Betraying Narcissus

Darkness swirling in my stomach
How to exorcise the NKT
From inside my veins?
I won’t practice patient acceptance
Of an abusers paradise
I know others on the inside share this pain

It’s not paranoia
When they discuss their next move against you
Stepping off the throne
In the meditation break

You won’t silence me
With the usual tactics
I learnt to fight back
In the meditation break
You won’t annihilate me
Make me doubt my sanity
I learnt to trust my intuition
In the meditation break

We’re all mentally unstable
Full of generations of trauma
Broken dreams, neglect and heartbreak
But Narcissus
Pretends he’s perfect
But he’s an empty shell, a reptile, a snake
Jeckyll and Hyde
He learnt to hide his true self
In the meditation break

He thinks you can’t handle the truth
You’re too weak to meditate on death
Even though it could come today
But Narcissus
Isn’t imagining death
He can’t even focus on his breath
He’s probably ashamed he’s secretly gay

Fantasies of control, power, sex and money
Where can he get his next hit?
The next source of supply
He’s an addict
But he’ll calmly get others to believe
You’re the one who is sick

They’ll make you ‘insane’
Confusion going round and round in your brain
You were just unstable all along
They’ll manage to claim
She lost her dad
That’s the only reason she’s ‘mad’
They’ll check online obituaries
Read your PhD thesis
In the meditation break
My ‘paranoia’
It just got really bad

He can’t handle the truth
His imperfections, his shame
He thinks he’s on the path
But still he craves fame

I won’t enable you
I won’t collude with your games
Defame and destroy
Should be your middle names

You were right about one thing
I only put up with your shit
Because of my dad
But not because of his death
Because he was ‘mad’

Narcissus plays innocent child
But it’s all a façade
He knows what he does
He knows he’s not mild

I won’t be your echo
I won’t be silent while you leech
I won’t repeat your words
I won’t listen to you preach

I’ll watch your actions and ignore your words
Empty word salad
But I see your smirk
I won’t rejoice in your satisfaction
Your expansion
Spreading like a virus
Make them work, work, work

Time is ticking
Your mask is slipping away
You’re getting old, Narcissus
Your harem won’t stay

I wish I had known
About ‘Fair Game’
You’re not fooling anyone
Even the ones with your name
We know you don’t care
We know you’re not in pain
I will betray you
Over and over again
Dr Mere Name

Trying to get support when you are being sociopathically attacked at work and online by senior NKT using fake identities

1. ) The Charity Commission

‘Automatic reply ……………..then silence’

2.) Academics  

‘You are in more danger than you could ever imagine. Hand it over to the police and seek legal advice’

3.) The Police    

‘It’s a civil issue between you and them. We can’t see that any crime has been committed.’

4.) Lawyers 

‘That’ll be £1000 for a consultation please. It’s unlikely we will be able to identify them.’

5.) Friends and family

‘Can’t you just let go?

6.) The Charity Commission

………………………………………

A third and final version of my writing on The New Kadampa Tradition

After I discovered that the NKT had gone full blown Scientology on me and written an entire website for the purpose of tearing me apart, I had a bit of a delayed reaction. Usually it goes 1.) uncontrollable laughter, 2.) the shakes, 3.) warning everyone that this is what they do whilst pretending I am not that bothered by it, 4.) shock and shutdown, 5.) sadness about this state of affairs.

I knew I was ‘Fair Game’ but I thought they would be smarter than to make hypotheses about my pre-existing trauma as that reinforces everything I wrote in my report. I thought they were smart enough to leave me alone, as that would have contradicted my report. But they just couldn’t help it. Controlling the narrative so that members don’t believe me is their main aim and the only way they can survive. The only weapon they have is DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender).

I would like to thank senior NKT for pointing out areas of plaigairism which I have now corrected. Even though they did it using a defamation website under a fake identity and tried to bring the death of my father into their argument for why I can’t be trusted. I ended up going to a cyber cafe on my holiday to make sure I sorted this out, as I felt pretty ashamed about it. I felt like the priority was getting something out as soon as possible with my main points in, in case they found a way to silence me. I had made myself a target. As a result I could not prioritize protecting my reputation or the quality of the referencing. I remember thinking that it didn’t matter because I was screwed anyway. I thought my career might be over anyway because they would find a way to destroy me. But I had started and felt I had to finish ASAP. To write it more comprehensively would take a long time, an entire PhD thesis maybe, and I already had a full time job. My aim was to get people thinking critically and to highlight potential areas of risk and harm.

