Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why Education?

Why does someone who leaves a cult or high-demand religious group need education?  

1) To make up for lost time.

For me, it was 30 years of starving my brain for input, only feeding it cult publications and the King James Bible - my poor neglected brain! There is so much in this world to learn, and I learned nothing of much use for those 30 years. 

2) To stimulate brain growth and restructuring.

The need to constantly submit to the will of "God" and your leaders, the arbitrary corrections and public humiliations, the ever-present financial struggle, the virtually non-stop work because of "the shortness of time," the utter lack of space to call your own, and the countless other stresses of cult life all compounded to rob the brain of its ability to produce new cells.  

To undo this damage, the brain needs stimulation and exercise. And not just any stimulation, but serious concentration and study. New pathways need to be forged, and that requires focused mental effort.

3) To "unlearn" cult intuitions and reactions.

Living in a delusional bubble develops intuitive thoughts and natural reactions that are simply wrong. These need to be "erased" and replaced by more common-sense reactions.

What cult intuitions? For example:
  • I brushed off conflicts with a "Let's pray," telling myself that "God will work it out," instead of learning to negotiate and deal with disagreements and disputes. 
  • I dismissed any encouragement, "If anything good comes of me, it's only Jesus. I am bad." The brain already has a negativity bias, so this one slides by easily without question and can develop into self-loathing.
  • I was besieged by guilt if I were to do anything outside of the prescribed behavior of a cultist; that proclivity towards guilt needed to be shed.
Being aware of the multitudinous unnatural, knee-jerk reactions developed during cult years is the first step to laying them aside.

To actually "unlearn" these intuitions, a complete rewiring of the brain is needed. Because neural-plasticity is competitive, we need to put forth effort to learn in order for new connections to be built. In so doing, the old pathways will gradually fade and the space they had taken in the brain will be rechanneled by the new, fresh brain maps. That conscious focus on learning stimulates new cell growth in the particular area of study, as well as vitalizes the entire brain.

4) To understand.

"The unexamined life is not worth living." (Socrates)

I made bad decisions in my life. It is deeply painful to realize yet must be faced. How did this happen? Why did this happen? What can I learn from this experience?

To deny the reality of years wasted is to continue to live in a bubble of delusion.

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