My father was a unique and remarkable person with excellent critical thinking skills. He wanted to know God with all his being, and growing up in the Catholic Church left him wanting.
His cousin, we shall call him R, introduced my father to a "School" that preached a doctrine built around a revelatory vision received one day out of nowhere by an insurance salesman from Ohio. His teachings were underscored by the concept of a three-fold pattern governing the Universe and the correct name of the Godhead unity: Yahweh (The Father or God), Elohim (The Holy Spirit) and Yahshua (The Son or Messiah.) Unlike the Catholic Church, we were taught the trinity was a unity – three manifestations of the same energy.
My father’s scientific mind took to these principles like a fish to water. It was mandatory for my mom and I to accompany him to this school every Wednesday and Friday, from 7:30-10:00 pm, and on Sundays from 11:00 am until they felt like finishing. I was eleven, about to turn twelve, and my outlook on the world and my place in it were drastically altered from that day forward.
Needless to say, in a society where blonde hair and blue eyes ruled, my parents suffered from racism and always felt on the outside looking in. Like most African-Americans in the 1970s, they were ambitious and wanted in. Assimilation was the name of the game, and my parents seized on it with every fiber of their beings.
I was the only black girl in my elementary school at the time and to say I was different is an understatement. Skin, hair, diet, culture and perspectives were markedly different from my classmates. My feelings of alienation were exacerbated by slave trauma (the trauma passed down through the many generations who experienced chattel slavery and oppression.) Black people simply don’t have time to entertain emotional weakness or folly – we must feed and protect our families and fight for the American dream in order to level the playing field. I was taught to be strong, follow the rules and keep my shit together. My emotions were my responsibility. The message I received from a young age was clear: We don't have time for your emotions.
This lack of emotional validation made me feel very insignificant and then helped create a pattern of behavior that was self-sabotaging.
The Miseducation and Creation of the Trauma-Bonded Child
What some may look at and describe as innocuous or even mild, can leave an indelible traumatic imprint on a child. An adult has critical thinking skills and a developed sense of self so they are generally better able recognize and suss out any B.S. and stand in their truth because of maturity and life experience.
Contrarily, a young child is a vulnerable victim because they are trying to belong and find their way. The cult demands that the individual's focus be on the outside, giving more credence to other people's thoughts, opinions and judgements than to one's own logical reasoning and intuition.
This is how being a cult stunts spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth and the power suck begins. To seek the approval of others before one's own is detrimental to building a responsible and accountable human. Cults seek to create and imprint a non-responsible victim mentality into their members.
So I believed that one of the ways to feel significant was to please others and be praised for my beauty and excellence.
It was clear that, in the School, a woman's value was predicated on her beauty and child-bearing capability. This was one of the insidious ways people in the cult, especially those in power, exercised control: by mentioning their desire for certain women and playing favorites.
Even as a young girl, I was sexualized and compared to grown women in the cult. This made me feel as if I needed to put myself on display and appear desirable at all times. This deviant undercurrent was almost more palpable than the spiritual doctrine itself.
When my teenaged cult-mate was sixteen, most of the adult men, married or not, were salivating over her, waiting for the day she would turn eighteen. All the while, she was being molested by her stepfather, who just happened to be the loudest, most outspoken member of the classes during instruction.
We also sat and watched as husbands and wives were exchanged as often as underwear. Nevertheless, when we kids were turning sixteen, got curious about dating, and started having crushes on one another, we would be called out on the stage by the dean and shamed and humiliated in front of a room full of people for being under the influence of hormones. We were forbidden from dating one another. We were also forbidden from fraternizing with those ‘who did not know Yahweh.’
So contradictory ideas about God and sex were being embedded in me, three times a week, from the time I was twelve until I turned eighteen and went away to college. (I thank my parents because they believed in education and were adamant that no matter what, I was going to college. My dad had his limits and they were still all about upward mobility and building wealth.)
This was all calculated to break us down and cause trauma that would make us dependent on the cult and the brainwashing rhetoric they used to confuse and abuse. Cults are built to undermine the personal power of their members and keep them in a degraded state because, to them, power and control are more important than a member’s liberation and freedom – on a grand scale.
