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Getting Support : Speaking Out

Images of Cult Healing

from GoldenMic - Thursday, September 18, 2003
accessed 4591 times

Images of Cult Healing

The author, raised in a Bible-based cult for 20 years, discusses a new method for helping cult-survivors deal with their trauma. Using principles from depth psychology and liberation psychology, he presents a rationale for a new kind of cult healing, then discusses its actual use in a recent Cult Survivors Workshop.

It is likely that many people enter and then leave new religious movements with no psychological damage, and that they then describe the experience as having enriched their lives, or at least having done no harm. However, many others are far more than self-excusing apostates, and instead have actually experienced themselves as having been profoundly injured by their participation in a destructive cult. In that sense, it is immaterial whether or not they have been brainwashed , or if they simply resent and regret the lost time and broken dreams; the damage is real, and it can be extensive.

For the self-described cult survivor , damage to the mind, body, and spirit is multi-faceted and it lasts for a long time. Many survivors, including me, have been betrayed and exploited by our trust in a leader who promised participation in a dream of personal salvation and glory. Using arcane doctrines and loaded language , the leader presented a seemingly comprehensive sacred science that justified any sacrifice in order to be among the chosen (Lifton, 1969/1989).

Cult survivors have many long-term symptoms from their abuse. Value systems are destroyed and distorted, and many victims report cognitive inflexibility, blunted affect, and long-term depressed moods and anxiety. They also note excessive guilt and shame, low self-esteem, and a general mistrust of others. They often spend many years in denial, avoiding thinking about their cult past even as they suffer the effects from that alienating and debilitating experience (Singer, 1995).

As a former member of a destructive cult, I have personally experienced the symptoms listed above, as have some 3,000 ex-members. My own work as a counselor for the last 20 years has been at least partially motivated by an attempt to understand and ameliorate the results of this damage. As I have experienced healing I have also tried to understand and identify the factors that have assisted me in this process, developing procedures that could be used by other cult survivors in their own healing. This work has resulted in the creation of a "survivors workshop", using principles from depth psychology and providing a safe container in which cult survivors can imagine and bear witness to their trauma, and helping them develop an image of themselves as capable of recovering from that trauma.

A particularly useful construct in working with cult survivors can be drawn from one of the most exciting new fields of study in depth psychology, Imaginal psychology . The goal of this approach is to help individuals relate to phenomenon in new ways, confronting and personally experiencing the deeper meaning and significance of that phenomenon. Imaginal research, however, does not stop at the investigation of the phenomena, but also accepts the premise that the phenomena is also attempting to engage with the investigator, that it seeks to be witnessed and understood as an autonomous entity.

In the new survivors workshop the cult experience itself is examined as an independent phenomenon that is attempting to tell each of us a story. Unlike other therapy with cult survivors, this perspective spends less time identifying, codifying, or explaining the motives of the cult or the cult leader. Currently, much of the excellent work being done in the field of cult-related counseling focuses on demonstrating the many ways that people are "brainwashed" and/or mentally controlled by their cult environment and leaders, and then attempts to provide new skills for post-cult independent living. While such work is important and beneficial, the new model spends less time discussing the motives and methods of the cult, and participants are instead encouraged to fully engage with their cult memories in order to understand what that experience is attempting to say to them about themselves and the world.

The pain and destructiveness of the cult experience is examined as a pathologized phenomenon that each survivor can use to "hear" from their own soul. Survivors are encouraged to fully remember and re-image the pain and the horror of their cult experience as an authentic statement from the soul, and encouraged to ask themselves: "What does my cult past tell me about myself, and my world? ... What needs doing?". A variety of techniques are used to encourage and support each participant as they process what they have undergone. Images of oppression, guilt, and pain are reinvigorated and remembered, and a narrative of the cult experience is established through pictures, drama, and mutually respectful communication. The themes and images are given voice, hosted by the participants and explored for their meaning and effect. Cult survivors begin listening to the margins of their own soul . This is a group of people who have become expert at living and introjecting the narcissistic vision of the leader, and the work is to help them develop or re-develop a capacity to hear from their own intuitive, subjective, and marginalized self.

