What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 08, 2004 05:40AM

The people at our local dog park have a term for the way dogs communicate with each other by peeing in carefully selected spots:


Know when you've really gone too far as a dog lover?

When you look at some pit bull's tightly muscled rear end--and you wish yours looked that good (grin).

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: September 08, 2004 10:16AM

I just found this excellent summary of CBT. Its about 40 pages, and gives a list of Cognitive Distortions, and even has a Dyfunctional Thought Record in the article.
For anyone who is interested, its well worth the read for an overview.


(its a pdf article)
Developed by Aaron Beck from his observations about the impact of patients’ belief systems
on their psychological functioning, cognitive therapy examines the effect of maladaptive
thinking on psychological disorders while at the same time acknowledging the
importance of affect and behavior on psychological functioning. As cognitive therapy
has developed, it has continued to draw on psychological research into individuals’ belief
systems and the study of how people process information from their environment.
An important aspect of cognitive therapy is the automatic thoughts—that individuals
may not be aware of but that make up their belief systems—called cognitive schemas.
In his work with patients, Beck identified cognitive distortions that affect individuals’
feelings, thoughts, and beliefs, such as all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization,
and catastrophizing. To change these beliefs, a thorough assessment is given by attention
to distortions inherent in certain thoughts. To further the process of assessment in
therapy, Beck and his colleagues have developed a number of instruments for different
psychological disorders that assess relevant cognitions and behaviors.
In their therapeutic approach, cognitive therapists collaborate with their clients to
assess and change behaviors. Often in the therapeutic process, the therapist may take
an instructional role, using techniques such as guided discovery and Socratic dialogue
to identify maladaptive beliefs and help clients develop insights into their beliefs.
Within the session, therapists often go over homework, examine current beliefs, and
develop alternatives. As well as using behavioral and affective approaches, cognitive
therapists make use of techniques such as decatastrophizing, labeling distortions, and
cognitive rehearsal.
More than other theories, cognitive therapy has identified particular distorted beliefs
that are typical of each of several psychological disorders. Of all the disorders, depression
has received the most attention, as it was the focus of Beck’s early therapy and
research. Just as there has been much emphasis on specific approaches to each psychological
disorder, researchers have studied the effectiveness of a variety of cognitive approaches
to many common psychological disorders, often comparing cognitive treatments
to behavioral and pharmacological approaches.

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: PSIsurvivor ()
Date: September 08, 2004 11:50AM

It has been 21 months since I first became involved with PSI Seminars. I have some doubts that I have recovered. I still feel so much anger and hatred towards the people who run that crapfest. It disturbs me to feel so much hatred and anger. I see myself as a loving, giving and compassionate person yet, I just can't forgive them. PSI seminars needs to be stopped. I need to warn people to stay away from them.

I believe that they knew what they were doing. I believe they knowingly were manipulating me into a situation that would have been harmful to me. I am thankful that I resisted enough that nothing physical happened. I can only hope that in time I will not have such overwhelming feelings of anger and hatred towards others.

Today I read a post by corboy on covert hypnosis......I got so angry as I read it. It was just like I was back there at the ranch watching it happen........The article just broke it down and spelled it out so clearly.

I have to give myself a break. I didn't know then what I know now. I think I will be able to resist in the future if I should be so unfortunate to find myself in a similar situation. I have done a lot of reading to educate myself. I hope I will be able to resist manipulation and influence. If any of the facilitators from PSI showed up in my life today I would not even talk with them. I'd call a cop if I had to.

Most days I feel just fine. I am living a very successful life. No one knows what I feel about my experience except for my therapist, my husband and those in this forum who have read my posts. But the problem is, I am so sensitive to any hint that someone is trying to manipulate me. It's like if someone is trying to influence whether I choose soup or salad, I react inside like they are trying to rape me.... hmmmmmmmmmmm well I am exagerating but really I just am like hypersensitive to any kind of manipulation. I find myself listening to what people say and analyzing it. If I hear a hint of NLP that person is in my trashheap of humanity. Not much hope of escape from there.

