Message Cult Mind Control - Simulated Happiness:
One of the most surprising milestones after having started deprogramming is when a normal (non-cult) friend tells you, "You look so much different lately. You look much happier." At first, this feels uncomfortable to an ex-cult member. Did they not look happy in the cult? Not aware of the cult identity that was implanted into their personality, many ex-cult members leave thinking they will be the same person as before, minus the cult. But this is not the case, especially for those who were in a mind control cult for a long period of time.
Many have embraced this. Of the many testimonies we've received, outlook on life is a common theme. Most ex-cult members are happier, but it is much more than that. Without the invisible walls of the cult, they are excited to experience life. They, too, do not fully understand what it means when someone tells them that they look happier. Still thinking they experienced the same happiness in the cult, they misunderstand the comment's deeper meaning.
The most attractive quality of a cult is the "community" it creates. An unhealthy level of closeness surrounds each member, other cult members becoming more than family. These are the elite, the chosen ones, the community. Even if the cult gathering places cannot be literally called "communes," invisible walls of the community keep them captive just the same. And in such an environment, "happiness" does not look the same.
Through group psychology, the cult identity is fed just as much by other members of the cult as it is the leader. When they perform well according to the cult's doctrine, others in the group give them praise. When they fail to perform, other in the group give them scorn. Over time and by experience, the cult identity begins to form its own sense of "happiness" based on performance. And deeply integrated with the authentic self, the cult identity begins to suppress any opposing feelings. Internally at war with each other, the cult identity usually wins the emotional battle. The cult identity says it is happy, which overpowers many feelings of sadness or loneliness by the authentic self.
Often, this internal conflict is visible on the outside. Friends notice the sadness in the eyes or lines of the face, even when the cult identity is telling the cult victim that they are "happy." And while there are times the authentic self is truly happy, those times may not be as frequent as the false sense of happiness created through good performance according to the cult.
One of the most attractive qualities of cult life is the sense of community it fosters. The love seems to be unconditional and unlimited at first, and new members are swept away by a honeymoon of praise and attention. But after a few months, as the person becomes more enmeshed, the flattery and attention are turned away, toward newer recruits. Most members continue to believe that the group has the "highest level" of love on earth. However, experientially, the cult member learns that in the group, love is not unconditional, but depends on good performance. Behaviors are controlled through rewards and punishments. Competitions are used to inspire and shame members into being more productive. If things aren't going well— if there is poor recruitment, or unfavorable media coverage, or defections— it is always individual members' fault, and their ration of "happiness" will be withheld until the problem is corrected. In
- Steven Hassan. Combating Cult Mind Control
Stay tuned for more!
Combating Cult Mind Control (Second Edition): http://amzn.to/1NCnN45
Profile of "The Message" on Freedom Of Mind Resource Center: https://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=883&title=The_Message