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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    Navigating the Choppy Seas of a Cult To Save a Loved One

    Do you fear that someone special to you has joined a dangerous cult? Unfortunately, this is more common than you think. With love-bombing tactics and promises of a new start, these insidious organizations are highly adept at ensnaring unsuspecting victims – especially amongst the vulnerable young.

    The initial appeal to the members of a cult is seductive, providing what can seem like the healing balm of belonging. A new recruit experiencing a sense of euphoria with the added bonus of being part of something special, secretive and exclusive. This can quickly evaporate leaving the occupant feeling trapped, confused and manipulated, unable to extricate themselves from the clutches of the cult.

    If your loved one has become entrapped in a scary and oppressive environment, then how do you go about getting them out safely and sanely? It's not an easy or fast process and progress can be impeded by myriad deep rooted beliefs of the cult and their familial bonds, yet it can be done.

    A crucial and essential first step, is your own education. Spend some time studying up on the cult and its methods, this gives you an understanding of their core belifs, a greater understanding of the risk and danger, as well as a clearer idea of the resources available to you. Tap into the expertise of people who work with cults and can offer support and advice - such as law enforcement and mental health professionals. Consider group meetings with family and friends where you can share worries and successes as well as formulate next steps.

    The second step is communication - presenting and following through a unified, caring and consistent message form all the involved parties. Convey a desire to understand and accept without any judgement, this is an imperative cornerstone in successfully navigating the choppy seas towards the safety and freedom of a cult departure.

    Securing the trust and cooperation of your loved one is not a given, it will require hard work, patience and perseverance; possible more so than any of you are prepared for. Reiterate that you are as committed as ever to helping them and your unconditional love and support will remain no matter what, it also helps to discuss an achievable goal and plan - even if it is unlikely they will agree it's important they know it's been offered.

    Don't underestimate why they may have joined the cult in the first place, the need to belong and fill an emotional void. Endeavour to provide meaningful alternative and safe avenues to meet spiritual and/or interpersonal needs so they have an incentive to leave behind the restrictive framework they’re inhabiting. You must start by apologizing for anything you feel you may have done to contribute to their situation and offer a clean slate going forward.

    The atmostsphere of the cult is generally bleak and suffocating, yet despite this challenge a successful exit is realistically possible. The key is strong unwavering resolve, always remaining focused on the end game - the emotional and intellectual freedom of your loved one. Going forth pay mind to the small details, be mindful of their language, interests and emotional responses. Familiarise yourself with their journey and respect every step of their healing process.

    It’s natural to feel helpless and overwhelmed when someone you care about is stuck in a potentially dangerous situation. Although it’s not easy, there’s hope for escape and regaining a sense of autonomy. Through knowledge and determination you can help your loved one untangle themselves and sail away victorious.

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