More than any other thing this forum has helped me to express what happened and how I feel about it. I have been seeing a psychologist since Jan of this year and she has helped me a great deal. My husband has also been an incredible help to me. He has stood by me and supported me completely since I opened up to him and told him what happened.

In previous posts several people mentioned critical thinking and skeptical thinking websites. I have read much there and also recommend them...

All in all this forum has helped me more than any other thing.



What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: SarahL ()
Date: November 09, 2004 04:26AM

I woke up this morning thinking on freedom. I can compare my life now to what it would be if I was still a member of The Church of Immortal Conciousness, and I find I have so much to celebrate. This is very helpful in my recovery process.
I can use the public library. I was not allowed to back then. What a gold mine a public library is of information and inspiration.
I can own books. I was not allowed to when in the cult. All of us had to sell off in their eternal garage sales any books we had brought with us.
I can read newspapers. In the household I lived in, only one man was allowed to read newspapers, and only the classified ads, since it had to do with his work in real estate.
I can listen to any radio station I wish. Used to be country music was allowed only. I can listen to college stations, to NPR, BBC, anything I like. When I like.
I can watch what I want on television, I can watch DVDs of my choice. On any subject, at any time.
I can continue my formal education. When ensnared in the cult, I asked to take a college course, and was told that I could not. Once I left, I was eventually able to earn my B.A.
I can keep a journal and do other writing, for creative expression and to problem solve.
I can think my own thoughts without being censored and manipulated. I can be compassionate with myself, encouraging instead of scathing.
I can vote according to my wishes. I remember Steven Kamp letting me know in his usual mix of bullying/charismatic style that we all vote Republican. Just so happens that Republican is not what I am. I get to vote, freely.
I get to sleep when I need to. I get to eat what I want. I no longer am coerced into debilitating work routines.
I can have as much time alone as I want and socialize when I want. I have control over my own money. I can use my own natural language rather than always talking and thinking in cult-speak.
I get to like what I like and not like what I don't like. I get to be human rather than just another drone used to support Trina and Steven Kamp.
I am able to make my own decisions about whether I marry, whether I have more children, who I interact with.
And my son, who is now 24 years old, gets to do all this also. He is free to have his own mind, to investigate what he wants, to organize his time as he chooses.
When I was a member, I somehow managed small acts of rebellion, that turned out to be very important to me. I had to turn over all my earnings to them, but I would occasionally pocket a tip and then treat myself to a slice of pie and a cup of coffee at a restaurant. This action was huge, I was not supposed to do this, but I did. To this day, the freedom to sit at a restaurant with food and even a newspaper is so very special. Something to celebrate.

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: dar3463 ()
Date: December 01, 2004 01:32PM

I was a student/victim of Sharon Gans, Fred Mindel, Minerva Taylor & Robert Klein from 1987 - November 18, 1998. I was recruited by my then girlfriend with the standard Gans' approach. JH, who went on to become my fiancée, wife, mother of my two kids and finally ex-wife, brought me in to one of two or three Gans groups meeting in downtown Manhattan - Broadway near Leonard. I was (and am) a talented, energetic & artistic guy; and a master carpenter. I spent 11 years working many, many long nights & weekends on Gans’ many "work/school" projects including the following:
Class spaces - Two lofts on Broadway with separate spaces for "higher & lower classes"
Christmas Party - Annual all night booze-athon complete with theatrical sets, costumes & performances prepared for months in advance
Retreats - Ranch near Kalispell, Montana: Hunting Lodge in Croton Falls, Westchester, NY & a series of houses purchased, renovated (by students who paid gans hundreds @ month)& then sold by ???? These deals culminated in Pawling NY with Hudson Valley Artists Foundation, funded in part a student's inheritance. This site, around 20 acres in Dutchess County, was developed in 1998. I was the on site supervisor, my day job, and "privileged older student/volunteer leader” for 24 hr days every weekend. I suffered what I now know to be a complete breakdown & was kicked out of my home by my now ex-wife, thrown off the job & expelled from the cult.
I must thank Gans at this point for telling me to return to AA, which has saved my life & restored me to sanity. Time, healing in AA, the love & support of my wonderful (new & improved 2nd) wife & a meeting with another former 4th Way'er have all led me to here & now. I can now say that I was a gullible, manipulated, damaged member of a very exploitive cult that claims to be a school of inner development for the growth of one's soul. The only thing growing here is her real estate portfolio & safe deposit box.
I would love to hear from any former or current "students of the Work"

