Beyond Belief: Dear Cult Suvivors

Paisley Bird
4 min readFeb 3, 2024

This letter is for you.

Congratulations on embarking towards a new life. I’m sure it feels absolutely dreadful right now; there’s much confusion, heartache and grief that come with leaving behind everything you know. I’m here to tell you and show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your tunnel is unique to you, so please do not be discouraged if people you meet along the way don’t quite understand what you’re expressing. Go and find some that do!

I’m writing this to you because I didn’t have spiritual support when I left my old world. It really does feel like a lifetime ago. Here are some words of encouragement and wisdom as you form your own trajectory.

  1. It’s okay to have strong emotions. You may be angry- angry at the teachings, angry at the people, angry at yourself for being under their influence. Learn how to express this anger in a productive manner. Don’t self-destruct, but if you do, please be kind to yourself. See yourself like an addict, there will be existential crisis replapes. It’s okay to break down and cry. It’s okay to wall up. Don’t deny your experience, but I beg you not to stay in those feelings for too long. Find an outlet to create your own catharsis.
  2. It’s incredibly important to be in an environment where you feel safe. This should be your priority; your healing and growth depend on it.
  3. Explore. I’m guessing there have been many things you were restricted from doing while in the cult. Establish your values and experience life how you see fit. There’s no need to feel bad about ‘normal,’ things, however do not choose things that you aren’t ready for yet, that can add to your existing trauma.
  4. Caution against codependency- whether that’s a person or another faith group. Take the time to understand your own identity instead of molding to another. That’s not to say someone else’s teachings or a close relationship with a person will hinder your growth, but be cautious as to why you make those decisions.
  5. You may feel an euphoric feeling being free, own it! Remember, if you crash, you can get back to feeling positive.
  6. You may cycle through grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Sometimes it’ll be out of order, sometimes it’ll just be one you sit in for a period of time. Watch where you are and determine where you want to be. It’s natural to flow through grief in a non-linear fashion.
  7. You’ll learn more about yourself with others. Start small with the communities you have access to and strive to make a friend. The more you interact with others, the more you will understand what you want and what you don’t want in a relationship/friendship. A cult’s version of friendship is usually conditional and warped. Remember in order to have friends, you need to be a friend. If you feel you lack in that area, take time to meditate on what friendship means to you, how you want to be treated, what boundaries you have and then act on it.
  8. You may find yourself being alone or feeling lonely at times. That’s okay, this is a perfect opportunity to get in touch with yourself. What do you like to do? What kind of future do you want? What kind of person do you aspire to? Daydreaming on possibilities will help mitigate the pain that comes with starting over. Dreaming may not have been allowed in your old life so If it’s hard to dream, that means you need to practice more;
  9. You are your greatest ally. Even if you have your family or friends to support you, it’s important to work on your self-esteem and confidence. You probably have deeply rooted negative core beliefs about yourself. Those don’t go away until you address them. Choosing different types of healing modalities can help guide you such as: talk therapy, somatic work like yoga, neurofeedback (brain training), coaching or whatever else is accessible to you. Once you have stronger mental capacities I recommend the next tier of modalities like CBT and EMDR.
  10. Gratitude will ease your suffering. Even if you’ve hit your version of rock bottom, there is always something to be grateful for, even if it’s as simple as sunlight.
  11. Fear can easily devour you, whether fear of making the wrong choice, fear of the future, fear of yourself etc. Your fear is there as a protection, but sometimes our bodies take a while to catch up to what we want. Our bodies and minds need to be taught that things are getting better. See fear as a part of yourself; what could you say to the fear based part of yourself? Perhaps thank it for keeping you safe? Discuss that the fear can be redirected now?
  12. Mindfulness will help keep the noise down in your mind. Practicing being self aware will naturally help you manage your emotions. There will often be triggers, an event or memory that will influence your thoughts and lead to uncomfortable emotions. Sometimes this leads to destructive behavior. Be wary of self soothing excessively with external items, such as drugs and alcohol. They are temporary highs only, and will deter you from real progress. Mindfulness can help you choose what aligns with your value system.

Everything is going to be okay!

No matter what, you chose yourself and that is the most important and amazing thing you could do. Pain from loss of community, identity and time may seem like a plague, but I guarantee you that with time and effort, the pain will ease and can transform into something beautiful for your life.



Paisley Bird

Insight Coach that lives in the form of an Intuitive Empath, HSP, and Visual Storyteller.