Re: Contempt: How Guru’s Weaponise The Victim
Date: July 30, 2021 06:26PM
This is very true. I've been through this exact same thing and it left me in a tough bind. How do I have self-compassion for my own prior problems as an abuse survivor (eating disorders, self-harm, addiction, unstable relationships) whilst also feeling appropriate anger towards abusers who were struggling equally with trauma? If their actions were worthy of contempt, aren't I also? And if I am, doesn't that mean I deserved abuse? It's a vicious cycle.
I think part of this is that abusive people tend to have no idea how their actions are interpreted by others, especially children. I was just talking to someone about the example of an emotionally abusive parent who is struggling financially. If she can no longer continue to pay for music lessons for her child, she might be too ashamed to admit it and instead say something like, "well your music sounds awful, I'm not going to waste any more money on someone so untalented." The child is crushed and blames himself, and spends the rest of his life thinking that he failed at his passion and is unworthy. But the parent will probably forget the incident almost immediately, since the explanation was never true in the first place. Maybe she'll buy him a bicycle for his birthday six months later to alleviate any lingering guilt. Years later, when the child says, "you crushed my dreams of becoming a musician," she will answer with something like, "don't be silly! That never happened, we just had to tighten our belts! You can afford your own lessons now, why are you still blaming me?" If anyone continued to push it, she'd go into extreme detail about how incredibly hard it was to survive as a single parent, and so forth.
These kinds of situations are amplified in cults and closed movements because there is so much pressure to save face, be holier-than-thou, come across as superhuman. To be above flaws and human concerns. I think that spiritual leaders are so invested in this self-image that they discard any action on their own part that is less than perfect; a kind of ultimate cognitive dissonance. Any hint of imperfection and humanity has to be immediately hidden or their business model falls apart... yes, 'spiritual leader' is a career choice. Yes, they are getting paid for it. Yes, your membership dues and 'voluntary contributions' and books and meditation app subscriptions are paying for someone else's food and accommodation. Yes, by renouncing your worldly belongings you are supplementing theirs. You are balancing the books for a real-world organisation that has a bank account and a tax code. They only keep profiting if everyone keeps buying into the myth that they are somehow more than human.
So everything they do has to be sympathetic. They can't admit to mistakes. They can't turn around and say, "gee, I know I told you all to sell your townhouses and move to the jungle. Well that didn't work and all the money is gone. Guess I misinterpreted that dream I had. Oops." The impact that gurus have on their followers' lives is measured in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per person, and in years and decades of their lives. They can't admit to the mistake because they can't possibly make reparations for it. If you destroy the lives of five people for two years, you might find a way to make it up to them. If you destroy the lives of a hundred people for twenty years, you will never ever pay off that debt.
So the only choice is to keep denying, keep minimising, keep accusing the victims of being weak and unspiritual, keep reminding the world that you suffered way more and survived better and are therefore much stronger. Keep pretending over and over that your actions were logical and made perfect sense. It reminds me of the story of the Buddha turning all incoming arrows into rainbows through his own inner peace. In the guru's mind, it isn't THEIR fault if they unleash a bunch of rainbows which turn back to arrows when they reach the crowd. That's just the followers' fault for not being more enlightened, right?
I wanted to write about the stories we tell ourselves in a cult, but this is getting long so I'll stop here.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/30/2021 06:29PM by Jupiter.