I’m not sure if I originally had peace of mind, although I imagine every child is naturally at ease until he or she is introduced to anxiety and disharmony. All I remember is the anxiety, which for me started at an early age, before 10 years old. This early anxiety developed into self-loathing in my teen years and continued into adulthood.

My life to date has been a journey to reclaim what I imagine was that natural state of mind, the ability to be at peace in the present. How was I wounded and how did I recover? How did I come to hate myself and how did I bring myself back to a place of self-love? How do I face the inevitable difficulties of life with equanimity and manage to bring myself back time after time to acceptance and even happiness no matter what is going on in my life?

Insanely Serene

ade by two people who both have the have the same scars from playschool (Australia's Sesame Street)

Sylvia Buford, an associate of Ted Patrick who has assisted him on many deprogrammings, described five stages of deprogramming

  1. Discredit the figure of authority: the cult leader
  2. Present contradictions (ideology versus reality): "How can he preach love when he exploits people?" is an example.
  3. The breaking point: When a subject begins to listen to the deprogrammer; when reality begins to take precedence over ideology.
  4. Self-expression: When the subject begins to open up and voice gripes against the cult.
  5. Identification and transference: when the subject begins to identify with the deprogrammers, starts to think of him- or herself as an opponent of the cult rather than a member of it.

Deprogramming, especially when it fails, entails considerable legal and psychological risk (for example, a permanent alienation of the cultist from his or her family).

Children held hostage: dealing with programmed and brainwashed children

Thought reform



Mind control (also known as brainwashingcoercive persuasionthought control, or thought reform) refers to an indoctrination process which results in "an impairment of autonomy, an inability to think independently, and a disruption of beliefs and affiliations. In this context, brainwashing refers to the involuntary reeducation of basic beliefs and values"[1] The term has been applied to any tactic, psychological or otherwise, which can be seen as subverting an individual's sense of control over their ownthinking, behavior, emotions or decision making.

Theories of brainwashing and of mind control were originally developed to explain how totalitarian regimes appeared to succeed systematically in indoctrinating prisoners of war through propaganda and torture techniques. These theories were later expanded and modified by psychologists including Jean-Marie Abgrall and Margaret Singer to explain a wider range of phenomena, especially conversions to new religious movements (NRMs). A third-generation theory proposed by Ben Zablocki focused on the use of mind control to retain members of NRMs and cults. The suggestion that NRMs use mind control techniques has resulted in scientific and legal controversy.[2]

Cult Deprogramming

Deprogramming is the more drastic of the two approaches because it usually involves an initial kidnapping to get the cult member away from the cult. For this reason, deprogramming is a very expensive service. It can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. After the forced removal, deprogramming mostly involves hours and hours of intense "debriefing," during which a team of deprogrammers hold the cult member against his will and use ethical psychological techniques to try to counter the unethical psychological techniques used by the cult. The goal is to get the cult member to think for himself and re-evaluate his situation. Debriefing methods can include:

  • educating the cult member on thought-reform techniques and helping him to recognize those methods in his own cult experience
  • asking questions that encourage the cult member to think in a critical, independent way, helping him to recognize that type of thinking and praising him for it
  • attempting to produce an emotional connection to his former life by introducing objects from his past and having family members share their memories of his pre-cult existence

Deprogramming was relatively common in the 1970s, but has fallen out of favor as an acceptable cult-removal method, partly because it's so expensive, partly because it involves kidnapping and imprisonment and partly because that kidnapping and imprisonment led to a lot of lawsuits over the years. Now, most families turn to "exit counselors." Exit counseling leaves out the kidnapping and focuses instead on employing psychological techniques that might get the cult member to voluntarily submit to debriefing. Exit counselors guide the family in the most effective ways to get a cult member to communicate with "outsiders." Family members must be non-judgmental, calm and loving, or else they'll only reinforce the belief that all outsiders are "bad" and dangerous. If they succeed, and the cult member agrees to participate in the process, what happens next is essentially the same debriefing that occurs during deprogramming, with long sessions that take place over a number of days, but the cult member is free to leave.

There's is no guarantee that any cult-removal technique will work. Some sources say that at least one-third of deprogrammings fail, and there are no definitive statistics on the success rate of exit counseling. But when it does work, the cult member finds himself back in the outside world -- with a whole new set of problems. People who leave a totalist cult can suffer from a laundry list of psychological problems. Some common ones include depression, anxiety, paranoia, guilt, rage and constant fear. They may have difficulty thinking clearly, making decisions, analyzing situations and performing everyday activities like picking out something to wear or going to the store to buy groceries. Psychologist Michael Langone describes a common post-cult state he calls "floating," in which the former member goes back and forth from "cult to non-cult ways of viewing the world ... stalled in a foggy, 'in-between' state of consciousness."

Not everybody is psychologically damaged by a cult experience. Some go on with their lives after a relatively short adjustment period. But most people who have undergone thought reform suffer negative consequences when they leave the insulated environment of the cult. It can take years for a former cult member to readjust to life on the outside. Some people never completely return to their pre-cult level of functioning. But in most cases, counseling and family support can go a long way toward recovery.

For more information on destructive cults and related topics, including links to organizations that help people who've been hurt by cult involvement, check out the links on the next page.