The black widow

The black widow is a spider that is well-known for sexual cannibalism. She would sometimes eat her male counterpart after being impregnated. While the idea of devouring your mate may seem terrifying, the idea of eating your own offspring may sound unthinkable, but it has been observed with a number of animal species. Female wolf spiders frequently practice filial cannibalism. Zoologists are assuming they get an energy benefit from this unnatural practice and they might be using it as a source of food when other sources are scarce. This same behavior is unfortunately much more common than we may think on a psychological level with human beings.


Many of us enter parenthood more for unconscious reasons than conscious ones. For example, our parents had children so we feel it is the right thing to do. At a subconscious level, we may want to heal our own childhood by having children of our own. We may be afraid of being alone or need to make our existence meaningful by having offspring that will survive us. In some culture, there is some expectation that children will take care of us during our old age. On a more positive note, we may aspire to have children to experience unconditional love. While it is painful to separate from a romantic partner, time heals everything and we move on with our life. The same cannot be said with children. Children are the flesh of our flesh, and we are never able to move on completely from the loss of children. Conflict with our children torments our soul. On a psychological level, our children reflect our light and shadow even more than romantic relationships. This is why parental relationships suffer a high level of projection. As such, our children are ultimately our most challenging teachers, and often choose to fulfill many of our unrealized dreams.

The ideal parent is able to see the uniqueness of his children, does not project his own unfilled desires and aspirations into them and encourage his children’s development according to their own abilities and desires. The ideal parent brings unconditional love, presence and support to the child so that he may eventually become autonomous and create a life that feels good on his own terms. Parental love should be about what is best for the child independently of what could be best for the parent. This is why we call unconditional love and the hidden purpose of parenthood is to bring us closer to this state of being.

Unfortunately, many of us have experienced trauma and we are far from being an ideal parent. As a result, we suffer a number of psychological ailments such as fear of loneliness or abandonment, depression, disconnection, low self-esteem, scarcity consciousness and many other insecurities. As long as we are not whole and we have not experienced the fire of self-love into our heart to become a sun of our own, the reality is that we are likely to vampirize our children. When children come to this world, they are pure and radiate unconditional love. They are still connected to Source so they easily fall prey to parents that are not whole and will pass on their own traumas to their children. I have a number of coaching clients that had neglectful or abusive parents. They may be scared to revisit the painful memories but they had no choice but to accept the shadow of their unfit primary caretakers. As such, they can move rapidly through emotional healing as they are not trying to protect the ghosts of their painful past. However, I commonly have clients with parents that exhibit narcissistic love. These are actually harder to work with, as it is so difficult for everyone to let go of the idea that they were not really loved when they were the center of attention of their parents. Wires are crossed in these children. The child (or the grown-up adult) is still convinced that he was loved whereas he was actually used and manipulated for the parent selfish motives. It may be difficult to observe and accept as the parents apparent actions only seem to indicate love & care.


This type of narcissistic parental love may be expressed in many ways. Parental narcissism is actually so prevalent that many people may become angry while reading my examples below as these may be the only times where they felt actually loved and cared for. Narcissism is just a mental state that limits us to see only our own reflection and not the child’s uniqueness when we relate to them. Unconditional love is rare and precious, but once we experience it, it is easier to let go of this form of conditional love.

Too much emphasis on school grades

So-called “good” parents are very identified with their offspring school grades. They make sure homework is done perfectly. They get offended if their child gets less than a perfect grade and do not hesitate to schedule a meeting with the teacher in such case. They punish the child emotionally when they get an unsatisfactory grade. Actually, this parental behavior is unhealthy for many reasons. First, it teaches the children that they are loved only upon achieving specific results, therefore they are not worthy as they are. This is conditional love. Additionally, this attitude does not nurture autonomy in children. They work to get good grades to please their parents and not get in trouble with them rather than for their own good. This is programming them to choose a career in the future to please mum and dad instead of choosing a path that is truly fulfilling. Over focusing on school results is a way for parents to avoid their true role as educators. The smarter parents understand the limits of the school system, and coach their children in other areas that is not covered by standard education. They develop their children emotional intelligence, character, compassion, expand their horizons, teach by example, promote their interest in sports and hobbies. While it is important to coach our children to have good results at school, it is far from being a necessary condition for living a successful and happy life. Many parents with low-esteem will use a child with good grades to compensate for their own insecurities and personal sense of failure. If they have one child with good grades and another one struggling at school, such parents will cause deep psychological damage to the child that is challenged academically. This child will feel even more unlovable, unworthy and is likely to resent his sibling. This is setting up the unhealthy dynamic of the Golden Child and the Scapegoat that is well known by therapists.

When extra curriculum activities are used as projective identification

While it is natural for a parent to initiate their children to activities they are familiar with for their mutual enjoyment, there is a healthy balance to reach. I knew a woman who dropped off musical school when she was 16 as her parents had prepared her to become a concert pianist. She refused to play at home for her family and friends as the memories of the pressure of having to play 6 hours a day had been traumatizing. However, when she had a son, she made a point that he would take piano. She would teach him piano from time to time but every session ended with her son’s tears. She was repeating her own trauma through him by giving him the same harsh treatment that she was once the victim. There are some professional athletes that had to endure a high level of projection from their coach parent. The 8 times grand slam tennis champion Andre Agassi went public about his father who put him through a brutal training as a young child. When young Agassi rebelled, his father just shouted at the top of his lungs “You’re a tennis player! You’re going to be number one in the world! You’re going to make lots of money. That’s the plan and that’s the end of it”. Mary Pierce is one of the best French female tennis players of all times. Jim Pierce, her father, once reportedly screamed “Mary, kill the bitch!” at a tennis tournament his daughter Mary Pierce played in. He verbally and physically abused his daughter. His outbursts at events were so bad that the World Tennis Association banned him from attending all tournaments. Many parents use their children to raise their social status vicariously. They use their children to look good to their family & friends. Sometimes, they have something to do with their children achievements but more often than we think, the children’s accomplishment are reached despite the parents’ unhealthy projections. These children feel excruciating pressure from their parents to perform and this is hindering their ability to truly enjoy their sport or activity. They tend to exhibit a lot of stress and anxiety. Failing in the activity would just reinforce the subconscious belief that they are not lovable.

