The Gateway: Gizmodo's New Podcast About
Controversial YouTube Guru Teal Swan (TRAILER)
The Gateway is a six-part series about Teal Swan, a new brand of spiritual guru, who draws in followers with her hypnotic self-help YouTube videos aimed at people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Some followers move to Teal’s healing center—a spiritual startup in Atenas, Costa Rica—where they produce content and manage social media accounts. Teal insists her therapy saves lives, but her critics say Teal’s death-focused dogma is dangerous.
**TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with suicide and other awfulness.**
Episode Reviews: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6
Further Update: Teal Tribe Kerfuffle
Another Update: In which teal lies about Cameron... again
Last fall Gizmodo gained incredible access to teal's operation. Reporter Jennings Brown not only interviewed teal several times, he was allowed to take a crew into Philia, her retreat center in Costa Rica, to observe one of her high ticket Curveball retreats. The result of his year-long investigation is a six-part podcast series that is by far the most extensive profile of teal yet by a mainstream media outlet. Days before Gizmodo first interviewed teal, she was interviewed by reporter Addison Nugent for OZY, an international, online magazine. The interview was uncomfortable for teal, which she expressed immediately, and somewhat intemperately, on her blog. Neither the resulting OZY article nor "The Gateway" podcast series — which began airing at the end of May and has aired three episodes to date — have been mentioned by teal or her team. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was interviewed by both reporters and my statements appear in both pieces.)
The day ends. The house falls into the dark silence of sleep. The next morning we board a plane to Paris. I have one more interview to do; a segment for the provocateurs section of OZY. This interview marks the end of this European tour. I have five minutes to change my outfit before the camera is switched on in our hotel room. The style of this interview is not what I expected. There are two different styles of interview, one is supportive and the other is antagonistic. In a supportive style interview, you are already going into the interview being loved. The entire structure of the interview is set up to make you look good. In an antagonistic style interview, the majority of the focus is placed on challenging you. No one holds your hands in support in this type of interview. Instead, the interviewer gives you the opportunity to fight though the power of narration to earn people’s good opinion by putting you on the spot. The interview started off with this: “I have interviewed spiritual leaders from everywhere and many of them have been doing this for more than 30 years and to be honest, none of them have the amount of controversy, hatred and dedicated antagonists as you do. There is so much written against you out there in the world, they call you things like ‘the suicide catalyst’, why do you think that is?” In an antagonistic style interview, you spend your time trying to answer questions while simultaneously trying to caretake the vulnerable aspect of you that feels targeted and like hiding under a blanket while sucking its thumb. Sometimes the interviewer is already biased against you and is simply setting up the interview as a trap to make you look bad so their pre-conceived, concrete concept of you can then be shared by the world in order to make them feel personally validated. But if the interviewer is genuinely non-biased, the antagonistic style of interview often leads to the best content. Nonetheless, it is always awkward when this style of interview ends because everyone acts as if nothing just happened and everyone is really friends when in reality both you know and they know that it was an antagonistic interaction that made all parties involved socially uncomfortable. I decided to order minestrone soup after the interview was over to comfort myself and take a bath before I fell asleep. [all emphases added]
How teal came up with this binary construct of "supportive" vs. "antagonistic" interviews is anybody's guess. It bears no resemblance to how professional journalism actually works. In all my years as a publicist, I never once asked a potential interviewer if they were going to be supportive or antagonistic and not one of the supervisors, editors, or authors, I worked with ever expected me to. Most of them were just happy for the media exposure. But teal is different. She has a long history of doing softball interviews with other YouTubers, who are, indeed, very supportive of her. I think it would be fairer to say that there are fawning, sycophantic amateurs and serious journalists, and teal has almost entirely interacted with the former. It is not a reporter's job to "make you look good." It's a reporter's job to uncover facts and inform the public.
The OZY interview was published a month later, on November 19, and it did not go as teal had hoped, in no small part due to her own whinging about the "antagonistic" interview on her blog. She did not announce its publication or mention it ever again.
Days after OZY's Addison Nugent asked her about the controversy surrounding her and the moniker "suicide catalyst," teal whined to Gizmodo's Jennings Brown that she had no choice but to respond to the "allegations." We know that it was within days of the OZY interview, because she announced that she had just taped the allegations video on October 23 to her Instagram followers. She announced that "Teal Swan Answers to the Allegations" was posted on October 25. (My response to that video may be found here.)
Episode 1 of "The Gateway"
Seconds into her first conversation with Gizmodo, toward the end of Episode 1 of "The Gateway," teal launches into a jeremiad about how her "hate groups" have finally forced this public response. It seems painfully clear that the catalyst for the "spiritual catalyst" to make this video was direct questioning from OZY about her being the "suicide catalyst."
I'm a little frustrated today because today we're gonna be filming, uh, so, I'll just go here. My hate groups are so incredibly active lately that I've been put in a position where, um, our decision as a team to ignore it can't happen anymore... So I basically have to do a video today that's answering to a lot of their allegations, because I'm losing so many contracts [emphasis added] based off what they're saying... Like for example one of the monikers that my haters have given me is the "suicide catalyst," as if I'm promoting suicide, so I'm gonna basically answer to all these things from my perspective.
Says Brown in his narration to podcast listeners:
I thought I'd have to work my way up to asking about things like her critics and the suicide allegations, but it's not even two minutes in and we're already there.
It is a strange interview, indeed, that mostly involves teal complaining to a reporter from a mainstream tech website — a survivor of the late, lamented Gawker Media — about her "haters."
BATGAP Teal Swan Excerpt: "Sex Sells"
Teal Bosworth Scott Swan has been talking for years about breaking into "the mainstream." To hear her tell it, it was a plan hatched by her Arcturian designers before she ever took human form here on earth. This is how she explained it to BATGAP's Rick Archer:
Do you want to know something funny? The way that I look was not designed for people like you who are already on the path. It was designed to break me into the mainstream. And the reality of today’s world is sex sells. The reality is the better you look the more people pay attention. This was a discussion which took place before I even came into this world. A lot of people in the mainstream would not listen to a person who was wrinkling and greyed. They would listen to someone who looks like me, and it has nothing to do with the validity of looking the way I look. It has to do with attention.
Buddha at the Gas Pump is a long-running and fairly well-respected platform, a cut above her usual YouTube interview. Archer got backlash when the teal interview ran, in part for his paternalist comments about her appearance, in part for interviewing her at all. (I included the BATGAP interview in the noncast "TEAL Works Blue.") At some point, Archer quietly removed the teal interview from his platform. When pressed, in the BATGAP Facebook group, about that and other removals, he explained.
Regarding Teal, I don't know anything that isn't public knowledge. I'll watch her answer to allegations. Even the guy she was married to when I did the interview says there's something rotten in Denmark. I see Batgap as a stew, Certain ingredients may spoil the taste of the whole thing.
Her explanation of Arcturian designed, universal appeal was also offered in an earlier interview. That interview was also removed. A number of interviews in which she has discussed her alien origins began to disappear just as she was doing what those Arcturians designed her for, getting mainstream attention and publication. Mainstream audiences, unlike the woo world, aren't so enamored of alien origin stories. But in this remaining snippet of that interview, teal explains the importance of being pretty and white, if one hopes to make a splash on the world stage.
Teal: African Women Aren't Pretty
It may well be that what attention teal has received, mainstream and otherwise, owes to her appearance. It is certainly not because of her ideas, which appear to be almost entirely plagiarized. (See also here and here.) Both the Gizmodo and OZY reporters admit to being struck by her physical attractiveness.
But pretty and white as teal is, her forays into mainstream media have not gone terribly well. That was true even before "haters" like myself started raising questions. She has never responded well to a more journalistic approach, wherein hard questions are asked, and healthy skepticism is employed. The press release for her first, and self-published, book was picked up by her local newspaper, The Herald Journal. The former book publicist in me can only see this as a win. The name of the book was mentioned. The op-ed was fair and even-handed. Really, from a publicity standpoint, this was a success. But teal and her team responded with outrage. Letters to the editor were penned by herself and by one Jason Freedman, a "freelance reporter" who appears to be none other than her associate Blake Dyer. In fact much of the firestorm that ensued in the comments section may have been so much sock puppet theater. But it was clear then, as it is now, that teal and her supporters will not tolerate anything but fawning, credulous coverage.
At some point, teal's rhetoric around mainstream success began to change. Instead of promoting herself as an Arcturian designed, caucasian beauty, capable of attracting the mainstream attention that "ugly" black girls and wrinkly, grey-haired people could not, she started to speak of herself as "controversial" and "up against the mainstream." And this has been her response to the Gizmodo series. While she has almost entirely given it the silent treatment, those in Teal Tribe who have stumbled on the series have expressed almost uniformly negative reactions, from sadness to outrage. Gizmodo has joined the legion of "haters."
In one of the longer threads, teal offered a brief response. She's very hurt, but she's challenged the mainstream and the mainstream is fighting back.
