the brain until this conversation, and so many things clicked into place! 

Aspen Haus does do work online, so if you’re looking for help, consider contacting them. 

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

What is trauma? How does EMDR work? And why do we sympathize with abusers

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage, your sex life, and your parenting.  And I am joined today.  I have my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach, with me right now.    

Rebecca: Hello.  

Sheila: My husband, Keith Gregoire, is going to be joining me and Jenna Mountain, a licensed therapist—trauma-informed therapist—is going to be joining us to talk about EMDR and trauma later on this podcast as well.  We are going to start with some research.  So today we are in the middle of our launch for our new book, She Deserves Better.

Rebecca: Yes.  We are.

Sheila: Which is a book based on our survey of 7,000 women to see how experiences as teens affected them long term in terms of relationship health, self esteem, sexual satisfaction, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  We’ve looked at what we found out about dating rules in past podcasts.  We’ve looked at modesty.  We’ve looked at consent.  We’ve looked at internalized misogyny and girls talk too much.  And today we’re going to turn to something slightly different which kind of encapsulates all of them which is how girls are often asked to compensate for boys’ weaknesses, sins, or immaturity and how that ain’t okay.

Rebecca: No.  It is not.    

Sheila: No.  Our girls deserve better.  

Rebecca: Yes.  Well, and our boys deserve better, but that’s a whole other thing.

Sheila: Yes.  Because boys are better than that.  So before we get doing that, I want to share some other research that we didn’t do.  And by the way, for all of you, I just need to say—for all of you watching on YouTube, I am sorry that we are so matchy matchy today.  This was not intentional.

Rebecca: No.  It was not planned.  We have, however—this is our third thing that we’ve recorded since realizing that, and we have not had the impetus to change.  So at this point, it is planned by a lack of action.

Sheila: Yes.  So my sweater matches Becca’s hair, and our other sweaters match each other.  Okay.  So we love research.  This is one of the big things that we are big on at Bare Marriage.

Rebecca: Yes.  I would say that.  I would say that is probably the thing that we are big on.  Yeah.

Sheila: The big thing.  Evidence-based research.  So we have some new peer reviewed research to tell you about.  This is from the journal, Organization Science.  And it was published just last month, so this is a really recent.

Rebecca: It’s a little baby research.

Sheila: Yeah.  This is a really recent publication called Moral Foundations, Himpathy, and Punishment Following Organizational Sexual Misconduct Allegations.  Basically what they did—this is kind of interesting—is they took five different studies.  So they compiled—they looked at all the data from five different studies.  So they had an N of 5,413 people.  And they managed to tease out third party reactions when there were abuse allegations within organizations.  Okay.  So you’ve got an organization like a church, a work place, wherever it might be where there are sexual abuse allegations.  And what they found—and this—and I want you all to keep these three things in mind because we’re going to be coming back to them on this podcast.  Okay?  So I’m going to list three things, and all of you at home—you’re going to pay attention.  When there are moral foundations to these organizations where the morality of the organization really, really stresses loyalty, in group loyalty, deference to authority, and purity, guess what happens?

Rebecca: I’m going to guess that sexual abuse victims are believed.  That these kinds of things are taken really seriously.  That people are easily gotten to step down from leadership in humility, and that they’re really, really safe places for women and children.  That’s what I’m going to guess.  Did I get that right?

Sheila: And obviously, we are being sarcastic.  Because when there is in group loyalty, deference to authority, and purity, people are much more likely to sympathize with the alleged abuser and much more likely to villainize the victim.

Rebecca: Of course.  It makes sense.  When you’re focusing on loyalty, deference, and purity, the worst thing that you could be is someone who is impure and who goes against authority.  Right?  And by the way, people who empathize purity assault also counts as impurity in their mind a lot of the time.  Right?  So this is exactly the worst case scenario.  So when you’re in these kinds of groups, this makes perfect sense.  They’re built to just help the people at the top stay at the top.  

Sheila: Exactly.  So we are going to put a link to that study.  It’s super interesting.  In the podcast notes.  But I wanted to bring that up because it’s—when I read that, I thought, “Oh wow.  This is really cool,” because in our book, She Deserves Better, we have chapters arguing how—

Rebecca: Yeah.  Against blind loyalty.

Sheila: – how to make sure that our girls do not grow up with automatic defense to authority but instead learn to have discernment.  We have chapters on how to draw boundaries and how to recognize toxic people so that they’re—

Rebecca: Yeah.  How to now just give people loyalty because they’re family, because they’re friends, because they’re pastors.

Sheila: Right.  And we have chapters on how to understand purity in its proper context, which means—

Rebecca: Yeah.  And not emphasizing purity as being the goal but rather following Christ.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  And so I read this, and I thought, “Yes.  We did this right.”  So I thought, “Okay.  Okay.”  We’re right in line with peer reviewed research, so that’s cool.  Before we get into our discussions today, I want to read two things that came up in the launch team about the book. Now the launch—I’m sorry to all you listening—is currently closed.  I think we have like 700 members or something.  

Rebecca: It’s amazing.

Sheila: It’s going strong, but we did have to cut off enrollment just because there are so many people.  And we want to keep the community aspect.  But you can still preorder the book and get our preorder bonuses, get invited to our webinar, and so much more.  So we will put the link to the preorder where you can send your preorder receipt.  And remember, when you preorder, it helps us immensely because it means that the online retailers will order more copies of our book.  It means when the book moves up in rankings because it’s selling more then book stores often stock it because that’s how they decide what to stock.  So it really helps us.  And you’re guaranteed the lowest price.  So go ahead and preorder that wherever you buy your books and send us the receipt.  And you can get our bonuses.  So here—I will read one, and you can read the other.  Okay?

Rebecca: Sounds great.

Sheila: So here is what some women who are reading it are saying about She Deserves Better.  One woman said, “So far I have read chapter one.  The moments when you address the reader directly almost had me in tears multiple times.  The way you describe the dilemma facing today’s moms really hit my heart.  I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to acknowledge how burdensome that weight has been.  I was speaking to my counselor this week about making the decision to be part of the launch team, and she was thrilled.  And the way she summarized it made so much sense.  She describes as hearing someone you respect speak on a topic that is of utmost important to you that will equip you to be successful at something you value over most other things.  I’ve been yearning for this book more than I realized, and I love the way you both honor the potential benefit of church but clearly define the risks.”  Yeah.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Yeah.  

Sheila: So yeah.  I love that.

Rebecca: That’s the first chapter.  Yep.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: Here’s another one.  “My first impressions?  I love the optimism.  There are so many doomsday messages out there on every side saying, ‘X, Y, Z, evil idea is out to get your kids.  And you need to fight to protect them.’  And the message I’m getting from the first few chapters of She Deserves Better is, ‘It’s going to be okay.  There are bad teachings out there, but there are a lot of good things too.  Here are the tools to separate the good from the bad.’  It’s so very refreshing.”  Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s what we’re all about.  We are not about saying, “Hey, all of this is crap.”  We’re about saying, “Hey, let’s identify what the toxic stuff is.  And let’s just stop.”  

Rebecca: Because then we can enjoy the good side, so we can actually get back to a faith that is a breath of fresh air instead of one that is constantly a battle and a struggle.

Sheila: Exactly.  So let’s talk about some of those bad things that we have to let go of.  

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: One of the big overarching things that we show in She Deserves Better over and over and over again in different ways in our chapters is that girls are consistently asked to make up for the deficiency of boys.  

Rebecca: Yes.  And we’re not saying of boys as a gender like all boys are deficient.  We’re saying when boys are deficient morally or in terms of their maturity, when that is a situation, girls are instructed to pick up the slack.

Sheila: Yeah.  And it also assumes that boys are going to be way worse than most boys are, I think, by the way because guys are not bad.

Rebecca: I think a lot of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy honestly.  I mean we know that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy with girls that—and a lot of our messages that we’ve studies is if you teach people this is how you are, they tend to try to be like that.  And so if you teach boys, “Hi.  You can’t keep it in your pants,” then what?  I mean let’s be honest here.  This is a pretty normal thing that we now in psychology.  Kids will, for the most part, baring other things—kids, as a group—groups of children—they do tend to rise or fall to your expectations.  Right?  And so why are we expecting so little from boys especially in terms of their ability to honor consent, their ability to just be kind, and expecting girls to do the work that boys should be doing themselves.

Sheila: Okay.  So let’s look at some of what that work is that we’ve talked about in some other podcasts, then we’ll bring in some new stuff today.  Let’s summarize the modesty thing.  

