Welcome Sibboleth and Happy Birthday !
That was nice that your Mom called to say she loved you! I hope that you are able to eat lots and lots of cake today!
Your questions are ones that I have been considering lately. My Mom was raised in a high control cult and we have dealt with the emotional fall-out of that over the years. I have been wondering what it takes to move on and heal from the process. I think it is important to note that often, people do need to have some counselling to help them.
I have found some articles that might be helpful. If there is interest in this topic I will post more of them.
This one was from http://www.csj.org/infoserv_articles/furnari_leona_bornraised.htm
I have conducted interviews with a number of adults who were raised in CHDGs. In addition to developmental deficits, these individuals identify a myriad of other personal losses. These include, though are certainly not limited to:
childhood, self, family, God, meaning, sustaining beliefs, language, identity, learning capacities, problems sustaining relationships, problems reading social cues.
Many of these former members describe deep feelings of shame, guilt, isolation, doubt, confusion, and mood swings. The following statements express some of the difficulties faced:
"I felt, and continue to feel, like a stranger in a strange land."
"I had no pre-cult self, lacked basic survival skills, had/have many relational issues, had lack of understanding of normal human emotions and expression, lacked critical thinking skills, and needed to re-define ‘normal’."
"Everywhere I went upon leaving the cult I tripped up on my own undone developmental work."
"I will be in recovery for the rest of my life. The damage I suffered was profound."
"It was deprivation, abuse and developmental lack."
"Lots of re-defining of terms, i.e. good bad, etc. I had to come to grips with the sad, apparent truth that good people suffer losses all the time."
"I had no reference to go back to – this has been the most difficult piece. I had to give up all the meaning I had learned – everything I learned was wrong. Accepting this is the key to my recovery."
Though recovery will not be explored in depth in this paper, it is important to have an overview of the recovery process. Martin (1993) discusses stages of recovery following cultic experiences. These stages are similar, though with a unique twist for those born or raised in CHDGs because there is no pre-cult identity to go back to, so I have modified Martin somewhat (e.g., "re-evaluation" becomes "evaluation", "reintegration" becomes "integration"). The stages are:
q Evaluation of the experiences - often in tandem with finding a support network, including any former members and/or extended family who have been on the outside; education on cults/mind control; therapy; reading; journaling
q Reconciliation/Adaptation, Conciliation – moving slowly, taking small steps; explore redefining of terms; set small goals, tend to personal health; discover personal strengths
q Integration – occurs over time
There are many things that will likely impact the success and degree of recovery. Developmental tasks of safety and trust are paramount, and are usually not quickly or painlessly achieved. Rosanne Henry, a licensed professional counselor who works with cult survivors says that "we can’t expect to do recovery the way we do cults," (personal communication 2004) meaning that there are no magic bullets or quick fixes, and that time, patience, and self-care are very important. This cannot be emphasized enough. In the cult recovery field one of the theories is that most people, at times of vulnerability, are susceptible to being indoctrinated into a CHDG, and that one need not come from a dysfunctional family or have family-of-origin issues to have become involved in such a group. Treatment usually focuses on the cult experience first, and then family-of-origin issues, if there are any. In the case of those born or raised in CHDGs the two are inseparable and must be dealt with simultaneously. Since the trauma is relational and occurs over time, the individual may be dealing with complex PTSD, and professional help may be important for understanding and decreasing the symptoms.
Healing is a process, and adaptation and integration occur over time. It is very important to remember that human beings are resilient. As one begins to experience small successes and builds a foundation of personal strengths and skills, one’s sense of safety begins to expand. As one’s sense of safety expands, so do self-confidence, autonomy, initiative, and identity, just as in the normal process of healthy childhood development.