Ep.34 - Dancing on Eggshells: Love Bombing & Bounded Choice | Tracy Stamper (Part 1) — In Episode 33, Candice shared intimately about what it was like to work in the ‘cult’ure of new age wellness; and this week she sits down with former colleague and long-time friend Tracy Stamper who has agreed to share her own personal story of separation from ‘the Org’ (referenced in the last episode). Tracy will be joining Candice for a series of episodes where the two reflect on what it’s like to survive the aftermath of a culty culture. In part one of their convo, you’ll hear about how they met one another and individually progressed through various levels of high-demand training - both of them ‘dancing on eggshells’ on opposite sides of the country. Tracy bravely shares about her own experiences working in the inner circle, sharing stories about the mixed messages she received and how disorienting it was to perpetually reframe chronic anxiety as ‘an exercise in personal power.’ She talks about why she felt sadness and betrayal when Candice left and started leading classes in another modality (no longer barefoot, wtaf?!), and Candice shares about the time she re-entered the practice and felt like the only sober person in the room. Tracy speaks about the addictive nature of the group awareness training environment and offers an intimate peek inside of the highest level of training, sharing about an exercise that leads the two into a fascinating discussion about agency and bounded choice. And the episode wraps with the red flag that helped Tracy to realize that stepping away from the practice wasn’t going to be as simple as it seemed.

The stories that Candice & Tracy share in this episode are true to the best of our recollection. Memory is subjective and how we remember the past may be different than how others recall those very same events. We share our opinions, experiences, and perceptions openly; however, they are not meant to be generalized, nor are they intended to malign any individual, group, or organization.

Ep.34 - Dancing on Eggshells: Love Bombing & Bounded Choice | Tracy Stamper (Part 1)

Candice Schutter: 0:08
Thank you for joining me for another episode of The Deeper Pulse. This is the third episode in a brand new summer series where we're examining what puts the cult in culture. For the next few weeks, I'll be sharing space with a courageous colleague. But before I introduce her to you, I have a little something I'd like to share. First and foremost, I wanna say thank you. Thank you for listening and an extra special thank you to those of you who have been reaching out to offer your support around the first two episodes of this series. Your kindness means everything to me. I've been so encouraged. Quite literally infused with courage by each and every one of you who's taken the time to reach out and share how the content has landed in your heart. You should know that your love is making me braver by the minute. I quite literally couldn't do this without you. And I couldn't be more grateful. Now you may or may not know that I'm flying solo when it comes to producing this podcast. Lots and lots of hours go into each and every episode. And I'm damn privileged to be able to pour my heart and soul into a meaning-making (versus money-making) endeavor such as this. And as much work as it takes, it's really worth all of the many hours of cross-eyed edits, because the honest to God payoff is really twofold. Relief in having the opportunity to purge my stories. And the miracle of being able to single handedly provide a platform for others to share their truths. I like to think that this podcast is all about sharing. But not just sharing between my guests and I. It is my deepest hope that these conversations move you to share more of yourself with your people, with me, with us. I have to say that being a creator in a digital world is, well, it's really just kind of weird. Impact is a little difficult to measure because even the best online metrics feel a little flat when you're used to engaging with people in that old school way, you know, face to face? And so that's why hearing from you and knowing about your listens and shares. It motivates me to keep going with this work. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it. Courage is contagious. So please keep sharing what resonates. Share it with me and share it with your friends and loved ones. That's what the deeper pulse is all about. Encouraging one another to come to terms with truths we've kept hidden, sometimes even from ourselves. It all sounds very poetic, but in fact, it's hard as fuck. Trust me, I know. It can be scary stuff. Case in point, today's guest and I have made the difficult choice to share our once private conversations publicly because of the ways in which they have illuminated our own understanding. Now, if you missed the previous two episodes of this culture series, I encourage you to go back and give 32 and 33 a listen because they really lay the foundation for these dialogues. In those early episodes, I define the many nuances of culture while also pushing past my own edge, sharing intimately about my experience working in the world of new age wellness. In the last episode, I spoke in depth about my involvement with a company I refer to as the Org, a holistic fitness organization where I spent roughly three years working in the innermost circle. When I left my position with the company back in 2006, I could have never imagined that I'd be sharing these stories with you all these many years later. But then four years ago, a social media frenzy erupted around a former colleague's split from the Org. Someone that I loved and admired. I