Please, stay away from cults

You may think….

“But they’re so nice.”

Yes, they’re nice. They seem nice. Generous. Open. Caring. Or maybe even the ONLY ones that care. Please don’t fall for them. Even if they seem right now to be the only ones out there for you. Don’t grab onto that lifesaver because it doesn’t save. It takes.

“But being with them will do no harm.”

At first, it seems harmless. That’s how they operate. At first.  Little by little, they steal bits and bits more from you. “Won’t you try….” and you give a little more and a little more of yourself till suddenly, you are totally roped into it. Not all cult members shave everything or wear robes or paint themselves or run around saying stuff in Indian languages. Not all kidnap college students and keep them in secluded camps in the jungle. Not all keep underage girls in sex slavery and then do themselves in en masse via Kool Aid just cuz their leader said so.

“What they say seems so simple.”

Yes, they have their lines. They’ve learned these lines, practiced them since they are in the business of proselytizing. Some cults deny that they proselytize. They will say, “We don’t really do that.” But they do. Others will say, “Our religion is the only one. So why not do the right thing and spread the joy so there will be world peace?” Then, pass the basket.

Your donations into that basket will get higher and higher and you will be pressured to give more tan you can possibly give. You will give your soul. Someday, you will look back and see what a waste it has all been. Or, since looking back and seeing it all like that is probably far too painful, you’ll never ever see it like that and stay stuck in that damn cult forever, avoiding the truth, a life lost.

How I got ideologically “stuck” when I was 22 years old and how I am now, at 56, “unstuck.” Or…Why I starved myself

I’ve een saying all along that my eating issues were nutritional, but perhaps they were sociopolitical in nature as I originally thought as a young girl. Perhaps what I’ve always said, “Keep your comments off my body” is about the right thing to say at this moment. Or I can just laugh.

I can state that I was on the right track all along in late 1979, to pursue feminism as an answer to undo the brainwashing that had been done to me by the Moonies. It may very well have worked just fine. I took on a self-study of feminism. What went wrong? Clearly, there was a clash of ideology there, right?

Yeah, clearly. Cuz I went horribly astray, and this is where I got stuck. Therapy couldn’t undo it cuz obviously this was NO ANSWER. Those therapists didn’t know a darned thing about what I was talking about. I had more education than any of them, in the arts and politics, was more widely read and was far more creative and innovative. They wanted to make me more tame. I needed to get more extreme in my thinking and ideas. After all, has I stayed in school, wouldn’t I have soon been in graduate school, where original thinking via a thesis is a requirement?

So here’s where, perhaps, I got stuck. I was living in a community where Christianity, that is, Evangelical Christianity, was getting stronger, as it was all over the country in a much bigger way. I went chuch-shopping, as I do once every five or ten years now and then, showed up at a church, was turned off and decided, “It’s not for me.”

I don’t remember how many services I went to there. One or two at most. The second, I’d say, was a bad enough turnoff to keep me away. I made friends with a few of the members but never went back even though I was invited. I couldn’t. I didn’t think it was right, so I politely put my foot down without saying my reasons. Gradually, I distanced myself, trying to be polite. I lived in small town Vermont at the time. I was 21 years old. How perfect. Coming-of-age.

I had attended a Sunday service and it was very nice, I thought, but the sermon was the main turnoff. I remember when I had been a rather young girl, my dad used to get riled up about certain sermons and late at night, and I’d hear arguments between many of the men from our synagogue over Israeli politics. But that was so long ago. Now, I was grown up and able to make decisions for myself, and I had attended a service of a religion that was not my own. I wasn’t happy about what this minister had done. He had been manipulative with his own congregation.

I heard what he had said in his sermon and had listened along with the others. But I wasn’t going to fall for it and I felt that it was wrong and I felt angry. I observed the woman next to me. I didn’t think she had much money. Clearly, she couldn’t afford dental care for herself nor her kids. I was saddened by this. The minister said that the people in the congregation were sinners, but this woman and her children who sat beside me were not any worse sinners than he was, or I was, as we all sat there listening to him speak. What sort of lie was he telling us?

The Moonies, I knew, did the same thing. It worked fantastic. Foolproof. I knew this is a great selling technique. You knock ’em down, then build ’em up. So tell ’em what shits they are, then tell ’em of That Great Idea You’ve Got. Bingo.

So of course, the Moonies timed their meals just so, and sleep deprived us just so, and loved us just so. That’s brainwashing to a T. They knew just how.

The psych hospitals and the entire System, I would learn in the years the followed, do the very same thing. Very, very structured. They encourage structure. They tell us we will fall apart without them on the weekend, and that we have their “help” lines and emergency rooms to go to when their “staff” are on vacation should we be “having a hard time.” They know how to keep us hooked for life. Meals timed just so, groups timed just so. They know just how and when to get their bullshit information into people when “it is best absorbed.”

If you take your meds and do your therapy diligently, and stay with us, we will love you more. If you don’t, you will be “unstable” and horrors will happen to you. Repeat forever.

