Angry Apostates or Obedient Followers?
Just yesterday I finished reading, “Combating Cult Mind Control” by Steven Hassan. One of the most important things I learned from this book is a lesson for those who have left such groups. Ignoring this lesson has gone on too long and I hope this article can do it’s part to reach the hearts of ex-cult members.
An Event on Twitter
Not long ago I was able to interact with a newly baptized Jehovah’s Witness on Twitter. I asked them if we could move our correspndence into private messages and they agreed. I did this for two reasons:
- Tweets only allow so many characters, and having a discussion via tweets is impossible.
- To get this person away from some of (but not all of) the other exJW’s who were treating them very poorly.
This person was being accosted, spoken to in a manner that should not have happened. Perhaps you have spoken to cult members in this way, suggesting either directly or indirectly that they are stupid, being ridiculous, or in some other way belittling them. This does them and yourself no good. The fact is, they are none of these things.
One of the things mentioned by Hassan is Cult Cloning, a procedure by which the group takes the person and replaces their Authentic Personality with a new one – one of conformity to the group. However, their Authentic Self is never fully defeated. You can see it come out at times. One way to trigger this could be to ask them about their lives before they joined the group. Do this, and watch their eyes light up as they talk of friends and family, dreams they once had but gave up for the cult, and see them return to their true, Authentic Self for a moment. If you have family that joined a cult you can very likely attest to this truth. Likely, you’ve seen and heard them return to their true selves many times.
When the Cult Self takes over you can see them go distant, you can see their mannerisms change, their tone may be different and well rehearsed. This is the Cult Personality, and it is not who they really are – only who they have been programmed to be. You were like them once, programmed to be a certain way. I too feel that anger of loss, the anger of being robbed of life that should have been mine. This loss is not in any way the fault of the rank and file of the group. It isn’t even the fault of some of the higher ups such as overseers and elders. Surely you must know this in your heart.
There is a Better Way
Do you want to help people who are in dangerous mind control groups? There is a far better way than ridicule. Ridicule the Organization to which they belong all you like, but never the person. The person is not the Organization that robbed you, they are like you. The best way you can help them is to stimulate that Authentic Self. Talk to them about times before the group, about their life goals and dreams. Getting them to remember these days is very powerful. A real, honest conversation with these individuals will do them far more good than insults and attacks ever could.
After talking to them about these times ask them if the group they joined is the same now as the group they were introduced to, and if not ask them how it’s different. If they claim that it is, ask them if there are consequences to leaving it. When they say that there are, ask them to explain them. When they are done, ask them if these consequences were clearly and concisely explained to them prior to joining. Often times they are not, and just as often the members of these groups never realized this.
I stress to all readers who have exited a dangerous control group or who have loved ones and friends in one to read Combatting Cult Mind Control as soon as you can. I firmly believe Steven Hassan has the correct approach to dealing with Cult Mind Control. Belittling them, attacking them, this will do nothing.
There are other methods for dealing with this sort of problem. Epistemological approaches are very powerful methods of reasoning. The book, “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghassian is an extremely potent and powerful work. It teaches you to challenge their method of knowing in order to show that they don’t actually know what they are claiming and to show that their claims are no different from any other groups claims. This is extremely powerful, but it is also dangerous.
Remember that we are talking about people we love and care about. People who have been robbed of their entire life. At their darkest moments, when they wonder if what they are doing is right, they still have God and paradise to look forward to. Or maybe it’s heaven or some other place. Using the Manual doesn’t just help them realize the control group is a lie, it robs them of God entirely. This is not a healthy step to take too early, and for some people it may not be a healthy step to take at all.
I for one, remain a spiritual person. I do not believe that this is all that there is to existance. I do not claim to know the answer to what is after death, but rather accept that I am ignorant. One of the keys to Boghassians approach is to get people to accept that not knowing is okay. But I think there can be great risk in taking away completely a persons belief in God. People need this at times, when loved ones die and when they themselves face death. There are many who believe in God and find comfort in that the way I believe there must be something else (but that it isn’t God). This is healthy, and the spiritual aspect of our humanity cannot be ignored. What Control Groups do is manipulate this part of us, using it to take away our free will and our future.
It Isn’t Your Fault
At the heart of it, if you have been accosting cult members and attacking them to any variety of degree, you are merely projecting your feelings. You aren’t angry at them, you’re angry at yourself. This needn’t be the case. You are not stupid, you are not a dull-minded person, you are a victim just like them – a victim of something terrible. It has been described as being psychologically raped. The scars and the bruises it leaves behind need to heal. If you are a person who gets angry with cult members, who accosts them and insults them, belittles them and humiliates them – then the cult isn’t done with you. You are still letting them manipulate you by playing the very role they’ve assigned you to play, that of a “Mentally Diseased” and angry apostate who is spreading satanic lies and trying to harm God’s chosen people. Would you continue to do what the cult tells you to do?
The things you lost were robbed of you. You deserve to be upset about it but do not internalize this grief, stop projecting it on the innocent and stop living up to exactly what the cult you left expects of you. If you are one of these then you know who you are, and you need to seek out help from a professional to deal with your trauma. There is nothing wrong with this, it will help you to be a better person and move on in a healthy way.
Stop letting them destroy your life. You’ve taken the difficult step to leave the cult, now you need to get it out of your head.