Recovery Info for Exiters
(Understanding our Involvement)
The following contains info for those who have exited Worldwide Church of God or any of its splinter groups such as Philadelphia Church of God, Living Church of God, Restored Church of God, etc. It is a transcription of an audio tape by L. A. Stuhlman, founder of ESN, and is very helpful for survivors who need help recovering from any high-demand, abusive religious organization and to understand what these groups are all about.
NOTE: Please realize that the word "cult" (which was common when this was written) is used in the context of a totalitarian, deceitful, abusive, and mind-manipulating organization which has caused spiritual, emotional, and psychological harm to those involved.Also read: Recovery After Exiting a Spiritually Abusive Group (Covers thought reform, manipulation, coercion, deception, peer pressure, guilt, fear, phobias and threat tactics used by the group leader)
Update: In April 2009, Worldwide Church of God changed their name in the United States to Grace Communion International. (Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.)
The Healing Process
The healing process takes time; it's not easy. I don't want you to think that it is something that you are just going to fly through--but it works. You must take the personal steps to repair your life and to get back on the right track and the results will be positive. And at the end of all that, there will be a positive about even your involvement with Worldwide. I didn't say a lot of positives, but there will be a positive. There will be a different strength that you never would have acquired without this experience. As each day passes, and the more you educate your personal life, truly, about what this is all about, you'll be amazed to see how closed your eyes were. And when I say "your," of course, I'm talking about all of the victims that were in Worldwide.
You're also not alone. You are joined by millions of people. Unfortunately, they're not able to tap into you and vice versa, because of the whole way the system is set up, but you are not alone and there are people and organizations and ample help available in every category. So your case is not a lost cause. You'll begin to know that, yes, you have to take steps, but you won't have to be lonely anymore. Actually, you have already taken a very important step. You've trusted. Many people cannot even pick up a pencil to write their thoughts on paper and you were able to do that. Trust is one of the violating categories we just have to deal with when we come out of a "cult" and I'm going to explain what a "cult" is very shortly.
So, in essence, you have taken on a very difficult task, one of the most difficult tasks you'll perform in your lifetime and that is exiting an organization that controls you. It takes great strength just to allow your mind to question, to think after the intensive programming you have been under, so let's start by crediting yourself. That's not something you are used to doing either. Credit yourself for the part that you played in getting where you are now. You're far beyond where you were a year ago, even though you feel like, every night before you close your eyes, "I'm just a total mess-up." I can say that because that's the way everyone feels upon this process, but you have gained much strength to make your exit even in the level of where you may personally be at.
There are several parts to the healing process. I don't mean to sound like it is a rigid type of "program" and everybody has to follow the same regime, but I am going to lay it out in simplified fashion. We are all very individual, very different, and different thinking areas. You must be able to do your education the way it works for you, and you have to take the time you need to make it work for you also. Don't feel rushed and preoccupied and anxiety provoked. You've had enough of all that. What you want to do is something each day to move your personal life ahead.
I've included in with this tape, of course, a packet. The packet has several information sheets. Do not get overwhelmed by this and do not fear any of the information. It's not going to program you into thinking a certain way. There are many different handouts. [Note: Many of these handouts have been posted on ESN's website today in the form of articles.] Some of them are different authors and different books, different professionals in the field of cult awareness from psychiatrists, doctors; articles; just a varied amount of information from the different organizations that I'll be talking about like Cult Awareness Network2 or Cult Clinic; a copy of the Ambassador Report3 and there is a book listing, a very important book listing and I'll refer to it throughout this tape.
This packet you have there in front of you literally has taken way over a year just to gather the type of information and put it together. Soon a guideline book will be written (that is in the process of being written by me now, it called "The Guideline to Exiting Worldwide") and much of this will be incorporated into that book in a simplified form. The important thing is that you know how to tap into the resources available to you, and that you feel comfortable in picking up the telephone or putting your pen on paper and contacting these people and saying, "Help. Please help me."
I'm very aware that we all have stumbling blocks, especially after the intensive programming we've all endured, some of us for four years, some of us for thirty years. But that's why there's also help to pick up and say you can do it. You can make that call, you can follow through. A big problem with many ex-Worldwiders is the fact that they are not used to reading. So if this is something that is part of you, I'm going to say, try hard to focus in on reading and realize that you can't really escape it. You've got to do this part of the education to grow to the next area. Everything isn't put on tape, so you've got to put some emphasis on the fact that you are going to school right now and the school is you; it's you, for yourself.
