Things to know about: Conferences, Podcasts & Movie, oh my…

Good Afternoon Folks,

This is a short one. Wanted to share some of cult related things —

Maybe you’ve been hearing something about a f’d up group called NXIVM in the news. The podcast, Uncover, centers on one woman’s recruitment, indoctrination and escape. I thought it was powerful.  I often, sarcastically, refer to “school” as cult lite. But stories like this make me realize how lucky I was – “school” inflicted damage, that’s for sure. But, hey, it could have been much worse.

The movie, The Endless, is about two brothers who revisit a cult that they escaped. I haven’t seen it but it’s been highly recommended.

AND here’s another nudge about the Spiritual Abuse Recovery Conference. If you go, come say hello! Okay, that’s it for now. Inhale, exhale:


New Podcast about Multilevel Marketing – The Dream

When I speak with fellow ex-cult members, we often marvel at how the very manipulation that we were blind to when in respective cults, we see everywhere after leaving and begining to recover. I  listened to the first episode of The Dream and was struck by the fact that Ponzi schemes  “leverage trust through relationships” exactly like “school’s” “new friendship” protocol does.

I specifically remember feeling uneasy when my recruiter — Lisa — started introducing me to her “friends” and this weird bi-weekly group. But I also remember thinking, “Lisa’s a friend. She would never mislead me.” Yep, I trusted the wrong person. And a few years later, I became that wrong person, and my friend (my one recruit) trusted me. Thankfully, once I left I was able to stay connected with him. Now he’s out, too. But, at some point, Lisa must have trusted the wrong person and so on, and so on, and so on …

This podcast is fascinating and I wonder how many of you will draw the same parallels as I did while listening. Here’s the description and  a link to the show. Please lemme know what you think:

“About This ShowWhat if we told you that with zero experience and only a few hundred dollars down, this podcast could change your life? Well, we’d be lying. This season on The Dream, Jane Marie dives into the world of pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing, and all the other businesses that require their members to recruit their nearest and dearest in hopes of a commission. Join us as we trace the path of get-rich schemes from Jane’s roots in rural Michigan all the way to the White House.”



Spiritual Abuse Recovery Conference – Sessions

Good morning Readers – I just looked through the agenda for this conference. It looks quite good! I’m posting the info. If you’re thinking about going, take a look. If you do attend, please come say hello!

Thanks, Esther

To register, click on this link: A Conference for Survivors, Churches, and Helpers

October 26-27, 2018

  1. Biblical sessions are aimed primarily at those struggling to maintain or strengthen their Christian faith. These sessions are heavier on theology and lighter on psychology.
  2. Recovery sessions are aimed at those trying to cope with the effects of a spiritual abuse experience.  These sessions are heavier on psychology and lighter on theology.
  3. Helper sessions are aimed at those trying to better understand the needs of the spiritually abused and how to effectively communicate with them.
  4. Personal accounts are designed to present the variety of ways in which different individuals respond to spiritual abuse
Time Title (Speakers) Room (Session)
Friday, October 26, 2018
9:00 – 10:30 Welcome.  (Bob Pardon; Michael Langone)

The Varieties of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse (Michael Langone)

Aberrational and Healthy Churches: What Distinguishes Them (Robert Pardon)

10:30 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 12:30 Personal Accounts: Returning From Unhealthy Christian Groups to Healthy Christianity (Maureen Griffo, Ray Connolly, David Clark) Personal Account
Personal Accounts: Returning From Unhealthy Christianity to a Nonreligious Personal Alternative (Carrie Buddington; Samie Brosseau) Personal Account
Personal Accounts: Returning From Non-Christian Groups to a Personal Spirituality (Esther Friedman; Joseph Kelly) Personal Account
12:30 – 2:00 Lunch
2:00 – 3:30 The Bible and Spiritual Formation Following Spiritual Abuse (Ken Garrett; Pat Knapp)

Discussion (Facilitator: Lois Svoboda)

Biblical Session
Postcult Recovery: Overview (Ron Burks; William Goldberg)

Discussion (Facilitator: Lorna Goldberg)

Recovery Session
What Can You Do When a Loved One is Involved in an Abusive Situation? (David Clark; Joseph Kelly; Patrick Ryan;)

Discussion (Facilitator: Mike Kropveld)

Helper Session
3:30 – 4:00 Break
4:00 – 5:30 Does the Bible Really Say That? (Neil Damgaard; Ken Garrett)

Discussion (Facilitator: Doug Duncan)

