The best mistake my father made was to let me join him that one Christmas break watching the VHS tapes he picked up on brainwashing and mind control. It was an unintentional gift that has lasted me throughout life.
I’ll never forget the families wanting to get their children back that wouldn’t leave. How they didn’t stop searching for them. Trying to get thru to the youth, the person that they knew and loved. How the person in the commune just didn’t hear the words. I mean really hear them. They would listen and try to explain to each other why the lifestyle was good or bad depending on who was talking yet neither party actually heard the other.
In the videos, it was explained how they got these lost souls, these people who were searching for something more. How that lifestyle was appealing and dominated all other choices. Why they stayed and believed. One young woman maybe early 20’s stuck in my mind. She wanted to leave but couldn’t get away. They kept at her until the methods worked and she became pliant to their lifestyle suggestions. Or maybe she just gave up and gave in fro sheer exhaustion. Another young woman felt the opposite. She refused to leave she wanted that life regardless of the hurt and abandonment her family felt.
What made them pliant, willing believers? It wasn’t beatings, rape or physical abuse like you may assume. It was segregation, hunger, lack of sleep, heavy physical labor that finally made her pliable to them. This is where I connected the dots that I was right. That it was wrong how I was being raised. Don’t get me wrong here. The community I was born into was nothing like Wako Texas and other extreme sects. It was a community built to live off the land, to be self-sustaining and off the grid. However, as with any good values, some extremists thinkers were a part of it. Of course, the deep religious beliefs didn’t help.
Earlier that year I had gotten in trouble for something I’ve conveniently forgotten. In the ensuing teen outburst and tantrum, I went for the phone to call child services as ‘it was wrong to be raised like this’. The consequence to that was to be locked into my room for a few days on bread and water twice a day brought to the door and escorted bathroom breaks a couple times a day. The hook and eye lock I had installed at the outer top corner of my door to keep my little sister out now had backfired for that is how they locked me in.
I was livid. How dare they treat me like this. Make me a prisoner, lock me up, the injustice of it all. True to teenage form I got over it. I wrote the thousand word essay on my wrongdoings and after my allotted days I handed it over. And was promptly in trouble again for plagiarism for how could a 12-year-old write a decent essay? One who grew up with adult conversation and companionship, with books, sermons, and discussions, not friends, preschool, playdates, and television that’s who. Needless to say that disbelief in me further solidified my resentment. The resentment that had been building for a while and would continue until it burst out.
Many years later I was at a self-help weekend retreat. Similar methods were used. We had to stay at the hotel at night and weren’t to return home or be in contact with our friends and family. We shared rooms with strangers. Were woken early to hike a nearby hill prior to breakfast. We spent days digging deep into our painful pasts, resurrecting the scars that brought each of us to this workshop. I saw the signs and smiled to myself. I joined in all the exercises for you will only gain what you’re willing to put in. I believed there were life skills to be learned regardless of the red flags. I wanted to heal any issues I had so I could have the emotional tools to be a good single mom to my young children. I wanted to be able to provide the best childhood I could to them and mine wasn’t exactly role model history. So I did my best and ripped open my scars baring them to these strangers. I learned to accept myself and love myself. Near the end of the weekend, we were divided into small groups and given an assignment for the next day. We were given a song and told to come up with a performance. The stress of a public display, to dance and screw up, to fail in front of everyone was terrifying. The feelings of insecurity and fear. Clammy hands wiped on thighs, nerves strung tight, we were all on pins and needles. Thankfully my group didn’t have to go first and we were part of the big circle watching the performance. It was then that I noticed and saw exactly what was wanted what was being done.
It wasn’t a dance or performance. The leaders wanted you to jump and move in such a way your adrenaline would pump through you. That the fear and insecurity would be overwhelmed by the physical motion. Then you immediately stop close your eyes and fall back into the arms waiting for you. Your bodies natural reaction to the adrenaline the rush of emotions, the immediate calm with all those hands holding touching you that you had bared your soul to cried with was an emotional break. Shaking crying and the high from the release. It was an addictive feeling. Like the high of a drug that envelopes you with warm lethargic joy, love, happiness. Yet this was legal, expensive but legal. For those that didn’t realize what it was, what gave them those awesome feelings that would become an addictive retreat. then came the pitch for the next retreat at an even higher price! Thank you, dad, for teaching me what you did!!