A dear Second Gen (those of us born and/or raised in an extremist group or cult) friend and I were texting. I don’t remember about what.
What I do remember is her response at one point. “As a former cult kid…” her text reply started.
It hit me hard.
I’ve been out of my cult for decades. Multiple decades. I’ve been in recovery from that (and everything else) for fewer years, but still decades. Multiple decades. I am aware of how much I was affected. I am more and more aware pretty much each day.
But it somehow never fully dawned on me that my first response always, or at least pretty much always, is as a former cult kid.
Everything passes through that “unique” way my brain was (intentionally) carved and molded. Everything starts with my deeply engrained world views and thought patterns of:
“I’m wrong. I’m bad. There is a right and wrong, a good and evil, and I’m on the wicked side of that. My actions, thoughts, and feelings are inherently sinful and break god’s heart. I am inherently sinful and break god’s heart. I need to be on high alert at all times. I must sacrifice everything, have no wants and needs, and live only and fully for god and the messiah. I must be punished for failing and falling and walking away.”
Wow. I’m exhausted just typing that.
I know that those deeply engrained world views and thought patterns aren’t true. I know that they’re not mine. I know that I was (again, intentionally) given them, in order to keep me in line and in my cult.
I also know that that is where my brain goes first, and I can’t fully control that. I can’t, in fact it seems, control that at all.
The good news is that I also also know that that’s okay. It’s fine if that is my first reaction and if that will always be my first reaction. I can – and do – as always put my hand on my heart and give myself massive, colossal, astronomic amounts of self-love and self-compassion. I can – and do – remember that those deeply engrained world views and thought patterns were, again, forced on me, and they also saved me. Believing them as true – even though they are false – is at least a good part of what helped me survive.
And the understanding of and compassion for that is now at least a good part of what helps me thrive.
I may always first react to most things – or everything – “as a former cult kid.” That’s okay. Knowing that and remembering that frees me to make a choice about my second and third reactions.
It frees me to respond as I want to. As the whole, powerful, magnificent person I now am. As the whole, powerful, magnificent person I actually always was. (Yes, I just said that in public. As a former cult kid, I am writhing in shame…)
I will always be a former cult kid. And I will always love and accept that former cult kid, and I will always love and accept all the parts of me that make me me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!