Monday, April 8, 2013

Spiritual Abuse Survivors: Paradise Recovered

I love this piece, penned by Andie Redwine. It did me good to reread it today and realize how much progress I've made since last year!

We Are Spiritual Abuse Survivors
...Sometimes when people are vulnerable and need answers, someone pretends to give support by exploiting the needs of hurting people, using their ‘answers’ as a recruitment tool to get people to do their bidding in the name of God.
This is what happened to us.
We aren’t crazy, na├»ve, foolish, stupid, or lazy. We are human, like you. We have needs, like you. And, unfortunately for us, someone took advantage of our human needs for their personal gain.
We thought we were specially called by God. We learned later that we were just a means to an end, with the end being the elevation of our leader. 
Or we were rigidly raised to believe that everything on the outside of our group was bad. That only our group alone understood God, salvation, and the keys to living rightly.
We were taught or reconditioned to fear everything that contradicted our leaders’ edicts. We believed dissent to be wicked, evil, and Satanic.
And then we learned something about our leaders that made us question all that we built our lives upon.
. . .
We learned that some of our phobias have been granted to us by leaders who manipulated us into believing that the world is really a terrible, horrible place.
Of course, our leader’s group is wonderful and the only good to be found in the world.
Or is it?
And then we learned that asking these questions makes us expendable to the leader and the rest of the group.
. . . 
But one day, we noticed that many around us were genuinely happy. Even the ones that were supposed to be ‘really bad.’ They laughed, smiled, and were kind.
Some had faith, some didn’t. All were free to believe as they wished.
We were supposed to fear them. And yet they didn’t seem all that scary.
We didn’t know this worldly culture very well. Their music, their movies, their celebrations, their workplaces, their books, their relationships. And they scared us a little. Or a lot.
They also intrigued us a little. Or a lot.
And we confused the heck out of these people. They had no idea where we were coming from, and we were too ashamed and embarrassed to tell them that we had been in what they called ‘a cult’.  That we ‘drank the Kool-Aid’.  That we were ‘mind-numbed robots’ that had been ‘brainwashed.’
There was a lot of shame. So we didn’t say a word about our experience. We did the best we could to assimilate.
You may have known us for years and never known our stories. We can bury them pretty deep.
Because of the Internet and our Googling late into the night when we can’t sleep, we’re learning that we aren’t the only ones. Because of the anonymity that the Internet affords, we’re getting braver. We’re telling our stories.
We’re speaking out.
. . .

There's a lot more, including suggestions for how to relate to a spiritual abuse survivor. I am so grateful for those friends, old and new, who have been patient and accepting as I find my way, sometimes flying, sometimes just muddling along. 

If Andie's writing strikes a chord with you, check out this film she wrote and produced: Paradise Recovered. It is touching and funny; how you feel about the ending will depend on where your own journey has taken you. 

1 comment:

  1. Spot on, this was my experience with the #noplaceleft cult I recently left. There were many red flags, but the final red flag was raised during a private conversation between my pastor and I. We had just finished door-to-door proselytizing and I was complaining about how materialistic American Christians were. They weren't true disciples getting out of their comfort zones -seeking and saving the lost (lol, how my view has changed). My pastor gave me the most bone-chilling cold look and replied, "They aren't prepared to be martyrs either." I knew exactly what that meant. He had been dropping large hints about needing people to go and live in the 10/40 window as missionaries. Spreading the #noplaceleft message, to areas dangerous to Americans and Christians. I walked away shocked. Realizing he wanted my family to go. My family to prepare to be martyrs for their cause. They had already announced his favorites were to stay local and take up leadership roles. My clouded brain began to see the realities in front of me. He couldn't care less if my children, spouse or I were brutally murdered. He just needed to advance the cause, and impress the top brass. All the love bombing, praise, and special treatment was apart of the manipulation. He had already decided our role. I was expected to submit and get on board. Scandal broke out within the small group and I saw it as my opportunity to leave. Why did I need the excuse of a scandal to leave? I found it emotionally wrenching to leave the group.We left the Church and I used the new free time I had to recover. Realizing that my personal history, and lack of close relationships had made me easy pickings for a cult. Despite cutting contact with the core group I still get texts and letters in the mail. Even mail addressed to my child. I realize now I need to go full No Contact with everyone associated with the Church. I can't expect anything to be kept confidential. Manipulation, fear mongering, guilt tripping, love-bombing, and public accountability are all tactics this group uses to keep the flock in line. I am in a much better place now. It took this experience for me to finally see how abusive religion and Christianity really was. I remember seeking the counseling of someone with a degree in theology outside of the Church's circle. I described some of the reasons why I felt the group was a cult. He replied, "Well, most Christian Churches exhibit some of these traits." He meant it as a way to press me further to consider if the group was really a cult. Yet, his comment stuck with me. The truth began to seeped in. I had been in a cult. Not just with #noplaceleft, but my whole life. I had very little skills outside of religion. Despite those realities I am optimistic. I can finally be free to discover who I really am.