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The Cultic Family, Part I

*Note: This article is sensitive in nature and potentially controversial. Please pray before contemplating the material I've provided because it could be triggering, offensive, or even painful to read. Please note that I am not a health professional. The following resource is not a substitute for medical or psychological advice; please use discernment while reading and following any links.

L ife in an authoritarian environment causes many  women to experience severe emotional and spiritual stumbling blocks. Some of these include shame, fear, self-condemnation, difficulty trusting those in authority, knowing God, and understanding truth. Issues of the heart and spirit have been addressed at length, but of less renown are some of the physical effects caused by prolonged periods of extreme control. And in the context of a deeply religious family, when one is born and raised in such a milieu, the ramifications on flesh can be especially destructive.

Within high-demand groups, like cults, for instance, members often have what's known as a "pre-cult identity". Recovery requires  that one reconnects with the person they were prior to group involvement. In other words, remembering life before the cult enables ex-members to reestablish life on their own and heal from cultic abuse. SGAs ~ Second Generation Adults ~ are those from totalitarian groups who do not have a pre-cult identity to fall back on to aid recovery. Because those from cultic groups and adult children from authoritarian families have such similar living environments ~ physically, psychologically, and emotionally ~ we will look at both in this article.

The Family Cult
'Cult' is a loaded term. For mainstream society, it is equated with images of mass-suicide, freakish decorum, and weird sex, satanic, or religious rituals highly propagated by the cinematic experience. While all of these are indicative of cultish behavior, not all cults participate in extremely bizarre or physically destructive antics.

Traditional cults can be religious, political, or commercial in nature and meet definite criteria. Standards recognized by mental health professionals and experts around the world include:
  • Authoritarian control of members, including psychological, financial, behavioral, lifestyle, etc.
  • Totalitarian, pyramid system of power (top down)
  • Thought reform and mind altering techniques
  • Co-dependence on the group and its leader
  • Deceptive, manipulative tactics of recruitment and fund-raising
  • Increased isolation of members from family, friends, society, and the world
  • Use of fear to retain, control, and manipulate members
  • Charismatic, dynamic, or attractive leader, generally self-appointed
  • Zero tolerance for questioning or criticizing the group or its leader
  • Exclusivity, secrecy
For every cult leader, thought reform and mind control are indispensable tools for achieving and maintaining a vestige of authority and dominion. Universally accepted as an authoritative resource, Robert Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism lists eight distinctives of totalitarian cults.
  • Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.
  • Mystical Manipulation. There is manipulation of experiences that appear spontaneous but in fact were planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority or spiritual advancement or some special gift or talent that will then allow the leader to reinterpret events, scripture, and experiences as he or she wishes.
  • Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.
  • Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members' "sins," "attitudes," and "faults" are discussed and exploited by the leaders.
  • Sacred Science. The group's doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism.
  • Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clich├ęs, which serve to alter members' thought processes to conform to the group's way of thinking.
  • Doctrine over person. Member's personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
  • Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group's ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.
Cult expert Stephen Hassan developed an extensive analysis of mind control termed the BITE Method. Please review this excellent resource, for his work clearly encapsulates the daily reality experienced by those within aberrant groups.

What are the differences between a traditional cult and the family cult?
Definition of a Family Cult:

A family cult is a high demand family group which operates by incorporating authoritarian control, thought reform, and other cult means with spiritual abuse and emotional abuse. While physical, sexual, and intellectual abuse also feature quite prominently in many family cults, they need not always be present to qualify as such.
Of a more sinister and potentially destructive nature than the traditionally understood cult is the one-on-one, relationship, or family cult. Due to bonds one is born into, family cults differ from others physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. Even one-on-one relationships, like marriage or employee / employer encounter unique dynamics which form through legal or sexual union. I have outlined some of these differences below:

Biological / Physical differences between family and non-family cults

Although nearly every cultic group considers itself a family of its own, it is one thing to call someone your father, sister, mother, brother—and another to actually be connected biologically. The repercussions are staggering. As children, we have very specific needs designed to be met through a healthy, functional family system. Anytime dysfunction occurs, even within "normal" families, we sustain harm to our personhood—the degree of damage in direct correlation to the scope of dysfunction. This, compounded by the complex integration of thought reform, totalitarianism, and authoritarian control, subjects cult-reared children seeking amelioration to overwhelming hardship.

