Belonging Becomes Entrapment
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
"Cults are a weird thing. To those of us outside it can be absolutely mindboggling that anyone can fall into this trap. How can they not see it? The answer is simple but complex all at once. The reality is that their mind doesn't want to see it. The other factor of that is, after a while, they have even been trained to look past it.
Let me paint the picture as best I can. Imagine being at the absolute lowest point in your life. Now, for each of these members that low point may look different. I want to make absolutely clear though that whatever you are envisioning should feel like rock bottom to YOU for you to get a firm grasp. The worst thing you can imagine happening to you has just happened. (Maybe even a series of events.) You have serious trauma and possibly underlying mental health issues. (Depression and PTSD seem to be common ones.) You are crying out for answers and feel lost. One day, you stumble on this group...yeah, maybe they have a few hiccups but most of the people seem pretty chill. They encourage you to reach out and ask questions, so you do, and they immediately flood you with love, compassion, what seems like empathy, and more warmth than you know what to do with. It feels like you are home. You feel better than you have in ages. They tell you that you don't need your mental health medication, so you stop. The world around you begins to make you more miserable but every time you talk to them, you feel so much better. They really get it. Come. Be with us. We will heal you. Of course, you go.
They welcome you openly. A few other people there seem to be having trouble but you don't understand why. Everyone seems so great! There is a honeymoon period of sheer love. Then it finally happens...you mess up. The love is withdrawn. You are scolded like a child or perhaps worse. There is sudden pain, confusion, hurt...all the things you came to escape, but clearly it is your fault, right? You had to be the one who messed up if they loved you so much before. (Spoiler: whatever the infraction, it is probably minor and/or imaginary but you don't see that.) They help convince you it was your fault. You should have known better. You're not strong enough. Maybe you don't belong here. you haven't been sleeping much because of the rules. Your brain is muddy. You might not had had much food recently. Between the gnawing of the stomach and the exhaustion, you're a mess. Why can't you do this? How do you get the love back? So you overcompensate and things are better for a while. Next time, the punishment is more severe. Slowly, your overcompensation becomes more extreme as well. Eventually, like a trained pup you begin to overcompensate all the time to make sure you don't lose that love. After all, this is what you wanted, right? You're happier this way, aren't you? Don't question. Questions lead to pain and unhappiness. Don't think. Thinking leads to pain and unhappiness. You're walking on eggshells but it's okay. They're making you better. Friends and family are falling away. Why aren't they happy for you? Why don't they understand? What do they mean they see how bad this group is? You don't see it. You cut them off. You didn't need them anyway. Weren't you still unhappy with them before? Focus on the happy. Focus on the love. Focus on the joy. Anything for those things. You become almost like a drug addict looking for that next hit of praise. They need money for something? Here. Take it. Whatever you need, just please love me in that all consuming way.
By now, you have no friends but the group. You have no family but the group. You have no finances except for what the group provides. You have no means of survival but what the group provides. Even in the moments of clarity, what can you do? Everything you have is wrapped up in them. There's no escape anymore. The behavioral changes become a form of survival. This is the cage you have built. Now you have to live in it.
Now, obviously this process will not look the same from person to person but I hope it helps you understand how these behaviors get so easily overlooked."