The Wright Institute for Lifelong Learning?
Date: July 06, 2007 04:44AM
I have also seen the thread on Factnet but was unable to see the one on Craigslist.
On the recommendation of (now former) friends, I went on one of the weekend training programs offered by the Wright Institute (run by Bob and Judith Wright) called Men’s Basic. As I am into personal development and growth, these people assured me that the experience would transform my life.
What follows is a letter that I sent to my former friends:
This letter is a necessary part of my healing. I need to have closure to my miserable experience on the Men’s Basic weekend. Having spent six months in therapy and many hours reflecting on my experience, I have concluded that it was truly a life changing experience – not for the better. I am writing this to you because I want to clear up my feelings about the experience and find peace in my own mind. I also want you to know and understand my feelings about the weekend and the Wright Institute.
I have spoken with my pastor, my physician, my attorney, three Licensed Clinical Social Workers, my psychologist and a friend from church who is a psychologist and specializes in the treatment of sexual abusers and predators. None of these people, all licensed professionals, can conceive of any reason to do what was done to me under the guise of personal growth. They have all expressed shock and disgust at what I told them of my experience. I have told them the truth and have held nothing back. There is no justification for what was done to me or any of the other men on the weekend.
(Name), I am saddened by your desire to “honor what the men do” with respect to the men’s weekend. I don’t know how you can recommend this to someone when you don’t know what goes on. You told me it would be “intense”. Hardly the description I would use. I feel like I was sucker punched.
I need to take you through what happened to me and I need you to listen. I was put into the most horrifying and humiliating situation I have ever experienced by people I trusted. People who were recommended to me by you. What I thought would be a positive growth experience was nothing but perverted insult to my person. I went to The Men’s Basic with the intention of gaining new personal insights to lead a more inspired and fulfilling life. Instead, I was blind folded, told to take off my all of my clothes, lie on a mat in the woods and trust that this is some how good for me. I trusted and what ensued was the most terrifying and humiliating experience of my adult life.
I was staked tightly to the ground, naked, blindfolded, spread eagle in the woods. I fought back, managed to free my left hand and get a hold of (Name)’s shirt collar. I held on and twisted it as tightly as I could. I was asked by him to “remember why I was there and that this experience was important to my personal growth by learning to face fear” or something to that effect. I believe I was coerced to follow through. Another name for this is “intentional infliction of emotional distress” according to my attorney. This is a technique often used by abusers.
I was asked if I would like to continue, and told that it was my choice. Thinking that this is as bad as it could possibly get, I elected to continue. This was definitely the wrong choice – what followed was a nothing short of molestation. Something heavy and furry (?) was dragged over my legs, abdomen, genitals and chest in a slithering motion. I was so terrified that I could not find my voice but I twisted and pulled at my restraints until the sensation stopped. No one spoke to me or asked if I wanted to proceed. Next I felt the sensation of claws scratching my legs, chest and abdomen. This was painful and terrifying. At this point I had no sense of trust left and actually feared for my physical safety – I had no idea what else these people had in mind for me. I continued to thrash about until they stopped. I was released from my restraints and told to get dressed again. I was told that I always had the ability to say no. However, I was so terrified and out of my mind at the time that I lost my ability to say no. I have been told that this is similar to what a rape victim goes through.
(Name), I need to know from you exactly what it was that I felt on my body. You told me before that the scratching was from a “bug”. What kind of bug was it? What about the other thing. What was that?
I don’t understand how anyone can conceive of a defense for this. I don’t care about the context of this experience as it relates to the rest of the weekend. This was a perverted, sick act of physical and mental abuse. These men need to be held accountable. Decent people don’t do this to other people. Grown men should know better.
Dazed and confused, I dressed and continued on to the next “experience”. This one involved wearing a harness, climbing a tree and riding down on a zip line. I didn’t feel like I was there, but observing what was going on. I was somehow disconnected from myself. This feeling of disconnectedness was due to shock and trauma according to my therapist. As I stood on the platform at the top of a tall tree, I could hear the screams of other men who were no doubt experiencing what I had gone through earlier.
Moving on to the next experience, I was told to sit in a chair and take off all of my clothes again! I said “No”. Someone said that I could say “no” up to three times and I would not be asked to complete the experience. I said NO, NO, NO!!! and was excused. As I got out of the chair (still blindfolded) my head was spinning. I was handed a rope and told follow it until I came to the end. While doing this and trying to make some sense out of what was happening to me, I tripped, fell backward and landed on something hard that left a softball size bruise on my left hip. I became so enraged at this point that I tore of my blindfold. The first thing I realized was that there was no one near me. I was stunned. There was no one near me to make sure that I was safe! I was told that I would be safe at all times, but there was no one close by. That destroyed any sense of trust I had left.