Using children as weapons of war

Unfortunately, children are often caught in loyalty conflicts. In case of high divorce conflict, the narcissistic parent would turn his own children against the other parent. The children are brain-washed to take the alienating parent’s hatred towards the former spouse as their own. These parents are extremely toxic they are putting the child in a position to hate half of themselves. The psychological damage that these children suffer has been well-documented. Even outside of parental alienation, it is quite common for a parent to project their own resentment toward a friend or family member with their own children. One of my clients used to have a very close relationship with her stepdad. However, when the relationship ended the mother manipulated her daughter to behave very harshly towards the stepdad to get back at him. As a result, this young woman has had very unsatisfactory intimate relationships with men as she is very tormented subconsciously with the guilt of hurting someone she loved. The same process of alienation is not limited to the narcissistic parent’s former partner. Loving connections from uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins and friends can be severed the same way.

My daughter as a Barbie doll

If the girl is good-looking, she may be used as an object of self-glorification and unhealthy pride for the parent, typically the mother. She is made to wear pretty little dresses and apparel to become a way to boost the self-esteem of the parent. The daughter is therefore compensating for the mother’s fear of getting old and losing her attractiveness. There is nothing wrong in the action of making our children look good when we can afford it. It is all about the intent behind the action. We need to examine if we have selfless or on the contrary self-centered motives. Because there are so many parents who think their children are so incredibly pretty, many photography agencies are exploiting this parents’ weakness by promising to submit the photo-shoot to modeling agencies. They charge an outrageous price for the photo-shoot but never submit anything. In such instance, the mother is grooming her daughter with the sole intent of getting attention and this is not coming from a nurturing instinct. In another example, a mother felt some jealousy towards her sister. She went over the top to make her daughter look gorgeous before visiting her aunt. The purpose was not a friendly and caring family visit. Her real agenda was to show that she was better than her sister because she had such a lovely, well-behaved and pretty daughter. Good behavior in this mother’s book is synonymous to anything that her daughter does to make her look good, and bad behavior is the opposite. The child’s best interest is never considered. She is just seen as an extension of the mother and any attempt to escape from her control is severely punished.

Children used as retirement and financial support

This is more prominent in cultures that do not offer a satisfactory retirement plan to their citizens. Parents have children so that they may support them financially and even physically during their old age. Parents see children as an investment, and if the child deviates from the plan that the parents have set-up, they are condemned as ungrateful, selfish and unworthy. This is the opposite of unconditional love. Children are geared towards careers that bring more money such as doctors or lawyers instead of following their passion. This way, they will not be a financial burden on the parent but on contrary could contribute to the parents’ materiel well-being in their old age. A friend of mine got a law degree just for his father. When he graduated, he told his father “This diploma is yours, now I am going to do what I like” What a waste of time! A caring parent is preoccupied first and foremost with his child’s happiness, not with the benefits he will draw from his children’s material success. While transactional relationship are required in the field of business, the world of family and friendship is there first to teach us about unconditionality. Real love is about giving without any expectation in return. I have a friend who used to help a lot financially his wife’s parents when they were married. When they decided to separate, she kept the expectation that her ex-husband should keep paying for her parents’ lifestyle. She has been suing her ex husband for the last 5 years for exorbitant child care fees charged by her parents for spending time for their own grandchildren! The irony is that she is also preventing her children to spend any time with their father.

Self-sacrificing behaviors

These self-centered parents are distorting reality to manipulate their children to feel a sense of indebtedness so as to better control them. One of my friends had a mother who had an affair with a young man during their marriage. She told her daughters that he was the love of her life but she decided not to leave their father as a sacrifice to them. In reality, she never had any intention to divorce as she enjoyed the financial stability of her emotionally unavailable husband. The daughters felt terrible as they felt responsible for their mother’s “sacrifice”. Many of these children, once they become adult, become very concerned when they receive anything in a relationship. They are afraid this may be used against them in the future. Some mothers may say they sacrifice having a fulfilling career because they had to raise their children while in fact they were afraid to face the workplace. People should never give out of sacrifice. Either they give from their heart or they should not give at all. I have heard from many grown-up children that they would have preferred not getting anything than feeling guilty because of their parent self-sacrificing behavior. They understand this is just plain manipulation. These parents have the habit of convincing their children that their own selfish behaviors were in fact self-sacrificing. They are just teaching their children that it is wrong to have needs of your own, and the only way to fulfill desires is through manipulation.

The helicopter parent

An helicopter parent pays extreme close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems. This a coping mechanism not to experience their own inner void, self-worth issues and dissatisfaction about their own lives. They oscillate between being over-loving, over-protective or over critical to their children. With their actions, they are depriving their children of their own experiences and are severely limiting the child ability for autonomy. Children raised with helicopter parenting show poor emotional regulation as they are never given the space to handle, process and reflect on their own emotions. Whether they are feeling sad, angry, disappointed or distressed, the parent immediately takes over in solving the situation for them. Hence, they are disabled to handle real-life situations without their parent. The parent is enabling the child’s over-dependency of the parent. If the child is on school trip, the child will insist for example to talk with her mother at night before she is able to fall asleep. This child will continue to call her parent every day even far into adulthood. The child never cuts the umbilical cord with the parent which severely impacts his/her ability to experience life. The parent stays omnipresent and this leaves no space for other intimate relationships in the grown-up child.

