The masks we wear and the role of advocacy

Written by Debra Van Neste


One of the challenges I come across in being an educator and consultant for cult awareness, is how the foundation is built on our stories of abuse in a cult or relationship, rather than on an attempt in understanding the process of it all. Recovery is not a cookie cutter process, yet sadly it has become a business to many, a business which relies on being victimized. The other danger is the idea of self-styled experts being obsessed and use positions of perceived power to change the beliefs of others without prior consent. Such was the platform of old deprogrammers which included Steven Hassan and Rick Ross, whose methods failed, backfire, and often operate in legal backwaters.

I have highlighted and supported victims as advocates, but there also have been times I had to speak up about the roles some people like to play as professional victims. The question must be asked: what is an advocate? At first, I had to look critically as that is a veiled role or a convenient term for those of us not being educated enough to offer direct support. An advocate is part of the rung of a ladder for your climb towards support and recovery. Many people are in different stages of recovery and I offer support through referrals, crying with you, helping with social media, getting the word out on your efforts, showing you positive support in your efforts to be a voice in the world and using your experiences to warn others.

There are many channels of support, such as the efforts of family and friends, to finding a qualified licensed professional. Not all people working in the field are victim advocates primarily.  Some may be consultants and experts, working to correct the system. My final step in recovery was not solidifying how I was a victim of a cult. Rather, it was to throw away this victim-persona, as well as the collection of stories that made me who I thought I was. To define myself as this character, this former sad play of my life was the hardest in my life to let go. I wanted to stay guilty and pay for my betrayal; to lie and be that person lacking discernment, unable to think the right thing. I felt I could never be forgiven or could never truly move forward. I wanted to hang on to my hatred and enjoy the blame game, as this is what defined me and allowed me to exact my pound of flesh.

Our e-publication will take a sharp turn towards critical thinking, the roles we play within ourselves, and how critical thinking and scepticism plays the final role, in attempting to know ourselves and prevent us from drowning in the quagmire surrounding all aspects of life. This is one of the biggest battles: to think in ways that are rational, practical and progressive; you don’t need a degree or even advanced education to think yourself through life.

A heart is good, but a heart and critical thinking are the methods to teach a future generation to safeguard their minds and lives. The ways to prevent and end cults is to know how to think. The way to live starts in how we perceive and interpret everything around us.