“Take Back Your Life” by Janja Lalich and Madeline Tobias (p. 26-27). [Reprinted with permission from the author and publisher.]
In the medical profession, ethical contracts ensure that patients have given “fully informed consent”. That is, if a doctor fails to inform a patient about the risks, side effects, and options for treatment, the uninformed patient is entitled to sue for maltreatment. Below is a mock contract for cult membership. If you are in a group, ask yourself if you gave informed consent at the time of your recruitment, or if you would have joined had you known your participation would involve the following conditions. I find this contract very similar to my own experience in the WMSCOG:
I, _______________________ hereby agree to join ________________________. I understand that my life will change in the following ways. I know what I am getting into and agree to all of the following conditions:
My good feelings about who I am will stem from being liked by other group members and/or my leader, and from receiving approval from the group/leader.
- My total mental attention will focus on solving the group’s/leader’s problems and making sure that there are no conflicts.
- My mental attention will be focused on pleasing and protecting the group/leader.
- My self-esteem will be bolstered by solving group problems and relieving the leader’s pain.
- My own hobbies and interest will gladly be put aside. My time will be spent however the group/leader wants.
- My clothing and personal appearance will be dictated by the desires of the group/leader.
- I do not need to be sure of how I feel. I will only be focused on what the group/leader feels.
- I will ignore my own needs and wants. The needs and wants of the group/leader are all that is important.
- The dreams I have for the future will be linked to the group/leader.
- My fear of rejection will determine what I say or do.
- My fear of the group’s/leader’s anger will determine what I say or do.
- I will use giving as a way of feeling safe with the group/leader.
- My social circle will diminish or disappear as I involve myself with the group/leader.
- I will give up my family as I involve myself with the group/leader.
- The group/leader’s values will become my values.
- I will cherish the group’s/leader’s opinions and ways of doing things more than my own.
- The quality of my life will be in relation to the quality of group life, not the quality of the life of the leader.
- Everything that is right and good is due to the group’s belief, the leader, or the teachings.
- Everything that is wrong is due to me.
- In addition, I waive the following rights to:
- Leave the group at any time without the need to give a reason or sit through a waiting period
- Maintain contact with the outside world
- Have an education, career, and future of my choice
- Receive reasonable health care and have a say in my health care
- Have a say in my own and my family’s discipline, and to expect moderation in disciplinary methods
- Have control over my own body, including choices related to sex, marriage, and procreation
- Expect honesty in dealings with authority figures in the group
- Expect honesty in any proselytizing I am expected to do
- Have any complaints heard and dealt with fairly with an impartial investigation
- Be supported and cared for in my old age in gratitude for my years of service