For those of you who have somehow missed my “life story” in all of this, I was raised in a cult. I like to say “the cult of all cults in the American age of cults.”
I was a Moonie, from the age of ten to about seventeen or twenty-one. (Let’s just say, it was a long, protracted leaving experience. Or as my brother likes to say, “I didn’t leave. I just slowly disappeared.”)
When I left – when my torment inside the Church was, I guess, more unbearable than my torment at leaving the Church – there was no support system. There weren’t trained therapists and counselors. There weren’t support groups. People in the Church shunned you for leaving or chased you, desperately trying to bring you back to god. People outside the Church knew you were – or had been – brainwashed and basically questioned your mental state overall.
And, for me at least, there was a debilitating overwhelm of guilt and shame for leaving and a complete loss around how to live without Truth, the Messiah, and everyone and everything I had known and loved.
But I did, obviously, leave. And I did heal. Since people ask me how I’ll share some of the endless list here – tons of therapy, 12-step support groups, specific trauma therapy (EMDR), meditation, massages, cranial-sacral massages, yoga, positive psychology practices, gratitude lists, and an immense re-wiring of a lot of false messages and damaging beliefs.
Because you know what? Being raised in a cult definitely f—s with your head.
I attended a conference for cult survivors about a year-and-a-half ago. I didn’t even know that conferences for cult survivors existed before that. I didn’t even know there were so god damn many cult survivors.
I sat in a workshop for Second Gens – those of us born and/or raised in an extremist situation. The speaker shared a list with the group. A list of how one’s brain was affected by being born and/or raised in an extremist situation. I stared at the list, hard, and thought, “Damn. That’s my brain.”
It astounded me that I was so specifically “carved” and “pickled” from having grown up as a Moonie. (When I was interviewed for the backstory for my appearance on Megyn Kelly, the producer asked me if I had been brainwashed. “No,” I answered. “I didn’t have a brain to be washed. I was too young. My brain was pickled.”) But since attending that conference and seeing that list, I’ve met other Second Gens…from other cults, and DAMN but if our brains aren’t carved similarly. Damn but if our visceral reactions to situations and people aren’t nearly identical – again Second Gens from other cults and other countries.
Being raised in a cult definitely f—s with your head. Being raised in a way that you learn to never think for yourself or trust yourself or have feelings or wants or needs. It definitely f—s with your head.
It captures you and chains you. And, if it ever senses you thinking for yourself or trusting yourself or having feelings or wants or needs, it FREAKS out and reels you back in. Tightens the chains. Checks the locks.
There is healing. There is hope. There is love and joy and ease to be found and lived.
But being raised in a cult definitely f—s with your head.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!
Your narrative here demonstrates how the power of the mind shapes and colors one’s perception about “what is happening to me…”
Thank you Jack. Yes. It shapes and colors AND we have more power to be aware of it and shape it “back” then we usually know.
Your experiences of growing up in a cult are very similar to my experiences of growing up in an abusive alcoholic home. I was brainwashed from a very early age to believe that I was no good and that any feelings I had or showed were shameful. In my home we were not allowed to think for ourselves or tell anyone what went on in the home. We were a very walled off and controlled family. I also believe that there were some severe mental health issues or personality disorders in both my parents. My father was a raging alcoholic with narcissistic tendencies and my mother was very co-dependent. It has taken me many years to understand the extent of the abuse and the damage that I suffered in my childhood and it has been a long hard road. However seeing the abuse and the dysfunction as baggage that has been carried from generation to generation in my family has gone along way to soothing the wounds in my soul and understanding that I no longer need to carry that baggage around and that indeed it was never mine to carry but rather thrust upon me by parents who didn’t know or learn any better. My parents passed away many years ago and when they were gone, it was more of a sigh of relief that I was finally out from under the family dysfunction. However, I now see it was one small step on my journey towards healing. I look forward now to a much brighter future for myself and my son and I wish you well on your journey through trauma.
Thank you Donna and yes, yes, yes. There are so many similarities even with the differences. I look forward to a much brighter future for you and your son too! Your words are so true, and I’m learning more and more – and in ways, this past year, that I never imagined – that I’m not damaged. That I am beautiful and whole. And that I can let go of and am letting go of my trauma more and more and more each day. We are all in this together and thank you!!!