My time in a new thought cult - reflection
Date: June 21, 2016 05:32PM
I was part of a high control group which preached New Thought doctrines such as Emmet Fox and A Course in Miracles for 18 months. As a result I ended up on a psychiatric ward completely delusional about my relationship to God, who I was, and who I thought the people inside the group to be. I’d had many past life revelations during which I’d come to believe that I was St Paul and two of the prominent members of the group were Moses and Aaron. I was telepathically communicating with members of the group along with celebrities off the TV and we were all part of an important community who had been sent to preach the new gospel to the world. All of this had started 6 months prior to my institutionalisation when I had been with the group for 1 year. At first the revelations and the attempts at telepathy (which I believed were successful) did not interfere too much with my daily living. I was able to be functional and sane in my everyday life and just hold the belief system as part of my makeup. It wasn’t until I attended a retreat to spend some time alone with God that the voices started to become intrusive, hallucinations began and before long my world was consumed by messages and signs from this other realm.
The problem with the group was not so much the texts that they preached from and recommended to all who came in to contact with them; I still to this day hold a fondness for some of the authors and the books still sit on my shelf. What was wrong was the dogmatism surrounding the message - this way is the only way and other paths less worthy. There was also a strong anti-therapy and medication stance taken by the group. Many of the individuals who were part of that group, both those who have since left and those who are still there, were immensely troubled individuals who were looking for something to grasp on to. Some black and white belief system that promised all the answers; offered a quick fix and did not delve too much into an individual’s troubled emotions rooted in the past. The group was and is, designed for those in denial of their childhood trauma and the effect it has had on their adult life. It has become for some, religious addiction; a way to avoid their problems and to ‘use’ on a message that dismisses an individual’s needs and wants.
I have been out of that group for what will be 4 years this August. I am still deeply affected by my time there and how I was treated. There are still some days when I wonder if I have ‘fallen off the path’, that perhaps the members of the group have it right after all and I have been polluted by the ways of the world. Sharing a belief system with a tightly knit group is a powerful thing and I wonder if I will ever be completely free of it. I also care deeply about two of the individuals who are still very much inside the group’s dogma and are showing no signs of leaving. I wonder if it was possible to truly know them inside the group, I knew their cult version of themselves. It would be interesting to see if they ever ‘got real’ how much of a connection to them I would still feel. It could be the traumatic bonding which takes place inside an abusive environment, or it could be genuine care and affection. I am not sure. To break with black and white thinking let’s say for sake of argument it is both. It hurts and is immensely triggering to see them still there. For as long as that group remains intact, the experiences I went through when I was there; being excluded, having my feelings dismissed, yet all the while being held in the grips of fear about leaving, all these experiences are invalidated. To them my psychotic break was a sign I had fallen off the path, gotten sick, wasn’t practising hard enough. Perhaps what I seek from those still in the group is validation, an apology, acknowledgement that it was a screwed up environment that would have made anybody mad. It’s not something I think will ever come. Perhaps I will never have peace until I accept that.
I find it hard to exist in life now without such a strong set of beliefs that I once had. I have tried to replace them since I left that group with different schools of thought, mainly those rooted in therapy. This has also been detrimental to me as it has involved attempting to come off my medication in the belief that I can manage well without it if I would only deal with the issues that lead to the psychotic break in the first place. I perhaps haven’t given up the ghost on that one yet. There is much research to suggest that psychosis is not solely a chemical imbalance in the brain present from birth, but is an extreme reaction to life circumstances that have been traumatic. I am not fully healed from my time in the cult or from my earlier life experiences yet so I cannot say if making a full recovery from my ‘diagnosis’ is possible. What I do know is that that time is not yet, and every time I have tried to lower my medication I have a relapse. So I am safer on it for the foreseeable future. Each psychosis for me is littered still with New Thought doctrines and telepathy with people from the cult. It seems to be the thing I still yearn for the most - acceptance back into that group and finding out that their ideas were ‘right all along’. I have met people along my journey who have been in similar cultish environments and they have all told me it can take years for the magnetism to go. In the words of one of my friends ‘then one day I saw him (the cult leader) and I just thought ‘my god you’re mad!’. I hope that day is not too far around the corner for me. Until then I can only carry on with my recovery as best I know how. By steering clear of the texts I read in that group, having therapy and continuing to educate myself on the cult environment. It is a powerful mind-set only truly understood by those who have been in it. I hope to break free as others before me have done.