Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Getting Better

© by Kathy Ward  (reprinted by permission)

Recovery from spiritual abuse and cultic thinking is like recovery from a lot of damaging things in life. It's hard to do it alone and there are many things that are helpful along the way.
  • Find someone to talk to who understands.
  • Work on not judging yourself - no one sets out to become a member of a cult, a person who others can guilt-manipulate. We join with these groups because we think that we're going to learn about God, find ways to serve God and our fellow man. we join for reasons that are not bad.
  • It's okay that you see good things about the cult. Just as it's hard to find people who are totally 100 percent malignant, few cults or abusive religious systems are 100 percent in the wrong. It's okay to acknowledge that there are wonderful people there or that something good was there. It's okay to sit down and figure out any good things that have come into your life from the cult.

  • Understand that your cult experience was a stage in your development as a spiritual person. You are going to grow from here.
  • Don't be afraid to seek counseling outside of the cult parameters. Religious, don't be afraid to go to a respectful nonReligious counselor. There are organizations who have lists of counselors (Religious and non) who are well-versed in recovery from restrictive, cultic religious systems.

  • Find and be around people who will support you, not condemn you, in exploring the world outside of the cult. If you want to examine other belief systems, philosophies, ways of thinking find supportive people to back you up.

  • Expect to have BIG doubts from time to time. Relapses. Thoughts about going back to the cult. We all do. It's normal. It gets better with time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time - but it does get better. It's lonely on the outside. When shunning or other forms of punitive behavior is manifested toward you it can be almost unbearable. We all go through it. This is why having someone to talk to who understands can help.

  • Expect to feel lost sometimes, like you're between two worlds.

  • "Without the unequivocal pronouncements that once guided them, former members of restrictive groups are apt to feel lost and confused. In any transition, there is usually a period of time between the collapse of old beliefs and their replacement by a new set of guiding principles. Kuhn's (1970) account of the disorientation that occurs when a scientific viewpoint once thought to be definitive fails to fit emergent facts can be applied to the similar confusion that comes with shifts in religious belief. Bridge's (1980) concept of an "empty" middle phase as a stage in any transition can also be helpful in normalizing the ex-believer's sense of confusion and inner emptiness as a natural part of the process of moving beyond outmoded views about self and the world."

  • Psychological Issues of Former Members of Restrictive Religious Groups by Jim Moyers, MA, MFCC

  • Realize that you may be depressed sometimes. There is a grieving process going on here. You've lost big chunks of your life and although you're going to be moving into some new, exciting, even exhilarating territory, you're going to also be grieving for some of the things you've left behind. Take care of yourself and don't forget about the things that help depression, like a healthy diet, enough and regular exercise (even a daily walk), getting out and doing things that you enjoy, indulge yourself, make opportunities to visit with friendly, supportive people. If it begins to feel like too much - tell someone you trust - get some help!

  • Remember that your feelings are just that - your feelings. They aren't evil or sinful. Because you feel something doesn't mean that you're going to act on it. Feelings are okay.

  • If there was a time before the cult when you had a creative interest or enjoyed reading, art, music, or any kind of hobby or pursuit that you left behind - take the time to enjoy it again. There's healing for the soul in these places. 

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