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Hypnosis and Psychotherapy Cults
November 3, 2006
3:42 pm
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Worried_Dad
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Interesting article here.

Sure wish I had read this before...

http://www.csj.org/infoserv_ar.....ersion.htm

November 3, 2006
4:22 pm
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Thanks for that link, WD. I'll have to read it in more depth another time; just had a glance and the reading list at the end looks interesting too. How do you feel that reading that article sooner would have made a difference for you?

And... how are you doing with the quitting smoking? Did you find anything in my article of interest? I hope you are getting some support with it.

take care, the k'ster

November 5, 2006
7:47 pm
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Considering that I believe much of Buddhist philosophy to be valid, Guest_guest asked me why I am not a Buddhist. Considering the complexity of my answer carefully in the context of Guest_guest's past posts, I never bothered to reply.

My main reason for not becoming a Buddhist is that no matter what religion one joins, social pressures for conformity of doctrinal belief can be either intense or subtle. From my perspective, to maintain both free and independent thought, one must of necessity be free from all social pressures to conform to any 'party line'.

What is the difference between a 'cult' and a mainstream religion or school of psychotherapy?

Is it the number of adherents? Is it the divergent nature of the cult 'party line' from the mainstream 'party line'?

Rather than examining what constitutes a 'cult', it is the nature of the social pressures themselves that is active within these 'cults' that is of interest to me. Can these social pressures be categorized as hypnosis? This question is addressed in WD's URL reference and is for convenience quoted below:

Beginning of Quote ----------------------------------

"Hypnosis happens" but Does Not Explain Cult Conversion.

The issue of hypnosis in cult conversion epitomizes a great controversy among its researchers and practitioners: Is hypnosis a phenomenon that is discrete and can be reliably differentiated from other forms of human behavior and experience? Or is the term ³hypnosis² merely a too-convenient label applied haphazardly and uncritically to a range of phenomena that are better understood by employing more parsimonious social psychological concepts? By describing cultic indoctrination processes as ³hypnosis,² are mental health practitioners and social scientists themselves engaging in a form of ³thought-stopping² that at best oversimplifies the cult phenomenon, and at worst uncritically condemns it? Are we contributing to the generally negative view the public has of hypnosis as a ³mind control² technique to be feared or worshipped?

Cultic groups employ a broad range of influence strategies, some mundane and others exotic. These groups in and of themselves vary considerably. In fact, some research suggests there may be more variability among groups labeled as ³cultic² than there is between ³cults² and groups considered non-cultic. Nevertheless, many cultic groups do seem to employ methods that can be perceived by observers and participants as ³hypnosis.² Using research on overt, covert and ³extended² hypnosis, I will critically consider the employment of hypnosis in cult conversion, and will consider whether it should be accorded a minor role at best in explaining cult conversion. I will conclude by evaluating the ways in which the phenomenon of cult conversion informs us about the discrete ³reality² of hypnosis.

[Steve Dubrow-Eichel]

---------------------------- End Of Quote.

What underpins the social pressures for belief conformity within groups, large or small?

November 6, 2006
2:48 am
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Hi Kroika, I like your article, and thanks for posting.

Hi Tez.

What underpins the social pressures for belief conformity within groups, large or small?

Human beings are intensly social aniamls. We like to "belong" top social groups and belonging to a social group has benefits.

We find identity in our belonging to social groups and we give social groups power to at least partly define us.

That is particularly true in therapeutic groups. People tend to trust professionals. And we use mental health care professionals to help us understand or define ourselves.

So when a shrink says something in a therapeutic group, disagreement can lead to a person being called crazy.

November 6, 2006
4:48 pm
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Hi WD.

Many years ago I belonged to the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga sect of the Hindi religion. I was in it for several years. I found the meditation that they taught very effective. I became gungho, became celibate, arose every morning at 3.30 am. meditated for an hour, then had breakfast, went to the centre arriving at 6.30 am for group meditation and classes until 7.30 am then went home for a quick change from kurta pajamas into work clothes and off to work. Home from work, dinner and then back to the centre by 7.30 pm for meditation and more classes. This was my 7 days a week routine. On the weekends there was afternoon meditation for 4 hours at a stretch as well.

One day I started to question their doctrine, teachings that I had previously uncritically taken on board. Much to my surprise I found that I was treated with a mixture of aggression and derision. This further spurred me on to question the reason for such a response from these people.

