Cult dynamics: addicted to the cult

“The so-called therapeutic groups try to but cannot provide or replace this maturational process. Their goal is to ’empower’ their members by providing them with support and a sense of belonging. Since the suppression of childhood feelings is the rule within these groups, however, the individual’s depression cannot be resolved. Moreover, a person can become addicted to the group itself, as the group provides the illusion that the unmet needs of the former child can eventually be fulfilled (by the group) in the adult. With such illusions, no one can truly heal.” Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child (emphasis added)

This describes Solid Rock to a T. It is an addiction, and even before I left often felt and thought that my ex was behaving like an addict. I thought the same thing about myself, not so much in the years preceding my departure, but earlier for sure. I remember one time, in the late 1990s or early 2000s, thinking that being there was like shooting up, complete with the euphoric feeling, and once or twice I had a spontaneous image arise in my mind of me injecting myself with a needle full of heroin or something similar after accepting certain things about the leader.


When people say, “It’s not a big deal”

Here’s a tip for when people try to talk you into or out of something by saying, “I don’t know why you’re upset. It’s not a big deal.” Say to them, “OK, so since it’s not a big deal to you, then let’s do it my way, since it is a big deal to me.”

“It’s not a big deal,” is like saying, “See, the scales are balanced.”

I discovered this tip not long after Dad and I got married. He liked my pillow better than his own, so kept taking it and giving me his. I’d take it back, then he’d take it again. He kept telling me that the pillows were the same. I finally realized that he didn’t really believe what he was saying. If he really believed they were the same, he wouldn’t be taking mine. So I told him, “Since they’re the same to you, then keep yours and stop taking mine, because they are not the same to me.” He stopped after that.

This is one reason why it is important to know yourself. I put up with the pillow-swap for a while since I was trying to be nice, didn’t want to rock the boat, and was completely used to keeping my mouth shut about issues that WERE a big deal to me. But when somebody says that something is “no big deal,” or, “they’re the same anyway,” when it IS a big deal to YOU, and they don’t seem the same to YOU, it is manipulative. Don’t fall for it.

If it IS a big deal to YOU, it is OK to say so. In fact, you should say so.

“Don’t be a victim” is victim shaming

I can’t count the number of times the cult leader said, “Don’t be a victim,” or, “You just want to be a victim.” SO MANIPULATIVE.


For Reformation Day: Protestantism hurt and confused me

calvinism-some-lives-matterIn some circles, today is known as Reformation Day. It is the anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation (which is a misnomer but that’s another post that I may or may not write). On this day 499 years ago, a Catholic priest named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenburg, Germany. The year was 1517.

In memory of what Luther started, I thought it would be a good day for me to describe what it was like for me to be raised under Protestantism’s structural faults. Please do not take this an at attack on any individual Protestant except perhaps Luther himself. I mean this sincerely. For one thing, I know that Protestants are sincere in their beliefs and they have Biblical reasons for believing what they believe. While I disagree with their Biblical interpretations, I also know that it is scary to even contemplate becoming Catholic. At least, it was for me when I first started on my journey to the Church and I’ve heard the same from other converts. So what I am about to say is my experience and is, in some respects, unique to me.

I have thought about this for quite a while, and this is what I see:

  • Protestantism created a lack of unity among my family members, more than 50% of whom are devout Protestants of various denominations who disagree with each other and will not go to the same church, even on Christian holy days such as Christmas or Easter. The fact that nobody perceives this to be a symptom of a larger issue troubles me deeply.
  • The “Bible alone” doctrine made it possible for the cult to be formed and sustained
  • The “Bible alone” doctrine was used to justify child abuse and female denigration in the cult
  • I strongly suspect that the restorationist Protestantism practiced by my paternal grandmother alienated my dad from Jesus through its fundamentalism
  • A nearby Presbyterian church had catechism classes for middle schoolers, and when I was in middle school I decided I wanted to attend them. So I did. The classes started in September and ended right before Easter, with baptism and confirmation. My family was not there for that event. After I finished, I wanted to continue going to church there, but my mother and her husband didn’t want to do that. I walked to church alone on Sunday maybe 2-3 times, then stopped going because I felt profoundly awkward being there by myself as a young person.
  • T.U.L.I.P. frightened me and provoked my tender conscience almost constantly
  • My mother remarried in a Methodist church in the early 1970s. Protestantism’s early cheer-leading for remarriage after divorce contributed to me feeling isolated and lonely for my entire childhood. I really do believe that in many cases, step-parents steal affection and time from their step-children because they divert the childrens’ parents’ time and attention. It may be done inadvertently, even unconsciously, but it still happens. My dad remarried also (twice). This made me vulnerable to the cult’s false promises, which were based on the “Bible alone” doctrine.

