Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to cure the pain

One of the questions that arises a lot in discussions of people who are breaking away from abusive churches is how to deal with the pain. I was reading an article on counseling x-cultists where Dr. Martin identified 3 views that are shattered as the result of leaving Christian faith based cults:
  1. The belief in personal invulnerability,
  2. The perception of the world as meaningful,
  3. The perception of oneself as positive
The article goes on to give a Christian approach to counseling that sounds quite long term. In looking at the above list another possibility popped into my mind as being potentially an excellent response to this list and I thought I would open up a discussion on it. The Landmark forum is a 3 day intensive program that produces a Zen Satori experience, that is a transformation in a person's way of thinking viewing the world and themselves. In particular it addresses all 3 of the above very very directly. For the x-cultist:
  • Rather then seeing themselves as having had to have been invulnerable they will be hearing from all walks of life that trauma is a fundamental part of human existence and formative, "you are a meaning making machine" and the theory of winning formulas.
  • Landmark is well known for their belief that meaning comes from man not the world itself, "life is empty and meaningless". That is they teach Heidegger / Existentialism as a philosophical approach.
  • Landmark reconstructs for people a positive view of themselves outside of past errors in judgment, that is a method to really, "leave the past in the past".
It also could help with many of the other regular issues one encounters:
  • How to fix relationships broken with family and friends: Landmark is very good at reigniting past or damaged relationships. That is there is a real possibility of quick fixes.
  • Regret for wasted years help to deal with it
  • How to deal with issues of guilt
  • How to reconstruct a value system independently of the dogmatic views held by the cult.
And again we are talking about these sorts of results in a weekend not over an extended period of time. There are however 2 objections that are worth bring up. The first is theological, Landmark doesn't directly contradict Christianity but as Alex Churchill puts it, "They freely admit that they're only concerned with life before death, which from a Christian point of view seems short-sighted". Moreover there isn't a single reference to the bible in the course, for those with a strong opinion on the sufficiency of scripture they may find this upsetting. I happen to think this might be helpful, in that it would allow people to look passages a different way with less resistance and thus break certain cultic theological positions.

The second problem is that Landmark itself has a very hard sell approach and can be consuming. That is while Landmark is not a cult, it is possible to relate to Landmark like a cult. However, I think that is unlikely to happen for most of the people who read this blog; for one thing they likely lack the financial resources to spend thousands a year on courses. For another thing most people involved in Landmark are liberal Christians / Jews / Hindu / Muslims, new agers or atheists. Socially people with strong traditional values just aren't likely to see Landmark as anything more than a workshop, the social aspects would stop them from getting too involved in the social circle.

So before throwing this out more generally I would love to open up the floor. This does seem like a really good way for people to break out of cultic and post-cultic mindsets almost instantly. It would be wonderful to tell people they could get over a good chunk of the emotional trauma in a weekend. Anyone have an opinion?


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