Monday, July 29, 2013

Post-Cult Recovery and Post-Cult Spiritual Quest

After leaving religious cults, ex-members may need to deal with spiritual issues. I think that dealing with spiritual issues of the post-cult recovery and post-cult spiritual quest are different things. I consider post-cult recovery as the process that has a purpose to completely eliminate damage caused by the cult. It can be compared to recovery from a disease. (By using this comparison, I do not mean that all the ex-cult members need therapy. I consider post-cult recovery as an educational process rather than a therapeutic process.) However, spiritual quest is a process that does not have to do with any damage. It can be compared to physical exercises. A person who is recovering from a physical disease may need to take some medicines and at the same time do some exercises. After he or she is recovered, he/she will stop taking medicines, but may continue to exercise.

I consider that in a similar way, ex-members of cults may feel a need to deal with both post-cult recovery and post-cult spiritual quest. People who have never been in cults, obviously, do not need post-cult recovery, but they may feel the need for spiritual quest. So, post-cult recovery is like getting recovered from a disease, while spiritual quest is a "healthy" process, but both of them may go together.

It may be not so easy to separate spiritual aspect of post-cult recovery and post-cult spiritual quest. For example, after leaving a religious cult a person may have a need to reconsider beliefs. Will it be a part of recovery or a part of spiritual quest? It seems that getting rid of the cult indoctrination will have more to do with recovery, but formation of new beliefs will have more to do with spiritual quest. However, practically, the process of reconsideration of beliefs will probably be one process when a person gets rid of the cult beliefs and substitutes them with new beliefs. Well, in a sense, it may be compared to therapeutic exercises. On the one hand, therapeutic exercises are medical procedure to help a person is recovery from a disease. But on the other hand, they are physical exercises.

My personal process of reconsideration of my beliefs after leaving the cult, probably, consisted of two steps. In the beginning, I examined the cult doctrines and checked them with Christian theology and other (non-cultic) interpretations of the Bible. At this step, I made conclusions that the cult doctrines were wrong and not biblical. But after that, I studied theology, the Bible and Bible commentaries more. I studied various views, various interpretations, and various doctrines. Then, I compared them, considered them, and made my own conclusions before accepting any of them. It was the second step, and it was deeper and required more studies. So, I would consider the first step as a part of post-cult recovery, while the second step as a part of post-cult spiritual quest. However, I understand that for many people both steps may take place together.

In fact, probably, many people never do even the first step. They just reject any religion in total without any careful examination of the cult doctrines. I do not think it is good, actually. Let me explain why. I grew up in an atheist country and in an atheist family. I was a convinced atheist. I became a Christian one year before getting involved into a cult, but I was not a member of any church at that time and obviously I did not have sufficient time to become very grounded in Christian faith before joining the cult. After leaving the cult, basically, I had two options: to keep the cult beliefs or to return to atheism. I chose the second option. Many ex-members of cults do this, actually. However, if later I had felt that atheism does not satisfy me, what would I have done? It would be quite naturally for me to return to the cult beliefs because I had just these two options. Then, it would have been very natural and easy for me to return to the cult. Unfortunately, I saw this quite often among ex-members of the cult I was involved in. Some people were years out of the cult (one person was 10 years out of the cult), but they eventually came back. Why? I think one of the reasons was that their belief system was never changed. When I left, I decided that I did not want to ever come back. It was one of the reasons why I began to reconsider my beliefs.

On the other hand, if I had not reconsidered my beliefs, I would have still had some other problems. For example, suppose I am talking with someone or read something and suddenly I hear or read something about the Bible or Christianity or just about religion. (In fact, I had such situations very often.) How would I have reacted? Any such mention of religious things would have reminded me about the cult. I would have still view the Bible through the "glasses" of the cult interpretation of the Bible. Any mention of Christianity would have brought me remembrance about the cult doctrines and practices. So, any mention of anything that has to do with religion would have been very triggering to me. Well, it was how I reacted very soon after leaving the cult, but I do not react this way now. For example, the first thing I think when I hear or read about the Bible is my current understanding the Bible. If I think more, I think about other views and interpretations. And only after I think more, I may remember about the cult teachings, but they do not trigger me any more.

Well, I would not say that post-cult spiritual quest is mandatory for ex-members of cults. In fact, I even would not say that post-cult recovery is mandatory. Everyone is free to decide: to recover or not. However, I believe that post-cult spiritual quest and spiritual aspects of post-cult recovery are very beneficial.

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