We are wired for community. If we disconnect, our bodies will call us back to the sense of human connection that we are wired for, using the unexpected language of inflammation.
I love dancing, so I wasn’t too weirded out when we were asked, in one of my first kundalini classes to dance like no one was watching to some loud bhangra music. What really tweaked me (and likely most newbies in the class) was when the teacher turned the music down and asked us to take a stranger’s hands, face them, and stand close. She asked us to close our eyes and just breathe with this person. Then we were to open them and look into their eyes. Simply look, eyes open, into theirs. After about 30 seconds of panicked awkwardness, something opened and tears began to flow. They flowed from a chamber of the heart that is closed when we live as automatons separated from ourselves and each other. It takes less than two minutes to be reminded that this connection is missing.
The Chronic Hurt: The Community Wound
The “community wound” is a deep one for me. I remember a therapist once telling me, “you know what your problem is…you don’t let anyone in your life feel needed by you.” I was convicted by this because it was true. Fiercely independent, I made my mission self-sufficiency from an early age. Asking for advice, guidance, support, or counsel was a form of weakness, for “others” to indulge, and for me to remain squarely on the dispensing end of. I didn’t know that I was protecting a need so deep and so intense that to even expose it to the light of day would necessitate I come into contact with a deep wellspring of unmet needs and associated grief. Francis Weller, an expert on the matter, pierced my knowing heart when he wrote, “…when these things are finally granted to us, a wave of recognition rises that we have lived without this love, this acknowledgment, and the support of this village all of our lives.”
These days, I relish the opportunity to bring people together. Introducing friends, creating bigger webs, organizing alliances, and marinating in the womb-like energy of kundalini festivals.
As someone who has even identified as a loner, it shocks me that I can be in a room full of like-minded people and find myself on the verge of tears, unrelated to anything specific, for hours on end. Just simply being in that energy.
…when an individual’s particular kind of soulfulness, which is both an instinctual and a spiritual identity, is surrounded by psychic acknowledgement and acceptance, that person feels life and power as never before. – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
It’s no coincidence that A Mind of Your Own reached NY Times Bestseller status because of grassroots energy. Because of a fabric of those who love the truth. This for-the-people-by-the-people success was a part of my healing as much as an opportunity for others to reclaim their health journey.
The Reminder That It’s Missing: Addiction and Hopelessness
We are social animals, and our health and wellness depend on it. We used to wake up to dozens of eyes. Now in our modular homes and digitized worlds, we no longer feel that our tribe is holding us. In fact, missing, often, is the sense that anything is missing. But it is, and our bodyminds know it. According to Jane Leidloff, author of the Continuum Concept, our unmet primal needs may manifest as addiction-like behaviors as we seek to medicate deficiencies like that of the tribe.
In the 70s, Bruce Alexander conducted the famous Rat Park experiments (thanks to Will Hall for sharing this vital science with me!) where he rips the foundation out from under the drug war, the chemical addiction model, and the notion of the addict as mentally and physically disordered. His elegant experiments play on the presumption that rats in an isolated cage with one water and one cocaine dispenser go on to addict and eventually kill themselves. This seemingly demonstrates that chemical nature of the addictive process.
He then went on to conduct subsequent experiments in a “rat park” where the rats had a social network, space, and an enriching environment, in which they no longer chose to consume the cocaine and would even detox themselves voluntarily if they entered the space previously addicted. Watch a short sketch of the data here!
What this tells us is that, even in animals, community is the prevention and the treatment for self-abuse. Many argue this is why and how 12 Step programs enjoy the persistent success that they do. They offer community.
Inflammation and how it calls us back
If addiction and associated depression are a sign of what we are missing on a social level, is this all in the mind? Does the body participate in a meaningful way? Do they both work as one?
An important review on the subject by Eisenberger et al says yes: our behavior impacts our immune system and our immune system guides our behavior and inflammation is the common link. Inflammation has many sources, and evidence suggests that perceived stress, intestinal imbalance, medication exposures, and nutrient deficiencies can all contribute to an uptick in inflammatory messengers. In today’s stimulatory soup, inflammation traffics in the body as a result of everything from infection to that email you’re still obsessing about (non-infection-related inflammation is called “sterile” inflammation) and it has become a chronic phenomenon. In this sense, depression may be the final common pathway for the experience of mismatch with lifestyle – body, mind, and spirit.
