So how does one open the lockbox? Where does one find the courage to speak in the face of fear and shame, the double-edged sword of oppression?
First, one must make the choice to heal. Healing is always a choice, not an accident. Often propelled on by suffering, the individual decides whether to passively “accept one’s fate” or actively pursue a way to freedom. It is a mystery as to why some people actually choose to heal and others do not. Individuals vary. For some, the choice may be obvious and swift. For others, it may take a long time to come to that essential decision.
Once the decision to heal is made, one must begin the process of opening up by sharing one’s true feelings. Just as Pinocchio became a “real boy” when he told the truth, so the magic of genuine self-disclosure allows one to become who he is. But this must be done in a safe place. Safety is essential to building trust. Continual assaults in the past at the heart of one’s being make it hard to trust anyone. Safety allows one to make tentative stabs at reality without fear of punishment.
Experience teaches abused people not to trust anyone as a way of survival. But one must make small steps in the direction of trust in order to heal. There are individuals in society who are trustworthy. Shamans and priests were once the hearers and witnesses of truth. In today’s society, credentialed psychotherapists, counselors and teachers who are bound by a code of ethics can help one learn to trust again. They bear witness to the individual’s truth.
Initially, people may become depressed, if not suicidal when they come out of an abusive cult and take steps towards healing. The realization of their loss – the loss of time, the loss of identity, loss of one’s self can be intolerable. But depression keeps us stagnant. It slows us down; it keeps us down, locked in the cycle of oppression.
For many, opening the lockbox is a byproduct of anger. Anger is the vehicle that drives the truth into the open. The victim must not only feeling her feelings; she must see the cult leader for what he was – an abusive sociopath; not a loving presence. It is not enough that the abuse caused suffering. Suffering accompanied by resolve becomes the catalyst for change. One needs the spark of indignation that recognizes the unfairness and imbalance of power in one’s situation. Then one begins to puncture the membrane of silence that leaves one isolated from the world.
The code of silence is penetrated through one’s initial decision to heal and one’s courage to begin to tell the truth about oneself in a safe place. This, accompanied by education about physical, sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse allows the individual to start on the journey towards wholeness. True expression of one’s feelings, especially anger, makes healing possible.