Last evening, a 2 hour phone call to Europe and another call to Quebec City, concerning how much and how far-reaching the Cult of Scientology invades the human mind, was indeed enlightening.
I asked one ex-Scientologist if they had a ‘life’ outside of exposing the crimes and abuses upon countless victims, and there was dead silence for a few seconds. I was asked this same question earlier this week by a professional therapist, and I too, had to think about it.
Without a doubt, a person once in a cult may never be the same person once they escape to freedom. Many recover and cope well after leaving to ‘freedom’ but may experience a period of intense and often conflicting emotions.
A person, who lives in a cult like Scientology, often lives their life beyond expression with a blunted affect that presents a scary picture to the outside world. One parent, Antonio Longo, after observing this change in affect said:
“When they kill the mind, kill the soul, it’s impossible to prove. But if you are a parent you know what he was like before he went in and what he was like after he came out.”
By far the majority of people who are recruited into cults are in fact normal and healthy. They usually come from economically advantaged family backgrounds, have average to above average intelligence and are well educated, idealistic people, with no prior history of mental illness. Their spiritual perspectives vary greatly. Some have a strong faith and some do not.
Some with a Narcissistic personality disorder, like many claim Scientology leader David Miscavige, and many others suffer from, are filled with anger, rage, and ‘grandiose-arrogant’ behaviour that cause grave strife for countless victims.
For those fortunate to live ‘cult-free’ the emotional upheaval of leaving is often characterized by the term "post-cult trauma syndrome.” For people who do not bounce back or coerced into the cult again, the following may be experienced for a period of several months:
• flashbacks to cult life
• simplistic black-white thinking
• sense of unreality
• suggestibility, ie. automatic obedience responses to trigger-terms of the cult's loaded language or to innocent suggestions
• disassociation (spacing out)
• feeling "out of it"
• "Stockholm Syndrome": knee-jerk impulses to defend the cult when it is criticized, even if the cult hurt the person
• difficulty concentrating
• incapacity to make decisions
• hostility reactions, either toward anyone who criticizes the cult or toward the cult itself
• mental confusion
• low self-esteem
• dread of running into a current cult-member by mistake
• loss of a sense of how to carry out simple tasks
• dread of being cursed or condemned by the cult
• hang-overs of habitual cult behaviors like chanting
• difficulty managing time
• trouble holding down a job
Often, with time and professional help, most of these symptoms subside as the victim mainstreams into everyday routines of normal life. In a small number of cases, the symptoms continue.
The far reaching tentacles of any dangerous cult reach far beyond the victim having their bank accounts emptied and credit cards maxed out – family members and loved ones suffer deeply for many years.
Victims of Scientology and other abusive cults heal through many stages of recovery and time that may include phobias and degrees of paranoia at times. With Scientology, Cult members are systematically programmed with phobias so they will be in terrible fear of leaving the cult. They are enslaved by this mind control technique in thinking that there is no other way for them to grow–spiritually, intellectually, or emotionally.
It cannot be stated enough that cults are a very real phenomenon in our world today. Their effects are devastating.
Contact with ex-members is invaluable and is often regarded as essential for return to normal life. There is a delicate balance for the ex-cult member attending therapy. It is between the realization of personal autonomy and reliance on support from others.
At a meeting with a psychiatrist earlier this week who is well versed in dangerous cults, he explained how tiny the grain of sand is compared to the entire beach when talking about Scientology. “For those who were in Scientology and now out, it is a very important subject that must be discussed and exposed, but for much of the population, they have never heard of or know much about it. There is a life outside the cult,” he said.
And he was right. Most of the people I talk to about Scientology every day, only know of ‘weird’ Tom Cruise being a member, but nothing more.
However, for those who were abused and traumatized for years – losing their freedom of choice, speech, and actions, the horrific experiences ‘inside’ can flash one back in unexpected moments of trauma and terror.
Trauma after exiting an abusive group is in the mind and has often been referred to as a "rape of the mind."