Outside of the teal bubble, "The Gateway" is getting positive reviews from mainstream outlets like The Guardian and The Wrap, which made a podcast about the podcast. The reviews teal gets from those outlets are less flattering, as they seem to find her own words about as jarring as I did when I first learned of her over four and a half years ago. To "the mainstream" her ideas about suicide are as troubling as you might expect them to be, as is the fact that she has no training or credentials that qualify her to treat serious mental health issues. She comes across as narcissistic, her claims grandiose. The influence she has over her followers' life (and possibly death) decisions inspires deep concern. In The Guardian, Miranda Sawyer writes:
All of this is undeniably icky. Having your life’s decisions directed by a compelling stranger is a very bad idea, but at least nobody’s getting hurt. Except… some are. Swan, who gives her closest followers very personal attention, insists that in some cases (when someone’s “vibrations” are of a certain type), then suicide prevention hotlines won’t work, psychotherapists and psychologists won’t either and that death feels fantastic and “is an immediate relief” or “a reset”. Meaning, it’s OK for people to kill themselves. And some do. Her fans call her the Spiritual Catalyst. Her detractors call her the Suicide Catalyst.
Confident and narcissistic, Teal is happy to talk to Brown (she boasts about having five security guards and refers to “haters”) and it looks as though in the next few weeks he’ll be going to her Costa Rica retreat. Let’s see if he returns in a state of spiritual refreshment.
One thing that teal can take some small comfort in is that, at least so far, "The Gateway" hasn't gotten a lot of press attention beyond what I've noted here. The reason for that, in my surmise, would be less comforting to the woman who talks endlessly about her own fame and hashtags her Instagram account with various iterations of #celebrity***. No one outside of her online following and the outer reaches of the new age and self help arenas have any idea who she is. In many ways this podcast is her "gateway" to notoriety, and it is a less than auspicious introduction.
Episode 2 of "The Gateway"
Having spent over four and a half years cataloguing teal's body of work, I have amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of public material by and about teal. I have also gotten to know a number of people who have broken with teal, including some who have been seriously injured by her methods and her abuses of power. But I am not an investigative journalist or in the business of bringing forth information that I've received in confidence. I do not have the backing of a professional news organization that would enable me to do that kind of reportage. So what I'm enjoying most about "The Gateway" is that Jennings Brown's investigative journalism is bringing to light previously unreported information about teal's background and the lives she has affected. Episode 2 delves deeply into Leslie Wangsgaard's suicide, something I first learned about from her own video of the Santa Fe workshop, and wrote about in my second teal post. I vainly hoped, at the time, that it was pure invention on her part. What she said on that stage was so flippant, so bizarrely self-aggrandizing, that some sort of performance art seemed a plausible explanation. I learned in short order that teal was speaking about a very real person who was most definitely dead by her own hand.
When teal talked about Leslie Wangsgaard's suicide in that workshop, she described her as irredeemably miserable. "And this was a woman who was absolutely miserable. I'm talking, every moment of her life was a nightmare." But Gizmodo's reporting paints a different picture. She may have battled depression, but her friend Joyce remembers a vital and "upbeat" woman who enjoyed belly dancing and was always up for a bit of fun. She was also a compassionate hospice worker who extended herself to caretaking the vulnerable on her free time, rescuing homeless animals and humans alike. Joyce also saw a pronounced personality change when Leslie and her husband John Wangsgaard started working with teal. This may have had something to do with what John describes as teal's "ability to see things that you and I do not." And what did she see in Leslie but her soul's intense desire to leave her body.
According to John, she also "helped" Leslie recover "memories" of sexual abuse by her father. As Brown notes, repressed memory is a very controversial idea in psychology, but teal takes an unequivocal position on the topic. Despite her total lack of psychological training, she has guided many people through the experience of unearthing traumatic memories that may or may not be real. This was something Katherine Rose Breen asked her about directly. It got her banned from Teal Tribe. She recounted the experience in this blog post (also posted here).
There is a sense of tragedy to John Wangsgaard, not so much because his wife committed suicide. That he seems to be at peace with. What he seems to be grieving over is that he is no longer in touch with teal. He is still hopelessly devoted to her, longing for contact that he can no longer financially afford. There is a tone of desperation in his voice when he speaks of being with her again, if only for an hour. He keeps a stack of her "Frequency Paintings" in his bedroom. He claims that his "attraction" to her was spiritual, not sexual, but explains that teal told him early in their acquaintance that they had been married in a previous life. The interview leaves me more disturbed than ever over Leslie's tragic death and teal's role in it.
Episode 3 of "The Gateway"
"I want you to imagine that you're dead. So we're all gonna get suicidal for a moment," is how teal introduces an exercise during the Curveball retreat that people have paid up to $5000 for. I can't help thinking about James Arthur Ray's version of the Samurai Game during Spiritual Warrior. Ray played God, with the power over life and death, making people lie perfectly still on the cold, hard floor for hours. At the end of that week, three people would die in his sweat lodge. So imagine the shiver that went up my spine when I learned at the end of Episode 3 that Philia is getting its own sweat lodge.
Brown is concerned about "suicide contagion," as the group embarks on this death exercise. This is something I've been concerned about for a long time with teal's followers, in part, because I have seen it play out in screenshots from Teal Tribe. Having people visualize their own suicide this way is something teal recommends for people who are contemplating suicide. This has always struck me as a truly terrible idea.
As these exercises unfold, it seems like the lines between imagination/visualization and "actual" experience of participants' own deaths, and other dramatic experiences, is becoming blurred. Brown is also concerned that teal is "engineering a mystical experience," as people become convinced that they are "literally" becoming everything from dead relatives to rocks to shoe laces to bodily organs, in these "possession" experiences. It is all the more troubling to me because it does not seem like these are naturally unfolding experiences, but the result of very direct prompting by teal, who says "I want you to..." more times than I can count. She's not holding space for people to have their own realizations. She's not so much a guide as she is a dictator, telling them what will happen and what they should feel about it. It does indeed seem like their experiences, both mystical and emotional, are being engineered and directed by teal, who has established herself as a superior, spiritual authority in their lives.
You should write that down. "My whole life is about..."
Brown tracked down the author of a Philia review I had also seen on the Philia Facebook page. The charge is one of manipulation and outright fraud.
When Brown expresses concern that teal might be "playing with fire" putting a group of strangers together to have this intense, group "therapy" experience, teal replies, "I'm not afraid of that. That's where you get the best stuff. [snort, snort, giggle, giggle]" You can actually hear the duping delight (see noncast "Drunks, Cult Leaders, and Duping Delight" for background).
Most people were going through a fucking huge crisis, like gun-to-your-head type of crisis. And then, you know, they typed in something like "how do I not kill myself" and my videos popped up and they just... I specifically try to go for tags and things like that that get that, capture that audience. When you're in a desperate state, it's not sophisticated. People, like, when they're in that state, they type in shit like "I just lost my mother, what the fuck do I do." Literally, that will be the google tag line so even when we're doing videos, we'll add things like that so if someone's suicidal or someone's had a breakup or whatever, that's the video that comes up.
Teal was explicit. She uses tags that target people when they're having suicidal thoughts.
This explains, at least in part, something I've heard from one Teal Tribe refugee after another, that they were at the lowest of low points in their lives, when they first discovered teal. Some have described to me how when you're in that state, her videos are a kind of sweet relief. This caused some people to ignore any number of red flags, to put aside even a visceral dislike that was their first reaction. Could it also explain why so many of her followers credit her with saving them from suicide?
On a personal note, I'm a little startled to find that the seeming twist of fate that led Brown to his first teal video included a song I've long associated with her and used in my post about the suicidality so common among tealers, "Suicide Is Painless." I always thought this was an organic connection on my part, stemming from a childhood love for M*A*S*H. Suddenly I'm less sure that I made this connection on my own.
Meanwhile, in Teal Tribe, the plaintive cries of the suicidal continue. They bring a mix of reactions, some of which are more disturbing than the posts themselves. I wish I could say that this was more than a small, representative sample of the kinds of posts that come up over and over, in that group.
Some posts are from members who are dismayed over the sheer volume of suicidal posts and the way they are handled — or not handled — by admin. And if that concern is great enough admin shuts those threads down. Move along, folks, nothin' to see here!
Update 6/24/18: Episode 4 of "The Gateway"
In Episode 4 of "The Gateway," Brown drills down on teal's use of online marketing tools to target suicidal and otherwise vulnerable people. He interviews Justin Olaguer, who was once part of teal's "intentional community." I had been wondering whatever happened to Justin. He's been conspicuous by his absence from her inner circle. It was nice to hear his voice and know that he's doing well. He seems to have come a long way from the days when he was ranting about me being the "psychic Nancy Grace" on his Facebook page. (I've never cared for Nancy Grace, but I thought that was amusing. Funnily enough, he's not the first to make that comparison, so maybe I should sit with that.)
