Cedu Documentary – Cedu Raps and the Synanon Game


Cedu survivors, grads and escapees – tell me if this looks familiar?

-Synanon Game

These images come from the Synanon Museum (enter and choose “pictures”). Synanon grew out of the needs of injection drug addicts, to create an environment so psychologically persuasive (or devastating), so as to move them away from chronic, violent, over-powering need and desire for heroin.

– Synanon Movie Poster. The 1965 Synanon movie starred real Synanon devotees, including the founder, Charles (Chuck) E. Dederich. Was “CEDU” really “Chuck E. Dederich University?”

Enter a room, and begin the “Game:: Target one “player,” and let your angst, anger, disappointment and confusion find an outlet. Gang up until the player is mortified, a psychological wound, with nowhere to go and nothing to do but burst into undirected screams and tears of rage and agitation.

From the (Phoenix New Times):

The Synanon game required participants to gather chairs in a circle. A theme was introduced–ranging from worldly philosophical questions to mundane housekeeping matters — and the attacks would begin.

The verbal assaultsphysical violence was forbidden — didn’t necessarily have to be based on reality. One person could launch a tirade on another with no foundation. Others in the group generally supported the attacker with comments of their own.

The goal was to dump emotional hangups during the game so people would be happy outside the game. That was the upside. The downside was that it distorted reality and inflicted emotional injury.

– “Kids game” at Synanon
“You could accuse a person of anything and everyone else may join in on the attack,” says David Mitchell, a California weekly newspaper publisher who shared in a 1979 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on Synanon in the 1970s.

“There could be no basis for the attack whatsoever. But everyone would keep adding made-up anecdotes to beat the guy down until he cries, even if he hadn’t done anything,” Mitchell says. [Here]

The Synanon “Game” was exported, over and over again, to the progeny of the program…:

How a Cult Spawned the Tough Love Industry

…And practiced at the Cedu Schools, Amity and Straight, Inc.

How did thousands of teenagers and adolescents become victims of this gestalt/attack-in-extremis last ditch drug therapy?

What were the results of applying this rubric to non-heroin-addicted teenagers from middle-class homes? Witness the retelling of the “raps” at the Cedu school, circa 1984 to 2005 (from a former Cedu student at Fornits.com):

“Indicting” a peer:

The students filed in the room’s door and chose a seat among the circle of chairs… [Mann, the staff member says] “Ok. Who wants to start.” Before the phrase exited his lips three hands shot up simultaneously, but just one voice got in before anyone else’s…”Yeah, that’s bullshit Kevin. I see you letting them break bans all the time. Every time I do laundry I see them breaking bans. Plus you guys ALL take longer than five minutes in the shower. My dorm is tight [clean] and I think all you guys are slackers. If someones late to house around the pit it’s usually from your room.”

Mann’s voice entered. “Is that true Kevin?” “No! I’m always callin them on their shit.” “C’mon man, you know you let them get away with shit.” Bryan said blandly. “Dude that’s bullshit!” Kevin barely had time to yell this out before Mann interjected. “NO YOU’RE BULLSHIT! Tell you what! All three of you are on dishes tonight* and Kevin you and I will talk after this is over! We’re movin’ on! Who else!?”

* Breaking bans: To talk to, look at, or in any way interact with a person who staff has told you does not exist to you (who is on a “ban” from you.

* On dishes: scrubbing pans, cleaning dirty dishes, running trash cans to a dumpster, cleaning bathrooms, dining areas, tables and floors for 1 to 3 hours, while running from place to place and moving at extremely high speed through work.

Doing “Work” in a Rap:

[Mann, the staff member says:] What’s it feel like to be you right now?” [Carol, a young girl at Cedu says:] “I FEEL LIKE SHIT!” “Yeah. That’s it right there. How bad does it feel?” Carol took her hands from her face and clasped her knees. “IT FUCKING SUCKS! I FUCKING HATE THIS SHIT! I WANT TO TALK TO MY FRIENDS! I’M SICK OF THIS FUCKING FULL-TIME! FUUUUCK!” “That’s right! What else is going on in there?” Carol hung her head between her legs sobbing and between each breath she screamed “FUCK! FUUUUCK!” “There’s a lot going on inside you right now isn’t there? How hard is it for you to know your actions got you here?” Tears began dripping off her cheeks onto the floor as she listened to Mann. “C’mon what’s your little kid want to say right now? What’s She telling you?” At this point Carol exploded. “FUUUCK YOOOUU! WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS FUCKING UP! YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT! FUUCK YOOUU! FUUUCK! FUUUCK!” As she continued screaming Mann softly encouraged her.

Behind the “work”:

Watching people scream in a frenzy. I think that fearful anticipation of waiting for the attention to be on you was many times the straw that broke the camels’ back. Rap after rap having that feeling that you won’t get out of it next time. That itself seemed to be enough to lose it and start doing “real work”.

Fake work too though, hell eventually you develop that instinct that lets you know your luck has run out and the only option is to force yourself to yell till your red in the face. Otherwise you’d only get butchered before you had to do it anyways. Even when faking it though it was pretty easy to “get in touch with my anger”.

There was alot that I was pissed about there so all you really had to do was think of all the bullshit you were going through and yell fuck you over and over. In a weird way it was kind of a paradox. Sometimes you were doing work cuz you had to do work and you hated having to do work, so you had genuine anger just because you were doing work at that moment. The very act of doing work made me mad that I had to do it so I did more work about how pissed I was at doing work. It’s like an audio feedback cycle.

[Writing credit to the blogger called “Awake” at Fornits.com]

Does the Synanon game have value for last-ditch, no-way-out, no-other-hope heroin addicts?

Yes, I think it might. Maybe so.

How about for your average teenager? Your average slightly depressed teenager? Your slightly abused, often neglected, poorly-parented teenager? Your teenage victims of sexual abuse? Your average teenager with first signs of an alcohol or drug-addictive personality?

These are accurate descriptions of the young people who were being sent to Cedu (and its clone schools – Rocky Mountain Academy, Amity, Boulder Creek, Benchmark, and more)

Does it have value here?

Maybe not…

The language and psychology of Synanon…and of the Cedu Schools:

“Twelve persons, say, enter a room in which a dozen chairs are arranged in a circle. One of several of these persons is an accomplished game player. Face to face they confront each other with the consequences, or probable consequences, of their behavior. Only rarely is behavior of feeling interpreted; no effort is made to draw forth “insights.” The purpose is to tell the truth about one another, to establish a consensual reality.”

“How many of those thirty vehicles are in perfect order? Never mind; you don’t know. I’ll tell you. None. Not one! Isn’t this your pattern? You look like a sissy at a racetrack….” And so on. Now other players will jump in with indictments of their own or will support the Synanist.

When finally the man can answer, his reply will be wholly inadequate. Then it will be ridiculed.”

“He will react…and the game will be turned on him next and his masculinity called into question. How he defends will reveal how he really feels about himself and his work.”

Four dominant mechanisms operate in the game which the Synanist recognizes and manipulates…. 1) projection, 2) identification, 3) displacement and 4) transference.

In almost every game on hears the defense, “You’re projecting on me!” and the inevitable rejoinder, “Projections can be valid.” … and for this reason it is impossible to say anything wrong in a game.


About Liam Scheff

"Author, Artist, Film, Permaculture." Liam Scheff is a writer, artist and stand-up lecturer on issues that people usually don't make comic books about. (Visit liamscheff.com). Liam's highly-praised book "Official Stories" reveals the complex details behind the myths of our times.

Posted on August 22, 2008, in Surviving Cedu. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. On the chalkboard is written Charle’s Dederich’s catchphrase: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” A phrase inculcated to students at the Cedu schools.

  2. Synanon member Bill Lane on Cedu’s Founding:

    “I met [Cedu founder] Mel [Wasserman] in San Francisco several years before he started CEDU, while I was working for Synanon, a drug rehabilitation center,” Bill said. “I remember talking with him about his ideas and thought he might have a better way of working with teens and younger students. But as the years passed, we went our separate ways with Mel moving to Palm Springs, and I never really thought much more about it, until I began hearing about a new non-profit organization that had opened a school in Running Springs, CA.”

    According to Bill, Mel started the first program in about 1966, but it was several years after that when Mel approached him about working for CEDU.

    “A few years after the program opened, I started reading and hearing about it, and we began communicating back and forth, but I was pretty content at Synanon, which was how I became involved in working with all ages, from teen to adult,” said Bill. “However, when Mel asked me to come down and take a look at CEDU, which at the time consisted of a very small school in Running Springs and an office in Los Angeles, I agreed and was pretty excited about what I saw at the program. He offered me a job and I started working for Mel in January 1974…


  3. That was important to say Liam….. when you said, “The language and psychology of Synanon…and of the Cedu Schools”

    As a graduate…. I cannot tell the difference between the two. They are synonymous…. Ironic that that word has Synon in it…. me thinks.

    Anywhoo. To a regular observer it may seem like a “stretch”… but to a programite (CEDU style) the similarities are not only frightening, but also horrid memories of my own past.

  4. Ahhh.. yes.. and the “Bill Lane connection” .. I think I posted something like that a few months back on your blog.

    He was like a “father” to me at CEDU. He took care of me… if I were in a mofia.

  5. Sorry… one more thing… he also started and ran a CEDU specific escort service in the end.

    I think it’s in the article you posted.