As I am unable to have a dialogue with the NKT, the defamation website was an interesting way to find out their criticisms. It seems they don’t think I should be allowed to call it a report. I make it clear throughout that it’s not a study (noone is dumb enough to move in for the sole purpose of studying the NKT). There are no guidelines for writing a report on a cult, but they claim I should be following guidelines that don’t exist. After contemplating this a bit, I found that I felt quite liberated at the thought of not calling it a report. It’s up to the reader to decide what they think it is. I’m happy to call it my opinion backed up by my qualifications and experience, survivor testimonies and psychological theory.

Sometimes the only thing I have to hold on to is the knowledge that I had good intentions. But that doesn’t protect you from a cult. I had no idea what I was getting myself into the day I was honest about everything on YouTube in the dark at midnight.

I don’t know what lengths they will go to to destroy me. I have been warned that this is just the start. I can control the narrative with my employers and even let people know on my CV if I wish. Or I could always change my name, flee the country, and go volunteer around the world in exchange for accommodation. I’ll just make sure I do my research about the places I end up, and make sure I havent accidentally got recruited into a cult.

The defamation website set up in my name by senior NKT

Every now and then in recent weeks I have been googling my own name to see when the NKT inevitably dish out further character assassination in an attempt to discredit my report. And finally I found this, an ENTIRE WEBSITE solely dedicated to this purpose.

Dr Michelle Haslam

‘Dr Robert Harrison’ who still does not disclose what he is a Dr of, or which institution he works for, claims that I was fired for gross misconduct. This a lie. I would have been given sick leave following his attack on me via my workplace (the day after my report on the NKT went viral), however as a contractor I do not get sick leave. I also would have been given a warning (not a full disciplinary) for sharing the email, which technically broke my workplaces data policy. However as a contractor, I get released from my contract instead of a warning. So, myself and my workplace mutually agreed a release from my contract due to stress. Stress, that of course, was caused by ‘Dr Robert Harrison’s sociopathic email (on top of the trauma of whistleblowing plus you know, recovering from involvement with a dangerous cult). A classic case of entrapment.

I particularly enjoy the bit of his post which states that his attorney has advised him not to engage with me and my ‘friends’. That did make me laugh! He uses DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender) to suggest he was caused significant distress by me.

He also claims he does not have the time or inclination to examine my report in full (he only cares about my mental health, right?) yet he has checked out the report in great detail. In order to discredit it. Why would anyone do that if they were not a senior NKT member? He states he knew nothing about it, but I referred to the fact that I was writing it in my videos, which he stated he watched. So there is no way he could not know I was writing a psychological report on the NKT.

He also managed to find out the date of my father’s death and his age. Creepy, right? The team of stalkers behind him, who have been working behind the scenes as soon as they identified me as a threat, have done well. They couldnt work out my age though, because I was 17 when my father died, not 14.

In regards to the claims that I am mentally unstable, this is clearly a method for discrediting my report (see the section in my report on ‘Ad Hominem’ attacks). If he had genuine empathy, he would not disclose personal information about my mental health online in order to try to undermine my perception of reality (gaslighting) or to humiliate me, if I was already suffering. Trauma of any kind does not negate my view. Claiming people who write testimonies are too traumatised to be trusted is a cult classic. One would expect a recent survivor to have some trauma symptoms on board. He claims that I was not having therapy or taking responsibility for myself. This is a lie (how would he know about my therapy anyway?)

My report is not a research paper and I make that very clear throughout. It is basically a testimony with my psychological opinion alongside it plus some references. ‘Dr Robert Harrison’ claims that I should not be calling it a report. He won’t actually engage with me using his real name or as an obvious senior member of the NKT. But given they are obviously unhappy with my use of the word ‘report’ I don’t mind changing the title. Does anyone have any ideas? Something like ‘My opinion on the teachings of The New Kadampa Tradition, and potential psychological damage’ might fit better. It’s certainly a unique piece of writing so it’s difficult to know what to call it. I would like to adjust this ASAP but I am on holiday until mid September and don’t have a word editable version with me.

