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Living a parallel life
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 21, 2007 10:01PM

What Freedom Fighter described

I always saw,even at 11, how many double standards and inconsistancies in what she was preaching. I resented my mom for starting to relay what this woman was saying to her. I quit talking to my mom about anything that I was going through at school, etc. I do beleive that was the thing that saved me. I took on that same attitude with the cult leader. I secretly rebeled. I literally lived a parallel existance for so long to survive.

It takes energy and tenacity to create this kind of double life. And I think your recognition of the unfairness and double standards, your sense of justice, were crucial.

As a child, it bugged me and scared me when my father kept changing his recollection of events. So, at a young age I swore I would stick with factual evidence and never re-write history, not even if this meant having to admit stuff that was personally embarrassing.

Years later, when I was in therapy, a beloved family friend who was loyal to my parents (by then deceased) kept trying to get me to doubt my misgivings about my parents. She kept trying to coax me that 'it hadnt all been suffering.'

I loved this woman, but I finally decided that if I was gonna keep making progress in therapy, I could not talk about it with her any more, sort of like the parallel life that Freedom Fighter mentioned.

When she was in her final illness, this famly friend told me in dismay one day that it bugged her that I shut her out of so many things.

I told her, 'You dont like dealing with unpleasantness. You keep trying to talk me out of it. Well, the truth is, I have been through a lot of painful things and I can only solve it if I deal with it. So, I chose not to mention this to you, because you consistently didnt want to hear about it.'

She had to admit I was right.

I had my long phases of thinking someone knew better than I.

Not any more. Problem is, we all too often have to go through a lot of crud
before reaching that point...

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Re: residual affects after a cult escape
Posted by: yasmin ()
Date: October 22, 2007 11:23AM

Wow, Corboy, a lot to think about.Thank you.
The idea of the three r's to balance responisbility makes a great deal of sense.
At least in our group,at times people got very burned out from too much work without the balance of the respite/resources part. Sometimes they did get respect, sometimes they did not. Makes sense to always balance the three r's in ones own post-cult life too, I think.

Definitely agree about wanting to keep things factual, and am sorry your friend was not able to hear your experiences without trying to change them.In our group truth was a pretty fluid concept at times, particularly for the leader.
Afterwards, I found the media (who had fun exposing the group for a little while), also had no problem with stretching the truth so far that it snapped to make a good story..This was many years ago, but at that time it was hard occasionally dealing with people who felt they knew what my experiences were "supposed" to be like ,because they had "read about it" ( actually experiencing it apparently came a poor second in terms of validity!) : tends to make you wary about sharing.

Cactus, Becker, Freedom Fighter, can relate to the difficulty telling people about one's past. A lot of people, particularly those with less life experience, don't know how to deal with this stuff at all. As a result of weird/difficult life experiences, generally I'm pretty unshockable and able to be understanding of others. So there is eventually an up side, I suppose.
its great hearing from all of you, so many things I can relate to. Good luck to everyone: as they say, living a great life is the best revenge!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/22/2007 11:25AM by yasmin.

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Re: Loyalty and Gratitude
Posted by: freedom fighter ()
Date: October 22, 2007 12:00PM

Corboy wrote:
The leaders have a talent for making followers feel infinitely obligated and grateful...but in a crunch, the leaders show themselves incapable of loyalty and gratitude. THat is when the leaders are unmasked for what they really are...tiny kids in adult bodies who are incapable of the loyalty and gratitude that are the foundation of adult, peer relationships. Cult leaders are great at manipulating extreme emotions, but consistently flunk at ordinary adult skills, such as open, non manipulative communication.

It is so true. Cult leaders are driven to instill loyalty into their followers. They are driven to minipulate them and set up situations in which guilt is a very affective tool in keeping members in line. I have kept up that learned loyalty attitute after leaving the cult and stayed in situations far too long trying to better them thinking I was the problem rather than the source of the problem that was there already. I'm really glad that this point of loyaly was brought up. Getting on with life is rather difficult at times because I have to sift out a lot of these "forgotten" control tactics.

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Re: Loyalty and Gratitude
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 22, 2007 11:01PM

Freedom Fighter writes:

I have kept up that learned loyalty attitute after leaving the cult and stayed in situations far too long trying to better them thinking I was the problem rather than the source of the problem that was there already.

'I was thinking I was the problem, rather than (recognizing that) the source of the problem was there, already.'

