Kat Wallace, Judith Linzer Ph.D.; Sunday, June 26, 2022; 4:00 PM-4:50 PM
How do people get trapped in cults? One tool cults use is emotional and mental coercion to exercise undue influence keeping people stuck in the group. Even without physically holding people prisoner, it is possible to hold them by building a closed system of beliefs and isolating them from other ideas. This is especially true for people who have grown up in high control groups because when they leave, they don’t have a pre-existing set of beliefs to return to. High-control groups often excel at weaving a set of beliefs that are difficult to think one’s way around. They form a circular system, using thought-stopping techniques, keeping people unable to think critically for themselves. Once embraced, it is nearly impossible to challenge those beliefs. One of the biggest struggles for Ms. Wallace, as a born-in cult survivor, is changing these implanted core beliefs. Even while logically disagreeing with the cult’s beliefs, triggers can be intense. In this workshop we will discuss how cult survivors can change these implanted and debilitating beliefs. We will also discuss how professionals, supportive family, and friends can help people escaping high control organizations unpack and change self-harming beliefs and what might make matters worse for the “escapee”. Join Wallace and Dr. Linzer for an exploration of these questions. Wallace will share her personal experiences “detoxing” from being raised a Jehovah Witness. She has spent the past twenty years struggling to get the cult out of her head. Dr. Linzer and Wallace spent years discussing Wallace’s cult experience finding many similarities between child custody work and healing cultic experiences. Please join us as we discuss this process of helping someone leave a cult. We will talk for 30 minutes and then open it up to questions for the last 20 minutes.
Co-President, Navigating Consent
Ms. Wallace, a gender-queer lesbian, grew up in a zealous Jehovah’s Witness family, remaining a Witness until finally breaking away at age 30, 21 years ago. Her father was a convert who led the congregation and this put Wallace in the position of having to be a “model Witness child”. She questioned things early on but was forced to live a “secret” inner life. He used to quote, “Give me a child until age 7 and I will have him for a lifetime”. This indoctrination has continued to influence and interfere with her post-cult life. She has dedicated years to removing that influence using things like psychotherapy, support groups, art, and numerous tools for fading triggers and changing belief systems. For 6+ years Wallace has facilitated workgroups and classes to share these skills, including the Alive program and Navigating Consent. She is equally devoted to helping other cult survivors. In particular, as an “insider” who understands the brainwashed mind, she is aware of how well meaning “helpers” (friends and professionals) may inadvertently say and do things that have the opposite effect and can actually send the people they are trying to rescue back into the hands of the cult. See more about Wallace’s work with the above mentioned non-profit at www.navigating-consent.com and www.thealiveprograms.org. Both are working with practices to notice and stop violence, recover from consent violations and collisions, and practices to equalize and communicate about these difficult topics. www.sunrisecreations.org has more information on Wallace’s escape from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and cult recovery.
Judith Linzer Ph.D.
Judith Linzer Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in CA. Her private practice focuses on child custody work. Much of her work involves treating children where one parent has “turned” the children against the other parent. In the child custody field, it is referred to as “parental alienation”. The children become brainwashed by one parent, rejecting the other parent. It is as though it is a cult within the family system. Dr. Linzer spends much of her time diagnosing and treating this issue. Children are often intransigent and sometimes the only way to solve the problem is for the Court to completely change custody to the rejected parent. Often, Dr. Linzer gets appointed by a family court judge to do a form of psychotherapy called “reunification therapy”, attempting to reconnect the child to the rejected parent. The children are frequently resistant, insisting that the rejected parent is terrible, seemingly forgetting that they once had a loving bond with the rejected parent. Psychotherapy attempts to help children learn to think for themselves, a painful process. Sometimes the children feel they must reject one parent in order to keep the approval of the other parent. Dr. Linzer thinks this work has much in common with cults.