Friday, July 26, 2013

Psychological and Spiritual Post-Cult Recovery: Reconsidered View (Part 2)

According to my observation, it is easier to identify post-cult psychological problems that are manifested in the secular realm (in daily life activities, work, and so on) than those that are manifested only in the religious realm (in religion-related activities). There are, at least, two reasons for this: 1) the literature on the post-cult recovery mostly pays attention to problems that affect daily life rather than those that affect religious activities; 2) since problems that are manifested only in the religion-related activities are usually not manifested in daily life, it is harder to notice them and people who completely reject religion after leaving cults may never notice that they have problems.

However, there may be cases when religion-related psychological problems may cause problems in the secular realm. In Chapter 2 of Releasing the Bonds, Steven Hassan writes,

In the Jehovah's Witnesses, a person can have a severe phobia against merely walking into a church building. I remember hearing about an incident involving a young Jehovah's Witness who refused to participate in an emergency evacuation from a public school into a church. The ten year old boy, absolutely would not enter the building, and had to be carried in crying and screaming, because he thought the church was filled with "devils." 

Well, in principle, a phobia against a walking a church building is a phobia usually manifested only in the religious realm. It is one of the problems that I previously considered as spiritual and not psychological post-cult problems. Indeed, many atheists (among ex-members of cults) may never have a need to enter a church building and never learn if they have this phobia. Usually, it is only when they decide to go to church that they may discover that they have this phobia. However, in the case that Steven Hassan described, there was an emergency evacuation into a church. In this case, religion-related phobia was manifested in daily life. So, even if ex-members of cults completely reject religion, their religion-related problems may eventually become manifested in non-religious realm. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important to deal with these problems also, even if ex-cult members are not going to come back to religion.

I do not know how many ex-members of cults have or had a phobia of going to church. I had it, and it took me a very long time to discover it. For a long time, I had a kind of irrational fear when I was thinking about going to church and felt uncomfortable if I did go to church. I could not really understand the reason. I invented various explanations and excuses, but I did not understand that it was a phobia indoctrinated by a certain cult teaching (it was not a JWs teaching, I have never been a JW). When I realized it, identified that teaching, and identified that irrational feeling as a cult-induced phobia, I got rid of it. Two days later, I went to church and felt just fine there. This experience took place in the middle of December last year. Since that time, I did not have any religion-related post-cult problems. Well, at least, I have not been aware of their existence.

It was 10 year after I left the cult that I discovered that I had the phobia of going to church and got rid of it. It took me a long time because I did not have any desire to go to church for a long time. If I had not decided to start going to church (at least, sometimes), I might have never discovered it. One year before that, I discovered that I had a phobia of celebrating Christmas, which was also induced by a certain cult teaching. Again, I discovered it only when I thought about celebrating Christmas. Otherwise, I might have never discovered it. Likewise, I discovered that I was triggered by some things in the Bible when I began to read it. If I had not read the Bible after leaving the cult, I would not known that I had this problem. There were also other similar cases. It was only when I began to do some religious things (reading the Bible, celebrating Christmas, going to church, and so on) that I discovered that I had some psychological problems related to these activities. So, it took me quite a long time to discover and identify them and probably I would have still had them if I had remained an atheist after leaving the cult.

Previously, I considered that I had finished my psychological post-cult recovery in April 2009 (that is, by that time, I had finished dealing with psychological post-cult problems that are manifested outside of the religious realm). And I considered that I had finished my spiritual post-cult recovery in December 2012 (that is, at that time, I had finished dealing with psychological post-cult problems that are manifested only in the religious realm). Moreover, I considered psychological post-cult recovery mandatory and spiritual recovery optional. So, I considered that had I finished my post-cult recovery in April 2009 because I finished the mandatory part of it.

However, I changed my views regarding these things. I no longer believe that psychological recovery is mandatory and that spiritual recovery is optional. I believe that they both are necessary. In addition, I no longer believe that psychological and spiritual recovery should be separated. I believe that they are parts of one process of post-cult recovery. This means that I have to admit that I did not finish my post-cult recovery in 2009. At the best, I finished it only in the end of the last year. However, I am not sure that I have no other post-cult problems that are usually manifested only in the religious realm because it was quite hard for me to discover them. This means that I have to admit that I do not know if I am fully recovered from my cult involvement or not.

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