Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
374:  Trauma & Moral Injury in Mormonism:  Dr. Sean Aaron

374: Trauma & Moral Injury in Mormonism: Dr. Sean Aaron

Photo Credit theilr@flickr

At Syracuse University, moral injury is defined as,

“… the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct.”

In this episode, clinical psychologist Dr. Sean Aaron joins me to discuss moral injury. Many coming from the LDS tradition have been taught to spiritually bypass our gut reactions to practices or doctrines, chalking our doubts up to our personal failings and faithlessness.

Dr Sean Aaron draws on the concept of moral injury to help us understand what is happening when we do so, and how we can trust and respond to our emotions in healthy ways.



  1. Littlegirllost

    I loved listening to your conversation!

    It makes so much sense that we have to accept our emotions and the pain that will come. My mother a TBM always puts a mask over all the pain she felt while being active. It’s in the moments when she lets her true self out that I’ve been able to understand who she is. Many times she is still a little girl (like I can be) and she’s 77.

    She tried so hard to keep a lid on much anger she felt towards church leaders and instead of voicing it to them she often took her feelings out on her kids, especially when they weren’t being righteous enough for approval of those same leaders!

    I myself needed a lot of therapy for things that went on in our home, but it’s not been easy to find help. I left the church at age 42 when I saw the harmful ways I began treating my own teenagers because of the influence and measurements of the church. I am still on a journey to find peace and my way.

    Hearing that it’s okay to still be struggling in my emotions some days is reassuring that I am on the right track.

    Thank you.

    I recently found your podcast and I enjoying it!

  2. I really related to this episode. I have been processing the trauma the church has caused me, and it is excruciating. For all of my life, my decisions, thoughts and beliefs depended on what the top 15 said about it. I questioned any independent ideas I had. I thought I was being led astray. Religious scrupulosity and shame greatly affected my life. I can see myself in your thought here, Gina:

    “There’s an institutional penchant for taking the most vulnerable part of ourselves – our sense of belonging, our sense of worth, and turning that into, I suppose, a religious commodity, where we’re judging ourselves against the institution’s standard for us. And we’re always falling short. There’s always more to do. And that, in many respects, keeps us on board or almost addicted to the instructions of the church. Always looking for the next thing to make us, at least temporarily, feel good about ourselves. Sort of a cycle going on.”

    It has been wondrous to open myself up to trusting my own Knowing. To be in charge of my own spiritual path. And allow anger. =)

    Thank you for this meaningful episode.

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