In regards to his claim that it’s not a quantitative study. That would not be possible, clearly. Who the hell is going to move in with the sole purpose of conducting a research study?

In regards to his claims of plaigairism. The first version was written quickly as I felt unsafe, like they could attack at any moment and I needed to get it finished. As a result I think I didn’t adequately check I had reworded all the chunks of text I had in my notes. When writing the second version I double checked for anything I might have accidentally plagiarized. I am happy to check this again now that I am more rested. My sincere apologies to anyone I may have quoted without quotation marks or a reference. It was not my intention. I might personally write to them to apologise. Except they don’t care, because it’s not a research paper or a book, it’s just a testimony based on my opinion, plus other people’s testimonies, plus some psychological theory.

Oh NKT you just continue to make this worse. Not only is this sociopathic, it’s actually stupid. It would have been a lot more intelligent to just issue a fake apology to anyone who ‘feels’ they have been harmed and write a fake safeguarding policy. Or at least to use your real name and not pretend you’re a Dr of nothing. But you can’t, because you know that then I could sue you for defamation

Update 03.08.19. Today I feel very sad about how the NKT members are being deceived by this narrative created by senior NKT via the fake persona ‘Dr Robert Harrison’. In the first few days of finding it I saw it mainly as an attack on my reputation. But now, I am more aware that really their main priority is to keep people on the inside from the truth. And that is really heartbreaking. They are being deceived on so many levels. The NKT claim they don’t keep people captive, but what is this if not captivity amongst a bunch of fake personas and lies?

My written testimony

Finding my way out of the empty black hole of spiritual narcissism

Having just returned from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) conference, the timing feels right to write my final written testimony. Some of you may have already seen bits of my story, on my YouTube channel ‘Thriving after leaving The New Kadampa Tradition’ in Spring 2019. This is a condensed version of the whole thing. I will speak less about my own vulnerabilities, due to limitations I feel are placed on me by my profession.

I moved in to Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre in November 2016. I was in a more vulnerable state than usual, had lived in an intentional community before, and thought it would be a peaceful supportive environment. To those who have been in the NKT for years, the centres are more obviously slave houses. But this is not obvious to the general public, who they draw in to help pay the bills and then slowly dump more and more responsibilities on through flattery and guilt. Sadly I did not do any research about the organisation, and did not know much about the way cults operate. I had a positive view of Buddhism, as most Westerners do, and knew nothing of the institutional spiritual and psychological abuse. It never would have even occurred to me that I was paying rent to a dangerous organisation linked to the Chinese Intelligence. I thought that community living was helping the environment and that we were also helping ourselves and others through practicing meditation, which I knew had many benefits through the mindfulness movement. I thought those who only read Kelsang Gyatso’s books were extreme, but they didn’t really bother me. I continued to study a broad range of topics including the neuroscience behind both meditation and trauma. I went on retreats elsewhere, with a group of young buddhists from the Triratna movement, whom I was fond of. I felt like an unfaithful spiritual slut who had to keep her cheating a secret. And still, the extreme nature of the NKT didn’t set off as many alarm bells as it should have.

I never believed in enlightenment and yet I still thought the sentiment behind a lot of the teachings was beautiful. On my working visit I remember the admin director gave me a mantra to recite whilst doing a tedious ironing job when I got a bit frustrated. At the time, I thought this was kind, but now I see this as the first act of spiritual abuse. It was the first sign that emotions weren’t allowed here, and that people would repeatedly give me orders on how to think and feel when it was not requested. There were many controlling people just lurking around, waiting for you to struggle so that they could act superior and give you advice on how to overcome any healthy human feelings. There were mild, quiet, introverted people around too of course. Those were the ones too busy invalidating their own feelings in their head and creating some kind of ‘pureland’ to bother with you.

