I had never been drawn to drugs and was not keen to pay $600. for Peter's experiment. Nothing he had suggested or done so far had helped me feel better or taught me a single thing. I explained this to Peter.
"Well, it's just as well. Sarah has been feeling worried about us taking Ecstacy together." Sarah was to remain afraid of me in workshops for the next five years or so - perhaps corresponding with her knowledge about the statute of legal limitations?
"The bottom line Peter is that I'm not going anywhere in these sessions. I don't feel this way anywhere else. I don't feel good. I watch myself becoming very controlling but I don't see it going anywhere."
"Whatever you need to do. I'm here for you, if you need me."
I stopped my work with Peter Sandhill after five sessions. In that entire time he did not ask me a single thing about my childhood, about my feelings about drugs in general, about my traumatic experiences with people using drugs, about my childhood trauma, my current relational trauma, my out of body experiences of dissociation during workshop (we were too busy with his lust for that). Nor did I want to open up. My pattern is to figure out the real boundaries and see if they are safe before I open up and all I had found out was that if there were any boundaries, I could not find them. And wherever they were, they were in terrain that was way too unknown for me to feel safe rushing into with someone that showed zero interest in understanding me, how I was built, what my needs were and what made me feel safe. I felt the way I imagine many women feel on a date with a man who just wants to have sex with her, and has impatient scorn for such minor details as her feelings, her sexual abuse history or anything important to her.
Questions: When a client disengages with a professional therapist because they feel un-helped and are displaying clearly observed and stated coping strategies, what is the responsible approach of an ethical professional:
a) To talk about it and help the client understand what might be so scary about the work ("You know Dane, I have violated most ethical and therapeutic guidelines so maybe you just don't feel safe with me and that's my mistake, not yours. Here's a refund and a referral to someone who knows what they are doing.")
b) Refer the person to someone else more qualified.
c) Ask about the symptoms in detail and what they might be about so the therapist might learn about their impact for future patients.
d) Ask nothing, refund nothing, and say "I love you, and am here for you if you ever want to make progress again."
Concern: Peter Sandhill and the facilitator body as a whole seem to be more concerned with their intentions than their training or developing the rational protocols that would keep a client safe from their own blind-spots as well as the blind-spots of the client. I believe that the standard approach used which is: "What would you like to work on today," is ineffective in an emotionally and psychologically illiterate culture. I would not have been able to put any of this into words three years ago and have studied hundreds of hours of psychology (have the facilitators done the same?) to be able to ask these questions and state these concerns. The only thing I knew for sure was that I kept paying money to be worse off and being blamed for it. That's enough to drive anyone crazy - particularly when it's coming from "people committed to everyone winning." I do not believe any of the HAI facilitators have the training to spot these things, and that's a big reason I'm spelling this out for people who have done work with the HAI facilitators and may not have spotted areas of abuse either, because they do it with such nice smiles and are one of the few people in my life who have said "we love you," and naturally I want to believe that someone does, which creates an incentive internally not to question shady behavior. This need is typically felt by predators of children and confirmed sex-offenders speak of being able to spot the children who need relief from loneliness and fear enough to overlook red flags. Is that what Peter saw in my "innocence?" I truly needed a single man who loved me. I've never had that. But I did not need to be used for sex in the way that was best for him and pay him for his "services." I needed an adult who knew what love was: Putting another's well-being first.
Concern about the board: An A-class board member on any board for an organization dedicated to "Human Awareness" would have thanked me for bringing what you have just read to their attention. They would have thanked me because the role of a board is to help those employed in the organization stay on course and to weed out behavior and people that are systematically destroying the organization's objective. What could be more dangerous, after all, than well-meaning staff being paid to actively undermine everything the organization was formed to found? I want to note that not a single board member has thanked me for coming forward, asked for these details or asked to meet with me. And we are just getting started. The question is: What does the HAI board think that it's purpose is, if not to keep the organization from harming it's clients and damaging it's legal and ethical standing in the community? I'm concerned that just as HAI chose it's facilitators without any formal training and did not seek licensing, it has chosen a board without any formal training on being a board, or implementing it's responsibilities. The failure of the board to act in any way to safeguard the life of a traumatized HAI participant, upon presentation of clear facts that would lead any trauma specialist to raise alarm for the life a of a client, has jeopardized HAI's legal future and further eroded away the trust that has been broken by the facilitator body and Peter Sandhill in particular. I want to add that in a court of law or in a documentary there is no cult-following mentality. There is no incentive to say "Oh... I'm sure they meant nothing by it." By failing to act the facilitators and the board have moved the resolution to a court of law that will show them none of the mercy that a conscientious board or participant base might. This is when the betrayal of the patient morphs, as it typically does, into the betrayal of the organization. The organization's foundation is based on the trust and good will of the client, not on thin air. When that is violated there is nothing left to stand on.
Aside: Many people in the "alternative" arenas of our culture heap great shame on corporate corruption. In top companies, however, the offenses are often far more understandable and insignificant than we are reading about here. Solomon Brothers narrowly avoided censure by the S.E.C. when chairman John Godfruend, with an impeccable reputation, failed to respond promptly to the S.E.C. Warren Buffet barely salvaged it from bankruptcy using his reputation. Upon learning that the S.E.C. had not gotten a reply within days to a terse warning he harshly criticized Godfruend and denied him a twenty million dollar settlement on the grounds of negligence. Jeffrey Skilling, chairman of Enron, did less that was illegal than what is going on here, and is in prison. According to Malcolm Gladwell, who looked into his trial extensively, he did not even break the law. His blame was primarily inventing something so complicated that no one could understand it and losing a lot of people's money through a series of unintentional consequences. I mention this because in many cases businesses and politicians are held to a higher standard than parents, therapists and new-age workshop leaders, who often dish shit at the former's corruption as if somehow it has nothing to do with their own. I think it's clear that if Peter Sandhill were president he would find himself impeached for this kind of behavior and many of us would as well. This note can give perspective on the connection between what we tolerate to protect our cronies but villainize in others.