  6. Hi Liam,

    I’m glad you appreciate what I’ve said enough to quote me here. WOW! The Language and Psychology of Synanon pages are really mind blowing. And what timing, for it seems you posted this just as I was writing “The Rap” (Finished now even if still lacking). I’m looking forward to your documentary. It’s good to finally make some sense of an experience that was so full of emotional extremes, confusion. As a friend said to me…How can we ‘move on’.

  7. I’m posting the second half of “Awake’s” treatment of the Cedu Rap. It is accurate and harrowing – remember this was three-times weekly for most of 2.5 years:


    In the next room over an entirely different situation was taking place.

    Sandy: “I bet you really watch what you eat dontcha. I know what it’s like to try and throw up hard foods like chips. No, you go for a piece of fruit or something soft so it comes up easier. Why are you sitting like that!?”

    Sheila: “Like what?”

    Sandy: “Like what?” Sandy mimicked Sheila’s pointless defense. “You’ve got your arms crossed across your chest. You’re not taking any of this seriously are you?”

    A girl, Tristen, got up and sat across from Sheila.

    Tristen: “Ya. You are being really defensive. Don’t pretend you don’t have a problem cuz believe me I know. I used to make myself throw up so much that my finger wouldn’t work for me anymore. It got so bad I had to roll up newspapers to stick down my throat or I wouldn’t be able to throw up.”

    Sandy: “How do you do it Sheila? Do you use your finger? Or do you just know how to make yourself do it without anything? That was how I did it. I was so good at it I didn’t even have to use a finger. I bet you do it that way too dontcha.”

    Sandy, now speaking, leaned forward and looked at Sheila who still sat with her arms crossed. “Heellloooo!!!!! Are you listening at all?!” Sheila made no response. “Y’know what, if you’re not willing to work on yourself we’re not going to waste our time with you! It’s your choice. You can sit at your table and waste time or you can choose to get something positive from it.”

    Tristen: “Can I just say one last thing? For me this was a really tough issue to deal with and I’m still dealing with it and it makes me sad to watch you sit there and not confront your issues. I really want to be there to support you, but you aren’t even trying to work on yourself.”

    Sandy: “Work on herself? She won’t even admit she HAS A PROBLEM!!! It’s time for you to get real!”

    Tristen: “Can I say something?”

    Sandy: “NO! She’s wasting our time! Let’s let some other people talk in here.”
    “Randy you wanted to go. Go.” Randy got up and took a place across from Eric.

    Randy: “Eric I think you should be watching who you spend your time with. It wasn’t very long ago that you broke the sex agreement and you and Alison are hangin out a lot.”

    Eric: “What are you talking about we’ve only been off bans for like two weeks!”

    Randy: “Yeah well you guys are still together a lot.”

    Eric: “Yea. When…”

    Randy: “I’m not done!” Randy wasn’t about to let Marla cut him off. “I mean nothing may be going on but it still looks that way and you should be paying attention to that.” “Yea it’s like I totally see you going right back to your shit. You and your friends are really clicky. Ever since you got off bans it’s like you went right back to your old image. Once you get around them you get really sarcastic and fast and…..” “There’s red flags going up all around you Eric! This is the same behavior that got you in trouble in the first place!”

    Sandy: “Can you really not see what these people are saying?”

    Eric: “No I can see what they’re saying. I’ve just spent a lot of time with them cuz we were on bans, but I hear what they’re saying.”

    Sandy: “I hope so.” Sandy sat back in her chair and held her gaze on Eric. “Consider this a warning Eric.”

    (Sandy ends with Eric and focuses on Devin)

    Sandy: “Does someone else want to go? Devin. I haven’t heard from you in awhile how are you?”

    Devin: “Not that great I guess.”

    Sandy: “Why not that great?”

    Devin: “I don’t know I’ve been getting frustrated lately. I was made a dormhead a couple weeks ago and I just don’t like it.”

    Sandy: “What are you saying you can’t handle the responsibility?”

    Devin: “No it’s not that I just… I’m having a hard time I guess and I feel like I have enough to deal with….”

    Sandy took over. “So what’s really goin on? Your problems are much deeper than just being a dormhead aren’t they?”

    Devin leaned forward.

    Luke: “C’mon man I know you’ve been having a hard time lately.”“We’ve talked before so I know we’ve got some of the same issues.” (Luke is a friend of Devin)


    Sandy: “That’s it! What’s really goin on Devin!”


    Sandy: “There’s more there Devin! C’mon get….”


    Sandy: “That’s right! Go for broke Devin!”


    Just then Julie began screaming as well, her voice a high pitched screeching diminishing his lower toned voice.


    Sandy: “That’s it Julie what are you saying to yourself right now!”


    At this point Sandy could barely be heard over the two of them.

    Sandy: “You bet Julie! What’s it like to hold that judgement on yourself day after day!”


    Sandy: “What’s it like to let those judgements control you! What’s it like to live your lie every day!!”

    Sandy barely finished the sentence before Julie let out a defening scream.


    Devin’s screams began to subside and Julie was fairly close behind.

    “Fuck! Fu-hu-huuuck!”

    Sandy: “Yeah.” Sandy said to Julie. “It’s hard to hold those judgements against you all the time isn’t it?”

    Julie: “Yes! FuUUCK!”

    Sandy: “What’s your truth Julie?”

    Julie only responded by crying harder.

    Sandy: “You’re thinking about it right now Julie, what is it?”

    Julie began crying hard.

    Julie: “Innoce-e-ent.”

    Sandy: “Yeah. Innocent. You are innocent. How does your truth feel?”

    Julie: “It f-feels goo-hood.”

    Sandy: “Yeah. It feels good doesn’t it? Why don’t you let that in more? You know your truth yet you choose to ignore it. How about you Devin? What’s your truth?”

    Devin: “I’m Honest.” Devin had recouperated somewhat.

    Sandy: “Yeah. Honest. Just feel that feeling.

    Sandy: What about you Sheila What’s your truth?!”

    Sheila was still sitting in the same position…her arms crossed her chest. She said nothing.

    Sandy: “You can’t even say it can you? Are you so deep in your lie you can’t even say your truth outloud?”

    Sheila made a sour face at that and shook her head slightly.

    Sheila: “It’s beautiful.”

    Sandy: “Yeah….beautiful. What’s so hard about that. Is that hard to hear? That you’re beautiful?”

    Sheila bent foreward and screamed at the top of her lungs.


    Sandy: “That’s exactly right isn’t it Sheila. What have you been holding back on this whole time?!”


    Sandy: “Why is it so hard to hear that you’re beautiful? It must feel pretty bad if you can’t even listen to your truth! Or are living your lie?!”

    Sheila: “FUUUCK YOU YOU STUPID BITCH!” Sheila continued on her tyrade. “I FUCKING HATE YOU YOU YOU FUCKING BITCH!.”

    Sandy: “Your truth is so far away from you right now. How far away from beautiful are you right now Sheila?!”


    Sandy withheld any comments for a minute while Sheila continued screaming in a rage.

    Sandy: “How long were you going to hold onto that? How long were you planning on waiting before you showed us how you really feel?”


    Sandy: “What are you feeling right now Sheila?”


    Sandy: “Of course your pissed off. There’s a lot for you to be pissed off about. What are you pissed at?”


    Sandy: “Like what?”


    Sandy had become quite calm as she spoke to Sheila. “

    Sandy: Who are you really pissed at then Sheila?”

    Sheila grabbed the hair on top of her head.


    Sandy: “C’mon Sheila! You know the answer to this. Who are you really pissed at! Who’s making themself throw up in the bathroom?! Who is it Sheila?!”


    Sandy: “Yea. You’re pissed at yourself. What is it like to be so angry with yourself?”

    Sheila finally began to cry, her rage having wiped out her energy. She bawled so deeply she could not speak.

    Sandy: “It must be hard to be that mad at yourself. Y’know you ARE beautiful you just choose to cover it up. Can you say that about yourself? Can you say I am beautiful?”

    Sheila cried harder and pressed her palms over her eyes while facing the floor.

    Sheila: “fu-huUCK YOU!”

    Sandy: “I am beautiful. You can do it Sheila……. I am beautiful.”

    Sheila: “I a-am beautifu-ul.”

    Sheila continued crying.

    Sandy: “You better believe it! Of course you are.”

    The room was quiet and Sheila sat doubled over her lap still weeping.

    Sandy: “You just stay in that place for awhile ok? Stay with beautiful.”

    Luke: “Can I say something?”

    Sandy: “Sure, go ahead Luke.”

    Luke: “Umm Devin. I have a lot of the same judgements as you and I just want to say I hope you know you can come talk to me any time man.”

    Devin: “Thanks man. I will.”

    Sandy: “Ok who’s next.”

    The room was silent.

    Sandy: “C’mon I know there’s people that have other people to talk to in here.”

    Calvin and Brad both raised their hands then quickly pointed at one another as if to say ‘It’s ok you go ahead’.

    Sandy: “Pick someone already! Brad!Go!”

    Brad breathed a sigh as he got up to switch his seat.

    Brad: “Ok this isn’t like a huge deal but Thomas you were like barely working on dinner dishes last night. We asked to get checked off but your section was never complete. I had to help you finish your job so we could go. So I’m just saying it’s cool but next time hopefully you can work a little harder.”

    Next to Brad Ellie joined in.

