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 babit 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 compasion 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 peceptions 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 bondless 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.