There really does need to be just one Christian authority. Multiple “authorities” have led to confusion. Adults might not perceve this confusion, being ensconsed in their particular silos, but as a child with parents who were only nominally Christian, I was chronically impacted by it. It was only after I became Catholic, and using Catholic concepts and ideas, could I understand my childhood. Prior to that, it was just chaos and confusion and I had no framework through which to view it. I don’t think that Protestants believe that division in the body of Christ is a sin. Even if they do believe it, they don’t act like it.

I wish all of my family members had been as devoutly Catholic as they are devoutly Protestant. If that had been the case, I can’t see how these issues would have arisen. If they all had been Catholic, then the “cracks” in my family and family structure simply would not have been there. Of course, other very positive things would probably not have happened, such as the blessing of my three truly wonderful, amazing, and beautiful children. I’m not exaggerating about them–everybody who meets them says the same thing, and always has since they were very young. Thankfully, God writes straight with crooked lines. He turns plan B into plan A.

In case I wasn’t clear earlier: my experiences are unique and I fell through “cracks” that most people don’t fall through. Even so, this is one reason why I cannot get excited about Reformation Day. But I hope everybody has a safe and fun Halloween… a safe and fun All Hallow’s Eve.

The body remembers trauma

Further to my posts claiming that divorce and remarriage are emotional torture for little kids, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, an M.D., has a lot of interesting things to say about trauma and what it does to you over the long term, such as:

17:30 “We rarely think about love as being the antecedent of trauma, but this is something we see pervasively throughout people’s lives. If the people who you love as a little kid, and we are all programmed to love our parents, hurt you, this whole relationship to our parents who we love who hurt us becomes extremely complex and becomes very hard to move away… Love is a very important part of traumatic stress and gets very messed up in traumatic stress. So you get to love people who do terrible things to you, you get to hate people who are very nice to you…”

That would explain my attraction to a destructive cult leader, as well as my ex-husband’s attraction to him.

I have often observed and lamented how there is very little language to describe what it is like being a child of divorce. I was thinking along the lines of a lack of theoretical concepts, and I still think I’m right about that. But the doctor said something that explains my observation in a completely different way:

22:18 “Since the early 1990s, brain imaging tools have started to show us what actually happens inside the brains of traumatized people… when people remember their trauma, their whole frontal lobe goes off line.  So the whole part of their brain that has to do with thinking, figuring things out and telling your right and wrong goes off line. The speech center of the brain goes off line… it’s as if people have a stroke… people who are traumatized become dumbfounded. They are struck with speechless terror… therapists tend to people people who love yacking and love talking… telling people your internal truth is important, but it comes to the very core of your trauma, you cannot really tell [ie, explain] what happened…”

The idea that the body remembers trauma is a very Catholic idea, when you think about it.

The cult leader was not competent to give us parenting advice

One of the gals I follow here on WordPress posted an excellent essay called:

Book Review: Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart

I hope you read it.

I’ve been out of the cult for over eight years, and in that time I’ve seen so much about what was wrong there. One of those things has to do with his influence regarding our parenting practices, especially when the children were infants. He told us that they had to be afraid of us, that they needed to fear for their lives! Yes, this is what he told us, not an exaggeration. Bible verses were used to justify this advice. And we followed it. I had to override my gut almost constantly, which, unfortunately, I was completely used to doing due to my chaotic childhood, where I had to override my gut on a daily basis in order to get along.

I remember my husband joking about spanking our newborn daughter, right after she was born (we were still in the hospital!). Oh my God I felt so angry and even said, No. He said he meant it as a joke, but now I believe that he was “virtue signaling,” meaning, he was letting me and our friends know that he was on board with the corporal discipline regime. We all “virtue signaled” at different times about different things so my intention is not to single him out. It’s just one example of what went on there.

