How Does a Destructive Cult Leader Influence Behavior?
There were many other examples in which Michael Guen (my group’s cult leader) directly manipulated my behavior to make decisions based on his own personal interests. Because we were supposedly doing “character work” in the community and were supposed to be good disciples to our master, we basically were manipulated to trust Michael’s whims and ever changing desires all in the name of our personal growth. I was manipulated to believe that he always had the highest moral outlook and intentions, so I never questioned his integrity with me, despite the fact that in reality he was crossing so many inappropriate boundaries as my teacher. I was so convinced that he was helping me spiritually that I dismissed any intuitive feelings. On top of this, I was always made to feel guilty which is the other component of the manipulation in a cult.
One time I was manipulated by Michael to write an online forum message to protect his reputation. One of his former students who calls himself “Happeh” online set up a website condemning Michael’s behavior when he had a women’s group in Mill Valley. You can view his website here. Happeh in fact had many sound points that he was making. We were always taught to believe that he was an antisocial psychopath (which is ironic, given who Michael Guen is as a person) and all of his internet postings on the blog were deemed as lies. In actuality, Happeh had it right, but he unfortunately did not realize that he was part of a cult. He never was able to make sense of his experience with Michael and was just left with bitterness and confusion like so many people which leave cults without a being “deprogrammed.”
Last year, Michael had one of the male students and me write a response to Happeh in order to show that the allegations were false. Happeh accused Michael of being a sexual predator, manipulator and money grabber. We were encouraged to write an online posting on a martial arts forum called “Empty Flower” in order to “save the lineage” and put a stop to this “energy stealer.” While my fellow classmate and I sat blankly in front of the computer screen, Michael basically dictated the whole thing to us. He could not write it himself because he wanted it to sound more credible coming from a female student. By making sure that we framed it from a woman’s perspective, we would protect Michael from public scrutiny. Here is the response that he manipulated us into claiming as our own:
“As a member of this women’s community for many years, I’ve worked closely with Dr. Guen and witnessed his healing and empowering of women. I’ve only experienced his integrity and respect as a doctor and teacher. In the early nineties, when Dr. Guen separated the women’s and men’s training, it brought up suspicion and jealousy amongst some of the male students. From accounts of his classmates back then, Happeh seldom spoke and in fact demonstrated antisocial tendencies. He never made it beyond the initial confusion of what is the system and what he is coming up with in his own mind. His entire interaction with us was as a sporadic attendee between 1993 and 1995. Dr. Guen hardly knew him when he surfaced online, claiming affiliation with us. His accusations have no real basis in my experience or in the experiences of the many women I have trained with the last ten years. All that we have seen him publish is a disservice to this lineage and the work of all the sincere practitioners of ba gua quan/zhang.”
Afterwards, Michael wrote a message to the community thanking the other classmate and me for sending such a powerful message to “protect the lineage” from someone like Happeh. It was important to stress that Michael made it seem as though we came up with the idea to do this posting. There was definitely an ulterior motive to this manipulation. We were manipulated into discrediting Happeh’s character and basically broadcast him as a sociopath that could not be trusted. Despite the ways in which we outwardly protected Michael, he would often still complain that we lacked the energy to do anything creative or meaningful on our own. He would also say that we were relying on him all the time instead of taking initiative. But in reality, he actually appreciated this. He did not want us to think for ourselves. He needed to direct and control each initiative.
Even if we wanted to create anything genuine ourselves, we actually wouldn’t be able to do so because all of his teachings are based on a pseudo science that he made up. This includes the jargon talk related to his so-called teachings. So the only contribution which we would be capable of is a reiterations of his meaningless jargon talk. This made us little puppets, exactly how he wanted us to be. Dependent little puppets.
– Ruth –
Photo Credit: premesagar via Flickr