A Didi, a very senior yogini from India took me to one side and told me that the reason I was questioning their doctrine was that I didn't trust my mother when I was an infant. This staggered me. I started to realize that no one had ever consistently and logically questioned their doctrines and remained in their fold. I pulled the pin immediately. From then on I started to see the many 'holes' and irrationalities in their beliefs. I realized that I had taken on board their beliefs uncritically for two main reasons: 1. I had no faith in my own abilities to think for myself. and 2. The powerful meditation experiences that I had convinced me irrationally of the validity of their teachings. Now the centre is closed and gone.

What I had been looking for was a communication channel to a Higher Power. This is precisely what they offered and seemed to deliver!!! I was driven by my existential fears and anxieties to seek relief from life's struggles. And indeed in furthering my delusions, I found just that - a wonderful peace and contentment. Believing that there is a big divine daddy in the sky who really values me and will ultimately protect me from all harm sure feels wonderful and peaceful. But is it reality???? Hmmm I think not!

I suspect that wishful thinking drives a lot of cult adherents. Tribalism still runs deep in our veins. "We are the group who possess the truth not like those other poor sods in that deluded group! We'll be OK if we stick together! You can be PooBah # 2 in our group. This makes you better to PooBah # 3. If you strive real hard you can be PooBah # 1 and then even the Grand PooBah one day." Hmmmm!

Guest_guest seems to think that high self-esteem is the ultimate elixir of life. I think that low self-esteem is a symptom of, not a cause of, a dysfunctional way of thinking and believing. I think that having high self-esteem feels good because we consciously or unconsciously imagine that it places us higher up in the pecking order of our group or tribe. The higher up we go the more important we are to the group and the more we might be protected and aided in times of need. If we realize that we have psychological problems and find ourselves in a group who think they have the psychological insights that will ensure a superior way of living, and if we strive hard enough and believe strongly enough then we can find ourselves abnegating our responsibilities for thinking for ourselves, denying our own ability to find our own internal standards by which to live, and relying on a substitute 'daddy' to take care of us. We find ourselves running to authoritative others to seek advice all the time, not trusting ourselves to think things through and to come up with our own answers to life's questions.

Why don't we trust our selves? As children many of us have been conditioned to distrust our own judgment. It thus seems so natural to believe authority figures unquestioningly. Many of us have been conditioned to do so as children. What child is strong enough to stand up to dad and mom and run the risk of losing their love, affection and most of all their life maintaining support.

IMHO, in part, maturity involves learning to trust one's own judgment while bearing in mind that one can often be wrong. It can also partly involve learning that feelings, though caused by internal realities, are not always trustworthy as pointers to external realities.

That's my take on the issue of entrapment in cults of any kind.

November 7, 2006
6:29 pm
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Tez, Your question of: "What underpins the social pressures of belief conformity within groups, large and small?

I would answer..."not trusting one's own gut feelings."

Easy for me to say because I have been a "loner" all of my life and have never prescribed to anything - since I was a child - which did not feel right and true.....right smack dab in the middle of my solar plexes!

Truth...when I find it - gives me peace.

I accept nothing less...even though there may be times when this feeling has spanned many years (sometimes decades.) I am stubborn in that way.

Have always been this way for as long as I can remember...and when "truth" presents itself to me in WHATEVER form....I have a tendency to give it incredible creedence and worth....whatever the origin.

November 7, 2006
8:56 pm
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Well, there is another principle.

Assumming beliefs, values and behaviors consistent with consensual social reality is ALSO a healthy, adaptive behavior.

People who are incapable of doing that are called sociopaths.

November 7, 2006
10:45 pm
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Worried Dad-

Hate to disagree with your "all or nothing" type of reasoning/principal between "healthy, adaptive behavior" versus "sociopaths."

But, to be honest, your resoning is grossly scewed.

Who or What authority is ever in the emminent postion to secure - without a shadow of a doubt - to what encapsulates a sense of reality and what doesn't??????

Really now????

Again now, I sense that you are contemplating a black/white, all or nothing sense of reality based on antiquarian sense of Newtoinan/ moral existance....without so much regard as to another possibility of sorts which will prove to throw a monkey-wrench into the whole ordeal that indeed - there is more to this whole picture than you care to admit to.....given all things considered!!!!
"Sociopaths" as you described, are not so easily catorgorized nor explified. I Know...first hand....

November 7, 2006
11:09 pm
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Hi, truthBtold.

Me, black and white? Me, an authoritarian? Naw. Check the Embassy, War, Evolution, Pornography, Religion, and Politics threads, to check that one out.