For a child, lack of informed consent to such a life in the beginning—and lack of pre-cult identity—complicates healing while multiplying confusion, helplessness, and other injurious disorders. Those born and raised within a cultic environment find that the ramifications of an anomalous family pose exhaustive challenges to survival, exit, and recovery. In addition, those who leave traditional cults often find relatives who accept them "home" with open arms, supporting recovery, and assisting in practical matters of daily life while the ex-cult member gets back on their feet. Those who leave a family cult essentially become cut off from their very own blood. If they lived in isolation, supportive or understanding friends may be rare, and the individual experiences extreme difficulty establishing autonomy, seeking recovery, and reconciling what feels like utter betrayal or even covert incest, akin to soul or spiritual rape.

Emotional and Intellectual differences (also: Domestic violence: emotional, domestic violence: intellectual )

Many disillusioned employees, friends, and lovers relate stories of too-good-to-be-true situations turning into abusive nightmares when damaging, controlling traits emerge from the dominant partner—usually the one with assumed authority. In addition to the harmful elements of toxic bonds, a victim finds recovery challenged by issues of guilt, shame, low self-esteem and self-hatred for unwittingly entering such relationships in the first place.

Not that these things don't occur within traditional cult models, but the psychological effects of family abuse exponentially increases damage. Intellectual abusethe systematic, prolonged degradation or criticism of another's thoughts, ideas, mind, and intellect—is especially devastating within the dependent or codependent relationship cultivated by a high-demand group. The same applies to emotional abusean environment which promotes continual shaming, criticism, or neglect of wants, needs, desires, feelings, and emotions—by a dominant partner, father, husband or figure(s) of authority. Whereas we may experience these things from others in the world, to grow up in an environment promoting abuse of heart and mind is especially challenging. When the one place where you should be safe and nurtured is in reality cruel, dangerous and toxic, members experience the full impact of dysfunction. Internalized, this can create numerous maladies, ranging from depression and PTSD to chronic fatigue, immune, and hormonal disorders, to name a few. The rejection of personhood by one's own blood is a debilitating yet all-too-common reality of family cults.

Motivational differences

Traditional cult leaders are conventionally motivated by lust for wealth and power. Through exhaustive loyalty, relentless fund-raising, working, and essentially begging for money, followers demonstrate undying devotion to either the person or the cause they represent. Many ask, what could be the motivation for a family or one-on-one cult leader? What does he or she hope to gain?

Relationship-based cult leaders are driven by power, yes, but equally so by vision, ideology, or personality. While narcissism is a likely underlying factor of every leader, many cultists have a kind of righteous disdain for wealth or other worldly desires. These cults have deeper, arguably more detrimental ambitions. Some pursue poverty and asceticism, decrying the very thing that compels the stereotypical model. For families, matters of control, unworldliness, and extremist beliefs prove more important even than one's own children, thus demonstrating doctrine over person, rejection, and / or abandonment in a most excruciating way.


Most family cults are religious in framework. They rely heavily on extremist or fundamentalist dogma to determine lifestyle, behavior, and belief. While doctrine isn't necessarily what makes a family or any group a cult—behavior does—spiritual abuse will always be present within the religious cultic family.

What is Spiritual Abuse?

Spiritual abuse is the damaging, harmful behavior which results from, or is affected by, spiritual belief. While most commonly associated with the practices of fundamentalist religious groups, similar effects can occur within non-religious families as well. Ideology stemming from deep-seated, life-governed convictions (i.e., vegetarianism, atheism, etc.) can have the same spiritual effects as those of a religious nature.

