Did you believe all, most or some of the QAnon schtick? Until you didn’t?
Welcome to the club.
I don’t mean the ex-QAnon club. I’m talking about a club much, much bigger than Q. I call it the Hoodwinked club, or H for short.
To hoodwink is to “conceal one’s true motives — especially by elaborately feigning good intentions — so as to gain an end.”
To be hoodwinked is to be had. Bamboozled. Scammed, one way or another. To have the wool pulled over our eyes. To be led by the nose, to a slaughter of the mind.
I’m an H too.
If you think you had it bad, being swept into Q zone for a few years or months, consider this: I spent 18 years tangled up with a teacher who spun stories like Q’s. My daughter was 6 months old when I started bi-weekly sessions with him. He slowly eroded my mind while I poured money into his pocket. Of course, there are many differences between my experience and yours, but I’m pretty sure there are key patterns that are very, very similar.
These patterns were analyzed in the 1950’s by an astute researcher and psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton who studied Communist China and Korean prisoners of war. (If you haven’t read his most recent book Losing Reality, I highly recommend it.) Lifton’s seminal early work is revered in the cult recovery world as a framework for understanding the psychological techniques employed during brainwashing. Lifton set out to understand how Mao Zedong was able to establish complete control over millions upon millions of citizens. Through his research he identified eight psychological techniques that were consistently enforced to create “ideological totalism” or what Lifton called an “extremist meeting ground between people and ideas”. (I’ll riff on these eight tenets as they relate to Q in subsequent articles.)
Extreme ideas can be sexy. They catch our attention and especially when presented slick and savvy, they stick in our minds. Once stuck, they are hard to change, especially if a propaganda machine fuels it — not to mention some classic controlling tricks: love bombing, riling up emotions, us and them dynamics, loading the language and the list goes on.
Seeing how I was tricked was excruciating. For me, snapping out was like a lightbulb going off. Once turned on, there was no turning it off — even though sometimes I wanted to. If you are in the midst, approaching or through this stage, I want to ask you to do one important thing: be kind to yourself. Beating yourself up is not going to help you one tiny iota. Put all of that energy into something more productive. Or you might find yourself going down the wrong path.
Do you feel the injustice of having been had? The cruelty of people who seem to take delight in hurting others? They are an evil bunch — dumbing us down, dressing us in dark hoods woven out of their elaborate lies, while they parade in circles around us in their shiny white robes.
But damn it! They no longer have power over us! We are the wise ones now. Ahh yes. Yes… Psst….. come close, listen well my friends. We know the truth now. The secret code lives within us. It is our duty to warn the others. We can trust the greater, the wiser plan that guides us. We are the answer!! Let’s call ourselves The Hoodwinked or ‘The Hood’ for short, and we can make hats and sweatshirts with H’s on them…
Wink. Wink. (Do you see how easy it is to slide from one icky experience into the next?)
The technical term is cult-hopping. It’s also called ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’. It’s one of the most common experiences for people like us who have broken out of a controlling, all-encompassing ideological identity and are in the early stages of integrating our experiences. Our emotions are high. Confusion reigns. Who do we trust? What is true? How can we tell?
Cult Expert Steven Hassan PhD, has a succinct answer for these questions: Truth stands up to scrutiny. The question now becomes: can we apply the scrutiny? Exactly how do we engage in critical thinking? These are important questions, but in my experience, they are not the essential ones until after you feel the ground beneath your feet again.
When I snapped out of the everyday cult, I was ensconced in for eighteen years, a few things saved me from spiraling into an abyss:
1) Talking. You might shake like a leaf at first, to say the words, “I’ve been hoodwinked” For me, it was, “I was in a cult.” Find your words and find people to tell. Use discernment who you talk to, but don’t let mistrust prevent you from talking.
2) Body-centered practice. Just before I snapped out of the cult, I had started to learn Reiki. The personal practice of my own hands quietly resting on my own scrambled head, heart and belly offered me an opportunity to unwind and rewire. I literally could feel the rewiring happening. Try it — you don’t need a teacher. Take a few breaths. Put your hands on your belly. Do body scans before getting out of bed. And make sure you get exercise every day. Your body will help you through this.
3) Reestablish trust. You were living in an echo chamber, where you learned you could not trust. To have one, or three or four if you are lucky, trusted companions who you can turn to when the earth starts to shake or your stomach gets tight, can literally be a life saver. Lean into your contacts from before Q, perhaps a quiet family member who you know loves you. Trust is an integral part of our humanity. Restore it, bit by bit.
4) Reading. There are so many excellent books. For me it was Snapping, Thinking Fast and Slow, and Mindsight. There are so many good ones. Go to igotout.org for a great list of resources, including movies, organizations.
5) Writing. Dr. Daniel Seigel talks about the importance of creating a coherent narrative out of confusing or traumatic experiences. Write your way back to sanity. If you are inspired to share your story, go to igotout.org to see how.
Later, I found an excellent therapist, started studying, began writing my book (An Everyday Cult to be published in May 2021) and began developing my new career in cult awareness education. That’s my schtick.
What’s yours? I have no doubt you will find it. We humans are resilient. If you don’t feel that yet, don’t worry. It will come. And you will be all the wiser.