immediately felt compelled to reach out to her. Tracy Stamper and I hadn't communicated in years, but we'd been fast friends and it was easy to pick up right where we left off. It broke my heart all over again, hearing her story. And in many ways it really was our reunion that helped me to see, even though I'd left a job behind long ago, I still had some unfinished business to tend to. I had to reckon with the fact that in some way I was still somewhat complicit. I told myself that my silence was self preservation and that it was in service to taking the high road, you know, all of that stuff. Which was true, but only somewhat. I had also kept my story close because, well, I was still afraid of the goddamn bear. Allow me to explain. The other day I was talking with a client about the frustration she often feels as a mother because despite her role as the primary breadwinner in her marriage, she still finds herself doing the vast majority of the mental and emotional labor in her family. This is a common experience and of course it led us into a discussion of traditional gender roles and we traded stories back and forth and spoke about how, in both of our families of origin, our mothers had relied on the financial and social stability of their husbands. It was accepted in our family culture that he was "the man of the house." Our father figure stood at the top of the family's social hierarchy and as such, it was typical for everyone to tiptoe around dad's emotional fragility. As young girls, we learned good posture and also how to walk on eggshells. Careful not to disrupt dad's emotional comfort because if and when we or someone else poked the bear, there would often be hell to pay. Don't poke the bear, because if you do, he'll puff himself up in anger and assume control of the narrative using his reactivity. Of course, no matter how much care I took at times, the bear would accidentally poke himself. And in that case, I learned never to fight back, because it's a freaking bear, pissing him off will only make things worse. It's better to suck it up and/or to slowly back away. The message from the top down was clear. The best way to keep the hierarchy intact is to keep your shit together, that way the bear will never be required to learn how to take care of his. This is the privilege that power provides; and it ain't all about gender. Black women have been calling out this paradigm for generations. Shouting into the wind long before people like me bothered to pay attention. Culture is reflexively in service to these double standards. They are at the core of white supremacy and they are deeply ingrained in patriarchal norms. Reactivity has long been used as a means of control. Leaders silence us with their booming voices and dominant displays of emotion. And then they shame us for having feelings about it. The painful truth is that quite often I'm unwilling to challenge the social order of things because I don't wanna be bothered with all the drama. I don't fancy myself a brawler. Fighting was simply out of the question. Mine was more of a freeze or fawn response. And then when I grew into myself and my voice, I told myself that I wasn't speaking up because I simply wasn't interested in wrestling with bears. I told myself to just mind my own damn business; to leave people to learn hard lessons on their own. But when so many years later, I reunited with former colleagues who were struggling with remarkably similar psychological scarring. It seemed as though there had to be more that I could do. Time has given me perspective and quite a bit of strength. I no longer feel that same tremor inside, the one that had me bound to the Org and its leaders. This is not to say that I won't feel afraid if I'm once again attacked. Let us not forget that flinching is an honest and healthy response to abuse. Even so, I can say that I am no longer afraid to poke the bear. Because now I can see through its aggressive display of emotion. I see it for what it is a pained and wounded ego lashing out, desperate in its attempt to offload its own insecurities, its shame and its anger. That's not mine. I've honestly thought, about tattooing these three words somewhere on my body, so I can be continually reminded not to take on the pain and projection of those who seek to control me. Of course I'm not a fan of being attacked, but nor am I interested in engaging with people who have no interest in self-reflection or hearing what I have to say. What I am interested in is standing alongside others who are like me tired of enabling codependent paradigm, where we pretend in order to protect ourselves and one another. What if we stopped pretending? What if instead we come together? We stand arm in arm, rooted and vertical, so that when power players raise their voices and seek to dominate us, we are a brave and united front. No longer willing to play by their rules. No longer cowering and towering in reaction to their demands. Let me be clear. I'm not trying to demonize anyone. That bear that I speak of? It lives inside of each and every one of us. The bear is the part of us that shows up when we are insecure and afraid. It is the wounded child that lashes out and eventually tires when no one is willing to succumb to its tantrums. So monologue aside, I guess I'm just here to say, let's stop walking on eggshell. Let's stop trying to say all the things perfectly, and let's just share our stories as we remember them. Not to provoke or antagonize anyone, but to keep our attention focused on one another, rather than those at the top who would prefer we remain silent. In the words of Charles Blow, "there is no wrong time to do the right thing." And