The C word

I’ve been traveling a lot the past few months.  I’ve seen old friends and made new ones.  I met up with a friend, Claire, who visited me a few years ago. She had remembered, but I had forgotten, that we had talked about cohousing. I was excited to move there in the future and she knew all about it. Her mother had helped form one. Now I”m kicking myself – I should have asked to speak to her and get more details of what it is really like.  Her mother left because of divorce, selling the assets, etc. She lives nearby and stays in touch and still has friends there.

Then yesterday I made a new pal. I was over at an old friend (actually Rob who is in the Italy book in this blog).  He had a friend named Jesse over for drinks.. They asked me to tell them my story of woe.  I didn’t really want to, trying to leave it behind but I did a quick summary.

Both times, when I told the story yesterday and when I told Claire why I left, they both immediately said, “That sounds like a cult,”

Basically, the groupthink is one reason I left. The group went one way, a pretty dark direction which these pals agreed with me – not a reasonable way to think. I stood up to it and the focus was on me instead of the underlying issues.  So, it did feel like a cult.  

Any group can become toxic. Any group can become cult like. That’s why I will try to shift from my experience which is now officially over as a homeowner of cohousing, and share what I have learned in my research about cults (which verify what did happen, that the atmosphere was toxic and you were not allowed to question).

About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
This entry was posted in bad behavior and bullies of any age, group think and cults, psychopathy, narcissicism, and personality disorders in cohousing, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The C word

  1. Flower says:

    Father Yod or YaHoWha founded a “spiritual commune” known as the Source Family. They lived communally in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills and he died in 1975. He was the American owner of one of the country’s first health food restaurants–serving gourmet vegetarian cuisine, on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The Source Family was heavily influenced by the teachings of Yogi Bhajan and the astrological age of Aquarius. The Family practiced communal living in Southern California and later in Hawaii. He was also lead singer of the commune’s experimental psychedelic rock band, Ya Ho Wha 13. Many of the cult members formed polyamorous relationships; not surprisingly, the most extreme example was Father Yod, who took 14 “spiritual wives.” Here’s a link to an article in the LA Times.

  2. CJ says:

    yoga and health food restaurants and stores seemed to be the gateway. I recently met some cult members from a health restaurant. They are mostly broken up but still hold on to some interesting beliefs. I’ll blog more about cults since I’ve learned, and experienced, so much!

    • Flower says:

      Yup and I heartily agree. Yoga, health food and anything and everything alternative as long as it isn’t mainstream. It’s so predictable and cliché to a nauseating degree. I grew up in Calif., though and experienced those behaviors, which I don’t tend to associate with anything remotely positive. The yoga classes that I briefly attended were more exercise based, although I was aware of the origins and the hippie element and I’d rather study on my own than deal with group dynamics that foster cult like followers. I’m just not a follower. It’s interesting how many people have tried to influence me though. It’s funny how initially they seem to think that I’m a soft, delicate flower until they pull their BS and realize that I’m a tough cookie when I tell them to flock off like the birds.

  3. Flower says:

    If you research Yogi Bhajan who I mentioned above in my comment about Father Yod and the Source Family, he was referred to as an Indian-born yoga guru and American entrepreneur, who introduced his version of Kundalini Yoga to the US. He was the “spiritual” director of the 3HO Foundation (and worldwide business ventures), established in 1969 in southern Calif. He was also accused posthumously of sexual abuse by hundreds of his female followers. An investigation called the Olive

    Branch Report found the allegations most likely true. His brand of Sikhism appealed to the hippie culture of the era who formed the bulk of his early converts.
    In 2019, Bhajan’s former secretary Pamela Saharah Dyson published the book Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage: My Life with Yogi Bhajan, reporting that she and other women had sexual relationships with him. There were articles as well exposing the yoga guru of sexual abuse and rape of female followers and assistants. Here’s a link:

  4. CJ says:

    It is so common with cult leaders to preach abstinence and say they are abstinent but secretly sleeping with many members. Unfortunately it usually comes out that it was not consensual.

    • Flower says:

      So true. Most people would associate “abstinence” with Christian religious groups, not with eastern religions. I find it interesting, but it certainly is cliché that “hippie” culture embraced this non-conventional lifestyle. Most people that I met who attached themselves to an “alternative” lifestyle were people who were irresponsible, condescending, arrogant, entitled and manipulative. So I don’t associate them with anything remotely positive. I wish most would consider therapy, but they never take that step because that probably would mean that they would have to take some responsibility for their behaviors.

  5. Flower says:

    Another popular Kundalini yoga teacher was Katie Griggs, aka Guru Jagat. She was referred to as a celebrity yoga teacher in L.A (not a surprise). She founded Ra Ma Yoga. She died last year. Former members called it a cult. Apparently she exploited her loyal followers under the guise of improving “wellness”, etc. I listened to a podcast about her and read a host of articles. All it seems to take is a “celebrity” endorsement and people follow like sheep.

