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Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 25, 2013 09:52AM

The more a groups beliefs and behavior differ from the mainstream, the longer the social 'commute' between one's group and the mainstream.

An important part of evaluating a job offer or placement is knowing how much commute distance ( time), to and from the job and home will be required of you.

Imagine a job offer where you were not told this information or could not research it.

It makes a big difference in the job hunt/job evaluation if you know in advance that the commute two and from work will be 45 minutes versus 75 minutes two times a day. For some persons a 75 minute commute twice per day requires too much. They can make an informed decision and not accept that job.

Now, lets look at the beliefs and member commitment required by a group or leader or guru.

The more the groups beliefs(including its jargon, diet, dress code, taboos) differ from mainstream society the more psychological and emotional effort one must make to 'commute' between ones friends and family outside the group and those in the group.

If there is a large social gap/social commute between the in group beliefs and behaviors vs mainstream society's norms, it can become a severe strain to remain friends with people outside ones group.

Without even being told or ordered to do so, one may enter a default stance in which one passively 'edits' ones friendships and over associate mostly with fellow believers, which in turn reinforces the whole thing.

What is difficult is a group may not tell its members its entire belief system or history.

Those who do outreach and are the ones a potential recruit or convert first meets may be low ranking members -- and not even know it. Or they may know and accept this, and be serenely aware that the Important People are taking care of the Important Stuff.

But these outreachers may not knowing the full details of the groups belief system, may be if not unwilling, unable to tell a prospective recruit just how much of a social commute is required if one takes the 'job' of becoming a member.

The well intentioned outreachers may not only be ignorant that the groups actual beliefs are quite secretive and different from what they have been told that they cannot see their group or church in an objective and fully informed manner.

If they dont know it, they cannot tell this to a potential convert, either.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 25, 2013 10:05AM

"Take What You Like and Leave the Rest"

This is usually good advice. But it has very serious limits the advice is giving to someone who is pondering whether to get involved with a group or belief system he or she is unsure of--or already has some misgivings about.

A) If a recruiter doesnt know the full extant of the belief system and doent know the actual history of the group or its leader or what is done with money, that recruiter cannot give a full disclosure.

How can you take what you like and leave 'the rest' if you dont even know what 'the rest' consists of?

People who say, reassuringly, 'Oh, take what you like and leave the rest"

They themselves may be unaware of the full extent of the belief system, which means they can say this and radiate sincerity. They may be high on the mood generated by a groups social technology and not know or care what's behind it. Its like junkies who are so desperate to fix that they will shoot up with anything that looks like smack if handed to them by The Man.

How can you make an informed decision to 'take what you like and leave the rest' if you are not told in the beginning, up front and in full, what the entire belief and behavior complex consists of?

For example, that they are actually led by a guru considered infallible, but this is not mentioned to new recruits who might otherwise refuse to join.

We are all influenceable by social context if we stay in long enough.

B) Human beings, no matter how intelligent, well educated, and socially sophisticated, are influenceable by social context. We rapidly normalize even bizarre and horrifying situations if we remain in them too long. Forget the fantasies peddled by Hollywood movies about heros uncorrupted.

Robert J Lifton interviewed German physicians who had become agents and involved in torture experiments on prisoners in concentration camps. He wanted to know how they had come to violate their own ethics.

* The doctors had already bought into the ideology that there was such a thing as a 'real German' and others were subhuman. Their social surroundings taught them an ideology that dehumanized others.

**By staying in the laboratorys of the concentration camps, the doctors got used to the shock and coped by creating a dissociated doubled personality. It took anywhere from half an hour (!!) to two weeks to adjust.

And once they did so by remaining in teh KZ camp that long--they became active perpetrators.

Thats the danger of staying in a bad social situation for too long. It empowers us much more to accept we are influenceable and remove ourselves as rapidly as possible from a situation that shocks us and violates our ethics.

Otherwise if we remain, we risk adjusting to what should never be adjusted to--and become capable of harming others.

