MediaHound wonders what happened in Happy Valley, the emotions involved, and looks at how the Victims are being treated by people who may not know their own minds.
We hear the term “cult,” and we think we understand it. A cult is a group of religious types, sitting in a compound out in the boondocks, worshipping in weird ways. Cults are destructive and dangerous. You have suicides in jungles, nerve gas on subways. There are groups with celebrities and children all at sea, awash with billions of dollars.
“Drinking The Kool-Aid”. People believe they couldn’t ever take a sip. We all know cults. Cult members are stupid, weak-minded, lacking character. They deserve it! No sympathy.
When cults explode, we point at pedestals—how the cult leader has been knocked down, torn down, destroyed. It is seen as liberation. Liberty, so admired and prized. No one should be confused or upset. Their cult shackles are gone. You are free! Why be upset?
People know cults and have all the answers—or so they think.
Steve Hassan has written and lectured widely on the subject of cults. He was in one and now works as a licensed mental health counsellor and an exit counselor. He’s given evidence to congress and appears in the media. In his book Releasing the Bonds, he addresses the issues and experiences of people who have been bitten by cults, simplified to this acronym: BITES.
It’s what cults do, how they get hold of a person by the mind. So you believe you could never be bitten? You are too headstrong to allow it to happen to you? You know your own mind?
B.I.T.E. Is seductive. That is why it’s dangerous. It’s not a rabid dog. It’s your deepest desire to be bitten.
The Penn State scandal has all the hallmarks of a cult collapse. You just have to break it down.
Behavior. People join Penn State. Most are students. Some live at Penn State, are employed there and live there, have family and friends. When you enter an environment, you join in and conform. When In Rome and all that. It’s a safe place for fraternity, to live life. It’s supportive and empowers you for a future through eduction and community. Goals are shared, and your behavior conforms to meeting those goals.
Happy Valley, such a great name. A great environment. We Are … so seductive.
Information. PSU has a great history, a great public image. Media coverage of sports shows it all. The History of PSU players not being party to racism—so moral—is a core value. PSU is safe, they tell you so, with codes and systems that deal with bad behavior. You do what is right and moral. PSU will protect you from those who do not.
There is selflessness philanthropy, A focus upon academia. That’s what it’s about. Even activities like sport will not override the academic. This is said often. We all hear it, so it must be true.
The work ethic is played out. Work hard, play hard, you are part of the team.
Thinking. So you start to think about Happy Valley. Fraternity, Safety, Opportunity, the We Are … the focus upon academic above all else. It becomes unquestioned. You think of yourself as all those things. It gets fuzzy and warm. You’re in a place that you support. It supports you. You’re not just the small you. You become part of the bigger. You have a new family. We Are starts to replace I Am.
Anything that challenges the thinking has to be wrong. It is brushed off. If it won’t go, it gets challenged. Someone questions and gets told We Are. No Logic, no reason, just rhetoric.
You even get the argument, “OK it’s not perfect, but why are you being so negative?” You are indoctrinated into the good. The bad and the I are made smaller, so fraternally. It’s terrible to be told you’re negative. It makes you so unfriendly. You go with WE and smile.
People buy into the ideal. They think, I know the place. I know that person (even if you’ve never spoken to them) and the defensive positions are played. Jargon is created. Even food can become part of fraternity. Ice cream tastes so good. It becomes part of the seduction, the branding, no Kool-aid required.
Emotions. Once you are WE, you invest emotional capital. The behaviour makes you feel good. The information is all good, so you feel good about yourself. Your thinking is about the good and how that makes you feel. Good equals feeling, and, feeling equals Good. The Good become the WE ARE. Being in the group is all feeling. Thinking gets submerged, Feeling and thinking gets suppressed.
Feeling something is “not good” has to be wrong. Emotionally immersed, anything that is wrong makes you wrong and feel wrong. You are less of you, more of the WE ARE..
If you start to doubt it all, you feel bad about yourself. Am I doubting because I’m right, or a bad person? WE ARE rings in ears.
If others see no issue, am I right or are they? WE ARE rings out. There can’t be an issue, can there?
You discover something rotten. Should you cut it out? Would that damage the WE? Is it better to have a little bad and a lot of good? If I tell, will I be good or bad? WE ARE comes back as YOU ARE WRONG. The fraternity you should feel has you by the mind . WE ARE becomes WE ARE GOOD.
It has to be right, you agreed to become WE.
People convince themselves I’m a good person. I can deal with the bad from the inside. That leads to personal disaster. You stand and say I Am. The response is You Can’t Be, because WE ARE!
The WE does not believe in I AM.
Unless you are able to stand alone, walk away immediately or you risk being dragged under a Tsunami of WE ARE. It’s hard to be yourself when fraternity and WE ARE is all that matters. Once compromised and you have not stood up, the pressure to conform is literally absolute.
B.I.T.E. can be revealing. Just how many people can be bitten in one place?
What is most confusing is when you were bit, you allowed it to happen. It was so gentle, easy, seductive. It shakes you to your very core. No dog or sharp teeth required.
They are left dealing with being bitten at PSU. Behaviour, does not work any more. Information, no longer valid. Thinking, it does not fit. Emotions, up in the air. How can it have been so wrong, when It felt so right? How did I not see it? How did I get it wrong?
For the first time it’s the I and the WE is gone.
People are seen trotting out the Behaviors, Information, Thinking, and Emotions as if they still work, going through the motions. It was totally predictable that aggression would result and a riot took place. It’s what happens when that B.I.T.E gets uncovered. They have to unlearn so much and that is a painful process.
Some have been bitten harder than others, but all of the feelings are real.
Many talk about events at PSU, saying only the Alleged Victims have emotions to consider. The Victims’ emotions, the only hook that anyone can hang a hat upon. If you are not doing that any question or comment about other people’s feelings makes you bad person. Uncaring, stupid. Even abusive. How Dare You Not Put The Victims First.
That is exactly how abusers manipulate their targets. Abusers manipulate behavior, information, thinking and, emotions. Abusers negate other people’s emotions. It’s one of the hallmarks of abuse. Some are very determined to Capitalize upon PSU events. They want to control people’s behavior, the information they have, their thinking and ultimately their emotions about the victims.
You see, some want to develop a Cult Of The Victims.
The victims are in charge of their lives. Those who wish to capitalise on the image of these children are as abusive as anyone charged and awaiting trial. Such people can rationalise their activity, but when they use B.I.T.E. as their method, they just abuse all over again.
Once bitten, twice why—it’s a valid warning.
The victims can stand up on their own, and they’ve been doing just that. They don’t need anyone to provide a pedestal, to abuse them all over again.
—Photo State Library of New South Wales/flickr