Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Thoughts on Recovering from Transcendental Meditation

Here are a few questions that I thought were interesting to ponder. I have written my own answers below. I invite you to think about your own experiences, and if you'd like, to share your stories. Anonymous replies are fine!

1. Did you experience problems due to TM? If so, what were they?

After I left TM, I experienced extreme anxiety and depression. I also had "floating" episodes, where I reverted to believing the entire panoply of TM beliefs.

2. What helped you heal?

Learning about "mind control" and how it worked helped a lot. I did lots of reading. Discovering how easy it is to induce an altered state of reduced critical thinking in someone was pivotal.

Also, for many years I attended a monthly support group for former cult members. This was extremely helpful. Also, I attended a few cult recovery conferences.

Two linchpins that continued to keep my anxiety, depression and floating alive even after 20 years of working to recover from TM were (1) the belief that I was making a serious mistake by not doing TM, and (2) my belief that Maharishi was superhuman and therefore should be followed. When I discovered the internet, I read anti-TM websites. There I learned that researchers had lied about the benefits of TM, and that people who knew Maharishi on a personal level reported what a flawed human being he was. These two pieces of information broke the grip of belief. It was stuff I couldn't have learned no matter how much I read about mind control.

Also, for years I had been looking for other former TM teachers to compare notes with. Finding TM-Free Blog was a blessing for me. When I finally had other former TMers to share my stories with, I ceased obsessively carrying them around in my head, and my TM beliefs finally left.

Psychotherapy was extremely helpful in providing support and grounding and helping my general mood and life issues, but only somewhat helpful around the TM stuff.

3. What didn't help you heal?

I got voluntary exit counseling about 10 years after leaving TM, but it really didn't help much. Perhaps that was because I had already learned most of the stuff they were telling me, mostly about mind control, I think.

4.What well-meaning advice did people give you that did not help you heal?

At one of the cult-recovery conferences I attended, we had a panel of priests, ministers and rabbis who tried to answer our questions about spirituality. One of the panelists started waxing euphoric about how humans are by nature spiritual, and how God loves us. I shuffled restlessly and started dissociating as I was lectured at. Fortunately I wasn't the only one. One former cult member interrupted him and said, "This isn't helpful to us. We were spiritually fucked by these organizations. Some of us were physically fucked too. It is not helpful for us to have to sit through you lecturing us about this." She did go on to explain, (correctly I believe,) that after leaving a cult, a person is best off avoiding religion for a few years, until they are capable of not "floating," and ended by saying, "If there really is a God out there who is all-knowing and all-compassionate, then He knows what I've gone through, and He isn't going to be offended if I keep away from religion for as many years as it takes for me to heal."

Another well-meaning person, a minister-in-training whom I met at a Unitarian-Universalist retreat (i.e. she should have known better, in my opinion) listened to my agonized story of my flashbacks, anxiety, depression, confusion, etc. and wrote me a letter about the value of forgiveness and of letting go, and how "holding on" and not learning from one's mistakes keeps one from moving on. I think she was upset by my still being in so much pain after 9 years. I felt judged, criticized, and not understood. I wrote her back explaining that mind control is not a matter of "will" but a physical change in the brain, and that so long as I was still suffering emotionally, and could barely think straight due to brainwashing, it was physically impossible to "forgive" and "put it behind me."

5. Have you ever successfully helped someone heal from their experiences with TM (or from some other group?) What specifically did you do that helped them?

About 5 year after I left TM, I went to a restaurant for dinner with my sister's ex-boyfriend. She and he had been involved in TM together, and we met in order to discuss (i.e., criticize) TM. A woman at the next table came over and introduced herself as a Sidha, and said that she couldn't help overhearing our conversation. I panicked, expecting to be criticized and to start floating, but she soon made clear that she was very unhappy with TM, and was desperately seeking outside support, and a way to get out of TM. We invited her to sit and talk with us, and exchanged phone numbers, and she ended up attending the former cult member support group that I attended.

The former cult member support group had people who had left all sorts of cults, not just TM. One cult I learned about at the group was the Boston Church of Christ. (Not to be confused with the United Church of Christ or the Church of Christ, which are non-cult Protestant denominations.) Soon after, I attended a party, where I met someone who told me that he was starting to get involved with the Boston Church of Christ and "needed to make a soul-impacting decision very soon." It was an easy intervention for me, because he wasn't thoroughly "in"/brainwashed yet. I told him that I knew some people who had been in the BCC, and had left, and had come to realize that it was a destructive cult. I suggested that before he give his life to that church, that he have a chance to hear the other side of the story, and then he could make a more informed decision. He agreed, so I put him in touch with a few former BCC'ers. I am happy to say that after talking with them, he decided the BCC was a destructive organization, and didn't join.

6. Have you ever seriously tried and failed to get someone out of TM (or some other group)? What did you do? What happened? What advice would you give to someone in this position?

I've never had this experience. Lucky me.

7. Anything else you'd like to share from your experiences?

You are all brave and courageous and have all survived a lot! I tip my hat to you all! Please feel free share your thoughts and experiences below, if you'd like.

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