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: So, guys, they have a visualize nature that is tempted to linger on, fantasize, and take in this body that is in front of them.  Picture it naked.

Rebecca: And girls can never understand this because it’s such a male experience.

Sheila: Yes.  Those are not my words.  I’m paraphrasing.

Rebecca: No.  No.  Of course not.

Sheila: I’m trying to quote—I’m doing it—paraphrasing.

Rebecca: We’re paraphrasing.  But the context we hear from lots of different places is this idea that girls, even if you find guys hot, even if you think you’re visually attracted, it is nothing compared to what men go through.  We hear that over and over and over again growing up.  Right?  We hear things like if a girl is dressing like she’s trying to get a guy to lust after her, please.  Like he’s going to be able to help himself.  Girls know what they’re doing.  We hear that kind of stuff.  We hear stuff like God designed men to become intoxicated with the female form.  We hear those kinds of messages.  And this is this mentality that, well, boys can’t help it because this is what God made them to be.  He made them to be little horn dogs.  That’s what we’re told.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so it is your job to dress so that they are not horn dogs.

Rebecca: Exactly.  “It’s your job.  And so if a guy is lusting after you, it’s probably your fault because if you had covered up more,”—and they don’t say that.  What they say is, “Well, no.  He’s responsible, but.”  They say, “Of course, you can’t control what anyone thinks excepts,”—like that’s what they do.  Right?  They give the double speak.  They tell you one thing, and then they—they serve you one thing.  And then they just smack you across the face with the backhand.  Right?  So they are telling you, “No.  You are not responsible if someone mistreats you.  But if you hadn’t worn that skirt—let’s me real, Tiffany.  You knew what you were doing.”  Right?  They’re like, “No.  Of course.   He should have respected you.  But you know how guys are.  And you chose to make out with him for awhile,” right?  Because that falls into the next one.  The consent one.

Sheila: Yes.  So it’s not just modesty.  It’s also consent.  You know that guys have such a high sex drive, and they get carried away in a way that girls will never understand.  And so, girls, you need to be the gatekeeper.  You’re the brakes.  He’s the accelerator.  If you want to stop, it is safest to not even start.  That is what girls were told in For Young Women Only.  If you want to stop it, it’s safest to not even start.  And so what happens when you’re in a situation like Vera was in last week?  We talked about on the podcast.  Where you think, “Okay.  I started making out with him.  And so therefore, I must have consented.”

Rebecca: Her sin of starting was seen as equal of his sin of not stopping.  That’s the problem is when you’re in these groups where you believe that this is just how boys are and it’s excused, what ends up happening is a girl consenting to a perfectly normal and innocent relationship thing like kissing, like making out in the back of your car—that’s normal for 16 year olds to do.  Right?  That does not mean you’re consenting to sex.  But her consenting to being physical with someone is seen is as great of a sin as him not stopping because she could have chosen not to start.  But we don’t actually believe that he could choose not to—he could choose to stop. 

Sheila: This sounds obvious when we’re saying it.  But I have been in conversations really recently with a lot of men who just are still saying, “But you don’t understand how hard it is for boys.  You don’t understand.”  

Rebecca: Yep.  It’s so hard for boys.  And boys have a higher sex drive.  They just want it more.  And I’m like that is—

Sheila: Just because you have a high sex drive does not mean you’re going to rape someone.

Rebecca: But it also ignores the fact that maybe the reason that there are—if there are boys who feel like they want sex more than girls, right?  Say that boys do want that.  No one is asking about whether or not it’s because girls face so much more risk with sex and because girls have been taught, “You have to make sure that you’re saying no.  You have to make sure you’re saying no.”  And guys are, “Yeah.  You should say yes.”  Even the church.

Sheila: Yeah.  “See how far she’ll let you go.”  That’s what guys are told.  “Just keep pushing and see how far she’ll let you go.”     

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I even heard this kind of talk in youth group settings where you’re saying things like, “Well, you just don’t have sex.  And guys want sex.  And every guy wants sex.”  And when you talk like that, it reinforces the idea that he does, in fact, want sex whereas you’re reinforcing the idea to girls that you shouldn’t want sex.  And so girls are training themselves to say no.  And boys are training themselves to try to find someone who will say yes in a godly way.  

Sheila: Very different. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  Who will say yes to the stuff that I’m allowed to do and will make sure that I don’t go too far.  It’s a fundamentally different experience, and we talked about this in Great Sex Rescue.  We’ve talked about this on multiple podcasts with Christian men too where they said this is the thing that they realized about especially when they were dating their wives.  Right?  And this is the problem is talking about consent in this way where it’s like, “Well, if you didn’t want him to go all the way, then you shouldn’t have even started.”  What it does is it tells girls, “You aren’t even allowed to do the safe sexual things that you should feel safe doing because you can’t expect boys to have as much self control as we are expecting of you.”  Because we’re expecting more self control from our girls.

Sheila: Yeah.  We’re expecting so much self control for you that you make up for his lack of self control.  

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: And let’s be clear here what we’re really saying is that he has such a high sex drive that he can’t honor your consent.  That is total crap.  Nobody has such a high sex drive that they have to rape you.  

Rebecca: No.  Otherwise, rape would not—otherwise, rape would not be illegal.  Right?  It would be like involuntary sexual—it’s like no.  It’s rape.      

Sheila: It’s rape.  Nobody has such a high sex drive that they have to rape you.  But let’s go back to the article we talked about at the beginning.  The three big things that make people discount rape victim is ideas about purity.  So we just covered those.  Let’s move on to the next one.  Another big thing that girls are asked to do is to defer to authority.

Rebecca: Oh yeah.

Sheila: To defer to boys.  And you hear—we saw this—I couldn’t believe how often this came up in the materials that we reviewed for She Deserves Better is girls were told, “You know, one day you’re going to get married.  And you’re going to have to submit to your husband so practice letting him lead now.”

Rebecca: With all the boys in your class.

Sheila: Yeah.  Practice submitting.  Not just to the guy you’re dating but to the boys in your class.  Make sure that you give them unconditional respect.  For Young Women Only actually told girls to give boys unconditional—not just your boyfriend.  But every boy in your class.

Rebecca: But even so even your boyfriend.  Okay.  If you are the mother of a 15-year-old girl, who is dating a guy who is a 15-year-old boy, I’m sorry.  I don’t know how many 15-year-old boys are like marriage material.  Okay.  Let’s be clear here.  They are 15 year olds.  Do you want your 15-year-old daughter to give unconditional respect?  

Sheila: And, of course, it depends what you mean by respect.  Right?  If you mean treat them like a whole person made in the image of God, then yes.  But that’s not what they mean.

Rebecca: No.  And in For Young Women Only, she says this is the thing that women have to do for men.  She does not say the boy also has to unconditionally respect you.  And so you’re having 15-year-old Everly, who is dating 15-year-old Jaxton.  Right?  Who is like sitting there and is like, “I love you so much,” and is trying to be so deferential and trying to do everything that he wants so that he loves her.  And anytime that she missteps or doesn’t do something exactly right, she is going to think, “Well, I didn’t respect him enough.”  That’s not what you want for Everly.  Okay?  It’s not.

Sheila: No.  Exactly.  And she literally says that—she talks about how much boys need respect in the book For Young Women Only.  And I’m going to quote what she says.  I did a Fixed It For You on Instagram on this last week.  She says, “Many guys have a tough time expressing their feelings.  But thankfully, there is a way to know when we’ve crossed the disrespect line.  Watch for anger.”  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  

Sheila: Do we realize how horrifying that is?

Rebecca: Oh, it’s horrible.  

Sheila: We have just told girls that if a boy is angry at you that is a sign that you have treated him with disrespect.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s not a sign that he might have an ego problem or that he might be too immature to be handling a relationship.  And that he’s unsafe.

Sheila: Or that he’s abusive because we should be telling our girls that anger is not—I mean anger is not necessarily a bad emotion.  There is times where it is correct to be angry.  But if you are an angry person—

Rebecca: But to lash out in anger at someone—

Sheila: Yeah.  Is not okay.

Rebecca: No.

Sheila: And instead of saying this, we should be teaching girls how to have red flags—how to see red flags because telling—there’s a huge difference between saying, “If you do not treat someone respectfully, they probably won’t want to hang around you.  They’re going to feel upset at you.”  That’s reasonable.  But to say, “If someone is angry at you, you must have done something wrong.”

Rebecca: You’re the problem here.

