An interview show about people who grew up in cults and how they adjusted to mainstream society after they left.
info_outline We Love New Books: Forager with Michelle 10/20/2023
We Love New Books: Forager with Michelle We're back with yet another special literary edition! For this bonus episode, we're celebrating the recent launch of the book "Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult." It's out now in bookstores and . The author, Michelle, was raised in an end-times group that was started by her grandfather in the 1930s. As survivalists in an organization referred to as “The Field,” her family lived in isolation on a mountain, where they foraged for food and viewed basic comforts as a sin. Michelle endured illness, abuse, hunger and neglect before finding solace in nature and education. Now a professor of journalism, she lives a comfortable life in Southern California but still enjoys using her knowledge of edible plants to forage in her surroundings. Her book, which was released in March, discusses her childhood as well as how to forage through nature for what provides sustenance. In this interview, we speak to Michelle about her life, writing a book about it and how she got through some of her most challenging times.
info_outline Book Launch Edition: I See You Survivor with Liz 08/29/2023
Book Launch Edition: I See You Survivor with Liz Generation Cult is dropping back in with a bonus edition to celebrate today's launch of Liz Ianelli's new book called "I See You, Survivor: Life Inside (and Outside) the Totally F*cked-Up Troubled Teen Industry." In it, Liz details her years left at a program within the Troubled Teen Industry, a network of expensive residential programs, wilderness camps, and religious-affiliated establishments meant to set your child straight. Join us as we discuss Liz's time in one of these programs, how she relates it to a cult, the abuses she and her friends endured, and the struggles kids who live through this experience have after leaving. Liz has been an outspoken activist against the Troubled Teen Industry for many years, arguing that the programs should be shut down or, at the least, held accountable for their practices. This is her first book, released to the public on Aug. 29, and it can now be found in various bookstores as well as Amazon: ***This episode contains discussions of suicide and child abuse
info_outline Ep. 14: Tween Marriage and the Culture of Polygamy with Tamara 04/14/2023
Ep. 14: Tween Marriage and the Culture of Polygamy with Tamara Tamara grew up in a Sufi polygamist organization in the US and England. Her father joined the group when she was 5 and she soon found herself torn between a somewhat "normal" life with her mother and a bizarre, hard-working communal lifestyle with her dad. Deemed a "special child" by her father's group, she was sent to live with the leader, who put her to work caring for young children and cooking and cleaning in his mansion alongside his multiple wives. At age 12, Tamara got married -- a spotty relationship that lasted until she was 20. But when her husband wanted to follow the polygamist practices of the group, she left. On the Season 3 Finale of Generation Cult, Tamara chats with Dhyana and Ashlen about her life and the important role education played in her recovery from abuse. We'll discuss the culture of polygamist groups and what it was like to get married as a tween. Thank you for listening to this season of Generation Cult! ***This episode contains discussions of child abuse For more information about Tamara and her work, go to:
info_outline Ep. 13: Declared Evil with Rhonda 03/31/2023
Ep. 13: Declared Evil with Rhonda Rhonda's parents joined the Holy Order of MANS (standing for Mysterian, Agape, Nous and Sophia in Greek, or mystery, love, mind and wisdom in English) when she was a year old. The San Francisco-based group held classes and meetings studying a mix of religions, initially leaning heavily on New Age concepts and Christianity. Children were not allowed to live with parents, so she was raised on a farm with other kids as her parents moved through the ranks of the organization. The Holy Order changed and dropped its New Age associations after the Jonestown tragedy in 1978, when a similar group called the People's Temple very publicly met its end in a massacre. Rhonda's parents left shortly after that but continued to practice the concepts they had learned regarding vibrations, colors, light and music. Rhonda's life was structured by her parents' beliefs, especially her father's disgust for particular forms of music and aspects of mainstream society that he deemed "evil." Eventually convinced that she was evil as well, Rhonda dealt with her parents' judgement, lingering trauma from being raised on the farm and current inability to fit in with "normal" people through substance abuse and other unhealthy practices. But in her 20s, she began to seek help and returned to school. In this one-on-one chat with Rhonda and Dhyana, we discuss a brief history of the Holy Order of MANS, Rhonda's conflict with her parents and their decision to send her away when she was young, her struggles to fit in and the journey she went on to heal.