David Henke of Watchman Fellowship outlines what he believes are five essentials of spiritual abuse:
1) Authoritarian
The most distinctive characteristic of a spiritually abusive religious system, or leader, is the over-emphasis on authority. Because a group claims to have been established by God Himself the leaders in this system claim the right to command their followers.
This authority supposedly comes from the position they occupy. In Matthew 23:1-2 Jesus said the Scribes and Pharisees "sit in Moses' seat," a position of spiritual authority. Many names are used but in the abusive system this is a position of power, not moral authority. The assumption is that God operates among His people through a hierarchy, or "chain of command." In this abusive system unconditional submission is often called a "covering," or "umbrella of protection" which will provide some spiritual blessing to those who fully submit. Followers may be told that God will bless their submission even if the headship is wrong. It is not their place to judge or correct the leadership - God will see to that.
2) Image Conscious
The abusive religious system is scrupulous to maintain an image of righteousness. The organization's history is often misrepresented in the effort to demonstrate the organization's special relationship to God. The mistaken judgments and character flaws of its leaders are denied or covered up in order to validate their authority. Impossibly high legalistic standards of thought and behavior may be imposed on the members. Their failure to live up to these standards is a constant reminder of the follower's inferiority to his leaders, and the necessity of submission to them. Abusive religion is, at heart, legalism.
Abusive religion is also paranoid. Because the truth about the abusive religious system would be quickly rejected if recognized, outsiders are shown only a positive image of the group. This is rationalized by assuming that the religion would not be understood by "worldly" people; therefore they have no right to know. This attitude leads to members being secretive about some doctrines and the inner policies and procedures of the group. Leaders, especially, will keep secrets from their members. This secrecy is rooted in a basic distrust of others because the belief system is false and can not stand scrutiny.
3) Suppresses Criticism
Because the religious system is not based on the truth it cannot allow questions, dissent, or open discussions about issues. The person who dissents becomes the problem rather than the issue he raised. The truth about any issue is settled and handed down from the top of the hierarchy. Questioning anything is considered a challenge to authority. Thinking for oneself is suppressed by pointing out that it leads to doubts. This is portrayed as unbelief in God and His anointed leaders. Thus the follower controls his own thoughts by fear of doubting God.
4) Perfectionistic
A most natural assumption is that a person does not get something for nothing. Apart from the express declarations of salvation by grace through faith God has given in the scriptures, it would be natural to think that one must earn salvation, or at least work to keep it. Thus, in abusive religions all blessings come through performance of spiritual requirements. Failure is strongly condemned so there is only one alternative, perfection. So long as he thinks he is succeeding in his observation of the rules, the follower typically exhibits pride, elitism, and arrogance. However, when reality and failure eventually set in, the result is the person experiences spiritual burnout, or even shipwreck of his faith. Those who fail in their efforts are labeled as apostates, weak, or some other such term so that they can be discarded by the system.
5) Unbalanced
Abusive religions must distinguish themselves from all other religions so they can claim to be distinctive and therefore special to God. This is usually done by majoring on minor issues such as prophecy, carrying biblical law to extremes, or using strange methods of biblical interpretation. The imbalanced spiritual hobby-horse thus produced represents unique knowledge or practices which seem to validate the group's claim to special status with God.
What is Emotional Abuse?

Steve Hein from Eqi.org writes:
Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of "guidance," "teaching", or "advice," the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim's self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.
Defining Abuse

The following is taken from the website of the United States Department of Justice.
Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.
Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair-pulling, biting, etc. Physical abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use.

Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.

Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual's sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one's abilities, name-calling, or damaging one's relationship with his or her children.

Economic Abuse: Making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one's access to money, or forbidding one's attendance at school or employment.

Psychological Abuse: Causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner's family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
The Characteristics of Religious Family Cults

Using Lifton's criteria for a totalitarian environment with Henke's traits of spiritual abuse, I would like to identify and examine the earmarks of a cultic, fundamentalist family and any significant variants. While my emphasis is parental versus offspring, many of these will also apply to one-on-one relationships such as husband and wife, boss and employee, teacher and student, or any other personal liaison featuring exploited levels of hierarchy and / or abuse of authority.