The “gift” as a control mechanism

Such parents may give very generous gifts to their children however they may take the desired object just as quickly if the child deviates from their line of conduct. One of my friends had a boyfriend she was madly in love with. He was receiving financial support from his parents, and the parents found that she did not have the appropriate social status for their son. They threatened to cut financial support if he were to stay with her. He broke off with her shortly after. Another one of my friends got a dog when she was a teenager. She adored the dog as she received unconditional love from the animal in sharp contrast with her parents. The mother did not like the fact that her daughter could pour so much love outside of her. She got her husband to tell their daughter that they could only keep one dog because of the size of their house, but because her mother was very attached to her own dog, they would then give away the daughter’s dog. The daughter became so enraged with this decision that she actually became cruel with her mother’s dog. As a result, the dog started to exhibit some dangerous behaviors and they had to part with that dog too. The daughter developed some toxic guilt traumatizing this animal, and had to eventually work through it in therapy. This type of parent shows his or her omnipotence by making clear to the child that he has the ability to give but also to take away. In the most extreme form of this pattern, it is common for satanic cults to make little children attached to kitties before sacrificing the young cat in horrific ways in front of the child months later. This is imprinting the child with a deep sense of powerlessness so that they may be more easily controllable to follow the cult’s agenda. When the child becomes aware that anything they care for may be taken away at any time, they refuse to connect intimately with anyone or anything outside the toxic organization.

Preventing competing child’s intimate relationships


There are some parents that cannot stand if their children may start showing more affection towards someone else than themselves. They have a strategy of “divide and conquer” to stay #1 in their children’s heart or mind. Such parent would criticize the child’s boyfriend or spouse behind their back to ensure the child shows loyalty first to the parent and not to the romantic partner. One of my clients’ mother had left “inadvertently” an open bottle of pain medicine at her house and my client’s dog ate dozens of pills. The dog barely died as a result. Toxic mothers may even get jealous of their daughter’s attachment towards their newborn. In another situation, one mother took away her pregnant daughter’s chair as the latter was going to sit down. As she didn’t notice that the chair has been removed, she fell abruptly and almost got a miscarriage. These parents are very proficient at slandering anyone that may become too close to their child. These could be children, romantic partners, other grandparents, friends, animals or even competing activities that could prevent the narcissistic parent to feel his/her dominance. These parents only know possessiveness because they know no real love in their heart. There is a common pattern in families when the mother becomes jealous of the daughter as she becomes an attractive teenager. This mother would then use her husband to punish the daughter on futile ground. This achieves multiple goals at once. First, it reassures the insecure mother about the loyalty of her husband. Secondly, it antagonizes the daughter towards the father to ensure that the mother-daughter bond stays primary. Another mother would make sure to exhibit all his son’s pictures with his past girlfriends every time a new girlfriend of his would visit. This would make the new girlfriend feel insignificant and create strife in the relationship. The hidden purpose is to ensure that she stays the dominant female figure in her son’s life.

Before we can experience real love, we need to recognize what is not love. Narcissistic love can exhibit many of the attributes of real love: deep care and concern, commitment, gifts, affection and positive compliments. To differentiate conditional and unconditional love, we need to consider if the parent is able to see the child as separate to him, that he possesses his own desires, aspirations and dreams that may be different from the parent. While we come to this world in a state of fusion with our mother, the process of maturation is about recognizing our own individuality separate from our parents as we grow-up. It is also natural to be egocentric and think we are the center of the world as a small child. Problems start arising when we do not develop past this stage because of childhood traumas. Real love stems in complete freedom when we choose to spend time and affection with people we care for. Not because we have to, but because we want to.

Is parental alienation an extreme form of the Oedipus complex?

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Mythology and neurosis have a common essence. The myths are a symbolic expression of the unconscious universal dramas. As such, they reveal many secrets into our psyche. Mythology is a projection of the collective unconscious and these archetypes manifest even more strongly when their awareness is limited.

Oedipus and the Sphinx

The Oedipus complex is a concept of psychoanalytic theory from Freud. It is inspired by the Athenian tragedy, Oedipus the King, by Sophocles. Oedipus could not escape his fate of marrying his mother and killing his father. When expressed in a healthy way, the child’s hatred for the opposite-sex parent and unconscious sexual desire for the same-sex parent urge the young adult to leave his parents’ nest to start his own life, and look for a compatible mate to start a family. The son leaves his father’s home that has become too restrictive for his own development, and finds a woman that shares many attributes of his own mother in order to heal his own childhood traumas. The father represents what is being rejected while the mother represents what is desired.

While mothers are just as affected by parental alienation as fathers, for the illustration of this article, I will refer the mother as the alienator, and the father as the targeted parent. There are many ways a case of parental alienation seems to evoke the Oedipus complex literally:

