Q&A: Adjustment after the Cult

How did you shift your worldview to support your new frame of mind and "freedom" from religion? How did you live so many years one way, and effectively switch? Was it hard to do? How did it make you feel? Do you EVER miss the early days of COG?

I'll tackle the easiest question first: No, I never ever miss the COG.

Daniel Kahneman wrote, "It is extremely rare for someone to simply abandon a valued belief when confronted with disconfirming information. In fact, recent psychological research shows that when this happens, people tend to hold the erroneous belief even more strongly."

There is no way to change a cherished belief overnight. It has become deeply imbedded in the mind: pathways, patterns, intuitions, reflexes, behavior. These all must be unlearned and replaced.

Many exmembers seem to choose different paths than I have, like joining an MLM (the similarities to a cult are obvious), or finding some other cult of the personality.

Some prefer denial in protection of their ego, refusing to face the horror that the decisions they made in their youthful idealism and zeal led them and their children into a house of horrors.

I went through stages, as I've written. First of all, I was incapacitated by guilt. We, my husband and I, had raised our older kids in a toxic atmosphere. We had made no provisions for their higher education nor our elderly years. Nothing. Like good disciples, we had taken "no thought for the morrow."

So, holding down panic, we made a half-cocked plan for me to move to the US with three of our kids (the three oldest still at home, numbers 3, 4, and 5), and put them into high school and middle school in order to take advantage of the scholarships to state colleges offered to top students. Anxious, yet trying to stay optimistic, we headed to a place I had never been before.

Shock. The high school principal had assured me by email that my kids could go to that public school, but when I went to enroll my older daughter, we were turned away. She had been homeschooled. She needed to go downtown to take pass/fail tests on the subjects covered so far, and even then, she would never be eligible for the scholarships anyway.

If that had happened now, I would fight. In those days, I was as helpless as one of Martin Seligman's hopeless, shocked dogs.

Everything met with frustration. I had no college degree. No credit history. No contacts, friends, or family. Nothing. I was on my own, over my head, drowning. Depressed. Overwhelmed by guilt, remorse, and now, desperation and failure.

So, adjustment was not easy.

Then I began the studies that eventually led to this blog. I absolutely had to know why. Why had I joined? Why had I stayed? 

I could not move on without understanding, and coming to grips with, my past. In fact, the guilt I carried, the remorse, the horrors, were such a heavy weight that I could barely function. I had to understand in order to free myself. 

I guess in a way, knowledge is power. (Yet thinking I know can be catastrophic. Hello, Dunning-Kruger.) Learning, facing my past, and deliberately building new mental pathways are the only way to move forward, to change, to, as you wrote, "effectively switch."

Hopefully, I can grow into a wiser, more empathetic human being.

No comments:

Post a Comment