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Understanding Identity Transformation

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Understanding Identity Transformation:

When a person first joins a religious cult, there is a feeling of euphoria. Unaware they are subjecting themselves to long-term control and manipulation by the central figure, or that their identity will slowly shift to match the cult identity, they find themselves amazed at the like-mindedness of other members. Mistaking the group mindset for a group of people who are individually of one accord, new recruits feel as though they have stumbled upon a utopian society instead of a group of people who are forfeiting their own freedom.

The level of closeness in a religious cult is quite appealing at first. As the cult members gradually suppress their individual identities, the likes and dislikes of the central figure gradually become implanted into the cult identity they develop. Subconsciously, the members are aware of the change, and describe their transformation positively to reconcile their loss of individual thought. Using statements such as, "we put off the 'old man' so that we could take on the 'new man'" or "our 'old selves' have been washed away, and now we are brand new" are used to reconcile their suppression of individual identity and acceptance of the cult identity they have developed. Those who have undergone the transformation encourage new recruits to do the same.

When cult members awaken and begin to make their escape, they are suddenly confused as to why they joined. The individual identity no longer suppressed, their individual thoughts and convictions become more dominant than the thoughts and convictions of the cult identity they developed. Yet many of their individual thoughts and convictions are in direct conflict with cult doctrine. This presents a problem when they encounter cult members who are in "one accord" on subjects that conflict with their personal convictions. Former cult members regain individuality only to learn that an entire group of people are being unknowingly programmed to disagree.