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Author Topic: Left GCM, but just can't seem to 'escape' it?  (Read 14330 times)
puff of purple smoke
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« on: March 13, 2007, 02:24:12 pm »

snoopy asked:
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My first question for Larry would be, “After looking over some of these blog posts, what advice do you have for those of us who have left GCM, but just can’t seem to “escape it”?

Also, what obligation should we feel in the area of warning people still in movement? Some of us invited people to our church before we knew of the hidden “shepherding” structure, so feel terrible about that.

Thank you.

Anonymous50 replied:
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Snoopy, would you mind elaborating on your question in the first comment in this thread? Specifically, “what advice do you have for those of us who have left GCM, but just can’t seem to ‘escape it’?” Do you mean that there are some who are being hounded by GCM? (I doubt that you meant this.) Or do you mean that if a person has been in GCM for a time, especially a long time, that it is hard to stop thinking about and continue being influenced by the GCM experience, even long after leaving GCM? I think that is what you meant. I would fall into this camp.

snooped replied:
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That is what I meant.
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Larry Pile
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2007, 02:25:46 pm »

Snoopy asked a very common, and important, question: “what advice do you have for those of us who have left GCM, but just can’t seem to ‘escape it’?” After 17 years working with ca. 700 ex-cultists and survivors of spiritual abuse I know how people can leave a cult or TACO but, to some degree, still carry elements of it with or even _in_ them. There is no really easy answer to the question Snoopy asked, and while “Time heals all wounds” is too facile, there is some truth in it. Time doesn’t heal _all_ wounds, but it does heal some. The farther you get from a negative experience, both in time and geography if possible, the less that experience will continue to plague you. It’s important, however, to “hang in there” for the time being.

In Paul Martin’s book _Cult-Proofing Your Kids_ he describes three stages of recovery. Stage 1 includes confronting denial, finding new ways to meet emotional needs, refuting group error, recovering fellowship, recognizing “floating,” and understanding trauma and the nature of thought reform. Some people can leave a cult or TACO and never look back – back such people are rare. Most harbor the suspicion that maybe _they’re_ the ones with the problem — and they were probably told that by their former leaders. It’s very common to remember the good things about the group (what group is all bad?) and especially to _miss_ those things and wish you could recover them. It’s a short step from this to denial that the group was so bad after all. In cases of denial of this type it’s crucial to have an impartial third person with whom one can engage in some healthy reality checking. It _is_ possible that the ex-member may be exaggerating the flaws of the group; it is just as possible that he/she has not yet recognized other problems.

In CPYK Paul writes:



“Cults lure people with many different types of bait, but perhaps primarily by the relationships the cult experience offers. The involvement is an intensely personal experience. Correspondingly, recovery must also be intense and personal. The therapist, counselor, pastor, and parent must be able to relate to the ex-member’s emotional needs for acceptance, belonging, friendship, and love. Harold Busséll notes that he seldom sees evangelicals enter cultic groups for doctrinal reasons. Among the things he describes as factors which make a group attractive is the cult’s emphasis on group sharing, community, and caring.”



Thus recovery must include establishing healthy relationships outside the group. But leaving an abusive group is similar to breaking away from a bad relationship — the hurt person is gun-shy and doesn’t want to be hurt again. Thus, the victim can tend to sabotage his/her own healing by avoiding _new_ relationships that aid the healing process. Yes, you want to and need to be cautious, but you need to find new ways to meet your emotional needs.

As for recovering fellowship — many of you may not be ready for this yet. At Wellspring we often counseled people to go slow about getting back into church. People hurt by “church” are often freaked out by the thought of walking into another church. Again, like the escapee from a romance gone bad, you don’t want to get burned again. Plus, as the abused woman may believe that “all men are jerks,” the spiritually abused person may believe that “all pastors are abusers,” or “all Christians are hypocrites,” or whatever. But, just as “all men are jerks” is a vast over-statement, so are the other statements. You may need to take a sabbatical from church — even from reading the Bible and prayer (which will sound like heresy to an ex-Great Commissar!)