  • Authoritarian Structure—The abuse of authority, with or without accountability. Matricentric or patricentric families—mother-centered or father-centered—are by nature authoritarian as the behavior, decisions, or ideology of offspring, including those in adulthood who remain at home, are dictated and controlled. This places god-like superiority on the parent and promotes a fear or performance-based environment.
  • Image Conscious—The appearance of evil clause, proof-texted from a verse in the King James Bible which states, "Abstain from all appearance of evil"  is effective for behavior control by placing heavy emphasis on "our witness", "what people will think" and "how things look"—to the extent of revering image or reputation over truth or what is real. Many fundamentalist families who do not wish to be identified as "of the world" go to great lengths to be "different" or "peculiar".
  • Suppresses Criticism—Those who parent according to cultic models do not tolerate query of belief, doctrine, or personal lifestyle choices. Purporting the name of God and personal interpretation of Biblical passages is sufficient to quell critique, for this "stops thought" by appealing to something greater and effectively squelches protest or examination. Those who continue are labeled rebellious, disobedient, strong-willed, disorderly, unruly, wayward, worldly, anti-authority, or ungodly. In some cases, the removal of the "rebellious one" is deemed an appropriate measure for the "protection" of other family members.
  • Perfectionistic—Impossibly high standards are established for even very young children. Demands for instant obedience followed by harsh or punitive measures for those who fall short, exhaustive expectations, and striving for perfection are daily disciplines. Insistence on law and rulership establishes a shame-based environment of condemnation, failure, and unworthiness for those who do not measure up.
  • Imbalanced—As humans make mistakes in life, it is natural to see dysfunction from time to time as one learns, adapts, adjusts, and relates to others. What makes a high-demand group different is the imbalance. A cultic family gravitates towards extremes. All or nothing and black-and-white thinking dominate reality; for instance, a demand for perfection without equal measures of grace. Exact interpretations of Biblical text, particularly of more obscure passages, for example, a literalistic view of Scripture which binds Gentiles to Mosaic Law. Legalism; judgment without mercy. Rigid standards to determine another's commitment to God, salvation, growth.
  • ManipulationMystical: The "authority covering"  is upheld as a protective spiritual talisman against evil befalling daughters. Emotional: Performance-based relationships offer reward for "correct" behavior through praise, approval, love. Negative reinforcement of shame, guilt, fear, confusion, and criticism are used to emotionally punish those in the wrong.
  • Cognitive Dissonance—When conduct does not match the words, creating confusion. The "subtle message". A mother might say, "We don't expect you to be perfect. Just do your best," and then withhold approval or validation, conveying disappointment, shame, and the message that "You aren't worthy of me. You aren't good enough." Most parents will not say things directly but though manipulative tactics communicate praise or shame to get the performance they desire.
  • Bounded Choice, or Deception—Attempting to control the outcome of a situation using spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, or physically manipulative tactics. Letting others believe they are making a decision, when in reality maneuvering their options to limit, and therefore ensure or predict, the result. 
  • Separatism or Demand for Purity—"We must be separate from the world and those who believe differently than us." "We fellowship with like-minded families." The impure are taught that to remain unrepentant or degenerate according to a given interpretation results in sickness or other disorders, up to or including death, exclusion from family, dis-fellowship from God, and hell. Some families home school, have distinctive style of dress and adornment, conduct home church meetings or home fellowships, live in secluded or agrarian areas, refrain from using banks or checking accounts, birth children at home, decline birth certificates, social security numbers and driver's licenses, choose to prevent children from association with neighborhood or public-schooled kids, decline modern conveniences, and adopt an ascetic lifestyle.
  • Confession—Sharing and transparency, lack of boundaries, and exposing secrets are present in virtually every dysfunctional, cultic family. Siblings are encouraged—whether directly or through positive reinforcement—to keep mom and dad updated on activities, feelings, ideas, and any drama that may unfold. Extended criticism sessions, whether private or in front of family members, serve two purposes: to keep everyone on their toes, and to control behavior through the "hot seat" experience. "Sinning" children are used as an example to others. Confession is supported by an appeal to Biblical humility, the admission of sins, and has a hypnotic, dissociative effect whereby "correct" doctrine can be submitted to the wayward child.
  • Loading the Language—Cultic parents utilize phrases familiar to family members which are effective for controlling the thinking, activities, and choices made by their children. Within the fundamentalist family, key Biblical words such as "walking in the flesh" "of the world" "rebellion is as witchcraft" and others are examples of effective terminology which checks the thoughts and behavior of offspring, often through an appeal to the emotional nature. What child, adult or not, wants to be thought of as walking in the flesh? Therefore, behavior is altered to reflect what the dominant parent deems to be true.
  • Sacred Science—Rigidly dogmatic, fundamentalist families have little to no accountability and claim to have found the truth—the only version, even within their professed faith. Often the father claims to hear from God on behalf of his family and relays it to his children. Beliefs are qualified by calling such "the Biblical way" or the "godly way", based on personal interpretation. Those who do not subscribe to the same way of thinking are considered worldly, serving the flesh, and in some cases, unsaved. In the instances where these words are not uttered directly, judgmental attitudes and subtle messages imply superiority. Elitism is common.
  • Doctrine over person (or, "doctrine before daughter")—Personhood—being; worth and value as a human, including rights, thoughts—is subject to reigning ideology. Rules over relationship. Law over grace. Spoken or subtle, the message teaches that "You don't matter unless you conform to our beliefs." Or in other cases, "We won't accept or support you if you do not share our convictions."  There is often more concern for submission to authority and to family values than for the individuals themselves.
  • Dispensing of existence—Children who do not conform to the cultic family dynamic are labeled, shunned, and treated as though they do not exist or are of little value. Love, affection, attention or approval are withdrawn until change becomes evident. Those, particularly daughters, who leave the family in a manner deemed worldly (i.e., not for reasons of marriage, etc) are considered worldly, wicked, fallen, apostate, rebellious and are often directly or indirectly held up as "what not to do" or "what not to be" to children left at home. 
  • Fear—"Good versus evil", "us versus them". The cultic family is compelled by fear and controlled by fear. The motivations which drive parents to adopt this way of life are based on fear of the world, fear of apocalypse, fear of rebellious children, fear of government, fear of mistakes.
  • Totalist Control—Fear-based, authoritarian families by nature must maintain absolute power over offspring and are most widely recognized by exhaustive levels of control involving every element of life. Informational—books, media, newspapers, music are sharply censored. Financial—older children who work are often expected to contribute to household expenses. Thought—religious belief, worldview, ideas. Behavioral—what is acceptable or not is communicated through performance-based manipulation. Emotional—Ironically, appealing to emotions, such as using guilt to motivate or shame to change, cultic parents convey the message regarding when, if, and which emotions are acceptable. "You shouldn't feel angry. Pray about your anger." Fear, guilt, and shame are the most common emotions used to coerce change. Physical—Choice and behavior, often including marriage, work, schooling, living arrangements, diet, discipline, daily activities, if, how, and when to get a driver's license, what type of church to attend, etc.
  • Codependency, enmeshment—Within a fundamentalist family cult, autonomy is the enemy, for if one begins to think and reason independently, the entire family dynamic is threatened. (Hence the quick use of labels—"rebellious", "worldly"—as a thought-stopping, controlling mechanism.) Cultivating codependency is an effective way to at least challenge the onset of autonomous behavior; in addition, language such as "always""never" and others allude to extremes and reinforce codependency. Some refer to this as covert or emotional incest—the use of a child by a parent or sibling to meet psychological, emotional, non-sexual, or religious adult needs.
  • Lack of boundaries—As a result of codependency or enmeshment, lack of emotional and physical boundaries occurs. Within an unhealthy family, where individualism is discouraged and privacy is little to non-existent, the lines which determine "this is where you stop, and I begin" become blurred and erased. Members essentially spill into one another while confusion, dysfunction, and toxicity increase.
Some of the characteristics I've listed can be argued as responsible parental behavior. It is important to note that family cults, more often than not, comprise numerous offspring, based on Militant Fecundity or the Quiverfull concept; many of whom are adults still living at home. Certainly it is not my contention to state that adult children should not, for religious reasons, remain at home, but the misuse of authority, totalist control, thought reform, and all abuses are destructive, regardless of one's age, personality, theology, gender, or position.