Sheila: You’re the problem.  And she says this in a variety of ways.  It’s all about how boys have these fragile egos.  And so if you know more about a subject than the boy does, you have to make sure to not make them feel inferior.  If you’re in a group project and you’re asking—you’re approaching them to find out if they’ve done their work, you need to do it very deferentially and respectfully.

Rebecca: Even if he’s not pulling his weight and not doing the work.

Sheila: Yeah.  You need to make sure he feels like Spiderman and you’re Mary Jane.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.

Sheila: And I’m sorry.  15-year-old boys are not superheroes.

Rebecca: But also it’s not your responsibility to make them feel like one.  And this is exactly the problem is once again—so you have—so picture—again, you have your 15-year-olds who are dating.  And the boy has major anger problems.  Okay?  He has major anger—a lot of teenage boys have serious anger management issues.  Externalizing behavioral problems are very common among adolescent boys and that includes anger outburst and anger management issues.  And so you have a girl who is dating a teenage boy, who has an anger problem, and she’s thinking, “Well, I must not be respectful enough.”  And so she just tries more and more and more to make herself smaller and smaller so that he stops yelling at her or stop getting angry or punishing her in other ways like the silent treatment or ridiculing or, “Well, you like that.  Well, let me list a bunch of things I hate about you,” and those kinds of things.  This is just—it should be a no brainer that this is completely unwise to tell our kids because we do not need to raise our girls to parent boys who already should have been parented by their parents.  And that’s what I’m seeing a lot of this.  It’s like, “Okay.  So we can’t trust the grown people in these boys’ lives to teach them to not lust after girls, to not rape people, and to have emotional regulation skills.  And so we’re going to now take literal children,”—the girls—they are literal children.  And a lot of people who are listening—you were told this.  You were forced to, in essence, parent boys, who should have been parented by their parents and about things where you became object lessons for these boys.  And that’s what we’re doing.  We’re taking our girls, and we’re turning them into object lessons so that the parents don’t have to actually do the hard work and so that the churches can get away with teaching boys this is just how you are so that the men in authority don’t have to do the hard work either because we all know there is also grown men who are apparently lingering on and fantasizing about this great boy he’s seeing according to Shaunti Feldhahn.  Right?  This stuff is all among the leadership as well.  And what we’re doing is we’re taking our literal children, girls—our 14-year-old, 15-year-old girls, these are children.  These are legally children. Okay?  We’re taking them, and we’re saying, “Okay.  Well, I guess this is all your responsibility now.  And if you get raped, well, you probably should have known better.”  And it’s a problem.  And we’re done.

Sheila: And when you exist in an environment where this male only leadership, we have to start to ask is it really because only men can lead?  Or is it because men want the privilege of not having to be responsible and of not having to mature?  And so we’re putting that on girls and women.  And that’s what we’re seeing in all of these books is that girls are asked to make up for where men have failed.  And that’s not okay.  We can expect a lot more from our boys.  Our boys have the Holy Spirit just as much as our girls do.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  Well, and that’s the thing that’s so ironic is this is what I—when we look at our stats, that’s what really stands out to me is a lot of places who claim that men should be the ones who are leading, all that stuff, they say it’s because, well, men have gifting from God and that God equips men.  He doesn’t equip women to lead.  But then why are we finding that when people believe all these gender hierarchy things they do worse?  Why are we finding then that their men are more abusive?  And why are we finding that the women are in more abusive marriages?  Why are we finding that women who believe these things end up having worse marriages, worse sex lives?  They end up having higher rates of vaginismus.  They end up—why are we finding this?  If it truly is that God has designed it so that men lead and women follow, then why are we seeing that the best outcomes are in churches where both women and men are leading together?  If it’s truly God’s design, we should be seeing that the people who are doing the best are those who are—the women don’t have a voice.  And they are under the men, and the men are lovingly elevating the women’s voice as a sacrificial way.  They don’t have to.  But that’s not what’s happening.  No.  It’s not what’s happening. What we’re seeing instead is we’re seeing 16 year olds are getting raped by boyfriends, and they’re going to their church.  And the church is saying, “Yeah.  But he’s a boy.  You’re a girl.  So you should have known better.”  That’s what we’re seeing.  We’re seeing Veras over and over and over again.  And we’re seeing women who are married to men who were happy to use their bodies over and over again even when it puts their life at risk because they’ve been told by leadership that they’re men and they need this.  And what we need is to get back to the Christ who sees us, the Christ who sees the woman who was bleeding for 12 years and says, “Your faith has healed you,” and affirms her faith.  We need to get back to the Christ who appeared to women when He was raised from the dead.  We need to get back to the Christ who actually modeled what it looked like to radically value every member of the body regardless of how much power or influence culture said they should have.  And I think we can do it.  I think that we’re already doing it.  I think that people are already getting there.  And the more research we do the more we see the fruit is just so bad if we don’t.  

Sheila: If we don’t value women.  So we looked at purity.  We looked at how we told girls to have deference to authority.  And then there’s the problem of in group loyalty, which is also what we hear all the time among girls is that you can’t question your pastors.  You can’t question your youth leader.  You just need to understand that they speak for God.  And we have a number of things in She Deserves Better which help girls learn no.  You have discernment, and you’re allowed to use it.  And that really is our message to the women reading the book too because so many women are reading it to reparent themselves.  Your discernment matters.  God gave you discernment.  And you do not need to just listen to someone because they are in leadership.

Rebecca: You get to just listen to Jesus.

Sheila: You get to just listen to the voice of Christ, and that’s okay.  That is good.  You have the Holy Spirit.  So I hope the book is setting people free.  I’m going to bring my husband, Keith, on in just a sec.  And we are going to look at another aspect of this.  Just parachuting into the podcast to say thank you to a special group of people, our patrons, who help support our research and who make the Internet a great place for us.

Rebecca: Yes.  That’s true.  You can join our Patreon if you want to support what we’re doing.  If you love the podcast and you want to keep it—you want to keep work like this happening all over the Internet, you can support us for as little as $5 a month to gain access to our Facebook group where you can hang out with us pretty much all the time. 

Sheila: Yeah.  And our unfiltered podcast and some merch and so much more.  So join us at patreon.com/baremarriage.  We also have the link in the podcast notes.  All right.  I have brought Keith on the podcast now.  So babe—

Keith: Hey, everybody.  

Sheila: – when Becca was here, we looked at how in group loyalty, deference to authority, and weird purity rules focusing on modesty, et cetera, cause people to have sympathy for a perpetrator and villainize the victim.  

Keith: I know.

Sheila: And you and I were talking about this.

Keith: Yeah.  And I said it’s no surprise because there are so many instances where this is actually taught.  We’re taught to do this in the church.  I’ve seen it again and again.  And the one story that immediately came to my mind was the story from the book, Every Heart Restored, about Mary and her husband, Greg.  And so I’ve talked about this in a blog post before.

Sheila: And Every Heart Restored—just to let people know—is part of the Every Man’s Battle series.  Steve Arterburn, Fred Stoeker.  And this one was also co written by his wife, Brenda Stoeker.   

Keith: Mm-hmm.  

Sheila: Although this particular chapter was not hers, I believe.

Keith: Well, the two of them wrote together.

Sheila: But they alternated chapters, and this one was his.

Keith: Yeah.  They go back and forth.  Anyway, but the point is this story—I will tell it quickly.  I’ve got to give a bit of a trigger warning.  I don’t think I’m going to give too much detail.  But it was basically a story of marital rape.  So they’re having difficulty in their marriage, and she doesn’t feel like he’s communicating.  So she wants him to communicate more.  And she reads this book that says—and this is not the Every Heart Restored book.  They’re talking about her reading another book where she’s taught that she needs to give him sex whenever he wants, and that will make their marriage better.  So she decides to make a vow to never deprive him for an entire year.  

Sheila: Every time he wants it.

Keith: Whenever he wants it, doesn’t matter.  She’ll just do it.  And so he picks up on this, and it becomes really incessant and over the top.

Sheila: Yeah.  If I remember correctly, if she’s in the shower, he climbs in with her.  It’s bad.  

Keith: She basically says that it got to the point that as soon as the—he heard the water in the shower he would come in.  Right?  And she describes a horrific experience.  She uses the words, “I felt like a human toilet for semen.”  That’s the way she describes the experience.  And at the end of the year, she can’t do it anymore, and she stops.  And she explains this to him.  And rather than having sympathy for her, he feels upset that she set him up.  He says that, “She basically set me up to rape her for a year.”  So it’s not his fault.  She set him up by doing this.  So that, for me, is the first point is that when he’s doing these horrible things, when he’s treating her so badly, we’re immediately called to feel sympathy for him because she set him up.  Because what else was he supposed to do because he’s a man?  And if you think I’m reading too much into what the authors of this book are saying, let me actually read their exact words to you.  

