Thursday, February 15, 2024

Gentle Souls on A Little Bit Culty

Esther Friedman, former cult member and advocate, gave a great interview to Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames.  Enjoy it here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Guest Post From Former Member

Silent Treatment

In 1989 I was 27 years old and had recently made a new friend, a Harvard-educated writer who was ten years older than me and lived in my building. David was bright, erudite and took a keen interest in me, which was both immensely flattering and exciting. Our conversations ranged widely and soon touched on matters of philosophy, religion and the yearning to make sense and meaning from the world. Before long I was invited to join a "study group", an invitation I accepted without reservation.

Joining me that inaugural and fateful night in 1989 was Spencer Schneider, and another recruit still currently involved with the group.

Fast forward to 27 years later. Now 54, I decide to leave the group. Simply put, I had been going through the motions of being a "student" for years, attending largely from a sense of obligation, habit, and fear of disappointing my peers and "teachers". It was a difficult decision, but I knew in my deeper self that it was the correct one.

However I was not prepared for what would ensue.



People who I thought were my true friends and had known for decades - some with whom I had travelled to other countries and had been guests at my wedding (yes, the rules against "fraternization" are bullshit) simply disappeared.

The day I left, I called a teacher with whom I had been close (or so I thought) to thank her for her many years of friendship and support. Her response: "You're sweet," and then she immediately hung up.

That was it.

I had officially been excommunicated.

I reached out to others to say goodbye - my messages were not returned.

In retrospect I shouldn't have been surprised.

I had seen numerous "students" pass through "school" (quotations intentional) with nary a mention of them when they disappeared.

A cult of silence.

A silence that was for me confusing, saddening, depressing.

Fortunately and blessedly I had (and continue to have) a strong and loving marriage, wonderful vibrant children (and grandchildren!) and a rich and diverse group of friends.

All of this helped buffer the painful sense of loss I felt, a sadness still present when I think of certain people I will always hold dear in my heart.

I wonder how some former "students" can cope with the cruel and intentional silence that follows their exit from "school" and its all-encompassing embrace.

I recently read an excellent article from The Atlantic that addresses the psychological effects of the "silent treatment"

In short, the author - to paraphrase - refers to intentional silence as a form of psychological abuse with deleterious effects to all the involved parties.

Silence does of course hurt and cause damage - I know this to be true.

And therein lies one of the greatest hypocrisies and contradictions of Sharon Gans's supposed "school of inner development" that was an integral part of my life for twenty seven years:

Leave and you're dead. Useless. Valueless. Erased. Invisible. Deleted.

This is how "evolved" people behave and treat others?

Nice, huh?

I encourage anyone with the wish for contact and reconnection to reach out  - none of us should be forced to suffer in deafening silence.


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Trauma and Disclosure

Im sorry I haven't blogged much these days.  Im working on a new book and articles and that writing takes up a lot of time. But I will continue to post as I can. 

This interview caught my eye. One of my heroes, holocaust survivor and philosopher Edith Eger, was recently asked about why she chose to write about her experience after years of silence.  She talks about the shame and stigma that she felt of being a holocaust survivor. Shame is a common trait in victims of trauma and partially explains silence.  

Monday, January 8, 2024

R.I.P David Fitzpatrick

 My condolences to the family of David "Fitz" Fitzpatrick. I admired Fitz for his intelligence, quick wit, and his being a big huggable bear. Fitz loved his two sons. He was a friend to many and loved by many. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Groper - Re-print

 Another old post, I remembered and wanted to repost can be found here

Re-Print - Apologies to Divine

I once suggested that Sharon Gans resembled Divine. I feel I owe an apology to fans of Divine. She was a brave, sweet, and beautiful soul and its unfair to compare her to the demented, evil and cowardly witch that was Sharon Gans.

Friday, September 22, 2023

"RIP Paul Morantz, Lawyer Who Campaigned Against Cults"

I never heard of this hero until today when I happened upon his NYT obituary from which I am quoting below: 

Paul Morantz, a lawyer and investigative journalist who in the 1970s was so successful at taking on cults, abusive psychotherapists and self-proclaimed gurus around California that one of his targets tried to assassinate him with a rattlesnake, died on Oct. 23 in Los Angeles. He was 77.

Cults proliferated in the post-hippie weirdness that was California in the 1970s, often establishing alternative communities in rural parts of the state where authoritarian leaders, typically men, dictated every aspect of their followers’ lives, down to their clothing and choice of sexual partners.

Mr. Morantz made his name taking down one such movement, Synanon. It had begun as a last-chance drug rehabilitation program in the late 1950s but had, by the early ’70s, become an insular, oppressive organization under its founder, Charles Dederich.

Mr. Morantz’s first big case, in 1974, involved a scheme by a network of nursing homes to kidnap homeless people and keep them drugged up on Thorazine, an antipsychotic, then bill the state and collect the patients’ Social Security checks.

Mr. Morantz filed a class-action law suit, winning $300,000 and setting himself up as the go-to guy for taking on shady, coercive institutions — including cults.
He stepped back from his regular legal work in the early 2000s but remained a popular speaker on the lecture circuit, regaling listeners with stories about California’s cult scene.

When asked how to know when you are in a cult, I said count the number of Hollywood stars in it,” he would tell his audience. “If you get past five, you are in one.