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: gr82run26 ()
Date: January 15, 2005 07:56AM

I was involved with a catholic cult (Caritas of Birmingham) for 9 years. One thing that has TREMENDOUSLY helped me in the healing process was a trip to Wellspring Retreat and Counseling in Ohio. They specifically deal with former cult members and really understand what you have been through. I would HIGHLY recommend them. Their website:

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: realsage ()
Date: January 27, 2005 02:32AM

Understanding is the answer!

You've got to know what happened. There is no better healing than to see your own entrapment and abuse very clearly.

Here's one woman's story. She was a 10 year student of Andrew Cohen, and her story was first posted on a blog critiqueing Cohen.

That blog is called [i:626bf04b95]WHAT enlightenment?[/i:626bf04b95]! Here's where you find it:



Ivana's Story

Yes – a very common manipulative strategy! (See post in [i:626bf04b95]WHAT enlightenment?! [/i:626bf04b95]blog: "Common Manipulative Strategy") What you are talking about was Cohen’s m.o. He perfected it to a masterful degree. The way he used it was nearly impossible to detect while you were there as a student. His attacks on us students seemed so accurate – due as you say to the “leader’s exquisite social perception.” Wow, that’s Cohen, perceptive and undermining like all hell. He was quite proud of his ability to get under someone’s skin and cause them great fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I often overheard him discuss with a relish the holes in people’s façades, and how he had “gotten them.” He once famously sent $3000 worth of flowers with “thank you” notes as a dig to a publisher who had turned him down.

But he refined this technique by adding another powerful element: flattery. That was the other side to a perfect one-two punch. Here’s how it works: First the aspiring student comes to some lectures, and gets impressed by Cohen’s presence and the powerful way in which he can get a grip on a crowd. Some would call it shaktipad, in hind sight I call it a good con man at work. Anyway, suitably impressed, the beginning student spends more time around the group, comes to the centre, asks to participate in more functions. Eventually that results in Cohen taking personal note of the aspirant, and some small contact begins...fueling the aspirant’s thirst for more (or for the luckier ones, it sends a warning message and they don’t return.)

As you come more and more into Cohen’s orbit, he will begin paying more attention, and he will find some way to flatter you. He will ask about your life. Show interest. “Wow, he cares about me, he’s interested in my life, sees my talents!”

So the game begins, and you can feel built up and recognized in a very powerful way. In his own teaching he describes how at this point the new student can feel a vast intimacy and trust for the first time ever. Once this hook is set, you are along for the ride. For me it lasted ten years.

Over this long haul, I witnessed and experienced personally countless episodes of both building up –flattery; and the awful other side – manipulation and undermining. A smart and creative woman might get to serve meals to the teacher, or she might be invited to write or edit for his magazine. A strong athletic male would get compliments on his physique, get invited to watch boxing videos with the teacher and hang out with teacher and other close male intimates… But no one, once deeply involved, was spared the abuse – not even his closest and most favorite. Once displeased, Cohen’s wrath could send a student to live on another continent, could unleash a terrible tongue lashing, could bring out embarrassing references to one’s sexual history in front of other students, could get one’s face slapped by another student -compliments of Cohen, could result in one being branded as deviant or in being given a new name designed to continually embarrass and remind one of the guru’s ultimate power over one’s life.

Cohen has a way of reminding you that he knows your secret, and that he will not hesitate to exploit it when needed. For example, he would sometimes overpower a student with mention of the person’s past misdeeds, indiscretions or embarrassing facets of their sex life. That person would be made to feel utterly adrift, humiliated in front of others, standing on nothing more than quicksand while trying desperately to regain equilibrium. He frequently dispatched some of his more confident students to meet with and further confront the frightened, confused, and very upset individual – and thereby making others of us complicit in the crimes. This often took place in the “men’s and women’s meetings” – which he has referred to as a “noble forum.” The place we had come to in life which had seemed most safe and most “enlightening” had gradually or suddenly turned into the most frightening and least safe place imaginable. But by now one was totally involved and couldn’t imagine a life without Cohen and his community. Thus began the often very lengthy and wrenching process of doubt and departure.

In the days, weeks, months, or even years ensuing this mistreatment and undermining, the person was often confronted with how poorly they were doing, and accused of “letting Andrew down.” Sadly, for those I observed, they were ultimately defeated by the humiliation, and left in a state of either total confusion or else with the conviction that they didn’t have what it took to live the “demanding holy life.” No one ever left with a healthy sense of self trust intact. And more sadly yet, a small number of these departees still have not found their self respect and the sense of personal independence and freedom. That’s how severe were the undermining and confusion instilled during those years.

Thank you for doing this blog – It is a courageous effort to bring out the facts, and to help all of us who’ve left the Cohen cult get some perspective, and to begin the healing.

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: Lucretia ()
Date: January 27, 2005 03:54AM

Sounds like the group I spent time with. The teacher/leader was/is extemely talented at manipulation and it's a predictable cycle if you are paying attention. New people who are hooked by the teaching and charisma and then are slowly lurred into the inner circle of the trusted ones. Noone is exempt from his (and eventually others) abuse though. Some are more sought out than others depending on how it will serve him, money, stature, sex etc.

And I agree information had been the most significant part of coming back to myself for me.
In the middle of it all I had no idea I was being played. It was a gradual process of waking up. like in a dream. The more I slowly woke up the more I looked around and saw the cruelty, manipulation, lack of responsibility and obvious abuse of power by the most powerful people in the group. The more power they had the more abusive they got. It had a preverse canabalistic quality to it. This was extremely frightening when I finally realized it on more levels than I can communicate. My first instinct was to inform/educate myself on destructive groups/cults and it was the best move I could have made. This is not only a personal problem it is a cultural and societal problem.
There was an interesting article in arecent Time magazine "The GOD Gene" about humanities desire to be in organized communities may be a genetic tendency based on survival because in evolutionary sense if we weren't in a group we would have died. Power and survival in numbers ya know. So it's possible that our basic survival instincts are driving us to belong. Evolution of the species must be changing on this one cause my survival depended on getting out of that group. Ah well....food for thought.

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: Lucretia ()
Date: January 27, 2005 10:03PM

Part of the reason information & education helped is because it makes me feel less isolated. Thats one of the reasons why this message board is so important. It links us to others that have had like experiences, yet we get to remain anonymous. With the circumstances we have been thru identity is challenged so it's part of what I feel more protective about and it's easy to feel isolated as a result.

What has been helpful in your Recovery?
Posted by: Cosmophilospher ()
Date: April 19, 2005 12:00AM

Here is some info on CBT, and how to apply it to cult recovery issues.. To get the full info, read "The Feeling Good Handbook" by Dr. David D Burns.


The Role of Cognitive Distortion

Proponents of cognitive therapy, based on the work of Aaron Beck and others, believe that by changing the way we think we can have a profound effect on the way we feel.(6) In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, which he calls cognitive distortions.(7) These distortions are explained here in the context of post cult recovery.

1. All-or-nothing thinking: Cults teach black-and-white thinking, such as “Everyone outside the group is controlled by Satan or is evil,” “The leader is God and cannot make mistakes,” “You must always strive for perfection in order to reach the group’s goal.” Such thinking stifles personal growth and keeps a person pitted against the rest of the world.