What if We Need Each Other to Recover?
Are you in the market for a guru? So many of us are looking for that one person who will tell us just what to do and how to do it. Who will hold out that hand with the magic pill. My friend, James Maskell, invoked Thich Nhat Hanh’s genius when he reminded us that community is the guru of the future. By this, he means that the unique alchemy of our togetherness will ultimately serve to empower, heal, and guide us. The guru is not the expert, and it may not even simply be “within”. The guru is the web, the union, the sum greater than the parts. And it may be the case that we cannot heal fully without this sense of connectedness.
It is through this lens that we need to explore the latest theories on depression. Much of the new literature on depression (since we left the serotonin theory behind) has focused on “sickness syndrome” as a model of depression, or the idea that the depressed individual is inflamed and part of the behaviors that come with that are social withdrawal in order to limit contagion and recover. But what if we need each other to recover? Eisenberger reviews a literature that suggests that inflammation in humans actually drives pro-social behavior in many circumstances, in addition to a heightened sensitivity to positive social cues to help identify “allies”. They write: “To the extent that sensitivity to certain types of social rewards is preserved in inflammatory-related depression, this hypothesis suggests a spared island of motivational significance for these individuals.” In other words, you can be flat out on the couch, and even suicidal, but there is a part of your behavioral sensing mechanism that is still asking for and receptive to human connection.
They also discuss the literature that suggests that social isolation and rejection lead to inflammation. In this way, an awareness of these feelings of social disconnection may actually be the missing link to depression (not everyone with inflammation gets depressed), ultimately driving a type of enhanced responsiveness to “friendly connection” to bring the depressed person back to a place of connectedness. Perhaps this is why and how a trusting therapeutic relationship with a healer carries significant weight in resolving chronic disease.
They conclude with compelling nuance:
Social behavior influences the immune system – Social isolation leads to inflammation (with some groups 2.5 times more likely to have elevated CRP levels!) and specific effects on the immune system. I explore this in my peer-reviewed, indexed paper on the role of mental health in vaccine response. Additionally, a recent paper on “dyadic coping” demonstrated that couples who have high self-reported communication have less reactive immune systems to interpersonal stress.
The immune system influences social behavior – The immune system directs social behavior leading to specific interpersonal sensitivities, motives, and drives. Baseline inflammation renders people (especially women) more sensitive to further inflammatory responses to social stress. So, once sensitized, chronic inflammation leads to a louder call to respond to positive social cues.
The Magic Ingredient: The Tribe
This paper is powerful evidence for the role of perceived social safety and connectedness in healing inflammation. While I advocate for diet as the portal to wellness, I also acknowledge that there are some who may archetypally need to lead with community. In fact, in our online course, Vital Mind Reset, participants claim that community may be the most critical element of the healing journeys they report over the 44 days. The online group is an incredibly powerful healing space, and I am inspired, daily, by the exchanges.
I did the reset diet when A Mind of Your Own came out and felt fantastic. However the changes I’ve experienced while doing the Vital Mind Reset program have been dramatically more than I ever expected. This wasn’t just about diet. It was about changing my mindset and focusing on all of the components that the program addresses. Having the support of other people working to change their lives as well was also invaluable.
Thank you – each and every one of you – on Kelly’s team, all so precious, kind and compassionate. I have seen words of interaction on the Facebook page, and absolutely love the threads of conversation there. This is going to do wonderful work offering a Safe Haven for people to come, and start to take baby steps towards control of their health and worlds… It is so important. You are making waves, you guys, let me tell you… I love you all!
If we begin to look at our symptoms – fatigue, pain, fogginess, worry, irritability, flatness – as an invitation to examine the state of our match with the evolutionary mandates of movement, conscious nutrition, rest, connectedness, play, then we can begin to appreciate the meaning of our symptoms in our own story. What are my symptoms trying to tell me about me and my experience in this life? Odds are, the DSM will fast lose its grip on you when you come into the healing space of togetherness.
