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One-member cult
Posted by: ricketybridge ()
Date: December 03, 2007 08:08AM

Hi everyone,

This site has been so useful in validating my suspicion that a highly destructive ("mentor") relationship I was in for three years in my teens was in fact a "one-member cult". Those of you who were involved in group cults may disagree, but reading about all the brain-washing techniques cults employ and the effects on their members (e.g. negative personality changes) on this site made my jaw drop as to how frighteningly familiar they were to my own experience.

I guess I'm posting here because there are still so many things I'm struggling with, some of which many people have mentioned on the recovery board: remnants of the bs I still believe in the back of my mind, horror and embarrassment over the weirdness I experienced, embarrassment into having been duped into such a weird relationship (especially since it reveals the naivety, greed, and need for narcissistic fulfillment that I had at the time--things that con artists prey upon), mourning over the loss of my adolescence and over how far behind I am in my life because of it....

I've been in therapy ever since I cut off all contact from him (and I even got him convicted of a felony for sex with a minor!), but I just still can't get over how warped I am from that experience. I mean, do I just keep on going with the therapy, and that's it? And maybe I'll heal completely, but maybe I never will, but at least I'll feel better? That just doesn't seem to be enough. But then again, for me, "enough" would be that it never happened, which is unfortunately impossible...

Thanks for listening.

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: Fishbulb ()
Date: December 10, 2007 12:46PM

I'm sorry for your terrible experience, rickety.

You're in the right place. Coercion and mind control are also issues covered on this board, as well as abusive relationships. These are not necessarily marriages only; your relationship to your mentor would also fit into this category.

Read lots on here, keep posting and hang in there.

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: December 13, 2007 10:00PM

Dear Rickety, all I can offer is, I grew up in a cult of 4 - my family. A cult of five, if you count the family friend I trusted as a second mother, after the other 4 had died--and who continued to generate the disinformation that covered up and rationalized what they'd done as normal and desirable.

1) Stick with your therapist for now, as long as the two of you have a good working alliance. If anyone says anything mean about how long you're in therapy, ignore them. They've not been what you have been through.

2) If anyone tries (as the family friend did) to guilt trip or shame you with lines like 'wallowing in victim mentality' or 'cant you just move on?' That means one of several things. a) they may have been harmed this way themselves and cant stand to face it b)They've learned this throw away phrases in the pseudo spiritual scene and or c) they or someone they love has not been through what you have been through, and they cannot understand.

3)If you are looking for spiritual resources, make sure to fact check the background of any group. This isnt negative thinking. It is wisdom. It is also the kind adult, healthy self care that will serve you well, the rest of your life. Just about all cults and abusive relationships start from a pattern of deceit--the leader or mentor presents an idealistic sparking public image and hides painful human or (in some cases) criminal information about him or herself. Some manage to hide that they actually are not licensed to function in their roles, or may invent fake lineages. A big part of stabilizing recovery is fact checking.

Note: a very good way to evaluate any sort of spiritual group or resource is to evaluate how it deals with issues of power, abuse of power and misfortune/human vulnerability. If you find yourself in a scene (it doesnt have to be a group, just a loose social network) where any discussion of power is considered negative or unspiritual, where issues of responsiblity, accountablity for use of power by a leader is considered 'unspiritual' and where you hear talk about 'victim mentality' or 'you make your own reality'-- watch out.

There are entire social venues where these pseudo spiriutal values are part of the atmosphere. They signal a scene where people cant stand to face human vunlerabilty and are trying to hide out. They may not be part of cults, but this kind of para-cultic mindset can soften folks up and make them less able to spot
danger if attempts are made to recruit them. Its also a social venue where crooks and hustlers operate.

If anyone tries to sell you on some ideology or method, find out if the person is licensed to practice as a therapist and is in good standing professionally. An amazing number of people are considered psychologists and have devotees, but are not actually credentialed at all. Learn to smell hype.

4) (This hurts and is why therapy is useful) You may have been targeted by your perp, precisely because you were already vulnerable. As an example, if a family routinely bullies its children or plays favorites and scapegoats them, children exiting this family may re-enact these patterns with abusive lovers, mentors or groups. This is NOT a matter of consciously 'wanting it' or 'asking for it.' You're pre-formatted. And some perps can spot this and capitalize on it.

People with self respect and who are assertive are rarely selected to be entourage members for bullies--they'd not stand it.

