A.k.a The Hope Market
Of the BITE model’s four categories, I found Emotional Control to be the most powerful. Cults are emotional traps. Unmet emotional needs make intelligent people vulnerable. Cults leverage vulnerabilities, dangling promises of HOPE! If you take the bait, a switch will follow shortly.
When my “new friend”, i.e. master sales woman, Lisa, floated her bait, I was primed. Befuddled by life, I sought direction — “school” promised purpose. Brokenhearted, I sought connection — “school” provided community. Disheartened by empty and meaninglessness jobs — “school” offered possible fulfillment and direction. It whispered all of this promise in the “free five-week experiment!” Sign me up!
Eventually, free morphed into “paying for my arising” — $350/month.
Hassan writes: cult-style Emotional Control amounts to leveraging all-or-nothing thinking ” to manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings …either you are a ‘chosen’ member of the elite … part of a wonderful movement; or you are broken, un-spiritual, have bad karma … are sinful … need to repent, try harder”.
My “5-week experiment” … oh, em, I mean indoctrination period… started with four other “classmates”. My new “essence friends” and I “set AIMs!” Enlightened “teachers” supported our “efforts”. We supported each other. We read classic literature and discussed the human condition: Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde; The Shadow; Grimm’s Fairy Tales; Emerson; Thoreau, etc. etc. etc. The real literature — as opposed to creepy cult pamphlets (think Scientology) — gave “school” an air of legitimacy. Together we hungered to understand the world and humanity.
By experiment’s end, two disappeared, and two remained, a few others cycled through for a class not to return. “School” informed us that we who remained were the elite, intrepid, proven ones! Most sleepwalking humans can’t hack it, as proven by evaporating “classmates”. We were “ready!”
We graduated (cough) into the “older class”, where whispers of a phenomenon I call The Soul Factory bubbled, toiled and troubled (how “school” loves Shakespeare!). “School” insidiously steams the offensive “men and women are born soulless” nugget into minions. Only those “WILLING to do THE WORK” manufacture souls. The “un-schooled” (poor dears) are obliviously tripping down the road to perdition!
But, “school” claims, most men and woman don’t want to awaken! They may claim to seek enlightenment, but “they” aren’t “willing to do what it takes!” (cough, give up everything to the mysteriously-rarely-mentioned Queen & her $8million condo) Not really.
God knows, you don’t want to be one of “Them!”
Hassan writes, “Fear is used to bind the group members together in several ways…”
These two fear-inducing tactics may sound familiar to my fellow “disgruntled(s)” …
1)Creation of outside enemy (seeded in “youngest class” as illustrated above)
2)Terror of discovery and punishment by leadership if you fail, or shirk, your evolutionary duties.
The two tactics work together, hand in glove.
At one point, I asked Robert, about alternative methods of soul construction – a friend was trying Transcendental Mediation (known as simply TM to some, and just another cult to others; but that’s another Oprah). His face went dark; he struck with, “We are not here to judge your friend.” I felt a tingling heat prickle out from the center of my chest and spread into my face, which probably turned beet red. I didn’t realize I was “judging my friend!” Silly me, I thought I was asking a sincere question. Thank God my cult leader shed light on my inner trial judge!
After departing and uncovering the vast web of “school” lies (see information control), I recognized the unexpected verbal lashing as the deflect-attention-from-legitimate-questions-onto-inquirer’s-questionable-character strategy; employed when students point out holes in “school” presentation. It shut me up, so it worked.
There must be a logical fallacy that covers the change-the-subject-by-attacking-your-opponent tactic (ad hominem, perhaps?). Presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Drumph, meets all criticism with character assassinations. It’s an effective strategy, right Robert? By the way, I’m so sorry I offended your cult sensibilities! I had no idea I was bringing up the competition! I believed that “school” was a school.
Many such character attacks bounce down the hallowed halls, when “students” ask legitimate questions, voice concerns, or complain about “school” demands. A FEAR of being called out started gnawing away at me. After all we were special (cough) men and women, solely RESPONSIBLE for humanities evolution! We’ve been called on to cultivate (cough) “finer vibrations” through “school”-required efforts! These waves of influence ripple out invisibly! and are the only hope for all mankind! Even “THEM!”, the un-“schooled”, deserve a chance! As a “school” cog, you either climbed the ladder “school”-style, or devolved into “THEM!”, with your self-will (horrors) at the helm. We must overcome laziness, lest we let down the world! Oh, and we also basked in the glow of our unmentioned, but glaringly apparent, self-congratulatory superiority.