  • When the father is alienated, the son is used as a weapon of war by the mother to psychologically kill the father in the children’s mind
  • After the father has been eliminated from the family structure, the son becomes the new de facto husband of the mother. The son is heavily enmeshed and is asked to fill the void left by the father
  • Oedipus father, king Laius, attracted misfortune to him and his family because of his dark previous deeds against Chrysippus. King Laius is also the one ordering the killing of his own son Oedipus. The targeted parent’s tragedy can always be traced to unresolved traumas of his own past and this is what he needs to heal to change the alienation dynamics. He cannot see himself only as a victim but needs to take responsibility for his part in the alienation
  • Oedipus becomes obsessed in finding the killer of King Laius (before he realized that was him) whom he replaced as the new king because the Oracle said this unsolved murder is responsible for a plague in Thebes. In the same way, the alienated child’s life is plagued by self-hatred as he was forced to reject his father from his life. He does not realize that many of his psychological and intimate problems are directly related to the alienation of his own father.
  • In the Oedipus play, Jocasta eventually commits suicide after realizing the horror of incest by marrying her own son, the killer of her husband. Alienators are often very tormented as they eventually realize the psychological damage they have done to their children out of revenge
  • When Oedipus eventually learns that he is his wife’s son, he enters a fury and wants to cut his mother’s womb with a sword. This symbolizes the rage of the alienated child towards his mother when he finally realizes how he has been manipulated for so many years
  • When Oedipus becomes aware of the tragedy of his fate, he makes himself blind by piercing his eyes with golden pins. The alienated son is also torn by guilt about his own actions, in particular his harsh rejection of his father and his blind enmeshment with his mother. Seeing the truth may be so brutal that he may decide instead to shut down his conscience.
  • Oedipus’s sons Eteocles and Polynices end up fighting for power and killing each other. His daughter Antigone commits suicide. The alienated child carries with him the psychological damage coming from years of alienation. As an adult, he is likely to experience similar unfortunate events in his own family life because of transgenerational trauma
Blind Oedipus in exile with his daughter Antigone

The light of awareness has however the power to lift away the curse of parental alienation. As they mature, the alienated children have the ability to see the truth of their childhood, accept the limitations of their parents and start the process of forgiving them. Then, they will be able to break the cycle of abuse and abandonment to give their own children a life that is not plagued by intimacy issues.

Guru/disciple relationship dynamics and attachment traumas

German translation of this blog by Silke Lira Blumbach

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Young Vaillant with his cat

My mother was raised in the French foster system. My father was a product of the Second World War and only reconnected with his mum when he was 10. As a result, they suffered from severe attachment trauma and shame. She was a discouraged borderline struggling with depression and he was a codependent that lost his ability to feel. Because my father was mostly absent, I was parentified and developed a fusional relationship with my mother. Both my sister and I could not receive in this family environment the emotional nurturing we needed to develop secure attachment. I coped by being the best at school and in general the best boy possible so I became the Golden Child and started building strong codependent tendencies. My sister struggled to cope in this family environment and became the Scapegoat and started developing borderline tendencies. When I was 9, our parents divorced. Mum could not cope anymore with the emotional unavailability of dad, and left overnight leaving both my sister and me behind to live with her new companion. She was clumsy in explaining to us her departure. At that point in my life, my mum was everything. She was a stay-at-home, we spent a lot of time together and I was meant to fill the emotional void my dad had left. We had a fusional relationship. While it is natural for a 9 year old to be dependent upon his mother, my dependency was even more pronounced, as she was so afraid of being alone. To make it worse, when she ran away, I was left with an emotionally unavailable father. My new stepmother was a petulant borderline. As a codependent, my dad needed to appear as the good guy so played sides instead of fighting for inclusion. As a result, she saw us as a clear threat to her relationship to our dad. This led to a second abandonment where my dad gave us away back to my mum and we hardly saw him after that. This second abandonment was very hard on me as I asked my dad to stay with him. Though he was an absent father, I had developed an intense fear around my mum unpredictability so felt safer to stay with him at the time instead of going back to mum. But he just gave me back to mum without even giving to us an explanation. As a result, my child self developed the core belief of being “bad”, in fact “very bad” for parents not wanting to be with me. And shortly after being reunited with mum, both sets of parents had a baby son. This reinforced how bad we had to be that we needed to be replaced. My goal in sharing this story is not to throw my parents under the bus as I have repeated myself many of their mistakes but to share with the readers how attachment traumas are created.

osho tarot card the master

I coped with the deep core belief of being so bad by becoming a hyper-achiever. I had a bright mind and used it to my advantage to bury my core shame of being unlovable so that my achievements could give me the positive attention I was desperately craving for. To cope with my attachment trauma, all my focus turned into the goal of being admitted to Ecole Polytechnique, the most prestigious engineering school of France. To reach that goal, I worked insanely for the 2 years after high school. I would study until 12:30 AM every night and only give myself Saturday afternoon to bike in the Cote d’Azur countryside. As it was a national exam, I was competing with the brightest and most hard-working students in my age category in France. I became interested in the occult as a short cut to become super smart as I felt being the best was the only way I could be loved. Actually many kids today that are fascinated by the Marvel super hero movies and comics feel very powerless and out of control as they feel unlovable in their present state. I ended up not making it to Ecole Polytechnique but to the second best engineering school of France Ecole Centrale Paris, which was an excellent achievement. While I thought reaching my goal would bring me happiness, the opposite happened. I had lost the goal that was distracting me from my misery. I felt distressed and I could not explain why. I did not feel I belonged anywhere. I started drinking heavily and my connection with women was limited to meaningless one-night stands. I started developing a profound disgust to myself. I had read lots of books from Osho Rajneesh (see documentary Wild Wild West on Netflix) and I enjoyed very much his provocative insights, vast knowledge and wisdom. One day, when I felt particularly miserable and was looking for an answer, I drew a card from his tarot deck. It was the Master card, the 79th card in Osho’s tarot deck. I interpreted the meaning of this card that I had to find a master because I felt so stuck. Awakening felt like the answer to my suffering. An occult group in Paris was leaving bookmarks in Osho Rajneesh books. It was called The Fellowship of Friends that proclaimed to be a fourth way school following the teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, two famous Russian mystics. Osho spoke frequently of Gurdjieff in his books. I contacted them and after three prospective meetings, I was determined to join to put an end to my misery and isolation.

Cult leader Robert Earl Burton with his followers

At first, my experience in the cult was exhilarating. I felt an intense sense of belonging, I was given a new meaning for my life, I was surrounded with many smart, mature and wise people, my mind was stimulated by new and fascinating esoteric knowledge, my ego was gratified by feeling among the chosen ones and having a direct connection to God (called Influence C in that group), I was developing deeper connections with people and my life became full of new exciting experiences and adventures. Being in a cult at that time was actually an improvement to my state compared to the powerlessness, isolation, addiction and depression that I had been struggling with. Actually, a lot of people go from substance or sexual addiction to becoming fundamentalist newborn Christians, this is actually an improvement too. There is a reason why the 12-step program is so religious.

Robert Earl Burton, Self-Proclaimed Avatar of the Age

If you want to better understand the type of cult I joined, you may be interested to watch the documentary Holy Hell on Netflix. Both my cult leader Robert Earl Burton and Michel Rostand in Holy Hell are megalomaniac and homosexual predators. They believe they are fully awakened. They are highly manipulative and believe that it is an honor to be used by them. They are very authoritative and exercise full control over the life of their members. Robert’s group the fellowship of friends was a bit larger than Michel’s as it reached over 3,000 members at its prime time. Robert demanded 10% of every member income, sex from any male member he found attractive (most of them being heterosexual and having no interest to have sex with a man) and compliance to his instructions as he saw himself more evolved than Christ himself.

Michel Rostand cult leader in HOLY HELL (2016)

In most cases unfortunately, a guru/disciple relationship is nothing else than a narcissist/co-dependent relationship. It is a dysfunctional relationship where needs are met in ways that are destructive, manipulative and covert. What is the dynamic of this dysfunctional relationship? Because of their attachment traumas, the co-dependents have developed core shame and believe they are bad and as a result, there are unable to see their own light. They have disown their light and their guru has disowned his shadow. The relationship that they are developing with a narcissistic guru will then reflect their unworthiness and they are therefore a perfect match to their cult leader because of their core belief of being bad. The codependents are attracted to the charm, boldness, confidence and domineering personality of the narcissist. The codependents reflexively give up their power; since the narcissist thrives on control and power, there is an intense attraction between them. The narcissist guru find recruits who lack self-worth, confidence and who have low self-esteem — codependents. Through smart manipulation the narcissist leader is able to conceal his lower motives and maintain an unsullied reputation—at least in the beginning. They are often highly intelligent, possess esoteric information that is very attractive to their followers, and are well aware of mind control techniques. Most use the technique of undermining the follower’s sense of self by subtle criticism or exposing personally embarrassing situations to trigger their core shame—all this in the name assisting the person to transcend ego. They establish their superiority over their followers by claiming super powers that cannot be verified. For example, Robert would claim “I have fully developed higher centers”, “I live in a pure state of presence & being”, “I am omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent”. Anyone questioning the claims of the guru is shamed for lacking faith, devotion or is seen as disruptive for the group cohesion. Because co-dependents have such fear of abandonment, they typically err on the safe side by unconditionally siding with the guru’s views with the rest of the followers. Over time, even as the disciples become aware of the guru abuse, they look the other way, as they understand that the cult leader owns the relationships in the group and any opposition would mean ex-communication, which is perceived as the worst possible punishment for people with abandonment traumas. Once we have accepted the cult as our family, we are stuck. There is another important reason why it is so difficult to leave these dangerous cults. We have disowned our relationship to our Creator, God or Source and believed we are dependent on the group and the cult leader to access it. Leaving the group is then associated with cutting our connection to the divine, which is a deeply entrenched fear in humans. We have been controlled for millenniums by the fear of rotting in hell for eternity. When I announced my departure of the cult to Robert in 1996, he warned me that I would lose my connection to “Influence C” (i.e. God). At the end, I only lost my connection to a demon 😉

I had made the Fellowship of Friends my family, I was part of the cult inner circle, I had adopted the cult beliefs and language, I had very little connection with my blood family. So how was I able to leave it when I was only 23 confronting the cult leader Robert Earl Burton on my last day while so many other more mature, smarter and experienced members stayed stuck there for so many years?

  • First, I stayed in contact with a French healer Jacques who I intuitively felt had many more spiritual abilities than my guru who claimed to be God on earth. He helped my deprogramming in smart and subtle ways.
  • I was not completely dependent on the group as I just started a programmer job in Silicon Valley.
  • I rented a room in a house with an individual that had his own teacher Elias De Mohan, a remarkably psychic man that was not cultish. This again challenged Robert’s claim that he was the most conscious being on earth.
  • After attending so many Robert’s events, he looked like a parrot repeating the same thing over and over again so I did not feel I was learning anything new anymore.
  • The cult organization destroyed my relationship with a woman I was deeply in love with and built resentment toward the cult as a result.
  • I understood how wasteful Robert was with money and I did not want him to do this with 10% of my income now that I had a good job.
  • However, I think the biggest factor came from my own attachment trauma. I had lost my family already when I was a kid and knew I could survive it. Or maybe subconsciously, I wanted to re-experience the pain of losing my family again for healing purpose. In any case, my own trauma benefited me in this situation.

Most of my friends in the cult ended up only leaving the cult 13 years later after all the abuse was made public through this public blog.

In summary, here is what the cult member gets from the transaction:

  • The cult member gets his core belief of being unlovable, bad and unworthy validated, replaying childhood attachment trauma. Many co-dependents have learned that they only get loved by being down on themselves and making the other better than they are
  • The cult member gets belonging & connection with like-minded individuals. He gets a new family (with conditional love)
  • The cult members gets to experience the divine and higher part of them that they have disowned through the guru
  • The cult member gets a sense of (false) security through the guru self-confidence, assertiveness, and views on the meaning of life that are simple to understand
  • The cult member gets new goals and activities so that he does not have to face his own inner turmoil and demons anymore. He is given a new direction that prevents him to dwell more on his/her own misery so feels better as a result. Actually, many of these activities allow the individual to develop his creativity far more than what he was doing in the past. The caveat is that the guru is the one benefiting financially for the disciple newfound creativity, not the individual
we are not worthy

These benefits provide enough value to the disciple that they will often surrender their free will, financial resources and even their own body to the leader. Disappointment with the leader, acknowledgement of the abuse will eventually force the follower to re-own his own power and needs, stand on his own feet to live his own life, a more authentic life. At this stage, the follower feels angry, betrayed and intense grief. What was heaven now seems hell. Eventually, they will need to digest this experience in more objective terms for true healing to take place. They feel like a victim but eventually needs to own how their own attachment traumas played a role to be a match to this experience. They will able to take responsibility for joining a cult and forgiving themselves for doing so. Actually, many people are able to create fulfilling and successful lives after a cult experience if they can learn all the lessons that came with it.