    Ellie: “I’ve been on dishes with you the last three nights and you are ALWAYS slacking off. When you sweep and mop you don’t even get all the way under the tables and theres always food left underneath.”

    Sandy: “Thomas! Jeez are you kidding me!” Sandy gave Thomas a stern look. “You have been on dishes SO many times I couldn’t even count. Does someone really need to show you how to do your job again?”

    Thomas: “No I know how to I just missed some stuff.”

    Ellie was quick to comment.

    Ellie: “That is total bullshit! You are totally cutting corners on dishes all the time!”

    Thomas: “Whaaat are you serious?”

    Ellie: “What do you mean am I serious! We were seriously there at least a half hour more because of you.”

    Brad: “I agree with Ellie.” Brad again chimed in. “I don’t know about you but I’d rather spend my time in the house. I really don’t see why you’d do a half assed job when you could just do it right and be done.”

    Sandy rolled her eyes.

    Sandy: “How many times are we gonna go through this Thomas? I’m serious how many times do you have to hear the same feedback over and over and over? I’m getting really tired of hearing this every time I’m in a rap with you. Can you just get it together please so I don’t have to hear this anymore?”

    Thomas: “Yes”

    Sandy: “Yes I will work harder on dishes!?”

    Thomas: “Yes I will work harder on dishes.”

    Sandy: “Thank you. I assume you’re on dishes tonight?”

    Thomas: “Yes.”

    Sandy: “Good.”

    Sandy: “Calvin you wanted to go next?”

    Calvin: “Yeah Ellie. I heard you and Mandi popping off while you were carrying the trash to the dumpster on dishes last night.”

    Marla: “Yea. I catch you guys popping off in the house too.”

    Ellie squinted her eyes and looked at Marla.

    Ellie: “When did I ever pop off in the house?”

    Marla: “Well your not totally popping off but you totally cut corners. I hear you guys humming…..”

    Ellie: “Whatever Marla! You are the biggest look good ever! You’re always looking for an excuse to indict someone!”

    Calvin then got up and sat next to Ellie.

    Calvin: “To tell you the truth this is pissing me off too. You’re always following someone else’s indictment. Why aren’t you ever the first to indict somebody yet you always have something to say.”

    Marla: “I really don’t understand how that makes me a look good.”

    Julie got up and sat across from Marla.

    Julie: “Please. You know you’re a look good. You pull people up for the lamest shit. You even tell the guys to tuck their shirts in more if their just barely hanging over their belts. I just have a hard time believing anything you say because there’s no way you really have a problem with that stuff. You’re just trying to look good…….

    An hour and fifteen minutes left to go and yet another rap, in the building just up from the main house, was taking place.

    Jessie: “Ok guys there’s something we really need to get to today and that is Stephen. You guys know he’s been on a full time for the last week aaaand he’s there because he decided it was ok to go through the I want to live dirty aaaaand …. Well he wants to share something with you. Why don’t you go ahead Stephen.”

    Jessie nodded at Stephen who breathed in a deep breath. Before he could speak five members of his peer group got up to sit across from him.

    Stephen: “Ok well you know why I’m on my full-time and….”

    Jessie: “I don’t think everyone here has heard why you’re on your full-time. Can you tell them please?”

    Stephen again took in a deep breath and rolled his eyes back.

    Stephen: “Ok. Before the I Want to Live me and Carol broke the sex agreement and that’s why I’m on my table. But I’ve been working on some really hard stuff for me that I….”

    Ryan: “Actually I never really heard about this yet so can you explain what happened a little more?”

    Stephen didn’t respond to Ryan right away. He hung his head for a moment.

    Stephen: “Ok. Thirteen days ago on Sunday after dinner me and Carol went into the woods and had sex. That’s pretty much it.”

    Jessie: “That’s about it? Did you just lie down in the dirt to do it?” Jessie commented, “There’s more to this story lets have it.”

    Stephen: “Alright um… I had a jacket and so did Carol and we used them to lie on.”

    Ryan: “Actually can you just start from the beginning? Like when did you decide to do this?”

    Stephen closed his eyes for a moment in lieu of Ryan’s question.

    Stephen: “Ok probably a week before that out in front of the house I told her I liked her and she said she liked me too. For the next week we were kind of flirting but we really didn’t plan anything we just kind of did it. And.. I don’t know that’s pretty much everything that happened.”

    Ryan sat back in his chair.

    Ryan: “Ok I just haven’t heard yet… so….”

    The room was silent for an awkward moment while Stephen stared tensely at the floor.

    Jessie: “But that’s not all you have to tell these guys is it?”

    Stephen kept staring but knew he couldn’t put off Jessie’s question much longer. His eyes began to glaze over.

    Stephen: “W-well you guys know why I’m on my table now and since then I’ve been working on some tough issues aand its not something you guys know about me.”

    Stephen leaned his elbows on his knees and tears dripped from his eyes.

    Jessie: “Go ahead Stephen. Tell them what you told me.”

    Stephen was holding back tears mustering the strength to answer Jessie.

    Stephen: “So when I was younger …in like fifth grade…..”

    Stephen hung his head back down and sniffled in a noseful of snot.

    Aaron: “You know you can tell us anything. We just went through the I Want to live together. Whatever you have to say isn’t going to change what we think of you.”

    Nancy: “Yeah. Seriously. You know how much we’ve already been through together.”

    Nancy followed Aaron’s statement along with a few others seeking to console him and coax his issues to surface.

    Stephen: “So w-when I was in fifth grade me and my friend would w-watch my older sister take showers. Fffffuck…. We did it like five times. There wasn’t a lock on the b-bathroom door. She – fuck-hhhh- she caught us once and I don’t know….. it’s …. I’m not proud of it.”

    Long uncomfortable silence

    Nancy: “Well I’m glad your being honest and telling us about this. I’m disappointed that you went through the I want to live dirty cuz that really meant a lot to me, but I’m glad to see you’re working on your table.”

    Clark quickly chimed in.

    Clark: “Well I’m glad um y’know that you’re finally working on yourself and I think it’s good that you’re being honest with us about this, but um I just wish you would have respected all of us in your peer group enough to come out with this in the I want to live, y’know… I mean…..”

    Will: “I gotta say I feel the same way I mean we were partners in there. I said a lot of things that were hard for me too and to know you could go through it without coming out with this stuff? I just feel like its hard to trust you.”

    Clark again claimed a place to speak after Will.

    Clark: “Can I ask you a question? Honestly? Why didn’t you come out with this in the I want to live? I’m just askin cuz it seems to me that would be when you would do that don’t you think?”

    There was a brief silence before Jessie spoke again.

    Jessie: “He makes a good point don’t you think Stephen? Wasn’t the I want to live the time to tell this to these guys? Why didn’t this come out then?”

    Stephen began crying into his palms and sucked in the snot hanging from his nose.


    Nancy: “How could it mean anything if you go through dirty! How could you get anything from it if you won’t open up and get honest about yourself!”

    After Nancy said this Stephen reached down and grabbed his calves.


    Jessie: “That’s it. What are you feeling like Stephen.”

    Jessie’s voice was stern but quiet.


    Jessie: “Why disgusting Stephen.”


    Jessie: “What else are you feeling?”

    Stephen: “FUUUUCK!FUUUUUCK!”

    Jessie: “C’mon Stephen what do you call yourself for doing that!”


    Jessie: “C’mon Stephen what are you calling yourself right now! What do you think the people around you are saying right now!”


    Jessie: “What is it Stephen?! What’s the word in your head right now!!”


    Jessie: “What does sick fuck feel like! C’mon Stephen you’re right there!”


    Jessie: “Feels pretty bad doesn’t it?”


    Stephen could hardly get a breath through his screams. Snot and saliva were streaming from his nose and mouth. Someone next to him pulled a few Kleenex out of the box and threw them on the floor beneath his face.

    Stephen: “FUUUUUUCK YOU! FUUUUUUCK! UHHHUUuhhhuu….FHUUHUhuhuck!”

    Someone handed Stephen some tissues which he took and mopped his face with. He continued crying.

    Jessie: “It’s not easy facing the hard truth.”

    For awhile the group was silent as they watched Stephen empty out the last of his pain, rage and sorrow.

    Jessie: “Thanks for sharing. You really opened up, you should feel good about that. And I’m sure your peer group is glad you shared with them too.”

    Peers: “Yea Stephen.” “Thanks Stephen”. A few people chimed in as Jessie spoke.

    Jessie: “Ok guys. We’ve got some time left. Let’s get to whatever else we need to get to. Whoever’s ready just go.”

    Isaac got up and sat across from George.

    Isaac: “Alright George I seriously don’t want to be rude but you kinda smell. Like I really don’t want to bring it up but… I don’t know you just really need to use more deodorant or something. I seriously… I’m not trying to embarrass you but it’s true. That’s it.”

    George lifted his hands up just higher than his head.

    George: “Ok man. I’ll wear more deodorant I guess.”

    Sandra: “Ummm. I hate to say it but you do kind of stink.” Sandra joined Isaac. “I pass by you sometimes and it’s like serious b.o. and your hair is like super greasy. I’m sorry for saying that but it just… is kinda gross.”

    George looked away.

    George: “Gimme a fucking break….”

    Jamie then addressed Marcus.

    Jamie: “You’re in George’s dorm aren’t you? Do you notice anything wrong with George’s hygene?”

    Marcus: “Heeeeeeshhhh….yaaaa… I do sometimes.”