Sheila: Okay.  

Keith: At the end of the story, they say this.  “Any woman’s heart is stirred deeply with sympathy for Mary.  And doubtless, you feel what I felt when you read her letter.  But check your heart carefully for Greg.  Did you feel any sympathy for him?  Sympathy?  He perpetrated this mess and act like a sexual pig.  True.  But I believe your heart can stretch further now that you’ve read this chapter on how men are wired.  Male sexuality is complex.”  And so basically what the whole chapter does is it goes on to say if you feel, as a woman, sympathy for Mary, that’s all well and good.  But you need to also have sympathy for Greg.  And it goes point by point, if you have any objection to feeling sympathy for Greg, it tells you why you shouldn’t.  And in the end, it basically says that men are just this way.  And what else could he possibly have done?

Sheila: Yeah.  And this is actually where it says—I quote this all the time.  Men don’t naturally have that Christian view of sex.  They say, “Sure.  Sex is supposed to be intimate.  But you can’t expect men to do that because they don’t have that Christian view of sex.”  

Keith: Yeah.  So rather than saying this man did something horrible and she has every right to feel used and we need to talk to this man, she is being systematically told to have sympathy for her abuser rather than to feel personally used and abused herself.  And I particularly find the line very problematic, “Any woman’s heart is stirred for sympathy with Mary but check your heart about Greg.”  There is no point in this chapter where they encourage men to have their heart stirred for what this woman went through.

Sheila: Yeah.  And they don’t even say that they really have a heart stirred for Mary.  They don’t even—

Keith: No.  Any time they talk about what happened to Mary it’s always like, “Well, of course, what he did was wrong.”  It’s always this dismissive, quick, “Well, of course, we don’t believe that what he did was right.  Well, of course, we would never support what Greg did,” but—and then it goes on to talk about why you need to feel sympathy for poor Greg because this is the way God made him.  And if I didn’t see it in print, I wouldn’t believe it.  But this is what people are teaching.  And the thing that I find incredible about this is the low view of men it has.  I mean this is what happens when you say from the very beginning, we teach that women are objects for men’s sexual consumption.  Don’t do it until you’re married.  But then once you’re married, they’re all yours.  It’s a horrible way of preaching about sexuality, and we need to stop.  And all these things you’re breaking down in She Deserves Better, hopefully, will make the next generation much safer.

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  I need to get you to do one thing for me while I’ve still got you here.  Okay?

Keith: What’s that?

Sheila: So two weeks ago on the podcast we were talking about modesty.  

Keith: Right.

Sheila: And I read the section from the book, Secret Keeper Girl, where Dannah Gresh told eight year olds that their bodies were intoxicating.

Keith: Oh my gosh.  Yes.

Sheila: And explained how grown men would find that intoxicating.  And I said, “I wish I had Keith on to tell you what he thought as a pediatrician.”  So now that I have you on—

Keith: Being sexually attracted to underage children is not normal.  I mean how can that even be taught?  I mean that’s hideous.  That’s horrible.  

Sheila: I remember even being sexually attracted to like—okay.  Let’s say there’s a 14 year old—

Keith: Well, let’s say there’s an adult woman.  Okay.  So when we preach this idea that men have no control over their thought lives, men have no choice but to lust, what do you think is happening when you go to the gynecologist?  What do you think?  Do you think men don’t have the ability to compartmentalize and be appropriate and know what the situation calls for?  Do we think men just are always constantly in a sexual mode?  That’s ridiculous.  Men can control their thought lives.  Why don’t we expect men to control their thought lives in the Christian church?  It falls on women to control men’s thought lives.  It’s terrible.

Sheila: And it is not normal.  It is not normal.  I remember you and I had this conversation where if there was a 14-year-old girl, who was dressed scantily—I mean sure.  You’d notice.  But she’s 14.

Keith: Absolutely.  And your thought is not sexual.  Your thought is like, “What’s going on with her?  Why is she doing this?  This is not the way you want to get attention.”  I have a fatherly heart toward her.  This is not good for you.  You don’t want to be like this.  That’s my thought.

Sheila: Yeah.  So this whole idea that men can’t help it, women and girls are stumbling blocks, your comment?  As a man?

Keith: No.  Definitely not.  I mean you have the control of your own thought life.  It says, “Take every thought captive to Christ.”  It doesn’t say, “Women, make sure you don’t put bad thoughts in guys’ minds.”  This is crazy.  I don’t understand where this comes from.  It makes no sense whatsoever.  And if it really is that men cannot—if you feel like there is no way that you cannot look at a woman sexually, that you cannot look at a woman without automatically objectifying her, then you need to do some serious soul searching about the culture that you live in that trains your brain to go that way as an automatic response.  That’s what I would say for you.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Because it’s not normal.

Keith: And if it is normal in your culture, it shouldn’t be.  And I think in a lot of these cultures with the in group loyalty, deference to authority, we have this concept that women are supposed to be demure and deferential to men.  And it gives men this real buzz, this real high, this power sort of kick.  And that makes men think of women in a certain way.  And so if that’s the case, maybe you need to rethink how you look at women.  I mean if you really feel your—everybody in your culture cannot look at women except as sexual objects, you need to reevaluate how you look at women in general in your culture.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  All right.  Well, we know that a lot of these things can lead to higher rates of sexual assault, can lead to just internal trauma because we’ve believed all these things, and it can really impact us or stories like Mary where we have marital rape.  These are difficult things.  And we throw the word trauma around a lot.  And I’m not sure that everyone understands what trauma is or even how we can treat it when we have it so that it doesn’t have to affect us.    And so I want to bring on to the podcast right now a licensed therapist, who is specially trained in trauma work to help explain what trauma is, why it can be so debilitating, and what we can do about it.  Well, I am so thrilled to bring on the podcast Jenna Mountain, who is a professional licensed counselor in the state of Texas.  And she works with sexual dysfunction as well as sexual trauma.  So hello, Jenna.

Jenna: Hi.  Thank you for having me.

Sheila: Yeah.  This is great.  And we’ve been chatting a little bit on social media.  And I thought, “You know what?  This would be wonderful to just have a basic education class on the podcast of what is trauma and what are trauma therapies,” because those are words I keep throwing around.  But I don’t know if I’ve ever properly defined it, and I think we hear this word and we don’t know what it is.  So Jenna, you are the expert.

Jenna: Yes.  Let’s see if I am.

Sheila: When we say trauma, what do we mean?    

Jenna: So I love this question.  And I’m going to answer it in my specific way.  So I’ve been working with trauma for a little over a decade.  And you know this about me.  Your listeners don’t.  I’m trained in EMDR, so eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.  And so both of those things inform how I assess for trauma.  And so I’m going to go there a little bit.  But you can go into a variety of diagnostic manuals and see sort of the check boxes for do I qualify for diagnostically according to this criteria post traumatic stress disorder, some different things like that.  In my experience in my office, though, the way I talk to my clients and talk about trauma is if your nervous system tells me so we’re going to treat it like trauma.  Okay.  And the reason I say that is because I think—I’m glad more people are talking about it.  I’m glad we’re talking a lot about it as a culture.  And sometimes those diagnostic features we don’t quite cross those markers.  And yet, we still have something to address from a trauma lens.  Sometimes we look at sort of these classic examples of trauma.  And we’re like, “Well, I’m not that.”  And so maybe I don’t have trauma.  And so in my office, when I’m working with people, I just tell them, “If your nervous system tells me so.”  And so we look for—

Sheila: So what do you mean by that?  Because some people think, “Well, does it just mean that I’m really sad?  Or does it just mean that I’m really depressed or anxious?”  What does it mean that your nervous system is acting up?