  6. CJ says:

    I never heard of her and woman leaders are harder to find but in my experience with two cult like organizations forming – they were women! It takes a big moment like an arrest or a death for most to see it is a cult. However, that guy in charge of the polygamist off-track Mormon cult is in jail and still leading by sending out weekly taped broadcasts! Scary. I’ll check this out.

    • Flower says:

      There are women leaders out there. I’ve read stories about criminals still leading despite being in jail. Imagine all of the damage someone like Jim Jones could have done if he had access to the Internet and podcasts. There are plenty of people who operate this way now. There are a lot of cults. It strikes me as odd that it would take a big moment like an arrest or a death before most realize it is a cult.

  7. CJ says:

    You lose your sense of self and they break you down so the pattern has to break for most to leave the cult. Sad and we’ve seen those that hold on to the end and die with the leader. You mentioned earlier about celebrities – cults try to get celebrities to make them look legit. They court them. And you’re right – therapy is much better than cults but that makes you look at the truth whereas cults make you feel wonderful (at first) and then tell you what to do so no decisions, no problems.

    • Flower says:

      Have you ever heard of Synanon? I vaguely recalled the name, but had to look it up. Whew! It started out benign and was originally established as a drug rehab program. Then morphed into a militaristic paranoid cult called the Church of Synanon. It was considered one of the most dangerous and violent cults in America. They were around a long time. It disbanded in 1991 due to members being convicted of criminal activities (including attempted murder) and retroactive loss of its tax-exempt status with the IRS due to financial misdeeds, destruction of evidence, and terrorism.

      I’ve been researching and re-reading articles about it. I watched a video interview of the attorney Paul Morantz. Two cult members placed a de-rattled rattlesnake his mailbox in retaliation/revenge because he had successfully brought suit on behalf of people who were being held against their will by Synanon. The snake bit him, and he was hospitalized. This incident, along with the press coverage, prompted an investigation by the police and government into Synanon. He wrote a couple of books and has a website, although he recently died. Escape: My Life Long War Against Cults – September 26, 2013 and From Miracle to Madness 2nd. Edition: The True Story of Charles Dederich and Synanon. There’s a lot of info out there. Check it out.

    • Flower says:

      “You mentioned earlier about celebrities – cults try to get celebrities to make them look legit. They court them.”

      I was very dedicated and volunteered for a well known environmental group when I was a teenager and in my first year of college. I have an environmental background and education. I was invited to a party/gathering with a few celebrities there. One was well known and the other was starting out. I said that to illustrate that I know that everyone–non-profits, including cults, court celebrities or seek endorsements and I understand the reasons for it. I was naive then about how it worked. I tended to feel that people should be concerned about the environment and that would be their main reason for involvement. I later discovered it is often more about posturing, position, who you know and how well connected you are and very political. The word “virtue signaling” comes to mind. I was a “worker bee” and a true believer and those types of people tend to get squashed by the people who seek accolades and endless praise and want all of the credit.

      I worked on environmental projects after college and then became alienated. Activist tends to be a word that I associate with politicking which is not positive to me. The people who want to change others or change systems. It’s so egotistical. They need to work on themselves and seek to be the change that they want to see in others.

  8. CJ says:

    Perfect example of a cult. Starts out fine and then keep sliding over to terrible stuff. Yes, I’ve seen some of those shows and am sad to hear he died. I didn’t know you could de-rattle a snake and why? I guess so he wouldn’t hear it as he went to his mailbox.
    The woman who wrote the book on Cult language now has a fun podcast called “Sounds like a Cult”. It is informative but also can be playful as they dive into things that are more fan crazy than cults (like Disney!). Her father was briefly part of Synanon which peaked her interest.

    • Flower says:

      I agree about the rattle snake. Most people probably wouldn’t consider that someone would do that, yet there are a lot of crazy, destructive people out there.

      The cult language author was on a podcast that I listened to when I was knee-deep in them last winter. Then I started having trouble with the site, so I stopped plus it was warming up. As winter sets in I’ll probably read more.
      There’s a huge body of work out there when you start to delve into cults. The podcast referred to her book. I’ve read a few of her articles. I always read the negative reviews as well when considering a book. The critiques mentioned factual errors, poor research, lack of evidence to back up her claims and that she completely misrepresents the historical facts of the Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco to fit her narrative. She writes well though.

      I would recommend Dr. Robert Jay Lifton who wrote, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China. He’s authored many books and is referenced in the interview with the attorney above.

      Here’s the link to the interview with the attorney Paul Morantz who I mentioned above:

  9. CJ says:

    I’ll have to read the reviews. I didn’t think of errors, I just liked her new approach through language. Making a new language is a way to control. I’ll look at those reviews and check out this other book. Thanks!

  10. CJ says:

    Totally triggering me about environmental work. I saw the dazzle effect of someone who works harder than the rest. In the podcast on cults, they talk about non-profits – they get people in and pay little to nothing with some of the same tactics. You are making me look back to my days – I never thought anything was wrong until another volunteer didn’t drink the koolaid and the board insisted we get paid for everything we do.

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