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200 EpisodesProduced by Rachel BernsteinWebsite

Welcome to IndoctriNation: A weekly podcast covering cults, manipulators, and protecting yourself from systems of control.


Behind The Avatar w/Ariela Sarai

After graduating from Columbia University, Ariela spent almost two years in India, first volunteering for Mother Teresa then studying Tibetan Buddhism. When she returned she got an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked as a therapist in prisons, hospitals, foster homes, and hospices. Then she established a Private Practice where she supported people who were focused on personal growth.

In the year 2000, she was introduced to an international self-development course called Avatar. She had recently gotten divorced and was struggling with emotions and anxiety. She eventually decided to teach the course and also brought in many new students. She moved up the ranks. Gradually she began to get exhausted and depleted emotionally and financially. She stopped prioritizing family and friends. She was devoted to Avatar for 21 years.

When Covid hit, courses stopped for a little while. She got to feel what it was like to be rested, to be home, to have more time with her boyfriend. She had a break from the treatment she had been getting. She thought things might be improving so she was part of the team that transferred the courses Online. But then she started to experience the same way of being talked to and pressured and felt controlled again. Only this time she could feel the impact it had on her.
In November she finally realized that she was actually involved in a cultic environment. She had sacrificed everything for this group. As soon as she really got this, she had one consultation with a therapist, made an exit plan, and less than 24 hours later she left.

In Part 1 of Ariela's conversation with Rachel, she explains how she first got involved in Avatar, why she thinks it consumed her life for so long, and she shares her feelings of regret about putting the group before everything else in her life, even her family.
Rachel explains some of the methods high control groups use to keep people deeply devoted for long periods of time.

Before You Go: Rachel examines why fulfilling the simple human need of intently listening to someone can be weaponized by high control groups in order to foster a false sense of trust, only to manipulate the victim into a deep and unwavering devotion.

Thanks to our newest Patreon supporter Sophie Sartain!

To help support the show and sign up for cool Indoctrination stickers and tote bags please visit:

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