What I am talking about is balance. I am coming from a sociobiological and a social and a pclinical psychology perspective.

Particularly sociobiology.

The functioning of any cooperative society requires that individuals make compromises between their own needs and desires and the needs of others and of society as a whole.

And mental health, homestasis and happiness for an individual depends on the individual being able to perceive and make compromises between his or her own needs and desires and those of other individuals and of society.

Not all "antisocial" behavior is per-se "pathological." There is a such a thing as righteous and healthy civil disobediance, for example. A child who breaks the family code of silence to denounce or confront an alcoholic, violent or incestuous parent is, strictly speaking, within the context of the family system, behaving in an "antisocial manner."

Mental health and social functioning requires both a healthy ego and a healthy superego--A person nneds to be able to stick up for their own needs and desires, their own integrity even in the face of social pressure not to. But they also need to be able to delay gratification, perhaps indefinitely, in recognition of the needs and desires of others.

I did not say that a person ought to do so at all times and in all circumstances.

What I did say is that a person who is "unable" to really understand the need to do so, and is unable to do so is what you call a sociopath.

I distinguish between primary narcissism, enlightened self-interest, just civil disobedience, and sociopathy.

Social sytems that exert undue influence over an individual blur the distinctions between those things.

November 7, 2006
11:25 pm
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OK - So I accept and believe (first hand) the necessary balance between the "loner" - if you will and the components which entice "the loner" to reach out over and beyond his/her own existance to possibly intermingle with another form of existance....all in the name of a self-proclaimed sense of safety.....all I gotta say...is that this shit Better Pay off!!!!!!

November 7, 2006
11:40 pm
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Hi truthbetold,

Personally, I have not been able to achieve a sufficient level of antisocial impulse.

Therefore, I am a doormat.

I am cult-bait.

Used to be anyway.

But I'm getting better.

November 8, 2006
6:58 pm
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truthBtold

Thanks for your response of 7-Nov-06. In it you said:

"Tez, Your question of: "What underpins the social pressures of belief conformity within groups, large and small?

I would answer..."not trusting one's own gut feelings." "

Interesting ... ... ...

If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that when someone does not trust one's own intuitions and cognitions to be valid, that person is motivated to join a group because of emotively based faith in the authoritative knowledge of that group.
That person then mindlessly ingests those beliefs in preference to choosing to think for themselves.

Is this what you are saying?

But why does someone "not trust their own gut feelings"?

November 8, 2006
9:03 pm
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truthBtold.

When we recognize "the truth" exactly what are we recognizing?

If a key fits a lock, we have a match between the key pattern and the lock programming.

Is truth recognition just our perception of our reality 'key' fitting the conditioned 'lock' in our psyche?

If our past conditioning was different perhaps we would have a different perception of what is truth and what is not.

When the key fits the lock why do we choose to not trust that the lock is opened?

November 8, 2006
9:32 pm
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Porno etc. are symptoms of the human condtion. Self esteem, trying to fit in with other people, is a human condition. Trying to be at the top of the food chain, so as to feel self worth, is a human condition.
These are feelings brought on by human beings. People with the power to influence and control millions of lives. Power and influence that can last for centuries. Societies of poerful humans don't foster love. They foster their own goals. Their human goals.
The search for inner peace is a search for your soul. Whether it be through Budda, Christ, Confuscious, or Jim Jones, it is all the same. Call it a cult, or a mainstream movement, it is all the same.
When you find your soul you will realize that the only truth is selflessness. Total commitment to deeds and actions of love and compassion, almost impossible in today's world. And you will realize that the only cult is the cult of love. The only true society to fit in with is the society that gives unconditionally. Only there, is inner peace found. This place of inner peace, this society, is the only true power. The only true place to fit in. The reward for your soul, your spirit, is an eternal life of love. Your earthly reward, in modern society, is certainly physical death. Because as your maker will provide for you, be your daddy, (surprising how many in today's world will help good people), there are too many who view the spiritualism of God, any God, as a threat.

The psychological debate is moot. The political debate is moot. The societal debate is moot.

But you already know this.

November 9, 2006
6:12 pm
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Tez,
To a great extent, yes that is what I am saying.

When someone doesn't trust their own "gut feelings", I think that they open themselves up to an external version of reality...whatever form that may take.

It's really pretty simple.

I used to get REALLY BOGGED down in all of this - trying to "figure it all out" - but then I realized that all of my answers are, and have been inside of me all along. I just have to sit quite and get outside my head long enough for the feelings to surface.