Jenna: So our nervous system and our emotional experiences are this wonderful God-given alarm system.  Now I will say.  This is the caveat.  Most of us didn’t get what we needed growing up to develop that alarm system into this beautiful working thing that we feel very comfortable engaging and navigating.  So there’s that one piece there.  But with that said, our brains were made to process through all of our experiences.  Both the—what we would call negative emotional experiences.  So sadness, anger, hurt, and then also experiencing those beautiful, wonderful experiences, right?  They come with joy and happiness.  But as we go through our day and we’re kind of moving up and down in our emotional experience, if the situation either becomes stressful to a point and prolonged for too long or we have a very sharp spike in our experience where our sensory overload happens and our nervous—it goes beyond what we can handle in that moment, and that is unique for each person.  That’s why it’s so hard to say, “This is the really tight defined box of trauma,” because my nervous system thresholds are unique to me and my story.  They depend on what I got as a child in my development.  It depends on all of the other historical experiences that I’ve had.  And I have this internal threshold that none of us actually can peel back my chest and measure that it’s six inches tall, and this is exactly where it’s at.  But we all have this threshold.  And if we cross that threshold and our nervous system that’s taking in the experience from a sensory perspective, from an information perspective, if that gets overwhelmed to whatever degree, our brains don’t process that experience’s information in an adaptive, healthy, helpful way and store it so it works like learning.  We go to sleep every night.  We wake up, and we’ve kind—our brain has done all this pruning and organizing and puts it in the back where we can get it again.  And so we can pull it out in the future in this helpful way as we grow.  So when we get overwhelmed in our nervous system, we develop stuck points.  Now whether or not we would call those trauma, you would find a lot of arguments in the field which is why EMDR, at one point—EMDRIA, the organization that trains and certifies and all of that—they started adding the language negative adverse life experiences because those stuck points matter as well.  Not just the ones that technically qualify as trauma.  And in my experiences, those other stuck points that may not hit PTSD markers and those criteria, they’re having just as much of an impact on a person’s life as something that is technically crossing some textbook definition somewhere.  So I would say depending on your philosophy you might trauma are the things that cross those lines.  But we know that prolonged stress over time causes just as much negative symptoms and reactions later on as an acute trauma experience.

Sheila: Right.

Jenna: So I am one of those people that broadly brushes what will we call trauma.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  And I think—what I really go—when I started reading about this what I found so fascinating is that this is actually about the physical workings of the brain.  And this is a major light bulb moment for me.  So it’s like talking alone doesn’t fix this.  

Jenna: No.

Sheila: And that blew my mind.  

Jenna: It could even make it worse.  

Sheila: Yeah.  That blew my mind.  So explain why talking alone doesn’t help us get over these things that can cause the nervous system to go wacko.

Jenna: Yeah.  There’s a lot of reasons why talking alone is not enough.  So one of my favorite EMDR examples is—and we talk about this when we’re prepping clients to do that work because EMDR works with all the content that is involved with the traumatic or negative experience.  And so one of the classic examples is the client is working on being slapped across the face.  That’s the—what we call the target memory or the traumatic experience.  And as they are reprocessing this in the office, the hand mark shows up on the face because we actually store trauma cellularly in the body, not just where we think about it in the brain.  And so the body can manifest some of those things as you’re reprocessing.

Sheila: Wow.

Jenna: So we’re storing this in all the parts of our nervous system, not just in the command center up here.  The other thing about talk therapy—and I’m not against talk therapy.  I was a talk therapist for awhile before I did some other things.  But the other thing about talk therapy is it’s really dependent on the parts of the brain where our language center is and what we have words for, and trauma is mostly stored in other parts of the brain in our right brain, in our emotional brain.  And so if you don’t have words for it to fully capture it and/or you have not connected those parts of the brain—one of my favorite authors is Curt Thompson.  And he talks about the left brain having hooks for the right brain experiences to grab onto so that you can start to describe what’s happening for you.  And most people who have been through traumatic experiences don’t have all the language hooks.  And so talk therapy might not grab at that.  You’re also using parts of the brain that are leaning a little bit more into your executive functioning.  And we can get in our own way.  And so I think—I’ve already decided that it’s going to down like this, and this is how I need to talk about it.  And I do think there’s a lot of beauty in what a client does know about what they feel and what they want and what they need.  And sometimes their logic and my logic, as a therapist, get in the way.  And our brain will actually take us to some really beautiful places when we kind of go into therapy a little bit more open handedly with some of these other creative therapies out there outside of talk therapy.

Sheila: Okay.  So let’s take a client.  Let’s say that they’re coming to you, and their issue is—let’s just make up something that’s super common.  Okay?  16 years old.  And they’re date raped.

Jenna: Yeah.

Sheila: Okay.  So horrible story.  I should probably put a trigger warning on this one.      

Jenna: Yeah.  Yeah.

Sheila: So we’ll do that at the beginning.  They are date raped.  And they’re finding that they’re having flash backs.  That when they’re getting sexy with their husband, every now and then he’ll do something.  And it’ll just take them right back.  And they don’t want that.  They want to be better.  They want to be able to enjoy their husband.  They’re in a great marriage now.  But this is still bugging them.  So talking alone isn’t going to help that necessarily.  So what would you do with that person?  

Jenna: Well, so here’s the deal.  One of my favorite sayings is to keep it complex.  So I would say that’s a classic vignette.  And then I would say classically, in my office, there’s always more than just that moment.  And so you really do want someone who can assess for—what I would call the foundational layers that came before the trauma.  Because what happened in that moment is informed by what you knew about the world, your body, sex, boundaries before that moment happened.  And it never ceases to amaze me how much those things become significant factors in how you heal from an assault situation.  So yeah.  Well, I’m an EMDR therapist.  I don’t know how much you want me to go there already.  

Sheila: Yeah.  No.  I think the people—because people hear this.  They see these words—these letters all the time.  EMDR.  And people don’t know what it means.  And then when they hear—when they know what it stands for, they still don’t know what it is.  

Jenna: Yes.  Well, let me talk a little bit about EMDR because that’s going to inform how I answer your question.  So eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a form of therapy founded by Francine Shapiro.  She found it on accident, and I’m so glad that she did.  But what she started to connect was back and forth, left to right eye movement triggered something in the body and in the brain that was helping bring down the emotional charge with an experience.  And she literally found this while she was walking and moving her eyes back and forth just kind of looking at things.  And so, again, I’m very thankful for her findings and this accidental, wonderful thing.  But what it does is when we cross the midline of the body with bilateral stimulation—so left right, left right.  It could be tapping.  It could be eye movements.  It could be audio.  I do a lot of audio with my remote clients.  When we cross that midline of the body, we’re triggering bilateral stimulation in the body and in the brain.  And what that’s doing is triggering what I would say is God’s natural mechanism for the learning, adaptive memory process.  Okay?  So what it’s doing is what we do when we go to bed every night.  It mimics REM sleep.  Okay?  

Sheila: Oh yeah.

Jenna: So that rapid eye movement.

Sheila: I never thought of that.  Oh wow.  Okay. 

Jenna: So have you seen the Disney movie Inside Out?

Sheila: Uh-huh.  

Jenna: The little emotions characters.  Okay.  So early scene, Riley is going to bed.  And all the little emotions in the control center.  And Joy says, “I got this.  I’ll send all the memories—I’ll send all of the experiences to long term memory,” and you’ve got all the little experience bubbles on the wall.  And she hits a lever, and they start flying out the back of the control center into long term memory.  That is what happens every night with your daily experiences.   Your brain is actually doing that.  All the therapists cheered when they say the movie.  They were like, “They nailed it.  They got it.”  And part of that is happening in your REM sleep.  And so basically what we figured out is you’re supposed to do that with all of your experiences.  But like I said before when your nervous system gets too elevated and throws that off and you get these stuck points, what we can do in EMDR is bring up those stuck experiences and then use bilateral stimulation to mimic what happens during REM sleep and push it through to completion.  And so that’s what we’re doing in EMDR.  We’re taking all those stuck points wherever they fall on the trauma continuum, and we’re pushing them through to completion.  And one of the very important things about EMDR that is going to kind of get at your question is that it is actually considering all the content.  In fact, one of the things we talk about is when we’re asking question to queue up the memory, we’re queuing up different parts of the brain.  Different parts of the brain that do different things for us.  And so we’re asking about visuals.  We’re asking about your feeling words, your emotions that go with this, your belief that goes with this.  I’m not enough.  I’m not worthy.  I am broken.  I am a failure.  We’re asking about those body sensations.  Okay?  And so we’re looking at all of this content.  We don’t just want to bring up what we can talk about.  We want everything that has been stored in the body and in the brain to get brought into this reprocessing.  And then we start that bilateral stimulation and push it forward.  And it’s fascinating what—and all of my clients reprocess a little differently.  None of them look exactly the same.  And then what we say is there are not supposed tos.  You’re going to hold this open handedly.  Let that bilateral stimulation go, and we’re going to let your brain tell us what it needs to connect and think about and feel and let the body sensations move through.  It’s real interesting.  People will be like, “I feel it in my chest.”  And they’ll say, “Oh, it’s moved back to my shoulder.”  And then it’s like, “Oh my gosh.  My head hurts.”  And then they’ll be like, “Oh, I feel it in my pelvic floor.  I feel it in my hips.”  And those body sensations move around as they are metabolizing in your body.  

