|First contact! Sounds like a science fiction movie. Actually, there is
a movie by that name; one of the Star Trek series made in 1996. In it, Captain
Picard and the crew pursue the Borg back in time to prevent them from changing
history. The Borg referred to themselves as a "collective". All
thoughts, emotions, and behavior were to be aligned with the will of "the
collective". The Borg was the ultimate outer space cult.
|If you are or have been a member of a religious cult then I don't need
to tell you what it is like to try and align all of your thoughts, emotions,
and behavior with the will of the collective. In a cult, if you do this
well you are destined for leadership within the group. If you do it poorly
and/or resist it, your experience in the group could be unpleasant to say
|When I talk about "First contact" for the purposes of this article,
what I am referring to is the first time you had contact with your group.
This first or initial meeting might have happened on your doorstep, with
someone from the group knocking on your door and inviting you to talk about
the Bible. Maybe it was at the mall or at the beach. Many experience "First
contact" on the campus of their high-school or college. Still others
respond to invitations for a "free seminar" or a "non-denominational"
Bible study handed to them on a busy street corner.
|The one common denominator in almost all first contacts is that it is
a positive experience. People usually don't walk away from their first contact
with a cult with negative feelings about the encounter. A good cult recruiter
is among other things an excellent salesperson. They are almost always positive,
upbeat, enthusiastic and passionate. What allows them to be this way is
not that they are trying to trick or deceive you. What allows them to be
this way is that they truly believe what they are telling you. They also
truly believe that they are doing the will of the creator of the universe
by doing what they are doing. If you are not used to being around people
who display a high degree of passion, it can be positively compelling simply
to be in their presence and listen to them.
|Will you learn much about the group the recruiter is a part of during
"First contact"? You probably will not; you may not even learn
the name of the group and it's possible you won't even realize that the
person is part of any group at all. You might only exchange phone numbers
or email address. You may or may not leave with an invite to a party, a
seminar, or a picnic. If the recruiter has done their job, the only thing
you will almost always leave that "First contact" with is a positive
view of the encounter and a willingness to meet and talk again.
|A note to those of you reading this who may have
been raised in a cult. If your parents belonged to a cult when you
were born or if they joined while you were a young child, you never experienced
a "First contact". Your earliest memories are of life inside the
group and therefore you have some unique challenges to overcome when you
begin recovery. I have spoken with many ex-members who were raised in the
group and to a person they talked about the challenge of lacking a "normal"
frame of reference. Because they grew up thinking life inside their group
was the "normal" and right way to live, they had no pre-cult experience
to fall back on once they left. On the upside, I have seen some of these
people make excellent progress outside their group providing they found
and developed some supportive relationships and fearlessly sought to understand
what had happened to them. Even though your experience is in many ways different
from those that were recruited into their group while teenagers or adults,
I think you will still see much you can relate to on this website and the
others that I have linked up under "Other Resources".