I’ll only comment on the “floating” issue — you can learn about trauma and thought reform from many good web sites. “Floating” is essentially a type of dissociation common to ex-cultists and ex-members of TACOS. Paul Martin writes:



“These ‘highs’ are part of what is known as altered states of consciousness — states between waking and sleeping ‘that differ from those usually experienced in the world of everyday reality. Included are states such as those induced by creative work, meditation, drugs, sleep, alcohol, and hypnosis.’ When an ex-cultist returns to the ‘high’ after leaving a cult, it is called ‘floating.’ It is also called ‘floating’ when one snaps back into the shame- based motivations experienced while in the cult and believes anew that the cult was right. Floating is handled by discovering what triggers the episodes and then dealing with the triggers.



“Types of triggers include:

• Visual — certain colors, pictures, hand signals, symbols, smiles

• Verbal — songs, jargon, Scripture verses, slogans, types of laughter, mantras, decrees, prayers, tongues speaking, curses

• Physical — touches, handshakes, kisses, hugs

• Smell — incense, leader’s perfume, foods

• Tastes — foods



“The first step in recovery from floating is to identify these triggers and the loaded language that gives meaning to the trigger. For example, the visual trigger may be a book that has been forbidden by the cult. Seeing the book causes thoughts like, ‘This is the work of the devil,’ or ‘This is spiritual pornography.’ Loaded language is any thought-stopping cliché that is used in manipulative groups to prevent critical thinking. For example, simple tiredness may be reinterpreted as ‘running in the flesh,’ and is used to discourage people from admitting fatigue or stress. Not wanting to go to a meeting is labeled as ‘rebellion’ and as possessing an ‘insubmissive spirit.’ Such loaded language is not easily forgotten even after exiting a cult. It sidetracks critical analysis, disrupts communications, and may produce confusion, anxiety terror, and guilt.”



Several years ago I stopped at a mall in Reynoldsburg, OH on my way to the Columbus airport. I wanted to browse a Half Price Bookstore there, but discovered it wasn’t where I had remembered it. (It turned out that it had moved out of the mall and across the road.) While looking to see if it was somewhere else in the mall I noticed that a radio station had set up a booth and was broadcasting from the mall. I went into a full-fledge floating episode — about 12-14 years after I left GCI — when I read signs on the booth reading “Solid Rock” and “24-Hour Blitz.” “Solid Rock” was the name of the GC church I had helped establish in Columbus in 1973, and “Blitz” was what the 1970 summer evangelistic crusade had been called. Plus I knew that GC had owned radio stations in MD and DC in the 1980s. But this had nothing to do with GC, I concluded after walking around the booth like the Children of Israel marching around Jericho :-) to see if I could recognize anyone from my former church. I was shocked and dismayed to realize I was still so vulnerable to this kind of thing. Now, 29 years after leaving GC I’m fairly immune to such things happening again — I hope!

The way to deal with floating is basically though a little “cognitive therapy.” If you hear a song you used to sing a lot in your GC church, for example, and you begin to get sweaty and your heart starts to palpitate, say to yourself, “This song is one we used to sing in GC, but I’m not in GC now. That was then and there, but I’m here and now. This is a different place and time and has nothing to do with what happened to me back there/then.” Do this with each similar instance, and keep doing it until you don’t react so strongly.



Before I leave this I should at least briefly the other stages of recovery. Stage 2 includes giving yourself permission to grieve your loss (of time, friends, trust, etc.) and regaining purpose. Paul writes:



“[At this stage] recovery should focus on helping these people express their grief and regain beliefs about the real world and their true selves. The ex-member must begin again to believe in a meaningful universe and to see himself as a positive aspect of God’s creation.

“The cultic experience is often a crisis of faith. At the bottom of many ex-cultists’ beliefs is the question, ‘How could God allow this to happen to me?’ Many feel like fools, while their belief in a ‘just world’ is shattered. They can no longer believe ‘It won’t happen to me.’ Therefore, a quest for meaning among ex-cultists is paramount. The former member must be helped to regain a belief in his or her individual worth, and in a world that allows room for bad things happening to good people. The ex-member may also need to talk out and relive the trauma again and again, as do the victims of other types of crises. Sadly, the needed and healthy process of talking about the trauma is sometimes short-circuited by well-intended helpers who view such rumination as damaging.