    Jessie:: “So why aren’t you saying anything?”

    Marcus: “I mean I can I…”

    Jessie: “Get a voice!”

    Marcus got up and sat across from George.

    Jessie: “George you should listen to what they’re saying. Your hygene could be better and you don’t put much effort into your appearance. That’s just what I think ok?”

    George: “Ok man whatever. I’ll fucking clean myself. It’s fine really you’ve made your point I get it. Can we just please move on?”

    Jessie waited a moment and looked around to see if anybody had anything to add.

    Jessie: “Ok. Let’s move on.”

    Josh: “I have something to say to somebody.” Josh got up and switched seats. “This is to Martin. I heard you telling your story to Michael yesterday and I know pot is part of your story but you guys were TOTALLY war storying together. You were sayin like how you used to get the dankest pot and he was too. I mean you were really sounding like you guys were in your shit.”

    Jessie: “Were you talking about it like that Martin?”

    Martin tensed up as he tried to answer Jessie.

    Martin: “Welllllll….maybe a little bit but really….”

    Jessie: “Don’t candy coat it. Were you talking about it like Josh is saying you did?”

    Martin took a deep breath.

    Martin: “Yeah we were.”

    Jessie sat forward leaning his elbows on his knees and shook his head.

    Jessie: “Uh- uh. Mm-mm nope. That’s not acceptable. You know your not supposed to do that. Not ok.”

    Jessie was still looking Martin shaking his head.

    Jessie: “I see you as being really in your shit right now. Your mind’s in the gutter. Not ok.”

    Martin: “I don’t really think I’m in my shit. I know I shouldn’t have done that but it was just a mistake kind of.”

    Jessie: “No I don’t see that. You’re in your old image, you’re glorifying your drug experiences…. Uh-uh….. that’s totally unacceptable. After this rap come and see me so we can talk about this ok? Let’s move on.”

    Jessie: “C’mon guys. Anyone else before we wrap this up?”
    Jessie looked around the room until his eyes landed on the boy next to him, Dean, who he stared at with a smirk on his face. Deans eyes widened. Jessie lightly elbowed Dean a couple times.

    Jessie: “Hey.” “Hey” “Howr you doin Dean? How have you been since the I want to live?”

    Dean: “I’ve been pretty good.”

    Jessie: “Yeah? Have you been holding onto some of that stuff?”

    Dean: “Yeah I mean I find myself struggling with it but I still feel like I got a lot from it soo yeah.”

    Jessie: “How bout the rest of you guys. You still paying attention to those tools?”

    Peers: “(yeah) [me too ya.]” Several voices came in response.

    Jessie lead the final stretch of the rap by going around the room one by one giving everyone a chance to say something before letting them go.

    Back in the house Mann was finishing up his rap too.

    Mann: “Yknow some people did some really great work in here today…. Carol. How’r you feeling right now?”

    Carol: “I’m feeling Ok I guess.”

    Mann: “You really were listening to your little kid today. What’s her name?”

    Carol cracked a small smile.

    Carol: “I really hate you.”

    Mann: “Oh c’mon what’s your little girls name just say it.”

    Carol smiled and put her hand over her mouth.

    Carol: “Care Bear.”

    Mann just looked at her and smiled.

    Mann: “I’m glad you decided to let her come out today.”

    Mann continued to stare at her while she kept her hand over her mouth.

    Carol: “I’m not supposed to smile.”

    Mann chuckled a little when she said this.

    Mann: “Yknow what. For the last few minutes before this rap is over can we get a smoosh pile here on the floor. C’mon everybody down, you too Carol.”

    Carol: “Does that mean I can be off bans from….”

    Mann: “Yeeesss only till the rap is over.”

    Carol ran over to smoosh with her friends as did everyone in a happy pile for the next few minutes. Raps were over for today…….

  8. That’s really excellently done, that’s a very good telling of the experience.

    The reality that you are getting at so clearly is that we were meant to loudly debase, humiliate and really excoriate ourselves quite publicly, week after week, day after day, for a number of years in these programs. I can reflect that it took me several years to stop being so very forthcoming (what Cedu called “honest”) with people I did not know.

    I am a terribly honest person by nature, almost transparently so at times – the impetus and encouragement to be biliously honest, to forgo all screening of material, to find the most denigrating, awful idea that might be passing through my thoughts, and to choose that for public broadcast? Just a kind of regular suicide and torture. They taught us to beat ourselves; that was the operational aspect of controlling our will –

    Why else did we all not foment rebellion? Fear of authority, most certainly – but this purging cycle, this self-villainization/victimization and self-torture cycle – what mental room does it leave for defiance?

    I personally remember being hung up on a peg and beaten like a pinanta every time I offered resistance to some aspect of the program. I was always somewhat-to-quite rebellious and critical-thinking/analytical by nature; under stress I become quite argumentative – it would’ve been typified as ‘contrarian,’ and ‘attention-seeking’ at Cedu. But I think it was my personal impulse to critical thinking trying to come to the surface, having been drowned in a sea of bullshit – that is, the absolute insanity that were the ten thousand unwritten rules of Cedu, coupled with the chronic drive to the raps to purge oneself of all impulse.

    As is made clear by the Synanon writing, this was the purpose of the program – the create identity schisms. To split and divide a person from their impulses – we might say, to ‘brainwash.’ Why? Because these were heroin addicts, and the program grew organically out of a brutal and short method by which a massive psychological calamity could be created and imposed on these addicts; a great drama is created that acts to sideline them from their chronic condition.

    What effect did it have on the slightly depressed, often neglected, often abused but quite middle and upper economic class children who got sent to these programs, by their often narcissistic, often alcohol and drug-abusing parents?

    It certainly produced trauma. Where it seemed to give catharsis, I’d say it was a fleeting, momentary one, followed by a re-flooding of these ‘negative’ impulses – some of which were negative self-identities, such as those developed in childhood among neglected and abused children. Other ‘negative thoughts’ we were meant to purge in the process described in your writing – the true callings of our most certain and private selves –

    The desire to run away, the desire to be with family, to have a caring family, to be with real friends, to have sex (to be allowed to be sexually appropriate for our age and development), the desire to hit someone (a staff member) who is cruelly and invasively provoking you with secrets you’ve given up in other Cedu experiences –

    These are normal, understandable impulses – and all of these were given up, flushed out, chronically, weekly, daily – in these raps, in ‘dirt lists,’ like so much pus from a wound.

    I should say, this is how it was for me, certainly.

    After the Cedu experience, I discovered that regular or normative “talk-therapy,” as is conducted by psychologists and psychiatrists, while varying greatly in style and quality, never resembles this psychological stone-and-acid washing such that we received and re-enacted at Cedu. True talk therapy was quite pleasant by comparison; it was calm, allowed understanding, subtle gain of insight according to what the mind, soul and spirit will accommodate at at time; the hammer is put away, and my own actual impulses, deeper thoughts, feelings both hidden and apparent, were able to find a subtler, and entirely more useful and liberating expression.

    I was also amazed and grateful to find that actual psychologists – at least the good ones – have in mind the normal and studied course of childhood and adolescent development, and in discussion, have a framework in mind that is reflective of a studied, observed reality – the organic reality of human beings in healthy and compromised development – and that this understanding acts as a guide, as markings on a highway, and as a basis for contrast and comparison – which they can share with you to help illuminate self-growth, understanding, forgiveness, rightful anger, and all the rest.

    A final thought here – the ‘running of anger’ was always so silly, because what I really wanted to do, when I was truly angry, was hit something. And when I got out of Cedu, and I got the Cedu out of me, that’s just what I did. Going to martial arts – a very direct and not very ‘artful version’ – was probably the best thing I ever did in my life, in terms of channeling, understanding and productively using anger, or really, just a desire to know how to use my body, to fight if necessary, to train in fighting enough so as to understand my strengths, weaknesses, and limits.

    Why did Cedu forbid all martial arts training? Imagine a school where they torture you like that, but also train you to fight for yourself? We’d have overthrown our adult masters, if they’d let us access that part of ourselves.

  9. I did a rough estimate the other day… and I have been in greater than or equal to 360 raps over a 30 month period. This is taking into account home visits and other misc that “may” have taken me out of the regular cycle.

    Not including propheets… we all know what went down in the early AM in those.

    That’s almost an entire year. That’s how often we actually suffered through this crap.

    Can you imagine if the gave you the option to get your raps out of the way and you could attend one everyday for 360 days.

    I do not think there is any kind of recovery for that.

  10. I was in Cedu in 1976 or 1977. I never got to go to school even thou I was only 16 at the time. I worked in the kithcen soon after I got there for having sex with someone who was called Black Bart. Most of the people there where older then I was in fact I think I was one of the youngest there.Does anyone have any pictures of CEDU in Running Springs Calif from 1976 or 1977. {On microwave mountion} I still remember how beautiful the main part was.It had a tree growing in part of the building and the fireplace there I still talk about. I also tell people about how messed up all of it was. I’ll never forget the fear and shame I felt in one of those “games” To me being called those names was never a game. I already had low self-esteam before I came there and they just made it even lower. I was not into druges I was just a person who run away from home alot. Why the court put my there was because they didnt have anywhere else.

  11. Hi Midge,

    it’s rare to hear from a pre-80s Cedu survivor/grad. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experience. It’s interesting to know that even in the 70s, people were getting sent there, not for drugs, but for difficult home situations.