I had never been religious and I didn’t know what was happening, but suddenly I was driving through the misty countryside singing the prayers even though I didn’t know what half of it meant. I knew it was about being kind and grateful, and helping others, and that was beautiful to me. What I didn’t know was that I was hypnotising myself with the words despite my poor understanding. Lack of gratitude or being kind had never been my problem, being a good girl and a good student was my problem, one that would slowly destroy my health during my time that I lived there. Somehow, I did start to develop admiration and respect for the teachers even though I didn’t agree with everything they said. I don’t know when it started happening, but I did start to value their perspectives, apart from the bits on feeding hungry ghosts and their bizarre ‘truths’ on where the mind was located and how it apparently contained sperm. I thought I was becoming wiser by aiming to destroy my ‘self-cherishing mind’, but I was actually just reinforcing my pre-existing tendencies of self-neglect and abandonment. Hear something often enough and you will start believing it. Especially when it’s written on the walls. I am clear now that there is a ‘brainwashing’ element, because I was definitely under the influence, especially after a summer festival focusing intensely on my wish to benefit all living beings. It is clear now that I had developed a serious martyr/messiah complex. I became a shell of a person, with little passion and no idea what she needed or wanted. But because of the teachings I believed what I was doing was somehow skilful and impressive. Despite the fact that I would never advise anyone else to do that or be impressed by this. 

It’s funny how you all believe you are supporting each other in developing spiritually. Actually, you are just codependents using and triggering each other, but talking as if your motivation is pure and that it’s more skillful than average. You all think you’re on some kind of path, but you’re actually just in a stage of arrested development, maybe even going backwards. You’re not learning how to function in the ordinary world at all, and you are learning to invalidate your own and others emotions, a ‘skill’ which will severely damage your interpersonal functioning. But spiritual bypassing and dissociation feels good in the short term, so you might feel like you are getting somewhere, learning to be pathologically happy or numb all the time. Despite not believing in enlightenment, somehow I did come to believe that I was on some kind of incremental path. I hate to admit it, but I suppose I became a spiritual narcissist too.

I felt like something was wrong most of the time, but my stomach became so confused due to the mixed messages and conflict with my own views, in the end I think I lost touch with my intuition. I saw that most people had trauma and mild learning disabilities, and I knew they were vulnerable. But hearing all the time that suffering brings people to dharma makes it sound as if the dharma will cure them of it. Whilst I thought this was unlikely, I decided that whatever they wanted to do, if they believe it helps them, that’s great. It took me a long time to trust my own perception that it is actually causing them and their bodies more harm. I only really accepted this about six months after moving out. Believing it benefits you is due to the brainwashing and the short term benefits of spiritual bypassing in avoiding emotional pain. I found it very painful to accept this and still do find it hard to imagine everyone still there, continuing with that path. 

The coldness of some of the people I had been living with really struck me when I left and the general public seemed so warm, genuine and kind. It became very clear that I had been spending time with sadists and masochists. Many people spoke to me and treated me brutally under the name of ‘wisdom and compassion’ at Nagarjuna KMC. Maybe they really thought they were helping me grow by causing me more suffering, but I think they are just sadists who found a place where they are accepted with no consequences for their actions. They too had become ‘brainwashed’ into thinking that their cold words and actions were somehow an expression of kindness and their wisdom, instead of a sign of lack of empathy. 

After six months living in an ‘ordinary’ house, I ‘cult-hopped’ to Triratna, and have a lot of lovely warm memories there. They don’t introduce emptiness teachings to beginners and focus much more on cultivating ‘metta’ and spiritual friendship. But in the end, I found that people from Triratna still occasionally spoke as if they were on a superior path to the general public, and I didn’t want to hang around with spiritual narcissists anymore, so I did another runner. When I read the sexual abuse testimonies (the originals, not the whitewashed perspectives on them) of ‘disciples’ of Sangharakshita I felt sick to the bottom of my stomach. How had I gotten drawn in to a world where this was acceptable in the name of ‘teaching’ others about spiritual development? Gurus and spiritual guides are just narcissists who are elevated to a God like position by people who are codependent (and other narcissists). I had never even wanted a Guru, I just wanted a ‘sangha’. But without the guru, there is no sangha. In a talk on ‘Why can’t we eliminate cults?’ at the ICSA conference it became clear that we never will, because of our deep seated need for a sense of belonging and a tribe. There is certainly a scary void after ending all my friendships from both the NKT and Triratna. But I am ready to build my own sense of community without a strange dysfunctional, extra wounded, codependent and narcissistic ‘family’ judging me for my every emotion or ‘worldly’ action. I have accepted that I need to re-build a tribe one by one, the hard way. 