“Effective therapy has to be very supportive and reaffirming, as self-esteem needs to be rekindled. Those who have left cults need to be freed from the view that they were solely responsible for their plight. They must be able to forgive themselves. Meaning and trust can be regained, and theological reconstruction can be achieved, when one sees the cult event in view of a benevolent God who truly loves them.”



At this stage also ex-members tend to want as much information about their former group as they can get, in an effort to understand it better, and especially what it was about the group that attracted and held them. Stage two also includes the desire for support from others who are able to relate to the ex-member’s experience. This is most fully given by other ex-members of the same group. This is why support groups for survivors of cancer, violent crime, etc., are so helpful — they involve others of like experience. I suspect that many of you reading this are at this stage.

Paul also says, and I concur, the recovering the true gospel is essential for full recovery. Some of you reading this may react strongly against this statement; that’s OK. I’m not going to try to persuade or “convert” you. :-) But as Paul wrote:



“To many it is frightening is that many of these cultic groups could, with a clear conscience, subscribe to a most orthodox, fundamental, and evangelical statement of faith. But actually they represent a subtle but deadly religion of works righteousness, at least in regard to sanctification, if not justification. For this reason it is very liberating for former members of such groups or churches to study Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and to contrast Paul’s message of justification and sanctification by faith with their group’s practices. The gospel restores meaning to life, and self-esteem is regained. A clear understanding of the gospel is the single most important issue in a cultist’s recovery and future immunity to further cultic involvement.”



Stage 2 also is characterized by a desire to rescue others out of the group (which leads to Snoopy’s second question: “what obligation should we feel in the area of warning people still in movement? Some of us invited people to our church before we knew of the hidden ‘shepherding’ structure, so feel terrible about that.” Paul writes:



“During Stage II recovery ex-members will often direct some energy into trying to rescue their friends from the cult. Without careful planning such efforts may prove fruitless. It is always best for ex-members to grow strong themselves before developing plans to help friends. This usually means having his parents contact the friend’s parents and sharing the information about the group — once this information is shared, it is the friend’s parents’ decision to plan some method to extricate their child from the cult. An ill-planned phone call, letter, or article sent directly to the friend still in the cult will usually result in that information getting into the hands of the leader. Invariably, the leader will quickly refute the material and warn against misguided former members attempting to deceive.”



I would emphasize Paul’s third sentence about the need to become strong oneself before attempting to “rescue” anyone else. In answer to a similar question at a conference of the former (and “real”) Cult Awareness Network, the late Dr. Margaret Singer replied that one of the most effective things in helping someone in a cult is to let them see that even though you have exited the group you are not merely surviving, but you’re actually _thriving_. You own personal success and emotional and spiritual health can speak volumes. GC leaders used to say that most of us who had left the movement had suffered spiritual shipwreck _because_ we had left. This was definitely not true of many of us. And to the extent it was true of _any_ it was at least partly caused by disillusionment because of the spiritual abuse perpetrated by them. But all the same, many ex-members, and ex-leaders, have gone on to lead spiritually healthy lives helping others. Let me just mention one: Jim McCotter hired Jimmy DeYoung from a prominent radio station in NYC where he earned a six-figure salary to be station manager of GCI’s Maryland radio station where he earned a five-figure salary, but was eager to serve God with his talents. He lasted, I believe, less than a year before Jim fired him on bogus charges. Jimmy sat and literally wept as he told several of us his story in Mike Royal’s home in Atlanta in 1987 or 1988. Sure, Jimmy was devastated by the experience. But today he is based in Israel as a reporter and commentator for the Radio Bible Class of Grand Rapids (some of you may have seen him on Day of Discovery telecasts).

