The way to freedom
Consciousness blocks encourage you to stop your own thoughts
whenever you start to see others critically.
You may still be of the opinion that your group is not a question of abuse, if you admit, you have at least some parallels with the groups we have spoken about. “Yes,” you will say, “I have known abusive discipleship, and I agree with many things in the book, but there is so much good in our community.” Or you may think, “Personally I have no bad experiences”. Or maybe “There is still a lot of good news in my reunion.” Then there are those who say, “I know that my group does not abuse, I am not controlled, I make all my decisions myself.”
The denial of facts can mean that you are using “consciousness blockages” – these patterns of thought that allow you to eliminate a source of doubt or anxiety without thinking about it at all. If you hear something negative about your group, then the consciousness- blocking works as follows: If you practice criticism, you are evil; if you are evil, your information is false; if your information is wrong, then I do not need to listen .
What does it mean when you admit that there are parallels between your group and abusive minions, but you turn around and say, “Our church is not abusing.” It means denial. Unfortunately, consciousness blockages, subtly imposed during a long period of time, are almost invisible to the victim.
Let us examine it: we all use consciousness blockages at different times when we cling to a prejudice, but reality strikes us with opposing facts in the face. In abusive groups, consciousness blockages are systematically installed and are particularly insidious, for they sound as if they were biblical principles. Let us look at the doctrine of the leader of a well-known abusive Christian group:
If you criticize us, you criticize God.
If you criticize us, then you criticize God.
If you criticize us, then you criticize God. 
This guide equates his group with God! Every criticism of the group becomes a critique of God, and this creates a typical consciousness-blocking. Although it can be expressed in different ways, the common is that abusive leaders want you to feel guilty when you criticize the group. This is not a biblical principle at all. If we follow the Bible, we must not be too critical; but if something is not right, it is our responsibility to seek justice.
There are other blocks of consciousness that you may have learned, which keep you from taking charge of the leaders:
Leaders are only responsible to God.
They must stand before God – so it is not up to me to judge.
I can not be responsible for their deeds.
“God directs”. I was frustrated by a companion who always muttered these words whenever I tried to make him think critically about something that might not be right. Later, it dawned on me that God, instead of directing, is sovereign ! A sovereign king does not direct the individual decisions of all in his kingdom. If God did not allow free will, then we would say God steer. To say this denies the existence of free will.
As I watched this companion closer, I discovered several remarkable things: (1) a wrong concept had been implanted; (2) the perversion of “God directs” allowed him to remain passive, even if he was shown a fault in the church; (3) If this companion himself made a mistake, “God directs” a nice excuse: (4) this helped him to eliminate his critical thinking skills, for once this was said, the conversation was over.
If you point to a legitimate problem in any cult or church group, and you hear, “God is directing,” that means, in reality, “I can not help it.” This is wrong. God gave us the free will to correct wrong things. Yes, we can do something about mistakes and problems in our church groups.
When a disciple speaks to me next time with “God,” I only ask, “Is that God is responsible for your sin?” If God is not responsible for the evil, then you can not say, , God, in his sovereignty, allows evil as a result of free will, so do not say “do not direct,” unless you honestly believe that you have no free will.
Another common block of consciousness is the concept “doubt is sin”. This concept can be taught directly or implicitly. In time one gets the feeling that those who are doubting are weak. In reality it is just the other way round – those who are ready to give some doubts are in general those who have the stronger self-consciousness and can think more critically.
Do you remember the time when you had doubts about the group or were fighting with a situation? Perhaps the Lord spoke to you or perhaps your conscience spoke to you. You may have gone to your companion, who washed away all your fear by giving you an answer that sounded “good.” When you look back, you may see that what you “heard of the Lord” was correct at the time. You may see that the chief has uttered your true feelings by saying that doubt is sin or the devil or weak faith.
These are just a few examples of denial patterns, but they can help you point out what you are doing to eliminate your ability to make objective judgments. There are hundreds of ways to stop you from doubting your group.
Now is time! Make a list of all the doubts you’ve ousted or your companions have told you. You should also talk with some of those who have left your group. Perhaps God will use these former members to open your eyes so you can see what is wrong in your church, group or church.
