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Cult Recovery


Edie
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My church was a fundamentalist evangelical church. This type of church is rare here in the UK, most Christians I've come across outside of this church have been very sane and nice people. It's been surprising because I always thought that all christians were like the ones at the church I went to. I even met a gay christian who attended church with his partner, it took me ages to get my head around that because I thought christians hated gays.

 

Anyway, I've been reading a bit about religious cults, and although my church did not do all the things mentioned, many cult-like techniques were used to recruit us, isolate us from the rest of the world, and make us frightened to leave. Whether or not it meets the criteria to define it as a cult, there have been some damaging experiences and even though I left 12 years ago now, I'm still struggling with some of my experiences.

 

Partly I think it's because I have tried to shut it out instead of dealing with it. When I've come across anything on cults or christianity it upsets me so I thought it was sensible to stop reading. But now I feel like I need to face up to it, be upset, in order to recover from it.

 

I am now completely comfortable with being an atheist. But there are things I still need to recover from, things I'm still frightened of, people I'm frightened of. I went from being in a religious cult to an abusive marriage. There's a pattern there, something I am vulnerable to if I don't sort myself out. I've avoided another abusive relationship by avoiding relationships altogether, but it's not how I want to live forever.

 

Sorry if I'm rambling a bit, it's really not yet clear in my own mind. It's difficult to explain how I was led into these situations.

 

I don't know if I'm even doing the right thing by trying to learn about cults and understand what happened to me. Do you think it's better tokeep on trying to understand, or ignore it?

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If you find this helpful then keep at it. It's really about what is useful to you. Understand. Grow. Move on. Thrive.

 

If you want to talk, have questions or just need somebody to listen then we are here for you.

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Welcome! I think it's better to figure out what happened, so you're not doomed to repeat it. I think it's interesting how you mention leaving that faith and ending up with an abuser; that was my story too. My Evil Ex is a manipulative, pathological liar and popular fundie preacher who upped his ante from basic psychological warfare to flat-out physically threatening me after I deconverted; I ended up fleeing the country in terror for a few years and he stalked me till he remarried and is still a popular minister in that same denomination. My next relationship was a very different person superficially, but just as controlling and verbally/psychologically abusive. Just not religious. There's something in how that religion molds women that seems like it attracts us to that kind of man, isn't there?

 

It's okay to be mulling it over even years later. I thought I'd worked out all my post-Christian stuff when I joined here, but I've found that I'm still learning and growing and improving 20 years after my deconversion. It's totally okay. We're on the same road, but we all walk at our own pace. I'm glad you're here.

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My ex was also a manipulative liar who stalked me after I left him, but nowhere near to that extent! He never became physically abusive. I don't think christianity made me vulnerable to this though, I think there must be something about me that made me vulnerable to both.

 

My church was an evangelical church and a member if the FIEC, though they still thought they were the only true church, or maybe one or two others too.

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I think there must be something about me that made me vulnerable to both.

 

 

Hi Edie! I'm glad you're here with us. I relate very much to your story.

 

When I discovered in the past couple of years that just about everything I did in my life was out of fear. All my 'people pleasing' I did throughout my life, had to do with fear. Fear of not being good enough...so I allowed anyone into my life including the hateful god of the bible. Funny part is, the whole damn world seems to portray a 'nice face' and that can hook you and suck you in. Even the church presents itself this way.... but they are in it to produce fear in you so you will stay at their church. Most of the time, going down to the alter is done in fear, not love. Oh - they will tell you it's about the love of jesus dying on the cross for you, but it's really about the fear of hell for most of us.

 

When you get to know some of these people (including bible god) it's a whole different story. There's a lot of manipulative 'takers' out there and we have to be very careful not to allow these type of people to steal our freedom and self esteem away from us with their bullshit tactics. These unfortunetly include our friends, family, relationships, employers, etc......I have learned how to detect these type of people now. They, in a very short time will cause you to fear them somehow. Like the bible god ....puts you in hell if you don't believe. (fear) Most people will withdraw their love for you to make you afraid of losing them. Clients will threathen to go somewhere else, etc........

 

I slowly faced this fear over the last couple of years and I am now very picky with who I allow in my life. I am not afraid of being who I really am..I am not afraid of being alone....I am not afraid of someone not liking me.....I am not afraid to let certain people go now.......I am not afraid to stand my ground - even with 'higer-uppers' like doctors, lawyers, etc.... It's a freedom that I've never experienced in my life and I will alow no one to take thar from me ever again.

