Have you ever gone on a date with someone who does nothing but talks about themselves and doesn’t give the slightest indication that they might even remotely be interested in anything you have to say?
Do you have friends on Facebook who post inappropriately close picture of themselves and their various body parts, like their amazing abs, or doing oiled up yoga poses on remote beaches or in tropical rain forests?
Do you know people who keep asking you for help like when they need help to paint their apartment yet when you do the same, they’re suddenly nowhere to be found or are “very busy”?
Have you ever hung out with someone, at a party or at a gathering of some sort, where the person comes off as super-charming and super-nice yet when you meet them again, it’s suddenly like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
Did you ever come across a pathological liar, a person who can lie as easily as they sleep, with exactly zero empathy for what other people may be experiencing and has insane mood swings?
If the DSM-IV is right, then we’ve all encountered personalities of this type somewhere along the line. Psychopaths are supposed to be 1 in every 100. I’m willing to bet money that in the yoga and New Age communities, you need to increase those odds by 1000%.
Psychopaths are defined by:
– being extremely egotistical
– being very charming, appear very friendly, come across as easy to like
– being very manipulative of people around them, try to mold them into something they can use
– a stunning absence of empathy for others
– seen as someone without a conscience
– an ability to look at other people as mere objects for their own ends
I had the unfortunate experience of encountering a yoga instructor who, in hindsight, was and is most definitely a psychopath. I did not know it at all at the time. Like many people who encounter psychopaths, I was initially taken in and because of the whole yoga thing, the person seemed genuine and was a great instructor, but over time, something was off. I saw them humiliate students in class for not doing a certain pose. I saw them yell at a student for not listening to them. I even saw them make students sit in the corner because they were a few seconds late. This person even went up to me once and said that because I’m Indian, I have to try harder and speak louder because no one will look at me otherwise. It took a good year for the stories to finally come out, and when they did, the studio refused to fire this person, because they had a following and brought in customers and cash. So I left along with many others. The backbone of the yoga community knows about this individual, but for those who are just getting into the business and the younger, impressionable instructors, many of them don’t know any better.
But it’s not just me.
Even a cursory stroll through the articles over at recoveringyogi.com and it would seem bat-shit crazy yoga instructors are the boon of most yoga enthusiasts. Or the male instructors are sleeping around creating soap opera situations at the studio. Or instructors are so obsessed with creating their “brand” that they overlook the most elementary aspect: the practice itself.
New Age cults are rife with personalities who are psychopaths and narcissists. Rick Ross’ website gives a very comprehensive listing of characteristics to look for and questions to ask, especially with respect to cults. I would hate to imagine another narcissist like David Berg emerge in yoga. I don’t know how people can learn about this stuff beforehand and using their wits and intelligence to discern real, authentic teachings from someone’s own nebulous “visions” which might end up doing more harm than good.
At the same time, it also makes me angry how these “teachers” or “leaders” can be so cavalier with their “teachings” and not realize how it can negatively impact someone down the road, that they can play on someone’s vulnerability to line their own pockets or inflate their own egos.
My own feeling is that people have to speak up more. Enablers have to be outed and confronted as well. Abuse of power, or trust, like all forms of abuse usually happens in silence and secrecy, in the dark and away from the gaze of others. Abusers almost count on the abused’s silence to keep continuing their behaviour. It’s when they are routinely confronted, that maybe something might click eventually and they will stop. There’s no guarantee but staying quiet won’t do anymore.