Part of what blew me away about recently discovering a staggering number of family secrets that had been systematically hidden from me, was getting concrete evidence (in documentary form--family letters, even legal records), that all three of the adults who raised me, plus the family friend who had maintained the cover up for 19 years after my mother died...they all had been entangled in a mess decades before I even arrived on the scene.

And as a wee kid, I drove myself nearly insane feeling responsible for their happiness, when I'd not even been told the full sources of their unhappiness (which even had I known of it, I couldnt have solved anyway. There are some problems that a child cant solve anyway).

To an amazing degree, cults are like dysfunctional families. Amazingly often, there are the equivalent of family secrets.

The devotees (analogous to the kids in a family) are regarded as requiring guidance by the leader, but often the kids, especially those selected to be members of the inner circle, actually are the ones who wind up parenting the child side/tantrum tossing shadow side of the guru, while the guru shows a smiling adult facade to those in the outer circles.

Very much the way adults can be crazy and mean to their kids in private, then be charming and delightful when entertaining adult guests.

A friend told me he invited his classmates home and the classmates were puzzled because my pal had told them how nasty his parents were. But the parents were always charming when entertaining my friend's school friends.

So his friends were could these people be nice, yet mean in private? They thought my friend had to be lying, making it up.

My friend was eventually able to escape, go to university, and later had the means to afford therapy...lucky for him.

Nope. It happens all the time. In cults, many leaders segregate the worst abuse
within the inner circle, even select folks for their entourage based on whether they show signs of being capable of tolerating and rationalizing abuse.

Persons who show signs of good boundaries and who are put off by nasty behavior, might never be shown the leader's cruel side, and would only get the seeming benefits offered by the group...not aware that these benefits are produced by a guru fed by the hidden misery of the entourage.

And, all too often when outer circle beneficiaries are told that the benefits they got were from an abusive source, all too often, they snap, 'Well that wasnt my experience.' Or, 'I wasnt harmed.'

IMO, if you show that kind of indifference to the well being of your fellow seekers, caring only for your own private bliss....that lack of empathy means your own heart has been hardened...which means you've been harmed.

We are learning to select coffee and chocolate based on whether they were grown by persons fairly paid, or by those brutalized by slave labor.

So...persons who think they've benefitted from a group and later are told with full evidence, that a group has been privately abusing its inner circle....its time to ask whether any bliss is worth it, if from a dirty source.

Lots of former members will excuse abuse and degradation by insisting, 'But the leader had power.'

So what? Power can be worthy or unworthy.

Getting back to segregation of abuse. An ideal entourage member would be resilient enough not to get sick and break down from abusive stress. Someone who constantly gets ill, or who would react to being screamed at by breaking out in eczema or quickly developing stress related gut cramps could not remain for long with an abusive guru...their bodies would rebel so quickly that they'd not last long.

A really ideal entourage member, one resilient enough to deal with guru-abuse would also be someone able to self medicate the misery by paying for frequent visits to spas, alternative healers or perhaps, physicians willing to massage/medicate them for stress suppression while neglecting to quiz them on the sources of their constant visits for stress reduction. I am privately convinced that every abusive guru and suffering entourage support a network of stress reduction practitioners in the neighborhood-some of whom may knowingly collude, others of whom may do so quite unknowingly.

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Re: residual affects after a cult escape
Posted by: freedom fighter ()
Date: October 23, 2007 01:20PM

I feel my past is surreal. Like it's so bizzare I can hardly believe that it actually happened. I feel like it was in some other lifetime. Strange how I get that feeling.

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Re: residual affects after a cult escape
Posted by: Jupiter ()
Date: November 02, 2007 07:13PM

I'm surprised it's taken me so long to read this. As usual, I can relate to almost every word written...

FF I often get that feeling of surreality, too. Like my life has taken so many stages. My parents were always a part of the "entourage" Corboy has described, even if it weren't maliciously abusive it was still such a total mind-f*** that obviously really instilled such a weird sense of right and wrong on my parents that they could never break free of it. But there were so many stages of this - I've lived in everything from a caravan / trailer when we were really poor and then in a huge big house when my dad got successful and the cult benefited hugely from his new wealth. There were times when we were all alone, times when people would come and live with us (in the spare room, on the sofa, or even living in our shed) for anything from a few days to six months or a year, times when there were just so many people (upwards of about 20) in our house that I'd have to sneak out my bedroom window to avoid being seen. Even then I couldn't go anywhere, we were too isolated geographically and socially.

