"The Emotional Pain of Leaving a Cult"
(The Late) Jan Groenveld
Cult Awareness and Information Centre
Source | CAIC Website
The Emotional Pain Of Leaving A Cult
The following is how former cult members and members of spiritually
abusive systems described how they felt when they finally left
their group. This may give you some insight into their pain and
why there are no easy answers for them.
It Hurts to discover you were deceived - that what you
thought was the “one true religion,” the “path
to total fredom,” or “truth” was in reality a cult.
It Hurts when you learn that people you trusted implicitly
- whom you were taught not to question - were “pulling the
wool over your eyes” albeit unwittingly.
It Hurts when you learn that those you were taught were
your “enemies” were telling the truth after all - but
you had been told they were liars, deceivers, repressive, satanic
etc and not to listen to them.
It Hurts when you know your faith in God hasn’t changed
- only your trust in an organization - yet you are accused of
apostasy, being a trouble maker, a “Judas”. It hurts
even more when it is your family and friends making these accusations.
It Hurts to realize their love and acceptance was conditional
on you remaining a member of good standing. This cuts so deeply
you try and suppress it. All you want to do is forget - but how
can you forget your family and friends?
It Hurts to see the looks of hatred coming from the faces
of those you love - to hear the deafening silence when you try
and talk to them. It cuts deeply when you try and give your child
a hug and they stand like a statue, pretending you aren’t there.
It stabs like a knife when you know your spouse looks upon you
as demonised and teaches your children to hate you.
It Hurts to know you must start all over again. You feel
you have wasted so much time. You feel betrayed, disillusioned,
suspicious of everyone including family, friends and other former
It Hurts when you find yourself feeling guilty or ashamed
of what you were - even about leaving them. You feel depressed,
confused, lonely. You find it difficult to make decisions. You
don’t know what to do with yourself because you have so much time
on your hands now - yet you still feel guilty for spending time
It Hurts when you feel as though you have lost touch with
reality. You feel as though you are “floating” and wonder
if you really are better off and long for the security you had
in the organization and yet you know you cannot go back.
It Hurts when you feel you are all alone - that no one
seems to understand what you are feeling. It hurts when you realize
your self confidence and self worth are almost non-existent.
It Hurts when you have to front up to friends and family
to hear their “I told you so” whether that statement
is verbal or not. It makes you feel even more stupid than you
already do - your confidence and self worth plummet even further.
It Hurts when you realize you gave up everything for the
cult - your education, career, finances, time and energy - and
now have to seek employment or restart your education. How do
you explain all those missing years?
It Hurts because you know that even though you were deceived,
you are responsible for being taken in. All that wasted time ...
at least that is what it seems to you - wasted time.
The Pain Of Grief
Leaving a cult is like experiencing the death of a close relative
or a broken relationship. The feeling is often described as like
having been betrayed by someone with whom you were in love. You
feel you were simply used.
There is a grieving process to pass through. Whereas most people
understand that a person must grieve after a death etc, they find
it difficult to understand the same applies in this situation.
There is no instant cure for the grief, confusion and pain. Like
all grieving periods, time is the healer.
Some feel guilty, or wrong about this grief. They shouldn’t -
It IS normal. It is NOT wrong to feel confused, uncertain, disillusioned,
guilty, angry, untrusting - these are all part of the process.
In time the negative feelings will be replaced with clear thinking,
joy, peace, and trust.
Yes - It hurts but the hurts will heal with time, patience
There is life after the cult. More...
Copyright 1985, 1995 Jan Groenveld