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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: Toni ()
Date: September 10, 2006 11:36AM

Was trying to avoid mentioning that.Have family whom I care for both in and out of the group, and since its a small group, am pretty sure that once I name it the delightful anonymity of the internet would disappear pretty fast.

Hello Yasmin:

I'm not an attorney, but have attorney friends, so am not qualified to give you legal advice (disclaimer stated).
If you speak of your experience, your group cannot come after you for slander. The truth is the truth. You are probably not the only person from your group who has your concerns.

Having attended workshops for adults who were raised in cults, I can tell you that some of us had similar issues regardless of which group we came from. Other issues were related to individual variations within particular groups (abuse, abandonment, nutrition, education).

Nearly everyone had to process a degree of cult-shock/ integration as they left their group to enter mainstream life.

Nearly everyone had to sort feelings for their loved ones who remain in the group.

Nearly everyone experienced various degrees of rejection from their loved ones.

Nearly everyone experienced degrees of paranoia about discussing their background.

Nearly everyone felt isolated entering mainstream life.

Nearly everyone struggled to have normal conversations without their cult-jargon.

Nearly everyone vacilated between anger, pity, compassion, forgiveness, and back to anger to those who raised them in their respective cults.

Nearly everyone had identity crises and some variety of spiritual crises related to their own existence.

Hope this helps.
Specifics of your situation will help you to process your concerns, and also help others to discourse with you.

My info is already posted on this thread and elsewhere.

For me, I finally accepted that this cult recovery-s***t is probably a lifelong process. It affects several generations of my family. If I choose to maintain some contact w/ my family (I do in a limited fashion), then I'm repeatedly exposed to the mindf**k. sigh.

Being raised in a cult, we lack a "pre-cult persona" to return to. We have the joy and challenge of inventing ourselves as adults.
We also have every childhood memory related to cult influence.

I suggest you read some of the books on RR's booklist. They are helpful. Lalich and Tobias' new book "Take Back Your Life" has a section that addresses adults who were raised in cults. We are special. :roll:

Best of luck to you!

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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: yasmin ()
Date: September 10, 2006 05:22PM

Thank you Toni.Actually it was the kindness of your posts, and the fact that I read that you still had contact with your family that first convinced me to post too. you come across as having a great deal of humanity and understanding.
yes, a lot of your list applied( what paranoia? From Miss anonymous??) :wink: Know about the emotional stuff too.
Both members and ex members are pretty litigious around our group, and there are times i get irritated with ( and if spoke my mind would probably annoy) both.
At this point in my life, have tried to stick to the complete truth about my upbringing ( both good and bad).On a positive note, have had a couple of people (member and exmember) ask me what actually happened at certain times as they knew I would tell the truth.Sometimes feel it is all such a mess.
There is alot I could say about the creative editing that a couple of the kids I grew up with have done in describing our life, but I also care very much about them,and don't really want to show where they have lied, as there were also many bad things (ie corporal punishment etc) that did happen, and hence they have a right to be angry about.( Have also noticed though that they have never noted that they had certain privileges in our communal life:ie play equipment they could use, that I could not}so it is hard to have complete sympathy with their victim role at times, though I realize that since I left the communal upbringing before they did, they may resent that and feel I had it easier, which I did in that way. On the other side though, when looking at the aging group members, at least one with altzeihmers, can see they have very little ability left to defend themselves, since at least some can't (or don't want to ) remember what did happen. ( though they do still know how to hire lawyers..) Have come to the conclusion that group members or ex group members, we are all human in the end, and am just trying to be as compassionate as possible to the lot of them, though at times being deeply irritated with them all.
Sorry about the long post, and thank you again for your kind words Toni, Love and best wishes to you ,Yasmin

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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: Toni ()
Date: September 10, 2006 11:09PM

......There is alot I could say about the creative editing ....... Have also noticed though that they have never noted that they had certain privileges in our communal life:ie play equipment they could use, that I could it is hard to have complete sympathy with their victim role at times, though I realize that since I left the communal upbringing before they did, they may resent that and feel I had it easier, which I did in that way. ..... .......we are all human in the end, and am just trying to be as compassionate as possible to the lot of them, though at times being deeply irritated with them all.

G'morning Yasmin,

Yes, many mixed messages. The comfort of cult-living is seductive. As a child it feels like one close-knit wonderful family! Then we leave and have to learn how to determine who is trustworthy and who not - w/o guidance for such. We shudder when we remember the 'sweetness'
I'll always miss that saccharin sweetness, and would never return to it either!