    Even stranger, considering that Cedu used the Synanon format, which was invented by heroin-abusers, for heroin-abusers…

    Stay in touch – I’ll drop you an email this week as well.


    Liam Scheff

  12. Robert Jay Lifton was one of the early psychologists to study brainwashing and mind control. He called the method used thought reform. From an analysis of two French priests who had been subjected to brainwashing, he identified the following processes used on them:

    Assault on identity

    Aspects of self-identity are systematically attacked. For example the priests were told that they were not real Fathers. This has a serious destabilizing effect as people lose a sense of who they are. Losing the self also leads to weakening of beliefs and values, which are then easier to change.


    Constant arguments that cast the person as guilty of any kind of wrong-doing leads them to eventually feel shame about most things and even feel that they deserve punishment. This is another piece of the jigsaw puzzle of breakdown.


    When the person is forced to denounce friends and family, it both destroys their sense of identity and reinforces feelings of guilt. This helps to separates them from their past, building the ground for a new personality to be built.

    Breaking point

    The constant assault on identity, guilt and self-betrayal eventually leads to them breaking down, much as the manner of the ‘nervous breakdown’ that people experience for other reasons. They may cry inconsolably, have convulsive fits and fall into deep depression. Psychologically, they may effectively be losing a sense of who they are and hence fearing total annihilation of the self.


    Just at the point when the person is fearing annihilation of the self, they are offered a small kindness, a brief respite from the assault on their identity, a cigarette or a drink. In those moments of light amongst the darkness, they may well feel a deep sense of gratitude, even though it is their torturer who is offering the ‘kindness’. This is another form of Hurt and Rescue, albeit extreme.

    The compulsion to confess

    Having being pulled back from the edge of breakdown, they are then faced with the contrast of the hurt of potential further identity assault against the rescue of leniency. They may also feel the obligation of exchange in a need to repay the kindness of leniency. There also may be exposed to them the opportunity to assuage themselves of their guilt through confession.

    The channeling of guilt

    The overwhelming sense of guilty and shame that the person is feeling will be so confused by the multiple accusations and assaults on their identity, that the person will lose the sense of what, specifically, they are guilty of, and just feel the heavy burden of being wrong.

    This confusion allows the captors to redirect the guilt towards what ever they please, which will typically be having lived a life of wrong and bad action due to living under an ideology which itself is wrong and bad.

    Reeducation: logical dishonoring

    The notion that the root cause of their guilt is an externally imposed ideology is a straw at which the confused and exhausted person grasps. If they were taught wrongly, then it is their teachers and the ideology that is more at fault. Thus to assuage their guilt, further confession about all acts under the ideology are brought out. By mentally throwing away these acts (in the act of confession) they also are now completing the act of rejecting the whole ideology.

    Progress and harmony

    The rejection of the old ideology leaves a vacuum into which the new ideology can be introduced. As the antithesis of the old ideology, it forms a perfect attraction point as the person flees the old in search of a contrasting replacement.

    This progress is accelerated as the new ideology is portrayed as harmonious and ideally suited to the person’s needs. Collegiality and calm replaces pain and punishment. The captors thus contrast in visible and visceral ways how wonderful the new ideology is as compared to the sins and the pain of the old ideology.
    Final confession and rebirth
    Faced with the stark contrast of the pain of the past with the rosy glow of the future that the new ideology presents, the person sheds any the final allegiance to the old ideology, confessing any remaining deep secrets, and takes on the full mantle of the new ideology.

    This often feels, and has been described by many, as a form of rebirth. It may be accompanied by rites of passage as the person is accepted and cemented into the new order. The rituals will typically include strong statements made by the person about accepting the new ideology fully and completely, swearing allegiance to its leaders. Saluting flags, kissing other artifacts and other symbolic acts, all solemnly performed, all anchor them firmly in the new ground.

    See also

    Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1963.

    Conversion techniques

    • Breaking sessions: that pressure a person until they crack.

    • Changing values: to change what is right and wrong.

    • Confession: to leave behind the undesirable past.

    • Entrancement: open the mind and limit rational reflection.

    • Engagement: that draws a person in.

    • Exhaustion: so they are less able to resist persuasion.

    • Guilt: about the past that they can leave behind.

    • Higher purpose: associate desirability with a higher purpose.

    • Identity destruction: to make space for the new identity.

    • Information control: that blocks out dissuading thoughts.

    • Incremental conversion: shifting the person one step at a time.

    • Isolation: separating people from dissuasive messages.

    • Love Bomb: to hook in the lonely and vulnerable.

    • Persistence: never giving up, wearing you down.

    • Special language: that offers the allure of power and new meaning.

    • Thought-stopping: block out distracting or dissuading thoughts.


  13. I just took a peek at the Synanon museum. It’s interesting to see how similar Charles E. Deidrich’s writing style is to that of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson.
    If I could make one request of your work, I would ask that you not entirely gloss over the connection; as CEDU relates to Synanon, Synanon relates to Alcoholics Anonymous.
    Go into any bloody AA meeting in the country and you will find individuals just as arrogant and deluded. They operate with precisely the same unjustified certainty employed by Diederich. Breeding a broad range of individuals whose distorted sense of purpose imposes a restraining collar on the thinking of society at large on the issues of alcohol and non-pharma drug use, I think AA’s ugly influence should at least be mentioned in your documentary.
    And as always…
    Good Luck!

  14. Dederich was an AA member before or while he started Synanon,

    I’ve read multiple meanings of “Synanon,” but the most logical and consistent with Dederich’s “one crime fits all” idealization is “sinners anonymous.”

    I don’t know enough about AA to rail against it as you have, I suppose I feel that it is a place for some people to hold themselves to while they struggle against and with the ferocious tides of addiction.

    That said, there’s some good material on Dederich and his AA days in the book, “The Tunnel Back,” which is an early-60s review of the program. It gives some terrifying insight, a good deal of unexpurgated dialogue from the place.


    It ranks with Cedu in tone, in format, in ideology; the roots of the Cedu program are plainly evident. I suppose the roots of AA would be present in Synanon, to some degree; but I’ve been in an 12-step meeting or two, and I’ve never seen the kind of interpersonal anger, or funneled bile, (that’s a nauseating image), of the Cedu Rap/Synanon Game.

    But, you seem to have more to say on it than I do, so do tell.

  15. I enjoy knowing all of the “Rules of the Road.” I follow all the rules (except speeding) meticulously with pride. Recently at a 4-way stop sign I flashed my lights at a lady because I thought she had gone through the intersection before her turn. As I reviewed the sequence of events in my mind afterwards, I realized that I was totally wrong and that did exactly as she should have according to the rules. She has NO idea why I flashed my lights at her. Sometimes, I am wrong. How many more times do I not realize?

    I gotta say Liam, the more I read here the more upset I get. This is 1960s-CIA level of terrifying. I’ve been the subjected to flat-out cult-level social and emotional manipulation? WOW man. I get why – because it can be done. But _wow_! And I thought Scientologists were scary.

    I regret doubting your purpose. Please continue your efforts.

  16. Liam said:

    It ranks with Cedu in tone, in format, in ideology; the roots of the Cedu program are plainly evident. I suppose the roots of AA would be present in Synanon, to some degree; but I’ve been in an 12-step meeting or two, and I’ve never seen the kind of interpersonal anger, or funneled bile, (that’s a nauseating image), of the Cedu Rap/Synanon Game.

    You won’t, because there is no “cross talk” in an AA, or any other 12 step, meeting.


  17. Awake’s commentary on Raps just totally brought me back to when I was on my full time. Especially the part with “Mann” and “Carol.” To me I could just hear Russ Decker. I was on a full time well over 30 days, I was forced to do “work” in every rap. I always thought that was some bullshit. But eventually you train yourself to do primal scream on queue.

    That’s pretty messed up.

  18. Reading that script made me sick to my stomach. I felt like I was back in a rap.

  19. Liam, This book deserves to be reviewed. I think it is an enormously important piece of history that hasn’t been uncovered. This is also the source of the “Thinking/ Feeling” dichotomy, and more. Please Read.

    Daniel Casriel- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,943274,00.html


    Bonding psychotherapy, also called the New Identity Process, developed by Dr. Daniel Casriel.

    Bonding Psychotherapy is a Group therapy, a technique developed by Daniel Casriel a psychiatry doctor from the USA, founder of the fi rst Therapeutic Community in New York: Daytop Village.

    ( other books by Casriel: The Story of Synanon, Daytop: Three Addicts and their Cure)

    1. A Scream away from Happiness …1

    2. Group in action …11

    3. An analysts journey from couch to encounter: Synanon and encounter goups… introduction of the marathon… screaming…

    4. Emotional health

    5. Beyond the symptom: The New Identity Group approach to symptoms… Survival based feelings.

    6. The Human need for Bondedness

    7. A character disordered society …120

    8. Neurosis and Character disorder: (dissociative reaction… “fight, flight or freeze” reactions to pain and danger… “freeze” and “secondary encapsulation”, Psychosis (R.D.Laing: The Divided Self- false self)

    9. The limitations of psychoanalysis and individual psychotherapy

    10. Triangular man: Behaviors, feelings and attitudes: Behavior (Gestalt Therapy, Perls, Synanon), Feelings, Attitudes (“AS IF” behavior)

    11. Acceptors and Rejectors: … 202 (Identity development of the Child, The Rejector Personality (Thinker), The Acceptor Personality (Feelers), Rejectors vs. Acceptors, Neurotics or Character Disorders.)

