My Personal Story of Escaping a Cult - Part 4: Healing, Forgiveness & a Final Message for the People Still in the Cult
In the past 3 weeks, I have written a detailed account of the inner workings of the cult I belonged to, how & why I left, and questions for the cult leader. Today, I am writing on a topic that has been much requested - how I have healed from this experience.
It is a tough question to answer because healing from such a thing is not a one-time act. There is no one thing you do or quick 3 step process for healing after leaving a cult. Despite this, I will do my best in the following paragraphs to capture some ways I have healed from this experience. I hope they can help you as well.
1) Forgiveness is your friend. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a man named Capt. Charlie Plumb who was a POW in Vietnam for 6 years. I was asking him about what virtues are necessary for a good protector to possess. He named one thing that I hadn't given much thought to - forgiveness.
Capt. Plumb told me that only if you can forgive your enemies can you see things as they really are. He also said that if he could not find a way to forgive his torturers he would destroy himself by holding onto hatred. In this way, he could have survived being a POW but lost the battle of the aftermath due to holding a grudge of hatred. Wow. Part of how I have healed is in realizing that if this man can forgive the men who tortured him and killed his friends, then I certainly can forgive the cult leader and all its members. They have done far less evil to me than the torturers did to Capt. Plumb.
I do forgive the cult leader - I do not condone what he has done and continues to do, but I do forgive him. I harbor no hatred or animosity towards him or anyone in the cult. I must confess that I believe the only reason I am able to forgive them is because I have prayed for God to send me the grace to forgive them. My natural, human inclination is to be angry, bitter and resentful. But I know I am held to a higher standard.
It has been said that you don't forgive someone for their sake, you forgive them for your sake. As Capt. Plumb said, he knew the hatred he harbored would destroy him if he could not forgive his captors. Therefore, forgiving them was essential so he could survive the aftermath. Why does someone like Capt. Plumb who was captured and tortured for 6 years not have PTSD but some one else who face far less horror does get PTSD? I don’t know but I think forgiveness has a huge role in this regard. Forgiveness allows you to emotionally and spiritually survive the aftermath.
No one is saying forgiveness is easy. But it is essential to surviving the aftermath and not allowing the cult leader to win. If you continue to harbor hatred, the enemy has won. He is living in your head rent free and taking up the vast portion of your heart. Raise the rent and kick him out! I simply refuse to grant this victory to the cult leader.
Lastly, as a Christian, I believe that we are called to forgive our enemies because Christ forgave His enemies. "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Is the ultimate example for mankind. If I am going to claim that I am a Christian I must at least make an attempt to do what God says. He calls us to forgive our enemies and I am viewing this as a tremendous blessing and opportunity to practice obedience to God's commandment.
2) Focus on living your life not reliving the past. What happened to me is sad and disappointing but what good does focusing on that do for me now? As such, if you choose to make what lies ahead - your future - your focus, it is easier to move on. I am in the process of writing an amazing book based on 119 interviews about the virtues of the warrior heart - I should focus more on that instead of all this cult drama. The truth is, at this point, time spent worrying about the cult and its machinations is time not spent doing what I need to do and I what I feel I am called to do. Time to move on.
3) Play a game. The game is called "What good will arise from this and can I create any good by going through this experience?" Seriously, play this game and try to come up with as many ways this experience can lead to good things as possible. Write them down. Visualize them prominently in your mind.
For me, going through this struggle has made me even more relatable to others and has humbled me. A fellow speaker once told me that "people relate with your mess not your success." I now have a mess I can share with others in order to relate to them better and to help them.
Prior to going through this, I held my intellect in much higher regard than I do now. I now realize that very often, the reason people get victimized (by a cult or anything really) is often not an intellect problem but a heart problem.
This experience has taught me to be much more careful in guarding my heart and not to trust appearances. It has also taught me to focus more on the truth of someone's claims rather than the charisma or energy with which they make those claims. "Is what this person is saying actually true?"
It has also taught me to trust my own intuition much more because I had been suppressing bad feelings about this cult and its leader for 3 years before finally taking action. Had the situation been different, I could have been physically injured or killed if I chose to ignore my intuition like that.
This experience validated very powerfully for me Gavin de Becker's main point in his iconic work, The Gift of Fear: Your intuition exists to protect you and it always has your best interest at heart. That is something you can trust. You cannot necessarily trust that another person has your best interest at heart - they may not. But your conscience, your intuition, is always trying to protect you. To phrase it another way, your intuition doesn't lie to you so that it may hurt you. It may be wrong about something, but it doesn't lie to you so that it can rip you off or scam you. A person, however, may be doing just that.
