The ‘Getting to Know’ Phase
This begins with the first contact with the group. In this phase, the affected person has sympathy for the group, but still has a certain inner distance. He is open to critical questions.
As in the cases of all cults, information should be made available in this phase. This information would give the affected person the possibility of a responsible, free decision. Such knowledge, of how a group takes on the characteristics of a cult, about the methods with which cults in general recruit their members, and about which dangers exist in this regard, should be part of a general education. This webpage serves to inform about the Holic Group.
You can arrange a “ritualized” conversation with your loved one. Make specific agreements: each lets the other finish speaking and tries to listen without stating reservations. Arrange for a quiet and, above all, to-the-point atmosphere.
Let your family member speak first. Ask him about his view of what he has found to be positive in the group. From this conversation, you will learn what he was missing in his previous life. (Partnership? Friends? Affirmation?
Answers to questions about the meaning of life? etc.). Can you or others offer help or alternatives in these matters?
Avoid personal attacks, blame, or guilt, and try to keep your own feelings under control. It can easily happen, e.g., that your loved one expresses a harsh and injurious (and generally unjustified) critique on your way of life and your allegedly lax Christianity. He may, in the process, exude a certain arrogance, self-justification, and pride. But it won’t help anybody, if you react just as emotionally in this situation and ignite a conflict.
Tell your loved one what it is about him and his changes that confuses and concerns you. In this process, “Imessages” are appropriate and meaningful: “I notice that you often appear so sad.” But avoid direct reproaches or statements which actually express your own needs, like, e.g., “How can you want to spend so much time with this group and not with us? Haven’t we done so much for you?” For a Holic member, that would be an expression of the self-pity which he’s been taught to despise.
Say that you are concerned, and identify the risks that you see.
One helpful tactic for people who are presently on their way into the group, but still have some doubts, is conversation with former members. They know the group’s problems and weaknesses best from their own experience. Professionals who deal with cults can arrange such contacts.
It is helpful in this phase, if you make it possible for your loved one to have a certain amount of time without the influence of the group (neither by visits nor by phone nor mail). This would allow him to think about things. This must, however, happen voluntarily. Don’t use force (like taking away his cell phone). That would not only injure the dignity of your loved one, but also can contribute to a strengthened identification with the group.
Although the possible interventions during this phase seem promising, you should know that your loved one seems relatively normal during this phase. Therefore, you generally won’t have concerns, and you won’t see any reason to get involved. In addition, the group has no clear name, so you’d never think from your loved one’s tales that a cult or other organization was behind this. For this reason, you’ll almost never see a need to intervene during this phase. Rather you’ll only take notice when the drastic symptoms of the next phase appear.