Empowerment means sharing power and guiding others to mastery, among other things. Cults don’t seek to empower, but rather to leech the personal power of others for their own financial gain.
These teachings made me see myself as a weirdo for a long time. The feelings of being an outsider motivated me to seek out ways to grow and heal, so I could feel safe developing my own personality and life outside the cult. I have rituals and daily spiritual practices which have helped me overcome the sexualized mind control and I now feel safe being open to people and experiences in the world at large.
The Fear Factor
One of the tenets I frequently heard as an impressionable young adult was that if I did not continue to attend class every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, I was going to hell.
I was so scared and traumatized by that, I don't think I was able to listen to anything the rest of that or any subsequent lecture, because I just knew my ass was going to hell, since by that time I wanted nothing more to do with the Class. I wanted to escape and leave at the first possible moment, and I did, but the repercussions of those words have echoed throughout my life.
I tried to tell my parents and others that hearing it freaked me out and I was genuinely frightened. They just poo-pooed me as always: I was being silly and it was not that big a deal.
In college, while I initially enjoyed the freedom, my grades suffered because I could not think straight, put together concepts, or concentrate for long periods. The cult still had my mind. I was in zombie mode, having no idea how to live fully or with intention. My life was Yahweh’s and I was going to hell anyway, so I may as well just do the bare minimum to survive and keep people from judging me too harshly.
The Stunted Results
All of these dysfunctional building blocks create an unsound foundation and, sooner or later, it crumbles. Cult members are programmed to be overly dependent, making them easy prey for a narcissist. Since I failed to be a fully developed human, I failed to be able to discern and make choices that benefitted me. I was so used to giving my power away that in almost all my relationships, I allowed myself to be used and exploited to the point that my last relationship nearly killed me: the father of my children walked out and abandoned the family during my last quarter at UCLA before graduation. He found himself someone else and she was happy to help him betray me and break up our family in short order, without closure or remorse.
It seemed that I was to blame for everything in his eyes, and almost everyone else’s. I heard things like, “You’re a psychic, couldn't you see it coming?” “You had to know he was cheating on you. I’m sure the signs were there, you just didn’t want to see it.” I got very little sympathy or compassion. The attitude was, You chose him, you deal with it, and, Men cheat, get over it and move on.
He was celebrated for chasing his dreams and lauded for making himself happy while I was an evil shrew who deserved to be left. That’s what it felt like. These mental tapes had their origin in the cult and the mental virus that had plagued me for most of my life.
This was when I fully realized I was suffering from severe cognitive dissonance: this man cheated, lied, abused and disrespected me, and I wanted to preserve our relationship, and embarrass and humiliate myself by fighting for the dysfunction to continue! What a wake-up call.
The Lesson and Joy for Life
The silver lining in all of this is the knowledge that I am whole and complete in myself and I create my reality. Although this concept scared me at first, it also made me curious enough to seek out help in the form of Theta Healing and Soul Medicine. Looking back on my time in the cult, there was a lot of trauma, but in the long run, that trauma has made me more conscious and self-aware.
It has also made me more capable of solving my own problems and, most of all, it taught me how to forgive and have gratitude for the process. I am an advocate for my free will and the free will of others. I now know I have value, it is safe for me to set boundaries and remain true to the spirit within me.
One of the ways I am empowering myself to move past all the trauma is by dropping my last name and going by my first and middle name in everyday life. This allows me to build myself up without being burdened by the energy of the past.
Let me explain: numerologically my previous name had a numerical pattern that was hindering my ability to let go of the past and kept me stuck in a flighty and ungrounded energy. My new name gives me the opportunity to expand and grow without all the constraints of the fixed mindset being in a cult can produce.
With my unique background and years of healing experience, I am able to assist others in healing trauma from cults, extreme religious communities, or any other groups or clubs whose practices are underscored by making their members overly dependent, fearful, and ashamed of their own power and free will. I was able to break free by first trusting myself and connecting with my own intuition. I can teach you how to make that particular voice - your voice - louder than that of the cult.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from low self-esteem, confusion or just stagnated in life because of their time in a cult or extreme religious community, please feel free to reach out for a free 15-minute consultation.
With love and gratitude,