Reprogramming the Mind: a Book Review (Svali Blog Post)


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    • Trigger warning: explicit Christian content is discussed

When undoing the effects of a lifetime of abuse and traumatic programming, the survivor is faced with a daunting task. This task is the challenging of old beliefs that have been deeply held, core beliefs that were taught through set-up after set-up, thousands of experiences, and ground in with intense emotional and spiritual pain.

This task has two parts: challenge the old lies, and then begin to believe the truth. I call this process “Reprogramming the Mind”, although a better term would be “Believing the Truth, Instead of the Lies”, since the process I am describing has nothing to do with traumatic programming.

The people in abusive cults lie. From an infant’s first experiences in a generational cult group, they are taught a certain worldview, and one of the first tenets is: You deserve to be abused. The tiny infant, unaware of any reality, is too young to challenge this belief as the adults around him/her wound and cause torment, and tell the infant such doctrine as “You are ours now.”

When an adult tries to challenge these beliefs, they will run straight into the internal wall of pain and terror that placed these beliefs inside in the first place. Deciding to give up the lie can be a slow, difficult process, one that takes every resource that the survivor and their support system can provide. Horrific memories will intrude as programming is challenged, since the internal parts driving it will be afraid, and in therapy will share exactly WHY they are afraid (and they have good reason, based on their life experiences!)

The child believes that they deserve to be used sexually, another lie taught by painful experiences heaped with comments that reinforce this.

The child believes that they can never be loved or accepted outside of the circle of “family”, since they are told this. The outside world, sensing the trauma and pain in the person, often unwittingly reinforces this belief through its denial of the reality the survivor has faced, and the lack of knowledge of healing from trauma.

The child believes that they are shameful, and only valued if they “perform”, since the cult is one of the most brutally performance driven groups on the planet: failure is severely, traumatically punished, while performance is highly praised and esteemed. This will create a huge performance anxiety in every area of life.

I have dealt with all of these issues in my healing. I still do. And one of the best resources that I have found to slowly undo these lies, and to help me replace them with truth, has been a book by a Christian named Robert S. McGee, the founder of Rapha counseling (I have no affiliation with this group and receive nothing for endorsing his book). The book? The Search for Significance.
This book is one of the best resources for a survivor that I know of, since it addresses the problems that trauma creates in our lives, especially the roots of our anxiety towards God and others. It then gives scriptures that can help replace the messages of a lifetime with truth and healing. The message that God truly, deeply, and genuinely cares for His children, and that He loves us not based on performance, and without bringing up our past, since that was forgiven completely, is life changing.
This, along with my Bible, has been one of my main tools, along with therapy, in undoing the lies of a lifetime. I need to read over and over again that God loves me (so many of the lies by the cult told me He hated me); that He forgives me (I was told by the cult that I could never be forgiven, had committed “unpardonable sins”), that I can be loved without performance (so much of my self esteem was wrapped up in what a good job I did).
This book also addresses the issues that are ongoing for me once healing has begun: learning to relate to others in a healthy way (when five years ago, I cried out to my therapist, “What is that? I’ve never known it!”); learning to have a realistic self-image that isn’t as warped and distorted by the grainy, grimy mirror that the cult used on me (their hideous messages designed to break me down as a human being).
This is a process. Reading the book does not mean a “quick cure”. I have read it over and over the past eight years, and I am still learning. It does not replace therapy.
But it is so important, when combating lies, to have truth to replace it with, and this book provides that. I do believe that a deep level of healing from ritual abuse is possible, or I would not write these articles. I believe that with God’s help and deep prayer, it is possible, over time, to replace the lies of a lifetime with truth.