    12. The Process :Tabboos, Structure, Leaders, Marathons : (Basic Rules, Structure and Dynamic, Projection and transference, Peer Group Leaders (Catalysts), Marathons, Being Responsible to ones feelings)

    13. Signals: The Foundation Of The Group Therapy Process: (Perls, Esalen (Human Potential Movement)

    14. The Process: Excercises : (Fear excercises( confession, the ‘secret’), Anger Excercises, Pain excercises, Love excercises (learning to ask for love), Pleasure excercises (giving love freely, spontaneously)

    15. From Now On: (Dangers of group therapy, Can group embracing get out of hand? Can group become a way of life? The possibility of cultism?)… 276

    (Excepts from the book that should feel familiar)

    p.209 “ If the mix works right, the child grows into an emotionally healthy adult. If not, he becomes maladaptive and develops what I call an Acceptor Identity or a Rejector Identity.

    …. The Rejectors emotional isolation in the significant aspects of his life makes him use his head. He is what I call a “Thinker.”

    …. Acceptors are “Feelers” not “Thinkers.” They do not make efficient use of their intelligence to perceive, understand and anticipate problems.”

    p.214 “In summary, the Acceptors (martyrs,feelers) make their identity dependent upon a relationship with a significant other person…

    The Rejectors (stoic, thinkers) have conditioned themselves to expect more pain than pleasure from human relationships.”

    p. 227 “That’s the setting up of what we call “contracts.” People with specific symptoms will often try to protect others with similar symptoms. They’ll avoid confronting each other and come to the defense of each other when the group is bearing down.

    … In group therapy, such contracts usually develop as a tacit agreement not to criticize defenses which are similar to ones own.”

    p. 234 “After a person has been in groups for a few weeks we usually suggest a marathon.

    … Marathons originally lasted thirty hours, generally from a Friday evening until a Sunday morning, with an interlude of foru or five hours on Saturday afternoon for sleep. The objective of a marathon was to break down emotional and attitudinal defenses in order to help a person get at long buried, deeper emotions.”

    p. 271 “ One often used exercise in my New Identity groups involves someone who simply stands up, looks another group member directly in the eyes and says: “Am I lovable?” or the request may come in the form of a statement, “I need love.”

    p. 284 “A psychologist or psychiatrist may have accurate perception about the feelings and attitudes of others, but lack the ability to express his own emotions full measure….
    In my process, the criteria for selecting a group leader are almost reversed. Emotional openness is an absolute must.”

    (Transcripts of group therapy)

    p. 15“Casriel: Ok, who has a feeling? Who wants to work?…….

    …..Casriel: You don’t seem angry. Are you angry right now?
    Cathy: (Screaming) Vilma, I can’t stand your turned off tone- you never get to a feeling. Scream you bitch! If your angry get angry.

    Vilma: (standing up to scream) I’m angry. I’m angry. I’m ANGRY.

    (Vilma continues to scream for thirty five seconds. She is performing an exercise she has seen others do in group.)
    Peter: The hell you’re angry! Your about as angry as a pussycat! If you’re angry, sound angry like this!

    (Peter let’s out an intense scream that last for ten seconds…..)

    Cathy: That’s not all ,Peter. Go on.
    (Peter continues to scream….)

    Casriel: Go on, scream it all out Peter.

    (Peter screams again, this time with some tears in his eyes. Cathy rises and takes him in her arms and he begins to scream with pain. Finally, there is only the sound of his sobs.)

    Casriel: That’s your pain, Peter. It’s okay. It brings people close to you when you show it. Look around the room and see for yourself. All your life you felt alone because you couldn’t show your real feelings. Now you’re not alone.

    (There is a pause of thirty seconds while Peter checks the eyes of everyone in the group…..)

    Casriel: What do you see Peter?

    Peter: I Don’t know. People feel close to me I guess.

    Nancy: Try again!

    Peter: People feel what I feel, I mean.

    Casriel: How about that they love you? Can you say that?

    Peter: (after a pause) Well, I guess some of the people do. Nancy does, I think. But not everybody.

    Casriel: Who doesn’t feel close to you?

    ….Casriel: Push it out Nancy.
    Nancy: (Sobbing) What’ll I yell?

    Casriel: Just make a louder sound. Push it out. Hold her Barry.
    (Nancy’s scream is a loud screech of pain.)

    Casriel: More louder.

    (Nancy begins to sound like a wounded animal. She continues to scream five, six, seven times and then there is quiet.)……

    Casriel: Why don’t you get down on the mat, Nancy – get those historical feelings out.

    (Mats are placed on the floor during some non verbal emotional excercises……

    ….Roger:Work Nancy. You’ve been choked up about Patricia and your mother for weeks….

    Casriel: Get to the mat and work!

    Casriel: What do you feel like doing?
    Nancy: I feel a bit silly.

    Cathy: You Damn Bitch!

    (She gets up and leaves the group of people kneeling around Nancy on the mats.)

    Casriel: Begin by expressing a sound, Nancy. Just yell! The
    sound will get to the feelings.

    (Nancy screams three times)

    Casriel: I can feel your anger in that sound.

    Peter: I do too.

    Barry : I agree there’s anger in your yells.

    Casriel: What do you feel (about this), Gretchen?

    Gretchen: I’m not sure I qualify as judge. But I sense your anger too Nancy.

    Casriel: Why don’t you try really letting go of the anger, Nancy? You’ll enjoy feeling free.

    (Nancy is now given instructions on how to relax and let out a sound….. Now the temper tantrum begins. Nancy is screaming wildly and thrashing all over the mat.)……

    Cathy: (From the far corner of the room) You’re a no good, controlling cunt! I knew you couldn’t get to that feeling!
    Casriel: Yell out what you need. Allow that little girl to
    express her need full measure!

    Nancy: I need you! I need you!

    Casriel: How old do you feel when you say that?

    Nancy: Six, Seven, maybe eight

    Casriel: What did you call your mother then?

    Nancy: Mommy.

    Casriel: Say: Mommy I need you.

    Nancy: I need you mommy. I NEED you. Mommy, I need you!…..MOMMMMMYYY!…….

    (The room is frozen in silence. Cathy is crying. Nancy is oblivious to her surroundings….. She cries again. Now the emotional barriers between many members of the group dissolve.)

    ….Casriel: Let’s work on that anger….

    Peter: Stop thinking – and work!


    I’ll refrain from giving you my opinion on this book except to say, This book was on ol Mel Wassermans bookshelf without a doubt.

  20. Amazing… great of you to find that and write it up. Absolutely clearly the script for Raps.

    I’m going to repost the 1970 Time Magazine article here, because it tells so much about the history – the ‘human potential movement,’ the cross-over between new age movements (Esalan, to Synanon to CEDU to EST). The fascination with total ‘gestalt,’ scream ‘therapy,’ and all the rest…

    Here’s a quick book review: What a bunch of a**holes.

    What’s so telling was this willingness and desire to enact this ‘experimental psychology’ of totalism, and of true communist-style brainwashing / character breakdown, on children, on youth, on anyone.

    I really, really, really don’t like Maoism.

    Here’s the article:

    Monday, Nov. 09, 1970
    Behavior: Human Potential: The Revolution in Feeling

    In an Evanston, Ill., high school, students of English Teacher Thomas Klein shrouded themselves in bed sheets and crawled blindly around the floor. At a body-movement session in Beverly Hills, Calif., participants took turns pummeling a sofa pillow with feral ferocity. From a four-story midtown Manhattan brownstone, the sound of screaming can be heard all day long. It comes from patients of Psychiatrist Daniel Casriel, who believes that such release is therapeutic.

    In Escondido, Calif., a group of naked men and women, utter strangers, step into what their leader, Beverly Hills Psychologist Paul Bindrim, calls a “womb pool”—a warm Jacuzzi bath. They are permitted to hug and kiss each other, but intercourse is out.

    To many Americans, these activities typify a leaderless, formless and wildly eclectic movement that is variously called sensitivity training, encounter, “therapy for normals,” the bod biz, or the acidless trip. Such terms merely describe the more sensational parts of a whole that is coming to be known as the human potentials movement —a quest conducted in hundreds of ways and places, to redefine and enrich the spirit of social man.

    To reach man’s unawakened resources, the movement focuses on the actions and interactions of individuals in a group. In this, it has borrowed freely from psychology’s past, from such extenders of Freudian theory as Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan, who realized that no individual can be defined, and no emotional disorder healed, without an examination of the interchange between one man and all the others in his life. Society itself is defined by the group. The movement’s exponents argue that by expanding the individual’s self-awareness and sense of well-being within the group, a new feeling of community develops that strengthens both the individual and the group.

    Weekend Marathon.

    The human potentials movement has already touched the major social institutions: church, factory, school and state. In a study for the Carnegie Corporation, Donald H. Clark, associate professor of education at New York’s City University, reports that the movement has permeated every level of education, from kindergarten to graduate school and beyond.

    Encounter sessions or T (for training) groups have been held, sometimes as parts of the curriculum, in dozens of colleges and universities, among them Harvard, Columbia, Boston University and the New School for Social Research. Big business has enlisted its employees in human potentials centers in ever increasing numbers, and many companies now operate programs of their own. In some, white employees don blackface, black employees whiteface, presumably to encourage the feeling that the difference in the races is, after all, only skin-deep.

