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Emotional Healing

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Emotional Healing:

Former members of a destructive religious cult describe their journey out of the group as an "emotional roller coaster". Some experience heightened emotions under circumstances that do not warrant emotional distress, causing severe anxiety. Some have difficulty calming themselves after being upset or suppressing negative emotions. In more severe cases, former members experience the wrong emotion for certain situations, making them wonder if they are losing mental faculties. These are signs of emotional dysregulation (ED), and are a result of the abusive nature of the cult they escaped.

Former cult members without psychiatric disorders develop ED after years of manipulation. Cult manipulation can be very traumatic over long periods of time, and similar to victims of child neglect or abuse, cult members experience both confusing and controlled emotions. It should come as no surprise that ED is associated with the experiences of all forms of abuse. When subjected to years of emotional manipulation and control, the brain becomes accustomed to improper emotional response. Worse, the trauma experienced when leaving a cult can worsen ED, making the former member mistakenly believe they suddenly developed the symptoms.

Understanding emotional control and manipulation is a critical part of healing for former cult members. Without manipulating emotions of the group, it would be very difficult for cult leaders to influence and control thoughts and behavior. By breaking down emotions to child-like responses, cult leaders can suppress critical thought. Recognizing emotional control can feel like a "sanity check" for former members, because they can easily identify the emotional response the cult used to indoctrinate them in specific areas. Whether the cult leader appealed to their emotions with stories of great sorrow, or angered them into becoming violently opposed to certain ideologies, memories of emotions are long-lasting.