info_outline Ep. 12: Searching for Healthy Community with Sarah 03/24/2023
Ep. 12: Searching for Healthy Community with Sarah Sarah grew up in a bible-based group in Ohio with about 400 members, many of whom are related to her. She was sexually abused throughout her childhood, something she reported to leaders of her organization, who not only didn't stop the perpetrators but told her she was one who had sinned. Sarah left in her early 20s struggling with mental health issues as she got her education, traveled the world and started her own business. Along the way, she searched for a new, healthy community where she could feel safe and comfortable. She found that in the friends she made and a Christian church where she is allowed to ask questions and debate with the leaders. Join us as we hear Sarah's story and discuss why she considers her family's group a cult vs the more supportive communities she found herself in after she left. **This episode contains discussions about child sexual abuse and thoughts of suicide. Please listen with discretion.
info_outline Ep. 11: The Influence of Faith with Will 03/10/2023
Ep. 11: The Influence of Faith with Will Will grew up devout in an evangelical community and attended Christian schools, camps and mission trips. His beliefs were so strong in his youth that he describes himself as becoming radicalized and isolated from the rest of society. But in his teens he began to question his church's strict guidelines regarding who can be saved or even considered a Christian. After conversations with people from other faiths and failed attempts to have his questions answered within his community, he left his church. On this episode, Will chats with Dhyana and Ashlen about the strict evangelical beliefs he grew up with and how those beliefs impacted the politics of the people around him. Join us as we discuss the moments that caused him to question his outlook on life and spirituality, his journey into a Quaker community, and his recent concerns regarding dogmatic behavior in our country. Have questions or comments? Send us an email at Interested in starting your own podcast? Get up to two months of free podcast hosting from using our promo code GENCULT when you go to
info_outline Ep. 10: Cults and Courts with Carol 02/24/2023
Ep. 10: Cults and Courts with Carol While listening to the stories on Generation Cult, do you ever wonder at what point people can take legal action against their abusers? Do you want to know what charges have been brought against coercive groups and taken seriously in the courts? In this episode, Dhyana interviews attorney , who has brought successful lawsuits on behalf of people who were sexually abused in Buddhist, yoga and cult-like groups. Join us as we discuss the most effective ways to approach cases against high-demand organizations and how the playing field has changed in the post #metoo/Harvey Weinstein world. ***This episode contains discussions about sexual assault Carol works with the London-based firm and can be reached directly at Here's a link to a paper we discuss on the show about using the argument of undue influence to prosecute (as opposed to attacking a group's beliefs): Want to start your own podcast? We've been using Libsyn since 2018! Get a discount when you and use the promo code GENCULT
info_outline Bonus: Talking Twelve Tribes with Tim 02/21/2023
Bonus: Talking Twelve Tribes with Tim ****Bonus episode! Dhyana chats with Tim Elliott, host of the new podcast called "Inside the Tribe," which takes a deep dive into controversial religious sect the Twelve Tribes. This short interview is a great companion to our Ep. 9: "Finding Freedom from the Twelve Tribes with Suvav," which released to the public on Feb. 10. Suvav also appears on "Inside the Tribe," which you can find on most podcast platforms. Elliott, an investigative journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, first became acquainted with the group years ago while working for the newspaper. He was so troubled by their practices that he partnered with another journalist, Camille Bianchi, to produce the podcast, which is currently releasing new episodes: ***This interview contains discussion of disturbing topics, including child abuse **Patreon subscribers have early access to this bonus Want to start your own podcast? We've been using Libsyn since 2018! Get a discount when you and use the promo code GENCULT
info_outline Ep. 9: Finding Freedom from the Twelve Tribes with Suvav 02/10/2023
Ep. 9: Finding Freedom from the Twelve Tribes with Suvav Suvav grew up in the Twelve Tribes, a controversial religious organization founded in the 1970s that has since been accused of systemic child abuse, medical neglect, labor violations, arson, murder, and even more. In 2019, Suvav -- now an adult with three children -- left with his wife and kids, and are still struggling to find housing and stability in the world outside the Twelve Tribes community. On this episode, we chat with Suvav about growing up in the group as a hard-working, misunderstood child who suffered from food insecurity and severe untreated injuries. As an adult, he became disturbed by the group's harsh treatment of children, along with other questionable activity (including the death of his father) and made the difficult decision to leave with little to no support. *Suvav is also appearing on another podcast called Inside the Tribe, which takes a deep dive into the Twelve Tribes' history of abuse: **This episode contains disturbing discussions of child abuse, medical neglect, severe injuries and other topics not subtable for a younger audience. Please listen with care.