I remember seeing one of the boys, as an infant, get spanked with a wooden paddle that was probably 18 inches long and at least one inch wide. This happened at a meeting; everybody saw it. The infant was maybe a year old or less. The cult leader openly commended the dad for doing this, saying that he was a good example of how to discipline a child. There are many other examples I can give, and people didn’t just do it to their own kids, they did it to others’ kids too. Unfortunately, I also participated in this inappropriate use of the Bible to justify taking out my anger onto my children, and other people’s children as well. It was wrong and when I think back on it, I feel sad and ashamed. So much pain, so much missed opportunity to express love, patience, forbearance, gentleness. Missed teaching opportunities, missed opportunities to forge meaningful connections.


Infants need to know they are safe and loved. That comes first and it takes time. I completely agree with this pyramid, which appears at the post linked above:

4 messages framework_NEWwithTag

Years later, while the cult leader was in the midst of an affair with one of the married women in the cult, he retracted those remarks in an attempt to please her. This all came to light when he disclosed his affair. That is when the spankings stopped. The eldest of the children were probably around 10-11 years old. It was the summer of the year 2000.


The cult was no help at all

I brought up reverse gaslighting yesterday for a specific reason. It is because of how few adults are talking about their experiences growing up with divorced (or never married) parents.

Based on my own experience, I can say that our culture reverse gaslighted me. The lie that everything was OK was deeply embedded in me, to such an extent that I repeated it for decades. However, I should have seen that the circumstances of my life were strong evidence that everything was not OK inside me. But nobody helped me put the pieces together until a few years ago, when I got to know the gal who became my Catholic mentor. Like pieces of a very complex puzzle, she was able to help me put everything together through a thoroughly Catholic lens. Remember how I mentioned before about the importance of making proper distinctions? She helped me do that.

The cult leader claims to be teaching an esoteric system that helps people have a “right relationship” with themselves, with others and with the world around them (paraphrased from his website), but that is a lie. Everything done there is supposed to be about psychological healing, but there were many issues surrounding my parents divorce and subsequent actions that were never addressed. I buried everything I felt because there was no avenue to express it, no language, no concepts, no affirmation of that reality. As just one example, rarely the cult leader would mention of how I never had a family–he mentioned it enough that I knew that this is what he thought. But he also severely denigrated my mother, publicly and often. He hated her, and I am not entirely clear why but I have an opinion that I may share here at another time. His denigration of her fed into my unresolved anger. He was crafty enough to see my lack of family and understand how vulnerable it made me, but he never helped ME to see it–I was in denial about that loss the entire time. Plus he didn’t affirm my mother or my father. He didn’t help me to honor them as the Bible tells us to do. In fact, he actively encouraged me to shun them, especially my mother. He did not acknowledge the legitimacy of my first family, that triad, that community of three persons who formed one family, the impetus of my being. His “esoteric help” did not help me at all. It was his way of keeping me embedded there as part of his narcissistic supply. The same could be said for my ex-husband, whose parents divorced when he was 16.

The ironic thing is that now I am a Catholic and because of the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church, I finally have a “right relationship” with my ex-husband, but he does not have a “right relationship” with me. In regards to his relationship to me, the cult has not helped him to forgive, to work through his rage, to stop his defamation, or to stop his sexual sin and alcohol usage… and he calls himself a true Christian. I recently learned about the restorationist movement. I did not even know that was a thing, but evidently it’s pretty common for groups to consider themselves as returning to first century Christianity. Well, that certainly describes the cult. But the fruit of the cult is bad, and that is one way to know that it is not based on Christ. He is still as stuck in those emotions and behaviors as he was years ago, if not more so. As it says in Galations 5:19-23:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

I am not certain I should be saying these things about him. But I am becoming indignant at his stubborn refusal to humble himself, to give me any leeway whatsoever, and his persistent determination to denigrate me to my own children. It is evil, and I am becoming less willing to remain silent about it. He is training my girls to accept that a man should treat a woman that way, and he is training my son to treat women that way.