Says Justin now about teal's targeted marketing to the suicidal:
Those are ripe for becoming dedicated, loyal consumers of her products... She just wants a share of that market. Sorry if that's overly cynical but that's a market... She's a self-interested economic force... That's a market. She wants it.
Justin worked on her PR strategy, so he would know. But he was also part of her "market." This is a segment of the last extant episode of "Shadow House" that I've been able to find. "Shadow House" was a kind of reality show that teal used to livestream. This was hardly the most action-packed of these broadcasts, like the infamous "racist rant," or her public humiliations of Cameron and Fallon. But it went to some very dark places.
Shadow House Segment
Astronauts have cyanide capsules in case they need to kill themselves? And you can get these astronaut cyanide pills on the black market? Who knew?! I did not. (This is NASA we're talking about, not Trump's new space force, because that doesn't exist... yet.) So I googled it. It seems this incorrect factoid traces to Carl Sagan. You'd think she'd check the, um, Akashic Record on that.
That bit of absurdity aside, there's a lot that troubles me in those six minutes alone. I don't know what kind of pain Justin has had in his life or what state he came to her in, but she seems to be steering him straight into a very dark place and dangling suicide as relief for whatever hardships might await him. She assures him she can teach him to stop his own heart with his mind or, you know, take astronaut cyanide.
Even in 2014 teal was telling tales of deep paranoia. She was risking assassination by the government, cults, and the pharmaceutical industry. Nothing about "hate groups" conspiring against her, though. That came later.
I also learned from this podcast that another suicide was presaged in Teal Tribe, with posts that are hard to read after the fact. The first such suicide, that of the 22 year old Brown calls "Max," was something I wrote about in this post. When I wrote it, I was somewhat dubious about her claim of receiving ten suicidal emails a day. Why was she "law of attracting" so many suicidal people? Now that I know that she's actively, and mechanistically, targeting that "market," I find her unwillingness to devote the time to responding to those desperate emails all the more galling.
In this episode, she complains to Brown that she's just deluged with desperate and suicidal emails, too many crises for her to possibly deal with. Perhaps she should have considered that when she decided to target that "market" so directly. Perhaps she should have put some sort of framework in place before she started luring desperate people to her groups and workshops, presenting herself as the cosmic answer lady. Perhaps she should at least post some suicide hotline numbers in Teal Tribe, as many have suggested. Her contempt for those hotlines has never been more apparent than in this podcast. She openly mocks them, imitating the counselors with a silly, sing-song voice. She is actively dissuading her many, many suicidal followers from reaching out to helplines. Where does that leave all the desperate followers she can't find the time for? At least two are dead by their own hand.
I had not heard about the second triber taking her own life. Brown’s description of “Jane’s” gun-to-the-head post rang a bell, though. I went back over the many screenshots of suicidal posts I’ve received. Learning that she died of a self-inflected gun shot wound shortly thereafter, at age 18, I shudder. It’s a feeling I won’t be able to shake anytime soon.
We talk a lot about how tealers should be getting proper therapy, but I've read through hundreds of these screenshots, at this point. Many of these folks have been in and out of therapy and do not feel they've been helped. And a lot of them couldn't afford to go to a therapist if they wanted to. Brown interviewed suicidologist April Foreman who confirms that pessimistic outlook.
I'm not sure what of teal's body of work Brown shared with Foreman or what her feelings would be on things like suicide being a "reset button" or how it "feels so good to die." She did weigh in on teal's insistence that people, like the late Leslie Wangsgaard, need to "commit to life." The data do not support that idea, according to Foreman. What the research shows is that no one is ever a hundred percent committed, either way, even in the midst of a suicide attempt. She did not, however, call them "fence-sitters," as teal did.
Foreman's comments are echoed in a piece that recently appeared in the New York Times, a sampling of comments from clinicians who had responded to an AP article about Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and the escalating suicide epidemic.
As a mental health therapist who has been practicing for 26 years, I appreciate the attention that the recent celebrity suicides have been given by journalists. I believe it is important to shed a light on this issue and that talking about difficult subjects is crucial.
What I sincerely wish, however, is that journalists would stop referring to the “mental health system” in this country. This is the United States, not Canada or the U.K. There is no “system.”
There are only providers: some individual and some groups. But the idea that there is an established, organized “system” of care is simply incorrect.
Is help available? Yes. If you have health insurance and can locate a provider who will see you, then help is available. But please stop alluding to a “system” of mental health care in this country. It simply does not exist.
Sadly, Brown is right. There is a void and teal has strategically positioned herself to fill it.
Brown also interviewed psychologist and former Moonie Steven Hassan. Hassan seems to share a number of my concerns, after watching just a few of teal's videos. Her droning voice can be hypnotic, as can her soothing backgrounds. I can't personally relate as I find her voice to be like nails on a chalkboard, but many former tealers have told me that they found her voice and manner hypnotic.
She presents herself as an authority with special knowledge. As I've said many times, the way she defines "extrasensory" ability as something very rare, that she claims to speak for "source" where others do not, infuriates me. And I say this as a practicing psychic. Psychic ability is not "special." It's our birthright. Good practitioners in this field don't foster dependency. They teach people how to fish. But I digress.
Hassan was also very troubled by her suicide meditation, because, no, she does not know how everyone will process that, especially the suicidal people she is actively targeting with her tags on that video.
So Hassan addressed a handful of indicators of the mind-control cult that teal appears to be building. Justin now sees teal as a cult leader but also as the "pope" of her own religion, an "object of adoration." Todd Mooney, who abandoned his children and pregnant wife, under teal's guidance, calls her "divine mother." Rick Ross also told OZY that teal fits the definition of a charismatic cult leader. And the OZY reporter was troubled by teal's comments about people being exiled from her "community" when they disagree with her, just as Todd Mooney and countless others have experienced. You are either with her or you're with the "haters."
For somebody who’s never had a sense of belonging, [Teal Tribe] becomes … their new family. Which works until the minute that someone has a falling out with me. … If anyone has an issue with me, turning against me, they stand to lose all these people they’re really close to.
I'm still not sure if it's a cult or a quasi-cult, but there are a lot of cult indicators. I leave it to the experts to make that call.
Brown also did a Completion Process session with one of teal's certified practitioners. She seemed very sweet and supportive, but Brown left with more churned up than resolved. This is a process that teal herself says could make people suicidal, but is now proffering as the replacement to suicide helplines. Her practitioners are trained for a few days, for the princely sum of $2,600.00. But teal trains them herself and knows for sure whether or not they're ready to counsel people through crisis. She knows even before the training because she screens the applicants using her super-psychic abilities. And yet, she's refused to certify some people, because it turns out they just weren't ready. At one training, she tells Brown, she declined to certify five people. How did she not see that coming?!
I remembered hearing about this less than successful training in one of teal's Daily Updates and I had the same thought then. So not only did teal fail a bunch of psychically pre-screened people who shelled out thousands of dollars and traveled all the way to Costa Rica, she announced it to the world, before she even told them. And she hates to hurt anyone's feelings, even though, according to her, hurting people's feelings is what "shadow work" is all about. Funny because I thought she loved to "attack" people and put them in the "hot seat."
Her next CP training went better, according to a subsequent Daily Update. She goes on to explain that "real" healing "unseats your entire reality." Most people are so inauthentic, according to teal, that if they genuinely heal, their lives "implode," their "reality collapses." It's "not fun." It "sucks." So that's quite the advertisement. And I'm sure very helpful for people who are already suicidal.
Teal Swan Demonstrates 'The Completion Process' Live!
"So. We gotta get you triggered," says teal, after tossing out a casual compliment about her client's attire. She's not even fifteen seconds in to this Completion Process demonstration video that got teal cited for practicing therapy without a license. A minute in, teal directs the client to "think about the thing that's causing you the most pain in your life... I wanna see if by getting you to talk about it, we can get you in some strong emotions."
She talks a lot about "unconditional presence," but what teal is doing is the opposite of being present for this woman. Instead of meeting her where she is in the moment and supporting that, addressing the concerns that she's expressing, teal moves straight into her agenda, which is to make her as uncomfortable as she can as quickly as she can. She wants her to be emotionally raw. She seems determined to break her down, to unseat her entire reality, to have her life implode, no matter how much that might suck.
This is the kind of thing that has troubled me for a long time with teal's methods. I have described her version of "shadow work" as being more like a "witch hunt through the psyche to unearth trauma, real and imagined, for which people can find whole new reasons to blame their parents."
She's not helping people find any sense of equilibrium. She's deliberately throwing them off balance, destabilizing them, and pretty aggressively. That she's providing these methods to people she's deliberately targeted for their instability, makes this all the more disturbing.
