Thursday, November 1, 2012

I almost joined a cult

In my book, I mentioned reevaluation counseling as a great way to let off some steam and work through some emotional issues. I now want to retract that recommendation, and here's why.

I read a book several years ago titled
Healing Lupus: Steps in a Personal Journey  by Waverly Evans.
It is a self-published book and largely a workbook. Waverly had severe lupus and was able to completely heal from it doing just emotional work. She does not mention changing her diet or getting acupuncture or doing yoga, although looking at her website, she is now a yoga teacher and massage therapist, so those modalities may have been part of her healing journey as well. In the book, however, she gives much of (all?) the credit for her complete healing from lupus to Reevaluation Counseling, but it's important to not that at the time she was also doing "normal" counseling, as she was enrolled in a degree program in a normal university setting.

I believe we can heal from lupus. I do not accept the mainstream idea that all you can do is "manage" the disease with drugs and that you have to accept your "new normal" and just lower your expectations. Unfortunately, those who are putting time money and attention into research are focused entirely on drugs and genetics, adn I don't think they are going to find any answer there that will actually heal people. It might help people, and keep them from dying, but I don't think tweaking genes and administering drugs is going to free people from disease. I do believe that nutrition can heal people, often completely. And I do believe that people can be healed through spiritual means, and maybe emotional means as well. There are many kinds of healing.

Therefore when I read her book, it gave me hope that something as simple as sitting with another person and sharing your deepest hurts and releasing them might unburden me and allow me to completely heal. Because although I live drug-free and my lab tests are often negative for lupus, I do still suffer from frequent pain in my neck and shoulders (even when my labs are negative for lupus) and frankly I'd love to not have to work so hard at my diet. I am "managing" my lupus with diet. It beats managing it with immune suppressant drugs, but I'd love for it to just be gone. a Non-issue.

So... my wish for this is what led me to seek out reevaluation counseling. I wanted what Waverly had, total freedom from lupus altogether. And it sounded entirely benign and it cost nothing to try. So why not?

I went to and tried to find someone in my area. It took several weeks before someone responded to my inquiry, and then I found someone only 15 minutes from my house who was willing to teach me how to do co-counseling. Co-Counseling and reevaluation counseling are terms that are used interchangeably within the reevaluation counseling community. But reevaluation counseling is specifically one organization, and it is... a cult. I'm sorry to say it, but it's a cult.

For 2 years, I co-counseled with the person I found in my area. Sometimes there was another person or 2 and we would co-counsel as a group. You agree on how much time to spend per person, set a timer, and take turns talking about whatever issue you want to work on. All perfectly harmless, and even helpful to be intently listened to and not interrupted. It was all going fine, no problems at all. Normally, I learned later, people do not join RC (reevaluation counseling) the way I did, by reading about it in a book and seeking it out on the internet. Normally, people are invited to a "class" by a friend, and they attend class where they learn the techniques and beliefs behind RC.

Then I went to the weekend workshop, at at retreat in the mountains. It was very "important" that I go because THE leader of RC was going to be there giving talks, and he only comes around every 4-5 years. And it was at this weekend I started seeing red flags. People who needed to take psych drugs would whisper about it and not want anyone to know. One woman I counseled with confided with great shame how she liked to have a glass of wine, or even two, at night, and that RC teachers aren't allowed to drink (or have caffeine by the way) and that by drinking wine she was "letting down RC." In my head the word "fundamentalist" popped up. Then I went to a "mental health liberation" workshop, where the thrust of the leader's 30-minute talk was that there is no such thing as mental illness, only people who needed to "discharge" (laugh, cry, scream, etc.- IOW, release their emotions). No one should take psych drugs as they suppress the problem. I talked to my husband on the phone and told him about this workshop and he said "what?! sounds like Tom Cruise."

Oh, and apparently being gay is a mental illness caused by early distresses and can be cured with RC. And people expressed how they wished their significant other would give up 12-step and just come to RC and be healed. And although it claims to be about helping individuals, the larger goal of RC is radical left-wing politics.

People are encouraged to 'work early'- in other words, focus on their horrible childhood memories. And the good ones. And if you don't have any, they tell you to pretend you do, until something comes to you (this is where we get into the manufacturing false memories territory). When each of us was asked to share our earliest happy memory, I shared about playing with my cousin when I was 5. One guy shared how he remember growing arms as a fetus. Uh... really? (i'm sitting there thinking- why is no one doing a spit-take?).

When I got home, I googled "reevaluation counseling + cult" and wow, lots of hits. Harvey Jackins, guy who started this quasi-religion is now deceased but his son Tim carries on his 'work' (all the RC literature is written by either the founder or his son) and got his start in Scientology. Harvey was one of the right-hand men to L Ron Hubbard. OK, now it's all making sense. The more I read, the more Jim Jones parallels I saw. He has also, like many cult leaders, been accused of sexual assault on members of the organization. He also wants to change society via RC. If people criticized the leader, they were "excommunicated."

I never got "properly" indoctrinated because I never enrolled in a "class" (the normal way most people enter RC- a friend brings them in. They read all the literature, hear the lectures, then aim to become a teacher and work their way up the hierarchy ladder to teach workshops on things like... well, how mental illness doesn't exist).

For 2 years I did reevaluation counseling with my nearby friend, and it helped me sort through some problems and feel like I was heard. I believe we all have a deep divine intelligence, and if it is honored, and we are allowed to speak and think for ourselves, we can solve many issues through our own clear thinking. But we must be allowed to do so without being required to accept all these strange beliefs that come directly from scientology. Because once I am forced to accept those beliefs, I am no longer thinking for myself. Which is very dangerous.

There are other organizations out there, such as Co-counselors International, some of which are formed by ex-RC members who just do co-counseling without the RC beliefs. Just getting together and doing active listening. I may give one of these a try. Or maybe I'll just get a normal therapist,  or do some assertiveness training and journal my thoughts (which I do every day).

In conclusion, I retract my recommendation to seek out or join re-evalution counseling. I apologize for making this recommendation and including it in my book before I truly understood what it was. I had every reason to believe it was simply people getting together and listening to each other. I do believe active listening is a very healing tool and using this simple tool outside the "organization" of reevaluation counseling is helpful and healthy.

I stand behind everything else in my book. I hesitated to admit all this publicly, because it's embarrassing that I almost got sucked into a cult, and I worried about losing credibility by writing about it. But as a writer, I think you lose more credibility if you can't ever admit you made a mistake. And more importantly, I don't want anyone to get sucked into a disempowering cult because I recommended it in my book. Decide for yourself, but from all I have now read about it (not counting the book that led me to seek it out), RC is rehashed Scientology and a cult of personality. Mea culpa.

Here's a webpage with some articles about it:

Here's the wikipedia page:

As always, in the spirit of wellness-