4) Talking to others who have a shared experience. I am quite blessed to have been able to talk with several people who are "expats" of the same cult. We have had many good conversations and they have allowed me to vent my thoughts and get them out. I do not believe that keeping in this type of hurt and pain is good for your physical or spiritual health. Having a good outlet like people who know what you're going through has been invaluable.
Generally speaking, there will be at least one other person you can talk to who has gone through some similar pain you are facing or faced. Find them and talk. I do not recommend talking in a whining or bitching kind of way - but talk to just let your emotions and thoughts be released. Look for and discuss real solutions to your problems.
However, if you feel very hurt and upset, let that out too. Be honest about how you feel, don't try to live up to my standard or anyone else's standard of how they think you should feel. Likewise, be honest enough to admit if your feelings and emotions on this issue are reasonable or not. Having extreme feelings of anger is not justification for having them but if you do in fact have them, don't compound your problem by lying to yourself that you don't have them. Admit that is where you are at and immediately set up to remedying the situation. Always have the courage and honesty to face reality.
I am very grateful to several people who have spoken with me extensively - you know who you are. I can never repay you for your service to me and I hope I have been able to help you in some way deal with your pain as well.
WHY I WROTE THE BLOGS:
What happens now? Now, I move on and let go. Is it a one-time act? No. I will need to continually remind myself that I have moved on. But this is the final blog on this cult topic. I will continue to speak with anyone who wants to talk but I am no longer going to be writing blogs on the topic - I have said what needs to be said.
I wrote the blogs so that the cult members who wanted the truth would be able to see it. Many have reached out and expressed gratitude that I wrote the blogs and we have had private and personal conversations about their concerns and feelings. They are now forewarned and forearmed.
CLOSING MESSAGE TO CURRENT MEMBERS OF THE CULT:
I will close now with my parting words to the members still in the organization: I do not hate any of you nor do I have any ill will directed towards you. I understand fully the dilemma you are facing, to leave or not to leave? I cannot tell you what to do. I can only speak of my own experience.
Since leaving, I feel immeasurably better. I have decreased my stress, increased my freedom to train and seek knowledge from any source, made new friends with the expats (who have treated me better than the cult leader ever did in 12 years) and perhaps most importantly - I no longer have to lie to myself and pretend that everything is "ok". I knew in my heart and my gut that everything was not ok and now, I no longer have to live with fighting my conscience.
As I have written before, no amount of secret or specialized knowledge is worth your dignity, peace of mind, integrity or virtue. Loyalty to any man should not be based on what that man knows but on how virtuously they live. Knowledge without virtue will destroy you. Virtue is what sets up the appropriate limits around how to live and apply your knowledge. Only when virtue is mixed with knowledge do you get wisdom & only wisdom can help you to accurately employ and apply the knowledge you gain. The bottom line is this: if you are acquiring all kinds of knowledge with no virtue, what is the point? If you have to do something immoral in order to get the information, is it worth it?
This is what motivated me to seek the truth. My heart knew and whispered to me that I was compromising my integrity by continuing to ignore my intuition. Ironically, the cult leader has oft quoted a line from the Hagakure, "When your own heart asks, how will you respond?"
My question to you is this: "When your own heart asks about the cult and its leader, how does it respond?" Are you filled with peace, tranquility and assurance of what you are doing to be right, just and "defending the paths of truth"? Or do you have doubts, unanswered questions, & is your heart put ill-at-ease and would you prefer to simply avoid thinking about this question? Only you know the answer.
I know that when my own heart asked, it told me I must leave. It also told me that I had a moral obligation to warn the other members. I would not have been able to sleep well at night if I had stayed or if I had left but said nothing.
It has been brought to my attention that many of you still in the cult think I am calling you stupid for not being able to tell you are in a cult. Far from it. I was a loyal believer & follower for 12 years! I was one of the few who graduated Jokyo. If I was calling you stupid, I would be condemning myself out of my own mouth. No, I do not believe you are too stupid to know you are in one. I think you trust the leaders as I did. I think you have good intentions and project these intentions onto the leaders as I did. I think, that like me, you want to see reality the way you wish it was and not as it truly is. When I was still in the cult, the way I imagined things to be was simply better than things as they really were - so that's how I chose to see it. That does not make you stupid - it makes you human.
Some have expressed the desire to speak together as a group to discuss things - I have been a proponent of this from day one. I would encourage you to ask the leader to set this up so that all may be discussed. Do you not deserve to hear both sides of the story? Are you not adults, long-time students and paying members? I am all for meeting together to talk and hear everyone speak. I encourage you to ask leadership to set this up.
Personally, if you want to know more details of the situation & do not want to wait for a group meeting that may never happen, why have you not reached out to me? You have trained with me for many years, I will always take your call. Why do you plan and whisper behind the scenes when I am right here waiting to talk?
