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The emergence of anger is one of the first signs of recovery. Anger is a normal and healthy reaction to the hurt and assaults that you experienced. Anger is the most appropriate response to the abuse and manipulations of the cult. It is also the hardest emotion for some ex-members to get in touch with and deal with. If you feel angry, it means you are now ready to acknowledge that you were victimized, which can be incredibly painful. What was done was heinous--and you are entitled to your rage. Just as fear is the backbone of mind control, anger is the fuel of recovery. Anger is an extremely valuable tool in healing. It fortifies your sense of what is right by condemning the wrong that was done to you. It gives you the energy and will to get through the ordeal of getting your life back together. Suppression of anger while in the cult contributed to depression and a sense of helplessness. Now the reverse is possible. Anger can be a double-edged sword, however. It can motivate healing or be turned inward, against the self. Some people may find it easier to blame themselves than to use their anger to make necessary life changes. This can result in alcohol or drug use, physical illness, or emotional disorders including depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Anger can also be directed at innocent others. If expressed inappropriately or unconsciously, anger can further a person's isolation. To be used effectively, anger must be focused on its source--primarily the cult leader. Remember that your anger may be hard for family, friends, and sometimes even therapists to accept. You may be urged to forgive and forget. Ex-members who have been brought up to hide or deny negative feelings may not have the tools or experience to know how to express this potentially healing emotion.
Former cult members "need to realize that what was done to them was wrong ," writes Michael Langone. "[They] must be allowed - encouraged even - to express appropriate moral outrage. The outrage will not magically eliminate the abuse and its effects. Nor will it necessarily bring the victimizer to justice. But it will enable victims to assert their inner worth and their sense of right and wrong by condemning the evil done to them. Moral outrage fortifies good against formidable evil. Even implicitly denying victims' need to express moral outrage shifts blame from victimizers to victims. Perhaps that is why so many victims are disturbed by 'detached' therapists, or 'objective' scientific researchers. They interpret the detachment or "objectivity as implicit blaming of themselves."* People who have experienced a particularly traumatic cult involvement or childhood physical and sexual abuse share certain experiences. Both have been victimized by those they depended on and trusted. Many cult members have also been sexually and/or physically abused. All have been emotionally and spiritually victimized. Anger at such abuse can be expressed and transformed through the use of the techniques given below. Initially, it is important not to do these exercises alone. When repressed anger is first released, the intensity can be overwhelming, even frightening.
Therefore, some of the activities listed here are best done with a trusted and stable friend or therapist.
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