… 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.