The other expats and I have nothing to hide. I do not bind you to keep secrets. In most of my conversations with current members I have had multiple people on our phone and video calls because I have nothing to hide. I have made these blogs public and spoken openly to anyone who would call. I will answer any questions you pose to me. But you must want the truth. You must take the risk to hear my side of the story knowing it may upset you and it may raise questions that you do not have answers to.
I care about all of you enough to have these conversations with you. If you want to talk, call me. If you believe that I am in the wrong and have made false claims, let's debate that too. I must tell you that to this day, over a month since my withdrawal from the cult, NOT ONE person has debated my claims with me nor have they offered proof to support the leader's claims. Why has no one done this?
If everything I am saying is wrong and the leader has immense proof to back up his claims that I have questioned, then this whole thing could be settled and over if the leader would just give you the proof to bury me. Why hasn't he done so? Why would he allow me to question him so openly in these blogs if he readily had the proof that could crush my position? Blog #3 on the cult asked some very specific questions - if those can all be answered with proof, why hasn't the leader done that?
(I'll add one more question that slipped my mind - The cult leader claims to have earned 2 PhD's from Japanese Universities. My questions are simple: What were the PhD's in, what universities, what years did he earn them, & what are the titles of his dissertations?)
Some of you have been or are angry at me, but if you are angry, why are you angry? Have I said anything that is incorrect? If so, prove it to me. I sincerely want to know. This is not an arrogant challenge but a genuine request for you to prove me wrong. The cult leader says we focus on reality, truth and purity right? Then use those principles to demonstrate where and why I am wrong. If you cannot do so, find someone who can. If you cannot find someone who can, why are you angry with me? Hasn't the cult leader said many times, "Don't shoot the messenger"? Why do you shoot the messenger if what I am saying is true?
No matter what happens moving forward, I forgive each and every one of you and I do not have any malice directed towards you at all. It is because I care for you that I wrote these blogs. I easily could have left the cult, said nothing and done nothing to rock the boat. I couldn't do that though because it wasn't the right thing to do. The cult leader is dangerous and continues to victimize people. If you knew what I know about what he has done to people it would make your hair stand on end. I cared about you enough to risk writing these blogs so that you could hear the truth. I have warned you that the field up ahead is a mine field. If you choose to walk that path with this knowledge, I cannot stop you. But I care about you enough to shout loudly and warn you: "Hey brother! Don't keep walking that way. You are entering a mine field!"
I wish you all the very best and I would still fight for you if you were being harmed.
Live with Virtue,
Title: My Personal Story of Escaping a Cult – Part 3: Surviving the Aftermath & Questions for the Cult Leader
For the past 2 weeks I have chronicled my experience in escaping a cult that I was a top member of for 12 years. The previous 2 blogs dealing with the cult have garnered nearly 1,000 views - I am ecstatic the word is spreading; thank you for sharing the blogs & reading them.
I have received several emails and calls asking for me to identify who the cult leader is and what the name of his organization is. I even had a friend who isn't close to the situation email me and say, "Can you tell me who this person is so I make sure to avoid them and never do business with them?" I answered him privately but I believe that you have the right to know who this man is and what his group is named. If you want to know who the cult leader is and what the group name is, email me at info@AlexLanshe.com
Today in part 3, I want to share some of what has happened in the aftermath of me leaving the cult and I share my list of specific questions for the cult leader.
I made my withdrawal from the cult public and well-known. This was done via an email that over 50 members in the cult could see. I did this to ensure that the leader could not make up some story about why I left. I left of my own free will and not at the coercion or prodding of anyone within the cult.
Initially, I received many "best-wishes" from other members who did not know the precise reasons for my exit (all I said in the email was that I was leaving for "personal and professional reasons"). I received these messages until the cult leader contacted me, then those well-wishes disappeared. The cult leader left me one voicemail and 1 text message - he has not contacted me since. Here is the voicemail transcript:
"Alex, this is ______ calling, I need you to call me back, we need to talk as soon as possible. Don't pause and hesitate on the call, I need to know what's going on."
I then received an angry email from one high ranking member who told me that I "owed the cult leader an explanation". If only he knew the explanation the cult leader owes him and how much the leader has ripped him off for years.
Despite this, the feedback I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Many current members have reached out to me to hear why I left and what my thoughts on the situation are - many of these same people told me that I was confirming their own doubts and suspicions about the "Collective" and the leader. Some members have left the cult entirely, others have said they want to stick around to see what the cult leader will do and how he will respond. I do not envy being in the cult leader's position - he has told so many lies to so many different people and he has no way of knowing exactly who I have spoken to and who I have not. He best choose his words carefully when speaking to the members lest he expose himself...
