Book Recommendation: Take Back Your Life by Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias
Once you leave a cult, it can take a while to transition back into everyday life. So much depends on how long you were in your cult and the type of indoctrination used. During my own recovery process, I sought out the help of my exit counselor. Talks with Karl, family and friends also aided my transition. At the time, I was reading everything I could get my hands on regarding cult recovery. One of the best books that helped me the most was Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias. Both of these women are professionals who have dedicated themselves to cult research. Tobias has worked with people who have left cults. Each of them has had her own personal experiences as well, having been participants in high demand groups. What I like the most about their writing is their non-judgmental take on the cult experience. Their writing is very clear and concise. They list examples to illustrate that this type of activity happens in many different places. Their straightforward manner is very reassuring and I found the overall examples relevant.
One of the things that helped me the most once I left the group was to realize that it was not my fault. In fact, my exit counselor kept saying this to me as though it were a mantra. It was a very good reminder for me. The way that Lalich and Tobias write is very comforting to reinforce this very belief. Throughout their chapters, they illustrate that one of the common emotions that a post-cult member faces is shame, guilt and anger. There is also a grieving process around leaving friends behind or engaging in unethical activities. To cover a wide range of topics, the authors have created chapters such as “Coping with Emotions” and “Taking Back Your Mind.” In some of the chapters, they have created list of helpful questions to reflect back on your own cult experiences and help you demystify the supposed power that the leader. I think that this is especially critical in your recovery, especially as you free yourself from the grips of mind control. There is even a section dedicated for therapists to help them educate themselves on how to work with ex-members in their healing process.
At the end of the book, the authors include testimonials of ex-members and their experiences of leaving cults. It was incredibly helpful to hear these stories and to realize that I was not alone. I personally think that there is such a stigma around ex-members, as many uneducated people fail to understand the nature of mind control. They do not also understand that this can happen to anyone. As I found out, many professional, intelligent people sometimes fall under the manipulation of cult leaders. It really is not their fault. By sharing our stories and being active in our own recovery process, we can do so much to counteract the misconceptions that people have around cults. This book is an incredible guide for ex-members who are honestly looking at their overall experience and finding the courage to reclaim their lives. I highly recommend it also for people who left cults on their own and may not have been able to articulate the experiences they went through.