At the end of this episode, Brown gently but directly confronts teal on her qualifications to treat suicidal people. She becomes defensive, her speech clipped. She "feels" like she has "the answer" to suicidality because she's been suicidal. He suggests that this is not really a qualification, that what has worked to keep her "off the fuckin' ledge" might not do the same for everybody. She replies:
It works for everybody I’ve stepped around... Unless, unless they really don’t want to be here.
How convenient. Her method is one hundred percent foolproof except when it isn't. But when it isn't, it's not that her method has failed. Her mind-reading tells her that that person was absolutely committed to dying, that thing that suicidologist April Foreman says is never the case.
And am I the only person who is struck by her wording? To "step around" something is to avoid it, as one might a dead body.
But teal is certain that she has cracked the code on suicidal ideation and she feels absolutely qualified to disavow hotlines and trained professionals, to set herself up as someone who has "the answer" for suicidal and psychologically fragile people.
And I have a lot of people who've written and said that I do. So.
This is a logical fallacy, argumentum ad populum, aka., the bandwagon fallacy. But just because something is popular doesn't mean it's worth anything.
|"No one in this world, so far as I know... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." ~ H. L. Mencken|
Update 7/2/18: Episode 5 of "The Gateway"
We are now 5 episodes into this six episode series and teal has yet to publicly acknowledge its existence. There was a flurry of excitement last Friday morning when a photo of teal sitting for an interview with the Gizmodo crew was posted to her Instagram account. By late afternoon it had been removed. Why it was posted, in the first place, and who exactly posted it will probably remain a mystery. But the incident underscores the fact that teal is deliberately burying the most thorough mainstream coverage she's had to date. The hashtags on this disappeared post are awesome, but not one of them references Gizmodo or the podcast.
Episode 5 of "The Gateway" takes on teal's ritual abuse story. Brown does a pretty thorough job of running down, not only her claims, but the Satanic Panic that set the stage. Then he steps on his crank, but I'll address that further down.
Once again teal's own commentary is just stellar. She explains to Brown that her parents turned to "Doc" for help, because they were completely overwhelmed by her extreme specialness.
When I'm talking about all of this stuff going on and like people are clapping and I can actually see the noise and I'm hearing colors and when I've got this whole thing going on my parents are just like this is over our head, like way over our head. So this guy came in and he's like, it's not over my head.
Not for the first time, teal is here making her synesthesia sound like it's magic. She suffers from a number of sensory integration disorders, which she misrepresents as expressions of her "extrasensory" abilities. Synesthesia is actually fairly common. More common, still, is "extrasensory" ability. I find it a little hard to believe that her parents, these parents, were so mystified by these disorders that they needed outside help from an holistic veterinarian. Her mother holds a masters degree in psychology.
There are major differences between teal's account of her time with "Doc" and his own, not the least of which is the timeline. He says he didn't see much of her throughout her childhood, because he had moved from Utah to Idaho, and only really spent time with her when she was a troubled teen, at her parents' request. She liked horses. He's a large animal vet. And, of course, he denies being a Mormon Satanist. He's not even a Mormon. Much of this has already been discussed in this interview and in my own response to it.
There is some new information in this segment. Brown confirms what teal has not publicly stated before, that Barbara Snow was her therapist. She refers to her in interviews as a specialist in ritual abuse. The bigger news is that Snow accompanied teal to the police station and was in the interview room with her.
Gizmodo obtained a copy of the police report and found that they had intended to pursue an investigation, but teal was unwilling to testify, claiming fear of retribution. A year and half later, teal contacted the police again, willing move forward. But some of teal's story wasn't adding up. They found no physical evidence of abuse on her body, which is to say that the scars teal talks about so much did not prove to be evidentiary. Her middle school diaries also were not found by police to point to any abuse, as she had claimed. Ultimately, they were put off the whole thing when they looked at Snow's checkered history with law enforcement. The report concluded that there was not "anything that could be prosecuted."
As I have alluded to previously, Barbara Snow faced multiple charges from inducing false memory in her patients to insurance fraud. She reached a settlement and was placed on probation. So I think it's not for nothin' that teal avoids mentioning her name.
In this episode, teal's former friend Tori McLellan shares her own experience with Snow, whom teal pressed her to see. Tori was having a little trouble remembering the Satanic cult that teal insisted she had also been a part of. Snow was also apparently quite sure, and according to Tori, wasted no time in trying to convince her that she had repressed memories of Satanic Ritual Abuse.
It's a good thing for Tori that she was clear-minded enough not to let herself be pressured by either teal or Snow into "remembering" things that never happened. Both, it seems, had an agenda they wanted her to perpetuate. And this is something that played out all over the country during the Satanic Panic. The McMartin preschool trial, which Brown references, not only put the falsely accused through hell, it harmed their accusers, one of whom publicly apologized years later and described his own process of fabrication under pressure.
Brown interviews psychologist Elizabeth Loftus on this subject. I wrote the press release for The Myth of Repressed Memory and found it pretty convincing at the time. I did not think it proved that repressed memory can never happen, that it's a "myth," only that false memories can be created and that claims about the prevalence and accuracy of "recovered" memory are not credible. Memory is a creative and highly fallible function. ("Ah yes, I remember it well...") But Loftus also has her critics and there are some concerning questions about her scholarship. So I am of mixed mind on Loftus. I am not of mixed mind on the dangers of induced false memory, the prevalence of which fueled the Satanic Panic.
A point Loftus makes in this interview is one I thought was particularly striking when I read the book, that a lot of patients who have recovered memories in therapy settings aren't getting better. In fact, they get worse. There are a couple of things I find really interesting about that in this context. Her poor prognosis is one of the things that teal has claimed moved her out of clinical therapy and into developing her own methods. She has complained that psychologists don't have a plan for your happiness. Starting around the 36 minute mark in this interview, she describes her realization that she was surrounded by patients in group therapy who were not improving. She claims she was told, "What's important is that you come here and you keep rehashing what’s gone on and you keep revisiting the shadow aspect..."
Ep. 18: From the Depths of Hell to Happiness
with Teal Swan (FKA Teal Scott)
From my memory, this sounds a lot like how Loftus described these kinds of group therapy sessions, with patients raging and crying as they relived over and over the horrors they'd "remembered." Most sex abuse survivors want to heal and put the past behind them.
But this description reminds me of something else, the way teal has described "real" healing, as I referenced above in my response to Episode 4.
Teal's gone into explicit detail of the heinous things she says Doc did to her — psychological manipulation, abuse, and torture. She was comfortable sharing these stories with me and with her followers, but they're too explicit and unsettling to play here.
But she has shared them, in all their stunning and graphic glory, not only in multiple YouTube interviews, but with the Boise area news team of KIVI's 6 On Your Side, which aired around Halloween in 2014 and can be found here, here, and here. In every such interview I've listened to, she's not only comfortable, she's casual, even glib. It's as if she's not talking about anything that is in the least bit unsettling. Despite her claims of pseudoseizures and inability to use household appliances, when she describes the grisly details, there is no hint of emotional charge. This is most evident in the raw footage of her KIVI interview, which was posted to YouTube two years after the original broadcast. It is long, over two hours, and detailed. It exposes some of the slick handiwork that produced a somewhat deceptive broadcast.
|“One snap of my fingers and I can raise hemlines so high that the world is your gynecologist.” ~ Patsy Stone|
Teal Swan interview with Chris Oswalt on 8/5/2014
I think it's great that teal likes to wear sexy clothes and show off her figure. I really do. Women should be able to wear whatever they want, look gorgeous, and be safe from harassment and derogation. Just as men are free to look fabulous in tailored suits, driving Porsches, and still be seen as people, rather than walking, talking wallets. And I am very supportive of the rights of sex workers, so I was never offended that teal pursued a pornographic modeling career. I just thought she was being a little cagey about it.
I think it is questionable, though, when sex appeal is used to market goods and services that have nothing to do with sex. It's exploitive of women that their bodies are used to deliberately manipulate consumers of everything from cars to hamburgers. That teal has stated openly that she's using this tactic to sell her "spiritual" product is troubling to me. (See the BATGAP segment above.) I think it's self-exploitive and does nothing to advance women as anything other than sex objects who occasionally think thoughts.
All of that aside, there is something really disturbing about the way teal mingles her graphic tales of violence and abuse with sexual provocativeness. It is just deeply uncomfortable listening to teal talk about rape, forced prostitution, kiddie porn, and necrophilia, while she's falling out of her dress, batting her eyelashes, and giggling like a schoolgirl. Around 46 minutes in, as she's describing how she was prostituted out of gas stations as a child, she sort of jerks off an imaginary penis when she's talking about being forced to fellate strange men in public restrooms. She really paints a picture.
She's also used phrases like "sex with little kids." There is no such thing as sex with children. Sex is consensual. Children cannot give consent. It's molestation. It's abuse. She sounds like she's lapsing into NAMBLA talking points at times. That someone who claims to be a survivor would make that kind of error is hard to reconcile.
There is much that is troubling in this interview, and some things that I think contrast sharply with Gizmodo's reporting.