The cult has 4 main satellite branches (martial arts schools) - Ohio, Maine, Arizona & Michigan. Two higher ranking members (the satellite leader of the Arizona school & a high ranking instructor from Michigan) both asked me to remove them from this blog email list but did not respond to my challenge of telling me how what I wrote was wrong, incorrect, or exaggerated. They did not respond because they cannot win that debate and they know it - the cult leader's behavior is indefensible and I wouldn't want to be caught defending a man who has sexually taken advantage of female students, attempted to break up marriages of female students, scammed students out of thousands of dollars, committed consumer fraud & run several prominent martial arts schools out of business (my instructor's school in Ohio and a school in Maine which, I've been told, is in its death throes now). Be advised, if your martial arts school is supporting this leader, your school will die the same death as the one in Ohio - it is only a matter of time. It might be a slow and painful death, but it will die just the same.
Ok, off my soap box. Moving on! After having gone through this aftermath, I had time to ponder things. I came up with some very specific questions to ask the cult leader. **Hint, Hint ... you have my permission to ask the cult leader these questions yourself**
1) You constantly stress the importance of being "zeroed" yet all 4 of the main instructors of Ohio, Maine, Arizona and Michigan still teach and instruct what they want and not in the "zeroed" sequence. Why are they all not teaching the same thing in the same sequence? Why would one instructor who teaches Aikido receive a “commission to instruct Sogobujutsu from Japan” when this instructor does not teach Sogobujutsu? How is he “zeroed” and doing things in the “proper sequence”?
2) You claim your instructor training programs are very elite yet you have recently allowed people into them who have only 1-2 years of training & no formal rank or position in any of the branch schools. Why? What changed that allowed for the lowering of the standards?
3) You claim your old school had 900 students at one point. Where are all these students now? Why don't we see more of them training on a remote broadcast?
4) You claim your organization has international chapters, branches and schools. Why have we never cross-trained with them via video technology? Why don't the students from your school in Japan train with us and why don't we see any other satellite schools in England, Australia, China or Canada? If one of your members was taking a trip to Japan and wanted to train at your school there, could you give them the address, phone number and email address of the man in charge?
5) You claim to have written a book that sold 1.5 million copies. Why haven't you shown it to us? Why haven't you given us the information required to look it up (like an ISBN) so we can have a copy for our personal library?
6) Your website claims you were "presented with commendation from a member of the Japanese Imperial family at a Toyamaryu grand meeting". Why have we not seen any proof of this and why can we not find any media validating this claim? Surely such a big deal as this would have been covered by Japanese media as well as American media with you being American.
7) Why do the martial arts schools you gain leadership of always seem to lose all their students? Why was my home school in Ohio reduced from needing 4 hours a night, 4 nights a week to accommodate all the students, to now having only 2 regular trainees who train in an apartment? If your training is so great and your information so "potent" why did the Ohio school lose all its students?
8) You claim the perfect class scripts and sequences already exist for all grade levels of any practitioner. Why have your "Jokyo" not been given them yet even though that's what they were promised? Do they need to wait for Renshi before they receive them and if so, when did Jokyo become not enough?
9) You claim no one is a real "Sensei" unless they have been through your instructor training programs. What validation do you have to prove this claim? What proof do you have this is true other than you words?
10) Why is there basically ZERO information about you online except what you have put out through your own website? You claim to have been doing non-stop training and teaching for 50 years yet your students have more Google hits than you. Why is this?
11) You claim that one of the main reasons you won't find many internet results when we search you or the cult is because it has been scrubbed and moved to the deep web. Fellow expats have done the digging on the deep web and it isn't there either. Can you please provide us with the deep web links that prove your claims are true?
12) Why have you still not set up a Paypal account for out of state members to pay with a credit or debit card? Why must they still pay in cash or mail you a check?
13) You claim that much (if not most) of our instructor training program tuition fees and licensure fees go to Japan and not to you personally. However, due to the fact that all members must pay with cash or a check, I find this doubtful at best. Can you offer documented proof that our tuition and licensure fees do in fact go to Japan?
14) Why will you not call a public meeting and/or video broadcast to settle these questions? If you are as legit as you claim you are, you would have no problem proving me to be a liar and solidifying the loyalty of your followers forever. If you can prove I am a liar, you could also prove that the dozens of expats who left you are also liars. Why can’t we all jump on one, big video broadcast and settle this debate?
15) Why are so many great students and members from the past just gone and never return? Why are people like me who paid for Jokyo and spent 2.5 years in the program no longer members? If you and the information were so amazing, why would all these people leave?
That is plenty for now. In part 4 I will share how I have been healing and why I have hope for the future after leaving the cult. I encourage anyone who wants to know who this cult and its leader are to email me at info@AlexLanshe.com.
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National Speaker, author, blogger, and life-long student of warrior arts and science.