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Adapted from Kelly Brogan’s Website
I take exception to your article. You are trying to prescribe what is “normal” behavior. You are at least setting the stage for psychiatric policing.
People have reasons for why they behave the way they do. Much of it has to do with what realistic options are available.
But there is another deeper issue here, children are exploited and abused in the middle-class family, because that is how the middle-class family originally emerged. Every society inscribes upon its members, both children and adults. But the middle-class family is unique in that people deliberately choose to have children, in order to give themselves an adult identity. And then as there usually are problems, the children have to absorb the stigmas.
So when you are tying to say what is normal, you are putting out a doctrine which is going to fall upon children.
So a parent feels embarrassed by a child, and then soon that child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Or a parent finds that their relationship with their child has broken down, so soon a doctor is hired and that child is diagnosed with ADHD and placed in drugs. And then another typical case is you have parents who have lived on street drugs and alcohol, and then they got Saved, and so now their child is looked to as the one who is not on board, and so it ends up in Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren’s Mental Health Ministry, setting their child up for the same suicide that came to Warren’s son Matthew.
All of this works by turning the accusatory finger back onto the child victim. But then your ideas amount to the same thing, or this is how it would work out.
If someone has a stigmatized identity they have to defend themselves by shutting of most social contact to protect themselves from additional material harm.
Redress for Wrongs will solve the problems. But you are not interested in that, just like others who go along with the ideas of therapy, recover, and healing are not. So most people end up in Recovery and Religion, believing that they themselves are the problem.
Our own bill to counter Murphy
A lot of people who turn to the “mental health” industry do so because of family trauma, which leads to become distrusting of personal relationships. So they seek a professional for that connection, where the client lays down their burden to a stranger and pays them, and in doing so, risks relinquishing their power. Then, social trauma will more than likely incur due to stigma and marginalization–at least, that has been the case for so many.
The quantum leap from this state of being and spiritual injury to social connectedness is profound. I think, first, it is sound healing to learn to develop self-respecting and self-loving relationship with one’s self. Then, a person is prepared to offer respect and love to others. Otherwise, dependence is likely to develop, energy gets drained, conflict either ensues or anger is repressed, and we’re back to square one.
I believe that people need to be loved into being by others before they can begin to love themselves. In families that function well I think this happens normally. In families where trauma rears its ugly head I feel this becomes problematic. I think that a true therapist is a person who loves people into being so that they can learn to love themselves. It’s in that experience of acceptance and being loved, with proper and good boundaries, that people can begin seeing their own potential and worth. I suspect that it’s the rare individual out there in the world these days who can do this kind of loving of others, without prejudices and judgment and assumptions, so that the person can come to see their selves for who they are.
Stephen, I appreciate your thought-provoking comment. Brought up responses in me right away. I’ve split your post into two—re love & family and regarding what is a “good therapist”–in order to respond to each part, they both carry a lot of energy.
“I believe that people need to be loved into being by others before they can begin to love themselves. In families that function well I think this happens normally. In families where trauma rears its ugly head I feel this becomes problematic.”
From this, I’d infer that you believe that we are born needing to learn to self-love, rather than the idea that we are born naturally self-loving? Personally, from my perspective, I actually think it’s the newborn who is there to teach love to the family, not the other way around.
We have no judgments at birth, and we only know to gravitate toward or cry for what we need. Intuitively it is our needs which matter most, as infants, and we inherently demonstrate the power to have our needs known. To me, that is self-love in that it is self-caring—we expect to have our basic needs met, which we have a right to expect. What happens next will determine a lot, it’s a fork in the road.
I think when a parent, or whomever the adult in the situation, does not respond to this cry or reaching out to get a need met, or worse yet, who punishes this action of crying (or somehow getting attention) for what the child needs because the kid knows of no other way to communicate, then we are actually sending another message to undermine the kid’s natural intuition to expect his/her basic needs to be met—that he/she, in fact, does not have the power to have his/her needs met, and that it might be dangerous to ask for this.