Members who survived the group of David Koresh told stories about his rude behavior, his dirty language, his weapon obsession, and his physical abuse of members. Koresh had answers for everything. His followers should have asked him, “Are these really the right answers?” Those who stayed with Koresh had reasons that might sound like your own: “We have a lot of fun in the community, the leaders really care about the members and are willing to resist and educate them is perfect, but he uses imperfect instruments. No other church lives Christianity like us to find the way, so why should we leave here, even if there are some problems? “
Anyone who is in a controlled environment can not see objectively, although he thinks he sees everything normal. Most people who read this book probably believe that if they had heard of David Koresh’s bizarre doctrines, they would have responded differently to most of his group. In the same circumstances, however, most of you would have responded in the same way! If you insist that you had reacted differently, then you do not understand how powerful the steering mechanisms are.
This book has helped you, I hope, to judge the teachings of your group and the actions of your leader more objectively. But you’re probably still rocking. If you recognize that your group has the characteristics of control, but you can not classify your group as abusive, you are caught in a spider web of control, just like the members of Koresh’s group.
You may ask; “But how do I know whether it is a biblical idea or merely the opinion of my pastor, or whether it is a doctrine that sounds biblical, but it is not?” This can be difficult to answer, because the opinion of controlling leaders may sound biblical, especially in the closed area of the group. Therefore, you must be ready to accept advice from outside the group, perhaps from other denominations. If you are reluctant to think that other Christians are not so perfectly guided by God as your group, it is probably because your group has given you this view, or because you have not touched with sound wisdom, often in others Churches. The Bible exhorts to consult many counselors (Prov 11:14, 13:10, Acts 15, 1-32). A variety of responses are needed to make healthy choices.
What awaits you when you leave the group?
Many of you have succeeded in overcoming all these levels of denial, and they are now taking steps forward to free themselves from control. If you realize that control is being used in your church, it can be very frightening. So you may have sleep problems or even nightmares. You may feel nausea, physical discomfort, sadness, irritability, loss of appetite, depression, difficulty concentrating, or many other problems.
A desire to return to the group could be the result of the fear and the paranoia created by the indoctrination by the group. The fear of thinking that abandoning the group is directed against God might prompt you to forget about the group’s control and misuse. Ask yourself: Is my eternal salvation based on this group or on the act of redemption of Christ? Must I belong to this group to keep the commandments of God? Is my salvation the result of my handwork or the result of the grace of God?
Another element that holds members in controlling groups is the group pressure and the false doctrine that you should never break a committed commitment. Herod was pressured to decapitate John the Baptist (Mark 6, 17-19). If kings are troubled by group pressure, imagine how much harder this is for a common man. Receiving commitments is not always the right thing to do.
It is difficult if not impossible to leave a controlling group elegantly. They usually question your commitment to Christ and make you doubt your salvation. Often, your reputation is diminished. Remember that your commitment is not to the group, but to God. This was probably your obligation before you met this group, and it must now remain your obligation. Even if you have become a Christian through this group, it does not mean that you must remain in the group to be saved. Jesus is your Savior, not the group.
If you stop participating in this group, people you thought you were your best friends will immediately break off the contact. You may be tormented by this loss, and also by the fact that you have lost what you thought to be the most perfect church so far. Then you will realize that your group is more serious than the other churches you looked down on. Perhaps you feel that life has no meaning.
Study this restoration book and others. Take the time to think; ie with former members of similar groups and read about abuse churches. Of the utmost importance: speak spontaneously out of your heart to God all day long.
There is a practical and powerful guide that will help you to regain your personal strength on the basis of your trust and love for Jesus. This little instruction was used by Christians throughout history. Theresa of Lisieux called it the Little Way; Brother Lawrence called it the realization of his presence; Andrew Murray calls it lingering in Christ:
The Lord is your constant partner. When you clean your room, you work with him by your side. Start your car in the morning and think Jesus is sitting next to you and sharing every section of the day with you. You will suddenly find the fulfillment that you experienced earlier through group activity. To make Jesus aware of the presence of Jesus is particularly salutary during the transition from abusing control to restoration to independence from the group.
During convalescence reading the Bible can cause confusion because of the additional meanings the leader of your group taught you to read into the text. Prayer books offer you an alternative to reading the Bible alone. Later, when you return to reading the Bible, buy another translation because you can still feel that certain sentences have meanings that do not correspond to the original intention of the Bible.
Even after leaving the directing group, Bible verse will come to your mind and cause you to feel guilty because these verses were twisted through your ladder. Find someone who can help you understand these verses in context; that will free you from the wrong burden of debt feelings. Overcoming this problem will only cause an extension of the pain. I, too, first tried to avoid some verses. But as soon as I learned how these verses had been abused, I was freed from the false interpretations, and I stopped trying to overlook these writings.
