Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cults Teach People Not to "Trust Their Instincts"

Found these intriguing words from a foreword by William Goldberg in the book The Cult Next Door by Elizabeth R. Burchard and Judith L. Carlone, an account of an ex-member of an authoritarian New Age group in Manhattan. 
Another myth that the general public believes about cult members is that most of them join a cult because the cult's bizarre belief system somehow makes sense to the cultist. ...

In fact, most cult members do not adopt the belief system of the cult because it makes sense to them. Instead, they adopt it because the group seems to have something they want a sense of belonging, a certainty, a feeling of sameness of purpose. The cult leader's manipulation is aimed only partially at convincing the cult member to adopt a new belief system. Even more significantly, the manipulation is aimed at convincing them not to trust their instincts and their own knowledge.
In my case I embraced Armstrongism because I thought their teachings did make sense and once I finally woke up that HWA was not sent by God I immediately renounced it. Fortunately I had not joined LCG or any other COG group so it was relatively easy for me to get out of that system of confusion.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly to anyone who has a loved one in a cult, it is enlightening to examine the way that Judy Carlone coaxed Elizabeth out of the cult. The myth involved here is that simply by identifying the absurdity of the cult's beliefs and doctrines, the cult member will be persuaded to leave. The mistake made by many parents of cult members is simply to confront the cultist with facts: "This is a cult You've been manipulated You're being harmed by your membership." Pointing out the validity of these facts, by itself, is rarely enough to bring about the self-examination necessary for a cult member to leave. Usually, a more efficacious approach is the patient watchful waiting adopted by Judy. If she had pointed out every inconsistency and absurdity each time she recognized them, Elizabeth may have been scared off early in the relationship. Instead, Judy focused upon building her relationship with Elizabeth. Then, by asking well-timed questions and pointing out discrepancies in the doctrine, Judy helped Elizabeth to bring to consciousness the doubts and contradictions that Elizabeth had recognized, but had taught herself to ignore. There is a lesson in Judy's patience for individuals who have lost a loved one to a cult.
I would say that every person's situation is different so I would be careful in how to help someone out of a cult. It seems to me that ultimately one must decide to leave him or herself. It is often hard to accomplish something like getting someone out of a cult. It is perfectly possible, but one should not underestimae the difficulties.

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