About Cognitive Dissonance: Letter #2

This is the second letter to my grandmother I stumbled over recently (click here to read letter #1) and as I transcribe it, a number of things strike me:

  1. I left “school” in 2011 and I wrote these letters in 2008 — even in my cult coma, I employed quotations around “school” language.
  2. I don’t remember writing the letters, but I must have written the one below after “class”, during the required “hour of silence”. It’s clear that I believed I was violating “school” code by writing a letter to my dead grandmother. I did not ask permission, just communicated out of a pure spontaneous need — what a bad student!
  3. In the letter, I struggle to remember what happened in “class” and feel guilty about my faltering memory. “School” often employs character assassination to those who struggle with their memory. It claimed something like your ability to remember, reflects your ability to love. Those who had memory lapses, well, they weren’t really able to love.

But now, I think I do recall the context that triggered letter #2 — one classmate had lost her father. She asked for help; she found she couldn’t simply go through her day and act normally. She wanted to scream it to the world – DON’T YOU KNOW MY DAD JUST DIED. If you aren’t in a cult coma, you recognize this phenomenon as grief.

Cult-Coma-Robert’s “help” consisted of telling her she was “in self pity”. I was astounded by his coldness. In a rare moment of courage, I challenged him, saying, “She just lost her father!” He turned my question over to my “school” cohort and “essence friend” to respond — she explained to me that Robert was saving her from drowning in “self pity”. I guess I didn’t buy it — thus, letter #2 followed:

Dear Gran,

I have no idea if you see or hear my thoughts, but I’m going to keep writing without asking permission. My question continues: should I stay, or should I go? I’m told I could walk out tomorrow; that I am “a free woman; that it is a choice and a privilege to be in ‘school'” . Is it? 

Tonight I saw the full spectrum of what is referred to as the “pendulum”. We start “class” with either Tai Chi, or what is called “body work”. Tonight’s body work exploration was so lovely — can I remember what it was? It was about the idea of being invisible and the “time body”. I felt light and playful and relaxed.

Then we discussed time and perceptions of time — which is fascinating to me. I really do experience time differently. Then came the kabash: the “Non-Expression of Negative Emotions”. This is where I start to wonder. Is that because, Gram, “I’m attached to my unnecessary suffering”, or is it because I’m being brainwashed?

I asked whether A’s expression of sadness was an expression of negative emotion, Robert responded, “You could say, I’m fine. What is it to lie, really? In this ‘work’ it is said, It depends on who — which I — is speaking.”

“But,” A said, “What if I feel the tears well up and the tension?”

“Then you aren’t trying hard enough,” Robert answered.

I don’t think I understand that exchange. What of grief? What of honoring honest-to-God loss and sadness?

I, myself, have been feeling so empty and numb, Grandma and I hate that sense of emptiness and this sense that this life is simply a long and lonely trial — an “experiment”. “School” highlights that sense, Grandma, but not always. Sometimes I walk out feeling light and hopeful. Sometimes I leave “class” with a sense of “possibility”. 

What will I become, I sometimes ask myself. And sometimes the question is what will I become if I leave “school”? Will I ruin absolutely everything?

So we’ve a new “instruction”: “go out and make new friends”. This is the one I felt creeping up and I’ve been afraid of, due to my ambivalence. There’s always been a piece of solace in my “school” exploration which was I’ve not been asked to recruit newbies. Well, that is starting to change and I’m uncomfortable with it –VERY!

If I talk about it with K, or in class, I can guarantee you I will be told to change my attitude, or that I am being stingy. We’ll see — I guess, I’ll experiment. I sometimes sit and stew instead of voicing my objections. We all do. But since we are working on “NON-EXPRESSION” of “negative emotions” many of us sit, and nod, and even smile.

You can see how well I’m doing at this “NON-EXPRESSION” of “negative emotions”. How is one to know oneself if one cannot trust his/her thoughts, perceptions, feelings? I observe suspicion, resentment, blame spewing out. “Some people sit here and don’t want to be here,” Robert said. Yes. That person, as it turns out,  is me and lately that person shuts up a lot — that “set of Is”.

And yet, I observe the required “hour of silence”, except that I pen this letter to you. That may be considered a violation. So I ask you, again, should I stay or should I go? What am I doing here really, if I’m flip-flopping and vacillating, swimming in my ambivalence?

There is so much to do: I’ve got work and a wedding to plan and a stepson to get to know. Why, then, do I stay? Because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. I am afraid I will simply fall back into old habits and sink, sink, sink — losing everything. Is that really reason enough to stay? 

I told myself I would reach my second anniversary and I will honor that promise to myself. Perhaps this is simply a state that is temporary. But Gram, I am asking for your help in coming to clarity. If I quit, would it be another one in a long pattern of quitting things, or are my perceptions accurate and my anger justified? Am I allowing myself to be manipulated? What for?

So these are the questions I ask and am afraid to utter out loud. Why all this fear?

I’m getting tired now, Gran and must go home.  But I’ll be back to the page soon. I find great comfort in consulting with you.

Love, Your Granddaughter.

About Cognitive Dissonance …

Yesterday I stumbled across some letters I’d written to my deceased grandmother in 2008. At the time, I wrote to her because I was sworn to “school” secrecy, but torn about my illustrious tenure.

It was really something to look back on my “school” induced state of turmoil. Cult experts and mental health professionals call this state cognitive dissonance. Those readers who’ve been inside the hallowed halls, or those who’ve been in other cults, will likely recognize their own versions of cognitive dissonance in letter #1; letter #2 makes it even clearer, which is the next post:

Dear Gran,

Since I can’t talk to anyone one but K about “school”, I am going to talk to you.

What the fuck am I doing?

Or should I say, “am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?” God knows I wouldn’t have a job that pays me 50K/year without “School”. It’s possible that I wouldn’t be married either. In fact, I would probably still be stuck in the same loop I’d been in for so many years and feeling more and more ashamed of myself for it — which, of course, would perpetuate everything.

I find myself thinking, though, what if I were putting that $350/month into my violin lessons instead of going to class. Would I? Have I been suckered into a cult? or is this a real thing? Is “school” exactly what I have always sought?

You know the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” Is this a classic case? I feel so far away from me, or who I believe “me” to be – – which could quite possibly be an illusion anyway.

But I’m sworn to secrecy and sometimes, often times, talking in class, or talking with K isn’t enough. So I talk to you. You are beyond this world and your perspective is way beyond — seems silly to even say so. But my point is who would know. Maybe Sharon’s right — I shouldn’t be wasting my time, their time and yet before Sharon’s appearance (with her big, scary presence) I felt I was getting some real help, some deep understanding, something I can’t get anywhere else, or in any way.

I can’t talk to Chris about it — it wouldn’t even be fair. I can’t talk to my friends. Who do I talk to? How do I possibly know what’s right. Is this “school” good for me? Is it making me more neurotic? Who is this woman and what is she doing with her life?

Well, I can’t even write about it, Gran … I hope that you can give me some guidance from whereever you are.

Love and miss you,

Your granddaughter.

Letter #2