Sergio Zabalza on sects: “The Yoga School reflects the impoverishment of our social ties”

On August 13, the Buenos Aires authorities carried out 50 simultaneous raids and captured at least 19 members of the “Buenos Aires Yoga School Foundation”, name used as a front an international organization that for 30 years captured people to subject them to servitude, sexual exploitation, slavery and money laundering.

The procedure was the result of a long struggle to hear the complaints of former members and victims of the organization, as is the case of Pablo Salum, who from the LibreMentes organization has been promoting a “Anticult Law” to prevent more people from being victims of these coercive organizations.

The sect was dedicated to capturing people to incorporate them into the organization and reduce them to a situation of servitude. In other cases, They were offered drug treatments to cure their addictions.

At the time, it had at least 170 members who paid variable monthly amounts, many of whom were coerced into participating or even subjecting others to practices of sexual exploitation. At the same time, many were forced to look for people with a lot of money or who have an influential position or position in politics or society.

Due to the macabre nature of their crimes and the time they were in activity and the profile of the people involved, the case of the Yoga School quickly spread to the national media. How is it possible that someone is willing to give up his life and his loved ones to enter a sect and submit to orders and practices that violate his dignity and those of others?

A condition for easement

According to a report released by the NGO Defendamos Buenos Aires, There could be some 800 sects in the country that carry out scams or subject their members to servitude, prostitution and human trafficking.

The quantity accounts for a phenomenon that, although hidden in the shadows, it feeds on a common condition of people and that turns us all into potential victims.

In dialogue with NEA TODAYthe psychoanalyst Sergio Zabalza explains that what is striking about these cases involving coercive organizations such as the Buenos Aires Yoga School, “is the fact that people agree to integrate”.

This has to do with the special subjective constitution of the speaking being, and that is that we are essentially obedient”, explains Zabalza. “Since we are born, there is someone who spoke to us first, someone on whom we depend absolutely, because the speaking being is the only one on the planet that takes a few years to have relative autonomy.”.

For the psychoanalyst, this subjective constitution that starts from a dependency, typical of all of us and that is present, already from the first stages of our development, is what makes us vulnerable to the submission of others.

There are reasons of affective type and reasons in the constitution of the satisfaction of the body that have to do with an other that has power”, continues Zabalza, “there is a psychoanalyst named Lacan who says precisely that every order of abuse is always committed by order”.

“This does not mean that the abuser is not guilty”, the psychoanalyst hastens to clarify, “he is a criminal and deserves to be convicted and go to jailbut what interests us about cases like the Yoga School is that they show how vulnerable the speaking being is to the suggestion of another with power.”.

Zabalza sees what happens in sects as an extreme case of a phenomenon that can be seen in different social spheres, which psychopaths see a way to take advantage of. “In different areas where a person works, the phenomenon of power is present and people tend to submit”, Explain. “In history, it is enough to mention what Nazism was to understand how millions of people are captured by the delusional speech of a psychopath”.

a social problem

When the case of sects or coercive organizations such as the Yoga School of Buenos Aires is analyzed, it is usual to speak of a certain victim profile, as if there were a particular person who possesses conditions that make them more likely to fall into this type of victim. tricks. For Sergio Zabalza, It is not about a profile but about situations in which any of us could find ourselves at some point in our lives.

People’s situations, especially the issue of isolation, of loneliness, the lack of horizon or the contingencies of life can throw a subject into despair, discouragement, restlessness, suspicion, mistrust, reason why They look for a place where someone listens to them, where someone promises them that everything will be fine, and they can fall into these psychopaths who are very adept at to recognize and use this situation” Explain.

Therefore, for the psychoanalyst, the emergence of these organizations leads us to realize that There are many people who find themselves in this helpless situation. “Fphenomena like that of the School of Yoga, in reality what they talk about is the current impoverishment of the social bond. Namely, if there are institutions like Yoga School that corrupt people, because the social bond is so poor that there are people who do not know where to turn”.

guilt and shame

A common factor in these cases is that organizations like the Yoga School always remain active for a long time, committing abuses in the shadows, but with a public facade that helps them to continue capturing victims and building relationships with people of power.

This is because it is the victims themselves, acting as members of the organizations, who are responsible for strengthening these links with powerful people, maintain silence within the organization or silence and delegitimize denouncing voices.

“The psychopath manipulates people with guilt and shame”explains the psychoanalyst, “that is to say that once someone is involved in this whole organization, it is very difficult for him to get out, especially due to subjective mechanisms such as guilt and shame, moral conscience”.

One of the paradoxes of treating victims of sexual abuse is that the victim feels guilty”, comments Zabalza, “and the psychopath is responsible for making the abused feel like an accomplice to the crime”.

Most of these sects have a system of awards and hierarchies in which members can climb. and feel that they are advancing within the organization. This system is often designed precisely so that these members gradually participate in the various abuses and crimes committed by the organization.

This adds complexity to disrupting coercive organizations like the Yoga School, as some of the victims often end up being perpetrators of other victims. In this way, the network of complicity and guilt makes the organization remain silent and secrecy for many years.

Again, the psychoanalyst clarifies that this does not exonerate adults from the crimes and abuses they have agreed to commit within organizations, but it helps explain why victims often take a long time or refuse to report the abuse they suffered. “That is why it is so difficult for someone to speak, denounce, recount the crimes to which they have been subjected, because the psychopath handles the victim’s silence through guilt and shame.”, concludes Zabalza.


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Sergio Zabalza on sects: “The Yoga School reflects the impoverishment of our social ties” – NEA HOY