Biblical Session
Getting Help for Depression, Anxiety, and Other Problems (Lorna Goldberg; Lois Svoboda)

Discussion (Facilitator: Ron Burks)

Recovery Session
Marriage Issues for the Spiritually Abused (Pat & Heidi Knapp)

Discussion (Facilitator: William Goldberg)

Recovery Session
7:30 – 9:00 How Distorted Views of Heaven, Hell, and Salvation Contribute to Spiritual Abuse (Robert Pardon)

Discussion (Facilitator: Wendy Duncan)

The Impact of Cults on Creativity, and of Creativity on Recovery (Diana Pletts)

Discussion (Facilitator: Heidi Knapp)

Biblical Session
Spiritual Abuse: A Family’s Journey (Sally and Dennis Meyer)

Discussion (Facilitator: Judy Pardon)

Helper Session
Saturday, October 27, 2018
9:00 – 10:30 Shame and Guilt (Wendy Duncan)

Forgiveness (Doug Duncan)

Discussion (Facilitator: William Goldberg)

Recovery Session
Reconnecting with God: Reconnecting with One’s Self (Robert Pardon; Eric Sweitzer)

Discussion (Facilitator: Ken Garrett)

Biblical Session
Post Cult Parenting: What to do if the World Does not end on Schedule (Ray Connolly)

Discussion (Facilitator: Lorna Goldberg)

Recovery Session
10:30 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 12:30 Dealing with Loss: Loss of Identity (William Goldberg; Eric Sweitzer)

Discussion (Facilitator: TBD)

Recovery Session
Making Your Church a Safe Haven (Neil Damgaard; Pat Knapp)

Discussion (Facilitator: Robert Pardon)

Biblical Session
How to Trust Again (Ron Burks; Lorna Goldberg)

Discussion (Facilitator: Wendy Duncan)

Recovery Session
12:30 – 2:00 Lunch
2:00 – 3:30 Reconnecting with Loved Ones (Doug Duncan; William Goldberg)

Discussion (Facilitator: Eric Sweitzer)

Recovery and Helper Session
Finding and Making the Most of a Healthy Church (David Clark; Robert Pardon)

Discussion (Facilitator: Wendy Duncan)

Biblical Session
Women’s Issues (Judy Pardon) Recovery and Helper Session
3:30 – 4:00 Break
4:00 – 5:30 Open Discussion (Co-Facilitators: Michael Langone; Lois Svoboda)


Conference: Recovering from Spiritual Abuse

I left “school” in 2011. In 2012, a number of my essence friends also decided to jump ship. You’re welcome to read all about the January, 2012, Mass Exodus here, if inclined. After that I recall many fellow “apostates” talking about how the cult experience left them bitter and cynical. Many felt spiritually battered; “school” ruined their best inclinations to seek out meaning and manifest the best in themselves.

Unfortunately, that’s the nature of cults. But it’s not impossible to heal. If you want to learn more about recovery, I will be joining ex-members, researchers and clinicians and family to present at this conference:


My focus will be on how the expressive art therapies helped me, so I’ll be sharing some of my writing and bits of songs, talking about how they rolled out. There are plenty of other presenters speaking, with different points of view, that you might find helpful. So, consider this an FYI. If you go, come over and say hello!

Special Message to Blog Monitor…

This missive may be a little cryptic for most of you, but I think you, Blog Monitor, will know exactly what it means. If you aren’t Carol, maybe you could pass the word: a certain member of my family turns 22 today. Carol may recall telling me that he might not see 18 years — are you happy to know that he’s both surpassed 20 and is really kicking ass — working, in school, happy, in a great relationship? In fact, he’s become quite the coffee expert.

That makes me laugh because, every once in a while, Robert would use making a perfect cup of coffee as an example. Those who who grind the beans to a perfect consistency, heat the water just enough –brewed not a second longer, or shorter, than necessary — were rising above the rest of us. Well, I’m thrilled to report, that despite all of the damage inflicted by the cult, this person has risen above all of us. I like to think that it was helpful to this person that, at a certain point, “school” influence piddled away. We’re all doing just fine and I hope that you’re happy for us! Perhaps you’ll take a moment to think about extracting yourself from “school” influence. I’ll testify to that kind of free — it’s quite lovely.

Okay, well, I’m off to celebrate!

About Work & Money …

Yesterday was Labor Day and that brings to mind my “essence flaw”, according to “school”. When I encountered Lisa, the grande dame of recruitment, life was racking me over the coals, but nothing vexed and confused me more than career/work/money things.  I was really struggling.