Feelings You May Be Experiencing:
As I go through some of these areas, don't think that all of this is your problem, because it's not. We're all very different and you have to access your own self as to where you fit and what your plan will be as far as healing. Most of you experience some of the following feelings: depression, anger, violation of your human rights, exploitation of your life, rage, disconnection from family and friends, loneliness, heartbroken, shameful. You may feel stupid, responsible for your life or your family for having made "decisions" you think you made. You may feel just downright terrible about yourself for "going off track," not to mention the fact that, if you haven't exited yet, fearful of being shunned, and if you have exited, you've been shunned. So you have that to look forward to. On top of all of that, you're dealing with a flood of emotions and thoughts in your head from: "If I leave this church, I'm going to die in the lake of fire," "If I disobey the authorities, God will punish me." In the head you're thinking, "Break the law and the law will break you." Need I go on? I could fill up twenty tapes on just certain sayings that are going through your head. These are just a few of the feelings, by the way, that you may be experiencing.
I would suggest that you keep your private book, your own private little writing book that is all yours and write thoughts down as they come into your mind. Bad experiences, write them down. Write down the adjectives that you feel that are attached to you, such as the ones I've just mentioned. Put them by your name. What is it that you are feeling about yourself? I highly suggest that you start to write and then sometimes when we talk, or you maybe want to send me a tape or write, you'll have some thoughts on paper. Also, as you go through this whole process, you are going to start having a flood of memories occurring, and you should put these memories down. Certain things people said to you, certain situations that you've run into with the ministers. All of these things are called flags. They were flags before that you didn't recognize, but you are going to start to see these flags vividly as you start to heal. Your memory is going to come back and with that memory, your thinking is going to start to come back. One of the areas that was "attacked" in your well-being was your critical thinking skills. Cults go right for the critical thinking skills immediately. They want you to stop thinking and they have all the programming in place to make you stop thinking and to obey.
Okay, I've outlined a few steps. These steps are subject to change because I'm still modifying and putting a precise introductory program together, and this is somewhat the beginning tape, so bear with me on a few things. And I might change the order.
Awareness That You Were a Victim:
Step number one is awareness that you were a victim4. You're a victim of programming, mind control; "brainwashing". You're a victim of propaganda. You were recruited into an organization that was not on your game or goal plan five years prior to your entering that, overnight as it may seem, changed your entire life. There was a reason for this. WCG involvement was not your fault. You were coerced by all of those different techniques and you were also hypnotized.5 And then you were coerced with fear and threatening statements and threatening phobias. Your hands were basically tied. Let's talk about how that happened.
I'm sure the words "programming," "mind control," and "propaganda" are foreign words to you, and even if you have heard them, you're probably not aware of what it is and how it operates in society, let alone Worldwide. As you progress in your research and education, it will become more clear to you and you'll be able to see exactly how you were personally a victim. What do I mean by "victim"? You were walking down a street on a clear, sunny day and you were pulled into the back of a building, beaten, raped, robbed--you name it. Was it your fault? Would it have been your fault? No. Your were a victim. Notice, I said if you weren't walking in a dark alley. You took all the right precautions: daylight, sunny street--but you were still attacked. That's what a victim is. You were vulnerable because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You were a victim of chance. There are several reasons as to why you may have been vulnerable at the time and we'll discuss that shortly.
Number two step is to understand what a cult is. "Cult" is a very threatening, scary word. And there is never a member in any cult that wants to know they're in a cult. It's just not the kind of thing where people walk down the street and say, "Oh, did you hear? I'm in a new cult today." No, this is a major occurrence in our society today. Education on cults and cultic development is minimal and it is threatening society.
The word "cult" means different things to different people and many often think a cult is some crazy satanic group that does bizarre rituals. Well, that is just one kind of cult. There are 3,000 cults in America. That's right, 3,000. And 600 of them are just like Worldwide. They're Bible-based cults. When I say they are just like Worldwide, they operate in the same type of fashion, they do the same type of operation with programming and propaganda, and they have the same dogmatic, authoritative approach. And what is that approach? "We are the one true church, everybody else is a satanic offshoot," "We are God's government," "We are God's true apostles," "We are God's true instructors, instruments, ministers," "God is leading His church," "Everybody else is wrong." That is exactly what 600 other cults teach their membership. Is Worldwide the biggest? No. It's questionable what the membership is these days, but it hovers around the 8500 mark. Jehovah's Witnesses has millions. That's right, Jehovah's Witnesses is a sister cult. Very similar type of organization, and we were programmed to know that they were a cult and that they were fooled. Jehovah's Witnesses was mentioned many times in Worldwide. Operations such as the Moonies, [International] Church of Christ, these are all considered very strong cults and there are 600 more. So your research will help you in understanding you're just one of many. Plus, they're also big business. It's a great way to make a lot money and have a lot of power.
Another word for "cult" (probably even better to use) is: abusive, controlling, aberrant group; authoritative in its authority and totalistic in their thinking and their approach. This is what a cult is. What's the difference between all churches and cults? A lot. You are free to think in this world, you're given free will. A church is a group and organization where people with similar beliefs that come together and worship and what have you. They're not thrown in the lake of fire if they leave that organization, or they are not told they will be thrown in the lake of fire. A cult gives you dogmatic doctrines (hundreds of them), changes your behavior in life, mandates that you think act and do exactly as you're specified; otherwise, you'll have to reap the repercussions; in other words, you reap what you sow. A cult operates from the top down--the authority, the pyramid, "God's government plan." You're not allowed to go over anyone's head, particularly the minister's. You're not allowed to question.
