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WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors

Individual Differences Affecting Recovery

Each person's experience with a cult is different.  Some may dabble with a meditation technique but never get drawn into taking "advanced courses" or moving to the ashram.  Others may quickly give up all they have, including college, career, possessions, home, or family, to do missionary work in a foreign country or move into cult lodgings. 

After a cult involvement, some people carry on with their lives seemingly untouched; more typically, others may encounter a variety of emotional problems and troubling psychological difficulties ranging from inability to sleep, restlessness, and lack of direction to panic attacks, memory loss, and depression.  To varying degrees they may feel guilty, ashamed, enraged, lost, confused, betrayed, paranoid, and in a sort of fog. 

Assessing the Damage 

Why are some people so damaged by their cult experience while others walk away seemingly unscathed?  There are predisposing personality factors and levels of vulnerability that may enhance a person's continued vulnerability and susceptibility while in the group.  All these factors govern the impact of the cult experience on the individual and the potential for subsequent damage.  In assessing this impact, three different stages of the cult experience � before, during, and after � need to be examined.

Before Involvement 

Vulnerability factors before involvement include a person's age, prior history of emotional problems, and certain personality characteristics. 

During Involvement 

Length of time spent in the group 

There is quite a difference in the impact a cult will have on a person if she or he is a member for only a few weeks, as compared to months or years.  A related factor is the amount of exposure to the indoctrination process and the various levels of control that exist in the group. 

Intensity and severity of the thought-reform program 

The intensity and severity of cults' efforts at conversion and control vary in different groups and in the same group at different times.  Members who are in a peripheral, "associate" status may have very different experiences from those who are full-time, inner-core members.

Specific methods will also vary in their effect.  An intense training workshop over a week or weekend that includes sleep deprivation, hypnosis, and self-exposure coupled with a high degree of supervision and lack of privacy is likely to produce faster changes in a participant than a group process using more subtle and long-term methods of change.

Poor or inadequate medical treatments

A former cult member's physical condition and attitude toward physical health may greatly impact post cult adjustments.

Loss of outside support

The availability of a network of family and friends and the amount of outside support certainly will bear on a person's reintegration after a cult involvement. 

Skewed or nonexistent contact with family and former friends tends to increase members' isolation and susceptibility to the cult's worldview.  The reestablishment of those contacts is important to help offset the loss and loneliness the person will quite naturally feel. 

After Involvement 

Various factors can hasten healing and lessen post cult difficulties at this stage.  Many are related to the psycho-educational process.  Former cult members often spend years after leaving a cult in relative isolation, not talking about or dealing with their cult experiences.  Shame and silence may increase the harm done by the group and can prevent healing.

Understanding the dynamics of cult conversion is essential  to healing and making a solid transition to an integrated post cult life.  

  • Engage in a professionally led exit counseling session.

  • Educate yourself about cults and thought-reform techniques.

  • Involve family members and old and new friends in reviewing and evaluating your cult experience.

  • See a mental health professional or a pastoral counselor, preferably someone who is familiar with or is willing to be educated about cults and common post cult problems.

  • Attend a support group for former cult members.

The following sets of questions have proven helpful to former cult members trying to make sense of their experience. 

Reviewing your recruitment

  1. What was going on in your life at the time you joined the group or met the person who became your abusive partner?

  2. How and where were you approached?

  3. What was your initial reaction to or feeling about the leader or group?

  4. What first interested you in the group or leader?

  5. How were you misled during recruitment?

  6. What did the group or leader promise you?  Did you ever  get it?

  7. What didn't they tell you that might have influenced you not to join had you known?

  8. Why did the group or leader want you?

Understanding the psychological manipulation used in your group

  1. Which controlling techniques were used by your group or leader:  chanting, meditation, sleep deprivation, isolation, drugs, hypnosis, criticism, fear.  List each technique and how it served the group's purpose.

  2.  What was the most effective? the least effective?

  3. What technique are you still using that is hard to give up?  Are you able to see any effects on you when you practice these?

  4. What are the group's beliefs and values?  How did they come to be your beliefs and values?

Examining your doubts

  1. What are your doubts about the group or leader now? 

  2. Do you still believe the group or leader has all or some of the answers?

  3. Are you still afraid to encounter your leader or group members on the street?

  4. Do you ever think of going back? What is going on in your mind when this happens?

  5. Do you believe your group or leader has any supernatural or spiritual power to harm you in any way?

  6. Do you believe you are cursed by God for having left the group?

Excerpted from Captive Hearts, Captive Minds:  Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich. 1994. Reprinted with permission. Available through AFF�s Bookstore.

_

 

Resources by authors

+ AFF News, 03.01: Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "Crazy" Therapies: What are They? Do They Work? - The Therapeutic Relationship
+ AFF News, 03.03: Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "We Own Her Now"
<< Community Resources on Influence
= Captive Hearts Captive Minds
^^ Cadre Ideal: Origins..Development...Political Cult
Captive Hearts Captive Minds
Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "Repairing The Soul After A Cult Experience"
Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "We Own Her Now"
Lalich, Janja, Ph.D.: "Individual Differences Affecting Recovery"
Lalich, Janja: "Evaluating Cult Involvement"
Langone, Michael: "Mind-Manipulating Groups Checklist"
Singer, Margaret, Ph.D.: "Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work?"
Singer, Margaret, Ph.D.: "How United States Marine Corps Differ from Cults"
Ω Conference 1997: PA Presenter
Ω Conference 2000 WA: Speakers
Ω Conference 2002 FL: Presenters
Ω Conference 2003 CA: Events
Ω Conference 2003 CA: Presenter
Ω Conference 2003 CT: Events Overview
√ Lalich, Janja: "Women Under The Influence"
√ Singer, Margaret: "'Crazy'" Therapies"
√ Singer, Margaret: "'Crazy'" Therapies"
√ Singer, Margaret: "Cults In Our Midst: Hidden Menace in Our Lives
√ Tobias, Madeline: "Captive Hearts Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships"
√ Video: "After the Cult: Recovering Together"
√ Video: "Cults Saying No Under Pressure"
√ Video: "Theory and Treatment Issues" from May 1991 Conference: Mind Manipulation, Cults, and Domestic Violence

 

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Our E-Library contains full text articles and other resources related to the information below.  Click here.

WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection
 

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

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