So, someone told me on a support Yahoo! Group that what I have been experiencing for the last few weeks is called “floating.”
The extreme identity confusion caused by membership in a cult can follow an ex-member for years, causing flashbacks in which the person “floats” back to the time of his involvement. In an instant, the cult identity can be triggered by a stimulus, such as an image, sound, or smell, that was instrumental in their manipulation. During my first year ould of the cult (1976), the word “moon” would cause me to thing “Father,” see an image of Sun Myung Moon, and begin to think from within my cult identity.
This dissociative state, which is known as “floating,” can be a significant obstacle for former cult members. Involuntary episodes are most common among people who were exposed to trance-inducing techniques, such as chanting, meditation, and speaking in tongues. Floating is particularly scary for those who lack an understanding of mind control. People who leave a cult without counseling are often confused and terrified by the experience, and begin to feel irrational guilt and fear over having left the group.
So what has been the last few weeks been like for me? Well, I’ve found myself automatically entering to prayer just like I used to with the Local Church, wanting to go back when I know that I don’t want to, thinking about the people I left behind, fearing God – like He might change His mind about me, the depression, the darkness, the pain, and pain for the people still locked into the Local Church.
It hasn’t been a pleasant experience. On Thursday I went to Daily Mass, and I could barely recieve Communion, I thought I was going to drop the chalice. Friday wasn’t much better, with a phone call to a priest-friend, which made me late to class (we’ve a 20 minute break for our 3 hour classes). I return to class, and the professor has just begun our weekly meditation session, which usually lasts for 15 minutes. It’s more than I can take, so I walk out again and spend the 15 minutes the class mediates crying in a bathroom stall. Later on Friday I sent an apologetic email to the professor excusing my poor behavior.
I feel pain for the people still in the Local Church, and even more for the knowledge that anyone who leaves will have similar experiences to mine. Not everyone survives the ex-member process. Some people commit suicide. I could still be in there, or I could be dead either by my own hand or by the deteriorating life-style on which I was subsisting. These people are just like me, and they are on the fringe edge of the cult hierarchy, so they’re just blindly believing that this is truth. They may not know any better.
It’s like being shut in a room at night where there aren’t any lights. The darkness seems thick, but with the dilation of the pupils, one can begin to see furniture and other fixtures. If one sticks around in the room long enough, they can mistake the gray formations for actually being in the light. That’s what cults are about: mistaking the Darkness for Light. if you offer them the stub of a candle, they refuse it.
Hassan, S. A. (2000) Planning and holding an intervention (pp. 322-323). In Releasing the bonds: Empowering people to think for themselves. Somerville: Freedom of Mind Press