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  • Esther Ruth Friedman

Cult Busting PodCast: A Little Bit Culty

Hello Readers, I promised that I'd only be posting a few times a month. That's challenging -- excellent resources keep popping up online. I want to share everything! So, here's goes ...

I can't recommend this podcast highly enough!! Cohosts, and ex-Nxivm cult busters, Sarah & Nippy, facilitate thoughtful, educational and relevant conversations. The guests are intelligent and articulate. They explain the unexplainable.

It also helps that both the hosts and many of the guests are hilarious! Fun with cult recovery ;-) Who knew?

In the episode, F*ck This, I'm Out: Mike Rinder & The About Face, ex-Scientologist, Rinder successfully describes the cult tactic often called the ends justify the means. Every ex-member I've spoken with experiences a version of the ends justify the means. Leaders convince underlings to do things that violate their personal principles "for the group."

These demands are loyalty tests. Cult members prove their dedication by demonstrating willingness to self-betray. The tactic is so common that I started calling it cultic social engineering.

Ex-members look back & ask, how did I let this happen to me? Those who've never been duped into cult-hood often wonder, how does that happen? Important questions. Rinder clarifies how Scientology coerces. It leverages social dynamics that lock all participants into a thought-loop of self doubt; members get trapped in mental states of confusion that keeps circling back to: This feels wrong, but it must be me. What's wrong with me? Why don't I get this? Maybe I'm not trying hard enough. My enlightened leaders must know something that I'm not ready to understand. Maybe if I try harder, I'll get it ... etc.

He explains that Scientologists call the ends justify the means, "...the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics ... " Scientologists define dynamics as survival "urges" and/or "motives" that underlie and fuel human behavior. According to Scientology there are 8 categories of dynamics. Number 3 is "the urge to exist in groups."

Conveniently, Scientology, is a not only a group, but the group, with the humanitarian-saving mission! Rinder explains, " ... Scientologists believe that Scientology is the solution to every problem that every person has, including all the problems of mankind. And not just mankind, but this entire sector of the universe; then what's good for Scientology is good for all of the dynamics." (other people, families, all living things, the planet, God, etc. etc.)

He says that members get convinced that " ... the pain that you are experiencing is a small speck in the overall picture of the good that is being done for the entirety of every man, woman, and child, on earth."

Every cult claims to be the group with the humanitarian-saving mission! True believers will betray themselves for the cause. Those who fear rejection will also comply. The longer you are exposed to this environment, and attitude, the more conditioned you become to accepting the unacceptable, and tolerating the intolerable.

These three specific beliefs echo through high-demand groups and bolster the justifications for the ends justify the means:

1) I must sacrifice for the mission: Rinder, " ... look the pain or suffering that I am experiencing is small potatoes, insignificant, nothing, compared to the overall, big picture of planet earth." 2) Maybe if I try harder, I'll get it: Rinder, "...just like in Nxivm, the bad sh*t that is happening to me is what I caused... I'm not yet fully aware and haven't yet the appropriate levels of understanding of how life works and how I work, etc. etc." 3) They must know something that I'm not ready to understand: Rinder, on his first day on The Apollo: " ... I walked in and I discovered, for the first time, that my life was no longer my own. I was effectively a prisoner on that ship ...The ship was gross. But, of course, my first thought is, this is where L.Ron Hubbard lives and there's all these other big Scientology thetans here and they know a lot more than I do and they're putting up with it, so it must be something wrong with my perception, or my perspective ..." Cults are systems of group gaslighting. The doctrine echoes through and around each participant. They echo the shared mission and doctrine back to each other. Leaders shame, reject, deflect and silence those who question demands. Leaders praise those who demonstrate their dedication through sacrifice and complicity. Eventually unethical demands start contradicting the stated mission of alleged betterment. Meanwhile most members are locked into a silent prison of crazy, gaslighting themselves: This feels wrong. But everyone else is doing it. Am I crazy? Maybe if I try harder, I'll get it.

But as Rinder explains, as the internal crazy piles up, cognitive dissonance grows. Eventually, the bad outweighs the good. Most befuddled cult members hit a tipping point. At his tipping point he walked out with nothing. He left behind his marriage, children, parents, brother, friends, job, money. He said, "I'm not even in the United States, I'm in London and f*ck it! Anything is better than this."

I'm going to end with this optimistic thought: for me, Rinder's exit demonstrates something that I witness over and over. For most of us, the human spirit is tenacious and eventually it prevails, often -- like in Rinder's case -- against all odds. So, that's it for today. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below!

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