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Excessive workload and exhaustion

To the newly recruited member, the abusive group's activities are a whirlwind of exciting opportunities. There's so much to do, and it's all for the uplifting of others and the salvation of the world! If only there were more hours in the day!

To the veteran "old head" member, life is often one long stretch of barely tolerable boredom after another, punctuated by wonderful opportunities to sleep or spend a little time away from the group (such as those hours spent at work). They've spent years "being there" and "doing that" and all the mystery and wonder have vanished away. Questions such as "Geez, how much longer is this guy gonna pray?" "Why does the pastor want me here until 10 p.m. every Thursday night? I never end up doing anything!" or "Why hasn't Pastor X cut us loose for the night yet?" often run through their minds. To voice these questions, however, would be to open themselves up to abuse and ridicule, so they learn to smile (or at least not frown) and say they're having a good time. Sometimes, they might even believe themselves.

When a person is kept tired and deprived of sleep, they are less likely to resist things that they would not tolerate under normal conditions. This fact has been used to implement mind control in prison camps, and it works equally well in abusive churches. An exhausted person doesn't feel like arguing with a pastor or teacher about how much of his paycheck he should give, and when he gets home, he'd rather sleep than get worked up about how much of his life he's given away.

If you are the supervisor, boss, chief, division officer, whatever, of a person that can't stay awake, is always late, or just looks sickly or exhausted all the time, maybe you should try to find out how they spend their time. It could be nothing, or caused by something else, but if it centers around a group, perhaps you should investigate further. Be aware that direct confrontation will probably get you nowhere - the member will defend the group and the demands they put on him. If, however, you approach as someone that is mildly interested in what they do, you'll get a lot farther - they believe they are doing what they do for some great purpose, and will probably be more than glad to explain what they do (and why they do it) in great detail.

Now, some will say that it's not their boss' business what they do on their own time. That depends on the situation, but if their "off the clock" activities affect their performance at work, they may find themselves job-hunting. Military personnel might find themselves on report for dereliction of duty or something similar. In neither case will it be persecution - the individual's lack of capacity to perform their job can have consequences. If they're really unlucky, they might have a traffic or industrial accident to deal with.

Here's a small sampling of some behavior that may result in a cult member's exhaustion:

Required attendance
Members are expected to be with the group every day. Some groups will come hunt you down if you don't show.
"No weakness" policy
The only time it's acceptable for you to 'take a break' is when you're actually physically ill. Even if you are allowed to rest, you're looked upon as a spiritual weakling.
"God's work first"
If a member has a job that requires them to study or do work on their own time, they may often have the priority of such things ratcheted down well beneath those of the group's activities. In order to make everyone happy, the student may have to stay up until 2 a.m. every morning to finish his homework. The sailor finds herself trying to finish her rating courses in stolen 5-minute sessions between bible studies.

We will add to this list as things come to mind. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.


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