Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Loneliness Legacy

Having spent many wasted years in the unreal bubble of life in TFI and then emerging into the real world, it can be difficult to relate to people who have not experienced it. Generally, friendships are build on commonalities, shared interests and backgrounds, and maybe more importantly, similar ways of thinking and mindsets. 

Coming from an insular cult background, it can be a challenge to form deep friendships with those for whom that reality is foreign, or perhaps, virtually unimaginable.

This is not unlike the experience of "Third Culture Kids," referring to those people (not just children) who have spent much time in a culture outside of their national culture. As TFI has its own culture, customs, and esoteric language, upon leaving, one is placed in the position where they must suddenly learn - or catch up with - the culture of their citizenship, years behind others their age.

As an aside, this is particularly egregious for those whose citizenship is, for example, Japanese or Chinese and were born in the cult and brought up primarily in an English environment. To be thrust into mainstream society in a country where you are not fluent in the language of your birth is the epitome of lack of foresight of the parents, bordering on cruelty. I cannot imagine how hard it would be.

Thus, the sad fate left to many ex-cultists is a life of relative loneliness, and/or a tendency to seek the company of other ex-members. Others have left one cult for another, be it MLMs with their alluring promise of "get-rich-quick" (particularly alluring for aging ex-members who have no savings and have made no provision for retirement), conspiracy theory groups, or political fringe groups. Sadly, many have chosen to take their own lives, while others have fallen into addictions and alcoholism.

"Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe."* Or, I might add, the warm embrace of a cult.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Another theme of life in the COG/TFI is "denying yourself." I so desired to be accepted and well-thought of by the others in the group that I started this practice upon joining. Well, of course, that was one of the requirements for being a member - give up all you have, so this characteristic wasn't unique to me.

I gave everything I had, including my meager savings, to the group, where the "colony" (group home) leader clearly had no appreciation for the value of what I gave, although he took the nicest things for himself. 

To illustrate this, I will list a few examples. He took apart my lamp/clock/radio so that he could "make it quiet" as it made an ever-so-slight whirring sound as the digital numbers changed. (He destroyed it.) My hand-woven tapestry wall-hanging was used as a mat in the basement (distribution literature) printing room floor. While being used by others - all things became communal property, naturally - my beautiful classical guitar was irreparably cracked in half due to too tightly wound strings and being set up outside against a folding chair where it fell. I'm sure other members have similar stories they could relate.

My mother would kindly take me out shopping for clothes when I was first in the group - no doubt with ulterior motives of trying to understand her wayward daughter - and upon returning to the COG home, the first thing I did was give them all away. (Obviously, I was not considering my mother's feelings at all. Too late to apologize now. She died in 1977.)

This ended up being my MO. Don't think about yourself or your own needs. Give to others. I can't help but think that this was a method I used to try to please others, craving appreciation and acceptance. As time went on, it became my natural reflex.

I unwittingly went without, "preferring others" and often this seemed to go so far as "casting my pearls before swine" (like in the case of my initial joining). This carried on through the years and is further exemplified by the time my young son won a bottle of beautiful Tiffany perfume in a lottery. I thought it would be nice to give it to our visa sponsor here as a token of our appreciation. Her reaction? "Oh, you don't like it so you gave it to me, eh?" On the contrary, I loved it, and that's why I gave it to her. I guess that concept didn't compute - how could it without the indoctrination I had had?

As you can imagine, my wardrobe was a mishmash of ill-fitting, second-hand clothes for all my years in the group - with not a thought given to the effect my appearance would have on others. After all, my eyes were on my so-called "work for the lord" and not on material things.

I spent too many years naively "denying myself and taking up my cross daily," and I doubt it won me any karmic brownie points for unselfishness.