so, onward we go. Tracy Stamper is my dear friend and a very special guest who will be walking alongside me for the next few weeks. Tracy was involved with the Org for 16 years. She is an absolute joy. Encouraging, warm, humble, and courageous. I'm just so tickled to have her here with us. The next three episodes parts one, two, and three are segments that were recorded back in March of this year. Tracy and I unpack our experiences together in real time. This is a big deal because the last time Tracy spoke out publicly, well, let's just say things didn't go so well. So I can't stress enough just how extraordinarily brave it is for her to show up in this way, with me in front of all of you sharing her whole story publicly for the first time. I am 100000% committed to providing her an opportunity to have a new experience. Over the course of the series, she's going to share her story of separation with us. And it is a beautiful, and at times ugly, example of bounded choice. I spoke about bounded choice in the first episode of the series, a brilliant research-based framework created by sociologist and cult expert, Janja Lalich. A quick heads up that I make reference to bounded choice in this first part of my conversation with Tracy. Keep in mind that at the time I had hardly scratched the surface in my research on all things culty, and I've since learned that there's so much to explore around this framework. So I have invited Dr. Lalich to be a guest on a future episode of the podcast. I'm so thrilled that she said yes, and she and I are still working to line things up, but just to say, if the deeper pulse beneath this week's conversation resonates with you, you'll definitely wanna stick around for that. Now once again, the stories that Tracy and I share in this episode are true to the best of our recollection. Please note that our experiences may vary from how others recall those very same events. Our memories, opinions, and perceptions are not meant to be generalized, nor are they intended to malign any individual, group, or organization. Here is part one of my conversation with Tracy Stamper.
Tracy Stamper: 12:38
Candice Schutter: 12:40
Here we are.
Tracy Stamper: 12:41
Here we are.
Candice Schutter: 12:43
Oh my gosh. So how are you feeling?
Tracy Stamper: 12:47
Sweaty palmed. Grateful for the connection with you. And anxious and ready.
Candice Schutter: 12:57
I concur, as they say, with all of the above. So,
Tracy Stamper: 13:02
Yeah, definitely. Jagged nerves, and...
Candice Schutter: 13:06
Yeah. Do you have any fears or concerns that you want to name before we start talking about all of this? Or do you feel like we've sort of covered that and you're ready to just jump right in.
Tracy Stamper: 13:17
A fear that has been coming up for me is being specific. It feels like there is some safety in generalizations, and my story is my story. And there are specifics.
Candice Schutter: 13:35
Yeah, it's a very tricky thing because, I mean, I feel this all the time as a memoir writer, it's like, how do you tell your story and hold this truth? That of course you have... I can hear your dogs in the background. Is that your dogs?
Tracy Stamper: 13:53
It is. Yes, you can.
Candice Schutter: 13:54
Well, that's that's life, right? Dogs in the background. It's sort of how my mind is sometimes. There's, like, a dog barking in the background all the time, and I have to just continue focusing and barreling forward. So I think it's actually perfect, perfect metaphor. And in a way, a metaphor for what I was just describing that... it's okay, I'm going to center myself and my story. I'm going to claim my story. I'm going to tell it. And in doing so, my story is about relationship and about other people and my experiences of other people. And how do I tell my story and be conscientious and fair to all parties involved and not tell someone else's story in the process.
Tracy Stamper: 14:36
Candice Schutter: 14:37
Right. It's very tricky. And I think that all we can do is continually reinforce that we are speaking from our perception. We're speaking from our experience. And that, for me, when I get stuck in that, I sort of turn the table a little bit. And I think, okay, if someone was telling a story about an experience they had with me, it's my responsibility to listen to that story and understand that it's their experience. And they could do a really shitty or a really great job at being accountable for their part, in whatever interaction they're reporting. And either way, it's still my responsibility to self-reflect and understand that I'm coming from the perception that I had of the experience and that that doesn't make their experience any less valid. And so I think, and this is sort of symptomatic of something that we internalized in the environment that we were in, that there was this real sense of responsibility to the whole and responsibility to the feelings of everyone around us. And while that's a great skillset to develop to a certain extent, it becomes this sort of codependent thing where there's, and I don't want to speak for you, but for me, still 15 years later, I still feel a sense of shame when I speak about certain things that are in my experience, because I have internalized this idea that if my sharing about this portrays someone else in a negative light, that I've somehow done something wrong. I guess, part of the reason why I want us to share this publicly is for our own healing first and foremost, for sure. And secondly, to just say to folks like we have a right to our experiences and our stories, and we have a right to share those experiences, especially if the withholding of them is keeping us stuck in some way.