The Workshop

In February 2003, I journeyed to Sacramento, California to conduct a three-day Cult Survivors Workshop. A few months earlier, an old friend and fellow former cult member had dropped by to discuss ways our cult experiences were continuing to have a negative effect upon him and his family. He was particularly concerned about his son, who had also spent many years at the cult, and who had been among those most brutalized and oppressed in childhood and early adolescence. Now, over ten years later, this young man continued to exhibit classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress, including an exaggerated startle response, distressing and intrusive recollections, avoidance of stimuli that resembled the trauma, dramatic mood swings, distorted thinking, and repeated attempts to "numb" himself through drug and alcohol abuse. My friend was very concerned at his sons ongoing difficulties in establishing a positive self-image and a sense of personal direction, and he recognized that this was resulting in feelings re-emergent hostility and anger in remembering the ways that he and many of his family and friends were abused and exploited by the cult. We agreed that a workshop might provide an opportunity for his son to begin examining and recovering from his cult experience, and that many of my friends large extended family and friends, also concerned about his sons difficulties, might also attend in support. We agreed to meet at my friends sprawling home in Sacramento, California along with 15-20 other ex-cult members. Each participant agreed to and signed an explanatory Informed Consent form.

The workshop included six three-hour sessions spread over three days, and only one participant had to miss two of the sessions. The workshop consisted of an interactive educational presentation, an artistic experiential project, and a creative drama exercise. There were also opening and closing discussions each day using the non-hierarchical group format known as "Council".

The Council process is based on the nationally renowned Way of Council (Zimmerman and Coyle, 1996), developed by the Ojai Foundation in Ojai, California. This group interaction model is an excellent method for developing soulful dialogue in a context of mutual respect and equally shared and authority-free leadership, extremely important for ex-cult members who have a history of being attacked, maligned, and exploited during their many hours in the cult's group interactions, prayer services, and "sharing (stripping) sessions".

The basics of the Council process are relatively simple and easy to learn, belying their power in creating a container in which soulful dialogue is quickly elicited and sustained. The leader notes that four basic practices are being encouraged by the process; speaking from the heart , listening from the heart , spontaneity , and brevity . The leader then explains the basic procedure.

Each session begins when members gather together in a circle. One participant is asked to volunteer to light a candle and make a dedication, defining the event as outside of normal discourse, and creating a sense of sacred space . Besides the candle in the center, there is also a talking piece (chosen from a number of small objects), and participants are asked to speak only when they are actually holding this object. After the dedication, the leader picks up the talking piece and asks members to consider an idea or question. Then, the first person who feels like responding picks up the piece and speaks to the issue. When finished, the speaker passes the talking piece to the person beside her, and the talking piece makes it way around the circle (usually left-to-right). The last respondent completes his comments and returns the talking piece to the center, and then any other participant may pick it up again to make any additional comments. It is understood that each participant will speak only from their own perspective, and that there will be no questions or dialogue in Council. It is also understood that each persons contribution is entirely voluntary and validated by all other participants, even if that contribution is the persons silent passing of the talking piece.

The Council process allowed members of the workshop to process each of their experiences, and allowed the narrative to emerge. Each Council began with the question: "In a word or phrase, how are you feeling right now?", and also included such questions as "What have you learned about yourself?", "What have you understood more clearly?", and "What are you going to do, specifically, as a result of this time?". As I have begun to expect from many hundreds of hours in Council, the comments were increasingly soulful and deep as members became more confident in the safety of the process, in the freedom from being distracted by questions and responses, and instead focused solely on each persons reaction to the question.

The first day of the workshop focused on an examination of the cult experience of each of the participants, using the framework provided by Steven Hassan (1990, 2000) BITE Model . The BITE Model looks at how cults control their members Behavior , Information , Thoughts , and Emotions . As the model was presented, the workshop participants began to recognize and articulate the many ways they had been subjected to systematic cognitive dissonance and personal disintegration.