Lord, please help me understand how to deal with this man according to your will. I must avoid and repent from any desire for revenge, because you alone are the judge. If I could cut him out of my life for good, I would, because he is advocating and practicing evil. But I cannot, since he is the father of my children and a grandfather of my grandchild. I know that he was created in your image and likeness, and in that sense he is good, but I am infuriated that my children still have to be subjected to his evil beliefs and behaviors. Lord, please do something. Please help him repent, help him return to his first love, help him to see how far away he is from your grace, give him the courage to face his fears, bring one of your servants into his life to tell him the truth and help him hear it. Please help me love him as you do. I hate having to use my kids’ dad as an example of evil behavior. It makes me very sad. Amen.

Edit: here is today’s Collect from the Latin mass I attended this evening:

Da, quaesumus, Domine, populo tuo diabolica vitare contagia: et te solum Deum pura mente sectari. Per Dominum.


Grant, O Lord, unto Thy people, grace to avoid all contact with the devil, and with pure minds to follow Thee, the only God. Through our Lord.

Finding lost sheep, part 2

Yesterday I told the story of what happened between me and my ex on Saturday. This got me thinking about how I never explained to him why I sought an annulment. Given that he has expressed pain about it, it became evident that I needed to explain why I did it, so I wrote him a letter. Overall I am happy with it. My only complaint is its length–I wish I could have said the same thing with fewer words. I hope he is able to hear what I am saying without feeling triggered. It might just be tl;dr, but time will tell. This is copied and pasted from the Word document, including the graphics. I edited out identifying information.

August 9, 2016

Dear [name of ex],

At the outset here, let me state that I am very sorry for how I hurt you in the past. I did im sorry dogmany so many things wrong, and did many wrong things. I regret them all. Please forgive me. I know that you are also sorry for the things you regret. So let’s just wipe the slate clean on both sides.

Because I care for you, I thought it would be good if I explained why I sought the annulment. Before I do that, I will tell you why I did not seek it: I did not seek it because I hated you or did not love you.

I sought the annulment for a couple reasons that are very complex. Unfortunately, it will take me a number of paragraphs to explain it all. I wish I could do it more briefly, but I don’t know how. I want you to understand, but am worried. It is such a sensitive issue, and I might accidentally trigger negative emotions in you, which will make it hard to understand what I’m saying. Please bear with me as I work through this. It is not my intention to trigger any negative emotions; I just want you to understand. It can be really hard for me to express my heart, especially in written form, but I will try.

I am not blaming you for what happened, just describing what it was like for me. The annulment was not about winners and losers, so you did not “lose.” This point is very important.

First, the entire time we were together, I never really felt that we were together, really joined as a one-flesh union like the Bible talks about. There was always a blockage, like a wedge between you and me and I felt this acutely. It is why I would complain about [name of cult] and [name of cult leader]—they came between us. There were only two names on our marriage certificate, yours and mine, but it felt like there were three names, yours, mine, and [name of cult leader/name of cult]. It was a three way marriage. After 20 years I could no longer take it. There were many, many times I honestly wondered if you hated me. The wedge blocked us, because it made it impossible for me to see how much you loved me. I know now that you did love me, but at the time I could not see it clearly at all. Related to this is how I never felt that I could love you on my own terms; I had to love you on somebody else’s terms, terms that were not truly yours. I had to love [name of cult] as part of loving you. That offended me deeply and seemed profoundly wrong and unfair.

The second reason is related to the first. I wanted to be free to marry a Catholic man should I have found one, but I also wondered in the back of my mind if anything would transpire between you and I in the future. And I thought that if you and I were to ever date or enter courtship, we would need to begin with a clean slate. We would need to start a relationship on an honest foundation. This would have to exclude any influence from [name of cult], since that influence is what contributed to our marriage being poorly structured—according to Jesus Christ, a marriage cannot have three (or more) participants.

Here is an analogy. Do you remember how [name of a female cult member] has those small stones embedded in her arm after she and her scooter went down many years ago? Once I asked her about them, why she never had them removed, and she said that it would be very difficult and painful. Between the divorce and the annulment, that’s sort of like what I had to do. I had to remove a deeply embedded wedge, one that had flesh and skin grown over it and had been embedded for a long time. It was very painful for both of us, the kids too. I cried a lot. Did you? But like a painful surgery, it had to be done because the wedge between us was not part of God’s plan for marriage.

wedgeDo you remember a letter I wrote to you many years ago? I think it was sometime in the late 1990s. I said something about how hard it was to be a wife, and how I did not like being a wife. I don’t remember the other details. You kept it for a long time but do you still have it? Here is why I mention it: if you read it through the eyes of somebody who did not feel a one-flesh union with the man she was with, it may make more sense now. If I remember correctly, and it is possible that I do not since I wrote it so long ago, the letter was my expression of sadness, anger, and resignation over not having a one-flesh union. If you still have it, I would appreciate being able to read it.