That was great fodder for “school”-style brow beating! “School’s” employment policy was (probably still is) it-doesn’t-matter-what-you-do-as-long-as-you-are-working … Many of my “5-week aims”, many of my efforts, were desperate scrambles to adhere to this policy; eventually, they always failed.

Like a good little cult, “school” leveraged this failure. By the end of my tenure I was unemployed, desperate, fearful, dependent and bordering on insane. 

I left the hollow halls in 2011. After my exit, I analyzed my experience, of course, concluding that Lisa duped me into a cult — Yay!  I said “Fuck school’s ‘work & money’ policies.” I launched a “school”-free career reassessment, factoring in my personal proclivities and strengths and hopes. I thought about how much time we spend at work, and around work colleagues. It devours the lion’s share. I concluded that not only does it matter what I do for work, it’s critical to my well-being. I was never the kind of person who could pull off any-job-will-do.

Like so many pat “school” rules and policies, its one-size-fits-all “help” for work and money was — in fact — damaging. “School” employed the policy as a justification to rip my already fragile sense of worth and confidence to shreds. That practice is Cult Common. If a cult is worth its weight in cult-i-ness, its tactics include overly simplified “answers” to complex life struggles and character assassinations doled out when prescriptions don’t work: ” … you must not be trying hard enough.” That phrase echoed and bounced through the hollow halls and off walls with greater frequency each passing cult day.

Funny, thing, when I rejected any-job-will-do, my work and money problems disappeared.  I haven’t had trouble finding work since I left. Go figure. If you happen to be “breaking rules” by reading this blog, just thought you should know that if your “school” tenure is pushing you past the brink of sanity, I can assure you that “leaving the source” is your best option.

Happy Labor Day!


Tai Chi & Mortality

Today is my last day of a 5-day long tai chi retreat. Doing tai chi without cult-i-ness is such a salve. I’d been practicing it long before my little dalliance with “school”. I’m reclaiming my practice.

It’s been 7 years since I departed the hollow halls. During that time, I took charge of the narrative spoon-fed by the hollow halls and told it through my perspective. In doing so, I took back my voice; because I took back my voice, I reconnected to THEM, the unholy, un-schooled friends and family from my lowly “only life” — i.e. recovered my authentic relationships and essentially reclaimed my authentic identity.

My tai chi reclamation is the next piece of recovery. Imagine, if you will, tai chi with no unspoken hierarchy. No soul-deadening lectures. No unspoken expectations. No secrecy. No requirement to make new friends for the cause. No social engineering — you can, in fact, make real friendships with your tai chi mates outside the classes, wow! You can even have their phone numbers! You can talk to them about normal things, outside the tai chi practice, work, family, interests, gossip even (horrors!) because no one is interested in controlling your personal relationships, thoughts and feelings. A tai chi practice in which you can simply focus on learning the form, the principles, the sense and feeling of the practice. No bullshit.

When we started this retreat the teacher asked us to say one thing about ourselves that might surprise our co-horts and I told them: I’m obsessed with mortality. It’s true. Since I allowed “school” to fucking hi-jack five precious years of my life — five years I won’t get back — I intend to reclaim each day and all aspects of my life that I would have lost had I remained a “school”cog, grinding the gears of Gans aggrandizing and enriching.

I hope that those of you who are now proud disgruntled ex-students are doing the same. I hope those of you visiting this blog because you’re breaking the rules and conducting independent internet research (horrors), will do the same. Trust me, given enough time, the cult will take and you will give. The group will tell you in word, in deed and in spirit, “You owe. We own.”

That’s the “experiment”. Now you know. If you want to be a cog in a wheel, stay in “school”/”the study”/”the work” or whatever it is calling itself now. If you want to have your life and be yourself say bye, bye.

Malcolm Nance, a career intelligence and counterterrorism officer for the United States government on the Cult of Trump:

“Republicans are so taken by and loyal to Trump that they will believe and do anything he says. A good example of that is the Harley-Davidson factory and the nail factory that were shut down or may go away due to his tariffs. There have been interviews with people who said, “Well, we know it’s going to affect us firstly, but if Donald Trump says it’s for the best, then OK.” That’s cultism. Lo and behold, they actually say, ‘Well, Donald Trump didn’t do that. That’s the Europeans or that’s the liberals or that’s the Democrats that made me lose my job.’ “

Read the interview here: