Re: Help - social isolation after leaving a cult
Date: April 13, 2010 05:38AM
I can relate to a lot of this too. I left a Japanese Buddhist group, the Soka Gakkai, also known as SGI in 2006, after almost twenty years with it. I didn't consider it a cult at the time either. I saw cults as being like the Moonies, Hare Krishnas, or polygamists --- their members wore distinctive dress, lived and worked on isolated compounds together, and their leaders told them who to marry, what jobs to do, even what to eat. Very few Soka Gakkai members work for the SGI -- members are teachers, lawyers, doctors, plumbers, mechanics, retail clerks, students, wear and eat what they like, buy their own homes, or rent their own apartments. How could this be a cult?
All I knew was that I was tired of the pressure to constantly be doing Soka Gakkai activities, contribute money and conform. In more recent years, the SGI has promoted the notion that you cannot attain enlightenment unless you take the Soka Gakkai president, a Japanese billionaire, as your "mentor." It seemed ridiculous to me even then....and I couldn't discuss it with my fellow members. They just treated me as if I were crazy for even questioning this....and that was the beginning of the end of my time with the Gakkai.
I began reading more on this and similar websites, and finally left in 2006. I was afraid to leave, despite all my reservations about the group. Like many groups, the Soka Gakkai tells its members that their lives will fall apart if they leave. I had also gotten to the point where I spent so much time in Gakkai activities -- almost all of my friends were SGI members.
None of them keep in touch with me since I've left...which makes me realize that they weren't really the friends I thought they were. That hurt, but it's better to face the truth...these people care about SGI, rather than me.
I have wished for another religious group...I haven't found one whose teachings feel right to me, and maybe that's lucky. Do I need to get involved with another group that will manipulate me?
Part of the reason I got involved with SGI so many years ago was that I was desperate for a way to deal with my anxiety....chanting almost an hour a day, (often, more than that) most days did relieve the anxiety. Now, I'm asking myself if I really should -- or want to -- spend that much time chanting. I'm forced now to look at the anxiety and find other solutions.
This site has helped a lot. I post in the SGI thread on "Former Cult Members and Affected Families," and it has been great sharing experiences with other former members. I also like to read about people's experiences in other groups. It's amazing how these groups -- whether they're Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, or secular -- use a lot of the same tactics to manipulate their members --- for example, telling you that bad things will happen to you if you leave the group!
The Meet Up website also has been helpful. Through it, I've attended meet-ups for a book club and a "freethinkers group." It's interesting to meet people with different ideas -- rather than just the same old tired cliches that you hear at SGI meetings.
It was worth it to leave SGI, despite the difficulties. I simply couldn't accept the way the other members worshipped our president, or how annoyed leaders got if you questioned anything. I was tired of being guilt tripped for not wanting to give all my money and time to this organization. I appreciate that I can have a more honest and free life without SGI's lies.
So, my advice is, hang in there, it gets better. And it may also help to find some other groups --- not necessarily religious or spiritual, just something to get you involved with people...whether it's a quilting group, a book club, gardening club, delivering hot meals to housebound people...anything that forces you to interact with someone.