Yes, the child sees the stratified society - children of upper-level parents had more privelages than the common kids.

Everyone there are victims, regardless of how 'good' they have/had it. Any interaction brings up mixed emotions for me too. That's why I live 2000 miles away.

Sometimes it is hard to live my life now w/o extended family and sans elders for my own children (I left nearly 20 yrs ago). Better to be healthy, strong and solo than to be tied to destructive and controlling group.

You might be interested in a group called "Commune Kids," to help those who were raised on communes. I met one or two of the founders. Good folks:


Brenda Lee wrote of her experience being raised, and leaving, the Jehovah's Witnesses. She has a cult recovery newsletter for cult-kids, focused primarily on JW's, but also applicable to all:


Safe Passage Foundation helps former cult-kids also. Founders are primarily from the Unification Church (Moonies) and Church of God (The Family):


All of the above have similar issues. We all support the next group of kids who come out of our respective groups. And we all have 'real' non-cult friendships and professions now.

Happy Reading! You will find YOURself, stronger and wiser than your years.
Best of luck!

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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: Toni ()
Date: September 10, 2007 01:31AM

Just for you/us:


Also a new organization in support:

Rise International:



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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: tattit742 ()
Date: September 30, 2007 06:48PM

I have a reply to this post:
I don't see how this person's experience shows the downside of being a part of this SGI "cult".
What is wrong with her parent's promoting world peace and happiness?
I'm just a little confused,
and in the end she even says how even after smirking her life through this practice's goofy goals and being so jolly and happy,
she was chanting that thing when she really is in need of help.

I don't see this sgi as a cult from reading this post

Those who were born or raised in a cult have a different experience than those who were recruited. Our childhood had normalized the groupthink. Our parents repeatedly told us that we were special for being so infinitely fortunate to be raised (and usually neglected) with the cult's teachings.

For those raised in such a group.. true 'thought reform' or 'reform of thought' occurs when we leave the group, and must learn to self think for ourselves w/o any guidance for such.

The following was just sent to me by a friend. It seemed appropriate timing to share and begin this needed thread.

About Being raised in the SGI cult (the sender did not send me the article title, I am sorry)

From Utne Magazine, September / October 2004

By Eliza Thomas


I was born to parents whose good intentions change the world. That's why they call me a "fortune baby," a child born into the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. Among fellow Buddhists, fortune babies like me are regarded with awe and affection. By virtue of my discerning taste in parents, my very existence has been fortified by prayer, millions of chanted repetitions of the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was undoubtedly the sound track at the scene of my birth. It was certainly the white noise of my childhood, and when I went off to college I left the phrase resonating in my wake. As my folks insist, should my sister and I choose to use the power of the practice, there is no end to what we could accomplish. But even without doing all that hard work, our parents' chanting entitles us to a certain amount of karmic nepotism, a virtual goodie bag of cosmic returns.

Asking my parents to define Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (Nah-m MEE-yo-ho
RAIN-gay KEE-yo) can provoke more questions than answers. Devotees understand it to mean "devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound/vibration," and, simply put, my mother and father believe that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo allows them to tap into the "rhythm of the universe." As a child looking for attention, I would do the running man or the robot to the rhythm of the universe, trying to get my parents to crack a smile during evening prayer.

I grew up on New York City's Lower East Side, where nothing is more unfashionable than enthusiasm. And yet, in my family's apartment at least, enthusiasm was inescapable. My parents had discovered the secret to creating "ultimate happiness" in this lifetime and, naturally, they were excited about it. Even worse, they were determined to share the news with the babysitter, the postman, the supermarket checkout attendant, the crazy cat lady in 3C, and every hapless cabbie who gave us a ride. Later, many of these people arrived at our doorstep, tentatively hopeful, drawn by my parents' invitation to stop by for the weekly chance to see their promise of happiness put to the test. It would be hard to imagine a more earnest gathering of strangers, at least in lower Manhattan.