Paradoxically, cult leaders hold often even more core shame than their followers. Their shame is so repressed that they can only see it externally through their own disciples. We have to remember that cult leaders and followers, just like narcissists and co-dependents are simply the mirrored repressed aspects of each other. Many cult leaders are hyper achievers to cover up their own sense of inadequacy, and many have developed special abilities to maintain the illusion of personal greatness so that they would never have to face how bad they actually feel about themselves. Actually, both cult leaders and their members are in a state of dysfunctional and unhealthy dependency. The guru deals with his insecurity around that dependency by creating a large narcissistic supply of followers to ensure that his needs would always be met. It is actually harder for the guru to growth and heal as he has completely disowned his shame and buried his vulnerability. Actually, therapists see a lot of codependents but narcissists never come to their office. This is because narcissists can never admit there is something wrong with them while codependents are so good at finding fault within themselves as they have learned to get rewarded and receive love for showing their imperfection to the narcissist. All cult leaders suffered from severe trauma from their childhood that they never healed. Theo Dorpat wrote in his book “Wounded Monster” about the importance of Hitler’s (the most infamous cult leader of all times) childhood trauma to explain his destructive behaviors.

What does the cult leader gets from the transaction?

Cult leader Sathya Sai Baba

It feels alone at the top so actually the cult leader in most case does not get belonging or connection. He feels often alone and disconnected from others. They are unable to develop equal authentic relationships with others as they see the world in a hierarchical way. This is why so many cult leaders, especially if they are men, turn into sex addicts. Sex is the only way they can get the connection they desperately need. In general, the cult leader will get his followers to talk his or her love language whether it is act of service, words of affirmation, gifts, time together or touch to fill the void of their pathological loneliness. The bigger the void, the bigger the need for external adoration. The same pattern can be observed with stars and their fans, or with any narcissistic leader and their subordinates.

The leader gets tremendous energy from their followers and it typically feeds their lower shakras because of lack of purity and integrity: financial security with the first shakra, sexual gratification with the second shakra or power with the third shakra. This energy rarely reached the higher shakras because their character has been perverted: the fourth to experience pure love for their followers through service (ex. burning heart of Christ), the fifth to express it creatively, the sixth to lead with vision and the seventh to stay aligned with the rest of creation.

Ego is nothing else than the illusion of separateness. As the ego gets gratified, the identification with the ego becomes stronger and stronger and the connection with the authentic self weaker and weaker. They become sociopathic then psychopathic as their disorder develops. This means that they are able to cut their own unpleasant feelings through rationalization. As a result, they repress their own emotional pain & suffering which now become externalized in the pain & suffering of their followers that have not completely cut the connection to their heart.

Gurus are often high-functioning psychopath that display superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self, lack of remorse or empathy, lack of introspection, cunning behavior, lying, egocentricity, parasitic lifestyle, and more often than not, sexual exploitation. While their followers admire them, their psychological condition is often worse than the people they abuse. Behind close doors, they are deeply tormented and often resort to diverse addictions to shut the door of their own conscience torturing them. Their mental health is plagued with anti-social disorders, paranoia and self-hatred.

What do they need to heal? A collapse of their universe with people turning against them and keeping them accountable for their own actions. In 1996, during the third year at my cult, I went to Russia. The Soviet block had collapsed and there was a lot of interest for spirituality. I start giving there teaching dinners and running large meetings about the group teaching. The women were beautiful and I was falling in love every day. My success went to my head and I was becoming a mini-guru. The cult leader Robert Burton heard from others that I was taking too much liberty and I was reprimanded and fined at my return to the US. They crushed me and this is the best thing they could have done to downsize my ego that had got too inflated. Of course, the fact that he punished me for actions he would do himself behind people’s back did not sit too well for me and acted as a catalyst for me to leave.

Of course, not all spiritual teachers are narcissist or have dysfunctional parasitic relationship with their followers. What is most important for those seeking spiritual guidance is to keep their critical thinking alive as they approach any spiritual teacher. The questions they must ask ourselves are:

  • Does this teacher walk his/her talk? Does this teacher live by the precepts he/she teaches?
  • Is the teacher respectful of you? Do they automatically assume you are below them?
  • Do they have a grandiose sense of self?
  • Do you feel manipulated in any way by this person?
  • Do they require zealous, unquestioning commitment and subservience to the leader?
  • Is questioning, doubt, and dissent discouraged or even punished?
  • Is the group elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader and members?
  • Does the leadership induce feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members?
  • Do they encourage members to cut ties with family and friends outside the group? Are members encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members?
  • Does the group use subtle maneuvers to make it difficult for you to leave? Do they punish you if you leave? Are you ostracized if you leave the group?
The Last  Supper Restored Da Vinci

Once these question are answered to your satisfaction, this somewhat suspicious stance can be relinquished in order to assimilate the instruction you desire, and to create an open-hearted relationship with your spiritual teacher.