info_outline Ep. 8: End Times and Conspiracy Theories with Emily 01/27/2023
Ep. 8: End Times and Conspiracy Theories with Emily Emily was raised on a secluded farm in the Midwest with her six siblings before her family moved to the Pacific Northwest. Her parents were convinced that the world was going to end in 2012 and taught the children about survival, encouraged them to stay away from "outsiders," kept them minimally homeschooled, and controlled their day-to-day lives. Emily began a tough acclimation to the rest of the world after 2012 came and went, and she was allowed to attend school. When the pandemic began, her parents doubled down on their end times belief and fell deeper into conspiracy theories, particularly regarding the COVID vaccine. While Emily has since moved out of their home, she worries about her siblings who remain. Emily didn't think she could call herself someone who grew up in a cult but Dhyana and Ashlen disagree and explain why. Join us as we hear her story and discuss family cults, coercion in less recognized settings, and the timely prevalence of conspiracy theories.
info_outline Ep. 7: Life After Mormon and Trauma Recovery with Jolyn 01/13/2023
Ep. 7: Life After Mormon and Trauma Recovery with Jolyn Welcome back to Generation Cult and Happy New Year! We are kicking off 2023 with this episode about Jolyn, who grew up in the Mormon Church. While her experiences weren't as extreme as some of the other stories we've had here, she describes a sort of "whisper campaign" she experienced as an unenthusiastic member who then left, and the harm that even subtle group pressure can do. After experiencing upheaval in her family involving the criminal justice system, Jolyn -- now a trauma recovery coach -- wrote a recently-released guidebook about recovering from trauma. Join Dhyana and Ashlen as they chat with Jolyn about her life, work and leaving the church. You can reach her and learn more about her work at https://gvtraumarecovery.com/generationcult *This episode contains some discussion of suicide and sexual abuse
info_outline Ep. 6: The COG and the Media Part II with Amy 12/16/2022
Ep. 6: The COG and the Media Part II with Amy Welcome to Part II in our two-part series about the Children of God (aka the Family International), the infamous group created in the late 1960s that became known for the sexual exploitation of its members. Amy grew up in the Children of God (COG) and was coerced away from her parents to be trafficked as a child entertainer through many countries to promote the COG. She was also sent to live with the group's founder David Berg. Finally, as an adult with her own children, she able to escape to the US with help from some family friends. Join us for a chat with Amy about her life in the COG, her work as a performer for the group, getting out and going public with her story. **This episode contains discussion of child sexual abuse, suicide, prostitution, and trafficking. Please listen at your own discretion.
info_outline Ep. 5: The COG and the Media Part I with Christina 12/02/2022
Ep. 5: The COG and the Media Part I with Christina Christina grew up in the Children of God (aka The Family International), a group founded in 1968 by the late David Berg. As the organization grew, its members moved all over the world and were coerced into prostitution and other labor to bring in more money and support. Many children were born overseas, moved around contently, exploited and sexually abused. Christina lived a controlled, isolated existence and was trafficked through many countries well into adulthood. Finally, as a mother herself, she and her children got out. While rebuilding her life, she appeared on talk shows and other media to discuss her history with the Children of God (COG). Join us for a talk with Christina about her life, challenges, and leaving the COG, as well as her experiences going public with her story. *This is the first episode in a two-part series about the Children of God. **This episode contains descriptions of child sexual abuse, prostitution, and trafficking. Please listen at your own discretion.
info_outline Ep. 4: Scientology Confessionals with Chris 11/25/2022
Ep. 4: Scientology Confessionals with Chris Chris, a former classmate of Dhyana and Ashlen in the Psychology of Coercive Control graduate program, grew up in Scientology. He stayed through adulthood, marrying another Scientologist, working for Scientology, joining the Sea Org. ... until he couldn't put up with all the lying anymore. After Chris left, he wrote a book about his time in Scientology and went on to amplify his voice through his YouTube channel and podcast Sensibly Speaking. Join us as we hear Chris' story and discuss his master's dissertation about confessionals in Scientology.
