A Psychotherapist Looks at Russia

Russia - a Dying Nation?


A conversation with educator and trauma specialist Marilyn Murray


M o s c o w -- “Russia is a deeply troubled country and is literally becoming a dying nation.” That was the conclusion of Marilyn Murray, a US-American psychotherapist and educator specialising in the long-term consequences of childhood trauma and abuse, during a meeting in Moscow on 23 June. Ready proof is the on-going demographic nosedive of the population of Russia. That view was seconded by her host, Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko, Director of External Church Relations for the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”. Ms. Murray, who has been working half-time in Russia since 2002, described “fear and resentment” as two of the sentiments most prevalent within this nation. “Cycles of abuse and pain prolong themselves if there is no intervention.” She writes on her website: “Because the major emotional wounds of the population were not acknowledged and addressed, many Russians have learned to bury their pain and anesthetize their psychological trauma with addictions.” These addictions can consist of substance abuse, overeating, ‘workaholism’ or be of a sexual nature.


The 72-year-old educator – she is a guest lecturer at Moscow State University of Psychology and Education – reported that Russia today reminds her of US-society during the 1980’s. “Before that, we Americans did not speak openly about our own experiences with sexual abuse, addiction and violence. Today I have a strong sense of déjà vu.” Because Russia signed the “European Social Charter” on 20 May, its schools will now be under pressure to begin with sex education in a systematic way – despite protests from Orthodox and conservative circles. She stated, “On this topic, Russia is years behind. Conservatives say children need to be given sex education by their parents – yet no more than 5% of all parents in Russia do so.” The “Moscow Times” wrote on 11 June: “Explicit descriptions of sex are ubiquitous in tabloids and on late-night television shows. But the focus is on titillation, not information.”


Ms. Murray believes that persons with a Protestant upbringing are by no means immune to the general dangers and hurts of Russian society. At the Moscow meeting she stated: “There is an enormity of pain behind a Christian smile.” Followers of Christ are still far removed from any level of perfection. All of us “have holes or hollow places” in our past. No upbringing is perfect, for no parents are perfect – they are, after all, only humans. Many of these “holes” or hurts, can only be filled by having Christ and we ourselves as adults working together to fill those empty places – no other person can do that. Children have a very simple and very injurious way of thinking, she added: “They think good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.”


Shifting and Balancing

But there is hope - Marilyn Murray dreams of a “paradigm shift” within Russian society. By that she means a shift away from the Soviet dogma where a person had no value except to support the government, into a position which cherishes the worth of every individual. “You are valuable and worthy of love and respect simply because God chose to create you,” she stated.


That shift though must be accompanied by “balance”. Russian society has long tended to meander between extremes. The highly-repressive era of the 1940s and 50s contrasts with today’s period of hedonism and indulgement. Parents and grandparents who had experienced an economically-barren childhood often are now “spoiling their kids”.


This trauma specialist hopes to help turn things around through a programme of education and training. With the support of her Scottsdale/Arizona-based foundation, “Health Restoration International”, she has already held training sessions for 1,600 health professionals and clergy from 177 cities within the former Soviet Union. Her “Murray Method” training seminars have five basic levels, plus an additional two levels for future instructors. Approximately 100 persons have taken courses to become instructors prepared to “train the trainers”.


“Health Restoration International” puts major effort into the training of pastors. Ms. Murray notes that in village settings pastors are often expected to “fix” most anything and everything – spiritually, emotionally, and issues within troubled relationships. Yet such pastors have rarely been trained to counsel others. In addition, most pastors have never addressed their own matters regarding the coming of age under the Soviet system. Many come from alcoholic and abusive families. She also notes that pastors rarely “have boundaries around their time”. Their time is taken up addressing the problems of others – very little time remains for one’s own personal health or that of one’s wife and children.


Two Baptist pastors are among the leading assistants: Roman Popov (Ryazan) is Director of Pastoral Care and gives seminars for pastors in locations as far away as Yakutsk and Tajikistan. Vladimir Radyabov (Krasnodar) gives training seminars in the Caucasus region and in Dagestan.


Marilyn Murray knows how to think big: She dreams of a nationwide, inter-religious campaign promoting the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being of all. She has already counselled prominent Americans including the highly-troubled, world-famous ex-boxer Mike Tyson. He now is one of her strongest supporters and has visited her in Moscow.


She states that God is daily opening doors and allowing her as an educator to share his love with people who ordinarily would not be reached by pastors or missionaries. She is able to begin her classes by reading Scripture, even in secular settings such as Moscow University and when training prison psychologists. She states that Muslim students are also eager to hear God’s word. “Miracles are happening – Russia is not dying.”


Ms. Murray is a member of Scottsdale Bible Church in Arizona, a congregation seriously invested in international mission. Her organisation’s Russian website is: “www.murraymethod.ru”. Her US-based website has the address: “www.hriltd.org”.


Dr. William Yoder and Marilyn Murray

Department for External Church Relations, RUECB

Moscow, 27 June 2009


A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. It is informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of RUECB-leadership. May be published freely. Release #09-20, 944 words, 6.040 keystrokes and spaces.