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Thoughts on Steve Hassan?
January 5, 2006
10:17 pm
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zinnia
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I was looking at this website:

http://www.freedomofmind.com and I am going to get the books. Does anyone here have any experience with this guy's work? Is his group any good?

January 6, 2006
10:28 pm
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*bump*

January 7, 2006
1:17 am
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Hi, Zinnia

Steve Hassan's site was referred to on a discussion list I belong to of people who left Re-Evaluation Counselling (RC) and consider themselves to be in recovery from it.

It's been awhile since that discussion took place but I am left with the impression that Hassan was considered above-board and on the ball.

I just re-read the article he has posted on his site about RC, and it is accurate and fair. (It was not written by Hassan himself, but as the host of the site he posted it and contact info for the author.)

I can't speak to the accuracy of his material about other groups, but he seems trustworthy. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the books.

January 7, 2006
8:06 pm
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Thank you. I will go to the library Monday and put in a request.

What was the RC experience, if you don't mind my asking? I have been in a variety of counseling settings, and one or two were very questionable.

That is why I am so cautious.

January 7, 2006
11:02 pm
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Ah, the RC experience. Hard to summarize but I'll try to make a start anyway.

RC has existed since the early 1950's and started as an offshoot of dianetics (a fact which you are not told when you join or at any other time. It's one of the "secrets").

I was invited to a fundamentals class in 1984 by a friend and fellow peace activist who I trusted. It was presented as a method for freeing up one's intelligence and also as a way to save the world. There's a lot of emphasis in RC on using the technique to end racism, sexism, classism and all forms of oppression in society. Sound a little grandiose?? But it felt so good!

Groups involve a lot of holding hands, hugging and expressing affection and giving validations while learning to "co-counsel". There is a lot of intense emotion demonstrated and exeperienced, which can have a powerful effect on someone who is emotionally vulnerable, as I was, due to various life circumstances.

Co-counselling is supposed to be structured reciprocal listening by peers who facilitate emotional "discharge" for each other, taking turns being the client and then the counsellor. It is also done in groups, with each person being counselled by the leader in front of the group. There is an accompanying 'theory' (I put in quotes because it is not backed by research or peer review in any psychological field) about the inherent goodness of human beings and how any bad behaviour "patterns" can be cured by discharging.

RC also discourages "mixing" their theory with any existing schools of thought about addiction, codependency or any other form of counselling. There's way more than I can write about here.

I was very involved and enthusiastic for several years until I was made aware of some very serious and quite plausible allegations about the leader having sexually exploited large numbers of women in the organization. It wasn't simply the allegations that made me question my involvement, but the very stringent cover-up by the leadership. There was a policy of "not attacking leaders" which in effect closes off any attempts to confront abuses. There is no ethics committee or any mechanism for addressing abuses of power by any leader within the 'community'.

While I and most others I've talked to who left RC felt we got many positive things from it, there were some very toxic, negative downsides. As I said in another post, for a person with codependent tendencies to begin with, the emphasis on "always being counsellor" in every situation unless you are an agreed-upon client, puts you in a weird position with people in your life outside RC and does a real number on being emotionally authentic or learning to express your own needs.

Also, the constant physical affection coupled with a "theory about sexuality" which I won't attempt to summarize here, tends to really blur the boundaries between various types of relationships. You end up generating a kind of fake warmth and closeness to everyone in your life but not having any real tools for intimacy, such as expressing and resolving conflict. If people had those skills before they get into RC, it doesn't affect them as badly. I didn't have those skills and it's been hard for me to acquire them since I've had to un-learn a bunch of behaviours which are common in RC but not in normal society.

There's a lot of emphasis on taking leadership, and leading groups. You feel like what you are doing is going to make the world a better place. However, you are not allowed to socialize with people you meet in RC. So you have to take part in RC activities to be around all these great people who tell you they love you.

I left in early 1992 because once aware of the rot at the centre, I realized it was too big for me to take on and I didn't want to destroy my own integrity by continuing to teach RC and represent it as this wonderful organization. It was extremely traumatic for me. Given that I was probably spending parts of 5 or 6 days a week in RC activities, it ripped a huge hole in the fabric of my life to suddenly have all those people gone.

I didn't find the recovery group until 2001 and from discussions there, it seems that RC started to become increasingly cult-like around 1995. I can give you a URL if you're interested in reading the history.

This is a very brief overview and I've left out a lot. If you have any specific questions, I'll be happy to try to answer them.