The workshop participants discussed Behavior Control (Hassan, 1990, pp. 60-61 & 2000, pp. 46-48) in the cult. They spoke of the endless regulations upon their physical reality, noting that the women were required to wear long dresses, and everyone was forced to wear "covering" clothing designed to avoid and inhibit a recognition of sensuality. They discussed being moved from compound to compound at the leaders whim, never having an opportunity to form close attachments or routines, and often separating families (including parents and their children, and husbands from wives) and friends. They described the work assignments given to each member with no regard to their suitability for the task, and often deliberately designed to humiliate members and place them in situations where they felt incompetent, bored, or performing at odds with their own talents and interests. They also described the many hours of meetings, services, and restrictive schedules that inhibited creative and independent thinking, and many participants talked about times when they were placed on exhaustive work details under harsh and disciplinary authoritarian "elders" as punishment for any imagined transgression or spiritual infraction. Members noted how they had been assigned to specific elders and ordered to serve that elders every whim and directive, knowing that they would later be taken before the assembled elders and the cult leader to be castigated and reviled for errors in thinking and actions, "proof" of their spiritual immaturity and sinfulness. It was noted that this was a "no win" situation, since members could be rewarded for a behavior one day, only to be severely punished for the same behavior on another day, all due to their "spirit" or attitude in the doing of the task. Obedience became synonymous with godliness, and all orders by higher-ups were to be followed immediately and graciously, even if those same elders were known sadists, sexual deviates, or clearly disturbed individuals... obeying the elder was obeying the cult leader, and obeying the cult leader was obeying God.

Next, the workshop participants examined the issue of Information Control (Hassan, 1990, pp. 65-67 & 2000, pp. 48-49). They noted that there was little time for television or other media, and that their extreme isolation in rural northern California made it easy for the cult leadership to monitor and limit information from the evil, outside world. Participants remembered how they were frequently denied access to secret meetings where they later learned that their partners, children, relatives and friends were discussing situations and feelings that should have been discussed with them. Children were brought before the elders without their parents knowledge, and it didnt even occur to them to wonder why. Members were brought in without their partners to discuss every aspect of their private lives with the elders, and decisions were routinely made for and about people's lives, relationships, and occupations while they were not present. Elders were told all manner of private details about the intimate aspects of people's lives, while lesser people were not allowed to know about or question basic decisions being made about their living arrangements, relationship options, and their status in the community. Lying and the deliberate distortion of facts was frequently and routinely approved of in the cult, especially in order to fool outsiders about the benign nature of the cult and to verify any wild claim, prophecy, or memory by the cult leader. Information about ones friends and intimates was especially valued in the cult, proving ones loyalty and giving the eldership an even tighter strangle-hold of guilt and intimidation regarding the spied-upon and/or betrayed "sins" of the victim.

The ex-cult members also discussed Thought Control (Hassan, 1990, pp. 61-63 & 2000, pp. 50-52). They noted how the cult attempted to explain every kind of phenomena and experience in terms of "the three circles", an alliterative use of three inter-connected words to articulate the development, organization, and meaning of all things. Members who could not memorize and cleverly use these alliterations were considered un-spiritual. The cult leader also had many written tracts, often grammatically unintelligible, with strung-together biblical citations and references that were purported to illuminate "the message" of enlightenment. Participants talked about how foolish and inferior they felt when they could not find any logic to these words, and they noted how these supposed "truths" reduced the complexity of living into cliche's, stifling creative thought and inhibiting reflective and critical analysis. This "loaded language" made some members feel special, but it also taught them how to stop thinking and rely instead on the group's shared interpretation of reality.