There are many types of cults: Bible-based; business cults; multi-level marketing companies; self-help cults; industry cults. This is a religion cult. What else does a religion cult do? It takes the name of God and it takes the product of religion and distorts it for personal use, power and money. That's the very unfortunate situation. This is why the healing process, education, is so important because the innocent victims of Worldwide joined an organization--oh, see, but they didn't join--they were recruited into an organization with big hearts to do everything "God's way" in the name of God and they changed their life for it. They were made to believe that this was the only way. A whole image of what God is, what your relationship with God is supposed to be, and what God's rules and laws were, were incorporated slowly as part of your life and before you knew it your total behavior was wrapped around what a man said God was. The other thing Bible-based cults do is distort the Bible in a terrific way. Now how could that be? Doesn't the Bible interpret the Bible, as HWA would say? Well, the Bible doesn't interpret the Bible. HWA interpreted the Bible very, very well and convinced thousands to send him a lot of money. So these are the things that one has to deal with in exiting.
Education is Important
We have to learn to separate the spiritual part that's still within you and sort out the process of a hard-core business, and a corrupt business. Bible-based cults fill you very, very much with heavy doctrine and one of the reasons is if you can change the behavior, thinking will always follow. So if you can be made to worship on certain days--and I'm not saying anything against the Sabbath--or if you can be made to act a certain way, be it foot washing, be it following a yearly calendar schedule (such as the holy day schedule that Herbert Armstrong devised), then you will naturally, eventually change your thinking. That's called "mind control." This is why you must study mind control.
What I am saying about Bible-based cults, their victims are left with an array of problems and unless these things are sorted out, in understanding, unless the lies are answered, both problems remain with victims for the rest of their lives. So basically, we all have a choice when we leave Worldwide. It's hopeful when we find some avenue of help and then we utilize whatever help is available to us to heal.
Their Goal is to Control:
I mentioned that cults are very big business; multi-billion dollar business in America alone and all cults operate on the same sort of foundation. Their goal is to control. So once they gain control. they take over the will of person and that will is usually taken over in a way of "Give up your will, it is not your will, it is God's will." You see, that's how the Bible starts to get distorted because you can read passages that seemingly say something in that fashion and then Bible-based cults capitalize on what the Bible says in a whole different fashion and then apply it to their own personal goal and aim.
Your identity is lost, it starts to get repressed. After you have taken on the new identity--the cult identity--you start to get repressed as far as who you are and what your personal goals were in life and where you were going.
Authority becomes very important because, of course, you know that "God is the head of all of this." And I want to interject here a thought for you to remember if you've never read the book, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. This is what we're talking about here. Your thinking is taken over before you have realized it and you are manipulated--all victims are manipulated through coercion and through trickery tactics, such as the ones we've mentioned. And then, of course, the programming is usually settled with great fear, so you're afraid to move, you've afraid to speak, afraid to jump out. And once you're in, which could be indoctrinated in a matter of weeks, once you've seen the television program, and it's all geared toward your way of thinking at that time. "Wow! They are saying things that make sense." Well, of course, that's what propaganda is, it seemed to make sense. All the people who saw the videos, the movies, or were told about the paradise under Hitler's regime; the trains, thinking they were going to a wonderful land, a wonderful paradise, great things for them, and they ended up in an incinerator. You see, that's propaganda.
"Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise" ~ Adolf Hitler
Cults operate on a Hitler type of thinking. So I don't want to say anything that makes you think, "Wow! This is really wild stuff." It isn't, it's very basic. That's the sad part. Once you start to learn that the big Worldwide out there is no easy street, then we kind of realize why we got into the little Worldwide. Life is tough with a lot of hard knocks and the cults basically provide the need, sell the need, to an individual who is vulnerable at that time and then creates an environment--a safe environment if you will--away from the big Worldwide. So it's a cyclic type of thing and it becomes addictive.
You Were Vulnerable:
There is a cult for everyone. It has nothing to do with intelligence; it has nothing to do with your education, personality. It doesn't matter. If the organization is saying something that you can relate to at that time in life, then you can easily be a victim. Some of the best professionals and authors in the world have been victims of cults, so rule out right away that you just were dumb, or stupid, or made a bad decision. You were recruited as a victim; you were vulnerable. You are probably vulnerable in one of the following categories.
At the time of recruitment you may have been depressed; upset with life; a traumatic event may have happened; you may have been recovering from a death with someone close to you. One of any events that could have happened to you that triggered you to almost move into an escape kind of way or look to God in a savior type of way. You may have had an abusive background. A good portion of cultic victims have had abusive backgrounds: dysfunctional families, dysfunctional childhood in any respect; physical, emotional or sexual abuse in the background.1 Cults run by abuse. Abuse feeds on abuse. These are not things we know, so therefore, we are not responsible for how we're going to do it. Of course, we're going to make wrong decisions because we're not knowing what we're doing, but when we're victims of abuse, sometimes we feel more comfortable in that abusive situation.