It can take months or even years before you can distinguish the truth from the distortions or additions to the Bible that your group has taught. Be patient with yourself. God knows what you’ve been through, and He will not drive you into a hurry.
Learn from your experience and be persistent in prayer. It may take a long time to recover from the abuse of a steering group, but you can return to normal. It will take a while before you come to rest after you escape this kind of influence, but with God’s help it is possible.
There may be irritation or certain situations that are troubling you. Be prepared. Analyze your behavior. Try to see what you tell yourself. Leading a diary can help you reflect on such events.
You will also begin to see some of the legal behaviors that you have learned in the group. “Brenda” told me that she had thrown off a silver bracelet, as her group had convinced her that the little symbols on the bracelet were superstitious and evil. She now regrets the loss. The bracelet should have reminded her of happy family events. You may have suffered losses which you regret, but learn from your experience and persist in prayer and seek the Lord. Restoration is in progress. It may take a long time before you are restored, but believe me you can return to normal.
When I returned to my non-controlling church, I felt as if the other parishioners were dead because they did not sing with the same enthusiasm as those in my directing group. The preacher did not seem to have much zeal when he spoke. Later I realized that these people were singing voluntarily without compulsion. Slowly I began to understand that I did not have the right to judge the commitment of my Christian faithfuls according to the strength of their voice. And they did not have to pray or preach in a certain way to keep my interest awake.
Understand the Scriptures in the right context – study several aspects
Abused disciples often tell me that they felt guilty because they were manipulated by the story of the “rich youth” (Mt 19). Leaders of controlling groups take it for granted that this young man came to hell because he did not follow the disciples of Jesus in their day-to-day activities. For example, a very popular Christian book teaches: “The youth … lost eternal life.” .
Twisting the meaning of this story can make you believe that you will lose the kingdom of God if you do not join a special group of disciples. The rich youth had already kept the commandments, of which Jesus said that he had to do this to win heaven. He asked Jesus what he had to do in addition to be perfect. Jesus answered, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have a treasure in heaven, then come and follow me” (Mt 19:21). Jesus first gave the rich young man an authority for heaven, and then, later, the choice when he (and you and I) strove for perfection.
Find your way back
Controlled milieus usually make you see your past life distorted to some extent. Take every opportunity to remember old times with old friends and relatives. This will help you regain the perspectives of your previous life. which you may have lost.
Many of you were urged to live with other group members, as controlled disciples often encourage the idea that you should live with other Christians. After baptizing the eunuch, Philip did not prevent him from returning to a non-Christian country (Acts 8: 27-39). But controlling and abusing groups often tell the Christians that they are not strong enough to live alone, and even less strong enough to travel to a foreign country.
You might have the idea that non-Christians would set you down. This entices members to contract with other members, and allows for controlling leaders much more influence. If you are committed to God and live according to His commandments, you can be a great witness wherever you live.
You may feel guilty because you now enjoy your privacy. You do not need to feel selfish because you want your own room or your own home. To be a Christian, you must abstain from sin, not from privacy.
Disciples leaving controlling and abusing groups often have financial problems. Sometimes this is due to the pressure exerted on the members to support the group, often far beyond the epigraph. Most of these groups also encourage us to move into the distance to proclaim the Gospel. This can be very expensive and often puts members in financial dependency. Many group members had never had financial problems before joining the group, but now they find themselves as debtors again. If debt counseling is necessary, see to it that you get help. Getting rid of such worldly problems will increase the difficulties you encounter when you want to regain your independence. Do not let temporary difficulties hinder you,
Therapy and therapists can promote or hinder restoration
Such posttraumatic symptoms as emotional or psychological problems are often the result of a withdrawal from a thought reform environment or a controlled group.
It is difficult to find experienced consultants who know how to deal effectively with former members of abusive groups. In the treatment of patients, therapists often have little knowledge of compelling persuasion. They take care of childhood, but do not inform the victim carefully about the control methods applied to it, and how this normally affects human thinking, behavior, and human choices. Former members are often told that they should leave the past behind and continue in life. Experts tend to blame the victim because they believe that the individual must have had a problem to be seduced into a misusing group. 
Often victims of abusive churches have not been lucky enough to reach professional help that has experience with their kind of cases. Be open and honest to your therapist or your therapist, ask if he or she is willing to learn. Try to find an experienced counselor in this area who can give advice to your therapist / therapist. Search in appendix I for ideas on where to get information.