info_outline Ep. 3: Weight Loss & Coercive Control with Megan 11/11/2022
Ep. 3: Weight Loss & Coercive Control with Megan When Megan was young, her mom introduced her to Gwen Shamblin and her Weigh Down Workshop diet seminar. Gwen taught that God wanted them to be thin and helped Megan and her mom lose weight by cutting their food intake. Megan's life became steadily more controlled as Gwen, who also started the Remnant Fellowship, demanded absolute obedience to herself and the group. Megan stayed under the control of her mother, the diet workshop, Gwen and the Remnant Fellowship until she was a young adult. Now a mother herself, she soon realized that the control also extended to her baby, and she left -- under much distress. In this episode, Megan discusses her life and how she regained her own autonomy. Join us as we also chat with Megan about weight loss as one of the many ways destructive groups can assert control over their members.
info_outline Ep. 1: What is a Cult? with Ashlen 10/28/2022
Ep. 1: What is a Cult? with Ashlen Welcome to the first episode of Season 3! We are so excited to be back, and also thrilled to welcome Ashlen Hilliard as a co-host. Since you'll be hearing her voice throughout the new season, we wanted you to get to know her better, so she's also our guest for this episode. Ashlen grew up in the conservative Church of Christ while living in the midst of Utah's Mormon culture. Mormons were constantly trying to convert her, while she was trying to convert them. When the strict rules handed down by her church began to cause her panic attacks, she left. Ashlen then went on to help women leave polygamist groups, organize events for the International Cultic Studies Association, contribute to CultNews101 and, most recently, started her own LLC called People Leave Cults. We hope you enjoy this episode and the rest of the season!
info_outline Ep. 10: You Don't Have to Tell Them Anything 04/22/2020
Ep. 10: You Don't Have to Tell Them Anything On the final episode of Generation Cult, we wrap up Season 2 with a conversation with Meghan, an ex-Jehovah's Witness. She left as a young adult when the mental anguish she experienced within the organization threatened to take her life. But that departure sent her on a roller coaster of family detachments that she still rides to this very day. Although relieved to flee the bible-based religion, she continued to believe its teachings and was convinced she was going to die in Armageddon. So, she experimented with everything she had been taught not to do: She smoked cigarettes, tried a few drugs and worked on a pot farm. And she had a lot of sex. Eventually, she began to work in the sex industry as an escort. Find out what happened to Meghan and how she became the person she is today. Thank you so much for listening to Generation Cult. *This episode contains discussions of self-harm and sexuality and is not for younger listeners. Discretion is advised. **Photo courtesy of Meghan Smith
info_outline Ep. 9: TM Redux 03/02/2020
Ep. 9: TM Redux Do you remember Gina from Season 1? She discussed growing up in the Transcendental Meditation movement during the height of its guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's fame. Well, due to some pretty poor sound issues in that last episode, we've brought Gina back for Season 2! Hence, the "TM Redux" title. While Gina does talk again about her unattended childhood in the movement, which led to a relationship with a much older man and, subsequently, children, we also discuss other issues with TM overall. Like, why did people get so upset that we brought up Transcendental Meditation at all on the show? Join us as we offer a better-sounding episode touching on Gina's life in a TM community through age 30, leaving with three kids and a reluctant husband, education in both medicine and cultic groups, as well as her own thoughts on communication about the TM movement. *Image courtesy of Gina Catena
info_outline Ep. 8: The Cult Pseudo Identity 02/11/2020
Ep. 8: The Cult Pseudo Identity In this expert episode, we talk to Gillie, a psychotherapist and the director of the UK-based , which for the past 16 years has provided post-cult counseling to those recovering from extreme, “high-demand” organizations. Join us as we chat about the mental health services she provides to patients as well as the training she offers for other therapists who want to work with people coming out of cults. Gillie also discusses her doctoral research and thoughts about what she calls “the cult pseudo identity,” which people can develop while integrating aspects of an authoritarian group into their own personalities.
