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Book Review - Touchstones

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1993, Volume 10, Number 2, pages 222. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - Touchstones: Reconnecting After a Cult Experience. 

Carroll Stoner and Cynthia Kisser. Cult Awareness Network, Chicago, 1992, 66 pages, paperback.

Touchstones is a much-needed and long-awaited resource with a fine balance of structured information on the difficulties and stages of postcult recovery, with direct citations from those who have gone through the process. The book breaks down the reconnection to life outside the cult into five easy-to-read chapters, along with an introduction explaining the hows and whys of the writing of this book.

Each chapter starts with an appropriate quote from a former cult member, with other quotes are sprinkled liberally throughout to support the text. What is refreshing about this book is that the writers never pretend that there is one way. They cover a wide range of options, offering a variety of examples of how former cult members have managed to find their passage from the trauma of totalistic involvement to a greater awareness and self-direction.

In their procession from "Getting Out: Starting the Process of Reconnection" to "Integrating the Experience and Moving On," the authors take two very important elements into consideration. One element, which can be vital to a successful departure from a cult, is the postcult environment. Family members and other significant persons can be truly useful in this process by actively pursuing self-education and expressing real concern for the individual's best interests. The other element is the importance of analyzing the good and the bad of the cult experience, which is necessary for a more successful integration of a former member's cult experiences. Here there is no shying away from the fact that both positive and negative qualities exist in the cult experience; once sufficiently away from the cult, both need integration into the person's new life and outlook.

Chapter 4 exposes how normal human nature and relationships are twisted and/or negated in a totalistic environment. One area not covered, however, regards the person who has grown up in a cult without the possibility of reconnection to a precult past that never was. Something akin to this publication is much needed for this ever-increasing population who does not have the "touchstones of normalcy."

As one former cult member exclaimed in the Introduction, "This book won't give you the answers to all your questions, but it will help you to question the answers you've given yourself about how you want to live your life now that you're away from the cult."

Paul Engel, C.S.W.

New York

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, 1993