From that point on, they will start to feel undeserving, deprived, resentful, jilted by life, etc.—tons of negative messages accompany this and internalize from it–and something will go awry either physical, emotionally, or experientially, because that is not at all true, we do have the power to have our needs met, I believe this is innate wisdom with which we are born.
So not being responded to, or being responded negatively to, as an infant becomes a split between innate spirit wisdom and this newly developing brain and ego. (Just an aside here–actually, I believe healing is about bringing these two back in synch, so our bodies and minds can integrate our soul truth, which is a much broader and universal truth than ego and intellectual truth).
When adults withhold meeting the needs of a child, that is when the child will forget their natural self-love, and more than likely, shift to into self-loathing. Chronic despair, agitation, frustration, rage, and abusive self-talk will perpetuate, because our self-love was not validated. That’s how I see it working. Healing our spirits brings us back to self-love, because we can feel our hearts opening and expanding. Often, this epiphany leads to a deluge of tears, as releasing old fears and resentments, to come back to our innate wisdom from which trauma has separated us. It’s a really beautiful feeling, and it sets one on a new course in life.
“I think that a true therapist is a person who loves people into being so that they can learn to love themselves. It’s in that experience of acceptance and being loved, with proper and good boundaries, that people can begin seeing their own potential and worth. I suspect that it’s the rare individual out there in the world these days who can do this kind of loving of others, without prejudices and judgment and assumptions, so that the person can come to see their selves for who they are.”
First, I don’t really believe in the concept of ‘a true therapist.’ Different people can provide support for different people in different ways. I seriously doubt anyone at all can help everyone, universally, given our vastly diverse nature. That seems like a stretch to me.
For me, a therapist is actually someone who helps a person solve a puzzle, to get to the root of an issue, so that they can move on. I do not at all see a therapist as someone to replace love missing in one’s life. That’s true codependence with an enormous power differential, which can be terribly damaging for the vulnerable client.
And, that is what I was taught in my MFT training and I rejected it hook, line, and sinker. I think that is presumptuous and self-aggrandizing, and exactly what is wrong with the entire field. That is a therapist who craves love from others, to my mind, to which I would say, “beware.”
I do agree that an effective therapist would have a loving heart and an open mind, willing to learn a new perspective (the client’s world) and would also respect a client enough to be authentic with them–as opposed to withholding, for the sake of keeping power in the relationship. Not easy, but doable, with hardy inner work.
Boundaries solid, yes, and flexible. One never knows where a healing process will go, that’s the interesting part of it, I think. A good therapist knows that in a healing relationship, everyone heals and grows, not just the client.
I totally agree with you about effective therapists.
The best therapists I’ve ever known were two friends of mine. Both were chaplains in hospital work. One was a nun who took up for those of us in the Chaplaincy department who were lowly laypeople as opposed to the ordained priest and the other nuns in the department. In the hierarchy of the Church laypeople are always beneath priests and religious. This nun never subscribed to this idea. She was our motherly mentor and protector who fought fiercely for we lay chaplains. She was absolutely wonderful and the most understanding person you’d ever want to meet but she could give you that stern eye when she knew you weren’t living up to your full capacity. She’s been dead for the past 13 years and is sorely missed by everyone who had any contact with her.
The second person was a woman lay chaplain who later went on to become a social worker. She’s responsible for helping hundreds of people in our state become social workers. Fortunately she is still living and still holding my feet to the fire to make sure that I’m as honest with myself ad I deserve to be.
As you state so well, these two women had loving hearts, open minds, a willingness to learn from those they dealt with on a daily basis and many was the day that the two of them were authentic enough to take me to task for less than good ministry on my part. I learned so much from these two women and they stood by me in times of great stress and difficulty. If I was any good at all as a chaplain it is because I had their love and guidance and example. Definitely, “a good therapist knows that in a leaning relationship everyone heals and grows, not just the client.” A good therapist can be found where many least expect to find them.
“In the hierarchy of the Church laypeople are always beneath priests and religious. This nun never subscribed to this idea.”