 

I try very hard to be as respectful as I can to most people. I still 'love' people and care...but if any of them try to manipulate me with fear of any kind... my back goes up and my intenna tells me protect myself by taking charge over my own life.

 

Maybe this will help and maybe not, but stay with us anyway because someone on this board will say something and you will holler 'bingo!' from your computer!! Ex-c has helped me soooo much in the last couple of years.

 

Looking forward to hearing from you! Best of luck on your new venture!!

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Excellent point, Margee. That comment sends me down a path I hadn't even considered up to now. I've had to get good at spotting manipulators and those who'd use fear to control me. I probably didn't get my head fully out of my ass for a decade after deconverting--abusive relationships keep you at a standstill, really--but I knew I was figuring things out when I met a hot guy and immediately picked up on how he would make these bizarrely self-serving comments about his ex. It was all her fault that they'd broken up. She was totally lying about him hitting her. She was so mean and he was this poor innocent put-upon nice guy. We'd just met. We hadn't even gone out. Nothing physical was happening anytime soon. There was no need for him to be trying that hard to get me on his side. But here he was trying hard to make sure he'd "primed" me with his alibi before I'd even discovered any crimes. Evil Ex had done the same kind of spin-job on people after I left; people who'd never even met me knew my "crimes" against him. So I kind of freaked out and dropped him like a hot potato. A few weeks later he was in fact arrested for beating the holy shit out of the girl he took up with after I dropped him. I still feel like I dodged a bullet--maybe even a literal one considering he had guns when he was arrested. I began paying very special attention to pre-controlling behaviors after that. So this is very interesting to consider for me. Thanks, Margee!

 

See what I mean about it being a good thing to talk about this stuff? Edie, do you have some similar "red flags" about your ex and the religion that you maybe are thinking were there?

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All religions use at least to some degree, cult tactics. EMotional manipulation is something you find in every Christian denomination especially AoG and Pentecostal's.

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When I say it was something about me that made me vuilnerable, I do not mean I am to blame, just that there are characteristics about me that made/make me vulnerable. I want to understand what they are, but I can't so far.

 

I've been talking a little about my experiences with a couple of people I know and I'm finding it really hard to verbalise it and explain what actually happened and why I fell for it. They have been kind and understanding, but they are asking questions, in an effort to understand, that I can't find the words to answer. They can accept that I and a small number of other people could be vulnerable to being taken in by it, but they find it harder to believe a congregation of 200 vulnerable, easily-led people could be found in one village.

 

On the relationship side of things I do think I have more understanding of how to pick better people. Basically, if I am worried what my dad would think of him, he's probably a bad choice. It's just that all the men I've been attracted to so far have fallen into this category. I seem to have really bad taste!

 

In terms of religion, I am pretty confident I won't be swayed by a cult again. I have very firm beliefs now which I'm very comfortable with. I really don't think I'm at risk of becoming involved with a cult ever again.

 

I do think my experiences have led to me maybe being over-paranoid about things. I do put up sudden barriers over certain issues such as control and privacy. Unnecessary ones that prevent friendships and relationships. I would really like to stop doing this, but I feel vulnerable if I don't and I can't bring myself to let people in.

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Edie, you're right: you are absolutely NOT to blame for anything other people do to you. But you are also right in that yes, there are probably some characteristics you've picked up that make you vulnerable to abusers and predators. I know I sure had a bunch of 'em. I bet you and I are cut from the same cloth in a lot of ways. Blackpuddin I think was the one who said that eventually her "giveashit" broke, and that's about what happened to me finally. It took dang near 15 years. At 12 years out and a veteran of several bad relationships, you're probably still processing just like I was at that stage. A good relationship can send you soaring into self-discovery, but hot damn a bad one stops you cold.

 

Are there any fun activity clubs you can throw yourself into? For some reason I hear "Surrey UK" and think of garden clubs. Sometimes having a goal and a shared activity can bring people close.

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Edie, I really feel for you here. As a young child, I was in a church by a school that was an affiliate of a semi-organized denomination known as Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. The pastor and his wife were graduates of Hyles Anderson college, which is owned by the First Baptist Church of Hammond Indiana. FBC Hammond/Hyles-Anderson was formerly operated by the late Jack Hyles and his son-in-law Jack Schaap (yes, the same man that was recently fired as their pastor for having sex with a 16 year old follower of the church). I was in this group, which even many conservatives in Christianity regard as a fundamentalist cult from kindergarten to 5th grade, my sister (who is 10 years older than me), unfortunately, graduated from Hyles-Anderson, and was part of FBC Hammond until about 3 years ago. It's putting a strain on her marriage with her husband, because they met at Hyles Anderson, and though my sister is still a conservative Christian, she doesn't seem to share the beliefs that her husband picked up from their church, and still clings to.

