I talked to a lot of people suffering from anxiety in the course of my healing, I noticed that isolation was a common theme, and I was no stranger to that. I can see why chanting would feed into this. I'm very grateful that I had people that were pushing me to get back out into life. There seemed to be a lot of anxious people in SGI and my SGI "mentor" would tell me stories about these various members of the group that I was in and their various conditions -- this one has depression, that one has anxiety -- and they had been in SGI for years. I said, wow, that's amazing. If they've been chanting all this time why haven't they gotten better? Her answer: They're doing it wrong. They don't attend enough meetings and they're not chanting with determination to overcome their fundamental darkness.
Kitty, good points. I think that isolation, anxiety, and/or some kind of loss got a lot of us into SGI, and similar groups. When you first start to go to the meetings, the members will love-bomb you (classic cult behavior), which can be VERY appealing if you are at all lonely. The chanting can take the edge off of the anxiety, and hearing "experiences" can make you feel more optimistic about resolving your loss or problem. This is all very appealing bait, and it's all too easy to see the bait, but not the hook underneath it.
Your leader's answer is classic SGI-speak. If you do solve a problem, or something good happens to you, then it's all due to chanting and SGI. If you can't solve the problem, or something bad happens, then you haven't chanted with enough determination or done enough work for SGI, and you need to do more. Well, if you are human, both good and bad things happen all the time. So for the devout SGI members, the answer is constantly increasing your chanting and efforts for SGI. You are never doing enough; you ALWAYS need to do more, more, more, whether your life is going well or badly!
This mindset is like getting sucked into a whirlpool. It just pulls in someone like my former friend. When I knew her, she usually chanted over two hours a day, and she was attending meetings, or planning them, several times a week. Occasionally, something good would happen to her, or she'd feel good, briefly. Then, she'd feel that she'd gotten a benefit. Which meant that she should be grateful to SGI and do even more for them. If she felt bad, or had a bad day at work, or something else bad happened to her -- she felt that it was because her faith and determination weren't strong enough. Then, she'd resolve to chant more and work harder for SGI. This is such a vicious cycle! You get to the point where you're doing little but SGI stuff, and this is what happened to her.
All she has now in her life is SGI, chanting, her job and her family. She used to cry to me that she wanted more friends, a relationship, more of a social life. Yet her SGI activities simply never left her the time for that. People would invite her out, and she never could go because she'd always have some SGI commitment. Naturally, people are going to quit inviting, if the answer's always no. By now, her friends are all hardcore SGI members. She's cut out anyone who could show her a different perspective. Even if she did start to question SGI at some point -- leaving would mean losing almost every friend she's got. Her family pretty much knows that they can't question her devotion to SGI, or she won't see them.
That could have been me. I'm grateful that I never entirely lost the desire to question. I'm also very thankful to sites like this one. Reading and writing about this helps so much.