How to Leave a Cult : A Brief Guide to Exiting Mind Controlling Religions like Jehovah’s Witnesses
It isn’t easy for anyone who has been involved with a mind controlling church group to accept that they may lose a lot upon their exit. In fact, it is unnerving, and can cause a great amount of stress to anyone who will suffer repercussions, especially if the group one plans to leave is a cult. There is no fun way in determining how to leave a cult, but it doesn’t need to ruin your life.
If you’ve been involved in a cult, understand that there are many things that have been driven into your head for as long as you’ve been associated with the cult. Think in terms of days in the cult. One year = 365 days of cult thinking. Ten years equals 3,650 days of cult thinking. Twenty years = 7,300 days of cult thinking. You’re probably the first one to agree, you don’t think like most people. However, what you may not realize is that you think like more people than you might expect. There’s a certain level of fear that most highly indoctrinated people face upon leaving a cult. Some deal with it easier than others. Some get angry for a short time after leaving, while others carry feelings of pain and resentment for years.
If you are in a cult, you will want to come to terms with this fact. Understand that your emotions may go through ups and downs. You have to know that before you make an exit. It isn’t going to be easy. But, it can be done and it’s done every day.
If you suspect or know you’re in a cult, say it out loud. Look in the mirror and say it. “I am in a cult. And pretty soon, I will no longer be a member of a cult. I have been given the gift of realizing it’s a cult, and the cult no longer has a hold on me. I will not be their victim any longer.”
Identify the characteristics of a Cult by examining this article, and begin to have a look at how cults operate.
Here’s an exercise. Write down:
- What drew you to the cult?
- What made you feel good about it?
- Did it make you feel safe?
- What changed over time, after you were officially a member?
- Did you have too much responsibility?
- Did you begin associating less with the outside world? Did you realize what was happening when/if you started staying away from “normal people”?
- How do you think those in the cult perceived you? How about after some time went by?
- How do you think the outside world started to perceive you?
- Did you begin to feel you weren’t doing enough?
- Did you begin having personality changes, such as depression, anxiety, anger, or guilt & shame?
- Did you at any time resent the group for the feelings you had?
- How are you different right now, as opposed to prior to association with or joining the cult?
Once you’ve gotten a good grasp on these feelings, step back and look at your answers. Read them as if you were an outsider, and not as yourself. See your perspective, if you can, through someone else’s eyes. That may cause you to realize that the steps needed to detach yourself from the cult will require forgiving yourself. If you’re angry at yourself for wasted time, ask yourself:
- What good things did the cult do for me?
- What new skills did the cult help me with that I can now use in my daily life?
- How can I benefit once I move forward and step away from the cult?
Find Your Go-To Pal
It is always a wise thing to find someone who is willing to listen to what you’re going through. If you don’t think this will be easy, find a support group on Facebook and read other people’s stories. Then, share your own. Make a promise to yourself that you won’t stop until you’ve found your sounding board; at least one person whom you can talk to, to share your thoughts and receive support. This can be someone you know, an old friend, a pastor or minister in another church, or a new friend. It can also be a group leader who is experienced in cults.
Draw a Picture and Take a Break
This is not going to be done overnight. Surely, you may need some extra time to wrap your head around it. Slow and steady wins the race. There’s no need to beat yourself up if you can’t make the move physically in leaving, but only mentally for now. That is good news, because you’re planning appropriately to do the best thing for yourself, at a point when you feel most capable. If you feel that the walls are crumbling, it’s best to go back to your sounding board person, and maybe even speak to a pastor, or counselor. Nevertheless, take a break if you feel overwhelmed. Draw a picture. Get a new hobby. Begin to associate with the outside world if you’ve been couped up. Dont make any moves if you feel very down. Wait until you feel sorted and ready.
Research the Facts
Know exactly why you’re leaving, especially if you’re unsure. It is normal to be confused, worried, or even scared to death. This feeling will pass eventually, as you begin to broaden your circle of friends and associations. If you are unsure of your findings, cross reference the facts until you’re sure beyond a doubt that you’re ready to leave. This may happen right after reading one piece of evidence that confirms your need to leave. For some, the research can take significantly longer.
Continue Enlarging Your Network
Keep building your circle with others who you identify with, and who have been down this road. Leaving a cult isn’t something everyone understands. Find those who do on online forums. Build a trust with others. Don’t automatically assume everyone is out to get you. Chances are, they’re fighting a battle of their own. Continue adding new friends, and make some phone calls. Talking on the phone is a good way to really hear someone else’s situation as well as sharing your own.
Make the Plan: Set a Date
Give yourself some time, and set a date in the future. I’m not saying next week or two weeks. Give yourself a lot of time, and if you happen to leave before that time, then you’ll be that much further ahead. A timeline of 6 months or even a year may seem like a long time. But, if in a month you decide you’re ready, you’ll know you beat your deadline by 11 months. If you must wait 12 months, you’ll have plenty of time to begin seeing things as they really are the more you research and grow your network of new friends and contacts. By the time your deadline comes, you should be ready.
Repercussions of Lost Family or Friends
If you are in a cult such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Scientology which shuns former members, you may have to face the facts. You cannot make others leave, nor can you make them change, see the light and follow you out the door. Leaving a cult is painful and your losses will hurt. There’s no denying that. However, you must continue to remind yourself that if you stay for the wrong reasons, you’ll regret and resent it that much more in two years, possibly causing more pain. Tell your family how much you love them. Write letter about your feelings once you’re out, and don’t be afraid to send it. You have a right to express human love. Unless you’re told to discontinue contact, you should remind the family who is still in, that you love them. Even if it’s by hand written letter. You may have quite a time resigning yourself to the fact that you must accept that others are also affected by the cult. They may leave someday, or they may not. You can’t make that decision for them. Don’t get attached to the outcome that they too, will get out if they’ll just listen. Understand that they have not gotten to where you are and realised that it is ok to continue to love people who leave the group. This is why it’s called a cult. No one knows they’re in it as long as they’re defending it.
Don’t Let The Cult Control Your Moves
If the group demands you to make up your mind, remember:
You have freedom to make choices. You’re an adult and you don’t need to be told what to do and when to do it.
Once you make the decision to leave, you may write a letter asking the church to give you time to think and be alone. Let them know that when you’re ready to discuss the matter further, you’ll be the first to let them know. However, in the meantime, it would be considered detrimental to your spiritual health if you were to be contacted with excessive questions which you’re not prepared to answer until you’ve had further time to think. If the congregation is warned not to contact you until further notice, then they have to abide by your wishes, lest they be told they’re harassing you. Stand firm and know that you have the right to peace of mind and calmness. No one has the right to stalk you or harass you. Violation of these things are likely grounds for arrest. That is why there are laws against people invading your space against your advising them not to. You don’t need to be rude. Politely ask them to give you your privacy until further notice, when you have sorted things out.
Pray, and Pray More.
The Lord knows what you’re going through. It is quite possible He is giving you the key you need to get out. If you’re not a believer, then you’ll likely feel no desire to pray. However, if you’re doubting, then now is the time to pour your heart out to the Lord and ask Him to give you the following:
- Wisdom & Patience
- Compassion for other victims, whom may not know they’re victims
- Faith that the Lord’s Will will be done.
The Lord is all knowing and all powerful. He knew that you’d be dealing with these things long before you did. He knows of your strengths and weaknesses, and He loves you all the same. Seek truth in Him and follow a path that leads to Christ. If you’re angry, ask the Lord to remove the anger, and sooth your pain. Continue persevering. Press forward at all times. Leave the biggest issues up to the Lord to handle. You’re no match for His strength and power. Remember the words of the Lord when He said “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay. ” The vengeance is up to the Lord. He will do the punishing of anyone who has intentionally misled you, hurt you or caused you pain.
Those who hurt the sheep of the Lord will be dealt with accordingly. The Lord sees a bird fall from a tree. How much moreso can He see your suffering? Let Him love whom He will love, and punish whom He will punish. Continue forward knowing that your faith need not end here, but only be strengthened based on a promise of the Lord, which says that He will hold His chosen ones in His hands, and no one will snatch them out. – John 10:25-30.
Lay your burdens upon the Lord and He will comfort you.
See the Jehovah’s Witnesses category on the menu for more information on the way the religion operates. Also, if you are a Jehovah’s Witness, please go here for a book suggestion.
Need a new bible but don’t know which one to get? Visit the Best Bibles page.
More on Cults: Learn more from International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)