I recently found out that a couple of people in my extended family had some dealings with Nancy Salzman about 20 years ago. I can’t pin down the precise time frame, but Nancy was then giving Ericksonian hypnosis classes – and telling people that she’d just gotten away from a manipulative teacher.
I suspect that she is referring to an NLP trainer who I know she worked with, who I think has a particularly manipulative take on NLP (which Salzman seems to have picked up a lot of, regardless) but I can’t rule out that it represents some early misgivings and a falling-out that she had with Keith Raniere.
It does seem that, like Allison Mack, she was prone to falling under the sway of the wrong sort of men.
More key, I’ve seen reference to Salzman as a therapist and think she was working as such prior to NXIVM, and we also now know that she considered herself a teacher outside of NXIVM.
I think that to understand her role in Nxivm it’s important to realize that she she came to NXIVM as a trained counselor of sorts. I suspect she has always seen herself as a counselor and teacher, and came to regard NXIVM and Raniere in particular as sort of necessarily evils in order for her to try to do work with a broader reach.
The way in which EMs [Exploration of Meaning – a Nxivm therapy] were used to essentially apply thought reform to people having issues with how NXIVM was run and Raniere behaved, reminds me of how “auditing” is similarly used in Scientology in some cases.
Most famously, auditing was reportedly used to try and manipulate Tom Cruise, and his relationships, in order to keep him a loyal and involved member at times when he had backed off on his involvement with the group; it is also used to try to sew discord and break up couples when one objects to the other’s participation and spending.
Also, the cash sloppily strewn around Salzman’s house [$520,000 seized by the feds] I think pegs her as what is called a disorganized criminal.
History also shows that people who perpetrate frauds and scams rarely plan for what to do if and when they collapse or are busted – I don’t think there’s been one since Robert Vesco going on half a century ago (and he just miscalculated and ended up in a Cuban jail). I doubt that Salzman has any significant cash left; the FBI and other agencies would have looked hard, and plus she’d be under threat of other criminal charges (and/or a harsher sentence) if it turned out she was living off illicit cash.
Nxivm was always a cult
Was it ever not a cult and a dictatorship – just less so, or less obviously so, early on?
It seems to me that it was always Raniere, a couple of his lifetime bisexual pedophilia-friendly sister wives and enablers, and then a larger harem of similar women that evolved over time, including some polyamory-tolerant ‘girlfriends’ who came and went, engaged in deceptive recruiting, and fraudulent and criminal activity of one type or another.
Nxivm in a sense became toast after the Forbes article of 2003 in which Edgar Bronfman called it “a cult,” following on earlier pieces by Rick Ross’ Cult Education Institute.
After that ESP could no longer actually recruit successful executives, and it was rebranded as NXIVM in Raniere’s sly reference to an ancient type of debt bondage so prone to abuse – particularly sexual – that the Romans abolished it, increasingly relying on offering more levels of courses to a shrinking number of dedicated followers.
I want to note that it’s a common phenomenon that people who join high control groups or cults are often left with the impression that things went after they joined or after they left, when the dysfunction and abuse can typically be traced to the group’s beginnings and the leaders’ origins.
That’s similar to the phenomenon in which former participants imagine the “good” in the group when they were in.
What perhaps matters most is that no real celebrity ever got enough further than introductory courses, or enamored enough of the group, to want to publicly promote it – there are always a couple of Hollywood types who will dabble in almost anything new (a few hung around Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan in the 1960s, for instance), and whoever they did get probably had a history of group-hopping.
That left NXIVM with Mark Vicente (a cult-hopper himself) and the Vancouver crowd of TV actors.
Groups like this thrive on the affiliation of any known figures they can manage to snag, or a rumor mill fed with claims that supposedly prominent people are involved, in order to try to bolster their credibility. Sarah Edmondson’s innuendo [about the good in Nxivm] sounds to me like the same sort of breathy gossip that she probably used to recruit people when she was in.
There are several minor categories of independent films where the Oscar is considered to go to the director. At least in the past they have sometimes gone to rich heirs with the wherewithal to fund lavish projects to put their name on.
My guess is that Edmondson’s claims would turn out to be much less substantial than she implies.
What is NLP – which Salzman taught?
NLP is particularly rooted in Ericksonian hypnosis (Nancy Salzman studied both).
It does advance the use of suggestion, and covert or conversational hypnosis, in ways that can be surprisingly effective on susceptible individuals, particularly when amplified with other social influence techniques.
Suggestion and covert hypnosis are used in Scientology, possibly due to its founder L. Ron Hubbard having had early connections to Erickson, and the use of those techniques in conjunction with socio-psychological manipulation is one of the reasons that is is possibly the mostly highly controlling group that exists, doing enormous damage to members and frequently getting them to behave in contravention to their best interests.
Just because NLP has turned out not to be an effective therapy, the prime aspect that has been researched, does not mean that it is a technique completely without some potential power.
Here is an example that is sensational but illustrative:
Derren Tricks Shop Keepers To Let Him Pay With Paper
That’s real, not just a setup with plants, involving actual phenomenon that criminals sometimes exploit:
The whole subject of suggestion and hypnosis is fraught and complex, particularly when it comes to its use in high control groups or cults (though it’s worth noting that medical hypnosis is a real thing, and it can be as effective as drugs in alleviating pain, see for instance https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hypnosis/about/pac-20394405 and https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/hypnosis).
Here’s a bit more of a nuanced perspective on NLP and the state of research:
“Determining the effectiveness of NLP is challenging for several reasons.
“NLP has not been subject to the same standard of scientific rigor as more established therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
“The lack of formal regulation and NLP’s commercial value mean that claims of its effectiveness can be anecdotal or supplied by an NLP provider. NLP providers will have a financial interest in the success of NLP, so their evidence is difficult to use.
“Furthermore, scientific research on NLP has produced mixed results.
“Some studies have found benefits associated with NLP. For example, a study published in the journal Counselling and Psychotherapy Research found psychotherapy patients had improved psychological symptoms and life quality after having NLP compared to a control group.
“However, a review published in The British Journal of General Practice of 10 available studies on NLP was less favorable.
“It concluded there was little evidence for the effectiveness of NLP in treating health-related conditions, including anxiety disorders, weight management, and substance misuse. This was due to the limited amount and quality of the research studies that were available, rather than evidence that showed NLP did not work.
“In 2014, a report by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health found no clinical evidence for the effectiveness of NLP in the treatment of PTSD, GAD, or depression.
“However, a further research review published in 2015 did find NLP therapy to have a positive impact on individuals with social or psychological problems, although the authors said more investigation was needed.”