Suggested Reading

I’m going to interrupt my angry & snarky political ranting to make a few recommendations. First off: I’ve been reading Malcom Gladwell’s newest publication, Talking to Strangers. If you are reading this blog because you want to understand how you got caught in the cult trap, read this book.

In talking to ex-members, I’ve noticed a common pattern – many (though not all) report distinct emotional stages following their exit from destructive groups:

Stage 1: they feel as though they “failed”. They “didn’t try hard enough”, or ” have what it takes”. They must be “weak” and inferior to the members that remained.

Stage 2: time passes, in recovering cognitive abilities, they gain cult-free perspective, the group influence falls away. They view weird memories from a growing distance, slowly recognizing that maybe, just maybe, there was something wrong with the group, not them.

Stage 3: What follows? Shame at having trusted the untrustworthy alternates with anger at those who perpetrated the betrayal. In retrospect, hindsight being 20/20, the hustle is obvious.

Stage 4: they ask themselves, “How did I fall for that?”

Gladwell cites Tim Levine, a psychologist & author of the upcoming book, Duped: Truth-Default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception. He says that, “How did I fall for that?” is the wrong question. “The right question is: were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of belief? If there weren’t, then by defaulting to truth you were only being human.” (p.79)

“We fall out of trust-default mode only when the case against our initial assumption becomes definitive … We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.” (p.74)

“Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them … ” (p.78)

We are pack animals – our survival depends on our collaboration. By nature, trust is our default mode – mistrust comes only after one has gathered enough evidence. Yep, my experience corroborates – I decided to leave “school” only after a bout of insomnia & a solitary pre-dawn walk. I circled a soccer field, over, and over, and over, memories flooding me, reviewing evidence – things about “school” that didn’t sync up, claims that didn’t hang together – while worrying, would I ruin my life by “disconnecting from the source”??? Watching the sun –the source of all life– rising, suddenly made it clear: referring to “school” as “the source” was fucking ludicrous. That claim still makes me crack up.

Gladwell begins his book with stories about double agents who duped brilliant, intelligence, CIA officials. People who were trained extensively to recognize deception. Why? Because humans are wired to trust each other.

So stop beating yourself up and read this book. Let me know how it resonates, or doesn’t resonate, with your experience.

BTW, if you find Gladwell’s book helpful, Maria Konnikova’s book, The Confidence Game is another good one!



Netflix Series: The Family

About The Family: I just started watching this docudrama about the “christian” group (cough, cult) that initiated the National Prayer Breakfast & has been infiltrating D.C. for years and years. The show has its critics, however, it does provide context as to why Don Don, in the middle of spouting off about the merits of his trade war with China to the White House press, turned to the sky and prounounced, “I am the chosen one … “

According to the show, The Family believes that some are “chosen” and some aren’t. Those who are chosen could do whatever they want — rape little girls, shoot someone on 5th Avenue, it doesn’t matter, they are “chosen”. The Family embraces all kinds of nefarious actors and murderous dictators, as long as they don’t expose the group, and do follow the dictates of this specific group, or at least appear to …

If you’re still wondering how evangelical “christians” support Don Don no matter what – he brags about “grabbing pussy” they still support him. He rapes a 13-year old with disgraced and now dead pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, they still support him (come on, folks, raping a 13-year old falls right into Mr. “grab-em-by-the-pussy-cuz-when-you’re-a-star…” wheelhouse). This docudrama provides some context. Don Don is the “imperfect vessel”, or at least that’s how they justify the hypocrisy. (Side note: “imperfect vessels” are one thing – supporting a narcissistic, sociopathic, rapist, wanna-be-a-dictator-like-Putin, that’s an entirely different story)

The Washington Post calls it a Must See … yea, I agree with that. If you want to understand the politics of today, it’s definitely worth your time.

Two things: Gig & New Website

Hi Everyone – Two quick announcements:

  1. Please join me, Susan Levine & Lindsay Dobb, for tunes, beer and food. We’re raising funds for Planned Parenthood, MASS this coming Sunday, at The Burren, Davis SQ. Nuts and bolts info:
    * The Burren Backroom, Davis Square, Somerville* Sunday, 8/4, 7:30 pm. 
    *$12 in advance, $16 day of show. Use Coupon Code 24HOUR for a $2 discount on advance sale tickets. Purchase Tickets here: https://tickets.burren.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=525
  2. I’ve got a new website! GSR, Healing Arts. Check it out!