For instance, listen to what teal says about why the case is "cold." She lets slip at around the 43 minute mark that she was scared of being prosecuted herself, which may be more to the point than her fearing retribution from murderous Satanists. At around an hour and 5 minutes in, she explains how her therapist insisted that she report the crimes involved to police. The case was really challenging, she says, because the FBI would have needed to be involved, since the crimes crossed state lines. So why weren't they? The police wanted exact dates, she whines. In other words, they wanted specifics that she was unable to provide. And then she really goes off the rails.
They decided in the end that despite the amount of evidence that I had, which is actually a lot more than most people escape with in my scenario, because of the time lapse and the fact that they're really good at covering their tracks, I had escaped with a pair of jeans I was raped in, I had escaped with a human tooth that I took from a sacrifice, and I gave all of this to them. So despite all of that and the scars which, they did scar mapping on my body and everything, the case was handed over to the district attorney. The district attorney gets to decide whether they have enough tangible evidence to prosecute. See most people don't understand that, that hearsay is not enough reason to prosecute someone. And it's not even enough reason for a search warrant.
Hearsay cannot be used in court, it's true, but it can be used in investigations and for obtaining warrants. But more to the point, this was not hearsay. She didn't overhear someone else's conversation about these horrific crimes. She was an eye-witness, a victim, and, as she admits, a co-conspirator, who could be culpable herself.
So teal rattled off a lot of excuses, in this interview, for why the investigation was shelved. But the simple truth is that they did not have enough evidence to pursue it. Scar mapping they did, but what scars she has are not evidence of any abuse.
Another interesting detail that falls out of her mouth is that she was getting crime victims reparation money.
A positively jarring statement comes about 57 minutes in, when she's telling the story of her grand escape from "Doc." After being under-dosed with Ketamine and being forced to perform sexual acts on a priapic corpse, while "Doc" gnaws on it's raw flesh, teal drives to the home of a young man she'd only recently met, Blake Dyer. The rest, as they say, is history. Why Blake? She just knew she could trust him.
He was so innocent, I swear to God… He's like the most innocent, amazingly sweet person ever. And some part of me thought, I can use this to my advantage.
|"When people show you who they are, believe them." ~ Maya Angelou (paraphrased)|
One of the strangest things about teal's SRA narrative, and it comes up in this interview as well, is that she talks as if the Satanic Panic never happened. The reason people question her story, according to her, is that they don't want to believe such horrible things can happen, as if Satanism is the only horrible thing that's going on in the world, and as if there weren't many bestselling books, multiple, iconic news shows about Satanic conspiracies. She seems blissfully unaware that people have been prosecuted and gone to jail for their supposedly Satanic crimes. The Satanic Panic was unfolding when she was a child and is common knowledge.
Somehow we're meant to believe that her story's resemblance to books like Michelle Remembers and Satan's Underground is a coincidence. That both of these books and books like them have been discredited is never mentioned, either. Yet it seems inescapable that the popular culture backdrop of her formative years shaped teal's narrative. The Most Dangerous Game also seems to have worked its way into her thinking, or perhaps the Gilligan's Island version of that story of a big game hunter who chases human prey through the wilderness. I'm speculating, but it's not like the rest of her ideas are so original.
Somehow, despite the many who rose and fell before her, teal has decided that she is the "poster child" for ritual abuse. And she is not thrilled that others with verifiable experiences are stealing her thunder. At an hour and 17 minutes in, she cannot suppress her hostility toward Elizabeth Smart.
I hate her. I hate her because there's so much attention. I hate her because she's glorified. I hate her because you know the reality for her is now that she's got her umpteenth book is that people are, you know that she's released and it's gone major, that she's set for the rest of her life because people know about it.
Her own victim narrative is very important to her and to her brand. It seems to really chafe that Elizabeth Smart is so much better known for having been victimized.
Toward the end, a bit before the 2 hour mark, she mentions yet another group who wants to kill her, and it's one that I'd forgotten about: Christians. They're threatening her and her child. Why? Because she teaches oneness. That's just a bridge too far for mainstream Christians and they think she needs to die for it. So as of latter 2014, the biggest threat she faced was from hoards of murderous Christians. She has a very long and ever-changing list of potential assassins. But someone somewhere is just always plotting her death.
As he moves to the end of this interview, a little past the two hour mark, Oswalt says, “You’ve smiled, you’ve teared up, you’ve kinda laughed, you’ve obviously had some frowns…”
If you can stand to watch all two hours of this, see if you can see her tear up even once. Oswalt, deliberately or not, is cueing her in on the fact that her affect is not normal for someone recalling such horrific things. She has giggled, smiled, and smirked for two straight hours of sordid recollections of rape, pedophilia, sex trafficking, murder, infanticide, necrophilia, and cannibalism. Within two minutes of him drawing her attention to that fact, she breaks down. Watch her. Watch her very carefully.
At two hours and three minutes, she swallows a laugh when he says the word “laughed.” It's a smirk we’ve seen many times before.
Just shy of two hours and five minutes in, she announces “See there I go,” turns from the camera, and starts wiping her eyes. “I promised myself I was gonna make it through without crying.” Oh, so that's why she didn’t shed a tear for two hours of horrifying recollection. Well, that explains it, then.
This, of course, was footage they used in their broadcast of this interview. And I remember thinking at the time, wow, I’ve never seen her get emotional like that. Because I literally never have. Not when she talked about Leslie’s suicide and hilariously rapid reincarnation. Not when she’s described the horrors of SRA. Never. She doesn’t. But then, as now, the one thing I did not see in the broadcast footage of that interview: tears.
Throughout this "breakdown," she pinches and rubs her nose, which can make your eyes water. There’s an acting trick. If you can pull out a nose hair with the edge of your fingernail, you can irritate your tear ducts enough to cry on cue. But even with all that scrunching and eye-rubbing, she can’t seem to produce a single tear. Her eyes get a little red, she wipes her cheeks repeatedly, as if she's wiping away tears, but there’s not a scintilla of moisture on her face
One of the strangest elements of this interview is teal's commentary on her parents. She has forgiven the man whom she claims put her through he tortures of the damned for 16 years, but not her parents. That "almost seems backwards," notes Oswalt, at about an hour and 48 minutes in. Ya think? But teal explains that it's "bystander trauma" which makes it hardest to forgive the bystander who failed to act. But bystander trauma, in as much as that's a thing, refers to the emotional distress bystanders experience when they witness traumatic events. Put the psych terminology down, teal. You don't know how to use it.
Despite that, teal has tremendous resentment toward her parents, and the many therapists they took her to for missing "red flags." They didn't notice that she was being taken from her bed on countless nights. They didn't know and somehow weren't told that she was being routinely abducted from her school. And to this day, they remain in denial about all of it, she explains an hour and 20 minutes in, because they don't believe that she was ritually abused by Mormons and Satanists, only that she was molested by someone and they accept that it was their old friend "Doc." They also missed that there might be some significance to her writing "really horrific, sadistic poetry in grade school." That is definitely a red flag of something.
She claims at around 48 minutes in that her therapists considered abuse "more than about a hundred times." But didn't think her parents seemed the type. They just never considered that it could be another perpetrator, a teacher, a relative, a friend. Somehow it never occurred to any of them that the man she claims she was spending so much time with, her mentor since early childhood, should have been considered, if, in fact, they suspected abuse that strongly. How does that make any sense, given the story as she has related it? Where did these therapists go to school? Therapists are mandated reporters. They would have been required by law to contact the police if they really suspected abuse.
All those licensed, professional therapists aside, many people assume she must have had been abused, even if her ritual abuse story is not credible. Many, but not all, assume it must be "Doc." And this is exactly the trap that Brown and his associate Jessica Glazer walk into. A brief segment of their interview with "Doc" airs near the end of the podcast. He denies, not only the ritual abuse, but any inappropriate behavior. His answer, when pressed, remains a clear "no." He does allow that teal hugged him on occasion when he came to pick her up for their veterinary rounds, but notes that they were both in coveralls. For some inexplicable reason, both Brown and Glazer find his answer strange. I did not. Neither did many other people I know who've listened to it. To me it sounds like someone trying to be as forthcoming as possible about any interaction they had that anyone could even begin to question.
As stated, many people have gone there and I've had this conversation more times than I can count. Here's why I have a huge problem with this implication. Simply stated there is no evidence of it. The only reason he falls under suspicion at all is that teal has named him. She is not a reliable narrator and yet we're looking at "Doc" through her filter. In this country, the burden of proof is on the accuser to prove guilt, not the accused to prove innocence.
One of the many things that I have liked about the #metoo movement is that it has, for the most part, been fueled by judicious reporting. The credibility of the accuser matters. Getting corroboration, contemporaneous accounts from friends, family, and other witnesses matters. You have to dot every i and cross every t before you suggest that someone is guilty of a crime. All of which the best reporting, like that on Harvey Weinstein, has done. But that did not happen here.