The workshop participants also looked at Emotional Control (Hassan, 1990, pp. 63-65 & 2000, pp. 52-55) in the cult. They discussed how guilt and fear were constant features of their cult lives. Members described being taught to feel guilty for their own individuality, their family loyalties, and even for how their accomplishments "robbed" the leader of her rightful role as the sole repository of knowledge and glory. These ex-members also talked about how they were labeled as the liar , or the thief , or the self-server ... and how all of their friends and family would gather together with the cult leader in meetings to prove the existence and horror of a newly-discovered negative persona that seemed to have sprung from nowhere. Participants also recalled how they supported the distortions and lies being told during the labeling process, even as another part of their minds knew the feebleness of the so-called facts being extrapolated into a sick profile of shame, but fearing that their lack of support would subject them to negative labeling. They also discussed the ever-constant fear of making mistakes that would result in shaming, punishment, or isolation. They spoke of the confessions they made in a desperate attempt to regain the leaders approval, yet knowing that those same confessions only gave her more material to use against them the next time around. They also discussed the periodic use of extreme violence where the leader or her elders physically and emotionally assaulted them, and of their shame as they passively witnessed their loved ones being beaten, punished, isolated, and screamed at. They described feeling helpless and yet ever-hopeful that they might do some right thing that would make the fear go away for a few minutes or hours, but sick in the knowledge that it would soon be their turn once again.

The ex-adherents also discussed the other side of this horrible dance, periods when they felt the love, attention, and approval of the leader and the fierce determination to "do better" so they could become more worthy of her approval. They desribed the moments of ecstasy and enlightenment during long, hypnotic praising and singing services, periods when they allowed themselves to hope that they, too, might achieve the apparent enlightenment the leader so blithely promised them as a reward for continued service and devotion.

The next part of the workshop was an artistic exercise, allowing participants to actively re-imagine an aspect of their cult experience. Members were given a large sheet of poster paper and colored pens, and invited to "draw a picture that symbolizes you back then at the cult", and "another picture that symbolizes you now". Participants were then invited to discuss their drawings, and to tell the narrative of the images they had created. The images that emerged were both horrible and moving, as many participants were able to create images of "back then " that expressed bondage, violence, disassociation, isolation, rejection, helplessness, and a sense of being overwhelmed. However, some participants were able to draw memories of joy, and relationship, and of purposeful action while at the cult, but they then described those more positive drawings as illusions that were later shattered by the realization that they had been duped and exploited. Also, for many of the participants, the "now" expressions indicated ongoing disturbances and feelings of isolation, depression, and hostility. It was a surprise for many to realize that they continued to feel so strongly negative about their cult experiences, and some sense that they had spent all too many years minimizing and denying clearly powerful traumatic memories.

Most of the last two days of the workshop were spent in a series of dramatic reenactments of the cult experience, and an attempt to understand and re-image those experiences in a more productive and self-affirming way. The format was designed to reflect the principles of liberation psychology as expressed through the group processes developed by Augusto Boal and his Theatre of the Oppressed (Boal, 1979). These processes are very democratic, based on consensus-building and power-sharing, where dramatic performances are designed to include the actors as spectators, and the spectators as actors, allowing all participants to imagine and discover what they are, and what they can become (Boal, 1995).

Participants re-enacted scenes from their cult past, and then the entire group worked to creatively reconfigure these remembered images into a new one where the protagonist could emerge with her dignity intact. It was heart-rending and disturbing to watch these scenes being played out, and some participants were shocked and shaken by the powerful emotions that were evoked. It was also disturbing for the participants as they began to realize that there was no realistic way to re-do their scenes that would result in a realistically positive outcome. The eventual group consensus was that there was simply no way to win in the paradoxical and diabolical cult environment, and that their only way out was when they actually left the cult-controlled environment. This also led to a strong shared consensus that the cult environment was not just a historical time and place, but that it was also an ongoing state of mind, and that each participant had areas of their own minds that continued to feel trapped by that evil past.


The Sacramento workshop was a powerful example of Imaginal Psychology in action, as participants worked together to discover and define the image of their cult past, and as their witnessing to those events and memories allowed them to find new meaning. Painful memories that had gone long-unimagined had not been denied their potency, and it was discovered that the attempt to silence these memories had only caused them to pathologize. Since the workshop, many of the participants have expressed an appreciation for the experience. Some have noted that they have felt less estranged from their own past, and that they now see themselves and their families more honestly, allowing forgiveness and healing to finally begin. Still others have expressed feeling mobilized to action in regards to their cult past, and have begun to write about and otherwise confront their feelings of anger at the cult. Some have even discussed considering taking direct action in terms of the cult, contacting them to express their anger and/or taking steps to see what they can do to explore ways the cult might continue to oppress others. New and deeper friendships have blossomed between some of the participants, and lines of communication have improved.

