My Blog

Sarma Melngailis, survivor of a one-on-one cultic relationship

One-on-One Cults – How Coercive Control Made Sarma Melngailis the Bad Vegan 

If you watched the Netflix series Bad Vegan, you saw a twisted and deliberately confusing version of the story of my guest, Sarma Melngailis. Her restaurant, Pure Food and Wine, and her raw vegan brand Lucky Duck captured the hearts of healthy eaters in Manhattan. Her brands and personality were famous among major celebrities to high-profile politicians. In my professional opinion, she fell victim to an artful, designing psychopath who used one-on-one mind control. The situation blew up because of her celebrity and how much money he extracted from her while alienating her from her family. 

Alzheimer’s, Dementia and on being wise consumers: A conversation with Germaine Odenheimer, M.D.

Dr. Germaine Odenheimer is a geriatric neurologist and professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. The College of Medicine recruited her to help develop a geriatric curriculum for medical students; she spent her entire clinical career recognizing and caring for people with cognitive impairments. I had the good fortune to be at the Program in Psychiatry and the Law meeting last September when Dr. Odenheimer talked about her fight against fraud and deception by people claiming to have a cure for Alzheimer’s.  

An Expert on Addiction and Critic of 12-Step Programs: A Conversation with Lance Dodes M.D. 

Drug addiction is a serious individual and public health problem worldwide. In the United States, alcohol is the most widely abused substance. Alcohol addiction harms a person’s physical, psychological, and social wellbeing. An estimated 20 million Americans have addiction issues (this number does NOT include internet and pornography addiction). In the United States, an estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually. The CDC estimated that over 100,000 people died of drug overdoses this past year. Is addiction a disease? Dr. Lance Dodes joined me to discuss what his research and clinical experience have taught him over the decades. 

Lone-Actor Terrorism: An Integrated Framework 

Public attention to the phenomenon of lone-actor terrorism has seemed to rise in recent decades. Tragic shootings in just the last two months have brought this phenomenon into even sharper relief: a school shooting in Uvalde, which prompted outrage over law enforcement and U.S. gun control policies; the July 4th Highland Park shooting in Chicago, which again led to an interrogation of the internet’s role in motivating lone-actor terrorists; and, most recently, the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which brought to light how the Unification Church’s predatory financial tactics factored into the shooter’s motivations. We also know mass shootings occur on a larger scale than just those involving high-profile, lone-actor terrorist cases; in fact, over 300 have occurred in the U.S. in 2022 alone.  

 Freedom of Mind: Evaluating Undue Influence in Legal & Mental Health Settings

Earlier this month, I attended the 37th Annual Conference of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH) in Lyon, France. The IALMH is founded on the belief that issues arising from the interaction of law and mental health can best be addressed through multi-disciplinary and cross-national approaches, drawing on law, the health professions, the social sciences, and the humanities.   

Allen Tate Wood, former Moon cult leader

The Moon Cult: An Interview with former top American leader Allen Tate Wood

With the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by Tetsuya Yamagami, the Moon cult is back in the news. Abe became a target, reportedly because he and his father publicly supported the Moon cult. The assassin was reportedly furious because his mother had given away all the family money to the cult. I interviewed former top American political leader of Unification Church, Allen Tate Wood, and wish to expose the mindset of cult psychology.

Robert Jay Lifton

Moving from Victim to Survivor in Precarious Times — A Conversation with Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.

I’ve been hosting the Influence Continuum podcast for over seven months, and I’ve spoken with guests on topics ranging from election integrity to 4th Generation Warfare and the Christian Right. It is plausible to say that I would not even be investigating any of these topics had I not encountered the work—and later met—the esteemed guest of my first ever podcast episode, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton.  

The Rise of Right-Wing, Anti-Democratic Ideology in India: A Conversation with Narendra Nayak

Almost four years ago, I spoke with my friend Narendra Nayak about the rise of right-wing religious and political extremism in India. I had contacted him after learning of the killing of Gauri Lankesh. Lankesh was an activist journalist who was openly critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and their extremist Hindutva ideology. There are many similarities between the rise of conservative, right-wing ideologies in India and the United States. I recently spoke with Nayak to discuss the current social and political situations in India and the United States. 

Understanding High Conflict and Proven Solutions with Amanda Ripley

In a recent episode of my podcast, The Influence Continuum, I interviewed Amanda Ripley, a best-selling author, journalist, and host of the How-To! Podcast on Slate. Her timely book, High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out, explores this concept of “high conflict” and approaches to identifying and escaping it.   

The Horror of School Shootings and Where We Go from Here – with S. E. Cupp

I had the opportunity to invite S.E. Cupp and discuss the terrible shooting and mass violence at another school in Uvalde, Texas, for my podcast, The Influence Continuum. S.E. Cupp is an American political commentator, practical conservative, and writer. She is famously known for hosting a political panel show named S.E. Cupp: Unfiltered and CrossFire. She has also hosted a digital series on cnn.com called S.E. Cupp’s Outside with Insiders.

Marsha Gilmer-Tullis, of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® – An In-Depth Discussion with Marsha Gilmer-Tullis

Marsha Gilmer-Tullis and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® deal daily with the unthinkable. As the Vice President of the Family Advocacy Division, she uses her more than 40 years of experience in the mental health and child welfare fields to coordinate therapeutic services to the families of missing as well as sexually exploited children, including online enticement and child sexual abuse material survivors. I am honored to have interviewed her as one of my guests for the Influence Continuum podcast.