The psychological and emotional abuse of members results in the individuals loss of identity, severe guilt and remorse complexes and social disorientation. The consequences of this for someone who leaves the cult are feelings of alienation, depression, betrayal and confusion. This in turn leads to a wish to end ones life, and in some cases, suicide.
1. Personality Changes. Relatives will say they no longer recognize the person. From a warm, loving personality will come heaped abuse, rejection and feelings of hate. The cult member sees himself as righteous in comparison and this comes across in their attitude toward all outsiders.
This is probably a major delineator between the BKWSU and cults that cause negative personality changes. The BKWSU have quite a different effect than the one described here. New members are heavily confronted by expectations that are well beyond anything most people would even consider. Hours of study and meditation every day that underlie a focus on being pure in every thought, word and action. The BKs, on the whole, are the nicest people you are likely to meet. Their focus on dharna is such that they make huge efforts to be respectful, well mannered and inoffensive. This is the most significant upside to following the BK path. Unfortunately the trauma of leaving the organisation is so disempowering that whatever has been gained as a BK is lost and ex members can find themselves in a quite dysfunctional space.
2. Loss Of Identity. They cannot see themselves as individuals apart from the group. Some even change their name as a rejection of their former life.
Hours of meditation and a constant process of reminding oneself “that I am a soul, the child of the Supreme” is all centred upon a generic understanding of self. That is to say every BK will be contemplating the same identity. Just as they all wear white as a uniform of conformity, their self understanding is also uniform and conformist. They effectively buy into a pre-packaged identity. That identity is dependent on belonging to the group. If someone were to leave the group then they have to leave the identity behind.The psychological ramifications of this are enormous. This is also the basis of the trauma that individuals experience when leaving a cult.
3. Paranoid – We Are Being Persecuted. Any time you say anything negative about the group, whether justified or not, it is regarded as persecution. Any criticism of the individual is also seen as persecution only because they are the true Christian or enlightened one – not because they, as an individual, have done the wrong thing. However, at the same time they will feel free to criticize whatever you believe, say and do because they are ‘the only ones who are right’.
The BKWSU membership do believe that they are the only ones who are right. But they have developed a spectacularly patronising attitude that frees them from feeling criticized. They are taught to feel pity for those who criticize because obviously they are lesser souls who do not have the spiritual power necessary to recognise the truth. With this view they see criticism as evidence of their superiority.
4. Social Disorientation. They lose their ability to socialize outside the group. This can go so far as to not being able to structure their time or make simple decisions for themselves when they leave.Their world-view alters and they perceive the world through their leaders eyes. They become very naive about life in general.
In the case of the BKs this is overwhelmingly true – through a constant process of ‘education’ and meditation, and by becoming ensconced in the BK lifestyle they effectively live in a bubble. The rules for communication and relationships within the group are very clear – there is a very defined social code much like one would find in a working environment. Dadi Janki always taught that a true BK has friendship with Shiva alone – effectively friendship was not allowed. It was considered attachment and therefore body conscious. The consequences for someone leaving the group can be severe as a result. They are socially disconnected because they have lost touch with the ever evolving social codes of normal society whilst they spent years isolated from normality. Their sense of self is very confused and their ability to be employed is significantly compromised.The net effect is that they are childlike, confused and naive after they leave the group.
5. Severe Guilt Complexes. They are made to feel guilty of everything they did before entering the group and are to strive to be good and worthy for eternal life. Misdemeanors are made into mountains so that members are in a constant state of guilt for infringing even the most minor rules. Guilt comes because they aren’t doing enough; entertaining doubts or questions; even thinking rationally for oneself. This guilt is piled upon pile with new rules or reminders constantly being laid downabout what is sinful and what is not. Illness may be seen as lack of faith – more guilt. Emotional illness may be seen as proof of sin in your life – more guilt.
Guilt and remorse are an ongoing experience for a BK. The expectation of absolute purity is so unrealistic that a BK will experience guilt every time they imagine they have failed in this obligation. Members are constantly reminded of the ‘correct’ way to think, speak and act. They are therefore constantly reminded of their mistakes. They will spend years trying to get it right. Many eventually come to the conclusion that it is not possible – only to feel ashamed for thinking like that. They are aware of the consequences of failure – that such failure is eternal and irreversible. This is a recipe for trauma.
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