There are some lines which, when crossed, grow dim and are difficult to find and re-cross.

For more on Lifton and the doctors read here


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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 25, 2013 10:11AM

We can easily be researched.

By attorneys researching us as potential jurors.

And, yes by recruiters for groups. Social media and the internet means many of us are doing the equivalent of walking around nude.

Put your name and contact info on a form for a workshop or membership card. Or registration for some human consciousness event.

If someone wants to mind-hack you, he or she can, unless you live as a hermit and avoid cyberspace, learn much about you.

Whether you are a skeptic and to be avoided and not asked to certain events or entrusted with certain kinds of information versus someone who has shed clues all over cyberspace that he or she believes in gurus and hopes to find one and is willing to accept boundary intrusions.

Are you recently divorced and got a big settlement?

Or recently hired for a very well paying job?

You're worth cultivating, baby-- or dude.

If you are a therapist or a therapist in training ,you are a potential high value recruit. You can bring your own clients into a group if you are recruited. You wont be screamed at the way the kitchen slaves are.

If you are a decorated war veteran, retired with significant rank -- you are also a valuable recruit. Or your spouse is.

Your presence will give derivative legitimacy to a group or church. You may never be told the actual secrets but they will make sure you are around and point you out when you're back is turned--which will impress potential recruits.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 25, 2013 10:14AM

Its a common phrase often seen on bumper stickers

Question Authority

I suggest a new slogan

Question Inspiration

Where did the inspiring person come from? Fact check his or her story.

Is the person putting focus on him or herself, rather than the cause?

Inspiration diddles brain pathways in a way that feels delightful. disrupts critical thinking--which is needed to find real solutions to the problems that affect this sad world.

Ecstacy and Inspiration are moods They. They are fun. But they dont prove anything.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 25, 2013 10:57PM

How does a friend respond to your vulnerability?

If you're in a very bad spot, a friend may offer suggestions. A meditation practice.

A workshop. A book. Or, in some cases, a therapist.

I once was shaky and vulnerable in a 12 Step group after sharing some heavy stuff.

A woman pounced on me like the proverbial carrion vulture. She tried to get me interested in Byron Katie. Someone already told me this dame had a reputation for doing this sort of thing -- which, BTW is against the guidelines of 12 step groups.

Twelve Step groups should remain hustle free zones.

No panhandling for money. A meeting should never be used to publicisze or prosylitize for an inspirational book (especially if the author puts emphasis on his or her personality--that can create a process addiction to that persons public image.

A process addiction to someones charismatic public relations personality is a hazard and temptation for anyone in recovery from a chemical addiction or from co-addiction.

Too many guru and inspirational speaker set ups re-enact codependance dynamics that are unfree, not free at all.

And this stuff usually generates moods--highs. A big part of recovery is to examine moods not chase after human mood enhancers marketed as 'spiritual'.

Friendships, real friendships, are also hustle free zones.

Gets murky, though. A friend may feel she or she is benefitting from some group. But may be kept in ignorance of its actual teachings and history. Or what the leader is up to in private.

A friend may feel he or she is benefitting and in love may be convinced its the best thing to let you in on it.

This is very tough to evaluate when you yourself are depressed or in crisis.

As soon as you are stabilized, fact check that group no matter how much you love your friend. You may learn enough about the actual beliefs to know you want nothing to do with it.

Whether you can stay friends will be another matter. But dont compromize your own core boundaries. If treating a living human being as infallible creeps you out or makes you laugh--dont forget that about yourself.

If you were told about ancestors who came to the US to flee oppression or famine perpetrated by governments with divine right monarchs at the helm, and you feel disgusted at the idea of a mere human mortal sitting on a throne and being grovelled to as a guru and your friend is mixed up with something like that---you can remember who you are. Whether your friendship will survive this difference is another matter.

