Gwendolyn Roit, Sunday, June 26, 2022, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM
Most trauma – especially complex trauma – disconnects an individual from their self, their true essence. For those who have come out of a high demand group or relationship, it is imperative to rediscover, or in the instance of an SGA, discover for the first time, this sense of authentic self.
Addressing the needs of former members, I point to connection with our natural environment as one form of recovery from both the controlling environment and as a way to recover/discover one’s essential self.
Connection with the natural world dissolves the dualism of mind-body and can create a sense of self within the larger environment that empowers an individual to access spirituality without human manipulation or coercion. Research has proven that even small doses of time connecting to nature relieves mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Being part of something bigger and more complex than ourselves can create a sense of awe, instill deeper resilience and allow expansive thinking. Nature’s intricacies inspire us to think creatively and hold potential for seeing ourselves anew.
My childhood experiences of backpacking in deep forests offered a protective factor that offset the destructive effects of growing up in a cult. A sense of belonging and comfort in this realm was there for me when I left the cult and became suddenly alone in the very ‘world’ I had been taught since birth to avoid. Until I learned to trust others and myself again, I had the unconditional support of the natural world with its patterns and beauty. I had the awareness that my interactions within this world were based on absolutely clear reciprocation. This healing modality is something I feel increasingly moved to share, specifically in the realm of spiritual abuse and recovery.
Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Harvest Moon Farm
Gwendolyn Roit, MA, NCC, serves as an outpatient therapist at a community mental health agency and as a co-facilitator of outdoor eco-therapy groups and retreats, weaving together nature based interventions and mindfulness skills. Born and raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Gwendolyn left the religion at age 13 but didn’t find the help she needed to fully understand her experience until 30 years later while attending her first ICSA conference in 2018. She is interested in using the power of connection with our natural world to heal from trauma – specifically that which is incurred from a high demand group or relationship. She earned her BA in Journalism and Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and decades later, her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Antioch University, New England. While exceedingly grateful to have had the opportunity for higher education – something of an impossibility growing up – she credits her travels to remote places, spending time alone in the woods, and decades of organic farming and gardening for healing and teaching her the most.