by Cindy Kunsman cross posted from her blog Under Much Grace
All images by Cindy Kunsman and Under Much Grace are used with permission.
As I walked through this past year (recapped here), I recognized the familiar sense of panic that I felt during my last year in my spiritually abusive (cultic) church. A number of years ago, I’d become involved with a new group of people that aspired to achieve some idealistic causes, but as it unfolded, it became an unhealthy and familiar trap. As was true of my old church, not everyone experiences the discomfort of dysfunction, yet like some others, I found myself in good company. I think that the familiarity of the dynamics caused me to forget about my competent adult self, and I felt swept up in a deep sense of childhood helplessness. (As a friend put it, these folks did have a formidable “skill set,” too.)
I have the idea that this new experience felt worse to me than my cult exit experience did. But as is said about the memory of a mother’s pain of birthing, my husband believes that healing and twenty years of distance from our cult exit clouds my recall. I do believe that I garnered far more respect as a professional in my cult, and though I hate to say it, the church leaders were far more benevolent with me. Perhaps that came from our dedication to the core, healthy elements of the religious virtues we shared which I did not experience within this new venue? It created the appearance of professional ethics as a common glue for beneficence, so I expected more structure and substance. In retrospect, I would say now that the new venue proved to be more like jello that couldn’t be tacked down.
Credit Where Credit is Not Due
Like many folks do, I put too much trust in the promise of good will made by those I saw as the best experts. Though I’ve learned so much, I also doubted myself in the process in concert with misplaced trust. I’d been taught to avoid the serious consequences of the Appeal to Authority as a nurse on the job. I learned the same lesson with clergy who should have been the safest people to trust. This time, I fell into the familiar pit of not finding what I expected to find instead of building expectation on evidence in this different, expanded venue.
A few years ago, I went to my therapist after attending continuing education with counselors and therapists and was shocked that I saw many behave worse than children. I will never forget her failed attempt to choke back a laugh at my disbelief at their lack of professionalism. (I had a long relationship of trust with that therapist, and her laugh added welcomed levity, for we had been around so many aspects of this same old mulberry bush of false beliefs so many times. And I’m fairly sure that I’ve blogged about this watershed moment before, though it bears repeating.)
I apparently needed a few more lessons and extra practice in a broader territory. My problem was also complicated by attribution errors and correspondence issues – assuming that everyone had the same perspective and motivations that I did. I then naively showed my hand with little discretion. That’s the short explanation of why I’m lousy at poker (and politics).
Those pesky shoulds! More to come.
One of the $3 Kindle books about Cognitive Bias at Amazon.com
Gilovich, Griffin & Kahneman’s Heuristics and Biases
Gilovich’s How We Know What Isn’t So
Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
- Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery
Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.
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