Monday, 15 September 2014

Book Review: Take Back Your Life

Take Back Your Life: Recovering From Cults & Abusive Relationships: Recovering from Cults and Abusive RelationshipsTake Back Your Life: Recovering From Cults & Abusive Relationships: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships by Janja Lalich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is written primarily for those who are recovering from cults and abusive relationships, but also for those who have friends and family members who are in cults or abusive relationships to help them understand what is going on. I was personally interested in it because I was brought up in a rather cultish church and I could certainly identify with a great deal that the authors wrote about.

It's an excellent read, easy to follow but very indepth. Although it does cover abusive one-to-one relationships briefly, its main content is directed at those who are cult survivors (who are basically in an abusive relationship with a group or the leader of a group). It doesn't just look at the experiences of those who have come from relgious cults, but also from family cults, new age cults, eastern cults, political cults, psychotherapy cults and even marketing cults.

I found it very helpful to identify how I perceive boundaries and how I allow other people's emotions (or my perception of other people's emotions) to control my thinking and behaviour. It helped me to see that this kind of thinking is merely indoctrination and is not necessarily part of my natural personality. That was a rather freeing discovery.

The book also has useful indictors of what a cult is and how normal, healthy, intelligent people can be indoctrinated and 'brain-washed' by cults and cult leaders. It answers the age old question that cult survivors ask and interested parties ask: If it was so bad and so damaging and so controlling, why didn't I/you just leave?

Towards the end of the book, the authors look at helpful and unhelpful counselling. This is an important aspect of cult recovery. A cult survivor really doesn't need another 'guru' to control or 'guide' them in any way - even a well-meaning counsellor. The client/therapist relationship should be one of equals and must progress as the client is ready. The book describes the possible pitfalls of certain types of counselling and warns that some counsellors may not understand enough about cult dynamics to be helpful. It then gives tips to finding a good therapist/counsellor.

Overall a very good book. My only real criticism is that I think it would be better to have dealt with one-to-one abusive relationships in a separate book, that section felt rushed. Although, on the other hand, I did find it helpful to look at how a cult is really just like an abusive relationship. I particularly enjoyed reading the survivors stories that were included. In all, a very interesting read.


  1. Good review! It sounds like it provided some freeing insight.

  2. You must have found that a help after some of your previous church experiences.