Whenever I mention to people that I used to be in a cult, their reactions tend to be curiosity, empathy, pity or judgement. The latter might ask me how a person in their right mind would choose to join a cult. What they don’t realise is that anyone could become a victim of a cult.
Why some join cults
When I was in a cult, I encountered people from every walk of life. Black and white folk, educated and uneducated as well as people from all over the world. What they had in common was their dedication to this group. Some of them had been born into a family of believers, while others had been converted by members of the cult who had preached to them. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I was trained to preach persistently to members of the public even if they said they weren’t interested, in case they might change their minds due to a change in their life circumstances. I noticed that often, people who had been in a mentally vulnerable state due to the death of a loved one, divorce or other traumatic life events were more receptive to our message because they needed to feel hope.
Why I joined a cult
I joined the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was 12 years old. I come from a broken home and we lived in impoverished conditions when I was young. My late mom worked very hard to support my brother and I, which we truly appreciated. However, it meant was was away from us quite often. Add to that, I was sexually abused as a child. When I came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses at the age of 12, I felt warmth and acceptance. My congretation practically adopted me and I gained a new loving family. Their teachings gave me a new lease on life. The though that all wicked people would be punished at Armageddon made me feel a sense of justice. The idea of earth being turned into a paradise was also very appealing and I would often imaging myself swimming with dolphins and frollicking with wild cats.
Pre-cult problems resurfacing after exit
After I found out some disturbing things about the religion and realised that it was a cult, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life, to leave the religion. I have experienced many psychological effects after leaving and one of them has been having to deal with the things that caused me to join the religion in the first place. You see, while I was in the religion, I somehow managed to bury my head in the sand about my sexual abuse and abandonment issues. The religion kept me so busy that I never got to effectively deal with those issues. Suddenly when I left the religion, I began to have psychological problems associated with those issues.
The best thing I have done to deal with those resurfacing problems has been to seek the help of a psychologist. Moreover, I have done research on the effects of sexual abuse and abandonment and how to deal with them. Lastly, I express my feelings by talking to friends who are willing to listen, writing in my journal and also writing poetry.
Therefore, understanding why I was personally drawn to the religion in the first place and doing my best to heal from that pain has played a vital role in my recovery process.