Saturday, January 2, 2016

Stunted Maturation

Joining a cult, or making any serious life-decisions, at age 16 is a bad idea. Age sixteen is just at the end of the pruning stage of the brain, where “ineffective or weak brain connections are pruned in much the same way a gardener would prune a tree or bush.”* This is done in order to prepare the brain for adult maturity and growth, but this development will not be completed for another 5-9 years. So a 16-year-old possesses a brain that is stuck in the middle world of no longer a child/not yet an adult.

During this misfit time, emotions and hormones rage. Mood swings and irresponsible actions wreak havoc. 

Take this immature psyche, paint on a smile, add a touch of sparkle to the eyes, and finally paste on an overall fa├žade of COG characteristics: zeal, "happiness," "faith," "love for the lost," lack of concern for the future on earth, only concern for "heavenly rewards" - all the pious catch-phrases that were the staple of the cult members' days.  

Fill that life with busyness from morning till night, driven by the self-important urgency of the cause and kept on by dread of the guilt felt when not "giving one's all." Bounce that life around from "serving" under one leader to another. Give constant reminders that she must be "like a child" to serve the Lord in the COG. "You gotta be a baby to go to heaven..." (as their theme-song went.)

When hardships came, depending on the severity, solace was found in prayer, in "looking for the good," or in escape by moving to another country or city. ("God never closes a door without opening a window.") No need to deal with harsh realities, just smooth them over and "keep on keeping on."

Then, add year upon year upon year. 

The result? An adult, who, in spite of living on this earth more than 50 years, is utterly lacking in real-world maturity, normal mental and psychological growth having been stunted for those years of deluded life in the bubble of the cult. 

That would be me.

* Alison Gopnik, Professor of Child Development at UC Berkeley.

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