When I was old enough to recognize America's inexhaustible fascination with Eastern religion, I began indulging in the thrill of casually letting it drop among friends that my parents were Buddhist. I enjoyed cultivating the image of my parents doing hip, mystical Buddhist things, like sitting for hours in zazen on a tatami mat or something, perhaps every now and then turning to give me a contemplative smile. Not quite. The awkward reality of my parents' Buddhist practice -- the fund-raisers and phone trees, the fervent affirmations, the bagels and cream cheese and hysterical effervescence shared at district meetings -- was, at the time, so dorky it hurt. I can remember staging rebellions as early as age 6, when I refused to sing along with the now defunct Buddhist jingle "Have a Gohonzon!" A gohonzon is the object of devotion before which Nichiren Buddhists like my parents pray. The tune was borrowed from "Hava Nagila" (apparently my mother was not the only Jew-Bu in the bunch). Despite my strike, the lyrics, perhaps waiting for this very chance at immortality, are burned into my brain: Have a gohonzon / Have a gohonzon / Have a gohonzon / Chant for a while / You'll find that you will be / Full of vitality / Watching your benefits grow in a pile!

That song is a less graceful example of the long-standing tradition of incorporating intercultural elements into Nichiren Buddhist faith. The founder and namesake of the practice, Nichiren Daishonin, was a 13th-century radical Japanese priest who asserted, in a time of clerical corruption, that every living being had a Buddha nature and could therefore attain enlightenment without the help of an ordained intermediary. Nichiren drew his teachings from the Lotus Sutra, one of the final sutras delivered by the Buddha. As the story goes, in order to make the liturgy accessible to everyone in the world, he completed a translation fusing all the known languages of the time. To this day, from New Jersey to Ghana, Nichiren's disciples chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, a combination of ancient Chinese and Sanskrit, pronounced with a Japanese accent.

Unlike their Zen counterparts, Nichiren Buddhists embrace their earthly desires as a means to achieve happiness in this lifetime. My parents have an index card next to the gohonzon on their altar, listing an ever-evolving list of their wishes for themselves, their loved ones, and the world. By forming a direct alliance between their life condition and the rhythm of the universe, my parents believe they are augmenting their purest intentions with universal assistance. They call this process "human revolution" and have faith that it will lead them to "become absolutely happy in this lifetime, help others to do the same, and, person by person, create world peace."

As Nichiren Buddhists, my parents are members of a global organization called Soka Gakkai International (SGI). In the spirit of engaged Buddhism, members of SGI, one of the world's most ethnically and socially diverse Buddhist groups, base their faith in action. To this end, SGI works closely with a long list of peace, education, and environmental protection groups like the Boston Research Center, the Pacific Basin Research Center, and the Earth Charter. In addition to their community work, twice a day every day, in their homes and at local "culture centers," all the world's 12 million SGI members sit down and chant in prayer for kosen rufu (the spread of the teachings), understood as the promotion of world peace.

The older I get, the harder it becomes to dismiss the pursuit of world peace as dorky. But kosen rufu is composed of millions of individuals' hopes, desires, and intentions, many of which are much easier to make fun of. Because my parents have resolved to see evidence of their prayers wherever they look, they do. In Buddhist speak, this evidence is called "actual proof" or "benefits," and recognizing benefits is a way to maintain an energetic practice.

My parents and I agree that some benefits -- such as their successful marriage, the impulsive beginnings of which have now become the stuff of family legend -- truly do indicate larger forces at work. My father decided he wanted to get married, so he asked two girls to a Buddhist meeting and proposed to the one who was moved to tears. My mother prudently told him she needed at least a week to decide, dreamed prophetically that my father would be a good match, and now, 30 years later, they are happily married, living in the suburbs, with two kids, two cars, a golden retriever, and many reasons to be thankful. Other declared benefits, like when the guy at the doughnut shop runs out to the parking lot to give my father the eyeglasses he forgot on the counter, are not so clear-cut.

Now that I am reaching the quarter-century mark, though, I have less energy to rebel against my parents' resolute benefit-spotting and blessing-counting. Being obstinate and obnoxious was age-appropriate behavior at 13, but at 24, and struggling to cobble my way in the world, I am not about to turn up my nose at a dose of self-empowering optimism.
Nor am I willing to sacrifice my happiness for the satisfaction of proving my parents wrong. I realize now that there are worse parental vices than enthusiasm. My parents gave me the key to creating positive change in the world, and believe me, when I am driving on a windy, icy mountain road in a snowstorm, I am chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and I am not smirking.