Another reason could have been, life was just going along fine, but you were inquisitive, a searcher, a seeker; you probably were very creative and looking for answers about life and God and "How did this all start?" Any of these reasons are what cults--or should I bring it down now to what Herbert Armstrong--was looking for when he recruited you, if you are an older member. The last seven years, we're still looking for the same thing, but we're in a new decade and we'll talk about that in a second.
Herbert Armstrong Was Skilled in Propaganda:
Herbert Armstrong was an exceptional salesman; he was a slick advertiser and he has a very slick background. And these are the things you are not taught. He was extremely authoritative and he had a Hitler type of approach. (Note: HWA studied Adolph Hitler's methods of mind control and crowd control in Mein Kampf.) That's a fact. These are not my opinions I am sharing with you. Your education about Herbert Armstrong and the history of the church will reveal to you an awful lot about this organization. Herbert Armstrong knew how to play the media, he was very skilled in propaganda and the techniques of propaganda. Propaganda became very big within the country starting around the 30s. It's been around since the 1800s, but it started to really take an increase around the 30s and 40s. Herbert knew how to jump right in there and capitalize on it. He used the mass media, as other organizations did, and he used a viable product: God. And God, being "fear of the unknown," really makes people listen.
So he put together a clean package; he took and studied other cults; for instance, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons and he borrowed--we'll use the word "borrowed"--most of their doctrinal system. [Note: For evidence of this, see chapter 3, pt. 2 and chapter six of ESN's critical review of Mystery of the Ages (search for the word "Watchtower") and chapter two of the same review (search for the words "Latter Day Saints").] It stems from the Millerite organization in the 1800s. He did a lot of research there, and if you notice in the pack, there's some information that will help you with a timeline where Armstrong's organization started and how it fit it. So take a good look at this and there are other references available about the history of the church. You have to really understand what the origins were. You were, of course, taught that it was this Bible church that was Mumford and Rhode Island and all that hoopla. That's hoopla...and you're going to have to understand that that's not true.
I think one thing that's important to know is when Herbert Armstrong started, his wife was legitimately involved with a cultic organization. She was involving herself in that whole line of Adventism there; following all these new dogmatic doctrines, and Herbert Armstrong learned very quickly how money could be made and how easily people's minds can be taken over and changed. And one thing grew into another. He also branched off with British-Israelism. You can remember The Lost Ten Tribes and how much that was pounded and, of course, that was the most publicized publication.
How Propaganda Works:
Propaganda works in several ways. First of all, you must have faith in the organization or the person, the propaganda. You have to really have faith that they are telling the truth. Get it? Faith, faith, faith. Number two, propaganda works through repetition. And what were you always told? Repetition is the best form of learning. Well, you're right, Herbert Armstrong had some truth. He did and he told many of those "truths" in a propaganda type of way. So again, unless someone was skilled and educated to be able to see through this--and of course, there are those who were and walked away and didn't come in--you get sucked right in, especially when one thinks, "Well, God called me? I'm the special one? I'll not see physical death? Christ is going to come in my lifetime? And look at the reward in the Kingdom." See the rainbow?
That's just a brief synopsis of how it works, it's not stated to offend anyone. I just want you to understand that your education is so important and if I sound like a repetitious, broken record, I guess that is really important for me to get across to you that you have to continue here.
Let me mention here about indoctrination. Cults indoctrinate their victims. What is indoctrination? It is a constant pounding and teaching of a belief system until you believe it. Then you're indoctrinated. What is doctrine? Forms of belief, all man-made, of course. Something borrowed from the Bible in many given areas to be twisted and put into place so that the desired results can be had. Indoctrination goes on slowly, repeatedly, constantly. Left hooks, if you will, are thrown in place. For instance an example of that would be the Pastor General's letter to the membership--usually it's two or three letters--crying for money or pleading or dogmatic about obeying and then there's a light letter. That's the pattern. A light letter might be, "How wonderful you are and things and great and our income is looking better." And then you have three more letters of heaviness.
So indoctrination is guilt; it's a heavy ploy here that's always being worked under lying. And indoctrination works so well that it would have, in Worldwide, led a lot of people to Petra. [Read: Memories About Petra] Think about that. And most people coming out of Worldwide say, "Well, I never would have gone to Petra." And I'm here to tell you that you probably would have, at whatever point in your indoctrination you were most drawn, that God specially called you, you would have obeyed every rule.
And at this point, I would like to mention Waco. The Davidians were basically brothers of Worldwide. If you look on the chart, you will see David Koresh and where the organization broke off with the Millerites. They were also from the Adventist family and their indoctrination and doctrine program was very similar to Worldwide's. [More info is found at this part in: "An Open Letter to our Acquaintances in Worldwide Church of God" by L. A. Stuhlman] All of these organizations, apocalyptic organizations, are basically the same church, but a different pew.