Healing The Un-Healable

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Teal woke me up at dawn this morning. She felt extremely dizzy. I walked her to the bathroom, as she could not do it herself. I re-assured her, held her tight and got one more hour of rest. Still in my arms, I asked her if she was feeling better. She replied that she had not slept and had been doing mental & emotional exercises to counteract the dizziness. I thought she might have BPPD (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo), a condition I suffered a couple of years ago. I started to apply the Apley maneuver on her.

Blake walked into the room and wondered what I was doing with her. He has gotten used to non-normality having lived with Teal for thirteen years. He inquired about her condition with genuine care. He had come into the room to go over the last actions on the agenda today for helping Teal make the New-York Times Best Seller list with her new book “The Completion Process”. But she was not in the condition to talk about the plans. By a lucky twist of fate, one of our community members stopped by the house and came up into our bedroom to say hello. As a victim of ritual abuse too, she realized that Teal’s dizziness was most likely not a physical condition as I had suspected but was instead a symptom of a trigger. Some cults use a variety of programs to confuse, disorganize or block the memories so that the victim cannot speak about the abuse or often even remember it.   These programs are called “scrambler programs”. Teal has unraveled several of these programs within herself over the last 10 years. We collectively decided that Teal should do The Completion Process by going into the dizziness instead of trying to take action to make the dizziness go away. But today was Mark’s birthday (Teal’s ex husband and the father of her son). So the community had several birthday activities planned. We made the decision that Teal and I should stay behind to do this important healing work and meet up with them later.

I locked the door to ensure that our process would not be interrupted. Before starting, I asked Teal if anything happened that could have created the dizziness. She remembered she had a small panic attack last night. Before going to sleep, she went to check on Winter (her son). But she could not find him in his bedroom. She went to Blake’s room and other parts of the house and eventually came to me out of breath and full of terror, saying that she could not find Winter anywhere. I went to his room that had been transformed in a fortress over the weekend. After scouring the fort, I found him. He had made his way up on top of the fort and was sleeping in peace out of view. Because of his position and the blanket fortress, it was impossible to see him from the entrance of his bedroom or from inside the fort. Teal could breath again. But the emotional damage had been done. Unfortunately, we went to bed immediately after the incident without working through any of the terror she had felt thinking that he had been abducted.

I started to guide her into the Completion Process. The first step is to get in touch with the body sensations and the feeling that pertains to the trigger, dizziness in her case. She felt her heart being torn. She was frozen and in a state of shock. She started to get the intense smell of dial soap so she dived deeper into this smell, understanding that it was part of the traumatic memory that was linked to the trigger.

Teal, 11 at the time, found herself in the basement of the mortuary where Doc’s friend worked. The man was washing the body of an older woman who was there to be prepared for a funeral with Dial soap. Teal expressed her distress at remembering the absence of bleeding, which she explained is characteristic of corpses. Doc and the mortician had put her into a plastic basin of icy water from her necks to her knees. They had waited for her to stop shivering and then Doc and the mortician spun her in circles to the right until she was so dizzy that she was falling over. Doc and the mortician were programming her so that she would forget what she had seen just hours earlier that day. I asked her to rewind back to see what had happened before she was brought to the mortuary. She saw a hand. It was a child’s hand coming out of a wooden storage crate. The memory started to unfold.

It was 1995. Teal’s mother had wrapped up cold boiled corn in a plastic bag and sent her with Doc on veterinary rounds. Teal’s parents mistakenly considered him a family friend and a mentor for Teal’s unusual extrasensory abilities at the time. He drove Teal to a dairy farm. It was the most dilapidated dairy farm they visited on rounds. The conditions were ghastly. Doc had been called to put a cow to sleep that was infected with listeria. It is a disease that makes cows turn around in circles until they cannot move anymore. Teal stood in the manure, frozen as usual, when a man came out of the farm brick house looking upset and preoccupied. He went over to speak with Doc in private at a distance in the paddock. Doc became visibly upset as well and waved for Teal to come right away.

Doc started driving in a rush with his truck. When Teal asked where they were going, he hit her very hard and angrily on the head with his fist. Her vision went black as a result. She pretended she had been knocked out to avoid further beating. After a while, he pulled into the driveway of a red brick house. Doc was so disconnected and caught up in his own thoughts that he did not acknowledge Teal. He focused his attention on a distressed man coming out of the house. Teal assumed that he had an emergency problem with an animal of some kind and had called Doc for this reason. She recognized the man as a newer cult member. He had attended a ceremony Teal was taken to previously. Doc acted suspicious as he took Teal to the right side of the house to a side entrance. It was as if he did not want the neighbors to notice them.

They went down into a cellar that was loosely attached to the main house. It was full of old rusted farm tools and some storage food. In the right corner of the cellar, there was a rectangular cement pit with a huge wooden shipping crate laid over the top of it. Teal went into shock when she saw the tiny hand of a little girl trying to reach out through the slits of the crate. She was crying and begging to be let out. She would stop for minutes at a time then start crying again and reach out through the slits. The man who owned the house was sweating. He was telling Doc that he wanted to drop her off where he had found her, like nothing happened. He had abducted her in order to be elevated in the cult ranks by offering her in sacrifice for the upcoming September 21st equinox ceremony. He was expected to keep her during that time but the despair and angst of the innocent victim that was probably only 6 had started to shake the little bit of conscience that was left in him. He was panicking and wanted to take it back. He was not yet a full-blown psychopath like Doc that had lost any capacity for feeling. Doc had been sent by the other cult members to survey and “cleanup the mess” this man had created.

