Genuine love is a deep and profound experience. It is the glue that bonds people to each other and nourishes them on a level that has no competition with anything else in life.
Most people get to experience genuine love within their family of origin, which is maintained throughout their life. Most people also enjoy genuine love with their friends and many get to experince it with a life partner.
Belonging to a cult destroys the fabric of genuine love. Firstly if a person joins as an adult, the cult will systematically do it’s best to destroy the relationships a person has with people outside of the group. This will focus especially on the people the person has the strongest bonds with. One way in which a cult facilitates this disconnection is to create an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Those belonging to cults come to believe that people outside of the cult do not understand what those inside the cult do. Depending on the ideology of the cult, will impact how this is presented.
Parents with adult children in cults, can come to be significantly concerned about their child’s engagement and are extra challenging when conversing. This can give fuel to the fire of disconnection that is happening between them. The cult will use the challenging exchange as further evidence that people outside of the group do not understand, increasing alienation.
Genuine love is also difficult to experience inside the cult. Certainly, the leader does not experience genuine love for their devotees and followers. They may claim that they do, but it is a facade to gain needed compliance. It is possible for people to feel genuine love for their leader, as well as others in the group and this can and will be exploited. However, even within the group people can be alienated from each other, despite this genuine love being felt. Leaders want power and control of their followers and this includes control of all relationships a person has, inside and out.
Unfortunately, the genuine love that might exist between people belonging to a cult can and generally will come to an abrupt end, if a person leaves. This can cause significant trauma for both people still inside the cult and the person who has left. The grief can be overwhelming.
Outside the cult, a person then has the journey of recovering pre-cult relationships, if they so desire. If a person is blessed enough to have had friends and family that genuinely love them, they can find they are embraced with open arms and relief. This does not mean the journey is always easy. There can be significant hurt that has been caused and if family and friends do not understand what their loved one has experienced, education can be critical during this restoration period.
The rebuilding of important pre-cult relationships can take time. An ex-cultist can experience many different things, including painful emotions of humiliation, shame and guilt. Depending on the exit route out they might not even know what has even happened to themselves, let alone be able to explain it to others.
Building new friendships and connections can also be difficult. For many people who have belonged to cults, their ability to trust has been seriously impacted. It can be very helpful to meet others that have been through a similar experience.
There are many aspects to recovery and experiencing genuine love can be extremely healing. In my own personal recovery, I feel very blessed. My bonds with my family members before I entered a cult were very strong. Rebuilding my friendships with pre-cult friends have taken longer, but the more this happens, the more connected I feel and my heart nourished. I have also now made significant bonds with new friends. Some of these friends understand what I have experienced and some have no idea. The common denominator is that genuine love is experienced.
In cults, each member has to follow the ‘party line’, views that are not in alignment with the rhetoric will not be accepted, will be challenged in unhealthy ways and removed from the environment. A person will also become brainwashed with the cult’s version of reality and can come to passionately believe it is true. Outside of cults, when there is genuine love, dialogue can happen and people can hold opposing views and still be in loving connection.
For a long time, I spent years feeling afraid to dialogue. I still felt shame for having some of the thoughts that I had and the brainwashing I had been through was alive and kicking. Even now, it can still a challenge, but I encourage myself to express myself and sit with the vulnerabilities that can occur through this process.
Genuine love allows this to happen. Genuine love gives people strength. Genuine love is a healing balm and I am extremely grateful for its presence in my life.
My hope is that all people exiting the destructive grip of a cult can come to experience this genuine love and the healing power that is at its core. I believe it is a significant part of recovery.