A lot of the incredible ways of healing is understanding about these other churches. That way people are protected before running into another cult and 80% of exiters run into other cults. That's a very strong statistic. And they are able to see truth (if I may use that word for what it is) because they can compare all the organizations who say the same thing. My personal exit letter was twenty-one pages and inside that exit letter I talked about Waco. Waco was extremely significant for our family when it was occurring. Worldwide Church of God never mentioned Waco in any of its publications. You see, that was the flare right there that certain things they stay completely away from. For instance, they never really mentioned the total evangelist uprising in the mid `80s with Swaggart and what have you, because they certainly didn't want to forecast upon themselves.
Also, keep in mind that there are over 500 cult watching organization out there and these cult watching organizations, all of them know about Worldwide as a cult. But there are specific reasons why Worldwide is labeled as a very destructive cult, many of which I have gone through, and the rest will fit in as you study. It is no secret that Worldwide is what it is; however, it was a secret to the victims who were in it. It was a secret to us because we were indoctrinated to turn our backs from any opposing literature, that it was dissident and satanic. That is a phobia that is instilled in the head right in the beginning of recruitment: "Put down the literature, don't touch, don't look, everything is of Satan, except we're the only one from God." So immediately your first choice, under the Amendment if you will, is taken away from you by an organization who strips the Amendment and utilizes it and peruses it for freedom to think in religious rights and uses it against people. And has gone as far as, unfortunately, to kill thousands of people through the healing doctrine, that they knew was fake.
Drawing on Your Strength and Self-Will:
The next step is to draw on your original strength and self-will. That has been lying within you through all your WCG involvement years. You can get it back. There was a certain you before you joined Worldwide and that "you" is still in there, it didn't go away, it's not lost. Now you just have to tap into that. You were a different person, a different personality, even if you don't think you were, you were. [Note: If you were born or raised in the WCG or its authoritarian splinter groups, your real personality was stifled, but it is possible to heal from that. Read: Am I Only a Pseudo Personality?]
Controlling organizations, cults like Worldwide (or controlling offshoots such as Philadelphia Church of God), leave many damaging effects on our mental state due to the type of coercion and propaganda that the victims are victimized with. Some of these problems are as follows and again, don't get overwhelmed and think, "Oh no, I'm a mess." I just want you to be aware of some of this type of problem and again, there's many therapeutic books. I will be able to help you, as you think what is your need; I'll be able to maybe steer you into a particular direction or guide you with several different publications or organizations that could help you personally with problems.
Some of the Effects of Cultic Involvement:
These are some of the problems: depression (a large range of depression); isolation; loneliness; very low self-esteem [self-worth]; inability to make decisions; inability to think; suicidal feelings; inability to proceed with life; dissociative illnesses (basically trancing out, blanking out, not being able to focus, not being able to hold onto jobs; disconnecting with your mental state); severe personality disorders; minor personality disorders; situations like multiple personality disorder where we end up taking on several personalities. And yes, Worldwide has many personality disorders. To give you an example, many of you had relationships. Yes, your relationships and friendships were cult deep and you'll learn that when you leave, when you're shunned.
But you sometimes could see these people and you'd label them, "What a hypocrite." "Where's the love? What a hypocrite." Well, on the Sabbath that person who walked in was not necessarily a hypocrite, but one of the personalities When he'd go home, he'd have his other personality. Cultic involvement increases the chances of going into altered states and situations that are very strong. [Note: Altered states of mind and personality can happen quickly or gradually in these groups. Refer to the book, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change by Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman.]
They also foster phobias, lots of phobias. What's a phobia? Fear. [Note: Read more about how WCG used fear phobia induction.] Fear of what? Fear of Armageddon; lake of fire; leaving ("What will happen if I leave this church? What will God think of me? Will I ever be accounted worthy again? They'll get you.") Fear of trusting; obsessive compulsive disorders; bulimia; anorexia; paranoia; and all levels of psychosis. Again, I stress, don't get overwhelmed; these are just some of the areas of psychiatry and mental situations that every cult victim has to grapple with. Very few--and I have to say my personal opinion is...I don't think anyone leaves a cult unscathed. Some can walk off and get on with their life and there are stories that they are back in another cult or they returned to Worldwide ten years later. If we have been programmed, we must get deprogrammed to function in our life. We are programmed with heavy doctrine. Even though Worldwide has made all these specific changes recently, it doesn't matter, you see. They didn't deprogram all the severe doctrines that they were participating in before. So what they did was just scramble more confusion--and what they are presently doing for their own personal gain and need. (And the next time I maybe send you a tape, or I'll write the strategy for you about what is going on now, but I can't do that on this particular tape for you at this time, only because of the time bind.) Time heals all wounds. You won't forget what you've been through, but you will heal, providing you do the right thing at the right time. I might also say here--you can keep this in mind--time wounds all heels.