One of the problems in a case like this is anchoring bias. The piece of information we hear first tends to stick and to determine what information we accept or reject moving forward. I understand why people accept teal's framing of the story, even if they reject most of her story.
It is also easy to understand why people leap to the conclusion, as many have, that her father abused her, and that pointing the finger at "Doc" is a case of perpetrator substitution. Anyone who's read her blog can see that she’s got some daddy issues. Her deleted post "Oedipus Complex" was particularly concerning to many readers. But to extrapolate from any of her commentary that her father molested her is not fair to her father, either. There is no evidence of it other than some whiffy passages from the same very unreliable narrator.
I really see no reason to assume that any part of her story is true. It is a story that has certainly served her well. It's fueled her career. She is catered to. She doesn't have to do her own laundry or housekeeping. And it's a really good way to shut down any criticism as "unfair" because she's a "victim." And, as Brown himself says, it has a lot do with her perceived authority. She did say one thing in this podcast that I agree with.
If there is no abuser, there is no Teal Swan in the world today.
Update 7/8/18: Episode 6 of "The Gateway"
I am the most complicated person you're ever gonna meet. Like you can think of me as a miniature universe, literally. I'm like the fractals of the universe.
This statement of teal's starts off Episode 6. Amazingly, she gets even more arrogant as this goes along. But this self-description isn't just vain. It underscores once again how completely teal misunderstands oneness. If she really believed in this mystical principle, she would appreciate that every one of us is the universe in microcosm, that like a hologram, the tiniest particle contains the all. She never seems to grasp this. Instead she's taken bits and pieces of these concepts and applied them in ways that always seem to aggrandize and elevate her very special self. She's complex and has multiple interests, whereas most people are simplistic and single-minded, I guess.
"I have an aspect of me that's like an artist, an aspect of me that's like a temptress, an aspect of me that's a serial killer, an aspect of me that's like all of it, all of it is in me. I'm aware of it as well (giggle)."
Wait, what? A serial killer? And note that she's like an artist and a temptress, but she is a serial killer. That might explain her sympathy and identification with mass murders like Elliott Rodger (page search: devil), her apologia for Jim Jones (page search: bottomless), her attempts to normalize Ted Bundy, her general affinity for history's villains, and lack of it for their victims. It also raises more concerns about the "horrific, sadistic poetry" she says she wrote as a child.
Whereas teal's openness and almost conspiratorial tone in earlier interviews with Brown provided some shocking reveals, in his final interview with her in Utah, she sounds more like a Bond villain monologuing about her sinister plan for world domination, before leaving him to die in some convoluted but defeatable death trap.
Fortunately, the Gizmodo crew escaped with the recordings of teal's most strident and condescending public rantings to date. It was what teal would surely call an "antagonistic" interview. Brown confronted teal with some hard questions about her qualifications to treat serious mental illness and suicidality. In response, she argues from authority, as she generally does when challenged.
This is the problem with you and me, okay. If you have the access that I have to universal consciousness, I can pull information like you'd never believe, I mean from everywhere.
She goes on to explain the Akashic Records to Brown, who seems genuinely unfamiliar, and she's not even trying to hide how exasperated she is with his ignorance.
She explains that unlike people who have to go to school for "years and years" to understand things, she can download "leagues and leagues worth of information," although not the definitions of words like "leagues" apparently.
In fact, there seem to be a number of things she can't successfully download, despite her facility with the Akasha. And Brown challenges her directly on these gaps. Why can't she speak multiple languages? "I don't know." Yes, teal actually admitted that there are things she hasn't "figured out."
Here's a question: Why couldn't she rely on her innate ability to read the Akashic Record to learn and lecture about the Akashic Record? Why did she need to plagiarize that information from Camelit Kooray, only belatedly giving him credit, after being exposed.
She is really good at pulling down medical information, though. When Brown asks what she knows, her tone is more troubling than the claim, "I'm a medical savant."
Why isn't she a surgeon then? Because she would probably be in jail. She would "refuse" to follow "the laws that the insurance companies put out [???] that are stupid."
She is, however, willing to subject the Completion Process to clinical trials, "with a psychiatrist who agrees with me." Dr. Yasin Choudry's biases seem clear to her, as they do to Brown. He has been a member of Teal Tribe since 2015.
He is also actively promoting the Completion Process. But all researchers have their biases, and as long as they follow proper protocols, they can produce solid research. And to his credit, Choudry sounds appropriately cautious when interviewed by Brown. In fact, he seems to depart sharply from teal when he states that trauma work is not appropriate for suicidal patients.
At some point, this will have to pass an IRB. This is a process created by someone with no higher education, that by teal's own admission can cause self-injury and suicide. According to the podcast, Choudry is currently a medical director at a women's prison. If that's the population they plan to work with, it will be even more challenging to get approval. Prisoners are a protected class, their participation in research is subject to higher hurdles than for the general populace.
There are other concerns with with Dr. Choudry. He has an admitted history of serious drug abuse and still appears to be struggling. As recently as 2015 he was subject to a stipulation of licensure in New Mexico and ordered to get sober and enter treatment. In 2016, he faced an inquiry in Florida, where he also holds a license.
I say none of this to criticize Dr. Choudry for his addiction issues, but it does raise some questions about his participation in teal's work. His interest is not purely academic. He appears to be a wounded healer who has been fairly transparent about his struggles with addiction. His website seems to be gone, but according to this page, he posted about a serious addiction problem.
On his own website he details his past and drug history; heroin addict while in med school to the point of developing abscesses all over his body, ozzing [stet] green pus, suicidal, could not get out of bed, took many other drugs to handle that but went down in flames because psychs in his country did not understand addiction, had many psychiatric diagnosis,etc. [stet] etc.
It sounds like he is part of teal's target "market."
In this final interview, she is even more blunt about the desperation of her followers. When Brown challenges her lack of credentials and accountability, whether this is entirely faith-based, she responds:
No. It comes down to how desperate are you.
That's a statement that would have shocked me even before I knew she was directly targeting desperate and suicidal people. At points she claims that her followers have come to her work because they've tried all the traditional methods and have not found relief. And it is probably true that at least some of her followers are looking to her because they have not been helped by traditional psychology and psychiatry. Again, I have seen a good bit of that in the suicidal screenshots I've amassed. And Choudry is an educated, board certified psychiatrist who appears to still be struggling. But teal goes a step further, and this is where it gets truly alarming. She disparages those methods as if they do not work for anyone.
When Brown lays out the scenario of "recovering" memories of abuse and trauma, and then being pressed to commit to life or not, he says he'd prefer to work with methods that have some research and oversight.
I'm not gonna argue with the fact that that is going to cause a flare-up of symptomology. Yes. But what is the alternative?... You gonna drug yourself out for the rest of your life?... But it doesn't work. You're gonna be in the same damn position. You're not gonna be able to have relationships. They're gonna be totally shitty. You're gonna have attachment trauma that makes it so that you can't make anything function and you won't know why. So, if you don't know why, there's no hope of solving it.
She's dismissing every method but her own. Even though she admits that the traumatic memories that could be "recovered" might not be true, she insists that they came up for a reason, and that her methods are the only way to deal with them.
Her arrogance seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Bear in mind that she's also dismissed "99%" of her self-help colleagues as distributing novocaine. Here she's claiming herself to be "superior" in psychology just as she has in self-help and spirituality.
How do you know you can trust a psychologist? Half of them are just regurgitating information that was given to them by some idiot who came before.
It's one thing to say that you have methods that may help people, where traditional methods have failed. It's another to tell people who want to try traditional methods that they will fail and their lives will be terrible because it's all based on idiocy. Her attempts at clinical trials aside — trials that haven't happened yet — this is unethical. You can't discourage people from seeking professional help.
She's already been cited for practicing mental health therapy without a license, in her home state of Utah. And Brown followed up on this, finding that the fine is now in collection. Utah did succeed in making her cease and desist her use of the state seal on her CP certificates. I can't believe she was audacious enough to use it in the first place. It's blatantly illegal. When the State reached her soon to be ex-husband Ale Gicqueau, he told them that they had relocated to Costa Rica.
This matter is no longer a part of your jurisdiction.
But when Brown conducted this final interview with teal, she was in Utah running a workshop, surrounded by members of her "intentional community." And Ale, or Vaillant (valiant) as he is now calling himself, recently opened a healing center in Salt Lake City. They both appear to have a very large footprint in that "jurisdiction."
Where her murky relationship with clinical practices is most chilling, though, is in how her client Leslie Wangsgaard ended up dead. When challenged on this by Brown, she is not just defensive, she's strident.
Fuck no. Leslie was no mistake at all. I did not make single mistake with Leslie, in fact.
Could the pressure to decide whether she could "commit to life" have led to her decide that she could not?
No she went there because I was gone.
Why did she leave a client she knew had become dependent without making sure she had support?
Because I'm not her provider. I'm a spiritual teacher.