With no in between, we became terrified of de-volving into “THEM!”. Thus we dreaded the shameful–but unavoidable–“maybe you’re not trying hard enough” accusation. Of course, cognitive dissonance — or my inner rebels, as I like to call them– started pointing out that many of “THEM!” seem to be doing quite well; in fact, the longer my tenure, the more my rebels pointed out the “THEM!”(s) whose “only-life” endeavors far exceeded mine – my ability to function in the world was – in fact – declining with “school’s” “help” (cough).
But GUILT stepped in to distract from the endless inconsistencies (too many to name here). As “school’s” enlightenment tasks increased over time, Robert lectured, “Man has a skewed relationship to time!” If a “student” foolishly said, “I didn’t have time to [name soul-construction-task-here]“, he would scoff! I learned quickly not to utter the phrase, “I didn’t have time to […]”. Better to either lie, or hide during “class discussions”.
Hiding proved the easiest option; other “students” seemed eager to step up and curry favor with reports of successful soul-building efforts, or sincerely ask “teachers” for “help”. All I had to do was remain quiet. The guilt that compounded was far more tolerable than the spotlight o’ shame. And, oddly, the “more evolved” never “sensed” when I was hiding, or lying. The guilt compounded more, further strengthening the compulsion to hide. So did the cognitive dissonance — why aren’t these highly evolved beings calling me out?
After leaving, and sinfully talking to other “disgruntled ex-students” (horrors!), I learned that almost every, if not all, “school” doobies lie about their soul manufacturing efforts (especially recruitment, because everyone hates it). My evolved “teachers” weren’t calling me out, because they were busy worrying that a more “evolved” someone might call them out (my compatriots will probably recognize the term internal considering).
Humans — I have learned — will avoid humiliation like this at all costs. The threat proved a powerful social engineering tool. Thus we gathered together to posture twice a week, plus. We few, we proud, diligently pretending to do THE WORK, while stewing in evolutionary guilt, and hoping that no one would notice. Ah, so inspiring!
After our bi-weekly posturing and hiding acts, we floated off silently into the night, honoring the required hour-of-silence (“seal yourself off from THEM!”) to continue the pretense of “experimentation”. “School” requirements spun us all into evolutionary, soul-manufacturing, empty shells.
Simultaneously, a seemingly contradictory cult component gnawed away: Hassan writes, “Confession of past sins or wrong attitudes is also a powerful device for emotional control.”
All the academic cultic scholars that I’ve read discuss Robert J. Lifton’s Cult of Confession from his seminal work, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. Confessionals are part-in-parcel and “school” established them early: we shared our “self observations”, we “asked for ‘help'”, we did what school called “being work”, in which a “student” requests “help” from a “teacher” with a particularly troubling inner “weakness”.
Cults are nothing, if not ironic: as we hid, we also confessed sins and weaknesses. “School’s” was careful to extend more compassionate “help” to it’s “younger” minions. Thus we became accustomed to confessing our weaknesses and asking for “help”. For me, personally, “school’s” pretense of compassion fell away after my tenure passed year two. And once exposed to the “older class”, where verbal lashings were more common than compassion, I started hiding more and confessing less. For, as Hassan writes, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.”
Over time, though, these “confessions” evolved into one-more-ironic pretense: an illustration of the extra “effort” a particular cog was putting into his/her evolution. The leadership would praise such “efforts”, and — surprise, surprise — would use the information in key moments; for example, if said cog contemplates departure, a “more-evolved” being should out a topic-o-confession and let ‘er rip! Confessions induce a cult-contrived paranoia that seems to grips ex-members long after they’ve departed. I will talk more about cult paranoia, specifically, in a future post.
Sane, “un-schooled”, readers probably wonder why this ever-growing exercise in emptiness did not expose the group as fraudulent, prompting me to scramble away at warp speed. And I have heard many reporters ask ex-cult members, i.e. whistle blowers, “Why didn’t you leave?” Most are hard-pressed to answer – complex and convoluted — no sound bite can capture and explain the decline of free will when in a cult coma and we are living in a superficial sound-bite world.
Additionally, it takes a lot of post-cult excavation to understand why ” … I didn’t just leave.” Humans have an amazing capacity for justification. And victim blame being the norm in today’s culture, most would prefer to shove their cult days into a dark closet and pretend it didn’t happen.
I’ll try to explain how cults leverage paranoia and fear. As the group isolates you from all non-members, it spins you in a cult-induced insanity; the cult coma falls into three categories, that braid together and tighten into knots as years pass:
1) Addiction: you feel emotionally, spiritually and morally dependent on the group.
