This study focuses on aspects of cult experiences, given by deconverted former
members of closed religious movements. Their testimonies were published in
books or interviews. The aims of the study were to understand the interaction
between the religious group and its members, living in high tension towards
mainstream society and their testimonies of altered self-esteem during attraction,
membership, deconversion and defection. The purpose was to understand how a
person´s self-esteem is affected by inner mechanisms of closed religious
movements and how these experiences affects a persons identity. Another aspect
was whether there might be differences in altered self-esteem, between those who
enlisted as adults, and those who were born into the closed religious contexts.
Social Identity Theory, Sigmund Freud´s and Carl Rogers models of personal ego
were used as models of interpretations. Qualitative methods have been used for
analysis of data. The defectors´ testimonies could be interpretated in terms of
altered social identity. During attraction and membership, the members perceived
him or herself as an in-group member, which boosted their self-esteem. Their
perceived selves existed in congruence with group norms. Being a former
member lead to a reversed process of socialisation and self perception, during
which the out-group became a new in-group in order to enhance self-esteem.
Those, who enlisted as adults, reformed back to their former identity and thereby
enhanced their self-esteem by integrating their cult experiences with their former
self. Those, who were born into the religious movements, had troubles to adapt to
mainstream society, as they did not have any alternative personal identity outside
the group, and therefore experienced difficulties to enhance self-esteem.
2012. , 36 p.
self-esteem, defection, personal identity, social identity, ideal-self, real-self, congruence