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The Process of Losing Your Self Identity in a Cult
09-15-2005, 08:14 AM (This post was last modified: 01-15-2015 09:53 AM by Reg.)
Post: #1
The Process of Losing Your Self Identity in a Cult
The Process of Losing Your Self Identity in a Cult

I read the thread on Fundamentalism & Control and wanted to add this thread in conjunction with that one on the CONTROL part.

I've read a book called "Controlling People" by Patricia Evans. It talks about the psychological process that we go through that creates a triple dependency in us on the group/leader as we lose our own self identity and take on the identity of the group/leader. Here's an excerpt from it:

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The Cult: A Triple Connection

The most highly organized, completely pretend world is that of a cult. The cult leader, the primary Controller, makes up everything relative to the meaning, purpose, and function of the cult, as well as to the members' lives. He/she has the final say in all decisions, even personal ones. In effect the leader becomes the members' "self". (*Note: This confirms my theory that spiritual abuse causes us to detach from our own self identity - that is if we had any to begin with. This would explain the "empty" feeling that we all seem to share now.)

As cultists become disconnected from themselves, they are coerced into connecting to a pretend self, the leader. In other words, as one's self is lost, the leader becomes it. In order to maintain a position of total control, the leader enforces strict conformity and often manipulates members into enforcing compliance among themselves.

The leader defines others: he or she "knows" who and what the others should be and what they should do, and rules like a God. Cultists eventually find inner self-direction to be almost impossible.

Like the interlocking pieces of a picture puzzle, the leader and the cult members fit together to form a complete picture. But this picture is not a visual one. It is instead a psychological one: a Control Connection of the greatest magnitude.

After a while, new cult candidates lose their self-connection in systematic conditioning. Not unlike severely abused children and people in severely abusive relationships, their communication is controlled or under rigid constraints. They are watched for signs of separateness and punished for them. They are relentlessly coerced to become Pretend People, designed to inhabit a pretend world imagined by their cult leader.

If cultists are successful, cult candidates will doubt themselves and open up to indoctrination. In fact, if their belief systems and personal realities are shattered, the cult, and particularly their leader, will seem to bring salvation. The cult reality, a newly fabricated belief system, then replaces personal reality. Cults are formed by this process. New members must be convinced of their "wrongs", so that their leader, and abuser of power, can "lead them to redemption" along prescribed lines of control.

Through indoctrination, brainwashing and ever-increasing pressure from members, cult candidates shift from tenuous self-connection to solid cult connection. They are finally triply connected: connected with each other, connected to their leader, and connected in conformity to one mind.

The cult leader appears to have special knowledge - knowledge that no one else could have. He/she is certain of this. His/her knowledge comes from beyond the world, from Christ, God, or a being from another planet or time. It is as if all his/her knowledge is backed by a myth that has now become real. Others are told that only with this knowledge will they be saved. He/she alone can save them. He/she alone knows what they should do, how they should be, who they are, and what they are. He does not doubt himself/herself. Convinced and convincing, he/she brings the cult into existence.

Isolation is a major factor. Cultists don't know that they are living in a "pretend world". They are allowed little or no outside contact outside the cult, or they are taught to fear "outsiders". They have no frame of reference, no contrast to enable them to make the disctinction between the world we all live in and the cult's world. It is imperative that they all follow the leader's
direction or they will suffer unspeakable loss: to be cast out of the "world" where there is no protection from the "evil" he/she is saving them from. (With the WCG it was loss of our personal salvation and the lake of fire.)

The rules are terribly strict. Members may live in their own homes, but their dress, budget, and activities are all subject to the leader's approval. They are isolated not only from the outside world, but also from each other. They are taught that they have no access to truth.

Generally, cult members must reveal all of their thoughts to their leader and so are made to betray their basic loyalties. These secret revelations are used as special knowledge to further exalt the leader. No one has a confidant. Their conversations are subject to scrutiny. Usually, privacy is forbidden. The leader can walk into any home, and bedroom, any place a member may be, and his/her invasion is accepted because his "contact" has authorized it.

The leader steps into the minds of the members with the authority of a god. He/she claims secret knowledge and plays upon any information he/she gleans from other members. He/she appears all-knowing.

Paradoxically, no cult members recognize that the group is a cult. The members feel that they are the chosen ones. Insiders. Privy to secret and life-saving knowledge - knowledge that comes from the "beyond" through their leader. (Very much describes the WCG)

-------------------------------------

Additional Comments:

This little excerpt pretty much confirms the fact that spiritual abuse wears down our self-identity to where your self-worth is based on what you do in your religious life and what your spiritual leadership thinks about you.

As we begin to re-gain our own self-identity that was lost in the church/cult, many of us don't even have a clue who or what that is. If you're like me, when I joined my former church/cult at the age of 22, I didn't really even know who I was. Therefore I was a prime candidate to take on the identity of the cult leader. I no longer struggled with who I was - I now had a self-identity that pleased God (or so I thought). This gives us a false sense of peace. Many spiritual abuse victims return to their group or another church/cult to try to regain this false peace that was lost when they exited the group.

I believe that the empty, void feeling that most of us struggle with is the loss of our own self-identity. We became co-dependent on our former leader to tell us who and what we are. Now that many of us don't have that, we are looking behind every corner to try to find out just who we really are. This makes us susceptible to join another controlling group in our search to have someone tell us who we are again. I have determined not to do this, but rather, I am determined to go through the sometimes painful and confusing process of finding my self identity apart from someone dictating it to me again. However, this is not the easy way (no pain, no gain). It's much easier to just let someone else do it for you - but we all know what that inevitably leads to: another co-dependent relationship with a controller.