I find that therapists who have not specialized in the problem of restoration after cults or abuse groups seldom understand that the history of individual members of abuse groups has been greatly distorted by group influence. Some therapists may try to cure family relationships based on the opinion of the indoctrinated victim. Many therapists make the mistake of flattering the new identity of the victims and the values created by the controlled milieu, but since these views have been imposed on the victims by the group, this retards the restoration.
Unless the victims had a negative view of their family before joining the controlling group, it is most effective to bring the siblings, relatives, or friends into the sessions to describe their views on the parents and relatives and the difference the distorted viewpoints of the victims. Normally the view of the victim will not coincide with that of the others, and the victims will find that they developed these beliefs only after the influence of the group. Victims often claim that they have always felt so, because they can not remember ever thinking otherwise. In general, however, the original feelings reappear when one has moved away from the controlled milieu.
You may want to visit therapists who have been dealing with the “False Reminder Syndrome”. Victims of memory restoration therapies were apparently abused in the same way as those of controlling churches. Therapists who work with those who have recalled false memories understand how your story could be distorted by the influence of the group.
By the time I write this, there is only one stationary institution, Wellspring (see Appendix 1), which specializes in helping former members of abusive Bible groups. The founder, Dr. Paul Martin, was the victim of a controlling Bible group for eight years. He and his professional staff are excellent in their attitude and understanding of the special needs of these victims. If you can not afford advice, ask local churches or synagogues if they are willing to help you pay for a short stay in Wellspring. Do not just give up because you do not have money. Question continues.
Another source of help for those with limited resources can be consultants working with partners who have been mistreated. You may be in your phone book among domestic violence, family violence, sexual abuse, abused or ill-treated partnerscited. These consultants usually understand destructive milieus, psychological control, and the problems associated with leaving a controlled milieu. Perhaps you must discuss your own special experience with these consultants. You may be qualified as “ill-treated” because you have been experiencing psychological abuse on the part of your escort, leader or programmed partner. Do not allow financial constraints to stop you from seeking the help you need and for you. The prices of many such facilities are appropriate to your ability to pay.
The memory and the recognition of the abuse are extremely important because there may be days when you think you have made a mistake to leave the group. Sometimes this can cause floating, spacing out,or dissociation . (All these words describe a changed state of consciousness). This can happen especially when you are depressed or lonely. To reintroduce yourself from this relapse and to reintroduce it into an objective and critical thinking is partly the goal of the exercise in Appendix 3. When you are in this situation, please take this exercise.
The areas of restoration, which are listed below, are from a lecture by Dr. Paul Martin . These areas should be given due consideration in order to speed up restoration: (1) the purpose of rehabilitation; (2) the restoration process; and (3) the imposed pathology of the totalitarian group (totalitarian means the narrowing of reality to a black and white pattern – good and evil). This is just an overview. Books that deal extensively with restoration problems are listed in Appendix 1).
After you leave your controlling environment, you must prepare to face a number of new challenges; some of them may be very easy, but others are difficult to handle. If you seek professional help, it will be useful to talk about the following points with your therapist:
1. Living in freedom and what it means.
2. Learn how to deal with feelings, emotions, disillusion, disappointment, grief, and the time spent in the group.
3. Recovery of physical health.
4. Shake the dependency.
5. Re-learn to make decisions and think independently.
6. Adaptation to society; Discarding social awkwardness.
7. Adoption of himself.
8. Restoration of family and social relations.
9. Share the experience with other former members.
10. Re-evaluation of personal and professional goals.
11. Satisfaction of healthy theological interest.
12. Satisfaction of healthy supernatural and critical philosophical interest.
13. Solving sexual problems.
14. Information about methods of consciousness manipulation and of totalitarian movements.
15. Preparation for the meeting with current members of abusive groups.
16. Information about the restoration process.
17. Solving of emotional problems caused by the teaching of the group (eg, fear, remorse, paranoia).
18. Solution of “floating” (the feeling of being separated from society, peers and Christian believers,
to return to the group instead of maintaining your independence).
19. Re-evaluate the reasons why you joined, with a new understanding of how uninformed you were about the demands of the group.