Educating Yourself on the Background of WCG:
I say a lot about education. What do I mean? To educate yourself on the background. There are also very specific books that are excellent. On your book listing that I've included (again this will be a more modified book listing in the future and more professional, but use this now, please) it states the Emissary Publication. Emissary Publication has six books--six publications that are excellent. No, you don't have to order all of them. I would suggest, however, The Truth Shall Make You Free, The Armstrong Empire; Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web. This is good. These are all past affiliates of Worldwide. All of these people were members. Joseph Hopkins wrote an excellent book [The Armstrong Empire]. It's out of print, but they have the facsimile (of course, that's a little bit more money) and he was going to be involved one time with Worldwide, but jumped back. [Update: These books are no longer available through Emissary, but ESN now offers three of them in PDF and you can download them here. If you do not have a Facebook account, or would rather they be sent through email, please please email ESN helper: williamhohmann @ sbcglobal (dot) net and request it. See our Booklist for a description and check interlibrary loans and used book stores.]
Your local library, or a bigger library in a bigger town, is filled with some excellent publications. Just look up Herbert W. Armstrong, Worldwide Church of God; check the periodicals; check the New York Times periodicals (you can probably find some interesting information there); check under Garner Ted Armstrong; and just check cult books. Many cult books--many--throughout history have written and included Worldwide Church of God in their books. This is no small matter. People have been reporting on Worldwide for years in a very big way. It was one of the main cults of the country.
Educating Yourself On Mind Manipulating Groups:
The next education is in cults in general. This is an area that people stop short. You see, educating about the background of Worldwide and the corruptness of Worldwide is extremely important; however, you can't stop there because then you're left with the programming of Worldwide still in your head and you were left with a terrible feeling of exploitation because you have learned it was just a joke. The whole thing was baloney. You can't stop there. You've got to finish the process. You've got to understand what a cult is and how cults coerce and change your life and ruin your life. So you must branch out.
You don't have to study 150 cults, but if you get, for instance, Combatting Mind Control. It's so refreshing, if I may say that, to read and understand that other people in other organizations were going through the same thing you have been going through, and they do when they leave. So I cannot stress that enough. It's simplified, it's written for ex-members. And on my booklist I also have Programmed for Paradise by Willa Appel. You can probably get that at the library. That's another good book, talking about some of the physiological problems that go on because we're involved. Yes, cults affect us physically. Don't forget the brain runs the body, but when the brain is affected everything else is to. Very good book. If you have no other books but those three on learning about cults, you're going to be just fine. And on the back of each book and publication, don't forget, there is always bibliographies so they can steer you into something else. All right, you don't have to do a lot, but you have to do something.
Emotional and Spiritual Healing:
The other part of your education has to be on healing (there's two other parts, but it has to go under the category of healing). What do you mean healing? Healing from all those different types of possible diagnoses that you could be walking around with now. And realize that if our mental state is affected, then our families are affected, our lives are affected, our jobs are affected, our future is affected. And you have heard of people being ridiculed for leaving Worldwide and acting like they are way out or crazy or off the deep end. Well, they're not really. They've learned a lot and they don't know how to channel their process. Very difficult.
I have an excellent book that I hope to carry in the future called Recovery From Abusive Groups by Wendy Ford. I highly recommend it. It's worth it. Eventually, I'll have one similar to that, but it will be based on Worldwide and Worldwide's indoctrination and what have you. So please, I urge you to get that book, go through it, and go through that healing process. It will give you so many steps and what to do and how to get back to life again. If you're in a family situation, work it together as a family. There are excellent publications out there about children in cults; how do I tell my children I was in one?
First, remember, having been in a cult is like having been an alcoholic. Basically you stepped off of life. You hid, not by your fault, but you hid under this "drug," so to speak, and now you have to go to "AA."6 In other words, you have to repair yourself, so you've got to be able to except the fact that you were in a cult and then your healing process has a strong start. It's when we have become alcoholics we have to accept the fact that we are an alcoholic and then we have to start the healing process, but it's not until then that we can really start. We can't live in denial.
I also, by the way, have contact with many therapists throughout the country. Some are extremely educated and extremely professional and renowned throughout the country in multi-personality disorders, altered states, post traumatic stress (there is a publication within your packet on post-traumatic stress if you are experiencing any of those types of symptoms). So what I'm saying is that there's healing help available.
What other kind of healing? Spiritual healing. You've been spiritually raped, there's no other way I can say it. You've been used and abused and what you thought was God and religion turned out to be something totally different and you are grappling with that now. You're grabbling with what do you believe in?" You're grappling with "Where do I go from here? Should I just give it all up?" No, this is my recommendation, my personal recommendation. First of all, you're in no shape to plan out your religious, spiritual plan for life and what you're going to believe in. This is where people hop to other cults. They can't handle the fact that they put down the old doctrine that they've been indoctrinated into and then they have to start all over. What I'm saying is that you don't have to start over and you don't have to run to another organization that will be the frying pan into the fire scene.