Also, while not every feature will apply to each cultic family, those born and raised within any authoritarian, high-demand environment will experience challenges similar to those of a more extreme nature.

**In Part II we will continue with a look at the ways such an environment affects the physical body.
© 2010 Hillary McFarland


  1. Excellent research and synthesis of conclusions. I've been looking forward to this series.

  2. Whoa. I've never considered my family cultic - just a little controlling - but I saw something of my family in quite a few of your bullet points. A little scary... I'm currently trying to create boundaries, but barely know where to begin.

  3. Anon ~ please don't be scared. I realize that the terminology can be intense but this is because we are conditioned to think of 'cultic' in terms of what we hear / see on the news. The Lord is with you and able to give you wisdom in all things, from your relationships to how to begin setting boundaries. I know it's hard because sometimes boundaries feel selfish. Usually it's best to start with basics, like getting enough sleep.

    Thank you, Sandra. This one is a bit more challenging in many ways for me.

  4. Hillary, this is well-done. Thank you for taking the time and emotional effort to write this. I am forwarding this to some friends.

  5. Thank you! So appreciate the content, the use of words that need to be said, and the passion behind the message. Keep writing and talking. I am walking through this with many I know and forward your insights to them. May God strengthen you and protect you as you tell the truth about this struggle!!

  6. My family was invloved with a family that fit this mold for the past year, thankfully my husband has the gift of discerning, and we got out. My heart still hurts for the children that are involved. They were very controlling, and very black and white in their teachings. Thanks for posting such an educational piece.

  7. Michelle ~ YAY for discerning husbands! :-)

    Joy and Virginia ~ THANK YOU for this, so much. Your encouragement and prayers are huge blessings.

  8. Hilary, I am so proud of how well you are doing. Wow, most of this cultic family stuff fits T to the "T". :)

    Our cult interventionist described MANY of these bullet points to describe his family and upbringing. This really brings it all into perspective. Thanks for all that you are and do! You are a treasure!