Sanity Savers in the Age of the Trump Cult …

  1. Randy Rainbow! If you can see him live, RUN! Don’t walk. I saw him last night. We gave him a standing O before he sang one note! If you can’t see him live, check out the tune he submitted to the Trump campaign for its “campaign song” contest, Suckers For You.

2. Help me and my two talented songwriter friends Susan Levine & Lindsay Dobb, raise funds for Planned Parenthood, MASS this coming Sunday, at The Burren, Davis SQ –> –> –> –>

Nuts and bolts info:
* The Burren Backroom, Davis Square, Somerville* Sunday, 8/4, 7:30 pm. 
*$12 in advance, $16 day of show. Use Coupon Code 24HOUR for a $2 discount on advance sale tickets. Purchase Tickets here: https://tickets.burren.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=525

3. This podcast: Truth Be Told – This episode of Truth Be Told explores a question: is it okay to be joyful when so many terrible things are happening? The conclusion: feeling joy is essential! Take a listen. See what you think.

The Sharon Show

… bad for business

Yesterday, I was discussing “school” with someone and I told her that I would post an excerpt, written for one of my many cult-related projects. It depicts the first of a handful of Sharon visits to “school’s” inferior Boston-branch satellite. She swooped in from corporate headquarters in New York City, I guess, to impress us … or to demonstrate that Robert was an underling. I was still new to the hallowed/hollow halls at the time. I had no idea that there was a corporate headquarters – in fact, I didn’t learn about NYC until after I left. So when the following bizarre scenario unfolded, rather than impressed, it left me freaked out. I almost left … wish I had. Oh, well.

Here it as, as promised. (You know who you are 😉

One night in class, some months into my tenure, we were following the format: tai chi, then the silent march to our seats, but something felt different. There was more nervous whispering in corners and rushing around than usual. Something was up. Suddenly Robert burst through the door, strolling arm in arm with a short, round lady wearing lots of makeup. Skirt and scarves flowed behind her, as she hung off of Robert’s arm. Mascara and eye shadow weighed down her lashes and lids. 

To me this lady looked as though she’d busted out of the locked unit of a psychiatric ward. Robert beamed at her with a childlike reverence. I had never seen Robert defer to anyone, so his adulation was weird. He escorted her purposefully to an overstuffed armchair that someone dragged to the front of the room. He assisted her into its cushions – turned to us, the minions, swept his arms like a ringmaster and announced: “Ask your questions.” 

No introduction? I was confused, “Who is this creature and why are we asking her questions?”  I didn’t ask that question, though. I watched and listened for clues. One by one, soldiers stood, and waited for her to call on them. She granted some permission to speak and ignored others. The chosen meekly asked for her “help”. Her “help” toggled between effusive compassion and abrupt rebukes of character. At some point, someone must have addressed her by name: Sharon.

Sharon’s “help” sounded like word salad to me, but to my nodding classmates her babble seemed to land as gospel. All the while, others scuttled to and from the kitchen, serving her food and drinks.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Where did she come from? Why was everyone acting like she was the Queen of England? Why did Robert spring her on us – no forewarning, no introduction? 

Sharon, waved her hand, granting a fellow student whom I will call Linda permission to speak. Linda started talking about Yoga. Sharon (who appeared barely able to walk without Robert propping her up) replied, “Yes, I practice yoga, too.” Linda then said something about hearing angels. Sharon’s tone hardened: “What do you mean you hear angels?” Linda stuttered, but Sharon interrupted. “I’ve been doing this work for 40 years,” she barked, “…and I have never heard angels. Why are you lying?” Linda stuttered again, but Sharon interrupted, launching into full frontal character assassination. We watched in shocked silence; it seemed to come out of nowhere. “Why are you lying?” accelerated into “Why don’t you leave.” 

It wasn’t a question. Linda stood up, gathered her belongings and walked silently out the door, head down. A fellow student named, whom I will call, Natalie, stood and said, “I’m leaving, too.” She gathered her belongings, walked to the door, turned around to say, “I love you all” before disappearing. 

I was squirming. Cognitive dissonance took a fever pitch as my mind fought with itself: rebels debated loudly with my starry-eyed believers. “What the fuck was that? Stand up! Say something!” the rebels demanded. “No … don’t draw attention to yourself! I don’t want that mean lady to point her dagger at me,” the intimidated believers insisted. They won. I lost my voice.  I sat there wishing that I was as brave as Natalie, but I wasn’t. I wanted to leave. I didn’t.

