by: Patrick Ryan, Editor of AFF News
Excerpt taken from this online article titled “Post-Cult Problems: An Exit Counselor’s Perspective”
Some of the recovery issues that keep recurring in my work with ex-cult members are:
1. Sense of purposelessness, of being disconnected. They left a group that had a powerful purpose and intense drive; they miss the peak experiences produced from the intensity and the group dynamics.
3. Grieving for other group members, for a sense of loss in their life.
4. Guilt. Former members will feel guilt for having gotten involved in the first place, for the people they recruited into the group, and for the things they did while in the group.
5. Anger. This will be felt toward the group and/or the leaders. At times this anger is misdirected toward themselves.
6. Alienation. They will feel alienation from the group, often from old friends (that is, those who were friends prior to their cult involvement), and sometimes from family.
7. Isolation. To ex-cult members, no one “out there” seems to understand what they’re going through, especially their families.
8. Distrust. This extends to group situations, and often to organized religion (if they were in a religious cult) or organizations in general (depending on the type of cult they were in). There is also a general distrust of their own ability to discern when or if they are being manipulated again. This dissipates after they learn more about mind control and begin to listen to their own inner voice again.
9. Fear of going crazy. This is especially common after “floating” experiences (see point 18 below for explanation of floating).
10. Fear that what the cult said would happen to them if they left actually might happen.
11. Tendency to think in terms of black and white, as conditioned by the cult. They need to practice looking for the gray areas.
12. Spiritualizing everything. This residual sometimes lasts for quite a while. Former members need to be encouraged to look for logical reasons why things happen and to deal with reality, to let go of their magical thinking.
13. Inability to make decisions. This characteristic reflects the dependency that was fostered by the cult.
14. Low self-esteem. This generally comes from those experiences common to most cults, where time and again members are told that they are worthless.
15. Embarrassment. This is an expression of the inability to talk about their experience, to explain how or why they got involved or what they had done during that time. It is often manifested by an intense feeling of being ill-at-ease in both social and work situations. Also, often there is a feeling of being out of synch with everyone else, of going through culture shock, from having lived in a closed environment and having been deprived of participating in everyday culture.
16. Employment and/or career problems. Former members face the dilemma of what to put on a resume to cover the blank years of cult membership.
17. Dissociation. This also has been fostered by the cult. Either active or passive, it is a period of not being in touch with reality or those around them, an inability to communicate.
18. Floating. These are flashbacks into the cult mind-set. It can also take on the effect of an intense emotional reaction that is inappropriate to the particular stimuli.
19. Nightmares. Some people also experience hallucinations or hearing voices. A small percentage of former members need hospitalization due to this type of residual.
20. Family issues.
21. Dependency issues.
22. Sexuality issues.
23. Spiritual (or philosophical) issues. Former members often face difficult questions: Where can I go to have my spiritual (or belief) needs met? What do I believe in now? What is there to believe in, trust in?
24. Inability to concentrate, short-term memory loss.
25. Re-emergence of pre-cult emotional or psychological issues
26. Impatience with the recovery process.
—end of excerpt–
On a personal note, I can relate to experiencing some of these things after leaving IHOP and have heard many stories of others who have had involvement at IHOP and left (or were made to leave) who experienced much of this list as well. Those who have left IHOP fit right into the same recovery process of those who leave cults.