How is the Pseudo Personality Created in a Destructive Cult?
Cult literature teaches that the normal personality is suppressed over time and what is replaced is called the pseudo personality. Through introducing the doctrines and beliefs, the member goes through a process called “unfreezing.” This is when the old self is discouraged from coming through, even to the point of being punished. People are encouraged to bear their souls during the class discussions, and oftentimes we were required to share memories from our childhood along with any current relationship issues were experiencing. Through dis-empowering the old memories and beliefs, there is space created by the cult leader to begin to really infiltrate the member’s thoughts. That’s where the change came in for the next step.
Conveniently, the supposed teaching was all about “change” and letting go of your old belief system. Michael used hypnosis during acupuncture sessions and through classes to reinforce this new belief system. He called it “building a new culture” and he made it seem that it was all good and that we were breaking new grounds. We were actually taught to let go of the binds from our parents’ beliefs because they were holding us back. In fact, my own chapter was going to be about how I was breaking away from them in order to create a new independent person. He was actually breaking down my beliefs in order to first demonize my past and my parents and then change what I believed to suit his own agenda.
Finally, the last process is called “refreezing” where the new identity is really crystallized and reinforced. This pseudo personality was actually created over time. But it began with day one when I attended the intro night at the senior woman’s house. That is when I was pummeled with the spiritual jargon, the talk that would eventually allow me to feel more special than other people, as well as more spiritual. I was programmed to believe that I deserved a man that was my spiritual equal. So I began to evaluate Karl more closely. And man, Ruth 2 was incredibly critical of everyone else and herself, but never her beloved leader!
Michael hypnotized us over time through using long lectures in class. We would often have a glazed look on our faces as we were under his trance spell. We would get up for the supposedly special women’s training and feel so energized. But another way in which he manipulated our minds to create the cult identity was through the one-on-one acupuncture sessions. I began taking them regularly around November 2011. I was encouraged to do so, like all the main women in the group. He is a licensed acupuncturist and claims himself to be a medical practitioner. When you are on the table, you are completely vulnerable to whatever he is doing to you, whether it is placing needles in you or exposing you to hidden ideas. To this day, I don’t know what exactly what was put in me, but I know that it was changing me fundamentally.
I saw some of the people in the class change dramatically when it came to their personality. I introduced one young woman in her early twenties and I am sad that I helped recruit this woman. When she came into the teaching, she was a happy go lucky kind of girl, bright and innocent and very loving towards people. She smoked pot and drank and wanted to have a good time. Over time, I have seen her become more hard, suspicious and critical. She doesn’t smile anymore. She was encouraged to quit her pot smoking and cigarettes, along with the booze because she wasn’t “contained” enough or spiritual enough. And now she spews out the jargon like the rest of them. She also blames her parents more and talks about needing to break free from their invisible grasp.
Steve Hassan’s BITE model was another piece of information that came to me through the cult literature and discussions. The BITE stands for Behavior, Information, Thoughts and Emotions. Michael was controlling all of them. The first way in which he controlled us was through our behavior, and this was done under the guise of “character work.” He was always talking about refining our characters and trying to be better people by observing our hidden motivations. But in actuality, it gave him a free pass to make constant corrections and criticisms about our behaviors. We were expected to submit to his insightful knowledge and trust him like “children being cradled in a mother’s arms.” He wanted to shape us to behave in a certain way. This was clear.
In addition, he controlled the information that we received. He was always promising us more about “the system” and then withholding that information. Now that I look back at it, I have come to believe that he may have been lying about his relationship with the lineage itself. Perhaps there was no real master disciple relationship. We do not have any hard evidence that this sacred system even existed and it remains a mysterious pseudo-science that no one can really prove. He said that his lineage brother He Jin Han believes that Michael made up part of the teaching and this could very well be the case. They both had a falling out and are in limited communication with each other. So it is convenient that you cannot prove where it comes from.
In addition, Michael Guen manipulated our thoughts by making us believe that we came up with ideas on our own. In fact, he was just promoting his own ideas and directing the pseudo democracy. He claimed that he was creating individuals and that the age of the guru had ended. But in fact, he often was using thought stopping techniques, perhaps assisted by the physical practice that we did. When I did the open body technique that he taught, I would find that my thoughts would become slower. And lastly, he controlled our emotions by sending us on a roller coaster ride with his comments. Once, Michael Guen gave criticism to my classmate and me in regards to our writing. This is what he wrote to us in an email:
“Not sure what to do with the negative speak – it’s so much of the genuine you! While my main dedication is to support people in coming out with their authentic voices, the onus is on every writer to discover it. I continue to see massive similarities in both your efforts and where you’re both getting hung up. You are both so darn serious and black/white literal!!”
“Your story is shaping up. Reviewing your latest chapter revisions, there’s emerging a fascinating correlation with respect to lost or broken lineages: a link between your “broken” biological family and the two “skipped” women’s (4th and 5th) generations of our BaGuaQuan lineage. Seems that for 20 years now you’ve striven to recover BaGuaQuan’s forgotten (feminine) spiritual thread, and discovered that only by healing and restoring your biological family line is the direction and impetus being found to achieve it.”
Michael had copied this message to all the members of the group as a way for manipulating all the writers and giving them renewed energy for their cause. At that point, many of the other authors were also struggling with their chapters. He was purposefully elevating this woman’s writing because it served him. In this way, we never knew when we would either receive criticism or praise. I always found myself opening up his emails with this anxious anticipation because I often sought out his approval.
He goes on to use more jargon talk while praising this “woman’s work”:
From our unified One Effort Living system’s standpoint, your kidney (biology) and heart (spirit) identities must resonate for your complete human identity to manifest. It’s easy to see this common etheric thread shared by all The Women’s Gift author’s writings. Each woman through her unique story seeking such completion. Yours just very explicit given the stark parallels between your biological and spiritual lines.”
When I reread this paragraph, it makes little logical sense to me. But that was the nature of the indoctrination process and how Michael would reinforce the cult identity. He would often use these terms repetitively to flood us with familiar language, to the point in which we regularly used the terminology as our own. I was therefore able to spout it out the jargon very easily. It was like a knee jerk reaction. This would happen spontaneously, especially during the times in which I tried to defend Michael or the cult. Receiving these messages served the main purpose of reinforcing the belief system.
– Ruth –
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