What bugs me is if I describe my experiences to those who know me, they just don't believe it - everyone seems to know my father, what a great and successful person he was, everyone has known me since I was a kid, and was part of the belittling and undermining yet they can't admit it to themselves. It's so frustrating. It's hard for me to talk about things, too. All those different stages of my life - how can anybody understand? I'm so quiet in public, how can anyone really understand the strength and self analysis that it took to make me who I am? How can anyone really understand that I'm doing really WELL, that my shyness or lack of trust, my inability to form ordinary friendships, are just part and parcel of having been through what I've been through?

The whole "It couldn't have all been bad" thing really resonated with me, too. Or, "you're not a child any more... when are you going to get over it?" I've only been TOTALLY out since January, though I started leaving last November. I think a year isn't anywhere near long enough to go through full recovery. Even ten years, twenty years... these things SHAPE US. They are experience, and more than that they are the only things we've ever known. You can't just get over a lifetime of lies and betrayal in a few therapy sessions or a couple of months of positive thinking. We all have been through something terrible, that the rest of the world seems unable to understand. I think it sucks that we have to justify our recovery journey so often to ourselves and others. That kind of invalidation just makes us feel even more guilty.

I really liked the thing about the three "R"s to compensate and provide balance. One of my greatest fears is that it is so easy for me to act like a leader, a guru too, when I struggle with even basic responsibility. I just act so lofty sometimes, and can hurt people so easily, and act like I deserve all the sacrifices that others must make for me... yet I struggle to utilise the actions that would result in reciprocation, of ordinary responsibility. I like the 3 R thing because I guess it's something I can think about when I get into that abusive state myself. I always wonder how I can stop myself - but offering respite and resources to my SO is a very helpful way of looking at it. I might be judging myself harshly, but I'd rather do that than risk becoming everything I've fought against - part of me is a wounded child; my parents were wounded children too, as were their friends, their own parents, and even our "great leader" himself had grown up in a war-torn and illogical environment. Rather than make excuses for myself and others, I just want to learn how to stop this free-flow of blood and sadness which seems to stain the hands of everyone who has touched me.

Whoops, I was trying to make a point but ended up talking about me again. That seems to happen a lot these days..

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Re: residual affects after a cult escape
Posted by: becker ()
Date: November 04, 2007 03:37AM

I just cant seem to put into words my experience in the guys do it so perfectly......I read what you guys have to say and understand it tootally and know that this is what I wen through to but I cant seem to bring it out of my head...i know it sounds crazy but I can imagine and think a lot about cults but cant seem to bring it out of my verbalize it....

all you guys seem to be able to put it in words very well -jupiter and freedom fighter--

Jupiter-my parents are very succsessful also my mom has a phd in social work and she is very good at it(she loves to study) but when i tell people that they seem to think that I am can she be so devoted to this crazy cult if she has been educated especailly in the field of socail work....and get this she worked for abused kids while her own kids were being abused...I dont really know how to explain why but even though i do feel resentmant towards her for what she allowed us to go through i still understand why she did...

Brainwash is the only thing i can tell people but that dosent tell it all

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Re: residual affects after a cult escape
Posted by: freedom fighter ()
Date: November 04, 2007 09:21AM

I feel the same way. I feel more than what I actually put in words or say about these cult issues. I admire or rather get inspired by what others write. I think that the whole personal experience is not only too harsh but sometimes it's difficult to put emotions and feelings on paper because they are soooo complex in nature. I was inspired by the way corboy is able to analyse and put in words the exact things that I was feeling. I think if you can analyse something it forces you to separate from the emotional part of what you are going through. Which in turn helps to understand why it affects you so emotionally.

Sometimes I resent having to figure all this shit out. After all, this abuse was forced upon us. I'm sick and tired of having to undo something that feels like it's been with me so long that it feels normal. When, to anyone else, it's as foreign as an alien from outerspace. I watched a movie last night. I think it was called Land of the Brave. About Iraq US soldiers who came back after being attacked during a humanitarian mission. The movie was about how they felt after returning to their "normal" lives. I cried because it was exactly how I feel all the time. I feel like I came out of a f***ing war zone. After all its about how we were all traumatized emotionally. To this day I feel it's hard to fit into "normal" situations. I never saw blood and gore but my brothers might as well have been blown to bits in front of me because I feel like I mourned their death to that horrid cult. These US soldiers who have survived Iraq have only been there for a short time compaired to how long I was in the hell hole cult. Being subject to mind control and brainwashing It's a wonder I'm not a total lunatic, freak.

