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The 3-D Cult Experience


penworks
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Greetings. Over the years I've found important help/understanding/support from the International Cultic Studies Association.

Today, I republished on my blog what I think is a mainstay of checkpoints for understanding how a cult affects a person. See what you think. Agree with some aspects? Disagree? Find helpful?

Check it out at https://charleneedge.com/the-3-d-cult-experience/

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This article definitely describes the path to my involvement with the Way. My vulnerability of mortal sinning and going to hell, was so important to becoming a part of the Way. They were able to alleviate all the concerns of me being cast with the demons, that was forced on me by being raised in the Catholic church, (which is definitely a cult that has gone mainstream since JFK.) I had feelings of grandeur knowing hell was no longer my final destination. 
The Way did deliver me from one feeling of oppression, only to be thrust into another. The transition was very peaceful, but once realized, the latter was worse than the former. I was no longer going to hell, but would lose all my rewards, if I did not tow the company line. The new oppression would be not only losing my rewards earned, but be a grease spot by midnight.

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Hi Penworks,

thanks for re-posting Michael Langone’s article about the cult conversion process on your blog! The last section on how a cult reinforces their grip through perceived threats and also the unspoken dissatisfaction of followers I found especially intriguing because of my interest in understanding more about the authentic self. I’ll share a few thoughts after I quote from Langone’s article:

"The group strengthens the convert’s growing dependency by threatening or inflicting punishment whenever the convert or an outside force (e.g., a visit by a family member) disturbs the dissociative equilibrium that enables him or her to function in a closed, nonfalsifiable system (the “dread” of DDD). Punishment may sometimes by physical. Usually, however, the punishment is psychological, sometimes even metaphysical.

Certain fringe Christian groups, for example, can, at the command of the leadership, immediately begin shunning someone singled out as “factious” or possessed of a “rebellious spirit.” Many groups also threaten wavering converts with punishments in the hereafter, for example, being “doomed to Hell.” It should be remembered that these threats and punishments occur within a context of induced dependency and psychological alienation from the person’s former support network. This fact makes them much more potent than the garden-variety admonitions of traditional religious, such as “you will go to hell if you die with mortal sin.”

The result of this process, when carried to its consummation, is a person who proclaims great happiness but hides great suffering. I have talked to many former cultists who, when they left their groups and talked to other former members, were surprised to discover that many of their fellow members were also smilingly unhappy, all thinking they were the only ones who felt miserable inside."

== == == == ==

 

I really liked the entire article and the concise listing of the typical cult conversion process. I’m unfamiliar with some of the technical terms in the article and had to look up a few things – and not sure if what I thought about will go along with all that...but here goes anyway…

I think the claws of a cult come out whenever something threatens to gum up the works of their dynamics – as Langone put it “...disturbs the dissociative equilibrium that enables him or her to function in a closed, nonfalsifiable system”.

In psychology dissociation is “any of a wide array of experiences, ranging from a mild emotional detachment from the immediate surroundings, to a more severe disconnection from physical and emotional experiences. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis.” (from  Wikipedia - dissociation   )

The term “dissociative equilibrium” captivated my imagination...not sure if this is what he meant but I pictured a circus performance tightrope act...a difficult and risky execution of agility and balance...A key component of my former TWI-mindset was trying to perform a semi-detached balancing act...Having a not-completely-disconnected view of reality while I tried to negotiate through life...and here is the balancing bar used for this tightrope act:  on one side I had many of the dubious concepts and theories (like the law of believing) I learned from wierwille...and on the other side of the balance bar was the state of things as they actually existed as well as any ideas of substance - the simple principles of life I grew up with...I would often sway on the tightrope ...wobble the balance pole...and try to look cool in situations like I've got it altogether and this believing stuff really works. (Now, I honestly think that was a such silly fantasy TWI sold us... If memory serves I think it was around 1974 in New York, I remember seeing a flier promoting the PFAL class – there was a drawing of a young lady smiling, resting her chin on her hand and a daydreaming look on her face – and in bold letters at the top of the flier the caption read “You Can Have It All”. .. - -  nope!...if you still believe that stuff you need to take the red pill and learn an unsettling and perhaps life-changing truth about life - there are no shortcuts to anything worthwhile. If we accomplish anything rewarding...anything of real value – it’s through hard work, wisdom and skill NOT magical thinking.

But what a nerve-racking tightrope act it was indeed! I honestly don’t know how I attempted to sustain that lifestyle for 12 years – I say “attempted” to take into account the innumerable times I had faltered in keeping up appearances, making sure I didn't confess a negative, abundantly sharing, sponsoring people in the corps, taking more classes, going to all the meetings, checking my attitude, trying to keep my family on board with ministry stuff, trying to make ends meet when I gave more time and energy to the ministry than to my day job (I was never salaried in my work for TWI) blah blah blah.... It’s no wonder so many folks burn out – juggling nonsensical beliefs with reality while serving an exploitative organization can be frustrating and exhausting.

 

The TWI-mindset tends to foster a detachment from the context of an incident (like misleading people to think it’s possible to be so spiritually mature that one can be aloof or objective while wierwille shows a porn video to Family Way Corps)...I suspect even the “renewed mind” techniques that TWI taught may have been just another sneaky way to get folks to disconnect from emotions (ignoring or suppressing frustrations, fears, dissatisfaction, unrest, anger, shame , etc.) while wearing a ministry-face and the subtle pressure to always express views and experiences in ministry-acceptable terms. We were expected to keep things positive and on “The Word”...Langone mentioning many former cult members who admitted to keeping up a smiling face while being unhappy on the inside really hit home for me!

 

I get into reading stuff about the authentic self versus the adaptive self – some of the following ideas I’ve gotten from others... and there’s a lot I’m still processing ...but I can think and chew gum at the same time   :biglaugh:  so here goes ...We are social beings and have a natural desire to fit in. Langone’s article mentioned how people first get sucked into a harmful cult – and specifically for me - TWI  was presented as a benevolent authority that could improve my well-being. However - the contrived interpersonal skills we all adopted was a way to survive the social interactions that caused any pain, fear, anger, etc.. We put on our ministry-façade as a way to insulate our authentic self from further harm. This adaptive behavior enabled us to get along in a social environment that threatened our authentic self,  with some “success” and with the least amount of conflict with others – but often at the expense of our authentic self  going into hibernation...all this is a lot of speculation and personal opinion so take it with a grain of salt.

 

Edited by T-Bone
formatting & typos
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