Series Three: Blog
I grew up in a cult. It was hurtful It was overwhelming and dominating. It was truly a mind-fuck. There was always a game being played. The goal was to keep you from figuring it out. If you got close to experiencing reality, there was always a ploy to slap you down and remind you of your place. When success outside of the “friendly” confines of cult environment was engaged, you were quickly alienated from support, and you were told you had worldly ambitions or were materialistic.
Friends encountered outside of the “Way” were criticized as a bad influence. I grew up thinking I was on the outside of the bubble looking in. In some ways it was true. This perception was always reinforced by a litany of “do’s and don’ts” hammered in by youth group theologies and the ever fear of dying and going to hell or missing the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. If you really believed in both, it was enough to keep you in the fold and always going to the altar in a worship service to confess your sins and keep you in good standing with the Man up above.
James Baldwin remarked that “it is not the world who is your oppressor because what the world does to you, if it does it to you long enough, you will do it to yourself, and to others”. He couldn’t be more accurate for those who grew up in a cult environment. The truth is that even when you divorce yourself from cultic influence, the experience resides in the blood and bone of who you are. At the drop of a hat I can go into memories of an altar call with a rolodex of awful experiences. I can audibly give an altar call in the same tone of voice with the same illustrations, organ playing, people praying and singing “Almost Persuaded”. The only hope I see in the dementia of old age, likely in my future, is that it might erase the memory of those early days of cult experience.
Sometimes people who know my story have pity on me and never consider their own story of toxic influence from their early family experience. It is my belief that we all have hurtful realities and toxic beliefs that have impacted the way we live in the here and now.
Here are a few suggestions to unpack the toxic beliefs and hurtful realities that have impacted your relational experience in life.
Getting out of a toxic relationship requires a community of support. Reach out! Summon the support! You can do it! As you advance confidently in the direction of your dreams and endeavor to live the life you have imagined, you will be met with unexpected fulfillment. You will create healthy rules of engagement that will empower boundaries, positive assertion, and realization of your own brilliance in unexpected common hours.
Subscribe to receive the latest stories, thought leadership, and growth strategies from PCS therapists.