I think when someone disregards an established hierarchy in order to do their soul work and help others, then you have someone embodying their true spirits, as an example to others. These sound like truly great women, Stephen, I really appreciate (and feel) the enormous gratitude you express for knowing them, and for the role they have played in your life. Beautiful!
(And to MIA staff, I send my gratitude for the editing feature!!)
Just a little story about the nun to show you her greatness as a human being. She was a Benedictine and in her particular religious house the sisters either became teachers or medical nurses. She became a nurse. This order owned a small hospital in a small Southern town and she was sent there to be the head of the hospital. At that time the hospital was divided in half, one half for Whites and one half for African Americans. One night a young African American woman was brought in and required hospitalization in order to survive. The only bed in the entire hospital was on the White side. When one of her sisters asked her what they were going to do my nun said, “What do you think we’re going to do? She’s going into the available bed.” The other nun was scandalized and stated that they couldn’t do that. My nun said that they could and would do so. The young woman survived and went on with her life but my nun was vilified in the small town newspaper and White people spit on her when she went out in public. Her Mother Superior called her back to the mother house in shame and told her that she would never, ever hold a supervisory position ever again and sent her away to a lowly position in another hospital.
Thanks for sharing this, Stephen, I appreciate this story on a lot of levels, and of course mostly due to your point of illustrating true courage, selflessness, humility, and grace, to the point of saintliness, from what you describe. I had the enormous honor and pleasure once to meet and speak with Sasheen Littlefeather, and she told me an extremely inspiring story about Mother Teresa, for whom she worked in San Francisco at one time, which popped up in my mind when I read your story here. There are some really amazing people in the world who demonstrate so much power, simply from their faith, and their ability to love unconditionally.
But to bring this back to at least the topic of this website, in general, I can’t help but to ask myself what is up with these adults who spit on people, and authority figures who shame those in their fold, for their virtues, as if they were abominations? Even metaphorically, adults “spit on” each other all the time, and often simply for being virtuous and helpful to others. Jealousy? That’s one guess.
To me, while we shy away from the phrase “mental illness” around here, I’d feel compelled to explore this further, because it is behavior like this that makes our society crazy and crazy-making, because it discourages people from being all they can be. It’s toxic and traumatic, regardless of one’s virtues.
Can’t we do better than this? The response you describe to the good works of this nun is sheer madness, to my mind. And sadly, it is all-too-common.
(And while I do appreciate being able to edit, now, it would be really great if we could get the comments to post in order from top to bottom, so the dialogue can be read chronologically, rather than kind of scrambled and in reverse).
I wonder if this was one of the driving forces behind the communes that the young people of the 60’s created? This was the time of the rise of technology. Although technology has done tremendous things for people in so many ways, I’ve caught myself thinking that there are many drawbacks to what technology has done for us and to us. Where once families sat on the porch in the summer evening visiting with one another and the neighbors now each member of the family is in their own room, involved with some kind of technology. Every kid has their own television, video games, computer, phone, etc. I’ve watched tables in restaurants where everyone there is involved with their phone rather than with one another. Why go out to eat if all you’re going to do is deal with your phone? We’ve become isolated within our technology. In families both parents work and the kids are involved in all kinds of activities in and out of school, but how often do families do things as families? No longer do we have three generations living under one roof and often children have never met their own grandparents. What happened to the experience of an entire neighborhood looking out for all the kids of that neighborhood? Your mom always knew what you’d done because the people in the neighborhood kept her informed. Many of my neighbors will not speak to me when we pass in the halls and I say hello to them.
Our society has lost all the threads that once connected us to a larger experience. I suspect that this is not healthy at all if it’s true that we are created to be communal animals.
I agree totally with this blog post. It’s kinda obvious, isn’t it? Disenfranchisement on any societal level happens for a reason. I highly doubt it is ever entirely from “within.” In fact, my guess is that disenfranchisement is 90% caused by outer forces that act on the individual.