 

Me, I was still at home with my mom (l had to move back in with her again at 19), and though the family isn't part of the IFB movement, she's just as extreme, but blends the fundamentalism of the IFB movement with the Pentecostal faith she is familiar with.

To give you few ideas what that is like, in her world, gays=pedophiles, Sikhs and Muslims are the same, "rock music", which she defines as any modern music that isn't her beloved country music is evil, Obama is a secret Muslim..... I think you get the point.

 

It's hard having to deal with her insane beliefs being an agnostic, and even before I left Christianity, I had been a libertarian for about 4 years.

 

I understand what you mean, Edie, about people not understanding what you went through (since extremists like that probably aren't as common in England as they are in the US), and not trusting people/falling for abusive people. One of my worries, much like you is not that I will fall for abusive Christian groups again, but I'll end up with abusive people. It's already happened to me before, I had an ex that for 2 years, walked all over me, much like my mother did, (and still tries to).

 

Maybe talking more about what happened to you here on ex-c will help, as well as talking to a therapist, if you can access one.

 

Btw, if you are curious about the IFB movement that I was a part of, look up Jack Schaap's sermons on Youtube, he once told a reporter that "the reason your sorry soul is going to hell is because a woman told Adam what god thought of things". Also , sttufffundieslike.com pokes fun at the IFB movement a lot, and IFB Cult Survivors on facebook has someone astounding stories. I have a feeling that they are quite similiar to the group you were a part of.

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I was part of a cult for nine years. THhe more knowledge I have acquired regarding control and group dynamics, the better I understand my experience and why I am not a person who should ever join a group. I agree with Margee, it is all about fear. Now I have gone completely the other way and I have lost fear of even things I should probably still have some for :)

 

Long story short there will always be some things about people trying to tell me what to think that will trigger the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder the cult left me with. Overall though, I have never been so sane or so at peace with who I am since I got away from religion altogether. Knowledge is power :)

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My ex was also a manipulative liar who stalked me after I left him, but nowhere near to that extent! He never became physically abusive. I don't think christianity made me vulnerable to this though, I think there must be something about me that made me vulnerable to both.

 

My church was an evangelical church and a member if the FIEC, though they still thought they were the only true church, or maybe one or two others too.

 

Wow, interesting to know there is a level of extreme Christianity in the UK. Excuse my ignorance, what is the FIEC? I was part of the open Brethren and they also tick some of the cult boxes. I agree it can make you baulk to think you were involved in a cult, but I think information and acceptance is a big part of the healing process. You're out now, that's what matters, and I'm sure the "leaping around on sofas on national TV chatshows" symptom only affects Tom Cruise, not anyone else ever involved in a cult :P

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Sheldon, I was raised in an IFB church from age 8 to about 16. Not the specific one you mention, but one that would have had all the same beliefs. I heard the name Hyles quite often, with awful doctrines that have in subtle ways effected my thinking. My parents were a united front with this trash, and I was raised to believe it was the truth and I took it very seriously. My mother got mailings from Falwell's "moral majority", although I can't remember if she was actually a member of it. It literally took me 40 years to escape Christianity. Even now, sometimes I think about going back - never to the Baptist Church, but something more liberal. Never mind that I have already tried that and it didn't work.

 

The pattern of having an abusive spouse was also repeated here. For six years I put up with a pathological liar and eventual drug addict and cheat. With over 20 years hindsight, I view that train wreck as almost inevitable. I only had one subsequent relationship with the opposite sex, which also failed. There is something in being in an authoritarian type of setting - in my case church and home, that causes this pattern. Probably I only got married because I was raised to think that only married women had any value. When I was young I never thought of being single. I always just thought about having a life just like my parents. The fundamentalist mode of thinking is very restricted. I felt incapable of having a life of my own. Although I have supported myself for many years, the negativity and narrowness of the fundy way of thinking is something I have to watch very carefully.

 

I have restricted myself in many ways, with whole areas of life still closed to me because of this. Mostly I am referring to the ability to have meaningful relationships with other people. I was angry for quite a long time, but I have settled back into a mode of acceptance on the issue. Probably I stay on this site because I see the more or less permanent negative effect Christianity has had on me, and it took me years to realize it.

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