Cultic Studies Journal
from Abusive Groups
Manipulation and Society
Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 10, No. 2 -- 1993
- Recovery from Abusive Groups
Ford. AFF, Bonita Springs, FL, 1993, 106 pages, paperback.
Reviewer: Lee Anne Pellegrini, M.S.W. Intern
Author Wendy Ford has straightforwardly and thoughtfully
presented her understanding of recovery issues from a personal perspective of having
participated in an abusive group and from a well-studied psychological and sociological
perspective. Her articulation is concise, yet encompasses a range of emotions and
perceptions regarding the seemingly never-ending adjustment process to postcult life.
Throughout the pages of the book, the author's honesty
and insight concerning difficult and complex issues are apparent, together with the
evidence of her personal travels along the road of recovery and renewal. This is a
handbook for every former member and their families who choose to be informed about mind
control and therefore aid in combatting the growing problem of psychological abuse by
destructive cults. This open and challenging review of the recovery process helps the
reader begin to address some very complex and emotionally loaded issues. It is a road map
for those of us who need to reintegrate our lives after the trauma of separation from such
an intense experience and the realization of having been subjected to such an extensive
level of deceit.
Ms. Ford clearly allows for the perspective of the
individual survivor as well as the family. Her approach to the recovery process gives
attention to the systems one is connected to: the family and our culture. She boldly
addresses the challenges ex-cult members face in evaluating the cultic experience and
learning about the world around them. Her tools for reality checking and for developing
critical thinking skills help deal with several residual effects experienced by those who
had a mind- control experience. The author also addresses the varying emotions former
members will confront and learn about in a whole new way as free human beings.
In this book the former member is given permission to
heal and recover from what is properly referred to as a trauma. The recovery process from
high-demand abusive groups is multifaceted and contains the seed for renewal, if former
members are patient and compassionate with themselves. Each page has hope peeking through;
this book speaks to former members' need to know that there is life after what they once
thought was the "truth."
In addition, Ms. Ford addresses the needs and struggles
of the victim's family and loved ones. In the process of recovering from trauma,
the former member is challenged to review every life connection. Much attention is focused
on family of origin and the strengths and weaknesses that impacted the cult member's
coping strategies and initial vulnerability to the cult. Having the family members'
support and willingness to discuss family issues can be helpful in assisting the entire
family to regain an equilibrium. This handbook also offers practical suggestions in
facilitating both personal and familial healing.
As stated on page 1, recovery takes time, discipline, and
courage. The road to renewal and reintegration takes many forms, but persistence is the
main ingredient. Recovery
from Abusive Groups speaks directly to those hurting and confused,
and gives assurance, direction, and insight regarding a wide spectrum of life issues that
former members are challenged to confront. This book is refreshing and inspiring, and
expresses the strength and wisdom of one who has survived and thrived. By including
thorough and thought-provoking study questions and a bibliography that has personally
inspired and assisted her throughout her journey, Ms. Ford has remained true to her
constant reminder to "Do your homework!"
My recommendation comes with the true bias of a friend
who has been fortunate to know Wendy since a year after I left the same group she was in.
She had been out three years when we were introduced and one of the most valuable lessons
we have learned together is this: Recovery and renewal from an abusive group cannot happen
in isolation. Her book brings the reader into the footsteps of her life, as she considers
and discusses the many aspects of recovering from the abuse and trauma of a destructive
cult group. The reader is able to sigh, cry, and smile at the straightforwardness and
courage of the author's presentation.
Former members and families are fortunate to have such a
workable and informative handbook which addresses this complex issue of cults and recovery
from the residual effects of mind control.
Each day I become more and more convinced that our misfortune can truly be turned around
and reconfigured to work in our favor. I invite you to discover this from Wendy Ford's
Lee Anne Pellegrini, M.S.W. Intern