Date: May 22, 2005 07:11PM
First of all: I have read things here that are so helpfull to me! Thank you all so much!!!!!
The most stories I read on this board are very clear (from behind my desk) to read. I don't want to call my school a cult, because I think a cult is much more heavy then what I went through.
But there are definately similarities I think.
I am a student of gestalttherapy, but after two years of having my doubts I have decided to stop this school. Allready from the beginning I had my doubts about this school, but since it is an education that exists for 30 years I really thought the standard was good.
When I started gestalt I had read many things about it. One of the things that made me want to study this is that it was supposed to be a psychological direction where individuality is highly respected and where the goal is to gain more personal freedom through awareness. I had allready be in contact with some of the methods, like the empty chair work, and that I can (still) find beautifull methods. (Pardon me if my English is bad, I'm Dutch)
My school has a leader who is seen by some people (like the other teachers) as a very charismatic woman. Personaly I think she is a rough selfish woman who can be very rude to her students. I don't see anything charming about her, but she is allmost worshipped by the other teachers.
Last year I had a conflict with them. In this conflict I felt manipulated and mistreated. When I confronted them with that they played it back to me, telling me that I had a problem with authority and also with contact. According to them I really had a contactual problem and besides that I was to rebellious.
The conflict was as follows: in this school you are supposed to choose your own sequence of the first three years. They urged us to choose quickly (in the springtime) because otherwise the classes would be full (yeah, right). So I choose, but I wanted to change my choise after one month. They didn't allow me, first they told me that it was the best for me not to change ("Can you not take an advise?" when nobody actually gave me any advice) , then later they told me that they wanted to wait for more males in the group. I found out that two women who wrote themselves in after me got accepted, so that was just a lie. Logically, if I think about the true reason, I think it was a logistical thing. This other year was highly wanted, but the year I had written into was less wanted. So, if I would change, that might cost them an other student, and so it might cost them money. If I stayed where I was they could let one more person follow that other year.
Anyway, it would not have been a problem if they would have told me that honestly. But instead of being honest they gave it back to me, telling me that I really had a problem with accepting their 'advises' (which they didn't give). They also told me I had a big problem with contact and this year they wanted me to follow was just right for that. When I had her on the phone she laughed at me, telling me that she recognized some old behaviour in me. She ment that I was just rebellious.
That really gave me a mindfuck, and I felt very bad about myself. I started to doubt my whole contactual abilities untill my boyfriend told me that I was getting to confused about that, he never saw me as having contactual problems. When I spoke about that with him I could feel the clouds in my head dissapear and I realised it was just not true!
Pissed off I send them a letter in wich I explained my feelings, and I told them that they where wrong with me and that I do not lke to be manipulated.
They send a very very small letter back that I just saw everything wrong and it was all one big misunderstanding.
I had to pay for the year, as it says in the contract. I thought: What the hell, I still find all the techniques interesting, let's give it an other go.
Off course I could know that it was a bad start for that year. I had critisized them and they did not like that at all! Especcially I had critisized the leading woman, who had allready gave me pretty rude comments. But since she is allmost worshipped by the other teachers, my new teacher had allready something against me.
Sometimes she said things like: "A gestalttherapist can never do anything wrong, because as long as you get a reaction, it is good"
or: "You choose your own parents before you are born, so it was your own choise, deal with it"
And slowly more religious aspects came into the group. In one part they gave us there religious views and told us that 'people who don't believe in God or have at least a vision about God can never be truly aware of themselves'. Then they also told us what god-image was the best, according to them.
With me, I really felt half way the year that the way they wanted us to work was unhealthy for me. I tried to discuss that, what I was feeling, but from that moment on she told me (and the whole group!!) many times that I did not want to work. I was far too rebellious.
Then I told people from my homework group that I had my doubts about the whole education, but I asked them to keep that quiet until I told it myself at school. The next time at school one of them turned to me and told the rest that 'I had a secret'.
Then, I really had a problem, because the whole group turned against me and my teacher made it very very clear that I was not allowed to have 'secrets'. I got very angry, telling them I did not sign a contract witch made me their possesion. Off course then they told me that I was hostile and I saw everything wrong. My teacher asked me what lesson I could learn from that. I told her that the lesson I learned was to keep my mouth shut. That satisfied her clearly!
She sometimes played pretty weird tricks on me. One day I again told her that working the way they wanted us to work was at that time a bit much for me (we could only focus on things that where not 'right' about us). She then had an exercise, she told everybody to really think if we wanted to do that exercise, because we would have to write things down 3 times a day. I was the only one who didn't do the exercise. The time after that she told me that I was really putting myself outside the group and that she was so annoyed by me that I refused the exercise. But she gave the choice herself!
All the time throughout the year she says that you only have to do what you really want to do, that you allways have the freedom to say 'no'.
I have seen many more things happen to other students. In one session one student was attacked because she also 'couldn't handle authority'. At the end it was made clear that she had made a comment about the leading woman, and that had pissed my teacher off.
I can give many examples. But the thing is that it really cunfused me big time! Every time I went to school, I came back depressed. More and more and more. I started to doubt myself so much that I was getting a real crisis inside of me, feeling very confused.
Every little critisism they put back at you. Everything is a 'projection' or your 'resistance' and so on. Off course the whole thing I felt was just my 'motherprojection'
I send them a letter last time and off course she only answered in front of the whole group. I couldn't say one word, give one example, without her telling me how annoyed she was at me and how fucked up I must be.
Then, somebody told her that I might be true in the fact that my teacher treats me different. And then she told me that 'maybe she had been a bit short' with me.
I want to finish this year, it's one more time to go and I want to have the certificate. I have learned a lot about it, not from them directly, but mostly to take my own feelings seriously. I will be sooooooo relieved when the whole thing is over!!!!
I think gestalt can be interesting, but it can also be very very easily abused. Especcialy with terms as 'projection' you can really fuck people up! It is so easy to put everything back on other people and then deny responsibility. But I think that psychotherapists can never, never deny their responsibility! You work with people in vulnerable positions and it is really easy to give somebody a mindf*ck and then blame the person for the mindf*ck as well. I really think things like this can screw somebody up big time!
Okay people, my compliments if you have read this all, it's not a small piece of text :wink: !
So this is the story that made me look for things about psychological manipulation on the internet. And so I came to this discussionsite.
I realize that this was not a cult and it could have been much worse. My deepest respect for any of you who came out of such heavy indoctrinations as in cults!!