The cult of my past remains a defining image of terror and debilitation, but with each of five workshops it has become steadily less powerful and damaging. I believe that the imaging of these experiences has allowed me and others to bear witness to a phenomenon that would not consent to being silenced, and by giving it "voice" we have also made that voice less chaotic and invasive in our lives. Instead, the memories teach... and they give meaning... and they inspire compassion and an appreciation for life and beauty. These images, respected and embraced, provide a context for living each day purposefully and reflectively, impatient with lies and shallowness, and committed to an authentic soul-based living that does not accept easy answers to difficult questions, but appreciates the extraordinary gift of living life freely and independently, on ones own terms.


Boal, Augusto. (1979). Theatre of the oppressed (C.A. & M.L. McBride, Trans.). NY; Theatre Communications Group.

Boal, Augusto. (1995). The rainbow of desire A. Jackson, Trans.) NY; Routledge
Hassan, Steven. (1990). Combatting cult mind control. Rochester, NY: Park Street Press.

Hassan, Steven. (2000). Releasing the bonds. Somerville, MA: Freedom of Mind Press.

Lifton, R. (1969/1989). Thought reform and the psychology of totalism. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Martella, M. (2001). Cult wounds and archetypal psychology. (Term paper, Archetypal Psychology, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2001).

Singer, M. (1995). Cults in our midst. San Francisco; Jossey-Bass.

Zimmerman, J. and Coyle, Virginia. (1996). The way of council. Las Vegas, NV; Bramble Books.

Reader's comments on this article

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from frmrjoyish
Friday, September 19, 2003 - 20:31


Interesting!! I was particularly struck by the lengths you've gone to in your workshops to make sure they adhered to the princilples of imaginative psychology. I commend you for actually doing something for your fellow ex cult members.

One thing i found a little uncomfortable was the description of your council meetings. While I realise that everyone has different ways of healing and dealing, it tottaly took me back to my childhood and those ritualistic "ceremonies" of different sorts we used to have to do. Like the candlelight vigil every New Years Eve, or the daily devothions with prophecy and "tounges". Your description of your own workshop meetings sounded eerily familiar.

I have found as and adult that I tend to avoid gatherings such as church groups, group counseling, etc. It just takles me back to an uncomfgortbale place that I prefer to leave behind me. The only situation I would really feel comfortable talking about my past is with a other exCOG kids. I feel like noone can truly understand
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From GoldenMic
Saturday, September 20, 2003, 01:59

I really identify with your reaction... you can imahine how badly I freaked out when I went to the Ojai Foundation and learned it! I was freaking out all over the place. Also, with my fellow ex-cultites, that was certainly the most difficult thing, doing the Council process. Fortunately, in practice it quickly becomes apparent that it is a very safe and non-authoritarian method, and frankly, NOTHING is easy to do with our crowd... As for the "nobody understands" feeling, nobody DOES understand, or even believe what we have been through, except us exCultites... whats surprising is that for some cults, at least, the similarities are unmistakable, and one feels slightly less isolated for the first time. A real shock!(reply to this comment
From frmrjoyish
Friday, September 19, 2003, 21:07


(oops, the above comment accidentally got sent when i meant to spell check!!!)

Picking up where I left off.... I feel like noone can truly understand me except for the ones who went through it with me. This is the only way I'd ever talk about it with anyone.

I also wondered if perhaps this form of therapy would tend to appeal to adults who chose on their own to join a cult, rather that a child who was born into one through no choice of their own. I find these two types of people to be very different, each with their own sets of issues that would require quite different coping methods. Perhaps the need for comaraderie and something to belong to that made them join a cult in the first place would also be the way to help them deal with issues as they leave as well?!!!?

