Cultish groups that meet most but not all the criteria
Posted by: allalong ()
Date: December 21, 2019 02:25AM

Is there a place for me to discuss this?

I was in two cultish groups that met most of the criteria for a cult, and most of the criteria for being run by a cult leader. The only things I didn't experience was sexual and physical abuse in one cult. And the other cult that did me the most harm, I also didn't experience financial abuse.

But these two cultish groups did me a lot of harm nonetheless.

And I have no idea how to pick up my life again from here. The cult books out there do not fit what I went through, so I am very confused and feel lost. I am just now starting to be like myself again, but it is happening just over time.

But I'm scared to do any kind of self-care for my depression and anxiety, because stuff out there can still be cultish--whether it's Yoga, Meditation, Cross Fit, the Keto diet--stuff like that is big money and people can get obsessed with it and get brainwashed.

My experience:

First I was in a cultish group run by a medical doctor. Don't ask me who it was because I will not reveal his name. He's one of many medical doctors who wrote books using fear and one or two small research studies to back up his points and skew stuff toward his own biases. He follows what he preaches, but it is definitely extremely cult like. People leave their careers to volunteer or work for him for pennies. He runs his volunteers around ragged. I volunteered once and we had to ask if it was okay to go home after a strenuous 14 hour day. He appears very nice and gentle but behind the scenes he is as someone who knows him personally in town "a dictator". Her husband is a medical doctor and she told me he's not liked by his colleagues. He runs a very busy forum online where we all used to just parrot back what he said. He sells expensive supplements and stuff and uses fear to get people's buy in. Every waking moment where I wasn't working or sleeping, I was on his forum. I couldn't talk about anything else. I used to constantly say, "Dr. _____ says this" and "Dr. _____ says that".

I met up with one of his followers who I thought they were friends and he offered me a job. It was extremely frustrating because any conversation we'd have on the phone with my asking exactly what my job responsibilities would be and how much was the salary he was offering, he talked for hours on the phone in complete circles. He had other people talk to me on the phone and they, too, talked in complete circles. I did one project for him for free, and he had a very angry and uncalled for temper tantrum over disagreeing with one of the things I wrote where I quoted the doctor. If you met him, you'd think he was handsome, successful, smart, and just really into what the doctor preaches. But wow that was a sh*t show and I ended up not working for him. When he friended me on facebook, I saw that he was a part of the Man Kind Project. I did some digging and found that the medical doctor had written reviews on books of people who were part of the Man Kind Project. I don't he was himself--I could definitely not see him doing that sort of thing and he'd walk out of it--but it was weird nonetheless. Even volunteering for him I met very strange people.

The reason I stopped following this "soft cult" or whatever the term is, is because I got extremely physically sick from following the diet. I almost died. It's a diet that works well for many people--I witnessed it--but it was not right for me and he should've said so but didn't. But he wasn't my actual doctor but he knew me. Every single medical professional I met in the hospital told me gently but firmly to go back to eating the way I used to. I did immediately. But I never talked about my experience and I think I need to figure out how to and where to, because it wasn't a cult in a traditional term. I wish this forum had a section for things like this.

The second "soft cult" I was in, was a 12-step program on the fringes. It wasn't for drugs or alcohol, and in hindsight I don't even think it was an actual addiction but more of a poor coping mechanism, to deal with untreated OCD and depression/anxiety. Basically, my therapist at the time suggested I go to a 12 step group. The first one he suggested was not on the fringes. It was a normal type 12 step group. But someone there invited me to another 12 step meeting, and that one was on the fringe.

I read here that there aren't many groups on the fringe. I don't recall what year that post was written, but I will say that I know of many more groups on the fringe, especially if you live in certain parts of the country. They are well-known. Unfortunately they are definitely cult like.

I still have a lot of respect for the guy who ran mine. But it was definitely a cult. We didn't lose money and there wasn't sexual or physical abuse. But still it was a cult like group. People who never went there before either loved it or hated it. I had many new people come up to me afterwards telling me this group seemed like a cult. I used to always stick up for my group and explain how it wasn't a cult. But they used a lot of reverse psychology, probably unintentionally, to make it appear like it wasn't a cult. I don't even think the guy running it meant it to be a cult or wanted it to be like that. He wanted to help people. I have no bad feelings toward him.

But it was a cult because everyone who belonged parroted everything he said or the book we used said. We also all had that weird look in our eyes that I thought was a good healthy thing, but I realize now is a cult look. My life revolved around the teachings 24/7. I often quoted the book we used. I thought I was getting healthy and that this was good for me. The other thing is, I had a bad experience. I wasn't treated well and I was often yelled at, humiliated by the person working with me, laughed at, and stuff like that. There was a great deal of victim blaming. It did a huge deal of damage to me. I had to make amends to people who abused me, but thankfully this was the one and only time a therapist stepped in and said absolutely not. There were often power struggles between my therapist and sponsor. It was extremely confusing.

God was a huge part of my group. That's all we talked about. We could believe in any God, but in actuality it was really a Christian God but not in the way people were taught about. It was a different type of Christianity. I liked it. But it did me a great deal of harm. I became obsessed with every little tiny thing I did or said. I apologized for things that my sponsor would yell at me and make fun of me for apologizing for. But then other things she would yell at me for not apologizing for. I would ask for help, but then be admonished for asking for help. It was like they kick you when you're down and blamed you for it.

