Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hausarbeit: Religionssoziologie

Here's one of my papers from Junior Year of College and I wrote it in German, so this is the translated version:

     Imagine visiting another strange country, one that you have only heard stereotypes about, but do not know the language, the culture, customs, the food or religion. This is what Second Generation cult members feel when leaving a cult. They do not know the language of “normal” society, they do not feel grounded and often times they are without spiritual sustenance. Who one was in the cult is very different than who one is outside of it. What one experiences and how they react are shown in the boundaries that are place upon one another. Boundaries are unclear for people leaving high-demand groups/sects, especially for children born into one (SGAs: Second Generation Adults). In a cult boundaries are inconsistent with everyday societal norms. The cult dominates the experiences in life and ones reaction to those experiences. In mainstream religions, it does not necessarily dominate every reaction or every experience. There is still some sort of free will and trust in people. The group takes precedence over any needs that members have, such as emotional or psychological. The religion, and specifically the group becomes another society, with its' own norms, profanities and rules. The boundaries that children or even adults have are vague and shame ridden. So how does someone enter general society with vague or non-existent boundaries?
Recruitment and Shedding of Boundaries
Cult recruitment can occur to everyone at anytime, just like other religions. There is a deception in recruitment, and that is how they get you to join and to do things you never thought possible. They use the idea of “undue influence” to change your point of view. Say without the cult, you were taught to never let your children be hurt by your own hand, but they undue this view and you find yourself years later hitting your child. This deception also consists of “mind control”. In this, the leader and the group controls what you do, say and what your worldview is. The difference between a cult and a religious sect is how the members feel they have been treated. It is hard to say what exactly a Cult is, but it involves a high demand group and a charismatic leader who control their members' lives. With children born into these situations, they do not have a worldview to change, rather it has been shaped their whole lives. It is all they know, all that they have seen. Children born into cults do not have to be persuaded into participating in an action, they follow what they have been taught and told. Their boundaries have been established already, by the cult, it's leader and it's members. Boundaries are what defines oneself, whether through defining ones territories or limits.1
Boundaries are what one owns, their mind, spirit, emotions and rights. Healthy boundaries help one grow and to develop healthy relationships with oneself and others. They help one protect their assets as human beings.
Vague Boundaries
The boundaries of who and what might be acceptable is blurred in a high demand religious group, especially cults. These boundaries are indistinct sometimes and are easily intruded on by other members or the leaders. A cult is like a family, in that everyone is forced together, continuously in and out of other members' problems. They are also in close proximity for a long period of time, if not all the time. What one member might experience, the others do in some form or another, because privacy and confidentiality are neither important nor respected. There is also a group ideal, language and belief. There are little reasons to explore problems outside of the cult/family, because you are taught to hate the “outside” world and to not be interested in it. The cult has all you need or could ever want, it gives you eternal fulfillment.2 A lot of members disengage themselves from their former life and family, because the cult becomes their family. The leader limits their access to the outside world, it is often censored and/or monitored.3 There are many boundaries in which someone entering “normal” society faces, these are just the most important.
How boundaries are formed
Many people ask how exactly did these boundaries get into place for non-SGAs and SGAs. Rosanne Henry, LPC, uses Fossum and Mason's “Shame Control Model of Abuse” to describe how boundaries are broken and rebuilt (or discovered and built for SGAs) inside of a cult. Originally this is used by Fossum and Mason was used for families to help drug abusers/addicts return to their pre-drug states and the arrow went in the opposite direction. Frau Henry, on the other hand uses it for cults having the arrow go the opposite direction. First there is “Intimacy” or the converting stage. Second the “Calm” stage, the “Quiet Abuse” and later “Active Abuse” stages.





Rosanne Henry states that the left side is the respectful family interactions, whereas the right side is the disrespectful. The right side is when a sect or religion becomes a cult or a destructive cult. The left side starts with intimacy/ recruitment. In this, the leaders and the followers react warmly to the person they are trying to recruit. They use (semi) rational statements and arguments to prove their point. In “intimacy” they slowly shed your “outside” boundaries, by surrounding you by like-minded people (spiritually, socially and financially) and dealing with problems directly and evenly. They are a “healthy” and “happy” family. Healthy families stay in this Intimacy realm for long periods of time. The leadership is “dynamic and divine”, not “feared and omnipotent”. 4 The leader of the cult appears charismatic, compassionate and knowledgeable at this stage. The members enjoy each other and work well together, thus you are likely to shed boundaries and walls protecting yourself from mind-control and abuse.
Next, the groups leads the member to the calm stage, in which there is now calm interaction instead of a “star performance”, in other words a utopia.
“However, cult leaders and shame bound families cannot maintain this star performance and eventually allow CALM interactions, even though these interactions may make members feel uneasy.”