I know for myself, my coping method has been, for many years, to ignore it, hide the truth from everyone who didn't already know about it, and tell a made up version of my past when pressed about it. As far as my parents go, they choose to ignore the hurt and pain it's caused their children and pretend that they were these great missionaries who did such wonderful works for God instead of facing the reality that they allowed their children to grow up in such a harmful and abusive environment. I even got in an argument with my Dad in front of my grandparents when I refused to sit by quietly while he lied to them telling them that there was no such practice as FFing, that there were no sexy dances on video that everyone, including kids could see, or that there was absolutley no promiscuity going on. Outright lies!! He even tried to call me a liar in front of them when I spoke out. Fortunatley they believed me.

When I question my parents they simply state that they did what they thought was best for us by serving God. When I aked how they could allow the abuse that they knew took place, my mother simply gets mad and makes statements like "Well, I'm sorry you have such a horrible Mother!" and procedes to cry. Everything inside me used to burn seeing my mother cry such tears of pity for herself when it was her own children who she allowed to be physically and sexually abused. I was crying "What about me?" inside. Why weren't her tears for me and my brothers and sisters instead of for herself? Eventually I got sick of it and just stopped bringing it up. To this day I have questions. Mainly "why" questions, like, "why did you join?" "why did you allow the damage to your children?" and "why were you attracted to this type of lifestyle in the first place?"

I don't think my questions will ever be answered, but my relationship with my parents is saved by the fact that although they put me in the situation, at least eventually they got me out of it. I've tried to put the past behind me in an effort to have some semblance of a normal family.

Anyway, I was just struck by the fact that your sessions seem similar to rituals in TF and something my mother or father would gravitate towards while I and my siblings would never participate in something of that nature. I'm not trying to ridicule or minimize as I'm sure it's very helpful to some, but perhaps some more than others. What do you think? Do you have many second gen in your workshops, other then the boy you mentioned in your article?? Thanks for the insight into other similar situations to ours!!

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From Mir
Monday, September 22, 2003, 16:49


Gosh, us kids are very lucky indeed. We gave our mum absolute HELL for a years and years. (We were in the cult for 20 years). We cried, we ranted, we screamed, we fought like demons, we got blind drunk, we got stoned on various drugs, we were rude to her, we took every opportunity to throw her mistakes in her face whenever she tried to discipline us. We asked her every question in the book and she patiently answered as well as she could. She sat us down and apologised for having joined and for the hell she and my dad put us through (dad is still friends with the cult and refuses to admit any wrong doing). This makes my mum sound like a pushover but believe me, the fact that she took it on the chin, admitted her mistakes and fought like crazy to give us as stable a home as she could is testament that she isn't!

It took me 8 years to forgive my parents. But when I did it was like a load of my back. I have discovered that forgiveness is easier to give when it is asked for. I have also discovered that the act of forgiveness is a CHOICE not a feeling, and that forgiveness needs to be given on a regular basis. For example, one day I found myself walking down my sister's dark hallway and I had a flashback of when I was about 5 years old. I had gone into the basement to play with the cat who had had kittens. My mum was upstairs with a "brother" who was going to be joining our home. Next thing I know, this "brother" comes down stairs, discovers me there and proceeds to slap my hands really hard and said "your mother sent me to see if you were playing with the kittens. You are not allowed to play with the kittens and that is why I've smacked you". Now, this wasn't a huge beating like ones I had received before and after. What freaked me out, is that I didn't know this guy and he didn't know me. I felt scared because my mum had sent this man to hit me. I probably was disobeying her, but why send this guy down to smack me? I felt angry all over again. Since I had my son it has been worse. When I look at my baby, my whole being is so full of love for him, and I would KILL anyone who would ever dare to harm him... I find myself asking those questions again: Why? Didn't you love me like I love my boy? What was wrong with me? And then I have to remind myself: "I have forgiven her. I will not indulge in these destructive emotions. She said she was sorry, therefore I chose not to judge her". It's hard though. It's damn hard.(reply to this comment

From porceleindoll
Sunday, September 21, 2003, 20:55


Interesting about your parent's responses when you asked them questions about why they joined and stuff.