We cannot be too quick to assume the family is at fault, either. I have spoken to many survivors who tell me they came from intact and happy families that were attacked by outside influence such as psychiatry. This is a powerful influence that attacks on so many fronts that even the healthiest of families will break down. Another example might be that of a child who is deeply harmed by a non-family member such as a sports coach, boss, sex partner, or other kids. Sadly, psychiatry’s default is to blame the parents. Parents might know they are not at fault, and then, grab hold of the “chemical imbalance” theory just to fend of the accusations of the therapists, or the Patient Under the influence of therapy. It’s a cozy little answer that digs that patient deeper into the hole of the Revolving Door Syndrome.
MH “care” creates Treatment Ghettos. Most of us have lived in them, and know it’s a way to isolate patients and keep them ignorant. It’s a great persuasive technique, too.
Leaving MH “care” we are stripped of not only the surrounding “ghetto,” which now sees us as a “dangerous” challenge to their false notion of “mental illness,” but we are also seen as a threat in society in general since we defy the notion that patients must be medically subdued forever, or else we are “untreated” brutes to be feared and loathed.
For me at least, that led to two years of silence, no conversation at all, period. People kept me at arm’s length and would only “text.” All I wanted was to be seen as human.
I credit MH “care” for destroying the social skills I possessed already. Now, I am working to get that back. Even carrying on a conversation these days presents a huge challenge for me. This was by all means not the case before MH abused me.
What I do, when I can, is to practice with customer service people and tech support. I need to practice the very basics. Don’t interrupt. Don’t repeat myself. Make my point and then stop, don’t go on and on as if at any moment, “they” will be rude, roll their eyes, or cut me off abruptly. And I have to realize that THERE ARE NO STAFF now. I don’t need to constantly back up everything I say. MH “care” meant I was rarely believed, seen as “delusional.” This is why I tend to get defensive when I don’t need to. It’s a tough habit to break.
Julie you wrote,
Disenfranchisement on any societal level happens for a reason. I highly doubt it is ever entirely from “within.” In fact, my guess is that disenfranchisement is 90% caused by outer forces that act on the individual.
We cannot be too quick to assume the family is at fault, either. I have spoken to many survivors who tell me they came from intact and happy families that were attacked by outside influence such as psychiatry.
From having worked locally with people in “treatment ghettos”, and in the closely coupled evangelical outreach ministries, I would say that the majority of these intact and happy families are operating at the expense of the child. If the parents divorce at least one of them might start to get real. But as long as they stay married, the denial systems and the lies still operate, and often the child is the one sacrificed.
Very hard to even imagine situations, even with outside adversity, abuse, and trauma, where a family member ends up being impacted by psychiatry, unless the entire family had already started to revolve around the concept that that person “has a problem”.
But, the Self-Reliance Ethic is so completely encompassing, that very few people are willing to defy it and show what was going on in the family. And remember, it is not just your parents or mine, it is The Family, that which is held up as an ideal, and which is entrusted with the authority to psychologically maim and scar children for the sake of the Self-Reliance Ethic. And the reason that some survivors do become conscious of what has happened is that sometimes there are outside mitigations, and also because the parents are always operating in Bad Faith. They are not living up to their own values, they are not admitting that they have choices, and the child comes to see this and as such rejects their views.
If find Dr. Brogan’s practice, predicated on the idea that clients need remedial instruction in how to live, instead of legal representation, to be a continuation of the familial abuse.
Awareness has started when you will no longer talk to therapists, or any other kinds of commiserators, and instead will only talk to an attorney.
Hi Dr Kelly, thanks for the great article.
I think one of the things that 12 Step Recovery facilitates is honest human expression without the risk of interference. The 12 Step Recovery “Promises” also predict that “Fear of people (and economic insecurity) will leave us”.
(In my experience Buddhist Practice itself can offer the solutions).
Rat Park is also very interesting.
People don’t come to a doctor’s office for no reason. And the people who have some history with Psychotherapy or Psychiatry, they are usually people who’s chance at a legitimated adult identity has been shattered. And in the overwhelming majority of situations this comes down to familial child abuse and exploitation.
So the last thing they need is to be lectured to about Community, The Tribe, or Kundalini.
Leading them to believe that they can restore their place in the world, without having to redress the wrongs and abuses committed against them, is a con. It is not unlike those who lead people to believe that they can find happiness with street drugs, alcohol, or psychiatric medications.
