Cults are scary because they suck you in, but also because they don’t let you leave.
There is simply too much psychological pressure.
Members can’t just come and go as they please. People are strongly encouraged, and often times physically forced, to be committed and obey the rigid rules of conduct.
It’s like that aggressive store owner who doesn’t let you leave without buying something. Or when you go to cancel your contract for some technology service, only to find out that all your website data is deleted, and the company denies you access and ownership to your account, making it impossible for you to leave them for another vendor.
Of course, this is not about cults. This is about coercion, power and pressure.
Particularly in a social setting, where the tribal energy can be very difficult to resist.
Think about the last time you were part of group, a club, or an organization, either personal or professional, that you decided to leave for whatever reason.
Were you afraid the people would criticize and judge your decision? Did you feel shame and sadness for not following through on your implicit commitment? Or perhaps you felt trapped under the weight of expectations?
That’s completely normal. And healthy. Hell, only sociopaths don’t have feelings like that.
However, one of the ways we set healthy boundaries is by staying strong in our decisions despite social pressure. Embracing our inner confidence to have certainty about our decisions, whether or not they disappoint others.
It’s really hard. Not everybody is comfortable resisting majority influence and subverting social norms. What’s more, some people in your group will demand to know why you’re leaving so they can mend their heart and have clarity with the situation going forward. They will insist you tell them why you’re leaving because they deserve closure and resolution.
But sadly, closure doesn’t exist. Boundaries do.
Goldsmith calls this halting the journey. In his book about creating meaning and achievement, he writes:
Like cross country skiers, we’re stuck in a set of tracks that someone else has created with a particular route in mind. But the evolutionary journey from surviving to thriving requires a sort of global positioning system. You have to understand how to seal the doors behind you.
It doesn’t mean you should act callously and inconsiderate of other people’s feelings. But it does mean that you should make your journey one of internal control, not outer. That you should be vigilant about excising out of your life any investment you truly believe has reached a point of diminishing returns.
Better to courageously abandon something you have clearly outgrown than to stick around too long and pay a premium on opportunity cost.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What support would you need to have in place in order to remember that you have a choice?