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Spiritual & Biblical Interpretations of Life

A Brief Description of the Psychological Techniques of the Cult I was in, and Recovery

I was in a cult for a long time. I will give you some idea of how it worked and how evil it could be. Then I will describe part of how I recovered. When I used to do a book tour most people could relate to these dynamics in some way, and they became like a seminar on abuse.
A cult is designed to play on ones vulnerabilities in the worst way. It beats down one’s already low self-esteem, and beats out one’s normal sense of self-protection. The leader made him self the central hub of all relationships and manipulated men and women to always be suspicious of each other and their ability to be together. He manipulated and controlled relationships so that no one could really have them and everyone remained dependent on him for healing and answers; putting people together, tearing them apart, fabricating crisis, and healing crisis. There was always a sense that you could be on the hot seat with little rational, one felt very out of control. We were starved for affection and sexual contact, and felt we were evil if we acted on our natural impulses.
We were supposed to practice being neutral when doing psychic readings and hypnosis sessions, sounds reasonable. The cult defined neutrality as the ability to be in your center and be unmoved by what you see. In practice to be neutral actually meant to dissociate from your true feelings, and to see yourself as above those you are dealing with. The reason it manifested this way is because everyone was given the promise of being the next leader, to be a true disciple, and at the same time were deeply afraid of being on the hot seat. Constantly given a carrot on a stick. The leader slowly removed members natural instinct of self-protection, – so that everyone would accept being treated abusively. So to be neutral in the cult really meant to deny your healthy anger and other emotions. This is subtle and sinister mind control. The effect of this is that those who undergo it have a constant underlying rage that they cannot recognize; and when it did peek through, the leader pounced on it as proof that there was something terribly wrong with your soul. Then we would be put on the hot seat and publicly shamed in front of everyone; this imbedded self condemnation and created a vicious cycle of disfunction.
Most cult members are victims; they are good intelligent people pursuing a worthy cause, but if this vicious cycle becomes chronic it can suck their soul away. In other words if the member really begins to enjoy being in rage and feeling superior to others they are in trouble, because then they begin to enjoy perpetuating the evil.
This is why it is so hard and painful to leave, because we have to deal with the rage that has been trapped within us by the mind control, and even worse, we have to unravel the toxic shame and self condemnation that became habituated. Besides one is conditioned to feel the world is an awful place and if you leave – your life will be anhiliated.
In a real spiritual place the leader does everything to tether them self to and serve Gods purpose. But in the cult members are unconsciously tethered to the subversive emotions of the leader, far more than to any spiritual source. The leader was playing out his own psychodrama at the expense of others, using them as pawns. The leader claimed to be an ex-ray clairvoyant, his perceptions inviolable and would address the ‘spirits’ in a persons space for hours, sometimes days on end, sometimes in humor, more often supposedly beating them out of the persons space. It was license to abuse and control.
The cult feeds and compounds the impulse to dissociate. They practiced hypnotism and and psychic reading, Bible teaching, and all sots of new age training, always giving the promise of elite high awareness. We took in the salvation phantasy, which carried a deep appeal, causing us to be willing disociaters. Instead of doing the rigorous work of self-examination, repentance, and forgiveness, we had almost daily gatherings for a ‘group high’. There is a distinct pleasure in this high, there is no doubt. The pleasure was much greater when the super charismatic leader was there to ‘whip the energy into a frenzy’. But the high hides the dark underbelly, while the leader and his inner circle gain greater and greater control and power. What is worse is that this chronic dissociating distances people from the ground and innocence of their being – makes them think they are highly elite and superior. This is why members of these groups tend to have kind of a glazed look, and an odd social manner – they are to some degree chronically dissociated. They think they are unique, and superior, above others. This is what the leader often called ‘turning people’s minds to mush’, claiming that it was the world that was the culprit, while he was the one doing it, and who knew how to save everyone from it.
While people were dissociated the leader could plant his suggestions over and over to take their money, have free labor all day, use their kids, and whatever else he could, and drive them to rage over other things. In his own words he wanted people’s souls. This was the natural end of his perverse master manipulating. He would say he was God of the place. He made it work for a long time on a lot of people. But it could not be sustained. Evil eventually destroys itself. Some people left and fought off the mind control, and revealed levels of it to others. Eventually the leader himself basically committed suicide as he was unable to deal with the fact many of us began to see through what he was doing. He couldn’t keep up the con to himself, but he certainly couldn’t face it – too long to evil. It finally crushed him.
I suffered a great deal from this experience. I worked hard to recover, because I suffered from post-traumatic stress. To recover I practiced many things: I entered therapy, I practiced yoga; I worked with a Rosen therapy practitioner, and I studied Buddhism and theology. I especially loved Swedenborg because he wrote about the internal sense of Christianity. I was compelled to write a book about my cult experience for the sake of processing it. To write the book I had to relive it, and as I did so, I took charge of the story, which is psychologically empowering. While I was writing the book I constantly held the reader in mind.
For four years I worked on the book, which started with a childhood section, continuing all the way through recovery after leaving. The process of writing about many dark and painful memories was very difficult, yet creative, and became a spiritual practice of its own. I remembered long detailed scenes and dialogue by fully feeling and thereby remembering. I wanted to be a responsible narrator and developed a habit of semi-consciously writing to a figure up and to the left of me. I had an inner compulsion to tell the story, and by so doing heal my psyche and, hopefully, help others with similar experiences. I began to feel a give and take with this figure, giving myself compassion as I relived my experiences in mind and in writing. I was giving myself the understanding and love I had not received. I gained deep perceptions and memories of how it all worked. I was striving, each time I wrote, one word, one page, one paragraph at a time, to give myself compassion.
During this time, for two years, I had a wonderful writing coach, and one day she asked me my writing process. I began to tell her about the figure up to the left of me that I wrote to – and it opened up, and light flooded me and intense joy filled my heart. The more I tried to tell her about it the more it opened up. I just cried with joy. I could see light, and feel God’s presence, a burning love. Knowing he was there – that presence I had been attending to the whole time in my mind – meant that he had always been there, and would always be there.
This was a seminal experience for me which lead me toward fully embracing Christ as the Redeemer and Savior.
The years I spent processing and getting a handle on my own suffering, are a boundless source of compassion for the patients I see now as a chaplain. The suffering and despair I felt during, and while recovering, helps me a great deal to be present with the feelings of others. I am not afraid of going deep with them into feeling. I desire to do it, if it is there, and this creates a sense of permission and safety for the patient. At the same time I pray that the presence of the Holy Spirit tethers our experience to the redemptive quality of the Lord.

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