Quota / Penny: Healing

It took a long time to recover from much of what happened in Morningland, but I never overcame my fear of Patricia and Melikia. My way of coping and recovering from the psychological trauma was to discard everything, dismiss the value of my experiences, and deny that there had ever been anything good about it.

I moved on. Or so I thought. I tried to understand what happened to me and what I had done in Morningland. I’d been through est, had been in therapy off and on for years. None of my explorations answered my basic question: How could I have done the things I did, made the “choices” I made? In all my attempts to find answers, everyone told me, “But it’s okay to have done that.” I did not need absolution for the action; I needed to understand how I could make the “choice.”

I wasn’t concerned about right or wrong – I was devastated that I did things that that were not just out of alignment with who I am, but that actually violated that self. The shame of violating my own self was unbearable. I couldn’t find anyone who understood what my issue was, therefore, no one could help me.

Two years ago I reconnected with some other ex-Morninglanders and I discovered the degree to which my fear kept me tied to the past. I still carried so much fear that I could not even say the word “Morningland.” Via the group dynamic, coupled with the recapitulation exercise Dorie has shared with us, I was able to process through that fear and begin really looking at my experiences. I finally realized that my inability to understand my “choices” was the result of my inability to see that I had been brainwashed.

And I know I’m not the only one who had trouble admitting this! I regard myself as an intelligent human, so how could someone as “smart” as I am get brainwashed? Apparently, it wasn’t all that hard. From the end, looking back, it’s obvious and the job they did on me/us was classic! They took away all my connections with my own world, my friends, my basic identity — and gave me their reality in exchange. And I thought it was my salvation.

Once I accepted that I was brainwashed, it was easier for me to accept that I acquiesced and allowed Patricia and Melikia to define everything about me. It’s a horrifying thing, actually. But it makes my stress level in Morningland much more understandable – who I AM was not who she said I was, who I AM is not who many of you saw. I’m surprised I didn’t go insane. (No smart comments out there!)

Once I accepted the fact that I was brainwashed, I was able to get beyond my shame and begin to heal. This also may be a stumbling block for some others of you who are reading this. You were smart, educated, had been around the block a few times. How do intelligent, strong people get so brainwashed?

It didn’t happen overnight, did it? It was a long, slow process. You perceived rewards and were willing to trade bits of yourself for those rewards. You would suspend your belief and go on faith because they told you that you would understand it all later on. It’s not hideously shameful to have been brainwashed. It happens, and it has nothing to do with intelligence and more to do with your own patterns of behavior, what you grew up with and what you were willing to endure.

In an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims’ Unit, a young woman is brainwashed and terrorized by a man into absolute submission. In an effort to protect himself, he has hidden the evidence – the young woman. At the end of the show, the detectives find her, locked in a coffin-like cage under the bed. She is terrified and can hardly breathe. As they release her, she pleads with them with her eyes, saying, “I didn’t make a sound, I didn’t make a sound, did I?” The abuser had imperiled her life, yet her primary concern was that she was obeying his wishes. Yes, it is possible to violate our own humanity, to act against our nature, endure extreme mental and emotional abuse, and appear to do so willingly when brainwashed.

How can anyone recover from such a thing? In my case, I needed first to accept it, then forgive myself before I could deal with the specifics. I’m surprised to find that I’m still picking through the wreckage and salvaging parts of myself.

The rewards are phenomenal. Once I stopped denying that I was brainwashed, I was able to get inside myself and really do some work.

And now? I’m not 100% recovered, but I feel free, FINALLY. The thing that made me appreciate my remarkable mental/emotional healing was, of all things, a video-transfer of Brent/Karas’ 8mm films from Morningland. I was able to watch footage of Patricia and Melikia without emotional attachment – I just watched the video and remembered the fun I was having when the videos were shot. I remember the trauma but am no longer traumatized by it. I remember the good times, but have no attachment to them either. I feel balanced – it was a time in my life that was intense, and it certainly is a part of my personal history. Now I own it without shame or blame. I had a few good friends in Morningland (and I can say the word now!) and I’m reconnecting with some of them, enjoying who they are now.

Why am I really writing this?

Telling my Story is My Choice. Sometimes I think the only real choice I made in my entire Morningland experience was to join. I don’t know if any of the major choices after that were completely mine. But this one is. And it is empowering.

I’m also writing this because I know some of you still have “stuff” about Morningland that might be nice to get rid of or get beyond. You can do it. I call it healing – but it’s not the mystical, sit-in-the-chair-at-the-altar mumbo-jumbo stuff. By talking through your “stuff” with other cult survivors, it’s possible to become whole again. I am writing this to invite you to heal.

“If you have a skeleton in your closet, take it out and dance with it.”

(Carolyn MacKenzie)

There is great power in honestly telling your story. Besides the obvious psychological value of exposing secrets to sunlight and letting them heal, there are profound spiritual benefits. Caroline Myss writes in

Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can

that the fifth chakra invokes a purifying energy. She says that in Buddhism, the fifth chakra represents “right speech,” referring to our capacity to speak honestly. She says this center in Hebraic tradition invokes the forces of Gevurah, symbolic of right judgment, and Hesed, the greatness of love and our capacity to speak honestly to others and about others, and our respect for the power of truth. The Christian counterpart is the sacrament of Confession, which purifies our mistakes by urging us to acknowledge them openly, with neither guilt nor denial. Myss points out that we become energetically exhausted when we expend energy trying to protect the lies.

Repair, she says, comes only through energy retrieval – and the sacrament of confession is an act of recalling the spirit. Releasing the stories from Morningland is related to confession – we can trade the shame and shadows for pieces of our spirit, our energy that we left behind. It is a way to become whole.

“Toxic shame is everywhere.

Toxic shame is cunning, powerful and baffling.

Its power resides in its darkness and secretiveness.”

– John Bradshaw

Healing the Shame that Binds

You If you’re willing to try, there’s a lot you can do. Reconnect with some of your ex-Morningland friends – there’s a big list of us with e-mail addresses on this Website. Sign up for the Morningland list, and conversation about a variety of issues will periodically appear in your in-box. Join in! Find a way to Speak Your Truth (even if it’s to your dog.) And by all means come to the next Gathering in August and celebrate with us. See you there!

“Friend . . . good!”

– Frankenstein’s Monster