I read another article in ICSA Today that got me thinking, so I will comment on it here. It is in Volume 6, No.2, 2015, pgs 8-11, by Millard J. Melnyk. All quotes are from this article. (Obviously I am reading back issues that I never got to earlier.)
A lot of the attraction to and attachment to high-demand groups (HDGs) is emotional. It is “imaginative, validation- and connection-seeking…” and as such does not require strict critical thinking. I don’t know of anyone who sat down and thought through joining as a logic exercise. It appealed to something inside of us, that something that looks for emotional fulfillment. There is not one of us who doesn’t have some lack, some childhood hurt, some sense of needing or looking for something more, and HDGs offer a solution to our longing.
It is important to remember this if you ever get into a situation where you can talk to a current member and want to convince them to leave. Logical arguments will probably create a defensive reaction, because their commitment is not based on logic. “To engage them, we need to think in cognitive terms…and to focus on how they feel about issues important to them as considered from their points of view.” In other words, if we have a question, ask for explanation, try to approach it from their viewpoint also, as something that you can both investigate without threatening. Questioning for clarification, not as an attack, is a good way to go. Any kind of questioning is good, as it plants seeds in their minds of things to clarify for themselves also. As a member, I would love to explain why the life was so good, I was quick to be defensive if I thought family were saying it wasn’t good, but also, I could not get their comments and questions out of my mind. Everything they said became food for thought, and it all worked to wake me up to reality.
That’s another point to make. Your logic probably won’t cause an “ah-ha” moment, but everything you say is heard, and can be thought about later. It takes time. After all, you are asking them to give up something they are clinging to because they think it has value and they have already invested an awful lot into it.
If you have family or friends in a HDG, don’t give up. I am so glad my kids did not cut off all ties with me. It must have been painful for them to see me still in the group, but they kept trying to talk with me. Yes, I got defensive, and said some things I wish I hadn’t, but it all helped, because I did love them and was not willing to cut all ties with them. If you can find ways to validate and encourage those still in the group (not encourage them in the groups’ lifestyle, but them as persons) they will want to maintain ties with you. After all, they are probably not getting any validation within the group.
It might sometimes feel like you are not getting anywhere, but “If we aren’t honestly willing to look, we have no right to advocate critical thinking…if feels like we’re encouraging them!” So just make the difference between honestly validating the person., and saying you accept the group’s teachings. You don’t have to lie about not liking the group’s beliefs in order to support the person’s integrity, and to raise questions about things you don’t understand.
Contacts with those outside the group are important. “Friendships can eventually serve as options to group involvement or even lifelines out of the group environment if recruits come to feel entrapped.” If I had had more contacts outside of the group, I might have left earlier, but they had done a thorough and good job of isolating me from family and my former life. CJ was all I knew until I left.