I think Keir is right on about finding ex members of your cult or a group was like yours. That ''fear of being normal'' doesn't sound crazy at all. I had that exact fear. I can so totally relate to what you are saying. Cult leaders ingrain in our minds the idea that the ''masses'' are bad. Political leaders do that to some extent. There always has to be an ''elite'' or ''better than'' crowd. To be a regular guy is somehow degrading.
Sallie, I liked your whole post -- especially this. The Soka Gakkai also taught this...that we were the only ones practicing Buddhism correctly. Because of that, we had the honor and duty of teaching this Buddhism to the world, and bringing about kosen-rufu,or world peace. A leader told me that I was "spacing out" and "forgetting my true mission," if I ever wanted to put work, school, friends, or family obligations before going to a Soka Gakkai meeting. At times, it was irritating, guilt-tripping -- and yet, I stayed, because it was also incredibly seductive. I was part of this elite group who had the noble mission to save humanity! Sometimes I felt special, thinking that I had a great purpose. Other times, I questioned this -- but I would suppress my doubts. I wasn't ready to face them and go back to being part of the unenlightened herd.
Pegasus, I am a shy person with a lot of social anxiety. I want friends, and to be part of a group, badly -- and yet I also have a lot of fears of getting close to people. It's interesting now, to look back on my time in the Gakkai. Certainly, I was part of a group. I told myself that I had a lot of friends. I spent a lot of time with the members of our local chapter; people were calling me up all the time to go to this or that activity. I felt popular, for a time, and this also made it difficult to leave. Until I finally realized that what I had with these people was not real friendship. They were calling me because I gave other members rides to meetings, planned meetings, cleaned up our meeting place before and after meetings...they were not calling because they were truly interested in me as a person.
I was starting to see this -- and then I got really sick and needed to go to the emergency room. The two Soka Gakkai members I called wouldn't take me! One of them, a leader, told me that it wasn't convenient for her! It turned out that I was so sick that I had to have immediate emergency surgery -- and not one Soka Gakkai member could lift a finger to help me, before or after the surgery. These people, who have such a grand and glorious mission to save humanity, who congratulate themselves endlessly about how much compassion they have for the world -- these people would have left me to die on my kitchen floor! Because it wasn't CONVENIENT for them to help me that day! How inconsiderate of me to have a medical emergency on an inconvenient day!
Who helped me? Some neighbors, and friends who were NOT Soka Gakkai members -- "ordinary" people with no particular religious affiliation. THEY were the ones who showed real beauty, compassion and generosity, not those Soka Gakkai phonies! My neighbors have helped me to see that just being an ordinary decent person is beautiful.
I was VERY angry with the Gakkai for a long time. Now, I'm only somewhat angry -- and part of the anger is at myself for letting myself be conned, charmed, manipulated as I was. I feel some shame too, that I needed friends and the feeling of being special so badly that I'd join a group that I should have seen through. (I have also read, and second Sallie's recommendation to read Bradshaw's book about healing the shame. I don't think that intelligence and logic can prevent a person from getting into a cult. Where the cult leaders 'get' us is through our feelings: the desire to be loved and to make a difference, as well as fear, shame and guilt.
But I also don't want to waste my life in anger and regret. I had always been a very healthy person and then I had this medical emergency that could have killed me. Luckily, I had an excellent surgeon, and good medical care, and I am healthy again. I can have many more years of life, what a gift! That also encouraged me to make my break with the Soka Gakkai. Life is short and precious. I just couldn't waste another minute of it on SGI's nonsense! Lying in that little room in the ER, wondering if I was going to die that day...well, ordinary life started to look pretty good to me! And still does, despite the problems and frustrations.
I really appreciate everyone who posted on this thread. I have gotten so much from everyone's posts and it has also helped me to write about this. This thread is helping me to understand why I stayed in the Soka Gakkai for so many years, and why I sometimes miss it, even now, knowing what the Gakkai is really like. Cult leaders can be so good at manipulating you into thinking that what you think, see, experience and feel is not real...or somehow just doesn't count. And I was prepared to accept it because in my family, I was always wrong -- or wanting, feeling, thinking something that I wasn't "supposed" to. Bull! Why is their reality more real than mine?
And oh, this having a special mission to save the planet -- it's very seductive, it must be a lot of people's fantasy. Look at how many novels are written about the person who has a nearly impossible but crucial mission to save the world from evil. Everything from Harry Potter to military, espionage, and science fiction novels.