I think we need to pat ourselves on our back once in a while and really look at what we actually survived.
Down the road from us we have a veterans home for recovering addicts. They are all wasted looking from too many drugs and alcohol. Trying to medicate what they have been through. I really feel for them and understand their torment. When most people don't want to move into the neighborhood because they "look" crazy or dangerous. Sure they have issues but people should give them a f***ing break.

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Re: residual affects after a cult escape
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: November 04, 2007 09:40AM

"also my mom has a phd in social work and she is very good at it(she loves to study) but when i tell people that they seem to think that I am can she be so devoted to this crazy cult if she has been educated especailly in the field of socail work...."

Its complicated.

First, people may experience their own children as extensions of themselves. They may behave beautifully toward adult friends, yet quite differently with thier own children. It may be that in some cases, parents may not experience themselves as adult in relation to their own children...they may see thier own children as if younger siblings, and take out on them unfinished business in relation to their own sibling relationships.

(I suspect I reminded my mother of a younger sister whom she constantly fought with. Sometimes Mom was parental and nurturing toward me, but other times, probably if I did something that triggered some unconscious cue in Mom, she reverted to feeling like a pissed off child and saw me as if I was this youngre sister whom she fought with all the time. So, suddenly this person I thought was supposed to be my mother was acting like a mean, nasty sister who happened to be in an adult body. I was left blindsided, wondering what I did wrong. I didnt do anything wrong. Mom was dumping unfinished business from her life, onto me.)

My cousin told me his parents were mean and crazy to him and his brothers and sisters. He told his school friends what he went through at home. But when they visited his place for dinner, my aunt and uncle were charming---you see, visitors, even other kids had to be seduced and soothed and flattered.

So my cousin's school mates were bewildered and thought he was lying to them--they were kids and could not understand how adults could be nice in public and mean in private.

Finally, it may not always matter if someone has a psychotherapy credential. If that person does not expose thier inner lives fully and honestly to training analysis or to their clinical supervisor, they can smuggle all sorts of unresolved issues with them right through the training process and never have it uncovered.

A therapist in this predicament can sometimes be helpful and healing to patients--that is, non family members, yet be quite a different and more hurtful person in relation to family members.

I have no way of knowing if this was the case with your mother, but am just
mentioning that it can happen.

Susan Erikson Bloland, daughter of psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, has a very enlightening book titled 'In the Shadow of Fame.' She reports that both her parents were quite different in private than in public--and hurt thier kids, yet her father was a huge help to patients and wrote marvellously insightful and useful books. But according to Susan, both the Erikson parents saw fit to prematurely terminate their training analyses---their therapists were starting to get them to face the areas where they felt personally most vulnerable--which is the point where an apprentice therapist most needs to remain in training analysis.

But the Eriksons managed to jump off the hot seat rather than face full insight into their areas of personal pain...and mysteriously, Erik Erikson was allowed to graduate from his training and given permission to practice independently as an analyst--a bit like being licensed to drive if you've found a way to dodge or fudge the visual acuity test.

Other issues for therapists who end up entangled in cultic sitautions are discussed here.


Yet by contrast, some persons have been liberated from cult entanglement by honestly going through the clinical training process. Daniel Shaw was in a cult
centered on an authoritarian guru. He reports that he was forced to examine the group he had been in when he realized that experience of abuse and secrecy reported by his patients matched up with what he had experienced in his cult.


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Re: residual affects after a cult escape
Posted by: deellymg ()
Date: November 06, 2007 03:02AM

Hi all: First post

I was also born and raised in a cult. IT IS VERY DIFFERENT from being recruited into one. Main difference being that after people who have been recruited leave, they have a precult persona they can go back to. We don't. All we knew, our whole support system, friends, family everything OUR WHOLE WORLD was the cult.

I found myself smirking when I read the first post by freedom fighter. It does feel like being an alien. I'm often reminded of the comedy 3rd rock from the sun. How this aliens found it so peculiar to be in this planet and how they'd stumbled along. That's how I feel most of the time (except less funny). Feels like the bubble of "safety" you were in pops and you land on your bum in the middle of a world that has been running around you but you were never a part of.

Thankfully, I left the cult when I was 16 years old and never went back. I've been able to be "part of this world" for longer and was able to build a life. Sadly though, I didn't know I was in a cult until about 2 years ago (it's been 15 years since I left). So I walked around for a long time thinking it was me, that something was very WRONG with me.

So I understand how big a difference it is to be born and raised rather than recruited. There is no base nothing to go back to. On the other hand, it's like having a clean slate, a blank canvas you can pretty much paint whatever you want on... there's ups and downs....


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