What you have to do is sit back and relax and chill out. That's part of the healing. Don't think you have to put away God, but realize that the God you knew was through the doors of Worldwide and the Bible tells you directly to go straight through His doors. So you have gone through tremendous abuse being told how God operates, how He believes and what He expects of you and God made you like a snowflake. You're all very different; we're all extremely different and He relates to us to us that way too.
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, I highly recommend it. Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, you may find that at your bookstore. And then, of course, there's Scripture Twisting by James Sire.
These are all nominal prices, but you paid dearly into Worldwide, as I interject here. You have paid dearly into Worldwide financially and with your life. You cannot now heal without having to pay something. This is minimal what your costs are going to be for gathering up your educational materials, but please don't discount that. Trust the fact that there is some good healing material out there.
I also recommend the book by Beverly Engel called The Emotionally Abused Woman (and I also recommend it for men, by the way). It's in learning about emotional abuse and the devastating impact that it has on our lives will help you to understand what you've been involved with in Worldwide and why we allow ourselves as people to be treated certain ways. It's an easy to read book, it's inexpensive and again, I recommend it. [Note: A new book by Engel is entitled, Encouragements for the Emotionally Abused Woman.]
There's about a thousand books on the market on cults. [See our Booklist for a few titles]. This is a very small listing. It's basically just streamlined so you can have a good handle on where you're going and how you're going to get there and where you've been. And you can certainly broaden your horizon by looking at the bibliographies, tapping into the resources right here.
And I will also mention, under the healing process, the Cult Awareness Network1 has a national conference. I attended it in November. It was excellent and it was at that national conference that I met many exit counselors throughout the country and therapists. If you are in need of an exit counselor or an exit counselor for your family, give me a call; I can help you out. [See: Referrals]
Worldwide is one of the only cults that managed to retrieve 30% of one's income and then some; however, other cults run on fundraising. That's their big way of making money. And for those of you that were involved with Worldwide in a very recent manner, you obviously can see that fundraising is the direction Worldwide is taking and I will give you more on that in the future.
Most cults recruit college students and are after the children and I will also say that Worldwide is now after the college age and the children in a recruiting sense. So this is a whole new strategy and program that is being implemented now. That is one of the reasons why they went under a whole new thought reform and changed the doctrine system to the mainstream orthodox Christianity type of doctrine, because that doctrine system opens up new territories in new countries and give them a lot of respect as an organization that they would not have had under the old doctrinal system. But, unfortunately, what's going on in Worldwide is another story, which makes it a cult. Unfortunately, it's a cult under orthodox Christianity. It's a whole new level.
Identify Your Weaknesses:
The next part is identify your weaknesses. Don't feel pressured about doing this, but start to look at yourself and think, "Okay, I have been involved in a very controlling, aberrant group. I have been under great authority, I don't know who I am, where I'm going; I have no friends." As I said, start to write down your particular problems. Let's streamline and pinpoint what your particular problem is and then the appropriate therapy (if you need therapy or help) is available. And you don't have to be fearful of a therapist. Some people say, "Well, if there's other ministers from other churches, or pastors, who would be happy to talk with me..." I must tell you not to be fearful of other people. Once you're educated as to what a cult is, you can talk to people, provided you know the right questions to all this, providing you do your education and learning.
Many therapists are not trained in cults. You can certainly check therapists [or social workers] in your area, but I highly recommend (and can help you more on this on a one to one) that this therapist has a cult understanding. More damage can be done if the therapist (I don't care what the title is) does not have a cult understanding. They must be educated about what a cult is and what mind control is because the problems you are suffering with right now are problems dealing with cult relationship and cult relations. Even though you may have had problems before you went into the cult, those problems are still there, but what you must deal with are the repercussions from the cult. And many times a therapist, as long as he's willing to learn, to find out, that can be very basic, and then he can tie his therapy into you personally; if, of course, that is the channel you need. So identify your weaknesses. ask them upfront to qualify them. You are going to be smarter than you would have ever been aft
Separate God From the Organization:
This is tough to do and if you have the other things in place, it becomes a lot easier. When you learn "this was a corrupt organization" and "this [here] is God," your sorting process will become much easier, you will be able to deprogram yourself, and your thinking will become much clearer. And again, this takes time.
Take Care of Yourself:
Start a new you. Get on a new course of development. Call it a "I deserve it" program. That's right. Why don't you call it a "vanity program." And I say that lightly, of course, but don't forget you've been programmed that any thing you think for self is vain. You have human rights and you deserve to take care of yourself. And what could God do for us if we can't understand what we're about and if we don't take care of ourselves. How can we think above that? So I'm not saying , you know, this New Age wave or anything--what' I'm saying here is you are special and there is a purpose for your life and take care of yourself. Personally, I got on an exercise program. I started doing the track, I started doing aerobics, I took an aerobics course and got my aerobics' certificate. These are all things I took care of for myself. So stretch out and think what's good for you; taking a course, going back to school? Don't overwhelm yourself, do one thing at a time, but do something. Maybe you want to take piano lessons. Do someone for you.