I wish I had all of the answers to the dilemma that many of us face in trying to regain a sense of one's self. However, if I did someone would probably become co-dependent on me - LOL! I believe that learning about the process of losing our self-identity will help us understand and work towards a healthy process of re-establishing who and what we are. This will be based on our terms, not someone else's. Articles like the one above make it clear to me that I am on the right track.

ADDENDUM:

Thankfully I am finally finding out who I really am as I posted recently on the Who Am I? thread.

Reg Smile "If we want to set our lives right and find peace, it is not the tolerant attitude of others that will do it for us. It will come about, rather, by our learning how to show compassion to them..... If we do not seek liberation from our obsessions, then becoming more withdrawn and less social may even make us more blind to them, since it can mask them." - John Cassian (He lived between 360 and 430 A.D. He was a monk in Bethlehem and Egypt.)
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09-15-2005, 08:58 AM
Post: #2
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
Smile Thanks Reg for posting this. butterfly [Shirley]

Life hurts when mean people come in.SadSad
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09-15-2005, 09:52 AM
Post: #3
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
Thanks Reg.
I remember actually saying to my husband after we left, "I don't know who I am apart from my role and relationships in the group." Now I see how sad that is.
Katie
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09-15-2005, 10:52 AM
Post: #4
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
Paradoxically, no cult members recognize that the group is a cult. The members feel that they are the chosen ones. Insiders. Privy to secret and life-saving knowledge - knowledge that comes from the "beyond" through their leader. (Very much describes the WCG)



Certainly describes the shepherding discipleship movement, my involvement with a oneness pentecostal church and the pentecostal bible school of 20 years ago. It certainly describes Tammy' s group of twenty years ago and a few corners of it today. As I have described in talks on cults, "the only reality is the group itself".


I wish I had a way of posting audio links and I wish I had a copy of the episode the 1950's science X-1 radio show, on NBC radio, entitled "Universe". The plot deals with passengers marooned on a ship which ruled to be the only source of sustenance; that is until two passengers find a back door and a habitable planet. They are immediately labeled heretics. They also find a better life on the planet.

It certainly summarizes the mindset of a group member and the loss of identity.

Good post. Next latte on me.
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09-15-2005, 09:11 PM
Post: #5
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
reg, it is good to have you back.

jane

http://rosefields.blogspot.com

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09-16-2005, 06:06 AM
Post: #6
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
:eek:

It seems that my church is already moving into being a sect: informal worship where authoritarianism can run riot; standing against all established religion; using the pulpit as a means of indroctrination of the leaders' prpoganda; rejecting even the best of our secular society; demanding exclusive commitment, even to the breaking up of marriages.
Soon it may move into being a cult: rejecting all aspects of the outside world; being totally exclusive even to breaking the law.

It's a sad sad world.

:c

Wink

Never let the Bastards Grind you Down
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09-19-2005, 05:06 PM
Post: #7
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
thank you for posting this. it very much describes for the most part what my old baptist church is like. the pastor told me we all needed to be an open book and would bring personal issues of anybody in front of the whole church(except his family of course). he cast me away as an "unbeliever". he told people in the church who they could and couldnt be friends with( i mean adults, not the kids). he told us what to wear, where to go. took roll. he told my kids to not associate with me. he wouldnt let any other churches come into our fellowship because he didnt want their sin to affect us. he would assign us partners to pray or do service or whatever to make sure that what he wanted got accomplished the way he wanted it.
i totally lost myself there. now im not sure who i am or how to think for myself. every decision for me is excruciatingly painful as i feel condemned no matter what. and the worst part is that now that i am trying to find out who i am and get an identity of myself, its very painful and so very slow. its not like you can just wake up one day and say, "ok this is me." it just doesnt work like that.
and even when i do feel that ive made progress, my husband reminds me that i "am not on the same page as him," and prays for me. i just dont know if i will ever be what i could have been before all this happened. i feel like a turtle sticking his head out every now and then on a 6 lane highway. i just cant think anymore.

just me Tongue
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09-20-2005, 08:57 AM
Post: #8
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
I want to acknowledge that Voyager originally wrote this. It sounded so much like something that I would write and having read the book I was convinced it was mine.

Sorry John. You write so much good stuff I have saved some of it.

Like the saying goes, "The greatest compliment is duplication!"

Reg Smile "If we want to set our lives right and find peace, it is not the tolerant attitude of others that will do it for us. It will come about, rather, by our learning how to show compassion to them..... If we do not seek liberation from our obsessions, then becoming more withdrawn and less social may even make us more blind to them, since it can mask them." - John Cassian (He lived between 360 and 430 A.D. He was a monk in Bethlehem and Egypt.)
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09-20-2005, 01:52 PM
Post: #9
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
Reg,

You and I have so much in common - we even got saved at the same age. We went through a lot of common experiences in life. Hell, we probably even went to different high schools together - LOL!

We have all helped each other recover on this forum. Your writings have always encouraged and inspired me. As I sometimes say - it's all good!

Cool
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09-21-2005, 02:56 PM
Post: #10
The Process of Losing Your Self Idenity in a Cult
Smile ((Hi reg))) Smile ~

I don't know if you remember Liz who used to be here.

A really good book she recommended, a companion to Patricia Evans, an author I have been helped by greatly

is the betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes.

Thank goodness we have some good and wise help huh?

Thank you so much reg for this one. I"m glad you are still around, you inspire me. thanks, autumn

Follow a rainbow trail.
follow the trail of a song.
There is a way out of every dark mist.
Follow a rainbow trail. Navajo Song
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