Finally, if this happened during adolescence, you may have missed opportunities for age appropriate learning, socializing. That has to be mourned and then you will have to look for situations where in person you can socialize and learn what normal relationships are like, without hidden agendas. This is learned in person, not on the internet.

Sports clubs, task oriented associations can help.

But whatever you do, dont dump on yourself and dont let anyone else tell you that you're taking too long. You are the best judge of that.

Also, be sure you are getting sufficient sleep. At one point, recovery triggered a nasty multi month bout of insomnia for me. I waited too long before finally getting help.

If you get anxious or angry and this is giving you health complications, insomnia or interfering with work, that is a signal to pace yourself.

There is a memoir by Sean Wilsey entitled Oh the Glory of it All. In it he suffered in a very abusive family, had to do lots of background research.

He describes at the end how he decided when he'd reached the point where he had done enough research.

Its different for everybody.

PS: You were saying something about issues of yours that got you hooked in:

"embarrassment into having been duped into such a weird relationship (especially since it reveals the naivety, greed, and need for narcissistic fulfillment that I had at the time--things that con artists prey upon"

So very many of us share these same issues and that is what makes us exploitable--and its something many people cant stand to face, and why some
love to console themselves that they are too strong minded ever to fall prey.

Psychoanalyst Daniel Shaw wrote an article, speaks of how perpetrators exploit universal human dependency needs:

"they have mastered the cruel art of exploiting universal human dependency and attachment needs in others.

The lengthy period of dependency in human development, the power that parents have, as God-like figures, to literally give life and sustain the lives of their children, leaves each human being with the memory, however distant or unconscious, of total dependency.

Cult leaders tap into and re-activate this piece of the human psyche. Followers are encouraged to become regressed and infantilized, to believe that their life depends on pleasing the cult leader. Cult leaders depend on their ability to attract people, often at critically vulnerable points in their lives, who are confused, hungry, dissatisfied, searching. With such people, cult leaders typically find numerous ways to undermine their followers’ independence and their capacity to think critically."


This second article may relate more closely to issues your mentor may have had
--issues perhaps concealed from you, and which as a teen, you would have lacked the resources and social support to cope with


Take good care


Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/13/2007 10:21PM by corboy.

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: ricketybridge ()
Date: December 25, 2007 11:07AM

Thanks so much, corboy. Those articles look really interesting.

No one has criticized me for being in therapy so long (thank goodness)--except for myself. I just question whether it's having any effect at all and hate how expensive it is.

This did happen during adolescence, and so yeah, I do feel a lack in social skills and such, which I feel only recently have I fully made up for--at least to the greatest extent I can, under the circumstances.

So yeah, I try to tell myself all this, and reading about other people's experiences make me feel like my life isn't over; it was just a phase that was the result of the usual insecurity of adolescence....

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: sadkimmy ()
Date: December 26, 2007 12:55AM

Don't have any advice, but I'm rooting for ya!

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: daytripper1964 ()
Date: December 27, 2007 07:31AM

Here is a question.
How do you adjust to life when you are not driven by a "purpose" anymore? Before I viewed everything through the lens of wanting to "save" others. Every conversation, every friendship, every motivation was an occasion for witnessing or trying to convert someone else. Now that I don't think along those lines I sometimes find myself feeling guilty for just wanting to live a normal life. I only want to figure out who I am and then spend the rest of my life just being that person. I don't want to save the world anymore. I just want to enjoy my husband and children, do a good job at work and be a positive member of society. Does it just take time to get over the guilt feelings?

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: maariu ()
Date: December 28, 2007 05:28AM

This is more common than you can imagine Rickety. There seem to be a lot of folk running around who think that they are called to be Gurus. I had an experience similar to yours and Daytrippers and now I feel as if I have been vaccinated against the crazyness. My little alarm goes off, but these people are so slick. For instance:
I had been attending a main-stream Protestant church when a friend approached me about a new 'study'. A new member was wanting to have a group to study the works of a famous Christian Author (Narnia anyone) I was excited. The leader provided us with very nice copies of the authors works, his gift to us at the first meeting. He rambled but seemed a bit longwinded, not evil.
The first meeting he seemed to pick a couple of well connected people to schmooze. He seemed to prickle at me and answered my questions in a very abrasive and demeaning manner. I didn't feel like backing down and continued to answer discussion questions but I felt as if he was trying to make me submit. Then something changed when he realized that I had an affiliation with a group he respected. It was so weird and sick. I never went back and later found that he had more or less shown up at the church and offered his services. They are wolves. I don't want to be a sheep to narcissistic control freaks.
I think the 'purpose' being removed changes life so much for the better. i read the 'Purpose driven Life' and was turned off when the author's father was dying and kept repeating 'Just one more for Jesus." I hated being made to feel that I on the 'hustle' for G-d. I came to believe from my own reading, not because someone schmoozed me into it. A supreme being does not need hucksters and tricksters. When i was with the fundies I felt as if i were more of a project to some of my friends rather than a genuine friend. I never want to treat another person that way. Churches are full of people with Messiah complexes. I never want to be their narcicisstic supply again.