  9. Flawless research! It is as if you had for years sat where we sat. This is what happened to my daughters and sons. This is exactly what happened to my family, and many of the other young people who left and are still living under excommunication from their families. Nothing controversial here from my standpoint. I will post this link to my facebook and name the name of the church that did this, and beg everyone who ever went there to read it! Thank you for so precisely telling it like it is.

  10. Very interesting article.

    There are some things I relate to, but also a lot that I did not. Some things are similar to SRA...in the way of attitudes and behaviors...yet it is also very different.

    One thing I was looking for and did not see was a double bind. The closest I saw to that was the "Bounded Choice". Perhaps, it is not used in the types of families you describe. Then again...with everything else they use...perhaps they don't feel they need it.

    I totally relate to the authoritarianism, perfectionism and the lack of freedom to really be yourself. There are other similarities...albeit in different scenarios.

    You obviously did a lot of research and worked very hard on this article. I look forward to seeing the next part.

  11. One Survivor ~ Thank you! The Double Bind is used quite often. This is a different article, but I refer to it here with bounded choice:

    I hope to get part 2 up soon.

    Cindy and Frogla, thank you! =)

  12. Excellent work. I'm sure it was hard for you personally to lay this all out there. You are doing others a good service by providing this information. I have a son with PTSD from his abusive years with his birth mother--it's very important to get the word out that it's not "just you" but others who have/are suffered(ing).

  13. excellent - I can't tell you how almost to the detail you have described what is in the homeschooling community all around us in our area. We are in the feeding frenzy of this family cult teaching - those who don't agree w/ it or question it are the rebellious and wayward and ungodly - that has been what I've been labeled among other things.

    I am married to a very wonderful man - who was raised in a very deeply cultic family. To walk through the healing w. him the last few years has been amazing and such an eyeopener. God does restore and he can heal - but you are right, it is so much harder for those who do not have a "pre-cult" history.

    great article. I look forward to reading the rest.

  14. Wow. Really tough to read at some points, but also very helpful.

    I was raised in a very authoritarian, perfectionistic environment. Home schooled because in public school they teach you to take tests, not how to think (which can be true, to an extent). There was an undercurrent of emotional abuse, because you never knew when something would trigger an incident, and everyone would get a good talking to about how disrespectful, disobedient, and rebellious they were, and how they weren't living according to godly principles, etc.

    I left the home under amicable circumstances (married an "approved" match, thankfully from a SANE home. Not a perfect home, but with more genuine relationships), and only later did I become a "wayward" one. Retroactively as it were.

    Ironically, the church we were in at the time this decision was reached is not an authoritarian controlling place, and grace is taught beautifully and with love every time the people of God are together. And I wasn't the one who left, in fact, my husband and I are still there. We are apparently now "brainwashed."

    Well, I can look back at certain times of my life and I think in a way I was brainwashed at one point. But where I am NOW, I am not here because I am brainwashed, but because I have finally begun to have the freedom to use my brain for myself, as God intended.

    I cannot thank God enough for my Father-in-Law. For the first time in my life, there is a father-figure who radiates genuine love and acceptance, you can just "be" with the family and not feel like the floor is coated with eggshells the whole time. It amazes me that I ended up as well as I did, I was in a prime place to end up in a relationship that mirrored the environment I grew up in, and instead I ended up so blessedly free.

    1. Your comment hits so close to home for me. I felt like I could have just said ditto to yours. My father and mother in law have been such a huge help in my life since my family has cut me off. I am so thankful to God for them! Thanks for sharing your post!

  15. WOW! For one of the first times, I feel like someone gets the way I was raised and how my family (mother, grandpa-ma, aunts, uncles, my dad felt like he just went along for the ride while I was growing up) all interacted and still to this day treat each other and others outside of their approved circles! I'm a 37 yr old mother of 3 myself and have been married for 14 yrs to a wonderful man that my family cannot stand because he is their former pastors son. My husband and I would fight terribly in the first few years of our marriage because of the constant control battles my mom would wage between me and my husband and herself. When my eyes started to open that this is just not right and I started to speak out against it, OH SNAP!, I was labeled and it was like let World War 3 began!!!!! As it stands now I have been shunned by the entire family for going on 6-8 yrs. for havin an opinion of my own and staying at the church where my father-in-law (best dad ever) pastored. Your article was amazing, I just found your website and I'm ordering the Quiver Daughter book tmrw. Thank you so much for the work u put into this much needed subject of abuse. I do have one question, do others that you have heard of in these situations, did they get spanked (beat with an electric cord) as a part of the fear factor growing up? Just curious


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