I think I understand why you want me to reverse the annulment. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that you believe that the wedge was from God, and you believe I lied to the diocese. You thought of the wedge as glue to keep us together, right? But I don’t believe that the wedge was from God because it blocked our love for each other and it blocked our one-flesh union, and I know that’s never God’s will. Also, I didn’t lie to the diocese. I kept a copy of the testimony I submitted to them. We could set up a time to go through it together and you can show me where you believe I lied. But haven’t we hashed through the bad memories enough in the 20 years we were together? And where did all that get us? But hey, if we need to go through it again, then OK, I’m willing.

I’m not interested in “winning,” and I don’t view you as “losing.” The annulment was not about winners and losers. It was about finding the reasons that explained how I felt for 20 years, and resetting the playing field back to a point of honesty and truth. Perhaps more importantly, we only have right now, this moment. The past is done, it’s over. Wouldn’t a joyful heart is good medicineyou agree that it might be better if we just picked up from where we are now and begin a friendship anew? The kids would appreciate that so much, and it would be healthy for them to see us interacting in a positive way. And we can do that, [our eldest daughter’s] wedding is evidence. I enjoyed your company at her wedding. It was fun to all be together. Proverbs says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” The wedge is gone now, but like after a surgery there is a wound, and it needs bandages and medicine. Friendship is like medicine, since it means joy and laughter, good conversations, shared memories. We have a lot of good memories and funny inside jokes that developed over the years. You know how to make me laugh and I appreciate that. I would appreciate us setting aside the painful memories, focusing on the good memories, and creating more good memories. Wouldn’t this be very healing?

I know this is complex, and that it is a very sensitive subject. I sincerely hope I didn’t trigger any negative emotions. That’s not my intention. What do you think we can do to help our healing, and the healing of our children?

[my signature]

Finding lost sheep

I may be selling my place soon. There are a couple projects that should be done before putting it on the market. The master bedroom needs to be painted, and the kitchen and entry have vinyl on the floor. I’d like to replace it with tile. So I contacted a few local contractors to see what their prices were.

Then it occurred to me that this might be a good opportunity to reach out to my ex. He is very handy and can definitely do both of those things. I thought it might be a pleasant way to begin a positive dialog about a non-controversial subject. Here is what I texted him on Saturday morning:

Hi Jxxx. I hope you are doing well. I was wondering if you and [our son] would be willing to do a couple projects at my place. I have to hire somebody and I thought of you guys. I need the walls painted in my master bedroom, and also some floor tile put down in a couple different areas of my house. If you’re interested, let me know. I’ll definitely pay you guys whatever the going rate is. Thanks.

About 8.5 hours later, he responded:

Have you yet realized how you seriously f’ked up? Divorcing me was the stupidest thing anyone I’ve ever known ever did. No, I’m not going to help you with your condo. You divorced me and you annulled our marriage. Stupid. If you want to ever have a relationship with me as your ex, reverse the annulment. Send letters to the Catholic diocese and all your stupid witnesses and tell them you lied and you were wrong. Get it reversed and then I’ll talk to you. Otherwise leave me the freak alone.

Here is what I said back to him:

This is abusive. I did not lie, and you don’t get to dictate how I felt about our arranged marriage. We could still be friends, and our children deserve that. I thought we had a very nice time at [our eldest daughter’s] wedding, and hoped that perhaps that could be the start of a new and positive chapter between you and I. Your commitment to [name of cult leader] and [name of cult] is clouding your judgement.

Then I made a reference to the Matrix, a movie he loves. We watched it together many times:

You have to trust me. Why? Because you have been down there. You know that road. You know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.

Here is the scene I was referencing. I feel very confident that he knew what I was referring to.

He did not respond.