Tracy Stamper: 16:25
Candice Schutter: 16:25
And that we don't need to feel shame around having had a human experience with another human and it's their responsibility to look at themselves. It's our responsibility to look at ourselves. And if there happens to be enough space and awareness that those two parties can come together and look at themselves together. Beautiful. In this instance, it doesn't feel so much about that. It feels about, about simply naming. This is my experience and everyone else is entitled to their own. They may have been in the exact same room when we talk about specifics, which I have a similar fear. It's possible somebody will listen and say I was in that room, and I didn't have that experience. Does that make our experience less valid?
Tracy Stamper: 17:10
Candice Schutter: 17:11
I don't think so. I really don't. And, and part of why we came together was because of that internalized gaslighting of second guessing. Because we were in an environment where people weren't going to speak up. There's this sense of I'm alone. I must be the only one. And then when you engage in a conversation, in our case, our experiences we're 10 years apart. We weren't in the same room and yet we had very similar experiences and that's important too. To name and claim that and say, you know what, like maybe there's some accountability that's needed here. Standing up and saying, hey, this is not me. And this is not mine. I'm giving it back to you.
Tracy Stamper: 17:51
Candice Schutter: 17:52
Right. And I feel like that's a part of what we're reclaiming. And I want to share this publicly because I think a lot of people can relate to that. That process of giving it back by telling the truth, as we experienced it is important for each of us. So I have similar fears, all of that monologue to say, I have similar fears and obviously I have a lot of fire around why I think it's important for us to face that fear.
Tracy Stamper: 18:18
Definitely. Yeah. It was interesting. As I was heading into today, I was paying attention to what came up for me and fears as they would arise. And just last night, in an attempt to move some of that for myself, I said to my partner, you know what? I am really scared about tomorrow. And then I reflected and I said, no, I'm not scared. I'm nervous about tomorrow. And without missing a beat, he said, let yourself off the hook. And it just landed so strongly for me. Let yourself off the hook. You said, you have been carrying this for years. Let yourself off the hook.
Candice Schutter: 19:04
Tracy Stamper: 19:05
Candice Schutter: 19:06
That's so beautiful. And I just got, I got goosebumps, because I heard it one way and then another layer showed up for me, and my whole body responded. One of the thematic elements that we've come to as we've been talking about this for months and months, just the two of us on and off... is this, you know, he's saying to you, let yourself off the hook, Tracy. You, you keep letting everyone else off the hook. Everyone else gets a pass. Everyone else gets excused. Everyone else gets, uh, oh, they were just having a bad day or they were doing their best, or we're only human. And then what about you? What about you and your humanity? Is there room for it? And I love that. I love that. I love that you have a partner who says that to you and gives you that permission.
Tracy Stamper: 19:59
Yeah, definitely.
Candice Schutter: 20:00
So Bravo. Bravo him. And Bravo you. I mean, you showed up here.
Tracy Stamper: 20:07
I did.
Candice Schutter: 20:08
Nerves and all. Yeah. And I want to say to the listeners out there that time is healing, for sure. It gives us space. It gives us perspective. It gives our bodies time to integrate. Our brains time to rewire, all those things. And your experience is much, much more recent than mine. Like we're talking 10 years. 10 years. And we'll get into, you know, sharing some more about all of that in a bit. But I just want to acknowledge... I have a memory in my body of the charge that I felt and the vulnerability and all of that. And I have remnants of that, but it's nothing compared to what you're feeling because of the recency of it. And I just was moved to tears yesterday just even thinking about the fact that you are this brave.
Tracy Stamper: 20:58
Candice Schutter: 20:59
Tracy Stamper: 21:00
That's amazing to hear. Thank you. I'm not feeling terribly brave at the moment and I'm here and that is brave.
