Vice.com published [November, 23, 2017] How a Secret Society That Brands Women Sold Empowerment. Writer Sarah Berman interviewed cult experts Steve Hassan and Rick Ross and ex-Nxivm members, Sarah Edmondson and Barbara Bouchey.
I found Ms. Bouchey’s comments particularly interesting.
Taken from the article:
According to Bouchey, [NXIVM] participants often report profound and life-changing experiences.
“Keith developed a questioning technique that lets you peel back layers to get to where a negative pattern came from, why it’s controlling you,” she told VICE.
Bouchey agrees there are certain words Nxivm shares with Scientology, like “parasites” and “surppressives.” But having observed behind the scenes for many years, Bouchey says Raniere has developed much of his own material—thousands of hours of it, in fact—and that she still recalls taking some good away from it.
For example, Bouchey said she was personally prone to anxiety around being late for appointments. She claimed her training with Keith helped her get to the bottom of what that meant about herself and other people. “I worked on that, had some ‘ahas’ and was able to get rid of that pattern,” she said.
Bouchey cautions against hypnotic explanations. In our interview she asked me straight: did I think [Sarah] Edmondson sounded hypnotized? I honestly didn’t think so. Reports of “brainwashing” and starvation diets have certainly grabbed tabloid headlines, but don’t tell the whole story, she said. “I don’t think she was on a 500 calorie diet, I don’t think she thought she was hypnotized—other people used those words.”
Bouchey is also an NLP practitioner, something she learned to better understand the psychology of her financial planning clients. She claimed it’s far less insidious than it sounds. Simply rephrasing a sentence so that the listener feels they have a choice falls under the banner of NLP, according to her.
Bouchey says followers like Edmondson looked up to Keith as they would an author of an uplifting spiritual book, like Herman Hesse and his classic self-discovery novel Siddhartha.
“She’s had 13 years of admiring and respecting these people, she’s read it so many times she loves the book,” Bouchey told VICE. “You don’t expect that in Mr. Herman Hesse’s inner circle they have hidden chapters of the book, and they’re using it against you—you can’t imagine it in a million years.”
NXIVM discredits its critics the way a family might discredit an estranged parent, according to Bouchey. It encourages people like Edmondson to cut off communication, and trust first-hand experience. When people express skepticism, some leaders start bringing in more tough-love tactics—suggesting if you don’t join or commit, there may be business or personal opportunities you’ll miss.
Bouchey calls this the “hidden chapters” of the Nxivm story, where women are asked to submit nudes as a proof or pledge that they won’t leave or tell anyone about the group. According to her, the leaders have earned so much trust they can actually cause harm without risk of losing the follower. “You start to think, I on’t like this chapter, that doesn’t belong in the book,” she said.
Bouchey left Nxivm nine years ago, and has since spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending herself in court.
Vice.com previously published Why I joined a secret society that branded me by Sarah Edmondson [as told to Sara Berman] on Nov. 2, 2017.