Judging from information released on anti-cult websites, the elderly account for a large portion of the group obsessed with cults. Some of them suffer from diseases but refuse to be treated, which greatly damages their health; while others preach the cult outside, posing threats to their safety. Some have lost their money and live in poverty. Thus we can see the enormous harm done to the elderly by cults.
Photo from the Internet
In this article, old age refers to the period from the age of 60 to death. The elderly who are mired in the traps of cults share common features with other average old people, yet also have special characteristics as members of cults. In terms of physiological characteristics, as is true with other elders, they experience declined health and aging physiological functions. In terms of personality, they tend to be timid, cautious, stubborn and inflexible. Particularly, they are quite stubborn about the things they believe to be right and are difficult to be persuaded by others. In terms of emotional features, they tend to be cynical, nostalgic, and easy to be irritated. They see other people’s different opinions as a challenge to their dignity. In terms of cognitive features, they usually indulge themselves in the past and are not receptive to new things, which make them even more stubborn.
In the process of carrying out psychological treatment for them, the author found that it was harder to educate older cult addicts. There are three reasons. First, they are so stubborn that they believe they are being good and there is nothing wrong with them seeking treatment of their diseases by practicing Falun Gong. Meanwhile, they tend to be superstitious and regard Li Hongzhi as a “god”, and feel a sense of service for him. Second, they are slow in accepting new things and unwilling to be educated. Some are so obsessed with the wrong ideas that they resist help and education from others. Third, some elders have had special life experiences, with psychological trauma. Some are affected by their family or bad health conditions. As a result, obsession with a cult gives them an outlet for their inner sorrow, which makes it hard to free them from the cult. How to help the elderly? The author summarizes the following five points from previous experience.
First, listen to them to create a sound environment for communication. We should avoid “debating” with the elder Falun Gong practitioners in correcting their thinking. The volunteers must show sympathy with them, listen to them and guide them towards positive thinking. For example, accompanied by her son, Ms. Gu talked with our volunteers. In our talks, we accepted the idea that it was the common aspiration of mankind to seek good health and listened to her feelings. We found that what she said focused on the Great Chinese Famine, the rearing of children, good health and the idea that a good man would be rewarded. Her son kept saying that his mother was nice and hard-working, yet suffered from poor health. We didn’t directly criticize her for practicing Falun Gong, so she didn’t show resistance to our help.
Second, relieve their pain with concrete actions to ensure good health. Many of the elderly Falun Gong practitioners suffer from poorer physical fitness or even severe diseases. They firmly believe that their diseases are Karma and belief in Li Hongzhi or Falun Gong can cure them. Yet they still suffer great physical pain and misery. Therefore, we should start by helping them develop the right outlook on health and create conditions for them to receive medical treatment. In this way, their diseases can be healed. A Falun Gong practitioner by the name of Ke went to the county and municipal hospitals accompanied by his son. The hospital suggested that he be transferred to a hospital of higher level. Later, his granddaughter Ms. Li accompanied him to the provincial people’s hospital. The examination results showed that Ke had a cyst in her kidney, level III high blood pressure and hepatitis B. After seeing the results and hearing the doctor’s diagnosis, Ke decided to receive surgery in hospital. With the alleviation of his diseases, Ke’s emotions became stable and he no longer resisted our help.
Third, let family members and friends play their role. Many of the elder practitioners have lost their spouses or live separately from their children, thus they are not taken good care of and have no outlets for their emotions. Some living with their children have heavy suspicion and often quarrel with their children, which results in strained family relations. Undoubtedly, family plays an indispensable role in the treatment of psychological problems. For example, we talked with an elderly Falun Gong addict surnamed Li and found his son. His son took him to his home and took time to accompany him to visit their relatives or friends, with whom Li could talk about the past and the days when his children were still young. With more time for communication, Li talked more and found a sense of belonging in the family. Therefore, he spent less time practicing Falun Gong.
Fourth, use facts to prompt them to reflect on themselves. Now fewer elders still practice Falun Gong. Some of their fellow practitioners died from refusing medical treatment, and some have been freed from the spiritual control of Falun Gong and returned to society. These people can offer good examples for those who are still obsessed with Falun Gong. In the process of education, we can invite those former practitioners to talk with them, helping them reveal the lies of Falun Gong and realize the consequences, as well as touching them with the new life of those who abandoned Falun Gong. Ms. Wang was 71 years old. While other friends all abandoned Falun Gong, she was still on the path of looking for completion. I invited her friends Ms. Cheng, Ms. Yang and Ms. Chen, who got rid of the cult, to talk to her for a month, showing her that there was no way out if she continued to be obsessed with Falun Gong. They showed that if she abandoned practicing it, she could live happily in her twilight years.
Fifth, alleviate their psychological trauma. The elderly are cheated by Falun Gong, with their false claims concerning being good men, Dharmakaya, warding off illness, samyaksmrti, blessing, salvation and old influence. It is hard to remove their misconceptions by debating with them. The more you argue with them, the more they believe they are right. The root cause can be that they have their own psychological trauma. Therefore, we should be flexible and prompt them towards self-reflection by revealing the false reasoning of Falun Gong. For example, when talking with Mr., Xiong, he repeatedly mentioned the story of when he was 6 years old, a time of removing the “four olds”, a local activist destroyed a statue of Avalokitesvara in public and was killed by farm cattle one week later. Then I knew that Xiong’s belief in Falun Gong was associated with his childhood memory. We cured his trauma with psychotherapy and soon he realized he was wrong in practicing Falun Gong. Later, his education went on smoothly.
Indeed, it is difficult to help the elderly get rid of the spiritual control of Falun Gong. Yet as long as we adopt these effective methods, and be patient enough, good results can be yielded. After all, we will all become old one day. It is not only the wish of the elderly, but also their children that they can live happily in their twilight years.