Re: NXIVM and the Dalai Lama
Date: March 22, 2010 07:12PM
Sorry, about the double long post…
The effect of shame and guilt techniques
enufalready mentioned how questioners are silenced, everything is your issue/fault and how that leads to keeping constant vigilance on what you say. Again, this ties in with the shame and guilt technique. I’ve been writing a lot about how we should try to understand not just factually what is happening to those inside, but also on an emotional level; how we should put ourselves in their shoes, so to speak. Well, let’s give this a try by describing how I felt under those circumstances of shame and guilt. I will refer to a leader or he/him as both the person in my life and Raniere are males, but it could just as well be a female. As I’ve said, in my case it was not an organisation such as NXIVM, but a very small different kind of intimate group that was controlled by a man with a personality alike to Raniere’s though; so the experience may be personal, but I think with variations in degree, scope and range, probably quite representative.
There are a couple of examples of situations that would be addressed with the shame and guilt method in enufalready’s post. And it probably starts softly the first moment you set foot into the session space: you have to take off your shoes, which might make you feel uncomfortable; you feel silly while learning how to shake hands; feel intimidated or a bit overwhelmed by the glory that is ‘Vanguard’, the tribute and bowing, the hierarchies; etc… To add just a few of my own, one could cite being given tasks that are neither clearly defined nor fully accomplishable (predestination to find fault); expectations that are illogical or simply not communicated (pre-programmed disappointment); or teachings that are simply inapplicable to my circumstances or utterly against the grain of my personality (preordained failure). All of these and many more will lead to a feeling of shame and guilt in two ways simultaneously.
At this point, it doesn’t matter how, why or when you’ve become involved with the group. All you care about is to do right by the only measure left to you, your group’s leader. But how can you when the conditions set on everything that you do in the group, accomplishments which would provide you with the recognition, even the bare notice, you so desperately seek from the leader, are essentially impossible to meet? Inevitably, this leads to the first applications of shame and guilt: The obvious disappointment, kind help offered, a reprimand, a dire prediction, or punishment, all meted out by the leader or the higher members often in various constellations. And you can’t argue against any of these, for that would be only a further failure on your part, a compounding of your weaknesses, and a continued and increasing source of shame and guilt. Remember, you’re always at fault; have to be, for you are the one who has not yet completely understood. You never win these arguments in any case; not against this type of person; I’ve tried!
Disillusionment can be displayed as subtly as with a deep sigh, an ostensibly benevolent remark (‘Well, everybody forgets something occasionally!’), or a simple apparently well-intended advice (‘Look, to do this properly, you have to…’); these make you feel stupid and childish, inadequate and an utter disappointment to the leader (and by extension the group). Help is offered to amend the errors of your ways; it’s always logical and thus must be true, following the lines of ‘Let’s look at why you did that.’, ‘I can see where you went wrong. You know, to avoid this in the future, you have to…’, or ‘Why haven’t you come to me in the first place? I’m always there to help you, remember?’
Less subtle but no less insidious are reprimands, ranging from ‘That wasn’t very smart!’ to ‘How often do I have to tell you?’ and beyond. Predictions can be as apparently harmless as ‘Well, if you continue this you’ll be only disappointing yourself!’ or as dire and fateful as ‘With this attitude you’ll surely end up in prison – or dead!’ And punishments can be administered in oh-so many cruelly logical, abstractly comprehensible and always completely justified ways, can’t they? Denial of something (food, sleep, etc.), withdrawal of another (love, social contact, etc.) are but the beginning of the list. It can end in ritualistic beatings that are designed not just to hurt physically (actually that feels like the lesser evil) but to degrade you mentally.
All these responses in a way are designed to show you what little influence on your life you have without the leader’s benevolence; how insignificant you are as compared to this person; and how you are destined to fail in everything, even die if you should ever leave. The message is just not quite as clear when you’re in there but well disguised in their good intentions: They are after all only teaching you something, aren’t they? The application of the list depends on the group size and its internal ties, on how easily you can actually walk out or not. In an organisation such as NXIVM, punishments and the like will be subtle and insidious (‘endangering your personal integrity’, ‘failing in your commitment to persistence’, ‘becoming a suppressive’, ‘defiant’, damaged’, ‘destroying value’, being denied access to social activities, etc.); if they actually started beating the espians, it wouldn’t be long before they’d be all alone in their session spaces. (In my case, I was even legally bound to my leader, so no escape there.)