So, what was this lie? He said they were sinners. Knocked ’em down, then told ’em to give the church money. That lady fell for it bad and I watched her write a check for five dollars, which back then was a lot of money. It was 1979. If this had been a synagogue, it wouldn’t have been okay to write a check because in our religion, you don’t write checks on the Sabbath. You don’t write checks nor handle money.

In the synagogue where I grew up, in another town altogether, we didn’t pass the basket, but of course it was similar with a rather large yearly dues that was expected that my dad never told us about. It covered Hebrew school and the like. It’s beyond my comprehension how much my parents must have paid, because it covered three kids, fancy food, and high holiday services in a rather young but growing suburb. In a few decades, that town would be one of affluence, but not yet.

I learned of feminism around then. I heard about this thing “coming out.” I hadn’t heard that term before. Why call it that, anyway? That made no sense. Come out to what and why? Come where? Who? What closet and why should there be one? What was there to hide? Why hide anything because that meant shame? Why was whom you love, or the gender of whom you loved connected to feminism? This didn’t make sense, and still doesn’t.

If there’s a closet, it means shame. We need to obliterate the damn closet and the damn hotline that implies shame. Yes, you can and should tell your friends and family. I was here all along.

The hotline isn’t there. You can’t pick the phone and call discetely anytime and get anonymous 1-800 help. There is no discrete help. Get rid of the damn discretion and let’s be open and honest and loving.

There seemed to be a clash right there and that’s where I got stuck. God and feminism. Too much clash. There was no clear theory there. I couldn’t find my way. It was all breaking down. The movement? What movement?

And so, I starved myself.

Yes, this was a political move. Very much so.

Today, I know. Knowing that Forced Psychiatry Has Been Illegal Under International Law Since 1948…and that under international law, No Person Is Mentally Incompetent…Nor “Lacks Insight” and this term is completely useless bullshit…to me, I am now vindicated, I suppose.

I am a writer of memoir. I know that memoir is far more powerful writing and far more beautiful writing than their medical records, which are full of inaccuracies in both small details and larger concepts about me as a person and my life.

Their medical records stand…and yet….I am a writer. This is politics. Very much so. I have a wonderful life.

If if was, or is, in any way, a political issue, I can now rest.

Some reflections on what happened to me after I left the Moonies in 1979

My name is Julie Greene.  I think enough has been written about the cult experience, that is, what happened to indoctrinees (is that a word?  I just made it up….) while inside the cult, but what happened after they left?

I can only speak for myself.  I was in shock.  I hadn’t even known those very kind innocent-hearted people had been the Moonies.  They were very kind, that is, until the last day or maybe 36 hours when it all suddenly turned sour on me.  The tables had turned and things got quite nasty.  Who were the bad guys now?  Who are the good guys?  In that last day and a half, when in my mind it clicked in me (this is in my memoir) we are being brainwashed and I need to GET OUT NOW and I need to alert as many other newcomers as possible that they, too, need to GET OUT….

Well, I got caught at that.  Caught trying to secretly communicate the message, WE ARE BEING BRAINWASHED.  WATCH OUT.  I probably passed a note to someone I only thought was a newcomer but in fact wasn’t.  Or the note ended up in the wrong hands.  That’s why I got kicked out of the Moonies.

Oh, such intrigue, what a wonderful catch-me-if-you-can story it all was in the mind of a 21-year-old kid who happened to be on her this major Vision Quest anyway, that had already transformed her life.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

My panicked parents, meanwhile, had been on the verge of coming out to get me.  Some horror embarrassment Julie Rescue Show that would have been, complete with my mom’s arm flings and sing-song show off drama.  Eeks!  No way did I want their interference and nosiness.  This is my life, Mom and Dad.  Butt out.  So at the last minute, they called off their horses and canceled all the police work.  We connected over the phone afterward, and that’s when they told me.

I said, “Naw, Mom and Dad, that was the Moonies?”

My parents said that yes, as soon as I had stated to them that the town I had been in (but was no longer) was called Boonville, California, they had phoned the Boonville police from Massachusetts and the police there said that there was some crazy Moonie encampment there.  “And you better get you daughter out of there,” apparently the Boonville police had told my parents.  I’m sure they had received many such panic-stricken calls from all over the world with unimaginable long-distance crackling on the line.

If I recall correctly, after I left, I immediately stayed with a poet and her second husband and her son who was a few years younger than me.  I was quite taken by her poetry.  I recently acquired a book of old poems she wrote.  Her name is Joyce Carol Thomas.  I found her and her husband to be quite interesting to converse with.  Of course, the writer in me was in the making.

I then visited a friend of a friend whose cat was named Moon.

Oh, the cow jumps over the moon all day.

Then, I went to see my cousins in LA.  Their names are Jane and David, a married couple.  David was a wannabe movie producer or writer, I can’t recall which nor did I know the difference, as I was not, and am not, a movie watcher.  I honestly don’t know if they are still married.  I kinda think they aren’t, but don’t hold me to this.  I went roller-skating and saw a fortune-teller on the beach.