January 8, 2006
4:10 am
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Wow, fascinating Kroika... And thanks for being so transparent before us. I also had an experience in one of those religious organizations often represented on the fringes when I was 19. Let's just say that I understand the dynamics.

(((((Big HUG))))))))

LL

January 8, 2006
4:52 am
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Hi Lass, and thanks for the warm welcome 🙂

I owe my increasing transparency to several years of therapy with a *real* "one-way counsellor". (One of the weird things about RC is switching roles between counsellor and client at the midpoint of the session.)

Interesting that your experience was with a religious organization. RC seems to be somewhere in between being a political cult and a psychotherapy cult... although, as you say, there are dynamics common to all.

It took a long time before I was willing to label it a cult and even now I tend to say that it is a group with "cult-like characteristics". (Reminds me of the old Monty Python skit where the news reporter referred to the "eclipse of the sun-like object"... but I digress!)

I should probably post on Worried_Dad's other thread with more response to his interesting theory. Not sure if I'm ready to start a thread of my own yet, but I'm definitely getting a lot out of reading the posts on this site. I am a silent member of the No Contact club, and thank you all for sharing the wisdom that is born of experience - and pain. I hope mine can be of some help to others too.

January 8, 2006
5:12 am
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Well, RC has definitely been described as a psychotherapy cult.

January 8, 2006
8:45 am
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Hi WD

Good to hear from you. Have you read the book by Dennis Tourish called "On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left"? It has a chapter called, "Scientology, Maoism and the Reevaluations of Harvey Jackins." It's an intersting slant on RC as a polical cult.

If I recall from your other thread, you categorized RC as a 'malignant cult', is that right? I'd be interested to know of any resources you recommend that discuss the psychotherapy cult aspect.

I haven't thought about RC much recently; it's been well over a decade since I left. Yet now and then I experience what I call "RC residue" in the way I relate to a person or a situation. It's not always a huge problem, but it does bug me sometimes.

I'll go read your other thread again and maybe have more to say there.

January 8, 2006
1:14 pm
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My negative experiences in psychotherapy were within the same circle of agencies in which a county facility seemed to have leadership influenced by a lot of New Age stuff, and I think that at least one level a drug company was gathering statistics.

My first encounter was the result of my physician's referral for help with fibromyalgia and depression. His idea was that I was under such continuous anxiety that my adrenal gland was on permanent high and he gave me a full regimen of medicine, exercise, and psychotherapy to follow. His regimen worked. I no longer have fibromyalgia, and my depression is mild and manageable.

The clinic he referred me to turned out to have everyone in it on the same meds, different from what he had advised, and it turned out that no matter what your problems were, this clinic would diagnose bipolar.

I was "resistant" in the leader's eyes because I asked him to explain his disagreement with my doctor's reccomendations. I was given the "bipolar" label in a group session after I had been at about four group sessions and was beginning to feel more comfortable with the people. My mother did something very cruel when a dear uncle died, and I cried in the group when I spoke about it.

In fact, I described what she did without crying, and one of the two therapy leaders kept poking at me until I could "release". Which was ok.

But immediately the othercounselor "pounced", before my tears were even dry, and announced his diagnosis that I just proved I was bipolar.

Following that were several sessions of being bullied. I watched the two counselors actually manipulate the other patients, and a few of the patients began to side with me, especially when we talked among ourselves and discovered that the clinic diagnosed 100% bipolar!!!

Then one day I showed up and no one was there but the leader and a strange woman. This woman was a former patient and gave me a long testimonial about her own resistance to the bipolar diagnosis, and how happy she was that she accepted the prescription. He followed up with a speech that I could choose or not choose, but I would be "out on" the med regardless. This was before laws allowed that kind of policy. I was not there under any kind of orders, only on my physicians receommendation, and he seemed to think I had no rights. Apparently some of his other patients were parolees of various kinds.

I don't even remember what prescription it was. That woman had come from a distant state for this meeting! The other patients had been told it was cancelled!

I high-tailed it out of there pretty darn fast. My own doctor got mad at the county over the fact I wasn't the only patient who returned with this kind of story. I got good private therapy after that.

Years later I returned to therapy at another clinic in the same county, ruyn under the same medical center. They were not as unethical as that first one, but they did use some group control techniques that relied on making us use a "half smile" and never expressing emotion.