Many people in the group were in MLM's, Landmark, or followed Eckart Tolle, Katie Byron, Tony Robbins, Abraham Hicks, Joel Osteen, Marianne Williamson and ACIM, etc. The leader guy didn't. But still, there was a lot of that in the group. There was one woman who was in MLMs and listening to her talk--wow it's scary to remember. I didn't fall for any of it, but I watched her. She was one of those people who believes her own delusions.

I spent a number of years in this group and it's all I thought about every second of the day. We were supposed to. On the outside they said no you're supposed to work, take care of your family, only do this in the morning and at night and just pay attention throughout the day. But it got really messed up when I was told to bring God into each and every aspect of my day. I wonder what my therapist thought when I said that I was supposed to invite God into our session, even. I talked about God constantly. I started to read more books that other people in the group read, since our work was just a beginning "spiritual kindergarten".

We weren't allowed to think and were constantly told that our best thinking is what brought us there. We were supposed to ask God what to do and what to say for every single aspect of our lives because following our own minds screwed up our lives.

This was supposed to be about not doing our addiction anymore. That's what therapists are told 12 step meetings are like. But we never talked about our addictions only about the step work and God and we all thought our lives were absolutely perfect and wonderful and when we talked, that's what we said. I think we were all delusional on pink clouds, as they say. We had to work with others or else we'd relapse so I guess we had that fear. But I think we were all delusional thinking everything was now wonderful and we all we had to do was ask God to help us and ask Him what to do and say and bring Him into every single aspect of our live.

We were told to just be an example and people would hear us talk and see how spiritually well we were, and so they'd want to be like us. Again I don't know if it was intentional reverse psychology or intentional. I don't think it was intentional. It did help people.

There was a lot of fear based teaching from the getgo. We wouldn't get over our addiction unless we did EXACTLY what we were told to do. If we didn't do exactly what we were told to do, we were screamed at basically or told we didn't want recovery enough.

My group wasn't like this but I was told about some other fringe groups that people wash their sponsor's cars and run errands and have to ask their sponsor before they take a new job or start dating someone new. My group wasn't anything like that, our personal lives were our business, we could leave whenever we wanted, etc. But the God stuff moment by moment was pushed onto us to the point of sheer losing your own identity and personality and critical thinking.

I'm just now seeing in hindsight how my old personality is coming back and I'm happy to see it and I'm sure my spouse is too. I lost her in this process.

I don't blame my therapist for suggesting a 12 step program. But I am confused why they didn't confront me with the fact that I was in a fringe group that was cult like and I was obsessed with God. I even talked about it a lot in my therapy appointments. It was all I talked about for a few years.

I got out of it on my own, because something happened that finally snapped me out of it. My sponsor did something very emotionally abusive and sometimes unfortunately that is the hardest abuse to admit is going on, because it's not as obvious as sexual or physical abuse. She had been emotionally abusive from the start, as had the other sponsors, but this time it snapped me back into reality. I called her out on it and that was the end of it.

Where do I go from here? I have no motivation or drive to figure out how to get my life back and I'm still sort of like "what the heck was that?" For a couple of years, I was still on forums online spreading the message of our program's teachings, but I recall a point where my brain was like fighting between the stuff I was spewing from the program, and real life stuff. Then I got to a point where I stopped going on the forum entirely and the stuff finally left my brain.

I want to try to get my life back but I'm stuck and don't even know where to begin. I want to practice self care without getting obsessed or caught up in anything that resembles a cult. Because there's a lot of those sort of groups out there, I wish there was a place to discuss them.

I have some family members in a religious cult, so I'd rather not discuss my experience with family members.

Apologies if this was a bit rambling. I'm curious to hear feedback, opinions,nsuggestions, experience, etc.

Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 12/21/2019 02:50AM by allalong.

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Re: Cultish groups that meet most but not all the criteria
Posted by: allalong ()
Date: December 21, 2019 03:00AM



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/21/2019 03:01AM by allalong.

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Re: Cultish groups that meet most but not all the criteria
Posted by: Resilient ()
Date: March 10, 2020 11:25PM

Allalong, I just replied to another post of yours, and I didn't realize the extent of your suffering. Rachel Bernstein has a great podcast and has helped many people to recover from cults and other systems of control. There are therapists who specialize in this work, and maybe you can gain some clarity or insight from some of her interviews. Possibly even reach out to her, or find a referral in your area?


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Re: Cultish groups that meet most but not all the criteria
Posted by: allalong ()
Date: March 11, 2020 09:58PM

It's okay. I'm putting it behind me. I was focusing too much on the negative experiences when I wrote my posts. They weren't cults in the true sense of the word. I'm focusing on the good that I did get out of them, because there was good stuff I learned and experienced that help me change and grow. I'm trying to focus on the strength I've gained from looking within versus following any guru or group. Thank you for the podcast recommendation. I will check that out. I appreciate your suggestions. I was able to work through my experiences in regular therapy, because my experience wasn't actual cults. It took time. Good old fashioned time. Maybe one day this listserv will have something for "soft cults" for us to discuss our experiences, because there are a lot of them out there. They don't do the same level of harm that cults do, but there are definitely similarities.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/11/2020 09:59PM by allalong.

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