The Treatment of a Psychologically Burdened Individual – Report by a Father (2009)
At the time of her recruitment, our daughter (A) had a painful mental health history (inpatient stays in psychiatric wards and group homes), about which the group knew. After several months of a trial stay, with immediate breaking off of contact with her parents, the group, in which “the elders” had their say, indicated to her that psychological illnesses had their root in some “sin.” They prompted A to confess that “pride” and “rebelliousness” were the causes of [her illness]. The word ‘sin’ controls the group’s life. One of the “elders” suffered herself from a physical disability, but tried to compensate for this by means of her accomplishments, and thereby gave an example, for A as well, of basically ignoring her disability. My daughter, who because of her illness could learn no profession, and who was only capable of minimal responsibilities, was obligated to run the household of the group five days a week, which was already an excessive demand for her. Because of her illness she also had a greater need for sleep and regeneration. Almost every weekend, and sometimes also during the week, the group planned activities which were very challenging (even for healthy people), with long overnight drives, among other things. The communal evenings in the group’s dwelling went late into the night. Bible studies began usually around 11:30 PM, and ended around 1:00 AM. If A couldn’t do it any more, and retired early, or fell asleep during it, she was reproached for having “sinned.” After “admonitions,” there followed a formal “conversation,” in which she had to confess this weakness as a “sin,” and had to promise a “turnaround.” These “sins,” which were unavoidable, then became a cause for her expulsion.
After nine months of running the household, with cooking and other duties, A tried working at several smaller part-time jobs, at the group’s suggestion. That, too, often exceeded her capabilities. Later, she was supposed to work three days a week for a few hours, but felt capable of only two days per week. All phone conversations with outsiders were discussed in advance within the group, covering all possible contingencies. The phone call in which A then spoke with her employer about working only two days per week was monitored by the “older sibling” who was herself disabled. Taken to task by this “older sibling” [for not working more], A used a ‘white lie.’ But when the truth emerged, she was accused of ‘disobedience and untruthfulness.’ This was branded as further ‘sin,’ and she was excluded from the Holic Group.
An ‘exclusion’ allowed for the possibility of a return, if a person repents of her or his ‘sins’ and solemnly ‘turns back.’ Naturally, it is the group again, i.e., the predominant elders, who decide whether or not that is the case. If one does not accomplish readmission, then according to the group’s dogma, one is ‘lost’ and headed for hell (this group alone constitutes the community of Jesus Christ [they say]). Deeply influenced by this, there was no alternative for A other than a return to the group. She sought a furnished room in the same city. She left all her furnishings and household items, which she had previously taken along from her own apartment, in the group’s building, in the firm assumption that she’d soon be able to return there. In order to be allowed to leave these things there, and not be required to take them along immediately, she signed them over to the group in a written agreement. After it became definitively clear that she would not return, they showed themselves to be cooperative to this extent.
After being excluded, A lived for approximately 18 months fully isolated, without we as parents being aware of all this. She complied with the group’s requirements (no contacts with ‘unbelievers,’ including parents). [She lived] in small furnished rooms, attempting to ‘do penance,’ for several things, including to her ‘sinful’ need for sleep. She attempted to hold jobs which demanded more than she was capable of, in order to meet the demands of the group (all of this without any companionship), and undertook approximately six written servile attempts to be readmitted into the group. All of them, including a personal meeting, concluded negatively. Because of this, her latent illness finally became noticeable again. With the characteristic first signs [of the illness], A went to the group’s building, in order to prove her ‘total conversion.’ An ‘older sibling,’ the only one there at the time, directed her without success to leave the property, and then called the police. The police forcibly transported A away, and left her at the neighborhood train station. Why didn’t the ‘older sibling’ request that A, who was well known to him, be transported to the supervision of a physician or a clinic in her already confused condition?
After this physical ‘removal,’ the spell was broken for A. After five years of no contact, she phoned us parents, and got on the train right away. The joy of reunion was great: a ‘lost daughter’ had returned to her parents. Sadly, we had to take her directly to in-patient admission. The clinical treatment lasted a good seven months. Years of paternalism and humiliation hindered a quick recovery. The physicians said that she had never been ‘so deep down’ before. We parents are thankful that, in the meantime, she is on the path to recovery.
How the Group Treated B
In the regular meetings of the entire group, A experienced how the Holic Group in a different location treated a young woman (B) with a not dissimilar history of illness. B had, prior to joining, lived quite ‘colorfully,’ and the group in that location arranged that she should now complete a two-year vocational training, which was successful. B did not have confidence, however, to later work in this profession, and wanted to take on a simpler job, which the group rejected. It was customary that the group (i.e., the ‘older siblings’) interfered in such decisions. B was scrutinized a great deal and was repeatedly ‘admonished.’ Contrary to the doctrine of the Holic Group, she dared to ask whether there might still be hope with God for her parents (members of a ‘free church’), that they might not be ‘lost.’ As a result, a month after taking her exams, she was excluded. At the meeting in question [of the entire group], A was there, and heard how an ‘older sibling’ reproached B: “After your chaotic life, we offered you a new chance. You didn’t use it.” B cried hysterically, but found the exclusion ‘justified.’ She cried also while she was moving out [of the apartment] with the group’s [grim] assistance. Multiple attempts to be readmitted were unsuccessful. As A later learned, after the last rejection, B suffered a mental collapse, and had to seek psychiatric treatment again.
As is made clear, the Holic Group ‘overextends’ itself in admitting psychologically burdened people, who are indeed easily persuaded. Neither with its fundamentalist doctrine, nor with its authoritarian structure, nor with its personal resources is it in the position to be even partially appropriate for these people, who are deeply burdened by their condition, and who therefore need acceptance and loving attention in special quantities (and no punishments!). On the contrary: because the group punishes and then finally expels them if they don’t (can’t) fit in, ‘dropping them like a hot potato,’ the group forces them into still more severe suffering.
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