Esther Friedman’s excellent new book is The Gentle Souls Revolution: A Secret Cult, an Open Rebellion, and Lessons in Protecting and Honoring Your Gentle Soul. This memoir and guide offers valuable insights and guidance for survivors of narcissistic abuse through creative therapy. It serves as a roadmap for those seeking to heal and rebuild their lives after leaving a cult. Through her personal experiences and professional expertise, Esther provides practical tools and strategies for navigating the complex emotions and challenges that arise after undue influence. The Gentle Souls Revolution also emphasizes the importance of self-expression and creativity in healing. Esther encourages survivors to explore their artistic side through writing, painting, music, or other creative expression. By engaging in these activities, survivors can tap into their inner strength, process their experiences, and find a sense of empowerment.
In 2006 Esther was invited by a new ‘friend’ to join an esoteric ‘school,’ the OSG (Odyssey Study Group), which was a controlling and secretive cult. One pivotal moment in Esther’s journey of breaking free from the undue influence of the cult was when her husband realized something was wrong and started searching for information online. He found many complaints that echoed his experiences and discovered that she had been making monthly payments of $350 to the Odyssey Study Group (OSG), a secretive cult utilizing Gurdjieff ideology that she had been a member of for five years. She had never known what the acronym stood for and, therefore, had not seen the information and complaints about the group online. As he shared information about the group he found online, Esther’s husband opened her eyes to the manipulation she was experiencing. She started researching cults and cutting ties with the OSG, despite the leader’s attempts to discredit her husband as a manipulator.
The Power of Releasing Secrets
She left in 2011. Esther’s anger and realization fuelled her desire to share her story to educate others. Her blog Cult Confessions and an album of original songs with the same name became her initial steps toward liberation. Through music, Esther found solace and a way to communicate her emotions. The combination of storytelling and music became a powerful tool for her to connect with others and offer them hope. Through her words, she aimed to empower fellow survivors and shed light on the tactics used by manipulative individuals and groups.
One such tactic Esther referred to in her recent podcast interview with Dr. Hassan. Robert Jay Lifton labels it as ‘mystical manipulation,’ whereby recruiters of cultic groups gather personal information about individuals and feed it to the leader. The leader then uses this information to create the illusion of knowing the person deeply and being able to read their mind. This tactic establishes a strong sense of connection and dependence, further trapping individuals within the cult.
By highlighting Esther’s experience with mystical manipulation, it underscores the insidious nature of manipulation within cults and the importance of recognizing and questioning such tactics.
Empowerment Through Education
After leaving the Odyssey Study Group, Esther researched, read about cults, and talked with other former members and cultic study scholars. Understanding cult mind control led to her reclaiming her former professional life by returning to the human services profession. She started putting her master’s in expressive arts therapy from Lesley College to work helping other former members. Today she has a private practice and offers creativity as healing to her clients. Esther discovered that art could serve as a means for survivors to reclaim their voices and express their experiences in a safe and supportive environment through her own recovery.
In her therapy practice, Esther utilizes expressive art therapy to help survivors of narcissistic abuse and ex-cult members. She encourages individuals to reconnect with the artistic expressions they gravitated towards before their involvement with the cult. By engaging in these creative activities, such as painting, writing, or music, survivors can tap into their inner selves and explore their emotions and experiences. Through the process of artistic expression, Esther facilitates a dialogue that allows individuals to reclaim their identities and heal from the trauma of undue influence.
Esther’s work exemplifies the transformative power of creative therapies in the recovery process. By combining her personal experiences, her passion for music, and her expertise in expressive art therapy, she empowers survivors to break free from the chains of undue influence. Through her art and advocacy, Esther offers a beacon of hope and a path toward healing and empowerment for those who have experienced the harmful effects of manipulation and control.
Esther Friedman’s journey of breaking free from a manipulative cult showcases the power of creative therapies in the healing and empowerment of survivors. Through her expressive art therapy practice, blog, book, and advocacy, Esther offers a guiding light for those who have experienced the harmful effects of manipulation. By utilizing art to express and reclaim one’s authentic self, survivors can find solace, healing, and a renewed sense of empowerment.
Esther’s dedication to helping others navigate the aftermath of narcissistic abuse is a testament to the transformative power of creative therapies in overcoming undue influence. Her work focuses on individual healing and aims to raise awareness and advocate for change in society’s understanding of cults and manipulative relationships.
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