Both the first encounter and the second encounter had this in common:

All emotions were seen as medical symptoms. There was no appropriate sadness, only "depression", etc. I learned to watch out for any inquiry into a life situation as being a trap into eliciting an emotional expression that would be turned into a pathology of some kind.

As a result I am completely unable to express any emotions towards people I don't know extremely well, except cheerfulness. My cognitive ability can turn it into macabre humor, sometimes.

My long-term friends are a handful of people who know the facts of what I went through. We are like war veterans, who can only speak freely among our own.

January 8, 2006
7:43 pm
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Zinnia,

What most people don't fully realize is that all of society is to some degree a mutually agreed upon construct, not reality de facto. Every culture has its rules, laws, creedos, praiseworthy behaviors, punishable behaviors, and on and on.

Once, when lecturing on the topic of mind control, I had the class stand, hands on hearts, and recite the pledge of allegiance. Something they were quite bemused to do, having not done it since grade school. Nonetheless, they all, every one, did it. I pointed out, had they freely chosen this allegiance? Or had it been placed carefully within them early and often, instilling it in them as a virtue?

You wouldn't believe the dirty looks they gave me, glowering and embarassed and uncertain.

Further, once I went to a regular family physician, whom I now believe was every bit in the pocket of the pharmaceutical companies. These docs get kickbacks for putting patients on certain meds, and are also allowed to buy stocks in those self-same companies. To profit in this manner is perfectly legal, yet something about it strikes me as obscene. They put everyone on serotoninre-uptake inhibitor drugs nowadays. The one I was placed on for a year almost killed me. All I really needed was someone to pat my shoulder and say, "There, there." I was placed on Paxil, a drug with more dangerous, even deadly withdrawl symptoms than a chapter in a book. And I had presented myself as an alcoholic who did not want an addictive drug, and was told it wasn't at all dangerous.

I feel for what you went through in a county counseling facility. I have, conversely, had a great experience with public counseling in the past (cheap!). And in your case, it was your physician who toed the right mark.

Anyway, anytime there is an institution, there is usually a party-line, a politically correct belief system outlined. Having had experiences like we have had, we can see and question the 'reality' being presented to us. "Question Authority."

LL

January 8, 2006
7:44 pm
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Wow, Zinnia... what an awful story! It always shocks me to hear of such terrible distortions and degradations of ethicality in the "helping" professions. I'm glad you had such an intact sense of your own power and worth, and were able to "high tail it out of there"! How long ago was all that?

There's a bit of similarity in RC in that any emotion other than 'zestfullness' is seen as evidence of some kind of 'distress' and the RCer feels they must 'discharge' it to attain what RC calls 'rationality'.

I'm going to say more about RC on WD's other thread, but just wanted to respond to you here to thank you for telling about your experience.

I'm glad you have friends you can speak freely about it with, and I hope you will recover your full spectrum of emotions and ability to express them appropriately in all situations.

I look forward to hearing whether you find Steve Hassan's materials to be useful.

January 9, 2006
11:04 pm
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I am working on getting my daughter "out" of the cultic situation that severely damaged me.

The little misadventure I described just above is just one of those things that can happen because cult-like behaviors are so common these days. I know that the counseling leaders damaged me because I cannot seem to unlearn the automatic emotion-masking, even though I have given it a sarcastic twist that those counselors certainly would not like, *lol*.

But the real damage is from the fact that cults have criminal behavior at their core and abusive families often become very cult-like as they tend to protect their "leadership" and deny wrongdoing.

In the past couple of weeks I have begun to pull a small support group together, of a couple of friends & relatives who know what happened to me.

Money is the big obstacle now. I am trying to save and find ways to barter or borrow in order to be able to go spend a few months, if necessary, in whatever area my daughter decides is where she is willing to receive help, if she accepts it.

I think I have to plan for a week or two of intensive family therapy and then a couple of months of weekly meetings and then hopefully we will each be able to go forward in our lives.

January 10, 2006
2:10 am
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C*** Awareness Network. Look it up Zinnia. They may be of help.

January 10, 2006
2:27 am
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Lass, Zinnia, and kroika:

You are rocking my world!

You are my heroes of the week. Oh yes, please, please tell more.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to assemble a conversation on these matters that is 1/10th as coherent and on point and intimate and non-flaming as you guys have done here? I'll tell you: it is impossible.

Zinnia wrote: "But the real damage is from the fact that cults have criminal behavior at their core and abusive families often become very cult-like as they tend to protect their "leadership" and deny wrongdoing.