The next day my sustainer called, asking, breathlessly, “What did you think about ‘class’?” “I thought it was upsetting.” I replied. “Why?” she asked, “What happened?” I said, “Who was that weird lady?” And reported my experience. She encouraged me to “bring this up in class… ask ‘teachers’for ‘help’.” 

The next class was a special debriefing that teachers called the “impressions class.” We were to reflect back on our transcendent experience. Most people were commenting on how direct, how unafraid, how amazing she was. Robert turned to me, “I hear that you were upset.”  Obviously, my sustainer had broken our “confidentiality”. (Thanks, Karyn!)

I said, “Yea, what was that about? Why did Sharon kick Linda out?” A teacher named Jeanine, piped in, “You’re identifying with Linda.”  In a rare moment of courage, I replied, “Of course I’m identifying with Linda; who wouldn’t?” I can’t remember how she responded, but I got the message: someday, this will all make sense to you. You haven’t been doing the work long enough.It worked. I stayed.  

That’s how I learned about school’s top narcissist-in-chief. The Sharon Show trounced through to demonstrate that Robert wasn’t the head honcho. And still, during my tenure, no one explained who she was beyond “Robert’s teacher.” No one ever mentioned that the Boston “school” was a satellite branch to a corporate headquarters in New York City. Many Boston students never know about corporate, let alone that there are teachers offering “help” to unmentioned seekers in unmentioned classrooms across state lines. I’m guessing that the New York teachers omit mention of Boston to their minions, too. 

The Sharon Show only graced Boston a few times during my tenure. After a while, to my relief, she faded away. I have to wonder whether other newbies got freaked out by the dog and pony show. Maybe Boston leadership told New York leadership to keep her at bay. 

The Sharon Show was bad for business. 



Sex Traffickers and Cults use the same recruitment tactics

… just ask that scumbag, Jeffrey Epstein.

Good morning, readers – I hadn’t planned on posting today. But I just read this article: New Jeffrey Epstein accuser: He raped me when I was 15.

Her recruitment into Epstein’s lair …
At 14, “a young woman approached her outside her New York City high school. ‘I was kind of a lost kid and she sensed it,’ Araoz said.”

“The woman was friendly and curious, asking Araoz personal questions about her family, her upbringing, their finances. Soon she began talking to Araoz about a man she knew who was kind and wealthy and lived nearby.”

At the time, Araoz was grieving her father’s death. And she wanted to be an actress: Her grooming …

“… the woman showed up outside her school multiple times and even offered to buy her a soda or lunch nearby. “She was definitely trying to get to know me,” Araoz said.”

The woman eventually took Araoz to Epstein’s home:
“She recalls Epstein telling her that he had heard a lot about her and felt terrible about her father’s death. Epstein insinuated that Araoz was ‘very lucky to have met somebody like him’ and ‘that he could really help me,’ she said.”

She returned a handful of times with the other woman, “and left each visit with $300, Araoz said. Epstein talked about donating money to AIDS charities, which struck a chord for her given her father’s death, and wanting to help with her career.

He talked up his contacts in the acting business and mentioned that he owned a modeling agency. Araoz recalls him telling her that ‘I should be a model and all these things that young girls like to hear.’ “

The two women, one a young teen, visited Epstein together for a while and then …

” …the dynamic changed that first time she showed up alone, Araoz said. Instead of talking downstairs, Epstein escorted his 14-year-old visitor onto his elevator and brought her deeper into his seven-story home.”

You know what happens from there; but if you need to confirm your instinct, read the article.

Boy, did those tactics ring familiar to me. How about you?

Whether 14, like Araoz, or 41, like me when recruited into “school”, our emotional and social needs remain the same. And if you’re not aware of that, if you’re not cognizant of the red flags, if you don’t know how to meet those needs, you’re vulnerable to scumbags like Epstein. This article was heartbreaking to read. But I’m heartened that this brave young woman has now spoken out. The damage is done. Thanks to our rape culture, this predator has gotten away with damaging many, many, young women. But I hope that Araoz finds empowerment in calling him out and I hope that the others will join her.

3 Things: protest cruelty; the cult media outlet supporting Trump; an important quote …

Good Morning Readers – this is gonna be a quick one. I wasn’t planning on writing today, but I can’t stand abuses, gaslighting, and injustice. I might as well use this little platform to speak my mind:

  1. If you’re I’m furious about the people who are getting very rich off of our tax dollars to torture asylum seekers, including children, there are protests both in Boston and Lowell at noon today. I know that no one has time for this shit, but it’s the unfortunate reality now that Republicans are letting Don, Don do whatever the f he wants – I’ll be in Lowell. Maybe I’ll see you there:
     
    Boston – JFK Federal Building, 15 Sudbury Street. 
    Lowell – Jack Kerouac Park.