The second way shame and guilt are applied is far more devastating, debilitating and to somebody who never experienced this sort of thing often completely incomprehensible: You apply it to yourself! And you don’t have a choice in the matter, often don’t even realise what you’re doing; the only thing you know is that you’ve done wrong and now deserve to suffer! I mean, haven’t you failed in your promise? The leader had such high expectations of you based on that promise. Haven’t you endangered your future by your careless behaviour? The leader knows so. And haven’t you most of all endangered the trust, love and dedication the leader invests in you? What if he stopped and you were left all alone without his guidance? What if you even endangered him in your stupidity, with your callous and mindless mistake, imperilled his standing, his dignity – maybe even his life, liberty and happiness? You could loose him for good!
These are not rational reactions, not on first sight. Yet you have been surrounded by your leader (and by extension the group), his teachings, his personality, and his ostensible kindness and occasional well-intended sternness. He has become the focal point in your life, ‘The measure of all things’! (The quote is from my tormentor’s diary, ‘I am the measure of all things!’) There are mechanisms operating inside yourself that you are not aware of, at least not consciously and certainly not at the time. Subconsciously, your old personality resists, which only makes the whole shame and guilt situation worse: So how do you feel inside, how does shame and guilt based on non-rational reactions and undeserved rejection show themselves? How does a person that is forced to live with both an alien, controlled, conscious personality and a truthful, individual, subconscious one react to this internally?
You know with all your mind, heart and body that you’ve done wrong! And at the same time, you feel as though you can’t have done too badly! Didn’t you do as told? Yet that would mean that the leader is wrong! How can that gracious, kind and so much more intelligent person be wrong? Isn’t it arrogant and self-deluded to assume that you could ever match him? Understand his deep ways of knowledge and wisdom? You have to love him, for he loves you, or he would never invest such energy in teaching you, in showing you the right way to do things! Yet you hate him with all your heart for the injustice you feel inside, for the helplessness and for the hopelessness this creates within! And you hate yourself for this base emotion, the treacherous fallibility of your heart, the uncouth weakness of your mind that even dares to think badly of the leader! You are supposed to admire him, you have a desperate urge to love him, can’t imagine a life without that glorious person being the guide and teacher he is! And you can’t see a reason why to love yourself, why to need that thing inside you that tries to draw you backwards, tries to keep you from fulfilling your promise, tries to make you fail your leader! Yet you hate your dependence, so why would you want to do right by and to him? And why would you not?
It is utter turmoil, confusion, abhorrence, love, self-hatred, admiration, rage against the injustice, anger at the rage, debasing shame, need to love, loathing of love, revulsion at yourself, tearing, wrenching, desire to care, hopelessness, urges to defend, yearning to end, helplessness, wish to escape, incomprehension, loss, self-defacing, and need to remain in the leader's safety – all of these and many more all rolled into a single experience, alternating at moment’s intervals in the most irrational patterns. It is utterly debilitating impotence, dysfunction of the mind, absence of clear thought, conflict of conscious and subconscious, and non-existence of coherent self. An emptiness fills you that threatens to overwhelm and suffocate. You’re at the verge of screaming, running in circles, and committing murder in one way or the other. You blush and blanch, feel faint and flushed with energy at the same time, are about to vomit and to disassemble completely, to bring even more shame and guilt unto you, even as you already do at the mere thought. The worst thing though is that you do not actually experience all this consciously, but that most of it happens in your subconscious and only a feeling of indefinable despair and confusion reaches your awareness; only with time and often years later will you be able to piece together what in reality happened.