And I feel that this illustrates what Jeffrey Masson says,
“The practice of psychotherapy is wrong because it is profiting off of another person’s misery.”
I mean, you are either a lawyer or a political activist who can help people gain a legal victory, or at least engage in the fight to stop such abuses, or you are taking money off of people by telling them something which is completely incorrect and very dangerous. You are telling them that the locus of their problems in within themselves, in their own limitations and in their own ignorance. You are telling them that they are to blame, and that the sooner they admit this, the sooner things get better.
When in fact there is nothing wrong with them, it is simply that their chance to find a place in this world was attacked and destroyed by people who unjustly used power over them, and because of this, they do not have a legitimated adult identity, and then every doctor, psychotherapist, and psychiatrist who deals with them is just continuing this abuse.
I’m all for Kundalini. But I find your entire medical practice and your way of advertising it to be PREDATORY!
Additionally, I find your brand of kundalini to be predatory. 3HO founded by Yogi Bhajan, may have some excellent practices. But the deeper you go, the closer you come to “cult,” conversion, and corruption.
While you are a strong woman, there are many vulnerable women who are following you. To point them to 3HO is to invite them to forgo their dreams and lives and dedicate themselves to a questionable organisation.
Certainly, the exterior teachings have value and worth – they are adapted from centuries of yogic practice. The closer one gets to the inner circle, the more corrupt it becomes. 3HO is rife with sexual and power abuse and scandals – by the Yogi himself, and by his “Khalsas,” who are now running the organisation. Women gave up their peak childbearing years to serve the yogi, and have sued him over it, and the power and sexual abuse he (and his teachers) perpetrated on them.
http://projects.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/news/cityregion/24671927-41/yogi-khalsa-bhajan-leaders-members.csp and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-hassan/the-disturbing-mainstream_b_667026.html
You are a leader of women. You’re attracted to this? Like psychiatry, it is a form of sexual social control!
Several of the standard cult practices, as written about by Robert Jay Lipton in his excellent “Thought Reform” in the 1950’s, are all present in 3HO: Mileu control (stay in the ashram, dependant upon the ashram, new name, new clothes), Mystical Manipulation (the miraculous way you FEEL when practising in the group, love bombing), Demand for Purity (again, new name, diet, practice, service to the group), Sacred Science (Our truth is the one truth, those who leave the group cease to exist), Doctrine over Person (the practice, the guru, the teacher hold precedence over the individual, even when traumatising), and Dispensing of Existence (you are only Graced when you come to us).
The Sikh community is in an uproar over the “Sikh-like” practices and false claims of the group, which they see as a corruption of their own faith, creating the 3HO monstrosity a la carte out of Sikh and Hindu practice. The Sikh’s are distressed to be associated with such corruption, like the sex scandals, and ashram tactics and practices.
One of the minor points of contention is that the 3HO prefers vegetarianism – which, in your own studies, leaves a vulnerable human in a high-carb, low fat volatile state. Easy to manipulate. The Sikhs disagree with this practice as well – readiness to defend the people is a spiritual obligation in Sikhism, and that requires the eating of meat, to stay strong and healthy. Your own practice for brain health advocates the grass fed meat proteins. But 3HO wants to strip people of that layer of health. Why? Because it’s “pure”? (see “Demand for Purity,” Lipton, above) Or because it makes the congregation easier to convert and control?
When asked by his 3HO Team Leaders if he could show them the finances, Yogi Bhajan put in a tearful face, and said something like, “Oh my Beloveds, I cannot show you the books, it is too embarrassing – we are barely able to continue.” As a result, his community was shamed and fundraising efforts were doubled – all the while the Yogi was worth $14 million.
Is this the kind of corruption you wish to associate with? Sexual predator and con man? And the Khalsas he trained up to walk in his footsteps?