Sheila: Wow.  Okay.  

Jenna: And so we’re capturing all the content that went with that traumatic experience and moving it through to completion which is, if you think about how we are as humans, we’re developmental.  We’re learning creatures.  So that thing that all trauma survivors want, which is that post traumatic growth, right?  The thing that makes me—you wouldn’t want to wish trauma upon anybody.  But it’s the thing we all want at the end.  I want to know I was strong.  I want to know that I got past this, that I overcame this, that I can learn.  Right?  And that’s really what you do get on the other side of this is that beautiful post traumatic growth because the disturbance in the body, the nervous system, can calm down and say, “It’s no longer happening.  This is not what’s happening in the present.  I have new meaning making about what that meant about me, what it meant about the world.  Maybe what it meant about sex in this situation.  And I don’t know—I no longer believe those things because I’m not stuck in my learning.  I now believe this about me.  And I now believe this about the world.  And I now believe this about relationships.”  So we flip the meaning and the belief over.  We calm down the body.  We let those clients fully feel all of the emotional experiences that go with that which is a wide variety of things until it’s resolved.  Okay?  So I just don’t think talk therapy grabs at that very well, and that’s why I am so committed to EMDR.  I think there are some really excellent talk therapists.  I tell people it’s like baking brownies.  Okay?  If I have my brownies in my bowl and I have a bowl full of batter, if I just flipped that bowl over and shook it over my baking dish, I would have a really nice batter—batch of brownies, if you will.  EMDR scrapes the bowl though.  I’m going to have more brownies into the baking dish and out of the bowl.  And so I just think EMDR is more comprehensive—

Sheila: Right.

Jenna: – and thorough in its process.

Sheila: Right.  And I love that because the whole point—and correct me if I’m wrong here because I’m just learning this.  I’m listening to you too.  But as we integrate it, it’s not that you forget it.  It’s not that it’s not part of you still.  It’s just that it doesn’t feel like it’s in the present.  It feels like something which you can now look at almost objectively and say, “Okay.  That was bad.  That hurt me, but here’s where I am now.”  So it’s not affecting you emotionally.  It’s more like a memory that is integrated into who you are.  Is that right?

Jenna: Absolutely.  Oh yes.  So we relegate the trauma to the past because that’s when it happens.  That’s one of the things you do in trauma work.  A lot of my clients will describe it like when we first start with that target or memory it’s very vivid.  Sometimes too vivid.  And we have to get creative with how we get in there, right?  But when they’re done, they describe it like—almost like a slide on a little old-fashioned projector that they’ve got filed away in their story.  But it’s not big.  It’s small.  Some of them describe it as being fuzzy.  They don’t forget it.  What I would describe is charged emotion gives us access to memory.  And so as you turn the charge down, your access to that memory takes a little bit more work.  And so you don’t forget.  But it’s not invading your present, and it’s not so vivid that it’s overwhelming you in your memory anymore.  So it does.  It gets smaller.  And they are able to talk about it without getting dysregulated in their nervous systems.  What I tell them to your point is, “You will never lose your evaluation of this,” meaning it was bad that this happened.  It was wrong.  You don’t lose that because you heal.  And some people are afraid of that.  You don’t lose that.  What you gain is a groundedness that it is no longer happening and that you are okay both in value and in your safety.  I can make choices.  And I can do this.  And I am capable.  And I am worthy.  So it’s an incredible process.  It’s an absolute privilege to get to do it.

Sheila: Yeah.  I love that.  So Jenna, now you’re a Christian.  

Jenna: Yes, ma’am.

Sheila: And I know that there’s different schools of thought among Christians when it comes to counseling.  A lot of churches really feel like we’re not supposed to listen to psychology at all.  We’re only supposed to go with the Bible.  And so they would really frown on stuff like this.  

Jenna: 100%.

Sheila: And they think instead we need to have more faith, and we need to pray more.  And we need to figure out the sin in our lives and stuff like that.  Have you seen clients who have come out of that kind of counseling and are now looking for something else?

Jenna: 100%.  Yeah.  I had the advantage, I will say, of going through—my Masters level counseling training was at a private university.  And it was for professional counseling.  So clinical mental health.  And one of the classes that I actually had the privilege of teaching later on in my life was what we call the integration class.  And so one of the things that we had to do was learn about and study the different camps, if you will, on Christian counseling.  Okay?  And it went all the way from what some people would call biblical.  I think that’s—I mean I am from Texas.  So we’re the belt buckle of the Bible belt.

Sheila: Right.  Yes.

Jenna: Per se.  But I don’t like calling it biblical counseling because I have an issue with those words.  But there is a very specific camp called nouthetic counseling.  And their belief is we are going to use Scripture only.  There are two buckets within that camp.  Traditionalist fundamentalist and progressives.  The progressives are a little softer towards those who choose to integrate psychology.  But I would personally say when I meet them and I talk to them I’m a little bit unclear exactly how they’re practicing.  I will say there’s some people in the biblical counseling camp that I would say are more coaches.  They don’t have formal training and background.  But I also have experienced them not to be against those who have formal training and background.  So there’s this whole hodgepodge over here.  And then there’s this whole spectrum of camps.  I think we’re up to like five that have been named total—of all of these different philosophies as to how to integrate faith and science when it comes to mental health and wellness.  And so I went into my career being very exposed to this conversation.  Professionally, I have been on the other side of some pretty heated debate about this.  There are some churches in my area that are pretty openly against it.  And yes.  Because we are right here smack in the middle of it in Texas, I—we have had those clients here that have recovered from being told that they should not seek help.  So yes.  I have been exposed to that story.

Sheila: Yes.  Because that’s really—and this is what—I know Rachael Denhollander has gone public and said that she’s never met someone who went to biblical counseling for trauma who didn’t end up worse.  

Jenna: I have big concerns.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Because if this is something which is honestly about the nervous system to then tell someone that the reason that this is still bothering you in the present is that there’s a sin issue or there’s a belief issue—you’re not trusting God enough—that compounds the trauma.

Jenna: 100%.  It’s very much so an oversimplification of how I think—I understand, theologically, sin to move through the world and break it.  And it is a disservice to how we know that trauma pervasively invades a shame based language in order to maintain itself in a person’s life.  

Sheila: Right.

Jenna: And so we have to walk them out of shame based narratives and language around that and an oversimplified explanation of sin and brokenness tends to definitely do more harm.  Yeah.  It’s a concern.

Sheila: So if some of our listeners know they have trauma and they want to get help, it can be really confusing to figure out who to find.  So when you’re Googling—when our listeners are Googling and they’re trying to figure out who to go to, what should they be Googling?

Jenna: Oh gosh.  Okay.  So I, obviously, have a bias for EMDR.  So I definitely think you all should go check out the EMDR therapists.  And by the way, because the pandemic kicked our tushies into the online world, most of us, if you are willing, can do it online just fine.  So if you don’t have one real close to you, EMDR is (cross talk).

Sheila: And how does that work cross states?  Do you still have to find someone within your state?

Jenna: You do with EMDR.  EMDR is very clearly—so I also do coaching.  And so I do that internationally and across states.  But EMDR is clearly a clinical approach, and so that has to be done within the jurisdiction of the state in which you carry a licensure.  

Sheila: And I think that works the same in Canada.  Maybe not for all provinces, but I believe for most, yes.

Jenna: Pretty similarly.  Yeah.  Yeah.  So it’s a turf war on territories, and I think it’s inconvenient sometimes.  But you can look up—there’s—I think it’s EMDR Canada.  Emdria.org is United States.

Sheila: And just for listeners, we are saying EMDR.  

Jenna: Like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.  I know.  I don’t know the military words.  

Sheila: I know.  Echo, something.

Jenna: Mary.  Dog.  Ralph.  There you go.  I did it.

Sheila: EMDR.   

Jenna: We did it.  So I know Canada has an organization.  And those groups are pretty good at having a directory online, so you can look them up.  So I’m biased.  I think it’s a highly effective therapy—form of therapy.  With that being said, not all EMDR therapists are created equal.  EMDR, while it is highly effective at trauma, does not make you a trauma therapist.  You want to work with someone who understands trauma for a wide variety of reasons.  The list is long.  You need to understand what trauma needs to heal.  You need to have a concept of the body work.  You need to have a concept map for not flooding someone and overwhelming and retraumatizing them.  And EMDR alone is not enough for that.  

Sheila: Right.  

