Unethical Influencers And Personal Development

Mar 25, 2021

The captivating Starz documentary “SEDUCED,” produced by former NXIVM victim India Oxenberg, has been available in full on all platforms that carry the channel for a few months. The crimes committed by "Vanguard" Keith Raniere, Allison Mack and the NXIVM/DoS cult shocked the hell out of me. You've probably heard about the many cases of sexual abuse, trafficking, bribery, and the outrageous branding of his initials on members' bodies.

Afterward, I just couldn’t overcome the feeling that abuses like that will probably happen again by some other dynamic leader if the personal development industry stays the same - especially as we try to come out of the anxious plague of Covid-19.

“We are no longer living in the age of information. This is the Age of Influence, but there are ethical influencers and unethical influencers,” says Cult Expert, Steven Hassan.

There have always been unethical influencers. The examples are numerous: terrorists, dictators, the mafia, Charles Manson and many more. Having the persuasion and power to fundamentally reboot even one person's mind is a very powerful thing; when that influence has the power to affect many minds it comes with even greater responsibility. And some gurus, to this day, are still abusing this superpower.

As strange and chaotic as these times are, we still rarely expect this type of maliciousness.  So, many people are asking “how does this happen to smart people?”

The answer: Keith Raniere’s deepest influence “magic” happened years earlier when he was slowly changing the way people identified with themselves, their support systems, and their intuition all under the guise of “life improvement.” That’s what made all of NXVIM’s crimes possible. You would also see this by watching the 15 plus hours of documentaries about the controversial group.

Learning why groups like these get influence have always been a hobby of mine, but I’m no specialist on cults. However, I do know about “wellness scams” that are sometimes erroneously thrown under the “self-help” umbrella.

Obviously, the 11 billion dollar self-help industry is a broad category, and the “unethical influence” portion of that doesn’t even measure 1%. That isn’t the point really. It’s more about the GROOMING POTENTIAL some programs have to "brainwash," just like Nxivm’s Executive Success Program did. After seeing its potential, Raniere created DoS (Dominant over Submissive). Eventually, by the time their loved ones notice a DoS-type program, it’s too late, because a guy like Raniere and his henchman Nancy Salzman already have their claws into the mind. Disciples find themselves already sidestepping their better interests due to the liberation of many fears - which is no small feat, and seemingly “good” on the surface.

“Okay, what in the hell are you aiming for here Paul?” Here it is. Even though it generates a massive $11 billion, the self-help industry is totally unregulated. Nothing. Self-help/personal development's only limit is effectiveness and popular demand or lack thereof. Consumer support ($$) is all that weeds out some from the others, and that certainly doesn’t apply to your email inbox. Self-help spam comes no matter what. Sweet Moses! 

People are miserable today. I’ve been miserable. But in our desperation to feel better, we should be careful who we allow to "jack with" our mental/emotional processes - especially in these days. Many brilliant, (but still human) folks have started an improvement program intending to bring lasting health, but along the way pride, ego, and greed corrupt them. Or your guru could just have dangerous motives from the start, like Keith Raniere, he of the now 120-year prison sentence.

So how do we know if a dangerous stage is being set? They are usually not seen on the surface, but I think there are 5 CRUCIAL MUSTS to check on before trying a “self-help” program these days.

This isn’t a list to ensure ethical influence, but it will weed out much of the Unethical Influencers:

  1. Make sure there's no sign of the program isolating members from their support systems.
  2. “Recruitment” shouldn't ever take precedence over life improvement/development.
  3. Out of balance Hero Worship, which is such a human tendency.
  4. See if it has an aim to be “in service” of others and not just the organization.
  5. Investigate how the founders, owners, or board handle defectors. Big lawsuits, stalking, weird threats. Stay away!

Would you believe there are still loyal members of NXIVM today? 

As we seek more likes, loves and views like wild banshees, it all comes with more responsibility - dare I say a moral responsibility. I believe leading with honesty about our motives and experience is the best practice.

The good news is if you have any experience overcoming obstacles and feel an obligation to share it, you've made a great start. 

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