Loyalty and Gratitude
Date: October 21, 2007 09:29PM
I am still sorting this out. And Yasmin is right. There's a huge difference between
being recruited into a cult, versus being raised within a cult.
Those recruited from the outside have had some exposure to norms different from the cult, whereas those raised within a cult will have internalized the special norms of the group.
I still think it worth focusing on loyalty rather than love.
Love is a very subjective emotion and love relationships can be hard to evaluate because one may be in long periods of hardship, but the emotions and bliss make it feel worth while.
But loyalty involves allocation of resources. Its much easier in loyalty to track whether there is reciprocation, or if one person is being consistently bled and drained....and worse, being made to feel guilty for even having misgivings.
In the many stories Ive read and heard about dysfunctional relationships and groups, it seems that unreciprocated loyalty and ingratitude on the part of the leader show up again and again.
The leaders have a talent for making followers feel infinitely obligated and grateful...but in a crunch, the leaders show themselves incapable of loyalty and gratitude. THat is when the leaders are unmasked for what they really are...tiny kids in adult bodies who are incapable of the loyalty and gratitude that are the foundation of adult, peer relationships. Cult leaders are great at manipulating extreme emotions, but consistently flunk at ordinary adult skills, such as open, non manipulative communication.
Many gurus operate on a kingship model. But despite being good at pomp and circumstance, they are often not good kings.
For perspective, it is good to remember that in feudal days, the Lord-Vassal relationship was a based on reciprocity.
The vassal (farmer or soldier) swore to provide taxes and or military support to the lord, in return for the lord protecting the vassals property and family.
If a lord took taxes and failed to give protection in return, he was considered a bad lord. When King John of England consistently violated his feudal responsibilities, his barons became so fed up that they wrote out the kings obligations and required John to sign the document before they were willing to give him their assistance. This document, foundation of Anglo American common law, was the Magna Carta.
All too often groups teach that they or the leader is so special that ordinary concepts of reciprocity do not apply.
That, by itself, is BS...and a big, red flag.
But...the problem is if we are raised in a group, it is hard to recognize that.
Getting back to love that is seemingly unreciprocated. In some cases, there are loving relationships where one person is doing more to keep things going than the other person.
Examples of this are situations where one of the lovers is or becomes a long term invalid and the other lover has the long term role of care provider and protector. Ditto for parent child relationships,especially if a child requires life long care for a special condition)
But even in the case of a love relationship where one person is permanently in the worker/supporter/caregiver role, the person who carries the bulk of the Responsibility cannot give, give give without some nourishment coming back in return. The responsible care provider needs 3 other 'R's to balance the big R of Responsibility....Respect, Respite and Resources.
(Even if not in cults, I think a big cause of distress for many parents, especially mothers, is the feeling of infinite responsibility without the other 3 Rs that make Responsibility worth while...Respect, Respite and the Resources needed to carry out one's responsibilities and feel satisfied with one's efforts.)
Draining and exploitation takes place in any situation, whether a cult or a bad relationship when someone is made to be a responsible caregiver of someone else's life or someone else's mood, but is not given Respect, Respite and Resources in a way that balances this Responsiblity.
And in cults, all too often, the followers feel Responsible and infinitely loyal, while the Leader never actually demonstrates corresponding loyalty or gratitude and manipulates the Respect, Respite and Resources.
Ive often thought that being a cultic guru enables a person to have it all ways:
To be cared for as a small child, by the followers, to be protected from accountability and have excuses made for one's bad behavior and tantrums, just as parents make excuses for very tiny children, yet with this entourage of
baby sitters, the cult leader has adult autonomy, power, prestige and power, but with zero adult accountability for that power.
Years ago in his 2000 year old Man comedy episode, Mel Brooks, playing the Old Man, did a routine in which he played with a part of this fantasy. With Carl Reiner as the earnest straight man, Mel as the Old Gent, explained the secret
of his extraordinary longevity.
Reiner: 'Sir, to what do you owe your longevity?'
Old Man Brooks: 'My development was very low and slow. Very low and slow....
I breast fed for 200 years.'
(Audience totally freaks out)
Reiner: (astounded) 'But...Sir, who did you breast feed with?
Old Man Brooks: 'I used to con a lot of ladies into doing it. They saw, me...they took pity on me...(audience is collectively pissing in its pants laughing and plotzing)....It was a thrill, let me tell you."
Mel Brooks found a way to win the trust of his audience and then, using humor as a container, gets us to imagine this impossible situation....someone possessing adult autonomy, communication skills and powers of seduction to get into the situation where Brooks can regress and persuade 'the ladies' to breast feed him as if he's a baby, though he's actually already adult.
The audience is going nuts from a combination of anxiety and laughter because this is high voltage stuff.
If we are lucky, most of us play with this briefly, fluidly with our lovers, but dont get frozen long term into the roles of adult infant/caregiver.
But in a draining relationship or a cult...people get stuck in this long term and worse, are not allowed to discuss it or become conscious of whatever feelings of exhaustion or misgiving they actually have.