Now – your personal practice is your decision. But when you are in the business of helping vulnerable women, I recommend you keep your religion private. In following you, how easy it would be to lead women into this cult – via a simple practice – when they go to a festival, get caught up and change their whole lives because they’ve “found the answer.” The cult is designed to “love bomb” and entice. Even if just one woman sells her house, leaves her family, and joins the organisation, spends decades of her life serving the group – do you want the responsibility of knowing you led her there?
As someone who has personally experienced cult tactics and tries to educate people about them, I recommend that you continue to keep your personal practices private, regardless of what “community” you wish to build. OR, if you insist on building community with your practice – get your own yoga teachers and start something new. Hold your own “Vital Mind Reset” Yoga festivals. Do not affiliate with a corrupt organisation.
And for yourself, consider your own practice. It may feel blissful to give your energy to this group – but the draining of energy feels much the same as the building of energy – bliss is felt anytime the energy moves.
“The best way to learn about a specific group is to locate a former member, or at least a former member’s written account.” (Hassan, 1990).
I invite you to explore: http://www.wackoworldofyogibhajan.net/
I have the deepest of respect for what you are doing to transform women’s health, and mental wellness. But you are in an upstream battle, and what you attach to can make your work easier or more difficult. You are already considered “fringe” for your views on vaccination & psych drugs (I’ve sent people to your site, and, in the dominant paradigm style, they say, “Oh but she’s an anti-vaxxer! I couldn’t do that!”) – take care not to lose credibility by association with questionable and corrupt communities.
JanCarol, THANK YOU! Can I share this? I collect stuff on cults. Back when I was actually in one I learned one very valuable lesson, that both Eastern and Western practices are riddled with cults or cult-like groups that are not religious.
I had not heard of 3HO. New ones pop up all the time. I am familiar with Robert Lipton’s landmark work. I am also an ex-Moonie (1979) but walked out on my own. I later learned it’s rare that anyone does that.
The mental health ghetto (notably, day treatment) has many cult-like features.
I have been on Dr. Brogan’s mailing list for a while. Though her blog entries are impressive I am not too thrilled with the constant sales pitches. There are other red flags as well. This is not to say that the information she shares has no value. I think it has great value, or much of it does, but I fear exactly as you do.
We must be vigilant these days. Taking control of your health, making your own decisions (not overly relying on Doctor OR Guru), and Freedom of Thought are essential.
Thank you Julie! Sure, just give me a by-line “JanCarol of ShamanExplorations.com.”
Interestingly, I got ISP banned from wackyworldofyogibhajan shortly after posting this link. I have no idea why they would ban me, when they provide helpful information which could help prevent people from falling into belief traps, and that’s my goal, too. So read what you can before you post that link! It makes me think that the 3HO rabbit hole might go very deep indeed, if they are afraid of a stranger on MIA.
We are beset upon all sides – the devices, media, psychiatry – 3HO is probably a better place to spend 20 years than lost in the TV set or Paxil and neuroleptics. But if I were a public figure (like Dr. Brogan), asking people to listen to me publicly, I could not say, “HERE! THIS!” to any belief system.
Tip: any time you’re presented with a new Guru or “school” just Google the name of the school/teacher and the word “abuse” or “scam.” Something like 62% of male American yoga teachers have had sex with their students. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is similar in meditation, as well. Especially if there is a charismatic leader.
I love yoga; I have a decades strong kundalini practice of my own. But it’s my practice, and my own body is my guru. So I’m not coming to this discussion from a place of “superstition” or “fear of Hinduism” or other xenophobic approaches. My concerns are more about the power structures, and abuse of those powers.
Communities of people feeling safe enough and confident enough to speak to each other out of their lived experience will eventually see through and find ways to overcome the oppressive pseudo scientific structures financed by the Oligarchs and rammed down our throats by their foot soldiers “the paid off compliant pseudo-educated loaded with authority puppet class”. (There may hardly be left another way to make a living) Believe it or not these structures include besides the American Psychiatric Association,also the American Medical Association,the American Dental Association , Agriculture and food industry’s , add your favorite, the Oligarchs spread oppression throughout their vast people controlling “enterprizes”.
Medicalizing the experience of injustice. It will only stop when people start turning to legal and political activism, instead of Therapy, Recovery, Healing, or Getting Saved.