My dad has often told me the same thing "I wanted to serve God and I thought this was the best place to do it." When I ask why didn't he leave when he started reading the more twisted doctrines, he doesn't really know, he thinks that maybe the control the group had over him combined with his desire to serve God and the fear tactic the group used that God would damn you if you decided to leave, caused him to ignore the abuse doctrines and remain in the group.

My mom didn't rejoin the group with my dad and my siblings and I, we didn't see her for close to 10 years, but she has the same reaction as your mom whenever I bring up the past, either "We've already gone over this, I said I'm sorry but I can't keep beating myself up for it' or 'I'm sorry I was such a horrible mom, I hope you do better with your kids', both of which serve to make me feel really guilty for the confusion I have, and close off our line of deeper communication because of course I don't want to hurt her or make her feel bad, but I feel she owes me explanations, she owes me the time to air out the effects her personal choices had in my life.

It's not like I want to hold it over her or beat her into guilt with it, I just want to know, I want to talk it out, I want to understand, I want an admission that 'Yes, I messed up pretty badly there, I am very sorry, will you forgive me?' without the attached "but .....", understand?

Anyway, I think I have more issues with my Mom than my Dad, perhaps cause I live near my Dad and when I am pissed about something I can ask him right away, and he usually doesn't get mad at me for asking, though his answers aren't always satisfactory, we have a stronger communication. Maybe one day my mother and I will be closer, physically and relationship wise, I don't know, but all that to say, I have some communication problems with my parents too.

I also identify with the 'group meeting' thing, and esp. singing songs in a group. I went to one church meeting with a friend, and it took all my control to sit through it, I was almost out the door from the moment I walked in, but out of respect to my friend I remained. I hate the "rah rah, we are the best" of anything, including sports teams, or whatever. I went to a seminar a few months ago, nothing religious, but for educational purposes, and it was pretty difficult to stick around. I know I need to get past this fear or panic I have whenever I get in a group situation, but it's not easy when so many memories and feelings come flooding back into your mind.(reply to this comment

From frmrjoyish
Sunday, September 21, 2003, 21:11


I completly understand what you're saying! I've had physical reactions in group settings from Mary Kay meetings, Amway, to Tony Robbins self help groups. They make me very nervous and uncomfortable. Once I went hiking and my friend brought a guitar and started everyone singing around the campfire and I nearly threw up! It was totally innocent but situaitons like that just evoke such a repulsion from deep inside me!

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From GoldenMic
Saturday, September 20, 2003, 02:09

Wow, your comments really gave me some pause... thank you for your openess and honesty. One thing, though, is that you might be shocked at how well this method has worked with BOTH groups. You see, I AM a second-generation kid, raised by my single mother there, part of the original crop of children born to the cult... so I share your sense of never having had a choice. Also, the five workshops I have done included approximately 50-60 different people, from ages 16-60, about half were born and raised there, and half joined and left as adults. Surprisingly, the reaction has been positive from both groups, while both goups have also talked about scared and irritated they were at the beginning of the workshop, and howw hard ot was to be involved in ANY group exercize after the cult experience... I can only tell you that the benefits outweighed the fears for those whoo came... Also, I still have relatives at my exCult too, and they continue to lie about events that I was present for, and they go ON AND ON AND ON about "how much we have changed" and "why can't you move on?"... blah, blah, blah... Thanks for your feedback, and I wish you the very best in your own journey to wholeness. You may not know it, but there is a small band of non exFamily members, the exIsot members, who really do know how you feel too... Unbelievable! Take care. Mike. (reply to this comment
from Therapy Maven
Friday, September 19, 2003 - 17:19

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Don't mind the bollocks -- I mean the Alf, he's just either genuinness-challenged or he's a genuine prick :) (GBY, Alf! I'm praying for you).