The first 18 years of my life were framed by my parents' prayers, and since I left home I have felt buoyed by the power of their intention. As idealistic as it may be, I would not deny that there is something encouraging about being included in my parents' wish to "wrap the world in shoten zenjin" (protective forces). And, admittedly, my life, from my conception on that fateful day on Martha's Vineyard (too rainy for the beach), has been good. As a fortune baby, cradled in the arms of my parents' focused intent, I had the luxury to take good fortune for granted. But as my adult path becomes less certain, I find myself drawing confidence from the navigation techniques I've inherited, and I am grateful. Undoubtedly, this is a benefit my mother and father have been chanting for all along.

Eliza Thomas is an editorial intern at Utne.

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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: Jupiter ()
Date: October 01, 2007 12:33AM

It was nice to read all the posts in this thread. It's now been a little under a year since I decided to leave the cult I was raised in, and about 9 months since I managed to break away for good. The first few months were absolute hell but I recovered; some residues still remain. Some of the replies on this thread have been so reassuring and beneficial for me to read. I've written enough about my experiences elsewhere but I just wanted to say thank you for all the people who've written here, I can relate to so much of everything right now. I feel like I'm almost out of the fog but I don't know what the rest of my life will be like. I can't pretend I'm not scared for the future - I'm scared of how I'll be able to look after my own kids. I guess I just don't trust myself, and it's very hard to trust anybody else - even those I should trust. I know I look at certain people as if they were gurus when they're just ordinary people, and they certainly don't like the messiah status I bestow upon them. I just want someone to give me the answers. Being raised in a cult then leaving is so hard... sometimes I just wish I had someone else to tell me how to feel and what to think and do....

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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: Toni ()
Date: October 05, 2007 01:37PM

Hello Jupiter,
Good for you! You have tremendous courage, to leave all that you know and create life on your own!

As for "out of the fog".. I kept wondering when i would be 'done' w/ this cult recovery *&$#*(#.
Finally, I've accepted that it's a lifelong process. There are many levels. Every couple of years I hit another level of liberation (maybe that's just maturity?)
Of course, navigating interactions w/ parents and others of cult history is a personal challenge or reward, depending upon the situation and person.

Folks w/o cult history have varying responses when they learn of our histories. It is odd to watch some shirk away, or become defensive when they learn my history (after already having given me professional and social respect)

Yes, we knew the false-comfort of following someone else's answers. It's ingrained in us. But finding your own way will be challenging, stimulating and infinitely rewarding! You CAN do it!

And congratulations on obtaining higher education! Good for you!

Best to you!
t 8)

I feel like I'm almost out of the fog but I don't know what the rest of my life will be like....... I just want someone to give me the answers. Being raised in a cult then leaving is so hard... sometimes I just wish I had someone else to tell me how to feel and what to think and do....

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Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: Toni ()
Date: October 08, 2007 01:44PM

Turnarounds are possible. Sometimes it takes a few years.

on USA ESPN Oct 7, 07


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Re: Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: ex-krishna82 ()
Date: March 30, 2011 11:55AM

I wrote an absurdly large post the lost it... my luck
Here's an abbreviated version:
I, too, am a cult kid. I was born into the hare krishnas. it was normal. it was normal to wake up at 4 am on a weekend, to put clay on my face to dance around and worship a plant, to pray to the man lion god who has a man across his lap, torso ripped open and bowels garlanding the lion god. and that's just by 5 am.
About 5 years ago I happened upon Cults in our Midst and was faced with the sudden shocking realization that the krishnas are indeed the cult that everyone always claimed they were, that they are not the benign "Hindu sect" that us "auspicious" krishna kids were indoctrinated with spoutung as the response.
Recently I've come across this and other websites and have been reading posts for hourson end from ex cult members, finally to make my first post now. i've become re-obsessed.
My question is...
I was in a very abusuve relationship with the father of my 3 kids- he's now in prison so i'm safe from him.
My mom's passed, dad's still in the cult, and brother is still favorable (although his was the generation that bore the brunt of the abuse.)
I have 1 friend. Literally. 28 with one friend. I find it very difficult to get to know people. and the friend I have, i have known for 26 years (within and without the cult.)
I feel like i'm destined (if i believe in destiny, i don't even know) to be alone.

Does anyone else feel this way?

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Re: Born or Raised in a Cult
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: April 02, 2011 01:14AM

Just to let you know that it does get better, if slowly.
I too was born into a cult and won't pretend that adjusting to a non-cult world comes easily to the second generation.
Go easy on yourself as it all takes time.
There are support groups too, for ex-cult members, both on and off-line which can make the transition a bit easier.
There are lots of resources on this site, keep reading here.

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