Here, the member is still respected. It is less of a recruitment stage now, the member holds more of an active role. This is the obedient and productive stage. There is more work done for the movement, whether it be sweeping incessantly, or by building things. This is the stage in which members are seen the most in the outside world, because they are doing things such as handing out flowers and/or “speaking the word” of their movement. Here is where they also raise money and recruit new members, this is because the members recruiting are calm and collective and are still respected. They do, however, end up “einen Eiertanz aufführen”, because they have to fill arbitrary quotas (for member recruitment or money fundraising).
When they do not fill these quotas, they can be easily led into the quiet abuse stage, and are constantly going in and out of these two stages (calm and quiet abuse). The quiet abuse stage, is the first disrespectful stage. There is less obvious assault on devotees than the Active Abuse stage, because they use more emotional tactics and psychological abuse. There are threats to abandon the follower or blaming of the follower for every wrong that has been done to or within the group. They are also given the silent treatment. There is an “undermining assaultiveness”, in which people do not know why they feel bad or why they feel abused. In this way, there can be more devastating impacts on a person. This change from calmness to quiet abuse depends on the mood of the leader. There is an unpredictable atmosphere within a destructive cult. How the leader feels affects how your day will turn out, how you will be seen by other members and how you will be treated. This is not how a real society or family acts, but how a destructive cult reacts.
After this stage, comes Active Abuse. In this, the shame, denial, self-righteousness and control are released into a physical form. The quiet abuse intensifies into active abuse which is where “tangible overt abuse” occurs and may be physically excessive and harmful to oneself or another. This kind of abuse is against the law. The active abuse can also be hard to get over for a child, because they may not develop socially and because of the leader dipping in and out of this stage, they cannot learn to trust in a healthy way. It can be extremely hard to trust people, especially adults who are creating this abuse and violence, and to trust oneself to not get into trouble again; it is seen as the child's' own fault for their punishment, not the adult, thus it is hard to trust oneself. With Second Generation Adults who were raised in destructive cults, one can also apply the shame control model, but they never have the intimacy part of it. They built their boundaries with the abuses and the calmness forever surrounding them. Their Identities are committed to the mission and are a part of themselves.
Boundaries between the Elders and the Children in a Group
One of the most blurred boundaries in which children need to discover, is deciding who is really in charge. In a cult, you act as a family. You are suppose to be kind and inclusive to everyone. They are sometimes told to watch eight other children at the age of 13.5 They take on the role of adults and thus are told to boss around adults and tell on them if the adult does something deviant. These children do not learn how to be used or not used. Many also do not know “Good touch vs. Bad touch”. There are many abuses that happen, sexual being one of them. Once coming out of a cult, a SGA might be very confused as to what is actually okay and when something is too far. One just has to visit a anti-cult library to find out that there are many cases of sexual abuse in the new religious movements.
Challenges of Overcoming these Boundaries
Es ist eine Herausforderung für Psychologen und andere Leute eine Beziehung zu ex-mitglieder aufzubauen, da sie einen anderen Sprachgebraucht haben. Dr. Leona Furnari and other cult-experts call this a different language even if the same language is spoken. This simply means that the words used and said have very different meanings than in the outside world. The outside world uses “auditing” in a very different way than say Scientology uses it. This is also called “loaded language”6 These are words which carry a lot of emotions and triggers. One word may pose a threat in the cult, but in the “real” world is harmless. Not only are there words with different meanings, but in the cult, there is a hidden agenda with words. One finds themselves thinking “You said something, but didn't mean that, you meant this?” This strangeness confuses people and their distrust is shown in their language and how they interpret language. One challenge the ex-members will have to face is overcoming their fear from these words, smells and people which remind them of their experience, at least enough so that they can function. They must learn to go through a day without being hurt by a single word.
Another challenge that ex-members and especially SGAs face is within education. Their public and private education in generally sporadic. Sometimes they are home-schooled and thus have very little to no education. Their education is sometimes limited to the doctrines of the cult, therefore history, social sciences or science are rarely even taught. This is the opposite of the “real” world. You must have all of these to function as a part of society. Not only are many limited to their knowledge, but also resources. One may be given a text-book, but that is all, no questions may be asked, you just have to read the book “everything will be in there”. Thus, we learn to almost fear education, because it is black and white in the cult and sometimes that does not work for people. The reason for the lack of interest in educating the members is that the leaders tend to have little education and do not want the followers to educate themselves beyond the leader's skills. If they become smarter than the leader, than the leader may also punish them, because he/she is afraid of what the follower can do and wants to stay this omnipotent person. The person is thus taught that they are tricking their way through education, they aren't actually smart enough; even after leaving the religious movement, many people still think that they are not smart enough.
        Repair and Recovery/Discovery
One enters society by going through a change in one-self, a rebirth (or a birth with SGA's). SGAs sometimes say that they are as old as when they left the group, because that is how long they have been out and discovering themselves. It is hard, however, to create boundaries with limited resources of information, time and money. One needs this when developing an understand of what happened and even surviving in the “everyday” world. First an ex-member must realize that there is a social order, outside of simply a leader and the followers. There are political leaders, a different law, and very different norms or mores. These laws must be followed, but can also be questioned and can be changed in a democracy or republic. An ex-member may have to learn to take their time thinking about things. In the cult one is told to not scrutinize things, people and situations, but to make quick judgments and decisions. These are known as quick mental shortcuts. In the “real” world, ex-members have to learn to take their time, to judge situations and critically think about them.
As one leaves, they must realize that the world is a spectrum of gray, it is not black and white. There are walls to build and others to break down. SGA's have to establish trust in others outside of the group, especially if they may have never even spoken with an outsider and thus have to establish a relationship with people. Ex-members have to learn to listen and to trust themselves, it is not just others. In the cult they have learned to only trust the leader or elders and have not experienced self-trust or self-worth. One way that Dr. Leona Furnari says to do this is to keep a journal and write down your strengths. This is cheap, effective and attainable. One must create new relationship to their emotions. They have to establish how far they can feel and that they should have emotions toward something. These emotions also help them establish trust in themselves, because they are finally not denying a piece of themselves. One must cultivate compassion for oneself , not deny it. They are vulnerable, but are listening to their vulnerabilities and overcoming them. They are slowly building a relationship with themselves and their boundaries, thus each individuals recovery is their own. Each individual has their own needs and their own uniqueness. Ones goals are attainable and must be established.
Another challenge that members must face is Identifying themselves after the cult. There was a lack of relate-ability to the other members and now, in the “real” world, they much relate to other people just to survive. Going to group therapy, especially cult therapy and ex-member therapy really helps your feeling of loneliness and lack of relate-ability to others, because you realize that you are not alone. Reading books and the internet also helps. Books help you, but only if you have the resources to buy a book and are willing to have it known what you are searching, thus the Internet has helped in many ways. There is anonymity on the internet and a lot more information. Ex-member websites can offer social support, no matter what your geography is, your time constraints are or other factors. One can have internet in their own home or access it at work, a library or even a local cafe. On the internet, there are also larger numbers of helpers, ex-members, family and friends. If you do not want to talk with others online, there is also “lurking” or simply researching information. In this way, they also realize that they are not alone and are in fact one of thousands, possibly millions.
The “Shame” model of cults violates ones livelihood and invent perfectionism. In the right stages, boundaries are violated and thus insecure relationships between members and leaders are set. These violations need to be grieved and worked on. By working on them, a member can take back a part of themself. The easiest and suggested way to achieve this, is to leave the destructive group. Inside they also suffer from manipulation, neglect and abuse. It is thus difficult to define ones boundaries after this, it is very normal for a former members not to even know when boundaries need to be set/reset. “Melody Beattie (1992) suggests that being angry, complaining or whining are clues that boundaries need to be set.”7 One way to help oneself with creating boundaries is the Five Things Method 8 In this, the individual thinks about how each important person in their life and how they leave the individual feeling. The questions that they must answer are:
List five things that people may no longer say to you.
List five things that people need to stop doing to you.
List five things that people need to stop doing around you.

