Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Isolation and Cults

A constant theme of this blog has been recovery in leaving a cult and rebuilding my life - as well as the pure mind-fuck that happens doing that. The whole journey has been a difficult one for me and those around me. The part that's hardest to explain, especially to those that have been constant sources for support, is the complete and total feeling of isolation in leaving. After all, when people are so willing to adopt you into their family, listen to you bitch and moan, and give a constant ear, how can you possibly feel isolated?

Especially recently, with biological "family" events and happenings, the theme of isolation comes to mind. When informing my family that I most assuredly would not be attending their little reunion, they asked why I was "isolating" myself. That is when this new chapter of my life started making more sense.

Feelings are difficult to change. I wish I could flip a switch and suddenly connect with the people around me. I wish I could make the whole process "easy". Looking at what friends and family members of ex-cult members go through, I'd say that it's just as tough, if not more so, than leaving. It kinda makes sense that only a small group of people manage to 'work through' the walls raised by an ex to become friends.

A metaphor might help to explain what it's like to be in the "world" for the first time. Imagine that you embarked on a voyage across the ocean. On this voyage, you live in a small boat stocked with all the supplies you need to survive. On the horizon, you see other people in similar small boats. But you are alone in your boat - only a small radio and the ability to stand outside and wave to other people on the same journey provide any human contact.

For many, the decision to leave a cult is the single most solitary thing that can ever be done. Leaving the cult is the decision to step on the boat and venture off not knowing what is out there, with only the hope of hitting land at some point. And because that decision is such a solitary thing, no one will ever fully understand. After all the damage the cult did, the most emotionally destroying thing it will do is force this choice in leaving.

So, you push off into the world with only the hope of finding land, after years of being told that the ocean will eat you whole. Every social interaction, every party, every friendship, every love, every family - all - interactions defined as evil by your group.

The greatest irony is that my desire for connection, the pain that comes from standing in a crowded room and feeling completely alone, is created by the exact choice to "isolate" myself. I chose to isolate myself by moving across the dark void spanning the distance between the cult and those that live in the outside world. And now that I clasp the hands of those pulling me into a larger, greater, and more beautiful world, I see the reality of a group standing apart from humanity. Alone and pitiful.

So, as my parents warn me of "isolating myself", I stand and realize how very different that is from the reminder of my friends that they are there. The message from the family was not one of giving. They did not say "we are here for you in your time of need". They only stood and shouted that I was a fool for making my journey. And while I see myself in troubled waters, I am still moving forward.


Spyder said...

Happy to hear that you are moving forward in the choppy water. I bet you're a great swimmer in the water of Life. If you need a rope, a Life jacket or a towel let me know. Hugs.

May said...

Yeah, I grew up in a crazy cult, so I know what you mean. It sucks and I still have major issues with trusting and connecting to people as well. One step at a time is what I go for :)

Nuke said...

Hang in there man! The closest I came to a cult was my Mother's cousin. 20 years out and he isn't doing nearly as well as you.

You seem to be aware of your issues, which is the biggest step in dealing with them. Keep sailin and you will get to a bright new land!

AmyH said...

Just read this post and really connected with it. Thanks for writing about your experience - I totally get the analogy of taking off in a boat all alone into a big, scary, ocean that threatens to swallow you up! Vivid and poignant.
I am slowly beginning to enjoy having appropriate boundaries (chilling on my solitary boat) instead of feeling desperate and insane.
I still have moments of desperate insanity though - especially when I am presented with a chance for complete enmeshment with another person or a group. (When I see an island or am invited to jump on someone else's boat and abandon mine.)
Thanks again!