Yes, yes yes yes YES!

January 10, 2006
3:13 am
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I want you to help me write a book or two. Oh, please? Why do I want to?

As best I can tell, this particular subject matter has not been formally, much less popularly addressed in detail before, except for a very brief treatment by Shirley Segal and a videotaped lecture by Margaret Singer.

At the scholarly level, nobody seems to understand that the mechanisms of emotional and psychological injury from domestic violence are basically the same mechanisms that result in injury from cultic abuse.

Actually, the concept of emotional and psychological injury is still in its infancy.

At the popular level, this is “the age of psychotherapy.” Everyone is doing it, and everyone and their brother seems to think they are qualified to charge for “counseling” services. But as far as I can tell, the concept and existence of something called “psychotherapy cults” is a deep, dark mystery. Practically nobody has eve heard of it!

I propose that the article/book I am writing needs to have a “breakout” chapter that becomes its own book, perhaps called “Psychotherapy Cults: Why Good People Pay Good Money to be Driven Insane" or something like that.

You may know that I do not use the word “evil” very much, and for good reason. That being said...

To me, the psychotherapy cult is the most evil of modern abusive scenarios because:

They prey upon people’s natural trust of science and medicine. They couch their misbehavior in (what to most people passes for) the rhetoric of science.

I am a trained clinician. I am a professional scientist. I spent a lot of time, heart, soul and a heck of a lot of good money to become what I am. Consequently, I deplore people misusing the language and concepts and ethical precepts of my vocations to facilitate injury to innocent persons. I am filled with moral outrage.

By their nature, and their histories, psychotherapy cults collude with and facilitate the evil work of sexual predators, batterers, and child abusers.

That is just the final fucking straw for me. I cannot abide anyone using the language of “science” or pseudoscience to facilitate domestic violence or child abuse or therapist abuse. It is an offense against God and Humanity.

Since I can't just put a Jihad on their abusive asses, what I instead think is that the light of reason and science and education should be shined on this problem, with a million watt bulb. And when other scholars and writers get the drift, a million million watt bulbs will be shined on this shadow.

I want this on Maury Povitch, on Dr, Phil, on Oprah, on the Tonight Show. I want "psychotherapy cult" to become a household word.

January 10, 2006
3:17 am
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But that's just me.

January 10, 2006
10:47 am
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zinnia
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WD, I wish there was a way to identify to each other for private communication. But this board wisely does not allow that.

You know, as I do, that we all have to edit ourselves carefully for anonymyty, out of respect for our friends & family privacy as well as out of safety concerns because of the universal "Evil Lurker", but if there is a way to do this, please suggest.

I have been encouraged to write my story but have run into blockage. I think an anthology is a better way to do it because no one carries the full load.

January 10, 2006
10:57 am
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Lass,
If you mean "Cult Awareness Network", this is what I just googled on it:
http://www.cesnur.org/testi/CAN-name.htm

Maybe you could provide a link to what you mean? The other stuff in the search was a citizens' awareness on nuclear issues, I don't think that was it! *lol*

January 10, 2006
7:41 pm
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Hi zinnia,

I don't see a problem doing thinhgs anonymously. In fact, given that we are talking about some pretty antisocial behavior here, anonymity is a really good idea.

January 10, 2006
9:09 pm
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I meant about the book idea.

January 10, 2006
9:27 pm
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Hi guys

I thought I heard somewhere that Cult Awareness Network had been bought by the Church of Scientology... no kidding.

I'll see if I can find the info and post it here.

Busy stuff going on in my life right now but I'm still thinking about how to tell my story. I found this site because I Googled "codependent relationship" and wasn't really thinking about my history in RC. However, as I said in a previous post, I do believe my codependency was exacerbated by that experience, so maybe it's good for me to do more thinking about that at this time.

I really appreciated all the discussions I had with fellow ex-RCers on the other site, but it's good to discuss it here too.

January 10, 2006
11:08 pm
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That link I posted was about that
http://www.cesnur.org/testi/CAN-name.htm

January 10, 2006
11:10 pm
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kroika, I can see how switchijng roles the way RC is described as doing would certainly exascerbate codependency!

January 11, 2006
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Zinnia,

yeah, the role switching sets up some strange habits. It was also a difficulty for me in normal, social relationships because I would listen intently with counsellor-like attention, and then expect the other person to return the same, for the same amount of time. Of course, "regular people" had no idea I had such expectations!

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