The following article has been excerpted from Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Bay Tree Publishing). It is posted at Apologetics Index by permission.
In the medical profession, ethical contracts ensure that patients have given “fully informed consent.” That is, if a doctor fails to inform a patient about the risks, side effects, and options for treatment, the uninformed patient is entitled to sue.
Below is a mock contract for cult membership. Ask yourself if you gave informed consent at the time of your recruitment, or if you would have joined had you known your participation would involve the following conditions.
I, _______________ hereby agree to join___________________. I understand that my life will change in the following ways. I know what I am getting into and agree to all of the following conditions:
- My good feelings about who I am will stem from being liked by other group members and/or my leader, and from receiving approval from the group/leader.
- My total mental attention will focus on solving the group’s/leader’s problems and making sure that there are no conflicts.
- My mental attention will be focused on pleasing and protecting the group/leader.
- My self-esteem will be bolstered by solving group problems and relieving the leader’s pain.
- My own hobbies and interests will gladly be put aside. My time will be spent however the group/leader wants.
- My clothing and personal appearance will be dictated by the desires of the group/leader.
- I do not need to be sure of how I feel. I will only be focused on what the group/leader feels.
- I will ignore my own needs and wants. The needs and wants of the group/leader are all that is important.
- The dreams I have for the future will be linked to the group/leader.
- My fear of rejection will determine what I say or do.
- My fear of the group’s/leader’s anger will determine what I say or do.
- I will use giving as a way of feeling safe with the group/leader.
- My social circle will diminish or disappear as I involve myself with the group/leader.
- I will give up my family as I involve myself with the group/leader.
- The group’s/leader’s values will become my values.
- I will cherish the group’s/leader’s opinions and ways of doing things more than my own.
- The quality of my life will be in relation to the quality of group life, not the quality of life of the leader.
- Everything that is right and good is due to the group’s belief, the leader, or the teachings.
- Everything that is wrong is due to me.
- In addition, I waive the following rights to:
- Leave the group at any time without the need to give a reason or sit through a waiting period
- Maintain contact with the outside world
- Have an education, career, and future of my choice
- Receive reasonable health care and have a say in my health care
- Have a say in my own and my family’s discipline, and to expect moderation in disciplinary methods
- Have control over my body, including choices related to sex, marriage, and procreation
- Expect honesty in dealings with authority figures in the group
- Expect honest in any proselytizing I am expected to do
- Have any complaints heard and dealt with fairly with an impartial investigation
- Be supported and cared for in my old age in gratitude for my years of service
This article has been excerpted from Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Bay Tree Publishing). It is posted at Apologetics Index by permission. More information available at http://www.baytreepublish.com/take-back-life-fr.html
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This post was last updated: May. 26, 2006