2. Overgeneralization: Simply making one mistake can cause a person to leap to the conclusion that the group’s predictions about dire consequences for those who leave are indeed coming true. Former members often have difficulty allowing themselves to make mistakes without hearing criticisms in their head. Reviewing actions at the end of the day, no matter how simple, can help counterbalance the internal cult “chatter.”

3. Mental filter: cults teach people to dwell on their mistakes and weaknesses. In many cults each day’s activities are reviewed, with concentration placed on any “sins” or wrongdoing. All thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are cause for criticism, prayer, and repenting. After such training, a person may obsess about a small mistake and lose sight of the positive things that are happening. Anything negative becomes a focus that filters out everything else.

4. Disqualifying the positive: One means of cult control is to not allow members to take pride in their achievements. All that is good comes from the Master, while members are made to feel stupid and inadequate. Making lists of personal strengths and accomplishments may counteract this reaction.

5. Jumping to conclusions: There are two forms of coming to a negative conclusion, which are probably familiar to ex-members:

(a) Mind reading: Those who were in New Age or Eastern cults may have been led to believe that mind reading is real. This belief is used to make assumptions about others. Doing the same now may be counterproductive. Don’t jump to conclusions about another person’s actions or attitudes. Don’t substitute assumptions for real communication.

(b) Fortune telling: Cults predict the failure of their critics, dissenters, and those who leave. Former members sometimes believe that depression, worry, or illness is sure to hound them (and their family) forever. Remember, such phobias and distortions have nothing to do with reality but have been instilled by the cult.

6. Magnification (catastrophizing) and minimization: Magnifying the members’ faults and weaknesses while minimizing strengths, assets, and talents is common. The opposite holds true for the leader. This trend has to be reversed in order to rebuild self-esteem, although reaching a balanced perspective may take time. Feedback from trustworthy, nonjudgmental friends may be helpful here.

7. Emotional reasoning: In groups that place emphasis on feeling over thinking, members learn to make choices and judge reality solely based on what they feel. This is true of all New Age groups and many transformational and psychology cults. Interpreting reality through feelings is a form of wishful thinking. If it really worked, we would all be wealthy and the world would be a safe and happy place. When this type of thinking turns negative, it can be a shortcut to depression and withdrawal: “I feel bad, worthless, and so on, therefore I am bad, worthless, and so on.”

8. “Should” statements: Cult beliefs and standards often continue to influence behavior in the form of shoulds, musts, have tos, and oughts. These words may be directed at others or at oneself-for example, thinking, “I should get out of bed.” The result is feeling pressured and resentful. Try to identify the source of these internal commands. Do they come from the former cult leader? Do you really want to obey him anymore?

9. Labeling and mislabeling: Ex-members put all kinds of negative labels on themselves for having been involved in a cult: stupid, jerk, sinner, crazy, bad, whore, no good, fool. Labeling oneself a failure for making a mistake (in this case, joining the cult) is mental horsewhipping. It is an overgeneralization, inaccurate, cruel, and, like the other cognitive distortions, untrue and self-defeating. Labeling others in this way is equally inaccurate and judgmental. If there must be labels, how about some positive ones?

10. Personalization: Burns calls this distortion “the mother of guilt.” A primary weapon of mind control is training members to believe that everything bad that happens is their fault. The guilt that accompanies this sort of personalizing is crippling and controlling. You are out of the cult now, so it is important only to take responsibility for what is yours.

These 10 cognitive errors are all habits of thinking that are deeply ingrained by the thought-reform processes and cult indoctrination. Tendencies toward these distortions may have been in place even before a person’s cult involvement, which may have enhanced vulnerability to recruitment and increased susceptibility to the cult’s practices. Given the habit of these kinds of destructive thinking patterns, is it any wonder that former cult members sometimes feel depressed? The good news is, like any habit, these patterns of thinking can be broken and discarded through awareness and practice.

From Captive Hearts: Captive Minds by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich, Hunter House, 1994; 101-103

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