The RAINBOW Path to Healing & Mental Wellness

By Rev. Erika Allison

Greetings, Palms Community, and Happy Pride Month! My name is Rev. Erika Allison and I am an interfaith/interspiritual minister as well as author of the book Gay the Pray Away: Healing Your Life, Love, and Relationships from the Harms of LGBT Conversion Therapy. In the book, I describe a phenomenon I call identity harm. Identity harm is when a situation or experience threatens, criticizes or tries to alter the essence of who someone is at the core of their being.

Identity harm can be overt, like what I experienced as a gay teenager in Texas when my church and family sent me to conversion therapy. In conversion therapy, the goal is to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Because these components are so deeply tied to the core of who someone is, the practice is very harmful and traumatic. Research is now showing that over 700,000 people have experienced conversion therapy or “reparative therapy,” with over half of those being youth age 18 or younger. I was 18. Research is also showing that those who experience this are more than eight times more likely to attempt suicide, and survivors have 92% greater odds of lifetime suicidal ideation. Although these change efforts have been discredited and labeled as dangerous and ineffective by every leading medical and mental health professional organization, the practices still continue today and have only been banned in 20 states.

Identity harm can also be subtle. It can be a mean comment someone said about us on the playground or the way a parent disapproved of how we were expressing ourself. The challenge with identity harm is that many of those messages get internalized into the subconscious mind. Even though we are no longer kids on the playground or looking into our parents’ disapproving gaze, when these messages get internalized, we are the ones who continue to carry them around and wield them on ourselves. This can happen years and years after the original scenario that caused the identity harm. Because the messages are stored deeply in the subconscious, we may not even realize they are in there. And we certainly wouldn’t expect them to still be having an effect on us.

In my case, even though conversion therapy didn’t work on me and I went on to live my life as a happily uncloseted gay person, I lodged the messages that who I am is flawed and unlovable deep in my subconscious. I didn’t know I had done this, but what I did begin to notice is how much I would people-please in bad relationships to try to earn love and approval. Or how I would pick careers that would prove I was a “good person.” I was not truly free to live from my heart because I had these messages secretly directing my every move.

The reason these messages stay buried in many cases is because we don’t think they were that big of a deal. Maybe someone told you that you were too fat for the swing when you were ten years old, or you talked too much, or you weren’t smart enough. It’s so easy to pass those comments off as no big deal, little silly words from the past, just kids being kids, a parent trying to make us tough. Especially when we are full-grown adults with such broader perspective and life experience. But this is the rational mind speaking. The subconscious mind doesn’t rationalize in this way. Instead, the subconscious mind stores these messages and makes the replays available at all times.

The part of our minds that manages risk and tries to keep us safe is more than happy to listen to those replays and use them as evidence for why we should hold back, hedge our happiness, and not show up fully in the world. Even if we don’t know this is happening inside, we can still notice this playing out in our feelings, fears, actions and decisions outside.

Where might this be showing up in your life today? In my book, I introduce a pathway called the RAINBOW path as a guide to navigating the healing journey from all sorts of identity harm. Each letter of the acronym RAINBOW is a different step on the path.

The healing journey is definitely not linear, and sometimes it can feel like we are moving backward instead of forward. I often tell people that it took years to internalize these inner messages deeply by replaying them over and over, so rewriting them doesn’t always happen overnight. The key is becoming more aware of the inner replays, seeing them clearly, and recognizing that they are not true when they arise. This gets them out of the seat of secret control and into the light where we have the power to choose.

My hope is that each of us deepen into the heart-opening awareness that we are beautiful children of God and that the Divine lives in every one of us. We are loved and lovable, exactly as we are.

If you would like to explore the RAINBOW Path further, see Pastor Jim. He has several copies of the print book available to borrow. There is also an audiobook version available on Audible and other audiobook platforms if you’d rather hear me read to you!

The R in RAINBOW is about starting with a reality check. Where are internalized messages and previous wounds from identity harm still impacting life today? Journaling is one tool for finding these lodged messages. Another is going into a prayer state and listening for guidance.

Once you have done your reality check, the A is for assessing the impact of these experiences and messages. We explore the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of ourselves for signs of imbalance or areas where more love is needed. What coping strategies might have been adopted for survival and are those still needed today?

The I is about integration, which is the key for all true healing. There are so many modalities and practices to support integration, depending on what is out of balance or alignment and how much support is needed.

N is about nurturing the North Star. For those of us who have been wounded in a religious context, it’s so important to heal our connection with God and reconnect with our spiritual life if this was something that got disconnected. There are invitations here for explorations into authentic and affirming spirituality.

My favorite piece, B is for building and rebuilding the inner compass. Sometimes these experiences of identity harm cause us not to trust our own inner wisdom, intuition and truth. Or undermine our deepest knowing for the sake of people-pleasing or proving. It’s important to bring this inner compass back on line so we can stay true to our life path and purpose.

The O in RAINBOW is all about opening the heart. It takes courage to allow the heart to open again if we’ve been hurt. In this step, we deal with forgiveness and worthiness, which can be lifelong journeys. A closed heart is not living into who we are or who we are meant to be. As a minister, I find that ceremonies can be really helpful ways to facilitate forgiveness and letting go processes.

Finally, the W is about working all this material. This part of the journey is not actually the end, but the beginning. By establishing a daily personal practice of reconnecting with loving presence each day, we can keep our heart open and not fall back into these old conditioned messages.

Rev. Erika Allison is a queer interfaith minister, inspirational speaker and workshop leader who helps people recover from identity harm, build their inner compass, and live joyful, authentic lives. She is the author of Gay the Pray Away: Healing your Life, Love, and Relationships from the Harms of LGBT Conversion Therapy and she leads a monthly gathering called Gay the Pray to help the queer community find spiritual belonging and liberation. Formerly a mechanical engineer, Erika’s career spans positions in Fortune 100 companies, nonprofits, school systems and universities. Rev. Erika was recently named to Queerency’s 100 Women list celebrating LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, leaders and creators. You can find her online at She is most active on Instagram @reverikaallison @gay.the.pray and @gaytheprayawaybook.