Not everyone is going to end up on TV; that’s not the point. But we can all recover our spiritual equilibrium and moral integrity.

Stage 3 recovery is when you “talk less and less about the cult, and … spend more time in career pursuits, relationships, and personal issues” (Paul Martin).

Often when a person leaves a cult of spiritually abusive church he/she lives in direct and conscious reaction against the moral/spiritual standards imposed by the group. Thus he/she may adopt an unhealthy lifestyle that includes the abuse of drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, or other high risk behaviors. Eventually, the person will usually realize this is not in his/her own best interests, and he/she will pendulum back to a more moderate lifestyle. You must know that when you live in such direct and conscious reaction against the group’s standards the group is still (perversely) in control of your life — it is determining how you live, by telling you what _not_ to do, and thus you do the opposite. It is only when you get to the place where you are able to live your life without a thought about what the group would think about your lifestyle choices, etc. At this point you are in Stage 3 recovery.
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G_Prince
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2007, 02:34:29 pm »

Larry,



Thanks for the information about “floating.” I still have trouble reading the new testamtent without being sucked back into the GCM world
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Here's an easy way to find out if you're in a cult. If you find yourself asking the question, "am I in a cult?" the answer is yes. -Stephen Colbert
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2007, 02:34:46 pm »

Larry,

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to answer the questions. You have nudged me one step closer to stage three and I consider that a wonderful Christmas gift. So, thanks!

I also found the “floating” information both interesting and helpful. For me, it’s Hebrews 13:17 and the song “Not to Us”. I’m going to do a little cognative therapy and get over it! There’s nothing wrong with that verse or song!

Merry Christmas from MamaD (also known as snoopy)
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Larry Pile
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2007, 02:45:19 pm »

geneprince on December 19 reminded me of some of my own experience for probably a few years after I left GC*, namely, sitting in church services and cringing every time the words “discipleship” and “evangelism” (or their cognates) were spoken by a preacher. My immediate reaction was similar to the “fight or flight” impulse in threatening situations. I immediately went on high alert waiting for the associated guilt trip to be laid on me. Of course, it never was, because I was in churches that understood the biblical meanings and usages of those terms.



What helped me eventually overcome this type of cringing reaction to these and other GC*-distorted terms and expressions was a bit of self-administered cognitive therapy — telling myself, once the adrenaline had begun to return to normal, that the preacher to whom I was listening understood the correct biblical sense of the word(s) in question and was not using it/them as it/they had been used in GC*. To quote part of an earlier reply:



[When you hear a word or phrase or song or whatever, tell yourself] “ ‘I’m not in GC now. That was then and there, but I’m here and now. This is a different place and time and has nothing to do with what happened to me back there/then.’ Do this with each similar instance, and keep doing it until you don’t react so strongly.”
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GodisFaithful
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« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2018, 12:52:43 pm »

I read this thread last night and found it so helpful.

I have a friend who is in the process of extricating herself from an EC church, and it is hard. She feels so guilty, now that she knows some of the unhealthy aspects that have been harmful to her and her family, for introducing others to the church. She is grappling with a lot of regrets.

This is such a helpful description of phases that a person often goes through when they are getting out of an unhealthy church or a cult.

I appreciated Larry Pile's examples of some bizarre flash backs that he had and stuff that would set him off into a bad place and how he was able to gradually overcome that with God's truth.

I hope this is helpful to others who are struggling to make sense of their experience in a GC church.
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AgathaL'Orange
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« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2018, 12:55:00 pm »

Wow, that's such a good and simple technique.  I must have missed this years ago.
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« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2018, 01:03:25 pm »

I wish I would have read this thread years ago.

I really need to get that book about Cult Proofing your Kids. I've heard it is on Amazon.

I think it would be helpful for helping other people, even if I myself am 20 plus years out and feeling free of a lot of the dysfunction.
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Rebel in a Good Way
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« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2018, 05:23:00 pm »

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0310537614/ref=tmm_pap_used_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=1522974129&sr=8-1

I skipped over the chapters about rock music and public education but the rest of it was very helpful.
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