ICSA Annual Conference: Decolonizing the cult survivor

Grahame Gee, Saturday, June 25, 2022, 11:00 AM-11:50 AM -Online

This presentation will outline my reflections of my experience as someone who was born into the Worldwide Church of God, a Bible based doomsday cult. It will focus on the effects of psychological colonization by the cult leader and his enablers and provide an outline of a model for assisting second generation survivors (SGS) of a cult, whom I define as individuals either born into a cult or brought into a cult at a young age who subsequently leave the cult. This will be achieved by firstly, providing a brief overview of the cult’s teachings and organizational characteristics. This will include a brief autobiographical summary of the cult leader. Secondly, the colonizing effect of the cult’s practices will be outlined. This will include a brief discussion of the cult’s effect on the psychological and emotional development of its SGS, noting that the cult’s controlling influence led to a level of moral development that stuck at the level of obedience and punishment. While the primary source of this truncated development is the colonizing effect of the cult leaders traumatizing narcissism, mid and low-level enablers were required to both mediate and reinforce his colonizing influence. Finally, I will present a model for psychological decolonization of SGS. The model encompasses for parts, involving listening without judgment (Receiving the Story), Acknowledging without Blaming (Validating the Story), Identifying Strengths (Reinterpreting the story) and Identifying Authentic Values and Goals (Rewriting the story).

Grahame Gee

Grahame was born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand and he is a survivor of the Worldwide Church of God, a Bible based doomsday cult. He was around 18 months old when his parents were recruited into the cult which proclaimed a heady mixture of end time judgment with the promise of escape for the elect. For his first three decades, his life revolved around the teachings and restrictions of the cult. Following the death of its founder, Herbert W Armstrong, the cult was riven by power struggles and splits within its leadership. It was during this time that Grahame began the long and painful process of decolonizing himself from the cult and its leader. From his recent work with survivors of intimate partner violence and physical and sexual violence while growing up, he was able to see parallels between the systems of coercive control his clients faced and that of the cult he grew up in. He currently works as a mental health nurse in a community setting supporting clients with complex mental health needs in the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. He is married to Helen.