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Boundaries That Heal

Seek The Truth Blog

Boundaries That Heal:

Leaving a religious cult requires a great deal of courage. There are many obstacles to overcome, both mentally and physically. Once a person leaves, however, their journey is far from finished. It has only just begun. Former cult members will often say that it required more strength during their first year of freedom than it took to walk away.

Those with immediate family who have not yet awakened face the greatest challenge. They realize that in many cases, cult members will eventually be faced with a choice: the former cult member or the cult itself. Some religious cults practice ex-communication or "shunning", separating families. Others, even without realizing it, use other methods to make the former cult member feel inferior or pressured to return. From subtle jabs to insults, they suddenly find themselves the target of verbal or emotional abuse.

This presents a delicate situation. The abusive cult member often cannot help themselves; they are also a victim. Their abusive response to the conflict is a direct result of the battle being raged in their minds. While supporting the cult, they want to support the family who has left. Yet the cult has presented a black-and-white framework that does not allow both.

At the same time, the former cult member must stand against the abuse. No matter how small it may seem at the time, abuse without boundaries will increase until boundaries are established. Many cult members, especially the women, are uncomfortable taking a stand against verbal or emotional abuse. After years of being controlled by an abusive cult leader, most have been programmed to suppress the emotions that come from verbal attack. Setting boundaries in this situation is not simply a last line of defense; it is also a first line of reconciliation. By establishing what is off-limits, a former cult member can establish what is allowed. This provides healing by removing abuse while welcoming common ground.