It's very cool that therapy is being looked into that is geared toward cult survivors. It's quite needed. I have had the job of educating all of my shrinks about the aspects of my upbringing that qualitatively differ, which is difficult when that is the only upbringing you know. To be honest, I don't know how I'd handle a therapy group with other survivors of the Family (especially certain people who seem to like to be gratuitously mean on this site), maybe one day we'll be advanced enough on the subject to analyze broad general differences between survivor populations of different cults.

Anyway, In my book you are a very welcome addition to the site and I have enjoyed your contemplative articles.
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from Alf
Friday, September 19, 2003 - 07:39

Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 2.5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Sounds like a load of timewasting bullshite to me shipmate.
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From GoldenMic
Friday, September 19, 2003, 15:15

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Hey Alf, it you weren't in to "time-wasting BS" you wouldn't be here on this site in the first place! Healing and growing is hardly "time-wasting", but you go ahead and pretend you're not here for your soul's sake, few will be rude enough to burst your bubble!(reply to this comment
From Alf
Saturday, September 20, 2003, 21:15

Average visitor agreement is 1 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

I won't mince my words GoldenMic, I strongly suspect you of being an asshole.(reply to this comment

From GoldenMic
Tuesday, September 23, 2003, 13:07

Alf, whats your point? Are you supposed to be intimidating with your foul language? If you are so turned off, why do you bother to write? C'mon you old rascal, admit you are intrigued and trying like hell to find an answer for your life... what if all your cynicism was no longer necessary, and you actually found some healing? I klnow I presume too much here, but such strong reactivity speaks volumes about a person's shattered idealism and wish for peace. I hear you, but I don't know if YOU hear you. Mike.(reply to this comment
From Alf
Tuesday, September 23, 2003, 22:08


Help ME to hear me then. Lead me to my inner cave. Heal me GoldenMic. Thank god somebody on here finally might provide me with the answers to my life....(reply to this comment

From Mir
Monday, September 22, 2003, 16:51

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
Alf, don't be such a cynical git!(reply to this comment
From GoldenMic
Tuesday, September 23, 2003, 13:12

Mir, I just went back to the cult of my youth this weekend, and it was really tough. Of course, we were shunned and treated like crap, though a few people said hi. It brought out, once again, all the old triggers regarding being there, and reminded me again why I am so reactive to group settings and millions of other subtle and gross triggers that remind me of my childhood in hell. I do have to say, though, that all of us who have done work with fellow survivors are getting better at recognizing our triggers, learning to accomidate them in our lives, and even becoming less oppressed by the memories. I think that "leaning in" and "doing the work" of cult recovery can be enhanced and accellerated by a recovery workshop expwerience, and God knows, I need it!(reply to this comment
From Mir
Tuesday, September 23, 2003, 15:12


You're brave! I wouldn’t go back to a cult home again for love nor money! They make me cringe and feel sick to my stomach.

I have found that I am no longer "triggered" nearly as much now as I used to be- It's been 11 years since we came out. If I'm not mistaken, you've been out for 10 years? I never had any formal therapy, but I was very active in anti-cult type activities (TV shows, testifying in court cases, newspapers etc) when I first left. I was able to unload on the unsuspecting journalist and solicitors when all the pain was at it's most raw. I also had my siblings to rant with (all 5 of them) and I could talk to mum about it as well. I went a little off the rails on the old booze and did some drugs too. I don't regret any of it. I'm glad I had all the experiences I did. You might find this interesting though: I was very suicidal a couple of years after leaving. I went out to a club and someone offered me an "E" tablet. I took it and had a marvelous time. When I came down off it I was no longer depressed, my suicidal thoughts disappeared and I found that I was much happier. It’s almost as if the drug was what I needed to “pull me out” of that nasty hole I was in. Of course, I then went over the top and started taking FAR too many and then the happy stuff wore off and I ended up fighting depression all over again, but I never went down to the depths of contemplating suicide again. (People, I’m not recommending that you take drugs. What I did was very risky and very stupid). The other, and more lasting thing that helped me to heal is that I became a Christian when I was 26 (I’m 30 now). Words cannot express how deeply God touched my soul and healed me.

Oh yeah, and don't mind Alf too much... Bless him- he's very clever but young and cynical...(reply to this comment

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