The latter part of my book REACHING: A Memoir details much of the cult-like experience I lived in for seven years during the 1990s. Although I've been distanced from that destructive lifestyle for over fifteen years now, I still find it interesting when I hear accounts from other cult victims--what they felt and believed; why they joined, why they stayed, why they left. The similarities are uncanny.
I've been watching Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath on A&E. To learn more about the show and watch episodes, click on the link. In a nutshell, Leah and Mike Rinder, both former Scientologists, meet with other former members who tell their stories, exposing the abuses of Scientology.
What I've discovered from watching is that there are many universal thought processes for cult members. Here are a few of them:
Members are responsible for the condition they are in. If something isn't going well, it's your fault. And you reluctantly believe you deserve the punishment you're receiving. And you try harder.
Persecution from non-members validates and strengthens the belief that the cult is right. Jesus was persecuted. Why shouldn't I be? Persecution just proves that the unenlightened world doesn't understand.
There is an "Us" versus "Them" mentality. Members believe that those who leave the cult are enemies or at least lesser human beings. Outsiders who verbalize their distrust in your "church" are ignored and dismissed.
Members believe the cult's teachings because they are taught to not trust their own thoughts. Members have needs. Those needs will only be met by submitting to the teachings of the cult.
After leaving, it takes a long time to trust your own thoughts. For me it was ten years. And even now, one of those old tapes can start playing in my head. However, the more time that goes by, the easier it is to dismiss those thoughts, recognizing that it's all part of my old life and no longer valid.
In my opinion, the psychological abuses of cults are not talked about nearly enough. I applaud Leah Remini for her efforts to expose them.
What do you think?