I am starting to get better with all of this and it has been making all the difference in the world!!!

November 10, 2006
1:25 am
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Many years ago (decades), I briefly was part of a group called The Center for Feeling Therapy. This group lasted over a decade. This is a story of idealistic people in the early 70's who wanted a better life, believed in some ideals, trusted themselves to so-called experts (psychotherapists), ended up living together with their special groups in houses together. The therapists demanded conformity, even to the point of telling women to get abortions, what to eat, what to weight, who to date, not to have children, and, in some cases, where to work, and that it was crazy to spend time alone. So, all these bright, educated people stepped up to the plate and participated in all of this, some for almost a decade. I left after several months, but not before the leaders told me that I was crazy and that I would end up psychotic living in the outside world. Even though I left, and had like-minded friends who also left (including a man I dated for several years), I always carried around this idea that I did something wrong for leaving.

About seven years after I left, I happened to find out that this group suddenly disbanded, it was labeled in the media as "the cult of cruelty", and the center's therapists were sued by former patients, there were many allegations of physical abuse, and this turned out to be the largest malpractice suit for psychotherapists ever in the state of California, where this existed.

Here is a link that, in many ways, accurately describes what happened regarding this cult. Interesting article...

http://www.templeofdreams.com/.....nter3.html

Decades later, I still think about all of this occasionally, including the people I knew at this intense time of my life. Why did we all participate? Because we belived in the ideals of this, because we were pressured to believe that leaving was failing, that leaving meant we were crazy, that leaving meant dealing with an alien, unfeeling world, because during the first three weeks they worked real hard at dismantling your defenses, exaggerated your weaknesses, and left you psychologically in this state of doubt. But I left. I was living in a house with people in my special group. We continually jumped down each others' throats to be open about what we thought was wrong with the other person. I started to feel like I was living in a war zone. There was no time to be alone. One night, at a rare time when no one else was around, I packed my stuff and left. I left, but it took me years to be free of all the influence of this. Now, I can almost laugh at all of this, but, at that time, it was beginning to seem like a very dnagerous thing to be involved in.

November 10, 2006
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Hi gracenotes,

Thanks for posting that link and telling a bit of your story.

I was involved in Reevalutaion Counselling (RC) for 7 years and left when it seemed to be taking on a number of cult-like characteristics.

Even though it is over a decade since I left, I still have not reached a final cut-and-dried verdict about what was valuable and what was harmful from my involvement. It's been quite a long process of unravelling things and deciding what was "baby" and what was "bathwater".

I understand what you are talking about, about why you (and others) stayed, and why you left. There are a lot of similarities with my own experience. I'm around if you want to talk more about it.

November 10, 2006
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Hi-

I want to ask a question of those of you that have been involved in these cults. Have any of you been able to join a church since this experience?

Bevdee

November 10, 2006
11:25 am
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kroika,

I can certainly understand why it has been such a long process in unraveling with your Reevaluation Counseling. What has been difficult for me about this? Seven years is a long time, too. My experience was much shorter, but also very very intense.

What really helped for me was that this Center was totally busted, the therapists who had licenses lost their licenses, their were unlicensed ones too, and that its lack of credibility was exposed, dragged through the court system, and they lost a 6 million dollar lawsuit. I had no involvement in this lawsuit, was long gone by then, but it just confirmed what I really knew on a gut level about this sytem, and what my friends at the time knew. I spent years rehashing this, discussing this. The guy I went out with for several years (an ex-center member) decided to go back. Yikes!! After all the processing we did together, he wanted more of this.

Its a tricky thing dismantling involvement with a cult. First of all, these are good, valid things about it, its genesis was based on something valid that other people wanted, their are relationships with others, but, at this point in my life, it just would never hold any appeal to me. I also think cults tend to attract very young people, early 20's or so, who are looking for a way to be on their own in the world.

I own my good memories too of this. Of community, of things I learned, of friendships, of two relationships, of being involved in something that started out as a grand idea and the excitement of being part of something new.

But, when I hear about cults like Scientology, another friend's experience with a religious cult, its like their brains have been hard wired with certain beliefs (brainwashing). Its too bad.

November 10, 2006
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Gracenotes & Kroika,

Wow!!! How brave of the both of you to have the raw courage to get out.

I really have the upmost respect for you!
I am so glad that there was a lawsuit filed and won.

For me, I have just recently realized (I am 46 years old) that I was part of a "secret cult" growing up in my grossly dysfunctional family...and that it is indeed true to say that the same crazy-ass family dynamics in which I grew up in have THE SAME charateristics as a cult with relation to control and brain-washing and the messages given not to trust your own feelings or reality.