Jenna: So that’s one reason why.  I know because of your work, which is why I started chatting with you online, that a lot of people are going to specifically be in the sexuality bucket with some of their trauma and/or work.  Please go to someone who is trained in sexuality.  There are so many—and I genuinely believe this.  I really appreciated the way you opened your book.  I think some of it’s very well meaning.  Some of my colleagues that are brilliant marriage and family therapists make big mistakes because they don’t understand sex and sexuality.  And so if you’re working in that area, you need someone with that specialty as well.  And here’s why.  One of the things that a good EMDR therapist knows and needs to understand is if there is information missing, right?  Like psycho education.  Like I haven’t learned this.  I don’t know a thing about boundaries.  What do you mean boundaries?  How do those work?  I don’t know how sex is supposed to work.  I don’t have good information on sex ed.  It’s hard to reprocess the trauma when you don’t have the building blocks to put into it as you’re reprocessing.  So if you don’t have someone who understands trauma reactions, who doesn’t understand, “Oh, you got this diagnosis because you weren’t assessed for trauma,” and can educate and slide in that information as you’re doing all the reprocessing, it may not be as helpful and beneficial.  So you really need someone who can hold multiple concept maps while you’re doing this work.  So I would ask about their trauma training.  And just because you’re a therapist doesn’t mean you’re a trauma therapist.  And I would ask about their sexuality training.  Just because you’re a marriage therapist doesn’t mean you know a lick about sex.

Sheila: Amen.  

Jenna: I’m just saying.  So I would be picky because I get lots of leftovers, Sheila.  I get lots of leftovers on all three of those fronts where—and, again, I think it was really well meaning.  And they were doing the best that they could.  And I probably sound like a therapy snob.  If you don’t understand the concept maps, people won’t be able to get over this hump that they need.  They won’t be able to get to that place of healing.

Sheila: Exactly.  So yeah.  So look for someone who is licensed.  Look for someone who has specific training in specific evidence-based trauma therapies like EMDR.  And yeah.  And then just ask some hard questions. And that’s not being mean.  That’s not being rude.  That’s just standing up for yourself, and you need to do that.  Yeah.         

Jenna: People who are afraid to be an advocate and ask hard questions because they fear that they will—that it’s mean or disrespectful I would just encourage them to consider that that might be the way that the abusive system is maintaining itself.

Sheila: Yep.  Very good point.  Well, thank you so much, Jenna.  So tell people how they can find you.

Jenna: Yes.  So probably the best way to find me is one of two ways.  I am on Instagram.  The Jenna Mountain.  And then my company that I co own with my brilliant business partner is Aspen Haus Associates.  But we wanted to be edgy, so house is haus.  So aspenhausassociates.com.  And we do.  We offer therapy in three states in the United States.  And so we’re across three states.  Texas, Virginia, and New Jersey.  And then we offer coaching, which we can actually do a lot in coaching with relationships anywhere.

Sheila: Okay.  Well, I will put those links.  And again, your name is Jenna Mountain for anyone who is Googling you.  And thank you so much for joining us today.  I’m sure we’ll have you back to talk about the other side of what you do in therapy which is helping people thrive.  But just for now, I wanted to get the trauma stuff straight because I get so many questions about it.  So this has been really informative.  I really appreciate it.

Jenna: Thank you for having me.

Sheila: All right.  I am so glad that she could join us because, honestly, I didn’t know what EMDR was until a couple years ago.

Rebecca: Oh really?

Sheila: Yeah.   I didn’t.  And I mention it to people all the time.  Hey, you’ve got get this.  This can really help with trauma.  And we speak about so many things where people are really dealing with trauma.  And so just to let people know there is a way through it.  So go check out Jenna.  We’ll have the link in the podcast notes to where you can get a hold of her and find out more about what she does.  I’m so glad that she could join us.  A big part of She Deserves Better, hopefully, is preventing trauma and helping women grow up without some of this baggage.  And hopefully away from communities where trauma is more common.  I want to read one more thing that came out of our launch team.  A woman as she reading into the first few chapters of the book, and she says, “I’m in the boundaries chapter.  And it really got me thinking about hierarchical gender relationships.  I believe the true problem with hierarchical ideas of marriage that I’ve never really thought about until I started reading about girls and boundaries is that it teaches both genders to value male voices and opinions over female voices and opinions which makes boundaries so hard for girls because they’re trained to listen to men rather than their female inner voice.  It’s insidious.  And the boys find it easier to trample over boundaries because they’ve been taught to value their male inner voice over their female whose boundary is being crossed.”  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s a good point.

Sheila: Yeah.  So again really great stuff coming out of our Facebook group.  Please check out the book, She Deserves Better.  It launches April 18th.  And we will be back next week to talk about another aspect of our research, 7,000 women, to see how we can raise our girls better than how we were raised because, hey, we deserve better.  You deserve better, and she deserves better.  Thanks, everybody.  See you next week.

Rebecca: Bye.

SDB Coming Soon Desktop

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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PODCAST: On Nice Guy Syndrome, and Boundaries!

Have you ever heard the J.O.Y acronym? It's supposed to sum up our attitude towards how we live our lives, and it stands for: Jesus first Others second You last This is very much what we're taught in church--that we come last. Yet Jesus said that we're to love others...


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  1. Michelle

    I haven’t watched the podcast. I’m sure it’s amazing but since I’m still going through healing from chronic betrayal trauma it’s too hard to watch. I think it has to do with validation. That’s something people dealing with trauma crave so much and so rarely get it. Like I said, I’m sure the podcast is amazing but the fear of “will it accurately define the trauma I’ve been through” is so great right now. I would share on Facebook but I don’t want my kids to see my post. What I do want to say is up until 6 months ago I had never heard of betrayal trauma. I didn’t know there were words to describe what I was going through and what I was dealing with. My husband is a recovering sex addict and has cheated on me for 21 years. Last summer, things were going good in our marriage I thought, and I downloaded the Intimately Us app and Sheila was a guest speaker. This led me to her Facebook page which led me to Sarah McDugals page. In Sept my husband confessed to cheating again. I joined a betrayed group of Sarah’s and that’s where I learned about betrayal trauma. After much searching (so sad that it’s still hard to find trained therapists for such a massive need) I found a therapist who is trained in betrayal trauma. (Found her through APSATS) She was able to FINALLY put words to what I was going through. In 2012 I started having weird health issues. In 2016 I was diagnosed with lupus although my symptoms and lab work never fit that diagnoses. Fast forward to last year- my counselor gave me book recommendations to read and I learned how betrayal trauma can cause severe affects on the body. Earlier this year I saw a new rheumatologist and mentioned the trauma and how my diagnoses never fit and he said “I don’t think you have lupus. Good thing is there’s a newer test. We can find out for sure.” The test was completely negative. I would have “flares” when I would go out in public, come to find out, they were panic attacks. My brain has been so impacted by the trauma that my body is in a constant state of fight or flight. I have complex ptsd. I am hyper vigilant in my surroundings. Always feeling unsafe and anxious. I have nightmares, relieve the events, etc etc. This sounds like a lot but I’ve healed so much in the past 6 months just from being able to put words to what I’m going through. The reason I share all this is because I feel that God wants me to share my story to help others. I want other women to know what I didn’t for 21 years. I saw a marriage counselor in 2018, betrayal trauma recognition was already big in the early 2000’s and yet my counselor still prescribed to the “codependent” model and told me I was the problem for being codependent, I expected perfection from my husband by expecting him to not cheat, and I was withholding sex from him to exact my revenge for the cheating. He also quoted scripture at me. And that was 2018! So I know other women are still being hurt by horrible counselors! I just pray that the right woman will see this and know, it’s not her fault, she’s not crazy, her brain is injured and THERE’S HOPE for healing. And she deserves to heal! She matters to God and it breaks his heart that she’s suffered or still is suffering from trauma in her most intimate relationship.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, yes, the codependent model is so harmful!

      I’ve talked with Sarah, and one of the research projects she would love to do is see the autoimmune disorders in women with betrayal trauma and abuse. It’s HUGE. So prevalent. The body does keep the score.

      Peace to you, my friend.

      • Cynthia

        I’d be interested in that research.
        I’m a family lawyer and my husband is a rheumatologist. Occasionally, we have some overlap since we practice in the same area. We have seen that sudden and severe stress – which could include betrayal trauma – can be linked to fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis flares. There has been a lot of research on drugs to treat flares but not nearly as much on ways to prevent it.

        • Michelle

          My husband’s big disclosure was 2018 and later that year I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I’d love to participate if Sarah does do a study.