  2. Yesterday, for some reason, YouTube tagged me in a pro-Trump demographic. I started seeing ads from Epoch Times, a news outlet run by the cult Falun Gong. Boy, are they trotting out the Trump propaganda – somebody made a graphic depicting how the Obama administration “spied on the Trump campaign” and “created a false narrative about Trump shining Putin’s shoes…” (I’m trying to not be crude, but you get the idea) Funny thing, those ads sounded exactly like Don Don, not so much like a legitimate news media outlet. The fact that a cult paper is propping up our Putin-appointed “president” would be hilarious, if it weren’t so horrifying. Heads-up folks, some will, in fact, believe that Epoch Times is “Clear, fact-based journalism without spin or hidden agendas.” (I.e Gaslighter Times)

  3. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I re-read the article My Life in A Cult and want to share one more quote:
    I know all this sounds nuts. Today, looking back, it’s hard to believe that I didn’t see it for what it was. But what I have come to understand is that these kinds of groups don’t function under the same, sober logic of the rest of the world; they are ruled by the irrational, mercurial dynamics of abusive relationships. Like junkies, we were powerless to the drug which we needed just to feel normal. We were so thoroughly gaslighted by Sharon that we believed leaving would be worse than staying. ” 

    This is important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered, “What the fuck was I thinking.” But cult membership has naught to do with thought; our social wiring, plus emotional needs, makes us vulnerable – all of us… well, unless, of course, you’re Sharon, or Don Don, the narcissists and thieves; parasites who can only thrive by sucking the life out of others, and get off on seeing those others suffer, or as they say in Germany, schadenfreude.

    Okay, I’m done venting … for now. I hope that you’ll join me in sharing your outrage about our current political shit show. Now that the political party formerly known as “Republican” (how quaint) is the Trump Cult, there really is no bottom.

Freedom, Truth, & “School”, NYC, a Memoir …

The whistleblowers shall set you free

Good Morning & Happy July, fellow “Disgruntled Ex-Students” and Rule Breakers!

Independence Day holds special significance for me. One silver lining of my 5 years in cult lite: I really get freedom. For as Tom Waits sings in San Diego Serenade, “Never saw the morning, till I stayed up all night.

Fireworks over DC Mall, 2014

I never understood that free speech equals free minds, until I gave my voice away. Never understood the old saying, The Truth Will Set you Free, until I found the truth in a website called Esoteric Freedom. It exposed “school” lies. That freed my mind.

Here’s a source of truth for you: My Life in a Cult. The author spent 23 years in corporate HQ (i.e. School, NYC). This article is an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir. Perhaps his story will mirror yours. Perhaps you will see that a new “friend” is vetting you, or did vet you.

My recovery required understanding what happened. I wound through and unravelled “school’s” convoluted “clever insincerity”. It was 2011 and Esoteric Freedom exposed the cult’s seedy history, additional classrooms, “businesses”, arranged marriages, bizarre baby-swapping practices and the like. The lies became so stark that my cult coma snapped. Key moments that had always haunted me suddenly, made sense – for example when Lisa, my recruiter, told me, ” … I met my husband in an acting class. It’s hard to explain.” I thought, “Oh my God, ‘school’ arranged her marriage! No wonder she changed the subject.”

Esoteric Freedom handed me the key: truth. I released my story into this blog, stumbling and bumbling into recovery — reclamation of self though authentic voice. I will forever be grateful to Esoteric Freedom and the site’s creator, who took risks to expose the cult as a public service.

Unfortunately, “school’s” scumbag legal maneuvers took the site down — that’s what cults do, after all. Cults don’t like being called cults. L. Ron Hubbard built the litigation template for cults and “school” implemented the Scientology strategy. Those with wealth can intimidate and silence whistleblowers through the courts. Free speech anyone?

But truth does come out eventually and it will help you. So, I strongly recommend, this thoughtful, raw and honest account of how and why “school” ensnared an intelligent, articulate, educated young man for 2-plus decades. Truth is the medicine that your soul needs. There are reasons too vast for me to explain here why these con games work. (I’m writing my own book about that). For me, these two graphs boiled down the intentions of ALL cults. They all use the same playbook, altering details slightly, to isolate and foster dependency. I thank both of these whistleblowers and I look forward to the reading the entire book.