If you have relatives who were killed by Hitler, or some other oppressor of our times, and you feel a deep call to be cautoius about any belief system that hierarchically ranks humans in terms of spiritual evolution or presumed spiritual inferiority and you know you and want nothing to do with any system that does this sort of rank ordering--dont let anyone shame you for being judgemental. We make judgements all the time--includign those who presume to rank order their human brothers and sisters.

By the time you are an adult, your own perspective deserves respect, as well as whatever perspective your friend uses to manage his or her emotions.

Whether a friendship can weather this difference of perspectives will be an open question.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 26, 2013 12:17AM

Final observation, worth repeating.

One may be deep into a personality centered group, which meets all of Lifton's criteria for a cult.

But that person may appear quite normal, high functioning to outsiders. Its not like 30 or 40 years ago, when many converts were visibly off kilter, doe eyed and chanting and easily identifiable as being different.

Today, more groups encourage members to function in society, and to conceal the groups actual, and condescending attitude toward that society.

Behave in a way that brings money to the group. Dont recruit in an obvious and obnoxious manner. Hint, delicately and test potential recruits by recommending a particualr book or tape or Podcast that is not necessarily produced by the group but compatible with its beliefs.

For instance, recommend or hint at reading Irina Tweedie's memoir, Chasm of Fire or Daughter of Fire. (Unabridged version)

If the person is revolted by the way Tweedie allowed her guru to abuse her, that person reveals he or she is not good material for a guru based cult.

If someone is curious, deeply intrigued and not bothered by the cruelty depicted in the Tweedie book---that person is worth cultivating as a potential recruit.

But again, a member can function with distinction in society, yet his or her esoteric secret is being psychic property of a group or guru and being on an extensible leash.

Only if an outsider stumbles by accident into a group of people "getting juiced' in the presence of the leader who owns their inner life and holds their projections, can one see that there is a large 'social commute' between the group members public personae and their private, in-group personae.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 26, 2013 09:15PM

Final note: In early stages of engagement with a group, recruiters and its literature may emphasize the many similarities between the group and your own beliefs and expectations.

One favorite strategy is for a group to emphasize the unity of all religions--a term for which is perennialism. Aldous Huxley is often quoted in this context.

It is also favored by quite nice, well intentioned persons who are trying to sustain interfaith dialogue during these trying times.

But this perennialism stance is also favored in the early stages of seeking and of recruitment by a group which considers itself different from and superior to all others, but hides this stance from potential new recruits who would reject it out of hand if they knew its actual stance.

A cliche phrase is many paths to the same mountain top.

Actual differences in dogma will be ignored.

Tip offs:

*But have you experienced it? (This ignores that moods do not equal proof. And that experiences can be manipulated. Or be subject to confirmation bias.

*Claims of some 'wisdom' that is ancient and predates all society

* Claims that all religions are at core interchangeable.

* Mere 'discursive though' or 'academic mindset' are hindrances to realization of the unity of all religions.

* Understanding or 'intuiting' this unity can only be done by someone with special sensitivity and acuity--a preordained member of an elite.

The unspoken corollary is that anyone who does care about differences in dogma and worse, disrupts a recruitment talk by pointing this out, or by catching a speaker in other errors, will be dismissed as an intelligent but insensitive clod. The dissenter will be dismissed as befuddled by discursive though and pedestrian concerns about accuracy.

This is a handy way for recruiters (and gurus) to conceal their own ignorance and to befuddle someone who has potential to disrupt the smooth flow of an indoctrinational conversation.

And, too often, most of the audience will side with the charlatan and sneer at someone who tries to give advice that belief systems are not interchangeable.

If in a set up like remain at your own risk. Early in the game, your social commute may be brief.

Later, if you do become more involved (via dating, marriage with or becoming a client of someone in the group), your social commute may lengthen as you come witness more and more behavior and stated beliefs that differ from and might be considered insultling or arrogant by those who dont share such beliefs.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 20, 2013 11:05PM



Then there are the practices that oblige us to believe in something preposterous...........But even there, powerful sociological and anthropological forces are at play.

