My Family spent £6,000 on therapy that got us nowhere, my Mentorship at Lighthouse has saved my life
Updated: Apr 4
I left my family home at the age of 31 years old.
Yes, that is far too late for any self-respecting adult.
The reason I left my family home so late, is that I was, along with my brother, trying to leave a controlling, narcissistic, manipulative parent. In total, the actual process of leaving the residence took over three years, through a combination of family therapy with a private therapist, regular (unpaid) mentorship sessions with my mentors Paul Waugh, Chris Nash and my family, as well as several Airbnbs that my brother and I stayed at in the "transition".
I'm not going to go into much detail here about the environment I left - I have much to say on that, for another time. I'm writing this because I am, frankly, indignant about the myths and lies that can get blown around the internet about cults and cult leaders etc. I'm writing this to use myself as a personal case study for others of how to identify some of the trappings of therapy cults.
Firstly, I'll say this - I am the perfect candidate for a cult. I am a single, very impressionable young man, who grew up without a father. My mother, to put it mildly, did nothing for developing my sense of independence and inner confidence. I have deep down been looking for father figures and could have easily been swept up by a cult, or some organised religion to get that warm, fuzzy pseudo community feeling. Thankfully, I was searching for a community, not a cult. I found community and then some.
Cult Leaders Try to Break Families Apart, Not Bring Them Together
My experiences and journey with Lighthouse has been the opposite of that and, ironically, is one of the reasons why people fear this work and can get very angry when they don't get the results they want. Because the mentorship I have received has been bloody hard. It's caused me to face up to how little responsibility I had taken in my life and to actually take responsibility myself for becoming an adult.
One of those key areas was with my birth family and trying to resolve as many issues as I could. One of the accusations against Paul and Lighthouse is that they try to separate you from your family. That's not my experience. Paul has personally out of his own pocket paid for many weekends where my mother, brother and I could get time together to resolve the issues we were facing. He pleaded with us to try and resolve our issues. Now, why would a cult leader who wants to be worshipped, go out of his way to help two 'devotees' try their best to heal their relationship with their mother? Why would he also go out of his way to mentor us to reconnect with our estranged birth father after 25 years?...
Simply, that's not what a cult leader does. Those are the actions of someone who actually cares about human beings and desperately wants to see families unite and come together.
Moving Out of the Family Home: £6,000 on therapy that went nowhere
Part of healing my family relationships was Paul actively encouraging my brother and I to go to family therapy (again, if this was a cult leader, a therapist would pose a direct threat to the leader's authority). My mother chose the therapist, one she had worked with before. Every week, at a discounted rate, we would all go to therapy. I found it extremely difficult for a long time to open up, and after nearly every session I would come away either exhausted, frustrated and, on occasion, relieved and understood. It was slow progress. I did make some realisations about my childhood, as did my brother. We were starting to grow a bit closer as a family... although when we wanted to even spend a weekend away from our mother at an Airbnb, she would describe it as a "traumatic" experience - nothing apparently was ever good enough. And our therapist bought into the demands my mother was making time and time again. Makes you wonder where the real cult is when your own parents try to prevent you from leaving the home under the threat of making themselves ill and traumatised. I mean, who wouldn't want to make sure their mother was ok? What son would want to traumatise their own mother!? Maybe it's better to stay, right?
Well, as time went on, we were starting to decrease our therapy sessions but our mum was still adamant that we keep them. Then it came to one session that turned out to be our final session. I remember it so well. My mum declared that she didn't want to speak about her parents and didn't want to speak about her being a problem to us. Oh, and the icing on the cake.... sure, the therapist agreed, AND recommended that my brother and I get mental health support (not realising that we were already receiving 1-1 counselling)! Faaaaaaantastic. 3 years? £6,000? Well spent... yea.
I was traumatised. I remember getting on the train back to my new home feeling so lost, so confused, so angry. Why was this nightmare not ending? What was going on?
When It's Appropriate To Spend Time Away From Your Family
This is when Paul stepped in. He literally gave me a phone call while I was on the train. It's a phone call I'll remember for the rest of my life. All of a sudden, all the lies, all the secrets, all the traumas from my family narcissism came to the surface and hit me. He recommended to both my brother and I, the book, "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward. I find it still a very difficult book to read because there are some very difficult truths in there that I can barely stomach reading. If you have experienced any form of narcissistic, manipulative abuse, whether physical, emotional, mental, sexual or psychosexual, I do strongly recommend this book as well as getting support from a counsellor or mentor to work through it.
After that session I needed time. I needed space. Paul did recommend my brother and I give ourselves space to heal. No-contact time with our mother, instead of having to see her or meet with her every weekend as we were doing. So yes, to anyone who has claimed Paul separates families, he did recommend we distance ourselves. But that was for a defined period and for the sake of evidential, proven damage being caused to us by our own family and a qualified therapist who had only exacerbated the problem.
(Incidentally, this was only reinforced later, despite clear boundaries set, my mother stalked me at my home by driving to where I lived to 'visit' me. In all seriousness, I know firsthand what a manipulative cult is, I grew up in one for 30 years).
Writing this is not easy as I re-live a lot of memories but it is so important I get over myself. Since that time in my life, I have made some inroads to reconcile with my mother. Sadly, she only decided to change her ways once there were serious consequences for her actions. It's taken a lot of painstaking efforts from Paul, Chris, my brother and I to heal. And it is ongoing work every day. In truth, while I have been at Lighthouse for 11 years of my life, my healing has only begun in the last 2 years because of what I was extracting myself from. I've invested well over £25,000 in my Associate Partnership here. What I have received from that far, far outweighs what I have invested in many areas, not just in the personal, and transformational healing. Paul has literally paid for my rent when I could not.
The Responsibility To Grow Up
When someone like Paul has gone far out of their way to help you in your life, it's hard not to look up to them and value them. He is and has been a father to me. But as any good father will tell you, he has always wanted me to fly the nest and grow up and out of his mentorship. One thing I love about being a Partner here, is that he encourages me to challenge him. To actually challenge and question him! Wow. How often do you get that even in a corporate?
I say I love it, because I've learned and am still learning to ask questions I've NEVER felt I had the permission to ask, that are opening up possibilities for my life. I've had the freedom to do things I've never done before. As a Partner, I've experimented on projects, got things horribly wrong, made huge mistakes with clients, picked my feet up, got some incredible lessons and pressed forward to add even more value to others.
The real cult is one that fosters dependence. What I've received and continue to receive, is an immense investment in my independence, so that I can help others to grow up as I have - ideally in less time, with fewer mistakes and less pain. Please feel free to follow Lighthouse International Group on social media to learn more about what we have discovered over 18 years through our pioneering research into human potential.