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: ricketybridge ()
Date: January 31, 2008 04:08AM

This is more common than you can imagine Rickety. There seem to be a lot of folk running around who think that they are called to be Gurus.

Thanks, Maariu, it really does help to know this. I don't feel so idiotic. :) And you're right, I really do feel immunized from future swindles (e.g. the post I recently left about a friend of mine who just got sucked into something, which I IMMEDIATELY realized was a total cult), which is an advantage.

Daytripper, I TOTALLY know what you mean about feeling unhinged without a lens to filter everything in your life through. Mine wasn't about god, but it was just as rigid: about success and pushing myself to insane limits. And not knowing which way is up has been a by-product of detaching myself from that lens, but at least it's SOOOO much more true to life than anything that any guru can tell you. Life IS confusing, it IS overwhelming, and somehow I feel I just need to cultivate what John Keats wrote about: negative capability: the ability to be ok with NOT knowing, with allowing yourself to slowly figure things out or not at all.

Maariu is so right in saying that one's philosophy of life should come from one's own reading (or experiences) than some huckster's opinion. Recently I've decided (mainly because of my mind-control experiences...) that self-help is just a load of crap, and that self-help books are just far too glib and simple to be true, and so I've gravitated towards REAL philosophy--Nietzche and Kant and stuff--which I feel at least tries to make a more cogent case for its assertions as opposed to just saying "You'll be successful if you just do what I say!!" as self-help seems to do.

And thanks for your support, sadkimmy and fishbulb!!


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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: Jeanna ()
Date: January 31, 2008 11:54AM

I was sexually exploited by a psychiatrist when I was 55 years old. I had a graduate degree, happily married 30 years and raised two kids successfully. When a narcissitic predator goes after you it may not be that you are weak at all - just someone they want to "get and eat." I know a male court judge and a clinical psychologist who were also exploited by their therapists. You see when a person has power over you as a therapist, doctor, minister or teacher you are always vulnerable.

It has taken me eight years to regain myself. But I hasten to add that I am a much stronger adult person today. I like the person I have become, because I have worked to overcome the harm this man did to me. He turned me into a vulnerable child treating me like he was the "daddy" I didn't have because my parents divorced when I was seven. I felt I was all but destroyed by this man and even felt suicidal for months.

When my husband began to help me "grow back up" he bought me a small doll like one I had as a child. I used to hold the doll and cry. But also I held the doll and vowed I would grow up inside and not be a child anymore. Just the other day I was looking at that doll on the shelf and realized I didn't respond to it as a child anymore. It was just a doll I used to love when I was a "kid." I had grown up. I was strong inside.

Please look ahead. You can have a wonderful life ahead of you. It's kind of like exercising now so you can win in a sport. You work hard, rest, eat right, study and then you win the game. Still many bad things can happen to you, but you will be strong inside and not so vulnerable. That is a wonderful feeling.

I wish you ALL THE BEST!

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Re: One-member cult
Posted by: daytripper1964 ()
Date: January 31, 2008 07:18PM

I loved what you had to say "the ability to be ok with NOT knowing, with allowing yourself to slowly figure things out or not at all. "

I related so well to that sentence because that is exactly what I am experiencing. It is such a free feeling to be able to say "I hope so" about a certain belief or doctrine and not know for sure and be o.k. with the fact that I might never know. I agree with your take on self help too. Many times to me it just seems like one more list of do's and don't wrapped up in psychological terms. My life has been nothing but rules up to this point so anything that looks like more rules just turns me off. I have respect for the authority of the law, but I have no respect for self appointed experts who try and tell me they know what is best for me and if I follow their plan I will have peace and prosperity!

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