I have thought for a long time that he has Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ll go into those details in a future blog. The short version is that people with BPD can get flooded with emotions which they cannot manage. The emotions are so strong that they cannot use their brains for higher order thinking skills. Without realizing it at the time, I now see that I triggered him, because what he said was highly emotional and did not make any sense:

  • He is not Catholic and so in a very practical way, the annulment does not effect him.
  • He is engaged to marry another woman. If he believes that God still views us as married, then he’s admitting that he is in a state of adultery.
  • The annulment was finished almost three years ago.
  • He fought the annulment, and at the same time was dating a woman and engaging in sex with her.
  • He actually DID lie to the diocese and I provided proof of it.

I called my cousin the next day and told her about the text messages. She said that she thinks he still loves me. I said, “Well, maybe, but he’s trying to catch flies with vinegar.” She pointed out that sometimes there is a fine line between love and hate.

Maybe he does still love me, but I take his nonsensical reasoning as evidence for BPD. I’ve wondered about his BPD for about five years, but I just didn’t want to face it. But that text exchange is a great example of what I had to deal with on a nearly-daily basis for 20 years–nonsensical reasoning created by emotional flooding from a man with an undiagnosed personality disorder who believes that a narcissistic cult leader is his guru. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Even reading that makes me feel so dumb for being so gullible.  

Later, I realized that pretty much anytime we communicate anymore (which is rare), he mentions the annulment and how much it hurt him. I’ve never actually explained to him why I did it, so I decided to write him a letter. As I worked on it, I came across the Gospel reading for the day (Aug. 9), which includes these words of Jesus from Matthew 18:

What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

This really inspired me. He is the father of my children. Rightly or wrongly, I believe that I have a duty to him because of my duty to them. He is half of who they are, and I won’t pretend otherwise even though I often wish I could. So I collected my thoughts, prayed a lot, asked others to pray with me, and wrote him a letter explaining why I sought the annulment. It went into the mail yesterday (Wed.).

Still picking up the pieces

I feel like there is something missing when I write about the cult, so maybe if I write about it more I’ll figure out what it is.

I first wrote about the cult here. Besides other things, I mentioned my brief affair with the cult leader in 1997, and how my ex-husband remains loyal to him, even to this day. The leader gets a pass on not only the affair with me, but with at least three other women. All the cult members know about the affairs. My ex is not the only husband to choose the leader over his own wife–another man did this as well.

I wonder how that works in their minds. The cult leader is so special that he gets to do whatever he wants… but your own wife, the mother of your children whom you claim to love unconditionally, remains unforgiven and an outcast. Plus now my ex is using a lot of alcohol, far more than he did while married. He is also involved with a woman whom my eldest daughter can’t stand and who is addicted to prescription pain meds. She has moved in and out, and is now maybe moving back in.

All this is done in the name of “real Christianity.”

That’s how the cult styles itself. It’s not “religion,” which they claim is a horrible, man-made thing. But it’s true spirituality, true Christianity.

What a farce.

Lots of misogyny there, a real hatred of women.

What is my own role in all this? Yes, I participated in a group that was extremely harmful to not only myself but others. Yes, I justified it through a strange brew of fear and pride. Yes, I regret ever being there. Yes, I see that my truly wonderful and beautiful children (and now grandchild) would not exist except for my involvement there. So that’s an unsolvable dichotomy. Making me choose between them is like holding a gun to my head. And I have no doubt that the cult leader has used that dichotomy as a way to justify his actions.

Maybe this is what is missing: I still love those people. I spent 22 years of my life there. There were some genuinely fun and even good times we had together, times we laughed, lots of funny inside jokes that developed over the years, the joy of our childbearing years and watching the children grow, many shared and delicious meals. We tried to create a tribe as a sort of shelter from this crazy world.

But it was built on sand, on the false notion that this leader was special, and that the normal rules of human engagement didn’t apply to us. I doubt any of us would have been friends outside of the cult. The arranged marriages would not have taken place either, since the partners would not have naturally picked one another. We thought we didn’t need our extended families, because they weren’t “spiritual” enough to understand what we were about. We often treated each other harshly, rudely, divisively, abusively… there was always a lot of gossip and backstabbing… all done in the name of telling the truth and being honest. But even that was a lie. We did those things to cover our own asses.

Towards the end of my time there, I wondered if I suffered from Stockholm Syndrome. Seems logical, right? But how is that diagnosed? If it’s true for me, is it true for others? Is it true of my ex-husband who is still there?