      • Kathy

        I also would participate in that study! I have been in counseling for 10 yrs (including EMDR) after a childhood and marriage filled with trauma. Currently have been married for 40 yrs and was diagnosed a year ago at age 62 with membranous nephropathy, a rare, autoimmune kidney disease (8 people per million).

      • Chris

        The body definitely keeps score. I had an employee (male) collapse at work one day. Ambulance came and took him to the hospital. Turns out his blood pressure was way to low. So he asked the doctor at the hospital if he should stop taking the blood pressure medication he was on. Turns out he and his now exwife separated. Just no longer living with her caused his blood pressure to go down so much he no longer needed the medicine. Yes, the body keeps score.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Wow! I’ve heard similar stories from others too. When the relational stress is gone, suddenly they don’t need back surgery for all the pain.

      • Trudy

        Dear Michelle,

        My heart aches for what you’ve been through…and I can relate…I’m so sorry that you too have been struggling with the fall out of betrayal.

        …my only question is…are you still married to your husband?

        If you feel you cannot answer, I completely understand.

    • Nathan

      How heartbreaking for you to run into yet another “counselor” who does nothing but place the burden on you. I’m so sorry that happened and I hope that you can heal from it.

      > > I expected perfection from my husband by expecting him to not cheat

      Wow. That’s a bit much even from an extreme evangelical counselor. I hope EVERYBODY realizes that asking a spouse not to cheat is in NO WAY being a perfectionist.

      • Michelle

        Yes. The counselor I have now in phenomenal (also trained in betrayal trauma) so there’s hope. 😊

        • Michelle

          The full conversation was: counselor: “is your husband a good man other than the cheating? Is he a good father, kind, contributes to society?” Me: “yes”. Counselor: “So you’re saying he’s like 90% good and the cheating makes him like 10% bad. I would have been happy in school just to have a 70% and pass! 90% is great! But you want 100%. So you must expect perfection.” Me (stares dumbfoundedly at the audacity of the counselor) “No, I just expect my spouse not to cheat….” That was the last time we saw that counselor.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Good for you! That was brave to walk away. You should be proud of yourself. That can be a hard thing to do.

          • Susan P

            I really like the brownie analogy. I’m making my famous gourmet brownies that everyone raves about. I generally use the best imported chocolate in my recipe, but today, I’m a little short, so I decide to make up the difference with dog poo. How much dog poo would make you not want my wonderful brownies? 30%? 10%? Or any at all?

  2. Codec

    Will you write a book for and about young men and what is going on with them? I have no doubt this book deals with a lot of that, but there is much I want you guys to look into.

    Please, look into and address stuff like the alpha male idea or the red pill. If there is something we can learn and fix that can help people please do so.

    You guys have helped me and so many others.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’d love to–just so busy, and I’m not a guy. I’m hoping we can partner with someone else so that we can do the survey for them and they can run with it.

  3. Codec

    Deference to authority.

    What kind of authority? What do you mean by respect? It is not mutual respect?

    I see so many ways that this can go horribly wrong that can be illustrated by some of the greatest villains ever written.

    Thulsa Doom and The Joker.

    By the insane logic you are rebbutting the Joker is not being respected and that is why he beats Harley. That is madness.

    As for Thulsa Doom he was a snake cult leader who so demanded obedience that he brainwashed people across the hyperborean world sending his doom riders to murder those who could stand up against him. He tells Conan ” Steel is not strong boy, it is flesh that is strong, let me show you” he then commands one of his acolytes to fall to her death.

    As for Spiderman his central theme is that with what he has been given he is called to great responsibility. This is a character who killed Gwen Stacy by accident trying to save her. A character who grew as a person and in many runs became a faithful husband. Heck one of the most hated Spiderman runs of all time including by Stan Lee is a run where Spiderman makes a deal with Mephisto that destroys his marriage. The reason why it is hated is obvious it is a betrayal of who Spiderman is.

    • Mara R

      Works of fiction are wonderful ways of exploring this destructive dynamic.

      And often it is easy to explore it in the fiction petri dish than to look at it in real life.

      I always go back to Warren Jeffs who is a real life cult leader who’s motto for everyone in his cult was to “Keep sweet” no matter what. People were never allowed their own emotions. They were only allowed to keep sweet and submit to him. I’ve written posts about that guy in the past.

      But today I’ll just link a short trailer to the Netflix documentary about him called “Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey”


      It talks about money, power, and sex.
      That guy was a sicko and he used purity and obedience to marry like 78 wives, 24 of which were under aged.
      Now that he’s in prison, because he can’t have sex, he has ordered his followers to also not have sex. And so they aren’t having sex because he deserves their unconditional respect.

      • Codec

        This Jeff’s guy sounds like a real piece of work.

        C.S Lewis once said ” We have no right to happiness anymore than we have a right not to have a stomachache.” People can not be expected to live feeling just one emotion that is ludicrous.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That was such a devastating documentary. So good, and hit way too close to home. But just heartbreaking.

  4. FeelingAngry

    Recently my husband figured out he is supposed to identify his emotions so that he can process them and not place them into other people for no good reason.

    Why has it taken 40 some odd years for this man to realize that he has to identify his emotions? Because we were taught that women needed to rescue men. I rescued him for years and years.

    He also was supposed to have all the respect, etc. Because that’s what the church taught.

    I feel like the first half of the podcast is 100% our story.

    We are currently in a place where he has to grow up and mature… To learn about his own emotions and take responsibility for himself.

    Meanwhile, I’ve out grown and out paced him. I have to decide if I’m willing to wait for him to become an equal partner.

    Look at the fruit of what the church did with this teaching. It is rotten.

    • Nessie

      I don’t have much to offer except my prayers for wisdom, peace, and discernment as you move through this. What you describe is where I found myself about 3 years ago with other issues thrown in, so I understand to some extent the limbo you might be feeling trying to decide to stay or go. I’m sorry you are going through so much pain, frustration, and betrayal (by the church system mostly). Also praying he works through this thoroughly but quickly, whether or not you decide to stay.

      • FeelingAngry

        ❤️ thank you.
        I have been realizing lately that we’ve been through porn addiction, betrayal trauma, repeatedly… Lying about serious topics… Unpaid bills, late fees, shut off notices, chronically low income with no upward movement.
        All of that and now I’m considering if I’m done because he can’t identify his feelings. Kinda icing on the cake of a full package of irresponsibility.

        • Nessie

          There’s a reason there’s the expression: the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s a lot to go through, and it sounds like you’ve had to do an incredible amount of emotional work solo. I’m so sorry, but thanks for sharing that.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m so sorry. That sounds like such a heavy load. I can’t imagine, honestly.

    • Trudy

      Dear Feeling Angry,

      I am so sorry for the pain you have been through and sounds like you may still be going through.

      I have found that once a husband, repeatedly and consistently lies to cover up, hide, affairs, porn, household bills and all that fall under -deceit – that they can be forgiven…but not trusted.

      The betrayal and the loss of trust leaves very little in any relationship.

      I have been dealing with this for a long, long time….and even in this later season of my life…I have peace from the Lord to say goodbye to this person, who has no desire to change.

      His behavior has affected me physically and much more. Indifference and not being known as a human being in a relationship is a very isolating place.

      I’m hoping to spend the days I have left here, focusing and hearing and loving the one who promised to never leave me or forsake me, Jesus.

      I pray that for you as well 🙏🏻

  5. Mara R

    It was nice to have someone explain EMDR.
    My son is doing that now to deal with some of the trauma’s he has experienced, being the scapegoat of his father’s narcissistic rage.

    Being a Trauma Informed Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, I have been working to including Drumming in some of our Rec Activities.
    Drumming is also a bilateral exercise that helps with trauma. There are a lot of studies on this as well.

    • Codec

      I hope your son gets better.

      • Mara R

        Thank you.
        It’s been a long road. And I’m not even sure that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But we keep pressing on.

  6. Andrea

    Has anyone else heard the saying “We love our sons, but we raise our girls?” The beginning of the podcast, the bit about how we expect girls to parent boys, made me think of it.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That fits!

  7. karen

    Who do you suggest in Ontario who have both sexuality and trauma counseling who are also Christian? I want to point some who need it in the right direction.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m hesitant to suggest any particular counselor because I don’t have the ability to vet people. I think googling and asking for recommendations from people you trust?

    • Elisa

      I would suggest going to Psychology Today and looking through therapists who address sex and trauma issues, and see if they mention faith on their own website. Many therapists offer free 15-minute consults, so it’s best for the person who is looking for therapy can meet them and see if they are a good fit.


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