"Historically, tribes scarify their members so they can't leave and join another group," Bigelow says.

"One thing cults and religions can do is provide rituals that mark you out as a member of one group, and excluded from another group. If those rituals consisted solely of rational conclusions drawn from the evidence available, where's the exclusivity in that? Then all the religions would be the same.

"The whole point is to pick some irrational idea. At random. And declare: 'We are the people who believe this!' The irrationality of it is functionally important. The whole point is to make it hard to believe."

And...the greater the effort needed to believe, the more difficult it becomes to leave. Or even to imagine leaving.

Two, one need not make a large effort all at once, One may make many small efforts, bit by little bit. Cumulatively, these add up and one finds oneself making a long social commute between outside society, which does not share the beliefs or rituals and one's in-group.

In some cases, one may wear jewelry, select clothing, house decor, read approved literature.

One may drift into seeing only health care providers, massage therapists and psychotherapists associated with one's sect.

One need not even be told to do this. One may find oneself selecting other members of the group with these skills because -- it is too tiring and too embarassing to imagine discussing one's beliefs and practices with a physician, masseuse or psychotherapist who doesnt share those same beliefs.

To try and explain them to someone who is an outsider is too exhausting--even when one imagines trying to do so.

Ditto when dating. One may end up in an enclosed social scene after a series of seemingly free choices, but choices dictated by the fatigue of enduring the distance of a long social commute and deciding one just isnt up to it.

Janja Lalitch would have called this bounded choice.

When one is chronically tired, that alone robs one of freedom and compromises adult autonomy.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 21, 2013 04:05AM

What lengthens social commute.

If anything in your belief system is embarassingly different from the social mainstream, the more difficulty you will feel in discussing it with an outsider. Unless you live in India, it can be difficult to come out of the closet and mention you have put your faith in a human being as Avatar of God.

If your faith considers all other prophets as mere precursors to your Avatar, this stance could elicit hostility and accusations of heresy from those who follow those other prophets. keep this secret and may profess that your sect recognizes the validity of other faiths, while covertly considering these other faiths mere inferior precursors to the teachings of your avatar or prophet. This imposes a stance of both condescension and deceit.

Complexity of belief system. The harder it is to describe your belief system to an outsider, the more reluctant you become to discuss it with anyone who doesnt already understand and buy into it.

The more discrepancies there are between your belief system and the social mainstream in which you live, the harder it is to describe/discuss with outsiders.

The more labor intensive your faith (such as need for regular meetings at the worship center), the less you can discuss with outsiders.

If a diet or dress code or both are imposed, the greater teh social commute and easier to just associate with your group.

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Re: Social Commute -- How Much will a Group Ask of You?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 21, 2013 04:15AM

Finally, if the group has a guru or living leader whose appearance is eccentric, it can be embarassing to let outsiders know that you consider this person God in human form, or someone capable of bringing you to full spiritual realization.

If your group piles jewelry and fancy clothing upon its leader, this too may become something to be kept secret from outsiders.

A group of persons who are from alcoholic families where secrecy is learned nonverbally can easily re-enact codependance dynamics within an ashram set up of this kind.

The strain and effort of keeping this secret from the outside world may even be rationalized as some sort of spiritual discipline, evidence that one is evolved enough, tough enough to endure this.

That weak persons would not understand the nobility of it all.

Yet another reason to drift, by default into a restricted social group so as to avoid the stress of commuting between the in group and the outside world.

Those who do have to live with the secrecy and yet pretend to the outside world that there are no secrets may feel strain. They may mask this with superficial niceness, learn to turn smiles on and off. If need be, some may deal with the strain through covert use of alcohol or prescription drugs.

Elite members may rationalize or even be told that they are at a high enough level that the group ethics no longer apply. And if health care providers or massage therapists are part of this sect, they may get extra business caring for stress illnesses bred within the group.

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