FAMILY SUBSTITUTE / REFLECTIONS ON ONE'S VULNERABILITY TO GROUPS SUCH AS ANANDA:
I was a seeker. I was naive. I was trusting. I believed in the goodness of people. I was alone. I was
unsure. I was looking for help where ever I could find it. I thought conventional wisdom was not true
It hadn't gotten rid of the pain that came from growing up. I thought I had to look elsewhere.
I was taught by society to accept and respect authority; that someone else knew more than I did . I was taught
expedience. It was quicker and easier to accept someone else's answers for life's questions than figure it out for myself. Why shouldn't I take advantage of the lessons and conclusions of others?
I found a group
that had all of the answers. They were warm, friendly and loving. They were kind and supportive (as long as I did what they suggested ). They were gentle and non-threatening. They made me feel as though I had finally
found my true "family." What defenses I had were lowered. I felt as though I belonged. No longer was I alone in the world. They helped mask the pain, if only for a while. They appeared to have integrity. They
were intelligent and talented. I wanted to emulate them.
They had a mission. They had passion for the goal. Suddenly there was a purpose for my life. I had
finally found a home and the answer to what I was
supposed to do with my life. There obviously was a divine plan here at work, or so I was told. I was one of the chosen ones; what a privilege, what a blessing. The goal was like a carrot held out in front of me; ever
enticing, ever unattainable.
I was encouraged to join them. I was encouraged to give up old friendships and active participation with my family. I was told to avoid those that might "bring me down" and
encouraged to spend time with only those I looked up to. No one outside the group was of any consequence. If they were not with us then they were against us.
I was isolated, on a rural community, from the
population at large. I was provided with housing and work within the community. We were kept busy with work, meetings, community functions from morning till night. We all learned the special group language filled with
emotionally charged words such as in tune, worldly, negative. This further isolated us from the surrounding society.
The group was authoritarian. It was hierarchical. There were guidelines for every aspect of life. The
influence of the group was felt in areas of very personal choices such as where to work, appropriate dress, how
often to have sex, how to think and how to feel. I knew what was expected of me. I became completely dependent on the group for fulfillment of all of my needs; physical, intellectual, emotional, economic, social,
I was encouraged not to think, not to trust my own perceptions. The mind was at best a distraction and at worst evil.
I was praised for my attempts to conform. I was rewarded with a better
standing in the leaders' eyes. I was given improved housing and jobs. I was allowed more access to the leaders. The group was elitist. I was convinced that the best thing that could ever happen to a person was to join
the group. I began to convince others of the rightness of the group. I was given power over others.
Certain things started happening to me that they interpreted for me as sure signs I was moving in the right
direction. I accepted their yardstick against which I measured every aspect of my life. Often the conflict that would arise between what I was experiencing and what they said I should be experiencing resulted in
feelings of guilt. I could never measure up. If I confessed my inadequacies, the information could be used against me in the future. All questioning and dissent were discouraged and could result in punishment.
was controlled by guilt and fear. If I should displease them, then they would judge me and I might lose my standing that I had worked so hard to attain. I had judged others and shunned them when I thought they were not
exhibiting proper party-line behavior. I was afraid of being so judged. If I didn't obtain the goal, then I was doing something wrong. If I had problems or illness and I was unable to overcome them, then it was my fault
if I suffered. I felt ashamed of my obvious lack of purity.
We were constantly kept in a state of insecurity. We were moved around a lot, both in housing and in jobs. There was a sense of chaos occasionally,
which kept us all slightly off balance.
The obvious choice to leave the group was not an option. At best you would be wasting your time, i.e. "living a worldly life". At worst you would lose all of the
progress you had made in this lifetime and have to start all over again in the next. If you left, terrible things might happen to you. You would be a non-person.
I was persuaded to behave in a certain way, though
a gun was never held to my head. I was controlled in a much more effective way, the controls became internalized. I thought they had and offered what I wanted. This being the only way to obtain the goal, I was at their
mercy. I had to do what they suggested, otherwise I would never get there. If I sincerely wanted to reach the goal, then obviously I would need to follow their advice. I was not allowed to question or criticize. Doubt
was not tolerated. I was encouraged to surrender, to believe.
I believed them because I wanted to believe them. Why should they lie? There was never any option to not believe them, after all they were more
advanced than I.
I began to see actions of the leaders that seemed to be in conflict with the doctrine. Suddenly it appeared that the leaders weren't practicing what they preached. I had measured myself up
against these people and had always come up short. Now I began to see that they didn't use the same yardstick for measuring their own actions. The leaders were taking actions that seemed to say that they were above the
usual moral precepts or the law. They justified those actions by claiming to be somehow superior. The leaders were not held accountable for their actions.
I felt betrayed, cheated, deceived. I had trusted these
people and was hurt by the betrayal of that trust. If I had known from the beginning that I would be lied to and convinced to give my time, energy and money to someone who didn't seem to be following the same guidelines
I was, I never would have joined. I was angry. I was hurt. I felt humiliated. I had given away all of my power to someone who looked on me as a subservient. I suddenly realized that I had boundaries and that these
boundaries had been seriously violated.
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