Take Time to Detoxify Your Brain:
I have to summarize here a few things. Please be cautious (again my recommendation) about getting involved right away with any other types of groups, religious groups, or what have you. If you want to study about Christian doctrines and orthodox Christian doctrines, or you want to increase your understanding on the Sabbath [See: A Critique of "Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?"] and tithing laws [See: Tithing and Wolves in Sheep's Clothing] and things like that, by all means do it. You have got your entire lifetime to study theology. You are free to think and you are free to believe. You are given that free will to do just that. So now you are free to expound and to study. I just caution that there are a lot of groups from New Age situations to heavy Bible-based offshoots from Worldwide. I caution. Sorry, if I sound like a broken record, but I do caution you as far as your direction in that regard.
People say, "Well, what do you think? How long?" and I say, take a year off to think and clean. You've got to detoxify your brain. Take a year off to think and to establish a personal relationship--a real personal relationship--in a spiritual sense. And adhering to specific doctrines can all come and you'll know when you're ready for that, you will know.
Ending Suggestions and Comments:
Please know that the things that I recommend to you are usually things that have come well recommended. I have an extensive background now in research of Worldwide, cults, mind control, and the mental health problems. I have talked to leaders and doctors, and I am connected with many therapists throughout the country. So I am doing my homework here for you to tap into. You can certainly continue to expound, check, you never have to take anybody's word for anything again. You can check some facts out and then recheck your sources. Don't cheat yourself along the way. It's going to be a different spring this year for those of you have even been out for five years or more and they are still grappling with the same problems. You're not alone anymore.
I would also suggest that you do stay away from WCG literature. This is literature--even The Plain Truth magazine--it's geared toward propaganda. There are subliminal techniques used to lure people into gathering up more information and contacting the company. Until you are really strong enough not to be pulled by the thinking--and nobody is in the beginning, it's a process we have to go through and weed out and grow with--be aware that it's as if you were taking another drink, just one today. You have been robbed and exploited, so I feel extremely comfortable, if there is ever a problem with anybody in anything that the Network recommends, please let me know immediately and I will handle it. A lot of work has been done here in networking and putting this whole program together and we have a lot more work to do and I can't tell you how much it's needed.
You would all cry--and I cry, literally, at every one of your letters. You would all cry if you read each others. You're not alone. There's a lot of information here. Do not get overwhelmed. Again I stress, I would love to call each and every one of you, but with the financial situation I have to be very careful because we do run on a totally out-of-pocket situation here in our household.
So I thank you very much and I'm here; we're here for all of you. I look forward to hearing from you again and knowing how your progress is going along with healing.
By L. A. Stuhlman, Founder of Exit & Support Network™
Posted March 17, 2001
[Transcribed by AJW, Exit & Support Network™]
From Victim to Survivor (Take Back the Power) (Testimony by ESN founder)
Recovery After Exiting a Spiritually Abusive Group (Covers thought reform, manipulation, coercion, deception, peer pressure, guilt, fear, phobias and threat tactics used by the group leader)
How Did Herbert W. Armstrong Recruit People? (step-by-step process)
NOTE: If you were formerly in Worldwide Church of God, we recommended that you read: An Open Letter to Our Acquaintances in Worldwide Church of God and the Outsider's Inside Update™ Newsletters which were read by many exiters during the time of the changes.
1 When counseling with a knowledgeable therapist, treatment should focus first on the survivor's cult experience; then family-of-origin issues.
2 Since this tape was made, CAN is no longer a recommended resource. It was bankrupted by Scientology and is staffed by its operatives. Any mention of CAN on this tape is before this took place. More information on CAN is contained in this offsite report.
3 The Ambassador Report helped many to leave the Worldwide Church of God through its exposé of the organization. In the beginning Trechak and the team he worked with appeared to have a very noble goal. But after awhile, the message in his AR became mixed, causing people to become bitter instead of being on the road to healing. Later reports were referring readers off to agnostic, aberrant, meta-physical, humanistic, and anti-Bible sources through comments, letters, addresses and book titles. However many letters about WCG are revealing. John Trechak died September 2, 1999. (Note: Please be aware that the AR is now posted on an atheist website.)
4 Some prefer the word "target" instead of "victim" which denotes powerlessness. Tim Field, author of Bully in Sight has this to say: "The word 'victim' allows disingenuous people to tap into and stimulate other people's misconceptions and prejudices of victimhood. 'Target' correctly identifies that it is the choice of the bully to bully, it is not the choice of the target to be targeted."
5 Refer to: Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change by Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman. Altered states of mind and personality can happen quickly or gradually in these groups.
6 This is not an endorsement of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or any self-help group.