The only way not to go finally mental is to suppress the one part that has been shown to you as the base emotions of lesser humans; to smother those elements that are so intangible as compared to the clear path of truth; to stifle that obnoxious personality, which has held you back so long with its dysfunctional needs, desires, fears, insecurities, doubts, and many more such imprinted weaknesses. So, once more, and again, and yet another time you bury your true personality, the character that is not streamlined and therefore has to be at fault, has to be weak in its chaos and immeasurable confusion. For how could such an individuality ever be worth anything if it just confuses and makes life so much more difficult all the time? The leader has to be right: He does live by example, exists by a clear and determinable standard, follows the path of truth and intellect, not some fuzzy, worthless nothing.
Besides doing right by the leader, the avoidance of this turmoil becomes the focus in your life, the driving force behind every one of your actions. You start lying to protect yourself, lying to everybody and most of all to yourself. But to the leader this doesn’t matter, for he will always find a way to induce shame and guilt, especially so if he detects you at a lie. You question your every action, control your every emotion, and guard your every word, towards everybody, including the leader and often yourself. And with this drive and calculation, you’ve become the perfect tool in the leader’s hands: You’ll do anything he tells you, trust him blindly and just avoid feeling this turmoil again; and since only he can show the safe path now, why should you not follow it?
Soon in the outside world you feel in control, invincible, nobody will catch you, nothing surprises you, and nothing can hurt you anymore, for you won’t let it get to you. And in the group too, you can stand your ground against the others, show up their weaknesses, control them if need be and ever more so. Especially within the group, you keep up constant vigilance, as only they know your weaknesses, could detect your flaws, and would be able to use them against you; after all, you too are already using your knowledge against them, aren’t you? While your life depends on them, is centred on this exclusive group, your capacity to trust has deteriorated even towards them. It is but the leader who still holds the key to you; yet then again, he is the only one that counts, truly counts anyway, the one that you rely on to guide you, to teach you and to care for you. And even if he continues to shame you, to make you feel guilty, the confusion feels ever less like an actual suffering; you’ve become blunted to the inner turmoil, removed from the battlefield of your personalities, are dead inside and living in mostly unperceived desolation! Now shame and guilt trigger an almost instinctual response, an unthinking compliance with whatever is requested.
How could this happen? What has happened?
To use NXIVM terminology, elements of the original personality by and by and one by one have been declared ‘disintegrations’ and in consequence have been suppressed, buried deep in the subconscious, replaced by ready-tailored, shoddily adapted ‘integrations’. The conscious has been overtaken by these ‘integrations’, while in the subconscious the so-called ‘disintegrations’ still live on, for the truthful personality cannot be erased. This produces an internal conflict that will rage until the ‘integrations’ have been thoroughly modified, personalised and in a sense dis-integrated. While the appeal of clear and straightforward matrices is often evident, our minds simply are not designed to run solely under a mathematically linear system. Half the functions of the mind, especially the personality and emotional parts, depend on a certain inherent chaos; they actually operate in organically complex and naturally occurring patterns that are simply not abstractable.
In extreme cases the introduction of such mathematically definable abstract ‘integrations’ can lead to a situation, where the incomplete ‘integration’ (and mind you, it is intrinsically impossible ever to complete this process) has fully or at least to a large extent suppressed the comprehensive original personality. In these cases, when the conscious ‘integrated’ personality isn’t demanded by the circumstances, the person practically shuts down and seems absent and extremely lethargic to an observer. What happens on the inside is another case, for to suppress the natural personality takes a constant effort at a devastating toll; a distraction gleefully nurtured and shamelessly utilised by the leader (and by extension the group) for his own purposes and to further the person's dependence on him.
In a certain sense, this is the level of factual, emotional and circumstantial understanding we should ideally try to achieve in order to be able better to connect with those whom we care about – and eventually to help them. In my personal experience, when somebody came with some standard arguments or even disbelieve, I shut down myself and withdrew into my personal bubble. I needed to suppress any reaction to such treatment just to avoid the debilitating turmoil again, to protect myself from feeling shame and guilt at yet another’s hands.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/2010 07:42PM by Macumazahn.