Well isn't that convenient? Conventional therapy is useless, so people should use teal's methods instead. But if they run into trouble with these methods that she's admitted could cause suicidality, she's not accountable because she's a spiritual teacher, not a licensed therapist.
She also can't "really remember" if Leslie had "recovered" memories of abuse while working with teal, despite the "photographic memory" she claims to have in this interview. She also can't "pull it down" from the Akasha, I guess. But her widowed husband John says she did and that teal also told her she desperately wanted to leave her body.
Another thing that becomes frighteningly clear in this interview is that teal is fully aware of how much influence she has over her followers. All that prevents this from being a cult is her own ethical line in the sand. I must admit that I'm dubious about the ethics of someone who has argued that there is no such thing as a "false prophet" or a "malevolent intention" and that Jim Jones thought he was "helping people." I'm just not convinced that her moral compass points north.
What do I say to the fact that I run a cult?... I have the perfect recipe for a cult. Perfect. Recipe. I have a demographic of people who are miserably isolated, lonely. They need belonging desperately. It's literally the demographic that needs to find somewhere to belong... That is the recipe for a cult... I have the recipe for a cult. I fuckin' know it. And that's what makes me safe. If I went south, I have the perfect demographic of people to work with... It makes the necessity for me to be in alignment so incredibly intense. These people are desperate. These people need my approval. These people will do whatever the hell I say. The only reason that it is not steered there is because of my ethics. [All emphases added]
It has always bugged me that teal misuses the word demographic so often. Demographics are measurable, based on defined sociological criteria. Demography looks at quantifiable data within a population: age, income, ethnicity, education levels, and so on. Lonely is not a demographic. Awake is not a demographic. Mainstream is not a demographic. "Teal is Illuminati" is not a demographic. She loves that word and I don't think I've seen her use it properly even once. But when I listened to her in this podcast, I had a chilling thought. Demographics data are used extensively in marketing to determine how to reach lucrative markets. Lonely, isolated, suicidal, these are markets to teal, markets she targets directly and strategically.
I've addressed her "internal guidance system" and "no financial buy-in" arguments previously. But even within this interview, we can see how she undercuts her own argument. Arguing from authority about how she can read the Akashic Record and other people can't is not exactly fostering independence. Having a following that she believes need her "approval" and will "do whatever the hell I say," doesn't exactly sound like she's cultivating independence of thought, either.
She tells Brown:
There is no consequence for leaving. People do it all the time.
But she has said more than once, and most pointedly in the OZY interview quoted above, that breaking with her will deprive people of the relationships and sense of community they have found as her followers. How is that not a harsh consequence for desperately lonely people? And, while there may be no further punishment for leaving, people who speak out after the fact are opening themselves to an onslaught of personal attacks and even threats. These seem like consequences to me.
Another mainstream source has weighed in on "The Gateway" and its subject. Jezebel devoted an episode of "Dirtcast" to re-airing the debut. They also interviewed Brown and Glazer about this "dangerous 'spiritual guru.'"
The Gateway is a six-part series about Teal Swan, the online spiritual guru/YouTuber/influencer/“Suicide Catalyst” using a dangerous combination of SEO, charisma, and hypnotic self-help to draw vulnerable people into her web. As Maddie says, “it’s fuckin’ crazy.”
With so many people looking for meaning online, Teal Swan’s unorthodox brand of “therapy” exploits the gaping holes in our mental health system, targeting people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. She represents a dangerous lesson in how the internet can influence a person’s worldview—and their decision to take their own life.
There was another response from teal to the podcast, this time in a live broadcast on her Spiritual Catalyst page on Facebook. She was asked her thoughts and a torrent of hostility ensued. It's starts at 21:40 in this video.
I was completely duped by those people, and I am very angry about it. Because what they did is they came in "posing" as neutral, um, interviewers... What is frustrating me the most about the Gizmodo podcast is that they completely turned it negative, and I'm sorry, like, that is not journalism. A journalist really should be able to cover things in a neutral way and that was completely anti, and the fact that they can't see that completely blows my mind. It's completely unprofessional on their parts.
So let me get this straight. She could see what Jennings Brown had for breakfast, and right down to his cellular function, but she couldn't see that he was not "neutral?" How does a professional empath, who can read the Akashic Record like the back of her hand, get "duped?"
Gizmodo, this is a little secret, Gizmodo is actually the same company — they just had to rebrand themselves — that ruined the career of Hulk Hogan... They're basically, it's a ragtag.
How does a woman with a photographic memory and direct access to the Akasha get so much wrong? What happened with Hulk Hogan is hardly a secret and his career is just fine, as is his bank account. Hogan sued Gawker for publishing an excerpt of a sex tape. He bankrupted them. It was Gawker that was "ruined." Gizmodo was always called Gizmodo and it's a tech site. It was part of Gawker Media, but it was acquired by Univision and it continues, along with number of other sites previously owned by Gawker Media. Ragtag is an adjective, not a noun, and it means ragged, shabby, threadbare, disheveled, barely hanging together. I believe the word she's looking for is "rag," as in fishwrap, a tabloid. I suppose calling the former gossip site Gawker a rag is fair, but I loved it.
Even the change in incantation of your voice changes the entire meaning of what you're saying.
I'm sorry, what? Could she mean intonation, maybe? Or does she actually mean something like: "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
She says she's angry because Gizmodo wasn't "neutral." But teal doesn't want neutral, un-biased coverage. She wants interviews that are "set up to make [her] look good." Because according to teal, there are only two kinds of reporting, "supportive" or "antagonistic." Has she ever once complained because an interviewer was too pro-teal? Aren't all those gushing, credulous interviewers, who never challenge her with difficult questions, biased? She's always seemed very pleased with bias, as long as it was bias in her direction.
Overall, I thought Brown was fair. He editorialized a bit and drew conclusions, so it was not unbiased, just the facts, reportage. I didn't agree with some of his conclusions, myself. But I think he did solid, investigative work.
It was Brown's fairness that made teal look bad. He could have done a podcast based almost entirely on the views of her critics. My recorded interview with him ran over three hours. He used seconds of it. I know he had similar interviews with other critics. He interviewed former followers and former friends of teal's, some of whom are sharply critical. He gave far more airtime to her devoted followers and the environments she's created. The main focus of the podcast was teal's perspective and he interviewed her several times. And as I have been demonstrating for four and a half years, it's not "bias," it's not "hate." It's her own words that do her in.
Update 7/17/18: Teal Tribe Kerfuffle
There was a little dust-up on Teal Tribe the other day, when a member posted what looks to be a fan-generated meme. Response to this was decidedly mixed, which led to a spirited discussion. Why and how this is relevant to the podcast series will become clearer as we move along.
There were many defenders of teal's words, and numerous calls to put the quote in proper context. The context, in this case, is an excerpt of teal's recent online workshop, posted to her channel.
Nice Guys Finish Last
There is much in this video that is troubling, starting with her explanation that sociopaths are successful because their lack of conscience means they don't law of attract getting "in trouble" and are more clearly focused. This she describes as a "loophole" in the law of attraction. (I keep looking for the loophole in the law of gravity, but, nope, still can't fly.) But if a lack of conscience invariably law of attracts escape from negative consequences, why are sociopaths and psychopaths so over-represented in the prison population? This looks like another failure of teal-logic.
To the point of the discussion, though, at least some people noticed that the context doesn't really change the meaning of the memed quote.
Let me help you out, person who is troubled by the font variation in the meme. The video is indeed important for context. The reason for the embellished script is that it matches her verbal emphasis on the word "disgusting," which may be heard at 2:02.
There was enough criticism of teal's statement, that she ventured into teal tribe to do some damage control.
The words that come out of teal's mouth can make her look really bad, so she attempted to put this statement back into its original, confusing, but not really exonerating context. She even made a free-standing post to explain herself.
And this is where things took a weird turn. The first comment on that thread had nothing to do with whether or not nice men were "weak." It was a direct plea for help from teal.
Some other tribers offered support and advice. But there was no response from teal, at least not to the person wrestling with suicidal thoughts.
See what happened there? Both Blake and teal commented on the post, but skipped right past that first, desperate comment. And teal did hang around the tribe to schmooze a bit. She even found time to thank a member for doing a video analysis of her astrology chart.
These screenshots, of course, only show public activity. So it's possible that this person was contacted privately by teal or, at least, another admin. But hours later, this person still did not appear to have gotten any such support, and tried again on teal's personal page.
As of today, there is still no apparent response from teal.
The upshot is this: teal uses various SEO tricks to deliberately target desperate and suicidal people. They buy her products. They join her groups. They watch her videos, which generates ad revenue. She claims that she knows better than suicide helplines, and the entire field of psychology, how to help these people. But when they need help, when they are struggling with suicidal ideation, self-harm, and other desperate needs, she ignores their pleas. Or, at least, that's how it appears.
