Triumph: Life After the Cult-A Survivor’s Lessons, by Carolyn Jessop, provides valuable insights in how to break free from undue influence caused by an oppressive religion. Her experiences occurred within the context of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Her memoir, Escape, outlines how she managed to break free of the cult.
In the first part of Triumph, she tells the behind the scenes story of what happened in Texas, in 2008, when State authorities removed over 400 FLDS children from the Yearning for Zion Ranch. She reveals how she tried to help, and what the outcome was, and why the removal failed to protect the children or their mothers. Though she does not directly say it, helping others who are still trapped in the FLDS is an important part of her healing.
In the second half of the book, Jessop recalls the people, tools, and events that helped her break free, and those that helped her upon her exit from polygamy. For this reason, I recommend the book to anyone who is even questioning their membership in a controlling group. Jessop’s healing process can be a template for personal growth and healing, and may help you find the courage to leave.
Jessop’s environment was full of criticism and reminders of her imperfections. The community was told to police one another, and to gain favor with the husband or church leaders, turning each other in was encouraged. Since she could not control what others thought and did, she decided to work on her own opinion of herself. She worked to accept and approve of herself. If she approved of herself she did not crave it from others.
While still a member, she identified her core values, one of which was that her choices should be made based on free will, not fear. Because total obedience was expected of her, she concluded what was going on was not from Jesus. She wanted power based on free will. To her “real power is as simple as finding a principle and staying true to what you believe.” She then asked, is it time to resist or comply? In doing so she began to see that she had choices. With choice, you “understand what you are doing and why” and therefore “an abuser can never wholly control you.” (page 148)
She learned that perfection is not attainable and that she could approach life by doing the best she could that day, and face the rest tomorrow. (page 162) She realized that to accept the idea of perfection, she had to reject herself. “I decided I would accept myself just as I am- imperfect, struggling, very human.” (page 163)
Jessop’s core values “transformed” her life. It made her change her attitudes, even if her circumstances were not changing. Eventually those core values, led her out. “Each tiny internal shift in my reactions- a percent here, a percent there-kept accumulating and compounding until my life was headed in a completely new direction.” (page 168)
One missed opportunity Jessop writes about occurred when she first got out of the FLDS, She didn’t always accept the love that was offered by helpers and neighbors. She was so worried about what people would think, that she missed the help they were offering. Ironically, she also identifies the importance of the kindness of a stranger. The stranger confronted her husband for being abusive. It helped her see that outsiders were not like the church said they were, and in some cases, were more righteous.
She describes the process of forgiving her husband and sister wives, identifying it as the one thing she did that brought the most liberation. Using a self-help book, she followed the steps to re-script her relationships. She did not forgive out of religious duty, but did so to find release from the people who were abusive. In doing so she let go of her anger.
Jessop does a good job of taking the reader step by step through the process of breaking free and healing. The important lesson of Triumph is, you have choice and there are many things you can do to heal, regardless of how dreadful and controlling your situation is or was. You need to be willing to change, take risks, and be true to yourself.
My blogs take on all topics related to recovery, including commentary on the intersection of spiritual abuse and current events.
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