Now, I only spend time with people who understand emotions and who can handle mine. I honour and respect all of my feelings, including my fierce, righteous anger. This anger finally broke through nine months after moving out, and it was a powerful force not to be reckoned with. I know that speaking out on YouTube was bold and provocative, but I couldn’t hold it in anymore. After reading the testimonies of ex-NKT who had been treated so disturbingly, far worse than myself, I was tortured. The knowledge that most people’s stories are too dark for them to tell disturbed me even more. I dreamt of NKT babies being born and indoctrinated into believing they should only think virtuous thoughts. I dreamt of pervy ‘dharma’ teachers groping vulnerable working visitors and lecturing them on how they should be grateful for suffering. I dreamt of people giving up their identities, honestly believing they will achieve enlightenment, and being exploited into ill health. I felt like the NKT’s darkness was inside of me and that I had enabled and colluded with it, and it was eating me alive from the inside. 

I know that my name and reputation may be forever linked to the NKT now, due to my psychological report. It is likely that some of them will continue to try to destroy my reputation and career in any way they can. Maybe in a few years I might regret speaking up, but right now I don’t. I spoke my truth, I expressed my previously repressed feelings, and it was heard. Now, I feel like a whole person again. One who can let go because I did the necessary processing and sought appropriate support, not because they ordered me to, by passively aggressively suggesting I am spiritually inadequate or by threatening me with rebirth in a hell realm. Seeing their attacks on me in writing confirmed how sick the teachings and organisation are when combined with peoples’ personalities, and disturbed me all over again. The knowledge that people who speak up will continue to be psychologically abused in this way under the name of Buddhism broke my heart again. If I had to describe my whole experience, it would be as a series of heartbreaks, traumas and humiliations. But not the kind that take you back to kadam dharma. The kind that make you face your darkest wounds and defences, and go crawling back to your therapist with your tail between your legs.

Feeling forced to prematurely forgive without acknowledging any of your own pain, can make you even more resistant to forgiving for a while. So instead I focus on forgiving myself, for being naive and idealistic, for not doing any research and downplaying the red flags. My fierce urge to rescue everyone has faded somewhat. A year out, I think I am well on the way to healing the martyr/messiah complex. I know I can’t save everyone, not from their trauma, from ‘samsara’, not from narcissists and sadly not from the NKT.

Reflecting on the experience of speaking up and sharing my New Kadampa Tradition story on YouTube

Some of you might have seen my videos on the channel ‘Thriving after leaving the New Kadampa Tradition’. (So many in fact, that at the International Cultic Studies Association conference people are greeting me with the phrase ‘Hi Survivors and anyone else who might be watching this’). Some of you also might have seen that the videos are no longer available to view.

It has been an intense, emotional, profound, authentic and deeply healing few months. As well as the most frightening and abusive of my life.

The guilt that I felt, not speaking up about my view, came from a sense of responsibility as a clinical psychologist to share my concerns about exploitation and psychological abuse. In the end, I couldn’t cope with my own silence any longer.

Sadly, the British Psychological Society social media guidelines state that a Psychologist should not use social media for whistleblowing. So, I felt I had to take them down. I then found that I felt significantly less exposed and safer without them available for all to see. Feeling safe is one of the most important conditions for recovery from trauma. The whistleblowing process alone itself is a trauma, and so I must make self-care my priority now. The report says everything I want to say for now, albeit in a less engaging medium.

I don’t regret what I did. I know I triggered a lot of people to feel painful emotions in speaking my truth. I agree with a good friend of mine when she said ‘the world needs more authenticity that includes pain’. Having the survivors of the NKT and similar groups validate my experience, my emotions, and share their own experiences, was incredibly powerful. Thank you all so much. It also allowed me to feel confident enough in my perception and intuition to write the psychological report. I never could have done that without everyone’s support. Thank you also to the academics, who I am now meeting at the ICSA conference. It has been so grounding, warm and validating (my derealisation has now completely gone).

Myself and other professional members of ICSA are discussing potential collaborations using video, to focus more generally on the concepts covered in my report in future. So after my (long) holiday, these should be uploaded on the NKT survivors channel. So see you in the winter months (well I might not see you, but you might see me).

Thank you for reading 

Michelle