“But it’s not a cult!”

My choice to use the word ‘CULT’ scares some people away from the work I do on & off the pod. So why do I continue to use it?

Because it’s the right word.

For years, when I was involved in wellness ‘cult’ures where shady shit was going down… I would on occasion, google the word ‘cult’ and scan the clickbait criteria, my heart pounding all the while. I was desperately on the hunt for ANY evidence to assuage my anxiety. I’d breeze past many red flag bullet points until… ah yes, there it is! THAT doesn’t sound anything like the group that I’m in. Research complete! I’d slam down the lid on my laptop definitively and shake my head at all the ‘haters’ out there. Then I’d double-down on the mission, and wade in even deeper.

Confirmation bias is a powerful thing.

It’s been said by cult survivors and experts alike – nobody joins a cult. In the same way that nobody decides to marry an abuser or knowingly accepts a job offer from an exploitative boss. We enter in to something good, promising, and hopeful. And then we stay because of all the best parts, because it’s not always that bad, because we’re compassionate and forgiving… and because we can’t see a clear way out of the muddied waters we’re swimming in. It never EVER looks&feels like a cult when you’re in it.

So I’m going to keep speaking openly about ‘cult’ dynamics, because two years of self-study has taught me that superficial definitions of this term are *colossally incomplete.* I’ll keep speaking to the deeper pulse driving it all, because I want to normalize conversations around love-bombing, undue influence, coercion, and the subtler forms of high-demand persuasion. I’ll even keep braving moments when people (even those I’m close to) wave away my regular referencing of these patterns, assuming that I’m just being heavy-handed with them… because they can’t possible apply to THIS situation… because I’M not someone who’d fall under the influence so easily.

It’s this stigmatization of the word ‘cult’ that, in part, leads to so much deflection and therefore lack of accountability.


Okay. And so what.

Deciding (and/or even declaring) that something is or isn’t a cult… this misses the point entirely. It distracts us from the deep work of self-reflection and relational accountability.

It’s really no different than when a BIPOC person speaks about his/her/their lived experience of racialized aggression and we spend valuable time engaging in asinine debates about whether or not racism is still a thing. Or when a sexual assault survivor names her abuser and we spend our energy shaming her for not making a stronger case for her victimhood.

How about instead of all that BS, we focus on the mitigation of said-harm? How about we learn to do better?

When people are being hurt, it is an urgency no matter what label we use to describe it. All of this too say, I don’t need to you to agree with me that this-or-that is cult. I’m too busy losing sleep over the fact that harm keeps happening.

Maybe let’s stop fixating on the label & start learning and unlearning so that we can make repairs and do a whole helluva lot better.

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