    Aided by widespread publicity, including the movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and Jane Howard’s bestseller, Please Touch, the movement is spreading explosively. Two years ago, when California’s Esalen Institute first sought to export its own brand of the new gospel east, 90 curious New Yorkers showed up for a five-day encounter group in Manhattan. A similar event last year drew 850; last April, 6,000. Since January 1969, when Donald Clark counted 37 “growth centers”—established sites for the development of human or group potentials—the census has risen past 100.

    To Esalen in San Francisco and Big Sur, the institute’s beautiful Pacific retreat south of Carmel, come 25,000 people a year—and if the pilgrim is turned away there, he can find similar sanctuaries in San Diego (Kairos), New York (Aureon, Anthos, GROW),Chicago (Oasis), Houston (Espiritu), Austin, Texas (Laos House), Washington, D.C. (Quest), Decatur, Ga. (Adanta), Calais, Vt. (Sky Farm Institute), and scores of other com munities.

    The groups can vary in size from half a dozen friends meeting in a big-city apartment to hundreds and even thousands of complete strangers at a psychological convention. The gamut is as wide as the cost, which can run anywhere from $30 or less for a weekend marathon encounter session in a church basement (see box page 56) to $2,100 for a seven-week training program at the National Training Laboratories.

    Even though the movement’s advocates deny that it is therapy, many people visit the new growth centers or attend informal group sessions in quest of precisely that. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that in California, more troubled individuals already seek help from the human potentials movement than from “traditional sources of psychotherapy.”

    Yet the human potentials group sessions are largely valueless, and even dangerous, for the severely disturbed. Psychologist Carl Rogers, one of the movement’s charter members, and many others consider it a learning experience for “normals” rather than a therapeutic experience for the sick—who are too engrossed in their own emotions fully to feel another’s.

    Targets of Criticism. Psychologist Rogers calls the new group movement “the most significant social invention of this century.” It may not be quite that, but even the American Psychiatric Association has bestowed guarded approval in a 27-page task-force report: “The intensive group experience is intrinsically neither good nor bad … If properly harnessed, however, the experience may be a valuable adjunct” to psychotherapy.

    Critics have accused the movement of everything from Communist-style brainwashing to sedition. Dr. Joseph T. English, formerly head of the Health Services and Mental Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, thinks that it has “been oversold to an unaware public.” U.S. Representative John R. Rarick of Louisiana, its most voluble enemy, has filled pages of the Congressional Record with unrestrained rhetoric: “Organized thought control and behavior programming … a perversion of group therapy that makes healthy minds sick . . . obvious degeneracy.”

    One of the more frequent targets of this criticism is the Esalen Institute, the creation of two Stanford psychology graduates, Michael Murphy and Richard Price. In a San Francisco ashram, or Hindu retreat, where Murphy spent eight meditative years and was later joined by Price, the two dreamed of a university without academic trappings, which would combine the best of Western humanistic psychology and Eastern thought.

    A Social Oasis. Murphy’s father left him a 60-acre tract on Big Sur, and in 1962, Esalen Institute opened. “We only knew that a forum was needed for all these new ideas,” Murphy said. “We had no idea where it would all lead to. We didn’t care.” The statement is characteristic of the part of the human potentials movement that Esalen represents. It and its many imitators are analogous to the so-called “free university,” which eliminates the traditional boundaries between students and faculty, one academic discipline and another, the cognitive (knowing) process and the affective (feeling) process.

    The encounter group, as it evolved at Esalen, is first of all a vehicle to provide an intense emotional experience. It is usually kept small enough—half a dozen to 20 members—to generate intimate response. Its focus is on the “here and now,” on what the group members experience as they sit, lie or touch together. It demands complete openness, honesty and cooperation.

    As described by the American Psychiatric Association, the encounter group is “a social oasis in which societal norms are explicitly shed. No longer must facades of adequacy, competence, self-sufficiency be borne.” Indeed, just the opposite kind of behavior is encouraged. “The group offers intimacy, albeit sometimes a pseudo intimacy—an instant and unreal form of closeness . . . one which has no commitment to permanence.”

    All of this applies to Esalen at Big Sur. The scene itself inspires strong emotions: a verdant reach of craggy coastline dropping precipitously into the Pacific. A row of small rustic bungalows that house Big Sur’s 60 “seminarians”—its own name for clients—is dominated by the main lodge. Other emotions, some of them hostile to Esalen, have been aroused by the institute’s most notorious and overpublicized attraction: its hot sulphur baths, where seminarians of both sexes soak blissfully in the nude during breaks in their sessions.

    Shocking Experience. Esalen’s curriculum, like that of most human growth centers, is wide. The fall 1970 catalogue offers a smorgasbord of workshops, labs and seminars, among them group sessions for millionaires (“On Being Rich”), couples, divorcees and dentists (“The manner in which the professional approaches his patients and practice is, in general, a reflection of the way he approaches life”).

    There are also numerous workshops in Gestalt therapy, an approach devised by the late German Psychiatrist Frederick S. Perls. One of the newest and most rebellious branches of psychology, Gestalt theory seeks to celebrate man’s freedom, uniqueness and potential. This is markedly different from conditioning his behavior, after the manner of B.F. Skinner and other behaviorists, who argue that man is infinitely malleable, or from probing his subconscious and his past, like Freud.

    The “here and now,” according to Perls, is all that matters; the mind and body are inseparably one; converts are commanded to “lose your mind and come to your senses.” This is implied by the very word Gestalt, which means configuration, or the whole, and which, as applied in therapy, insists on the unity of mind and body. Hence it places great emphasis on the body as a part of the whole; and it is this emphasis, widely practiced by human potentials groups, that has helped earn the movement a reputation for being anti-intellectual. The accusation is not entirely true, but a casual visitor to Esalen could be forgiven for believing it.

    To the uninitiated, an Esalen encounter group can be a shocking experience. As TIME’S Andrea Svedberg, who herself attended one, reports: “People touch, hold hands, kiss, throw each other up in the air, fight, use all the dirty words, tell each other cruel truths. Every aspect of so-called proper behavior is discarded. Every emotion is out in the open—everybody’s property.” Feelings are not spared. In time, the group develops a tribal loyalty, as fiercely protective as it is critical.

    Over the years, Esalen has evolved, mostly by trial and error, dozens of ways by which group members can learn to communicate with their bodies rather than with their minds. Each procedure has its purpose. When, for instance, the spirits of some grouper noticeably sag, he may be rocked tenderly in the air on the hands of the others.

    Tears are a summons to “cradle”: the moist-eyed one is warmly and multiply embraced. An extension of cradling is the hero sandwich: the whole group, often as many as 35 persons, cuddle together in a formation rather like the football huddle, but far more intimate. Esalen has also elevated massage to something of an art. The body is kneaded, not gently, from neck to foot; to some seminarians, the massage becomes an emotional bath—what insiders call a “peak experience.”

    Exciting Feedback. All such exercises are calculated to awaken in the grouper a new awareness of and respect for the purely physical side of his being. In a way, it is an extension of the flush of well-being that is one of the rewards of exercise, an attempt to recruit all of the senses—not just the mind—into the act of living.

    Although no one man dominates the human potentials movement, its contemporary origins can be traced to the late psychologist Kurt Lewin, who fled to the U.S. from Nazi Germany in 1933. With him he brought a fascination with the dynamics of the group, society’s basic unit. Lewin’s work convinced him that no amount of telling people what to do—the standard educational approach-could be half so instructive as letting them find out for themselves.

    It was this principle that, by accident, gave rise to the National Training Laboratories, the first serious entrant in the human potentials movement. In 1946, the Connecticut Interracial Commission sought Lewin’s advice in solving the state’s interracial problem. With three colleagues, Lewin brought black and white leaders together to discuss their differences.

    But because of Lewin’s interest in the dynamics of group behavior, he also appointed four observers, with instructions to record their comments after each meeting: how things went, why things went wrong, etc. The conferees insisted that they be allowed to participate in these postmortems. “What happened was that they found the feedback more exciting than the actual event —the conference,” says Leland Bradford, former executive director of N.T.L.

    At its Maine retreat, opened in 1947, the N.T.L. began applying the feedback process to what has become an entirely new educational approach: the T group. Uninstructed and agendaless, the group begins to coalesce in a highly charged emotional atmosphere. At first, group members are reserved, but eventually they remove their social masks. Says Bradford:

    “People come as lonely people —we’re all lonely people—and find they can finally share with somebody. One statement I’ve heard 300 or 400 times from T-group members is, ‘You know, I know you people better than people I’ve worked with for 30 years.’ ”

    Intense Encounter. T groups are now conducted internationally by 600 N.T.L.-trained leaders and are designed to improve corporations, government agencies, churches and other institutions. They differ from encounter groups in that they tend to be less emotional, place more reliance on verbal than on nonverbal communication, and are less concerned with the individuals’ growth per se than with his development within his group.

    T groups improve relationships within organizations by trading what the late Douglas McGregor of M.I.T. called management’s “X” approach (do as I say) for the “Y” approach (join with me so that we can work things out together).

    Obviously, that does not and cannot make equals of the boss and the factory hand; if that is the unrealistic goal, the “Y” approach will fail. But by making the president and the factory hand more aware of each other it can vastly improve the employee’s sense of his own value and place.

