Saturday, January 06, 2007

Victims, Veterans, and Victors

Something has niggled at the back of my head from the days when I founded in September 1995. Something that wouldn't quite lay still. But I just couldn't put my finger on it, until the last couple of months.

I'm just not "anti-cult."

Heck, I like John Travolta's movies -- I don't care if he is a Scientologist. Ditto for David Lynch and TM.

I think some of the people I met in the TM movement were some of the finest I've met anywhere. Whether they realize it or not, to the hard-core believer, TM is their religion, their world view. It must hurt like hell to see it torn to shreds. Even worse to be ridiculed in front of the Internet.

I'm not willing to live in fear of taboo-laden groups like Scientology and TM. Nor am I willing to run away from all forms of spirituality. I want to stand for something, not just spend my life obsessing on my "enemy's" shortcomings.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not wimping out. Just thinking out loud.

I found that when a friend asked what I was doing with my career, I would sheepishly mumble, "I'm working with an anti-cult group."

When I caught myself doing this, it was a real danger signal to me.

I thought, "What is it I really want to do here? What do I want to be my life's work? I've been given an extraordinary opportunity. I have to grab hold of this."

What I came up with: I don't care what people believe. The last thing we need is another excuse to persecute unpopular religions or ethnic groups. I'm not interested in hurting people.

If I'm going to do this I want to spread a little joy.

Finally, I just don't think of myself as a victim. I'm tired of people offering me the eyes-downcast type of condolences usually reserved for the bereaved. I feel, in fact, somewhat condescended to.

Here's the deal:

I don't want to be "anti" anything. I want to be pro-freedoms.

And I don't think anybody exiting a "cult" wants to hear that they're victims. Heck, can you see it? One day you believe you're a god, the next everyone is offering you sympathy because you're somehow damaged?

I think that we former cult members, have something extraordinary to offer future generations.

We went through a tremendous mind-f**k -- and we not only survived, we prospered.

We know things about human nature and the mind that those of you who haven't experienced thought reform can not imagine. Things that the "lay" audiences we talk to will never dream of -- and probably couldn't have survived. (Think of how many never get out who were in as deep as we were!)

I fight for the recognition of a new set of freedoms -- psychological and spiritual freedoms. And the survivors we work with simply won't be victims. They'll be veterans -- and even victors.

The psychological freedoms model is too confined by the cult world. The same model encompasses manipulation by therapists, controlling spouses, clergy, governments. It all began with Lifton's, Singer's, and West's work with returning US soldiers brainwashed in Korea, after all.

The public certainly needs a little wake up call. Most people believe battered women should just walk away. That propaganda was something only practiced during WWII. That suckers somehow asked to be duped out of their life savings and their lives.

I expect much more to say on the question of victims vs. veterans in coming days.

I hope you'll lend me your time and attention and together we can sort these thoughts out.

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