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As survivors heal, they often learn things that are helpful to others. In this guest article, Olyssa shares what has helped her in maintaining safety from the cult. I admire her courage and her insights here as she shares from her heart.
The goal of external safety is to create an environment that will allow you to begin to decipher the complex inner workings of your system and how it has been programmed. Until my system knew it was safe it refused to disclose itself.
For this article, I am going to speak in the first person about my own experience. I would suggest that much of what I say will be applicable to the inner workings of your system since cults share similar programming techniques. Like the language of love, the language of programming is universal. Each of us is a unique human being with a unique experience of love, but love itself is consistent, based on respect, intimacy, safety, harmony etc. So too is programming consistent, based on instilling terror and obedience through violent betrayal and trauma bonding. In sharing what my process has been like, it is my hope you will better understand yourself and the ways programming has debilitated your freedom and recovery.
Once I was in an adequately safe environment it has been a painstaking process to break down the programs that keep me under the control of the cult. There are 4 ways in which I struggle against the cults presence in my life.
1) Actual external contacts from the cult including members appearing unexpectedly in public places, audio cues such as musical tones, beeps or distant sounds or phrases that seem benign to most people (including the “day self”) but set off programs.
2) Ongoing Phone Contacts as initiated by automaton programs in reporting alters. These phone contacts keep the cult informed of our activities and allow them to influence our perception of our circumstances to give them greater power over us.
3) Complex PTSD Anytime the least little similarity occurs bridging a trauma experience with present day it creates tremendous anxiety. It can often leave alters convinced they are back in the trauma. *Circumstances that are merely happenstance but create a bridge to a trauma experience can set off programs as powerfully as actual cult contacts.
4) Drug Addiction At the root of the ongoing phone reports are a layer of alters who have been carefully cultivated to have a drug addiction, a fix they can ONLY get when they stay in contact with the cult. Not only are they dependent on the drug for the fix, but to help mask the heinous graphic violence that they were only able to endure through being drugged. Without the drugs, they start to feel their feelings. Their terrible pain and suffering is unmanageable to them, The only way they know how to survive is to numb themselves. They are driven to keep reporting alters in contact so they can maintain their deep addiction.
I have already addressed the importance for safety from actual external cult contact in the first article. In this article I will speak in greater depth about the other three factors which are all intertwined.
I never knew that there were hidden parts of me that have done everything they can to manipulate my life and influence me so they can maintain their addiction.
My reporting alters exist in several layers. The top layer have been through horrific trauma bonding and think this is love. When they make contact they are given lavish praise, filled with messages about how special they are. Beyond the desire for approval and praise, the second layer has been badly tortured to instill the visceral obedience to the “phone home” programs. They feels they cannot withstand the anxiety of refraining to comply when the “phone home” program is set off, usually by the day of the week or month it has been instilled in them to report. Or by PTSD flashbacks.
As I have begun to work with the reporting alters to help them manage their anxiety when they feel prompted to make a call I have become aware that there is a group inside who fan the embers of anxiety in the reporting alters. This group, the third layer, are the hidden alters who have been weaned onto drugs. When the reporting alters were created and trained, they were put through a combination of torture and reward. The only way they could get relief from the torture was to pick up the phone and dial. Once they would do this, drugs were given as the reward. Now, my brain chemistry will reproduce the drug experience merely from the reporting alters making the report over the phone. As well, the drug addiction has been reinforced regularly with actual “drug sessions.”
The life I, the day self, has tried to build has been torn down again and again because of this deeply buried addiction held by separate alters. Every close non-cult friendship I have ever built has been terminated. Always it has been that the cult tells the deep, addicted insiders that they cannot get their fix because this non-cult person is in the way. Then the hidden cult alters are filled with hate toward my friend and attack them and pick on them relentlessly until I am overwhelmed with the belief that it IS true, that this friendship must end. Once I pull away from the non-cult friend, the addicted alters are “rewarded” with an actual drug session. The cult has successfully isolated me and has complete control over the system once again.
Getting free from the cult means having the compassion, patience and acceptance to help the addicted alters work through the debilitating pain and anxiety that will surface for them when it is not being masked by the fix. The only way for them to recover is to help the reporting alters not give in to their anxiety and report. The addicted alters NEED to scare the reporting ones and will exploit the PTSD in the reporting ones if that’s what it takes to convince them they must get to a phone and make a contact.
I was deep into my recovery before I discovered I had hidden addicted alters. Learning how they have been trained and traumatized and how they manipulate the system has been critical to recovery. As the system caretaker now that I know what is going on, it is important for me to presence the addicted ones and reassure them and welcome them.
Part of having DID means we often tend to divide amongst ourselves, alters blaming other alters or distrusting each other. The way we can ultimately separate from the cult is to build a life that includes all alters and respects their histories and their fears and weaknesses as well as their courage and strengths. When I first found out that these hidden addicted alters had been manipulating and terrorizing the anxious reporting alters I was inclined to be angry at them. But I understand that they did this because their own terror was so great. They did not know me, the caretaker. They did not know love. They did not know how they would survive without the fix. By spending time each day reassuring them that I am unconditionally here for them and that I will never reject and that I will keep them safe from the cult and help them through their addiction they are slowly beginning to trust me and let me help them.
In order for the programmed/cult loyal alters to be willing to take a leap of faith outside of the dark world they have been raised in, there must be a part of you who can catch them, however imperfectly and accept them for what they, in their helplessness and fear, did to survive. My alters learned a long time ago, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” It kept you alive. Now it is time to own that every one of these alters and you are part of the same self. As you can meet and accept each other and realize these cult parts are part of your whole self, than you can become free.