Manipulation, cult groups, sects, and new religious movements
Before we list resources that may help you, we want first
to give you a few words of advice. The most important principle to keep in mind when
trying to evaluate helping resources is that different people will respond differently to
different environments, because environments and individuals are complex and interact in
complex ways. This seems like common sense, but it is important not to ignore individual
differences and overgeneralize: "If Joe and Mary had bad experiences in the Holy
Enlightenment Crusade for Oneness, then Harry too must have had the same kind of
experiences." The notion of individual differences implies that, although Harry may
very well also have been harmed, he may not have been, or may have been harmed in a
different way. Thus, if you are Harry, you don't want your experiences defined by Joe and
Mary. Nevertheless, you may learn something useful by finding out about Joe and Mary. This
is part of AFF's role: helping you learn about the experiences and views of other people,
while at the same time encouraging you to think carefully about the degree to which this
information may or may not be relevant to your unique situation.
In other words, pay respectful attention to the resources
in this guide, but don't do what you might have been encouraged to do in your group, that
is, treat this information as holy writ that cannot be questioned.
Question! Question! Question!
If you were really in a destructive group, your capacity
for independent critical thinking was probably assaulted and diminished. We cannot help
you regain that capacity if we don't encourage you to critically examine what we say, as
well as what others say.
An excellent way to enhance your capacity for critical
thinking is to talk to former members from diverse groups, such as in one of AFF's "After the Cult" workshops
. The diversity of participants' backgrounds is one of the factors that make these
workshops so effective. Participants begin to see the psychologically manipulative
practices of groups in bold relief when they hear the accounts of people from groups that
on the surface are completely different from their own group. If you do not have
information on forthcoming workshops, contact
Clinical and research
evidence suggests that many former members of abusive groups tend to inappropriately blame
themselves for their problems, much as the group blamed them. Former members also tend to
be depressed and anxious, and often experience what has been called "floating"
(i.e., a sense of slipping from normal to cult states of consciousness). Many also feel
overt or suppressed anger toward the group's leader(s). An AFF survey found that
ex-members related to the terms "psychological trauma" and "psychological
abuse" as descriptors of their experience. A large percentage, probably a majority,
appears to need counseling when they leave their groups. But many psychologically needy
individuals do not seek counseling, or receive counseling that isn't as effective as it
could be because cult-related issues are not addressed.
Surveys indicate that over 90% of ex-members have found
reading materials and talking to other ex-members to be helpful. The resources described
elsewhere may, therefore, prove useful to you.
If you are experiencing psychological distress, it might be
advisable to seek professional help, if you have not already done so. If you do, do not be
intimidated by credentials. And don't be afraid to "shop around" for a therapist
with whom you feel comfortable. Psychotherapeutic effectiveness depends upon many
interacting variables, and a sense of rapport between therapist and client is certainly
very desirable. Captive Hearts, Captive
Minds has a useful section on selecting a psychotherapist.
AFF can sometimes give you the names of mental health professionals in
various parts of the country who have experience working with former cult members.
However, many therapists without such experience can also be effective helpers, especially
if they are willing to learn about cultic groups and psychological manipulation. Many
former members have been able to teach their therapists (e.g., through reading materials
and discussion) about the cult phenomenon and its clinical implications.
AFF's Ex-Member Library is a special collection (costing
less than the individual items) of resources that we believe have been especially useful
to many ex-members. The library includes the following:
Discounted Price: $190
(Outside USA: $245). ID: LIBEX
A less expensive alternative is to purchase individual
items. We suggest that you consider the following as a minimum:
This resource guide contains information on groups that
have generated press coverage and on certain general topics and categories of groups. For
suggestions on finding information on groups (see description).
AFF now sells more book titles not included in our special
libraries. The following may especially interest you:
If you have questions about legal issues, probably the best
introductory resource for former members is a chapter by Herbert Rosedale, Esq., President
of AFF: "Legal Considerations,"
in Recovery From Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse.
Also consult the Suggestions for Legal Professionals.