Helpful ideas for restoration
1. Seek medical treatment if you feel physically ill.
2. Recognize your need for recognition and compassion.
3. Gain back your personal dignity
4. Tell your story
5. Understand and accept your privacy needs
6. Strengthen communication within the family
8. Understand that you were a victim, that you are normal, that you are okay.
9. Trust in God and never lose hope
10. Take your time for advice
11. Effort for a standard psychological interview and an assessment
12. Be willing to talk about the positive and negative aspects of your group
13. Work through the process of foaming
14. Searching your own rating
15. Analyze your feelings of loss, disillusion, depression and guilt
16. Share your time so you have a daily schedule that allows specific instructions and problem-solving tasks.
17. Allow others to show you love and care.
18. Search for sound conservative information in philosophy and metaphysics
19. Realize that by being a member of a totalitarian movement, you were subjected to stress and, after leaving, again exposed to the stress of making your life completely new.
20. Allow yourself to be kind to yourself and caring
21. Understand sexuality and your sexual role in the context of Christianity
22. Search for professional advice, if necessary
23. Find financial advice, if necessary
24. Investigate how the doctrine of the group differed from the main stream of Christianity, and ascertain whether they were truly biblical teachings
25. Take your time for leisure
26. Attempts to make the acquaintance of sympathetic and loving Christians to build a lasting supportive network
27. Avoid taking a time to read the Bible, watch religious programs on TV, or participate in emotional or intense church activities.
28. Avoid occult literature
29. Keep a personal diary
30. Try to get a lot of intellectual excitement
31. Open up for previously oppressed feelings
32. Search for every possible source of support in a (different) church, a community and society, with relatives and friends
33. Looking hopefully into the future 
Observe carefully symptoms
The following is an overview of emotional and mental health problems that can be expected after undergoing manipulation and deception. The following list is from lectures by Dr. Paul Martin. Some of the terms are technical expressions from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV), the standard work used by the American Psychiatric Association. Although this list is initially intended as a reference for professionals, DSM-IV is available in most public libraries for those non-professionals wishing to undertake a deeper study of these problems.
1. Alienation or despair, feeling of hopelessness, of non-hearing.
2. Experience of a cultural shock when returning to society
3. Religious Abuse:
b. Bitterness and anger
4. Personality (there is an original personality and a newly created personality that arose as a result of group indoctrination and the influence of the group.) Sometimes the old spontaneous self will emerge and at other times the generated identity will come to the surface.)
5. Feelings of psychological and intellectual rape
6. Induced psychosis without previous psychotic history is experienced by some former members during a period of one month to two years
7. Atypical dissociative disorders
8. Anxiety associated with memory disorders
9. Stress reactions
10. Continued increased dependency
11. Fear of the specific psychological, physical, or spiritual threats suggested by the group in the event of withdrawal
12. Formal methods of dissociation (ie systematic means for generating dissociative states)
13. The feeling of being exhausted or crushed
14. Distorted world picture
16. Inability to find a job
19. A compulsion to inflict deliberate harm on oneself and others:
c. Abuse of drugs or alcohol
20. Reactive psychosis
21. Posttraumatic stress syndrome
22. Chronic Shock Syndrome
23. Multiple personality disorder
24. Hyperventilation: changes blood chemistry and mood
25. Cognitive inadequacy, memory weakness
26. Atypical anxiety
27. Anxiety caused by relaxation
28. Altered state or trance state by induced or learned techniques 
Many former members get the diagnosis of “Not Closer-Named Dissociative Disorders”. For more information, see DSM-IV, section 300.15.
Concluding thoughts on a personal level
If you still find it difficult to break your emotional connection to your group, it might be helpful to have a long vacation and think about everything you’ve learned.
I admit it. The break was also difficult for me. I studied for months and tried to understand. One night, when I was lying on my bed and was at the bottom, a question came to my consciousness: Is God really? I knew how honestly I had prayed for the truth when I was first involved in the group. The only possible conclusion was that there was no God, for I had prayed for the truth and was betrayed instead. I felt that I would do myself wrong if I tried to make myself believe in God.
I hung a thin thread of faith because I did not want to give up my faith in God, but thought it was not logical. I felt in my heart all the pain of the last years, especially the death of my sister and brother, and how my friends had turned me away. I had thought all these pains had been cured by my group, but now they reappeared. Although it seemed as if there was no God, I resisted – I wanted to cling to the hope.
“Help!” I cried silently out of all my innermost being. Suddenly a present came into my heart and took away all the pain – pain that has never come back since then. I knew I would never question the existence of my loving God again. I understand now that God heals hearts just as easily as sprouting grass. I pray that God may send the same healing to everyone who suffers from the experience of leaving an abusing group.