Update 8/14/18: In which teal lies about Cameron... again
Every time I think teal can't possibly become more self-pitying or self-serving, she outdoes herself. Her new blog post appears to be a response to the recent spate of negative press and other criticism. It's all terribly unfair that people are critical of her, so we should pity her for being rich and famous, because she's very, very famous. And it's making her life hard.
There is much to say about this post, but I'll get straight to the defamation part — not of her, by her. For all her complaining about how "slander works," it's teal who is spreading malicious lies about another party and that party is Cameron. And not just because she calls her "unstable," although that is a baseless claim and arguably libelous. Once again, and even though it's been soundly refuted, teal is blaming Cameron for creating the controversy about teal's role in Leslie Wangsgaard's suicide.
Unfortunately at that time, we had taken on a very unstable volunteer named Cameron Clark. When the entire team decided Cameron was a liability because of her divisive and antagonistic, mentally disturbed behavior and needed to be sent home, Cameron turned against me and became one of my principal haters. She went straight to anyone with a following who publicly attacked spiritual teachers looking for help to take me down. She found assistance. Unfortunately, the two weeks she stayed in the community was exactly during the time that Leslie committed suicide. Cameron was in close enough vicinity to me to see me cry about Leslie’s death and express my regret that I had not been there when she went into crisis. And so the first thing she did, going straight for my weak spot, was to create slander flyers that said “Leslie Ann Wangsgaard (birth date and death date)... Goes to Teal for a session and commits suicide… What would you think?” This was where the slander rumor that equated me to a person that causes people to commit suicide began.
Nothing in that passage is true, except that teal had a client named Leslie Wangsgaard who killed herself, while she was under her care.
As Brown states clearly in Episode 1, Cameron did not live with teal until 2013, a year after Leslie's suicide in May of 2012. I spoke to Tori about this yesterday morning and she gave me permission to post her comment clarifying the discrepancy. She was friends with teal at the time. Cameron was not in the picture.
As I wrote here, Cameron wasn't the "hater" who raised questions about Leslie's suicide. That was me, in this blog post, in January of 2014. I was alerted to her her bizarre statements about a client's suicide in comments on my first blog post about teal, so concern about that had been circulating for a while, even before I blogged it. Cameron didn't go public with her criticism of teal until October of 2014, ten months after I raised the suicide issue, and well after there had already been a good deal of publicly stated concern about it by others. What Cameron said about this issue — and it can be heard plainly in the excerpt Brown used in the podcast — had nothing to do with teal having caused Leslie's suicide. It's that teal had pressured Cameron to think of herself as suicidal like Leslie — she wasn't — and to take a drive through the mountains of Utah and decide whether or not she could "commit to life."
But teal seams to be really fixated on Cameron and has repeatedly tried to scapegoat her for all the "hate" she receives. What she's doing here is a twofer. She's trying to neutralize Cameron as the credible critic she is and deflect all responsibility for her own disturbing commentary about suicide.
When isn't teal deflecting responsibility? When has she ever taken responsibility for anything she's done or said? She almost, kinda sounds like she was maybe doing some soul searching after Leslie's death, but we'd have to take her word for it. She's made so many false and conflicting statements about that time, it's kind of hard to take anything she says seriously. And now she says she "did not make single mistake with Leslie."
This entire blog post is an exercise in blame-throwing. The self-proclaimed "shadow worker" is, once again, doing a lot of shadow projection.
She's not responsible for the awful things she says in interviews. It's those devious reporters "provoking [her] in horrific ways just so they can get the headline they want." She was tricked by Gizmodo's Brown, who "posed as a neutral journalist" and "pretended to be an ally." So which is it? Was he pretending to be neutral or pretending to be an ally, because it cannot be both. But this is teal's warped conception of how journalism works. Neutrality, in tealspeak, means biased, but in her favor.
Worst of all, she's actually throwing blame on her suicidal followers. This is a "market" that she cultivated with her own SEO tactics. She was perfectly happy to take their money (workshops, products, views/ad revenue). But now she's holding them accountable for a number of problems.
1. My haters have seen this as a great leverage tool to take me down. The media craze around me and suicide specifically has created a situation where now on a weekly basis, we receive threats that people will kill themselves so as to take me down.
I would be lying if I said I understood exactly what she's saying here. Who is "threatening" her? Are these suicide threats? From people who will kill themselves just to "take [her] down"... whatever that means? I'm not sure how else to read that and the next item on her list seems to bolster that interpretation.
2. My very manipulative fans who are partial to victim control drama are using it now as a way to force me into doing what they want. They are threatening that if I don’t let them stay at my retreat center Philia or solve their problems, they will commit suicide, so I have to help them personally or do what they want if I don’t want more bad press relative to suicide and blood on my hands.
I'd just like to point out that she has previously said that she receives about ten "suicidal e mails" a day, which she ignores in favor of producing more of her income generating content.
3. I am one of the only people in the field of health and wellness being associated with suicide and directly addressing it with my opinion on how it should be approached. As a result, now suicidal people who are actually in need of help are flocking to my workshops and retreats in droves. I both love this because I do want to help people who are struggling with suicidal ideation and hate this because of the insane liability it poses. What happens if someone who was suicidal comes to me for help but commits suicide? Am I to be blamed for it? It quite literally feels like I have been made responsible for people’s lives and deaths.
The title of her blog post starts with "their lives in my hands," so exactly who is making her responsible for "their" life and death decisions if it's not her? More strangely, she's holding them responsible for her well-being.
But I do not want my entire mission brought down because someone who came to me for help decides to commit suicide. I would love for someone to see me as a key factor for why they did not commit suicide. But is it fair to make someone, whether it is a psychologist or psychiatrist or life coach or spiritual leader responsible for whether someone decides to take their own life?
In other words, she wants credit for the successes, but not the failures — not the deaths that her irresponsible commentary and lack of support system might cause.
This means not only will our relationships and characters be shredded; we will also be targeted and shredded for whether we help or harm people in general.
Yes, you read that right. She doesn't think she should be held accountable if she harms people.
Not only does she personally ignore suicide threats, not only is there no real system in place on any of her platforms to deal with the deluge of suicidal followers her own marketing strategy brings her, she is actively discouraging the most accessible support system available for suicidal people: suicide hotlines. She did this in her interview with Brown and even as she blames him for extracting such awful statements from her, she's not using her own blog to walk back her most incendiary and bad press generating statements. In fact, she's doubling down.
She is so proud of her contempt for suicide hotlines and traditional therapy, that she quoted that passage on her Instagram to promote this blog post.
There is so much about this post that's disturbing, it's hard to know where to begin.
She's dismissing any form of help for suicidal people, other than her own. And she's juxtaposing that message with an image of herself surrounded by a glory like the blessed mother, like she's some exalted being, superior to all other spiritual guidance. Almost obscured by the prismatic light effect is the dour, judgmental, far from beatific look on her face. She looks like some dark angel of the damned.
Even on her own IG, she got some serious pushback.
I don't see how anyone can look at that image of teal and not conclude that she wants to be on a pedestal, that she is deliberately presenting herself as an "object of worship." She's certainly not looking to be treated as an equal.
For example, if you don’t expose your personal life, they say you aren’t relatable. If you do expose your personal life and become relatable, they discredit you as an authority and begin to give you advice.
No, we certainly don't want the little people thinking that she might actually have something to learn from them. But if you don't follow her advice, you don't want to change.
Sound familiar? This is what she said about Leslie, that she didn't do what teal wanted her to do, which meant she wasn't "committed to life." It can never possibly mean that teal's recommendations aren't right for you. She is simply never wrong and if you don't see your problems the way she does, she's the one who's being "gaslighted."
For all her complaining about how "isolating" fame is and how it makes all her relationships impossible, maybe, just maybe, it has a little more to do with the fact that no one can tell her anything.
There are many strange reveals in this post, intentional or otherwise. For instance, it looks like someone may be suing her. There are clearly other conflicts she's alluding to, without naming names, although
And then, she compares herself to "Osho," aka., Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. From her we learn that he was also blameless, but ill-served by his "unstable followers."
For people, like myself, who are leading a spiritual movement, we live in terror of situations like Osho got himself into. We live in terror of being unable to control what other people in our following do and don’t do, but being made responsible for it.
Here's an idea. Don't run a cult. Don't create an army of sycophants who will do anything to protect you from the normal processes of law, government, and zoning regulations. How 'bout that?
As a result of this press campaign against me, I live in fear of being unable to control whether someone ultimately decides to take their life, but being made responsible for it. I live in fear that I will be blamed for not being able to prevent it. I live in fear that I will be accused of somehow contributing to someone’s decision to do it, even though my aim is to help someone want to live.
How 'bout you don't deliberately cultivate a following of suicidal people, with a creative use of search tags, and then tell them that suicide is a "reset button," that death feels fantastic, and that they need to get off the fence and decide whether or not they can "commit to life?"
Just my two cents, but I know she doesn't want any advice.
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