I’ve left out the rides that took me from place to place. These, I’m sure, left an impression on me.  But right now I can’t recall them.

I flew home after visiting my cousins, on an airplane, under the moon I guess.  I’m not as great a flyer as a cow.

So I got home and asked myself, “How many days was I on the road?”  I counted: 40 days and 40 nights.  I counted again to be sure.  Yep.  Gee, Julie, you are fucking brilliant.

So I have said nothing so far about God, but I was of course deeply and secretly religious.  I’d say many are, after having been in a cult, whether they believed in God before they were in the cult or not.  I hadn’t.

To this day, I owe it to the Moonies that I acquired this ability, this understanding, this concept, that there possibly could be God, that is, not a god, but God.  The brainwashing is gone but I still have that ability, and I’m grateful that I have retained this.  Just that it’s possible.  That’s enough for me.

All the Hebrew school and Torah study in the world never did that.  Love can only give you a concept of God.

With apologies to my mom and dad.

I will continue with Part Two to this entry in the next entry, just to break it up a bit.

A basic pattern of brainwashing and abuse

This is a pattern I have seen again and again in my life that I would like to share.  I guess I was thinking right now just a bit more about Jenna’s comment from a few days ago about her unfortunate experience working with Shan Larter.

Shan’s two-hour freebee, which she did twice over the fall that I know of, was of course not an educational seminar but a promo for herself.  I knew this fairly soon into the “seminar.”  She claimed that the audio was not even working properly and she was not truly taking questions from listeners at all, but selling herself, which was I’m sure was the plan all along.  I meanwhile had typed into the “questions” box about five questions.  Silly me, thinking she would answer these questions.

I actually saved the questions I asked Shan, and put them onto a document, but instead of sharing them now, I will share them in a separate post because I feel that I would be straying too far from the topic at hand, as the questions are detailed.  Let me just say that if anyone else out there was foolish enough as I was to think that Shan was going to answer their questions, they, too, were sorely disappointed after listening with baited breath for the entire two hours.

Let me say this: Beware of any individual, group, religion, place of residence, hospital, therapist, doctor, or practitioner who tells you you are “exceptional” or “special” and then says they will make you a deal just for you.  This is a brainwashing technique I have seen used many times in my life over the years used very effectively by abusers, scammers, cults, and brainwashers. 

Yes, those of you who have been around my blog a while know that I had an experience back in 1979 in California when I was brainwashed by the Moonies.  I got out on my own.  In fact, before leaving, I tried to warn others and tried to get others that I believed were newcomers to also leave.  I tried to spread the word that we were being brainwashed.  I had to do this very secretly and I passed notes to people, trying not to have these notes seen by those that I believed were cult leaders.

Now listen to this parallel:  During my last hospitalization, this in July 2012, I attempted to speak up and tell as many patients as possible to read about the Five Fundamental Rights, which is a document about human rights in psychiatric settings.  The staff tried to break up these conversations and did everything they could to shut me up.  They wanted no talk of “rights” on their unit.  Why?  They were breaking the damn law, lots of laws, and they knew it.  They didn’t want the patients reading the documents they rightfully had access to.

Do you see what I am saying?

Of course, I did win my human rights case and the patients now have a private phone on the Alcott Unit.  I hear that only one of the phones has a phone booth built around it, but I of course have not been on the unit and have not seen it myself.

So anyway, I wanted to point out the parallel of my role in these settings.  It is glaringly obvious.

An abusive spouse will do the same.  Tell you you are exceptional.  Tell you you are the one and only.  And then they will dig in.  Because you are the one and only, the abuser has given you reasons why you are unable to leave.  So you are completely stuck.

An abusive therapist will also do this.   An abusive therapist may abuse their patients in many ways.  Of course we hear the stories about sexual abuse, but what isn’t recognized or reported is emotional abuse or sexual abuse that is done more covertly and can’t be reported because it can’t in fact be proven in to the legal folks.  This abuse is just as hurtful and these relationships can go on and on for years, with no recourse.  And no one believes you.  Because you were the crazy one.  Everyone says you are exaggerating or made it up, but you know you are right.

Please, hold onto what you know is right.  If nothing else, write it down.

The post I just posted a bit ago about what happened at Newton-Wellesley Hospital with the vomit odor room is an example of one such thing, when I was accused of being the “crazy” one, but in fact there was something very wrong with the air vents or something.  (Go back and read that post and if you were  the one smoking some weird weed downstairs, you owe me one.)

So anyway, I had to take a break from writing all this, and rush to the post office before they closed.  I have come back home and totally lost my train of thought.  While walking home I thought up another blog entry I want to write.  So I will write that one, too, soon, and also I will post those questions I told you about that I had stupidly thought Shan would answer “specially” for me.  Oh yeah, sure.  Beware when they tell you you are special.  You sucker.