Also, I am very, very leary of therapists in general anymore.

After many decades in various forms of therapy with different therapists, I learned that all of them had their own agenda....and that that agenda always seemed to leak into the work.

I always wondered if something was wrong with me for not progressing further.....but I never felt that any of them used the priority in the whole process which was just simply help me to trust myself.

I learned over the years that if after awile in therapy - you can tell whether the therapist is republican or democrat - then their agenda is seeping into the work and is not att all entirely un-biased.

The only therapist whom did help me was an MD - a psychiatrist at my local county Mental Health facility.

Working for the county, you can imagine that he has pretty much seen it all - and I never ever could figure out which political affiliation he belonged to....which is the way it ought to be.

There is an excellent (obscure) book entitled: "Nobody's Victim" can't remember the author's name as I have it packed up - but it was written by a therapist and he courageously recanted the whole therapy process and the detrimental effects it can have because, after all - therapy is much more of art than a science.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

November 10, 2006
5:17 pm
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TruthBTold,

Of course. This makes sense. Never though of it this way. The cult family. And, most very dysfunctional families are very enmeshed and are leery of outsiders (non-family members) being involved. Same with the abusive relationship and how the abusive party limits or disallows friends and family being around.

Therapists and agendas. Hmmm. Well I am seeing this therapist for short-term trauma work right now. I don't usually see therapists, but I had to explore this stuff. Someone recommended this to me. Three sessions so far. She's an EMDR expert, certified by the founder, and this kind of therapy is more about deciding mutually what a limiting belief is that is holding me back, and/or do work directly to neuralize the effects of trauma using this quick EMDR process. Somehow, in the process, beliefs naturally change to healthier ways of looking at things. This is just naturally happening to me as I have been freed of a trauma's effects for several weeks now.

I relate to this therapist as another adult, and we mutually agree on short term goals. She's really good and really has not revealed any of her agenda at all except her ideas of what what we can work on, but stated I can choose my topics, just her preference. There's no time really for endless chit chat, because this is a structured seven part process. This brings some trust back into the idea of psychotherapy, it is empirically proven to be effective anyway, I think the VA uses it a lot of veterans, and how very effective it can be in such a short period of time. But, I do this thoughtfully and pay attention to anything that bothers me.

November 10, 2006
6:14 pm
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Ok I'll tell you why I asked -

I was reminded of this when the original Psychotherapy cult thread showed up, and WD described what it was like for him. The unquestioning loyalty to the leader, the sense of community that he still misses...... It all reminded me of church.

This was not the first time I had thought of it, but it caused me to think more deeply about it.

Definition of a cult - From Merriam Webster

1 : formal religious veneration : WORSHIP

2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents

3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents

4 : a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator (health cults)

5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

This word evolved from Latin cultus - which means to worship

And the definition of religion from Merriam Webster is

1 a : the state of a religious b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
- re·li·gion·less adjective

Anyway, I guess what I'm wondering is - does a person's raising ( our hardwiring) make that person more susceptible to these codependent situations- such as the psychotherapy cult, or very domineering religions or churches?

My raising was in church, and I believe I am codependent in part because of those teachings. Since I left an abusive relationship in which the abuser, who tried to tell me what to wear, and when I was silent or contemplative,actually demanded I tell him what I was thinking, I try to avoid becoming involved with any individual or any institution that would tell me how to think, or dictate my behaviour.

I liked what TruthB said about agendas - because these people (leaders, therapists, teachers, preachers) are human, yes, they would have their own agenda. Every individual has their own perspective.

So many feel the need to defend beliefs, whatever they are. We need to be "right"

I thought about what Tez shared about questioning doctrine and his subsequent treatment by those in the sect. He was not scrupulously conforming.

And hypnosis - when I was a little girl in church, I used to sit and watch the faces of the congregation when the preacher would really get to going. Those that were not asleep looked mesmerized.

I have no conclusion.........

Bevdee

November 11, 2006
12:42 am
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I think it is natural and not always unhealthy to let other people shape our beliefs and behaviors. There's lots of healthy examples of that. And sometimes it is a good thing to let someone else even shape or modify your self-definition.

We are evolved to let other people affect us.

November 12, 2006
3:36 pm
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WD,
Point well taken. Thanks.

November 15, 2006
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"We are evolved to let other people affect us. "

I agree.

Why is this?

free

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