Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Myths about Post-Cult Recovery

In the article Dispelling the Myths: The Psychological Consequences of Cultic Involvement, Dr. Paul R. Martin writes about six myths concerning cultic involvement. Here I will write down these myths with my comments. In this article, Martin uses the word "cult" mainly for denoting Bible-based cults, that is, mind controlling groups that use the Bible (abusive churches and cults of Christianity).

MYTH ONE: Ex-cult members do not have psychological problems. Their problems are wholly spiritual.

Many Christians and ex-members of Bible-based cults believe in this concept. I agree with Martin that this is wrong. Many ex-members of Bible-based cults have both psychological and spiritual problems. Ex-members of various cults have similar psychological problems regardless of their belief system and whether the cult is religious or not. This is because the psychological damage is caused by the wrong practices of these groups (mind control and authoritarianism) and not by the obviously heretical teachings.

MYTH TWO: Ex-cult members do have psychological disorders. But these people have come from clearly non-Christian cults.

Writing about this myth, Martin mentions Flavil Yeakley's study. Yeakley found out that members of mind-controlling groups have similar changes of personality types regardless of their beliefs. Members of benign Christian churches do not have these changes. Probably, it is quite remarkable that members of ICC have these changes while members of mainline churches of Christ do not because both groups have similar doctrines, but different practices. Changes of personality types indicate undue psychological influence and, according to Martin, can be considered as psychological damage.

Members of Christian groups (and not only cults) may have psychological disorders. Christians are not protected from physical and psychological problems.

MYTH THREE: Both Christian and non-Christian groups can produce problems, but all of the people involved in the groups must have had prior psychological hang-ups that would have surfaced regardless of what group they joined.

I agree with Martin that both people who have psychological problems and those who do not can be recruited into cults. This is because people do not join cults by their own desire. Cults seek for the potential new recruits and recruit them, using deception. Cults also use deception and psychological manipulations (mind control) in order to keep people in cults.

MYTH FOUR: While normal unbelievers may get involved with cults, born-again believers will not. And even if they did, their involvement would not affect them so negatively.

Unfortunately, there are many born-again Christians who get involved in cults. God does not work in a miraculous way to prevent born-again Christians from getting involved in cults. God allows born-again Christians to suffer, to be sick, and to die. He does not rescue them miraculously from all the common human problems. In the same way, God allows born-again Christians to be recruited into cults and to suffer damage from the cult involvement.

MYTH FIVE: Christians can and do get involved in these aberrational groups and they can get hurt emotionally. But all they really need is some good Bible teaching and a warm, caring Christian fellowship and they will be fine.

Of course, reading and studying the Bible is very helpful. However, it may be not sufficient in order to deal with the specific psychological problems caused by cults. Also, many ex-members abhor the Bible and Christianity and turn away from any Christian fellowship because of their negative experience in cults. So, they need other means to deal with their specific problems. God does not always work in miraculous ways to heal physical and psychological diseases. He works through doctors and medicines which are also His provision. The same is with healing psychological and spiritual wounds caused by cults.

MYTH SIX: Perhaps the best way for these ex-members to receive help is to see a professional therapist such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health counselor

What Martin means here is that this therapist should be familiar with specific cult problems. So, ex-members should seek not just any therapist, but the one who is a cult expert. In a sense, it looks quite logical that a therapist should have special knowledges in the realm where his or her clients have problems.

Also, in another post, I quoted Enroth who says that ex-members of abusive churches should seek a therapist who is a Christian because he or she can understand their spiritual experience better. Again, this looks logical that Christians can get better help from those who are Christians themselves because Christians can easily understand Christians than non-Christians can understand Christians.

However, here there are several problems:
1. There are very few therapists who are also cult experts and Christians besides Martin himself.
2. In my opinion, not all the ex-members of cults need a therapist. Some can do quite well without any therapy. It depends. Sometimes, therapy may be even more harmful than helpful, for example, in some cases, the information about the possible post-cult symptoms can become a suggestion that causes these symptoms.
3. There are no proofs that therapy by a cult expert is more helpful than therapy by a common therapist. Again, it may depend. Ex-members may be helped by therapists who are not cult experts.

In this point, I disagree with Martin because I do not believe that all the ex-members need psychological counseling. According to Margaret Singer, ex-members of cults can get help from the literature about cults and mind control and from support of other ex-members. Therapy is not the only way for the post-cult recovery.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Lema. I find so much good and helpful info in your postings. Our journey is just beginning and it will be long and hard. The abuse is so clear to those of us on the "outside" and it's going to take lots of patience and understanding to see this one through. Thanks again.

Borz Löma Nal (Lema Nal) said...

Thanks for your comment and appreciation.

Post-cult recovery does take time and efforts. However, you are not alone. There are many people who passed through this way.

May God bless you in your journey.

Feel free to contact me when you have desire.