The Poisoned Heart


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In leaving Scientology you can experience lots of different things. Many people go through stages of disillusionment with the organization and the leaders in Ronald Hubbard and David Miscavige along with the methods and ideas in Scientology as well to varying degrees.

Some ex cult members feel they were wrong and even controlling and abusive while in Scientology and used Scientology as a justification for this behavior. They can see their behavior with the justification stripped away as they dig through many subjects. Some look at the history of Scientology and Hubbard and realize the evil Hubbard displaced was mirrored to a degree in their own behavior.

Sometimes ex cult members explore literature on narcissism, sociopaths and abusive groups and relationships and psychology. Robert Jay Lifton has written extensively on human behavior in groups. He remarked on discovering that Vietnam veterans often needed to separate the experience of being both offender and victim. They described killing people, including innocent civilians including defenseless men, women and children. They described abusing people and raping girls and women. Unfortunately this is almost universal in war.

The veterans to Lifton needed to describe their being lied to, exploited and betrayed by the government and also the evil acts they chose to do as two separate paths of responsibility.

An ex Scientologist can occasionally get to a point where they have recognized bad acts they committed, then apologized to loved ones. Then they may have tried to change and improve their own behavior significantly.

But the path forward isn't perfect. All the bad habits that a person has don't evaporate upon leaving a cult. And I must confess all bad conduct isn't entirely inspired by a cult. So it all isn't addressed by looking at cults, even if you were in one.

So a cult member may be in for a long hard road, even if they leave a cult, even if they reject a cult. I consider changed (meaning improved) behavior is the best apology to be often important in looking at people.

A cult member can even have very significant changed behavior in definite empirical terms. I mean negative behaviors can be reduced in intensity and frequency or altogether eliminated. A

So you can do all these things, recognize and change negative behavior through both reductions and eliminations. But here's the kicker - none of the other people you know have gone through your journey. You can have family, friends and co-workers and managed to keep or try to repair relationships with.

So those people have a different perspective. They have experienced sometimes years or even decades of whatever negative attitudes and behaviors a cult member displayed. They may or may not have been estranged for years.

They can hang onto many negative feelings, impressions and behaviors from the past. Now the past isn't irrelevant or meaningless. They may have entirely accurate and legitimate ideas and feelings and grievances about the past.

But they can hang onto the past in an unhealthy way. They can hear apologies and accept them. They can fail to see changed behavior. They can fail to see improved behavior and eliminated behavior.

They can feel they have no obligation to learn about the journey of the cult member and didn't do anything wrong therefore they shouldn't work to fix anything.

So the ex cult member can feel lucky to get out of this situation and have or regain a relationship with someone. But the toxic behavior of years or decades may have poisoned the heart of the person that never joined a cult. The question then becomes what to do ? Can this be overcome ?

I know some people perhaps naively say love can overcome anything, but in real life it is a more difficult issue. Everyone isn't interested in or willing to study dozens of volumes on psychology, relationships or cult recovery.

Lots of people are entirely unwilling to look at anything serious or lengthy regarding these issues in any context, but especially regarding their own understanding or behavior.

So in reality many ex cult members in my opinion take on the difficult choice to leave their groups, renounce their old beliefs, personally apologize to others on an individual basis, read and try to learn about various topics, whether through reading books or digging through stories and posts online, or even get therapy and feel they both need and attain significant personal change. They take this long journey. Some see it as a life-long pursuit, whether described as recovery or lifelong learning or a different perspective.

Even with all these things behind him or her the ex cult member can endure the pain of being treated as if they have not changed, as if they have not improved or removed or lessened the frequency of negative behaviours. This can unfortunately come from the people they care the most about.

It's a tremendous challenge to try to overcome the past preserved in the memory of another person you are emotionally vulnerable to while still hanging onto your relationships. Loved ones may not realize that to them just stating simple facts or long established truths as still continuing is extremely upsetting or in Scientology terms invalidating to the ex cult member.

The question at some point becomes what can one do when the poisoned heart isn't your own ?

I told you I was trouble

Suspended animation
I believe that in any important relationship there has to be give and take if the relationship is to continue to grow because very few of us are perfect (and probably wouldn't want to be). If you find you are having to completely reinvent yourself (or pretend to) in order to be 'acceptable' to another perhaps it's time to rethink the whole relationship ... that doesn't necessarily mean ending it but perhaps adjusting elements of it so that you are free to be yourself as you come to terms with things in your own time.

You can only beat yourself up for so long.

As you get older you may find that you care less and less about the way others view you and also become aware that most people are so busy rummaging through their own enormous piles of baggage that yours is only of interest (to them) if you make it an issue ... so don't.

If you were a bit of a twerp before joining the cult, an even bigger twerp while in the cult and now that you're out have reverted to just being a bit of a twerp again ... that means you're heading in a positive direction (lol!) so give yourself a pat on the back because I doubt if anyone else will ... and please, do try to remind yourself while you are overthinking everything that you can't be all that awful or you wouldn't care so deeply.