2) False belief: you believe that the group truly has a mission that will save humanity.
3) Isolation: you’ve burned bridges with “others!” and the cult morphs into family, friends, in some cases, work.
Sometimes my cult coma broke briefly, usually when “school” demands increased, stealing more of my lowly only-life time; especially when the make new friends! requirement rolled out. Resentment would perk up and say, “I didn’t sign up for this.” I saw the deceptive presentation that drew me in initially — i.e. casual, bi-weekly discussion/philosophy group, offering tools for living, as opposed to the group’s true nature: rigid & secretive predatory cult, that demands increasing amounts of time, requires lies, isolates members from non-members, while charging $350 a month, til death do you part and demonizing all defectors.
But the more isolated I became, the worse I functioned. The worse I functioned, the more I needed to believe in the group pathos, doctrine, evolutionary order, or (cough) AIM! My life devolved as fear and dependency increased. The more dependent I felt, the more I justified the ever-growing inconsistencies, and abuses I witnessed. My inner rebels rumbled. The starry-eyed believers clung desperately to my early “school” days — so full of hope and wonder! Cult paranoia worked its magic — if I left, I would lose it all; some kind of annihilation loomed around every corner. And that, I believe, is why it’s so difficult to “Just leave”.
Thus cult cogs are nicely set up for the next component of Emotion Control; Hassan writes: “In order to control someone through their emotions, feelings themselves often have to be redefined … loyalty and devotion are the most highly respected of all. Members are not allowed to feel or express negative emotions…”
All roads lead to my favorite! The Non-Expression of Negative Emotions, as discussed in previous posts. “Negative emotions aren’t real.” “School” taught us; You know – resentment, anger, aggravation, jealousy. Petty little feelings that induce more pettiness — embarrassment and shame. But — more importantly– those “not real” feelings, if one is paying attention, threaten to expose inconsistencies, abusive and manipulative practices, etc. A good “school” cog should only feel a constant state of blissful gratitude! Perhaps some of the following be-a-good-cog directives will sound familiar:
” … internally consider, never; externally consider, always.”
” … be willing to take the dirty end of the stick.”
” … take the help.”
Thus, once you throw this next component in the stew, “school” has ya’, in classic cult style.
Hassan writes: “People are often kept off balance, praised one minute and tongue-lashed the next … this misuse of reward and punishment fosters dependency and helplessness.”
After enough time, a child-like wish to please my teachers started to drive me. Humans are hardwired this way; we have social needs: acceptance, approval and belonging. You see this in children who — for the most part — live to please their parents. These needs are also apparent in assisted livings and nursing homes. They don’t disappear over the years. They are at work in all kinds of social situations. Nothing cements social bonding like the reward and punishment cycle. Predatory groups feed on such needs.
Emotions are tricky devils, really; unmet, they make us vulnerable. They bring out the worst. But they can also be our better angels and our inner guardians, protectors. When I finally listened to my “non-expressed negative emotions” those allegedly “not real” feelings pointed to the very real fact that “school” was about to break up my marriage. Every day I thank God that I could not trade in my marriage for “school”-style enlightenment.
When I stood at the crossroads between “school” cog-ness and my marriage, I saw fear ruling my life for five years. My choice was to either continue living the fear-based, “school”-directed existence, or take a chance on myself — maybe I do know something. Maybe I don’t need other people to micromanage my life, and dictate personal choices.
The Rebels– those oh-so-pesky “not real” emotions — pointed out that my “school”-led life was devolving into a ridiculous scrambling. And if “The Source” didn’t care about my husband, it also didn’t give a rat’s ass about me. So I let go of all the pretense with its secrets and lies. Nothing has been more freeing. I hope all experience freedom innate in No-More-Secrets.
Emotional needs drew me in to “school”. Emotions also set me free. Today, my un-“schooled”-only-life-things have been going quite well, thank you very much (sorry to disappoint you, Blog Monitor; but it’s something you might want to consider for your life) Don’t trust institutions that feed dependence, dictates decisions, institute lies and isolationism.
I can thank the cult for the following: I am no longer befuddled by life, for I now have the direction and purpose: speak out against predatory groups, expose abusive practices, offer education and whatever else I can to help fellow “disgruntled(s)” heal from the strange and confusing psychological and social violence called cults.
So, here’s to No More Secrets and, if you’re here because you’ve been compelled to “break ‘school’ rules”, break more rules.