info_outline Ep. 7: Devastating Disconnections 01/24/2020
Ep. 7: Devastating Disconnections When Aaron and his twin brother were 4, their mom joined Scientology. The boys grew up with the organization as a main focus in their lives. Their formal education ended after Aaron finished the seventh grade. He then worked full time for Scientology as a staff member from age 12 to 26. But soon came a wave of family rifts, including a great tragedy that severed him from someone he loved. Aaron left Scientology in 2014 and appeared on the first season of A&E's "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath." While he has a happy life, job and family, the fall out from their time in Scientology continues to undermine relationships for him, his wife, children and even his dog He's now the vice president of the The Aftermath Foundation, a nonprofit that helps people suffering from "disconnection" and "fair game" as they leave the group. Join us as we talk about his life, The Aftermath Foundation and recent legal action brought against Scientology. **This episode contains language and subject matter that some listeners might find disturbing. Discretion advised. *Image courtesy of Aaron Smith-Levin
info_outline Ep. 6: The Medium and the Time Machine 12/23/2019
Ep. 6: The Medium and the Time Machine When Katharina was 10 years old, her parents packed up their possessions, moved out and joined "The Family," a New Age cult that started in Germany and moved around a bit before settling in a Belize jungle. The group was led by a controlling man who managed a woman claiming to be a medium. Both favored inappropriate relationships with minors and encouraged other members of the cult to do the same. Katharina's childhood experiences included separation from her parents, sexual abuse, underage labor, denial of emotions and the bizarre fashioning of a time machine. She made her way out and now directs Stronger After, an online resource for people harmed by coercive groups and relationships. https://www.stronger-after.org/ In this episode, we'll hear her story and thoughts on the psychological impacts of high-control groups on children. *This episode contains descriptions of sexual abuse and violence. Listener discretion advised. **Image courtesy of Katharina Meredith
info_outline Ep. 5: You Might As Well Be a Therapist! 11/21/2019
Ep. 5: You Might As Well Be a Therapist! It's time to bring in an expert! As much as we love hearing personal stories, we'd also like to add commentary about cults and coercive control from someone who has studied the subject matter and worked directly with patients. In this episode, we sit down with Colleen Russell, a San Francisco Bay Area therapist who has spent about 20 years counseling people who were raised in or joined cults.
info_outline Ep. 4: Fright-Based Faith 11/01/2019
Ep. 4: Fright-Based Faith During this week of Halloween, we discuss fear -- fear of punishment, fear of the apocalypse, fear of God. Tammie grew up with these fears in an ultra fundamentalist Christian organization that subjected children to harsh punishments and encouraged its members not to interact with the rest of society.
info_outline Ep. 1: No Horses in India 09/16/2019
Ep. 1: No Horses in India Welcome back to Generation Cult! We are kicking off the second season of the podcast with a story about Narangkar, an artist who grew up in 3HO (Healthy, Happy Holy Organization), which is connected to Kundalini Yoga and Sikh Dharma.
info_outline Promo: Generation Cult Preparing for Season 2! 05/23/2019
Promo: Generation Cult Preparing for Season 2! Generation Cult is working on a Season 2! Come support the show at StudioToBe in Oakland on Friday, May 31 and enjoy a happy hour plus a Q&A with guests from Season 1. Tickets are available on eventbrite: Join us for a fun time and help us raise money for editing, sound engineering and more! If you can't make the event or just want to donate, check out our GoFundMe page: Thanks for your support!
info_outline Ep. 9: Sandy Footprints 11/09/2018
Ep. 9: Sandy Footprints Wrap things up with us for the season during a chat with Lalita, who was raised in the Science of Identity Foundation. This group, developed in the 1970s, has similarities to the Hare Krishna movement and revolves around a. ... let's say. ... very demanding leader. We'll discuss germaphobia, child labor, arranged marriages, eating sand out of footprints and pursuing a long-overdue education. We hope you enjoyed this season and hope to discuss cults with you again next year!
info_outline Ep. 8: Escaping Utopia; A Conversation with Janja Lalich 10/26/2018
Ep. 8: Escaping Utopia; A Conversation with Janja Lalich We had a visit from Dr. Janja Lalich, an author and educator who has a new book out about children raised in cults called "Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out and Starting Over." Janja chats with us about her research for this project as well as her time working and writing with the late Margaret Singer, a prominent psychologist known for her studies on undue influence. *A few sound issues on this one, too. Please bear with us -- the content is good!