Declaration of my Independence
(written by someone who grew up in a cult to her parents and others)
1. I have a right to my own body, feelings, and thoughts.
I am not you, I am not the cult leader, I am me.
My body is mine alone. Everything that was done to me using psychological pressure and terror tactics was an act of violence, even if I had to say yes at the time. I was underage, and even when I wasn’t anymore, I was not given the freedom to say no.
I can feel differently from you, I can feel negative things without having to stop them. I can feel anger and it won’t destroy me.
Even though we were all supposed to be the same and follow one doctrine, I perceived things differently from you at the time, and I sure as hell think of them differently now. We do not share the same view. Nobody in this world shares exactly the same view.
We were living an illusion back in the cult, where the leader tried to push his view point on all of us. That took a while to get over. Now I have my own opinions again. If you don’t like them, tough luck. We can agree to disagree.
2. This is not what I chose.
I was a victim. That sucks, and I am letting go of the guilt, because I did not create any of this, choose it in a former life, do something to deserve it, or am in any other way responsible for the actions of another person. There is nothing wrong with me, and I do not “attract” people who are abusive.
There will never be a clear answer as to why someone would hurt other people this much. I just know that I am not a psychopath, and would never have hurt others on purpose. Yet I am very sorry for anything I did during the cult time that went against my sense of right and wrong.
If you tell me “but you chose this” you are merely being a coward, avoiding the reality that you weren’t able to protect your children. You are still giving up responsibility.
And no, there was nothing good that came out of it, it did not make me grow spiritually, and it was not worth it. Just because you have cancer and gain in strength beating it, doesn’t make the cancer good. It was shit.
Don’t you or anybody dare tell me “but you’re stronger for it!” The price I paid for the strength I have now is too high. I wish I didn’t have to be this strong.
3. I was not prepared with critical thought.
I was a kid. Thus, I believed everything at face value because that’s what children do. I feel like you adults had a bit of an advantage on us because you have met evil people before, encountered cons, experienced hatred. You at least had some critical thought, even if you were not able to access it at the time.
As a child I wholeheartedly thought that you and the cult leader had our best interest at heart. The betrayal felt so much stronger because of it.
4. Accept that it was neglect.
You gave up your parental responsibilities.
I still suffer today at having lost my parents. It would have been easier if both parents had died, because then I could have cried and mourned my loss. Somebody else would have stepped in and showed us love, cared for us, filled the terrible hole that the loss of a parent creates.
Your actions forced me to grow up way to soon, and I missed out on being a child. I missed out on being light hearted, playful, safely exploring the world, making mistakes and being forgiven. I missed out on having a safety net. Now I often feel very lost in this world, like I have no roots.
5. Don’t you dare judge me.
Coming out of the narrow reality of a cult and going into mainstream culture, the “outside world” was a huge shock. You had a life before the cult, I did not. You knew how things worked, I had to learn the hard way. It as incredibly difficult making that shift, often feeling like a complete idiot, not being able to navigate the most basic areas of everyday life.
Don’t anybody dare judge me for my first relationships that failed, lack of education, lack of self-esteem or social skills, lack of money, use of drugs or other things to distract me from the horrible memories, or anything else for the matter, that I did after leaving the cult. I simply tried to survive without any help or only very little help.
6. I have the right to say “no” now.
Which means I might say no to a relationship, unless I feel safe and that my boundaries are respected
“No” is not an act of disobedience, but one of self-preservation. It means that I am finally valuing myself again. That I have a sense of self at all, which the leader tried to destroy!
After the cult, when I had no idea who I was, what I liked or what I didn’t like, “no” was the guiding path. I was trained to say “yes” to everything. Saying “no” gave me a choice and over time revealed what I really thought and what I love to do now or what is not good for me.
As a teenager I was not allowed to break away, define who I was, be different. So excuse me, if I am doing it now. I am claiming my independence.
7. I have a right to compassion.
I want to be compassionate with myself and others.
I have been through hell! Daily psychological terror will cause most people to get chronic illnesses, horrible PTSD, and even take their lives. I am still standing. I deserve a medal and a hug.
There are things I did to survive that I am ashamed of now, that make me want to crawl out of my skin. I am trying very hard to not take on the blame for a horrible situation that forced me to make horrible choices. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.
I am sorry I couldn’t protect my younger sibling or the other children. I realize that I couldn’t and it wasn’t my job. The grown ups should have done that.
As a fellow human, I am expecting compassion from you. That shows me that you are not a psychopath, that you are out of the cult thinking, that you are able to feel again.
If you cannot show compassion, you remind me of the cult leader, and things you say and do might trigger memories for me. For my own sake, I will have to distance myself.
8. I understand this is hard for you.
I cannot imagine giving up my children. I understand that when you come to truly accept what you did it will be a pain like no other. I will not be the one to comfort you, but I understand.
9. I don’t ever have to forgive.
Forgiveness is a two-way street. Ask for it, and see what happens. But unless you see that something was wrong, we cannot talk.
More importantly, forgiveness is a choice. I can heal without forgiving the unforgivable. I can become whole again without granting you or the leader absolution. But I might choose to at some point, when it’s right for me.
10. Don’t be shocked by my feelings.
I can only feel the whole palette. It’s unreasonable to suppress hate and rage and still expect to feel love.
Don’t tell me to “just move on” and push it aside. Unless I bring it out into the open, it will simmer inside me, and mess up my life quietly. I have a right be free of this. I also want to feel love again, and have close relationships.
A lot of the rage that is coming your way is meant for the cult leader, who will never see wrong in his deed or the lives he destroyed.
The guru became my father and mother figure. So it’s difficult now to separate between the hurt of being helplessly left in his hands, and what his hands actually did to me. I might direct some of that hatred towards you. Try not to take it personal.
11. There is no black and white anymore.
We have left the cult and complete indoctrination. I can feel more than one way about a thing. I can love you and not want to talk to you.
I can accept that you were both a perpetrator and a victim. But I am not the one to listen to how bad it was for you. Find a therapist or friends who will.
It’s okay to not know how I feel about something. There is no right way to feel. I can just be for a while and see how I develop in an empty space. That is frightening at times, but okay.
12. I am not here to protect you.
If you are afraid of the stigma that comes with being a cult survivor, that is not my problem. It’s a shame that people stigmatize, but their fear of something they don’t understand will not direct my journey.
I might choose to heal quietly, I might choose to shout it from the rooftops, blog, be an advocate, or write a book. If my healing process is different from yours, that is okay.
If I choose to go public, or (gasp), dare accuse the cult leader of sexual abuse and take it to court, please don’t tell me how this might inconvenience you or look bad because you haven’t told our relatives or your friends about it. I am sorry this is ruining job opportunities for you. I did not choose to be in a cult. But I can try to put somebody in jail before they hurt more people.
13. I am more.
Although this will always be a part of my life, it is not who I am. I am many things. Being a cult survivor is just something that happened to me. I have so much ability to love and hope within me. I am discovering myself again and am excited to see what the future brings.