Trying to understand Trauma-Bonds

The 3HO kids–the SGA’s–are a cohort. I am a member of this cohort. This cohort is living with multiple dimensions of traumatic, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). So it’s no surprise that we trigger each other whether in person or online. It’s no surprise that things–such as chat groups and zoom meetings and other attempts to organize–fall to pieces, stagnate, or hibernate. One of the reasons for this is because we are bonded through an unfortunate thing called Trauma. Much of that trauma is still alive in our bodies, constantly sending signals of ‘friend or foe, safety or danger’ when confronted with the trauma–ours or other people’s, even if it’s totally unconscious.

Most 3HO SGA’s just want to live free, halfway decent lives. This desire sometimes gets overridden by the urge to want to keep in touch, to keep some semblance of bond alive, or to even try to help those who might be hurting. At this stage, I think it’s important to be real about the possible drawbacks–the internal ones as well as those that are external and possibly antagonistic.

A Trauma-Bond is messy and ugly and dysfunctional. It often involves a lot of narcissistic abuse and gaslighting. That is, it involves parties who continue to deny someone his or her authentic feelings, who cause one to question oneself and their reality. It can happen one-way, it can also happen two-ways, or it can be multi-dimensional. And it’s the basis of cultic manipulation, because of the reliance on toxic co-dependency as a means for control. For us, our gaslighters may be our parents and the cult itself, but it can also be our peers. Some just remained in the cult. Some may have removed themselves, but haven’t adequately addressed or recognized its patterns of abuse, or even learned to call it that.

The segment that stayed in 3HO, it’s important to recognize that they have experienced the same trauma as those who have left. This is not about “abuse vs. no abuse” that is what dictates whether some stay and some leave. It’s the ability/inability to recognize it as abuse, and the willingness to remain in a state of dependency or not. Living in a state of dependency though, it creates an internalized vested interest in maintaining many of the same systems of control that are already in place. And the total inability to recognize a dynamic as toxic or abusive. And it’s so painful that it makes hearing genuine critical discourse–about possible abuse or control–wholly unbearable and therefore impossible.

Still. IT IS A CHOICE.

Maybe it’s a Bounded Choice* but a choice nonetheless. At some point we all have to own our decisions. We have to choose to recognize abusive relationships and break the chain. I give credit to people raised in cults that have at least made minimal effort to break the cycle of cultic abuse. That’s the first step in the complicated process of cult recovery.

There’s always going to be a handful of people that choose to stay and who repeat the failures of their predecessors, and who might work keep a Trauma-Bond intact as much as possible.


3HO’s self-identified “Next Generation” is case-in-point. I have words for you:

“Next Generation”, you are not “Next”. You are NOW. Own it. No one is saying you can’t make the choice today to break the cycle. Denying, gaslighting, diminishing and shunning… these things will not break the cycle. Atonement, ownership, commitment to transparency and safety… these things will be a start to breaking the cycle.

You are responsible. For your past (edit: past actions as adults). And for your future.

“Next Generation” you are responsible for keeping this terribly abusive boarding school in business. You are responsible for keeping the ill-qualified school staff in employment for all these years. You are responsible for marketing the school to new-recruit parents, and for pressuring 2nd gen parents to ship their kids there. You are responsible for failing to do anything when it came to serious child abuses and neglect. You are responsible for the denials, the diminishing, the glorifications and the gaslighting. You are responsible for shilling the new-age music and festivals. And the kriyas and the mantras and the numerology and the astrology that you cynically claim will connect your consumers to some “vibration” and the so-called spiritual teachings, ie. the “Golden Chain” of Yogi Bhajan (the predator rapist). You are responsible for coat-tailing and towing-the-line of this meaningless, fraudulent tripe. You are responsible for claiming innocence or naivety under the shield of Sikhism. You are responsible for the thievery and appropriation of Punjabi Sikh culture, and the anglicizing of its prose and poetry through the erasure of its linguistic meaning.

“Next Generation”, this is you. You are as culpable as the “first generation” at this point. You stuck around and you repeated the horrendous child-separation practices of sending children to the youth camps the Miri Piri Academy boarding school in India. You drew a line in the sand and barricaded yourselves from perceived threats of the “outsiders”, thus silo-ing yourselves from true critical dialogue. The thing that could have actually helped, you rejected. Only you can choose to change it. Those of us… your “outsiders”? We can only bear witness. And it’s getting pretty unbearable to even do that.

But let’s be clear: This smoking pile of rubble, it belongs to you now.


That Cycle: Here’s a previous post attempting to unpack my experience at the time with the trauma-bond.

For more information and help with breaking Trauma-Bonds visit the CPTSD Foundation’s blog post: https://cptsdfoundation.org/2019/11/22/recognizing-and-breaking-a-trauma-bond/

*Bounded Choice is a book by sociologist Janja Lalich.

2 Replies to “Trying to understand Trauma-Bonds”

  1. Hi! Im a second gen who has bad ptsd. I lived with yogi bhajan qnd was being groomed to do seva all day. I saw guru simran the custodian moving young girls around the ranch, one was Hari Simrans sister and the other Mahan Kirin. I have pictures and letters from my sister who went to GNFC. Hee lettees were all fake and even said “tell the siti singh sahib i like it here in india. She went one year and had dysentery. HepA, mumps, worms, and lice. She said the sick lady had a mentally ill adult son who would sit in her bed at night and talk to himself. She couldnt sleep. Also the dee dees scrubbed her too hard and the bucket they used had human shit in it. On the way home she shit her pants and nobody cleaned her, so you can imagine my mom seeing her at the airport! I tried to repost one of your posts and that’s fine if you don’t want me to. I’m 100% with you!!!

    1. It’s so terrible and inexcusable what happened to your sister. I’m so sorry there were no responsible adults to protect and love her. And you. And all of our children.

      None of you deserved this abuse! It’s not your fault this happened!

      Is there any movement toward a law suit re: abuse and neglect in the various children’s programs, in particular SDFE? I started talking with other 3ho/SD adults about India Program abuses in 1985 and even called Sat Kirpal Kaur about a specific situation. I was told “it’s none of your business, JI!”

      I was too naive and didn’t yet understand the psychopathology of the group leaders. The whole thing was thoroughly impenetrable from any angle, at least any angle available to me as one person. I had NO luck engaging other adults to try and interfere, prevent, report etc. The inhumanity of the India program and of the adults who harshly enacted it and protected it from criticism is what eventually caused me to leave 3ho/SD.

      Again, I AM SO SORRY.

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