    The pervasiveness of the human potentials movement is demonstrated by the inroads it has made even in relatively conservative cities like Cincinnati, where T groups and encounter groups have become an integral part of business and civic activities. Procter & Gamble and Federated Stores, for example, both use human potentials groups to increase the effectiveness and morale of their staffs.

    After hours, some of the employees, inspired by their office training, conduct private encounter groups of their own. Methodist and. Episcopal church leaders regularly schedule group training sessions for their laity, and the University of Cincinnati sponsors sensitivity groups both to improve the workings of its own departments and to aid the community at large. Even the police department is involved.

    Next month new recruits will be given 40 hours of group sensitivity training to give them a better understanding of the problems and ways of the city’s minorities. N.T.L.’s approach represents what might be called the conservative end of the human potentials movement. At the other, or liberal end are Esalen and all its imitators and derivatives. Somewhere in between lies the Center for Studies of the Person in La Jolla, Calif., a loose confederation of 53 psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, educators, clergymen and journalists.

    Its informal objective might be described as that of the movement’s interpreter to those who have heard of it and want to know more.

    The very eclecticism of the human potentials movement has brought it criticism even from within its own ranks. Robert Driver, founder and operator of Kairos, San Diego’s human growth center, has compared it to “a tree which is growing too fast without putting down proper roots.” The movement also attracts a great many persons who join it for the wrong reasons: “Already,” says Driver, “we see some growth experiences that are used merely to blow out the tubes every six months or so.”

    Re-entry Problem. There is genuine concern as well at the lack of follow-up procedures to determine the long-term effect of the group experiences. Says Psychologist Richard Parson, an Esalen adviser, “All research shows that people have the most tremendous subjective reaction after it is over—as a rule, more than 80% say they are overwhelmingly responsive. But the objective results—testing—show virtually no lasting effects. It is difficult to show as much as a 5% change in anybody even after the most intense encounter.”

    The movement admits the need to learn why the benefits appear to be short-lived. But follow-up procedures cost big money and the movement is still a deficit operation. This year, for example, Esalen broke even for the first time since its gates opened in 1962.

    There are more disturbing aspects of the proliferating group sessions. Among some 200 Stanford University undergraduates exposed to a wide variety of personal growth workshop experiences, the overall “casualty rate” —those who suffered psychological impairment—was 8%. Perhaps even more significant was the discovery that a so-called charismatic leader, or trainer, within the movement produced a casualty rate of 14%.

    Psychiatrist Louis A. Gottschalk of the University of California, after participating in one encounter group of eleven, diagnosed “one borderline acute psychotic withdrawal reaction” and “two severe emotional breakdowns with acute anxiety” within that group. Irving D. Yalom, chairman of the American Psychiatric

    Association’s Task Force on encounter groups, reports that after one T group session 10% to 15% of the members consulted a resident psychiatrist for such adverse responses as anxiety, depression, agitation and insomnia.

    The explanation could lie in the possibility that some leaders themselves may desperately need what they preach. At most growth centers, anyone can join the movement as a trainer with little experience. He learns on the job. Many such trainers are unequipped to recognize the casualties they produce. Their approach tends to be simplistic. “If expression of feelings is good,” says the A.P.A. report sarcastically, “then total expression—hitting, touching, feeling, kissing and fornication—must be better.”

    The movement is also well aware of what it calls the “reentry problem.” Writes Jane Howard in Please Touch, the result of a year’s participation in the human potentials movement: “Just as it is hard to be sober when nobody else is, I found what thousands of other veterans of groups have found: that it is hard to re-enter ‘back-home’ reality after the intoxicating communion of a successful encounter or T group.”

    Sometimes recognition that the world has not changed is more than the returning grouper’s new sensory awareness can take … in which case he either turns into a “T-group bum,” endlessly circuiting the growth centers, or into a copout. An alarming number of such refugees from reality leave their wives, families, jobs and communities.

    Youth’s Disaffection. The dangers are real. But the human potentials movement cannot be dismissed as a passing fad. “There is increasing concern for the humanization of organizations,” says Dr. Vladimir Dupre, executive director of N.T.L., “an increasing desire by people to feel more connected with each other, to act on their own environment rather than feeling acted upon.”

    In education, where man’s affective aspect is largely overlooked, the movement is probing a long-neglected area. Max Birnbaum, associate professor of human relations at Boston University, who believes that this neglect is in large part responsible for the counterculture subscribed to by the younger generation, feels that the answer to youth’s disaffection might lie in the new movement. He sees the day when the learning experience will involve a group of peers, “in contrast to the traditional classroom, with the teacher as an authority figure and the students as charges.” This model is already taking shape in many of the human potentials movement’s group sessions.

    It is too soon to assess the true value of the movement. According to Donald Clark, it does “not lead to old answers but to new puzzles, new problems, new models of experience, new perspectives, and subsequently may provide a possible—though not guaranteed —footing from which one may reach for new answers and new skills.”

  21. Actually I put the wrong TIME article link (that one is good too) but this is more pertinent to the post on Casriel’s “A Scream Away From Happiness.”


    Behavior: Hazardous Encounters
    Monday, Apr. 30, 1973

    “Even more dangerous is the fact that most leaders, Maliver says, are either amateurs whose only “training” was their own participation in groups, or “marginally trained” professionals such as psychologists who dropped out of graduate school…….

    Among the offending leaders, Maliver cites Manhattan’s Dr. Daniel Casriel, a physician who, says Maliver, admits that he was dismissed from his analytic institute and appears to make “as much as $12,000 each week.” “Name any psychiatric symptom,” Maliver writes, “and Casriel will tell you how long it will take him to eradicate it.” According to Maliver, Casriel promises patients “an accelerated re-education of your ‘ABCs’ A = affect-feelings-emotions. B = behavior-act-actions. C = cognition-attitudes-thoughts.”

    His approach, similar to Arthur Janov’s “primal scream” therapy, is to teach members of his groups “to grab hold of a feeling—any feeling—and express it in a series of yells, screams and moans which increase in volume to almost unbearable intensity.” Overwrought, the patient is then soothed by the rest of his group, as well as by Casriel, if he is present, or by one of the ex-patients who run most of Casriel’s groups. No effort is made to understand the emotions that have so painfully —and dangerously—been aroused.

    Casriel’s technique is one version of what Maliver calls “psychological karate,” an approach that precipitously strips away emotional defenses “in the naive view that by recognizing their pathological sides, people will automatically become healthy.” In fact, without the careful preparatory steps taken in professional psychotherapy, such recognition can cause serious psychological damage. The effect is similar to that in encounter groups where participants are psychologically assaulted under the guise of “openness” or “honesty.” – from TIME

  22. Great read, very enlightening. Thanks for posting this Awake.

    One thing I picked up on while reading this reminded me of something we learned in business school. It involved a study, all the way back in the 1920’s I believe, at Edison Electric in New York.

    They tried to find out what would make the employees work harder, perform better, so they interviewed the employees who were working in a very dull assembly area, tested all sorts of possible ways to improve their output and so on. At one point they increased the brightness of the lighting in the work area and noticed that productivity increased by something like 15%. Excited, they increased the brightness more and again the productivity increased somewhat. Then they lowered the brightness and saw the same increases. Bewildered, they kept adjusting to all sorts of different levels of brightness and each time they saw similar improvements. They eventually realized that the only reason the employees were showing any enthusiasm, any improvement in productivity, was that the company was showing them some attention. Something they craved. Something most people crave. When the attention went away, the productivity dropped below normal and after a time, eventually went right back to where it had been originally.

    The article mentioned how the programs were fine for “normal” people, but for those with real issues, the encounter groups could actually be dangerous. That’s because normal people have pent up anger too, and screaming it all out could potentially have a short term benefit, but for those who have real psychological issues, no quickie is going to solve anything. But I think both groups would appreciate the attention of the group. Whereas many survivors have commented on how they often find themselves telling their whole story to complete strangers, unable to shut up at times, telling far too much about themselves, for others…these normal people and people with issues, might find some temporary benefit in being able to express openly, in front of people who are not going to judge them harshly, and get out whatever is on their mind. Then get some feedback. I don’t see any value really in screaming, unless the person, totally without any prompting from a facilitator, does it on their own, feeling such a need. Much of what people do on a couch in a shrinks office is to just get it out, get a little constructive feedback, in this case from peers and not professionals. I would liken it to going to a church confessional and confessing your sins. You get it off your chest. But the benefit is temporary. It has to be. You can’t tell your priest you were molested at age seven and then expect anything to really have changed. But being able to cry, scream and rant about it and have someone tell you it’s okay, you’re not alone, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re still loved… Sure, that can have some value. But not three times a week for three hours a day, for two or more years. And not forced. And not with humiliation thrown at you as a way to get you to scream louder and longer. That has no value.

    But people appreciate a little attention now and then, and the ability to have someone, anyone they can talk to about things that are troubling. And I think that has some value for normal people and troubled people alike. But for the troubled person, those with real issues, they need more and it should be with a real and trained professional.

    I am trying to imagine Rocky Mountain Academy or CEDU as only a week or two in length. Our parents sending us there, we attend some raps, get some stuff off our chests, get some feedback from peers, learn we aren’t alone, recognize what we need to change, then go home and perhaps meet with a real professional and discuss in more detail what we screamed and yelled about and discussed for a couple of weeks. Would that have been less traumatic and more importantly, of some value?

  23. I lived it, on restrictions more than off. They expelled me less than two weeks from graduation. Thanks RMA

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