So, my fear of cults doesn’t reside in cults but myself. What does that mean? This topic goes down a path in my history.
Throughout my life I never felt like I belonged to the majority. When I was five years old my family started to move around the world, from Japan to Taiwan to Malta and back to Japan. I was a newcomer everywhere, desperately trying to fit into given communities. I lived under the fear that someone might take my invisible visitor’s badge any time and declare that I didn’t have the right to be there.
Through years of half-attempted adaptations, I turned myself into a culturally/mentally hybrid person, someone who can be comfortable at skin level at anywhere but always restless at a deeper level. (There is even a word for my profile: ATCK, adult third-culture kid.) Then I came back to Japan, which didn’t improve the situation much. In the land of the rising sun, the myth of a homogeneous society was prevalent and the assimilation pressure was stronger than in any other cultures I had experienced.
I gradually got over my fear, not because I found how to adapt myself or a group I belong to but because I found myself fine (= surviving) being nowhere. Seven years ago I settled in Taiwan, and it has only been getting better in terms of being comfortable with who I am, a happy mutant.
But old habits die hard. Whenever I hear keywords such as “weird,” “foreigner,” “eccentric,” my ears stop absorbing anything else that is going on and pay all attention to what I am hearing, out of survival instinct. This is why the topic of “cult” not only triggers my attention but induces my fear; the fear of being singled out.
So the truth is that I don’t fear cults. Instead, I fear being called out as part of a cult, or as any name which implies that I “do not belong.” My old survival instinct gets triggered automatically, no matter what. And that instinct triggers another action, also automatically: finding an escape route. Back when I was a kid, the routes consisted of simply saying no, or saying yes too loudly, or my favorite, shutting off physical sensors and living in my imagination.
Now I find there is yet another route: projecting my internal fear onto an external object—the cult, in this case. It’s about them, not me—that’s the pressure release valve my protection mechanism choose. I must admit it worked well; I haven’t noticed it until now.
Let’s go back to the cults. I don’t hate them. In fact, I might go so far as to say that I emphathize with them, as I do with other social misfits. Our paths might be parted, but at a point in our lives, we fought the same war for survival.
But it doesn’t mean I sympathize with cults. To be continued…