I began walking and trembling with a rage that I had never known. I heard a voice behind me say “STOP!”, but I kept walking until I reached the end of the rope. There I turned to face (Name) who had asked me to stop earlier. He did not ask if I was hurt, or if he could help me. All he said was stop!! I don’t understand how the Wright Institute can portray itself as a loving and caring organization when I was treated like this. I felt no love or care for my well being. (Name) then proceeded to tell me that he had developed these experiences to elicit a fear response.
I felt like a lab rat!! Oh, how I wish I had taken him down right then and there and kicked his a**!! It would have given me a sense of closure to this whole mess. I have heard stories of people who found incredible strength in an adverse situation, (like the woman who is able to lift a car off her injured child). I felt that same strength surging through me at that moment. I know, with out a doubt, I could have beaten him to a bloody pulp right there and felt no remorse. My sense of integrity and my agreement to honor the rules of no physical violence as laid out by the Wright Institute stopped me. I also have enough sense to know that this would have been a stupid thing to do considering I was sorely out numbered by Men’s Guild members. I can say without reservation that an encounter with (Name), Bob or (Name) today would bring me back to that state again and depending on the situation, I might not show the same restraint. This is not how I normally deal with people I don’t trust. This is what is so disturbing to me eight months later. That I feel like I could physically destroy these people is a very uncomfortable feeling for me. I have discussed this with my therapist at length and I work daily to keep these feelings in check. There is no machismo here, just hate. I expected to come away from the weekend full of energy and inspiration. What I came away with is pure hate. Not exactly the outcome I had in mind.
Two other members of The Men’s Guild showed up and circled around me. One of them asked me what my problem was and said we should talk it through. I don’t remember what was said, only that I was very confused and as angry as I can ever remember. We stared at each other for a while before I broke down and began sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t recall exactly what transpired during those moments, but I do remember being held up and told that I had done wonderfully and that I had taken my first big step toward healing. Healing? I didn’t, and still don’t feel healed in any way.
At this point, my survival instincts kicked in. I went through the motions, saying what I thought they wanted to hear, flying under the radar and waiting for the weekend to be over so I could get the hell out of there.
I am disgusted that (Name) reminded us not to say anything specific about the experiences because they could be misconstrued by outsiders. This is the same as the pedophile or abuser who tells a child “now this is our special secret, so don’t tell anyone.”
To me, Bob Wright is a pathetic, disturbed, insecure little man. He is a con artist and manipulator who attempts to control and dominate the lives of others. His “I f**k the world” tirade directed at (Name) (another man on the weekend) was just about the most ridiculous and offensive thing I have ever heard. Bob’s sales pitch at the end of the weekend was absolutely over the top! When he stormed to the front of the room and ranted “You need me to continue to grow, you can’t do this on your own!”, the only word that came to mind was “cult.” He didn’t look like a caring, loving or rational man. I was shocked as I watched him carry on with his eyes bulging out, his red face and body language that seemed to say, “I dare you not to sign up!” This was not a man who was simply enthusiastic or passionate…this was a man who looked angry and deranged. It seems to me that Bob is attempting to create a following of people who depend on him for their emotional well being by using intimidation and coercion. At this point, I was able to see through Bob’s veneer and know that he is a fraud. The members of the Men’s Guild seemed to fear and revere him at the same time. I find this very disturbing. If this is an example of the New Model of Manhood, I’ll take the old model any day. Having experienced Men’s Basic and the personal aftermath, I believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with the practices of The Wright Institute.
So, where does our relationship go from here? I truly don’t know. I know that there is nothing you can do or say to that will convince me that what I went through was a good thing. I thought I could put all of it behind me. I thought I could accept that my trust was violated. I thought I could accept that some good might come from this. I thought I could accept the humiliation I felt. I thought I could accept the horror and tears I saw in Jeri’s eyes when I told her what was done to me. I thought I could accept the guilt that the woman I love beyond measure, the woman I share my life, heart and soul with feels about encouraging me to go on this weekend. Eight months later, I can’t put it all behind me. Do you understand how this has affected me?
When I pray, I am not able to pray for Bob Wright nor can I forgive him for what was done to me. I do pray that he and the others will be held accountable by a higher authority and will see the damage they have done to me and others. I pray daily that both of you will live your lives with joy, fulfillment, and courage, but mostly I pray that your lives can be free of influence of Bob, Judith and The Wright Institute.
I know that what I have said is difficult for you to hear. However, it needed to be said.
Well, that was over a year and a half ago. My wife and I have had several very unproductive conversations with them after I sent the letter, but all we got from them was their justification for what was done. They were especially upset that I had contacted the authorities about what had happened. According to the authorities, others have done so as well. To make a long story short, there was simply not enough evidence to gain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.
So there you have it. If nothing else, I hope anyone reading this will think twice about getting involved with the Wright Institute.