If any of these things means that something in the relationship needs to change, then one needs to reset their boundaries with that person. There are 5 ways to do this9:
  1. When you identify that you need to set a limit with someone, do it clearly, preferably without anger.
  2. You cannot simultaneously set a boundary and take care of another's feelings.
  3. You will probably feel embarrassed or afraid when you set boundaries. Do it anyway.
  4. Plan on being tested when you set boundaries. It doesn't do any good to set a boundary until you are ready to enforce it.
  5. Be prepared to follow through acting congruently with your boundaries. “What you do needs to match what you say.”

Setting limts on yourself and others is the first and the most important step when exiting a cult/religious movement. Ex-members need to stay true and firm in their boundaries and identity, because they will most likely be threatened or pursued by their former leader or other members. The first step is to understand and locate what the boundaries are in the cult, so that one can develop new and healthy boundaries outside of the cult. Finding your emotional voice is very important for this. There are shortcuts to finding your emotional self like there are in the cult. One must explore and express their feelings about their boundary violations in order to develop a self-esteem and to discover their boundaries. Once one reaches these boundaries, they are then already recovered in many ways. They are capable of love, intimacy, trust, respect and integrity.

1Rosanne Henry, LPC. “In recovery, boundaries are the lines and limits establishing and defining our personal territory, ourselves.
2Rosanne Henry, LPC benutzt diese Idee von Goldenberg, 1991.
3Rosanne Henry, LPC “Communication to anyone outside of the cult environment is usually discouraged and often censored and/or monitored.
4Rosanne Henrys Lektur 02.07.2009, ICSA Conferenz Genf, Schweiz
5 Michael Martella, Ph.D. Und Joyce Martella, M.A. Lektur, 02.07.2009, ICSA Conferenz, Genf, Schweiz.
6Term originally used by Robert Jay Lifton, “loaded language as a technique used in brainwashing, writing, "New words and language are created to explain the new and profound meanings that have been discovered. Existing words are also hijacked and given new and different meaning.”
7Rosanne Henrys Lektur 02.07.2009, ICSA Conferenz Genf, Schweiz
8Five Things Method, suggested by Jane Collingwood
9Melody Beattie first published this in 1987. Resource used by: Rosanne Henrys Lektur 02.07.2009, ICSA Conferenz Genf, Schweiz

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