Doc explained to the man that he had to keep the little girl until the next ritual or kill her and that he could not bring her back under any circumstances, as it would put him as well as the cult at risk. Their discussion continued for a while and during that time, they were fully oblivious to Teal. Doc became impatient and fed up with the man’s weakness and indecision so he took the matter into his own hands. He charged into the house and took the man with him. Teal had sat down in the cellar and was staring at this little hand in complete terror. She was mentally running through scenarios about letting her out and escaping with her. She was unsure if she could move the crate. Lost in thought, she mentally ran through all the potential consequences of making an escape with the girl.  But Doc interrupted her frantic thinking when he stormed in carrying a huge pot of boiling water. He dumped it onto the little girl through the crate. The little girl was screaming and crying. He reached back to take a second pot of boiling water from the man, and dumped it on her again. Her screams and cries came to a brutal stop. The other man then dumped a third pot of boiling water over the silence of the pit.

Teal was stuck in a state of shock, witnessing the murder of this little girl. Teal had covered her eyes and cried into her palms. She was in fact doing the very same thing in real time as the result of the integration of this memory. It was really hard to watch her cry so hard. It was tempting to pull her out of the memory. But, knowing how this deep resolution work functions, I decided to let her continue with the memory.

Still unconcerned with Teal, the two men pulled the crate up and let it fall to the side. Teal saw a little Caucasian girl with brown hair, drenched and with red and white splotches all over her body because of the burning water. Doc pulled her out and to the side of the house into the daylight. He ordered the man to get him some twine. The man came back with some orange bailing twine, which Doc wrapped around her neck three times as if he was calf roping the girl. He held it tight with enough force to break her neck. He had strangled her to be sure she was dead. Then he covered her in a brown sheet, carried her to the back of his veterinary trailer and shut the door. He said something to the man at a distance. The man seemed ashamed and conflicted but relieved. Doc then grabbed Teal by her arm and led her forcefully to the truck. They drove together to the mortuary where his cult friend was working. Doc took Teal and the corpse of the little girl into the bottom floor of the mortuary where the embalming took place. Teal was numb with shock when she entered and they walked in on the mortician cleaning the corpse of the old lady with Dial soap. When the mortician heard the whole story from Doc, he shook his head in disgrace knowing that he would have to cremate the body of the little girl to cover up the murder so nothing would be traced back to the cult group.

When they were done talking, the two men turned their attention back to Teal. They had decided to try to implant a scrambler program to try to cover up what Teal had experienced and seen that day. They put her into a basin filled with icy water and threatened that if she told anyone what happened, they would end up opening her up like the old lady on the metal table. Doc injected something with a needle into the back of her neck to sedate her.   They spun her in circles to make her so dizzy that her nervous system would shut down. They laid her on the floor and had her repeat to herself over and over again ”I remember nothing, everything is black”. They were creating a scrambler program. Doc stuck her arm with another needle and within a matter of seconds, Teal felt herself dissolve into peaceful darkness. When she opened her eyes again, she felt still very dizzy and sick. Doc had driven her back home to the end of her driveway. He told her that she had passed out at the dairy farm and he brought her home because she was probably sick. When he brought Teal back to her parents, he told them that he thought she was coming down with the flu. Her mom responded “You look pale, Sis!” and told her to go get into bed. Her mom brought her some Canada Dry Ginger Ale to help her feel better. In reality, Teal was in shock and coming out of forced drug sedation.

As Teal was re-experiencing the memory, I followed the Completion Process steps and supported her throughout the horror. I asked her gently to bring her adult perspective to the scene in order to re-create the past. She imagined that the adult self had called the police and fifteen police cars had stormed to the house, saving the little girl from a tragic death. The two men were arrested. For the first time in her life, Teal said she felt reassured to see the police. She imagined her parents being called by the police and being brought to the scene and being told about what had really been going on between Doc and her for the past 5 years. Competent therapists came to take care of Teal, the little girl and her parents. She imagined her parents moving away to a monastery with Teal and her brother to heal. She then imagined that I brought her into her safe haven. We put the transformed memory into a balloon and she popped it with a needle. Using visual techniques, we purified the eleven-year old Teal in the river there. She felt like cutting her hair so that none of this experience would be left in her body. So we brought a wise shaman woman and she created a ritual to complete her purification. Her head was shaved and they let her hair flow downriver. Her traumatized child self refused to merge back with the adult perspective but instead wanted to be held lovingly and to fall asleep that way, surrounded in downy white blankets. Teal then came back to her conscious perspective.

I can see clearly now how the panic of her son missing the previous night and the corn on the cob we bought and boiled to eat the night before had created the perfect trigger storm for Teal. This is what life is like for people who are forced to live life with Complex PTSD.

When we were talking today together in a salt bath that I put her in to diffuse some of the emotional residue, Teal expressed that from her perspective, this little girl was “lucky” to die and not to survive this trauma like she had to. I understood this perspective. I was reminded of a movie that I watched recently. The movie is called “Room”. What makes this movie unique is that it shows the aftermath of trauma. It shows how trauma leaves the victim isolated in their own torment, unable to connect with an external world that cannot see or understand them. I could see how a “reset” would feel much better than years worth of trying to heal what feels un-healable. I gently reminded her that though the last ten percent of healing seem to be the hardest, she has already done ninety percent of the healing. And I reminded her that millions of people are looking to her for the courage to believe that the worst ordeals may be healed and transformed into something beautiful.

While she still feels very vulnerable after coming out of the integration process of this triggered memory, her dizziness is gone and we were able to celebrate Mark’s birthday with the rest of the community in the beautiful city park. Most people could not survive what Teal has survived, much less end up as functional as she is in spite of it all. But some part of me wishes that anyone who doubts her history would be forced to come live with her for a month to see firsthand what she has to grapple with every day in the aftermath of such unspeakable trauma. It is not for the faint of heart. I feel extremely fortunate to share in the life of this extraordinary woman and to share her journey of healing. Every day I am fortunate enough to witness a remarkable soul diving into the darkest aspects of human consciousness and finding her way back home. And leading everyone else back home in the process.

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