I was born on an island in the south of Chile. My parents moved there before I was born. They had difficult upbringings and when they were around 18 or 19, they were desperate to find identity and a group where they'd fit in. Along with some friends and acquaintances, a community was started with the beautiful idea of living sustainably and getting rid of their egos in order to improve themselves; they moved to the countryside and started building a big house and a life together.
Shortly after, a hierarchy started to form, and all the beautiful ideas turned into facades. When I was born, they were already several years into having become a cult, (not a religious one, but not less dangerous). All us children lived in a big "main" house and there was also a house for men and a house for women, and some women took turns sleeping in the main house to take care of us, mainly women that didn't have jobs other than being housewives. In my case, both my biological parents had jobs so I rarely saw them or spent time with them.
Those first 10 years of my life were "military-like". We were basically trained to obey the rules no questions asked. We had severe consequences for our actions, and we were shamed for showing emotions, we weren't allowed to have a special relationship with our biological family. They made sure you treated everyone the same, even to the extent of intentionally separating families. In any case, overall, I do have to admit I had a happy childhood, playing outside, with several non-biological brothers and sisters. Nonetheless, I did grow into loads of trauma. My parents slowly became aware of what the group had become, but it was extremely difficult to leave, given that the main weapon cults have is to cut all your ties with the outside world, and make you feel you need them.
Finally, after a lot of effort, when I was 10 they managed to get out, and took me with them in secret (it was only the three of us given I am biologically an only child). I spent years wishing I was back there, I literally had dreams about it almost every single day, I missed my brothers and sisters, and missed the countryside a lot. [Side note: What I always say is, whenever a big change happens in your life, there is always at least one constant element. For example, if you move to another country, at least your family is the same. In my case, I felt like all the elements in my life (city, school, way of life, AND family) were changed overnight, as if I was pulled from my life and placed in someone else's]. I felt like I didn't belong anywhere and felt like I couldn't reveal who I really was to anyone new in my life, I was scared of being judged for it.
I am 30 years old now, and even though I've done a lot of self work, I can still feel my traumas creeping in daily. I am practically incapable of breaking rules, I don't have great critical thinking skills (I rarely question what I am told), I am unable to make decisions without considering what other people want or expect from me, and I often feel like nobody will ever understand me, which makes me feel different from other people and makes it hard to make friends. Not to mention the good old authority issues and sexual traumas, that I don't want to be the main message of this letter.
What I wanted to convey in this letter is that even a beautiful idea can become toxic. Any thought that has the potential to make you a fanatic (football, religion, health, anything!!), has the potential to be poisonous. The community was born out of an amazing idea of sustainable life, sharing, self improvement, etc. Also, another element is that -in my opinion and experience-, power can corrupt 70-80% of people, it takes a lot not to be inebriated with power, an incredibly strong character that few people have (that not even I am sure I have)... So my final message is:
1) Be careful of being too attached to an idea, keep an open mind
2) Be careful who you give power to, because people won't have power over you if you don't give it to them. Make sure you choose your leaders correctly.
3) We are a constant work in progress, don't judge other people too hard, they make mistakes, we all do. In my case, I know I blamed my parents for many years, and I understood their reasons when I was older. On the other hand, the same goes for you, allow yourself to fail (I know how hard it is for me), and acknowledge every little progress you make.
- The writer has asked to remain anonymous