Candice Schutter: 21:08
That is what brave feels like. That's why I'm like constantly, I'm sure that everyone in my podcast is like, are you going to mention Brene Brown every episode? Probably. Because I think that her work is so profound in that understanding that to be brave is to be vulnerable, like that is so game-changing for us to understand that that's what courage is. And what you're doing is so courageous. What I'm doing is courageous, too. I will acknowledge myself, and I can't say for sure, but I feel pretty sure that I wouldn't be doing this without you. Maybe I would have five years from now, or probably in a, in a written form that I could very, very carefully craft and edit every word. And so to be brave enough to just be vulnerable in just the telling of the truth, however messy it might come out, it's not going to come out perfectly. And that's part of our healing too, I think, which is why we need, we need to do it this way. So thank you for trusting me.
Tracy Stamper: 22:09
Candice Schutter: 22:11
Okay. So first let's talk about how we met.
Tracy Stamper: 22:15
My guess is 2004.
Candice Schutter: 22:18
Yes, in Chicago in October 2004, where we were both attending a training. Neither of us lived in Chicago. We had both flown in to attend this training. And we spent seven days together with a group of probably roughly 10 or 12 other people. And we were doing a third level training for the organization that we were a part of. And we just hit it off right away, like right away. At that period of time, I had been a part of the organization for three years, but that was right at about my one-year mark of working at the main office and being a part of that inner circle. And I was very much entranced by the position that I was in. I was definitely learning a lot and growing a lot and stepping into more of my personal power in many ways, and also I was simultaneously losing touch with myself, which may sound contrary, but we'll get into that later.
Tracy Stamper: 23:21
Candice Schutter: 23:21
And so when I went to that training, I had also developed a pretty close relationship with the trainer. He was my boss. And in this instance he was my mentor, and I felt a little bit like I was a trainee and also a representative of the organization because I was.
Tracy Stamper: 23:42
Right. Exactly.
Candice Schutter: 23:44
Right. And at the same time, one of the benefits of being sort of close in, in the inner circle was that I was beginning to feel a little bit more relaxed in my natural self. I should just say that in the training environment, this is the third level. So we've already, like, we know what to do. We know how to show up. We know how to carry ourselves. There are very clear expectations around what we do when we arrive, how we conduct ourselves throughout the course of the day. And these are really long days and we already all know how to bring that pretense if you will. And so, one of the things that I loved about you was that you had such a sense of humor about the teachings and everything we were holding. And I could tell that you had tremendous respect for what we were doing, and you were very focused when you needed to be. And then the, in between moments, you were just so much more relaxed and loose and in your skin than a lot of the other people I was interacting with. And I just felt like, oh my gosh, I get to connect to this other human who is taking this seriously, but it's also not taking this seriously. Right. I just really felt that with you. And I think that was what drew me to you.
Tracy Stamper: 24:51
What a reflection, that is amazing to hear that. And as I was thinking, as we were heading into this about that immediate connection that I felt with you, the word that came to me was levity. There was a levity about you. There was a light heartedness, there was a playfulness, there was a... the word giggle is coming to mind, um, comfort in your skin. Most definitely that just was contagious. You just exuded comfort and playfulness. And the fact that you were part of the organization spoke volumes to me that you were taking this work seriously. So there was that serious side and also a playfulness and just fun, just a vivaciousness.
Candice Schutter: 25:44
We had a lot of fun.
Tracy Stamper: 25:45
We did. It just exuded from you. And I just, I felt a resonance, and it felt like home.
Candice Schutter: 25:53
Yeah. Yeah. It is sort of a thing where you meet someone and you're sort of like, oh, there you are. Not in this like, there you are like, I've had those meetings too. Those usually get me into trouble. I mean,
Tracy Stamper: 26:07
There's that?
Candice Schutter: 26:08
Yeah, exactly. There's that. That's a whole other series of podcasts. For real. This is more like ah, like you just feel really at home and comfortable with someone, and we had that right away. Some of that levity and comfort came from the fact that there were sort of three primary people at the top of the organization and one of them was sort of operational and the other two were the creators of the modality. And generally, they taught the training together. And I had a real interesting experience working for those two individuals in particular, because I had very different experience of each of them. Now that I think about it, it was a little bit like my family life, where I was really bonded to one parent and the other one was a source of dissonance for me. And it was a real challenge. And I'm seeing just now how I was sort of reliving that a little bit. One of the creators, I just had such a genuine friendship with, and I felt a lot of trust and I really did see him as a mentor. And the other individual, I also saw as a mentor, but didn't feel the same sense of comfort in my skin around. And so this particular training that you and I went to, the mentor that I most resonated with was leading the training on his own. So I did feel really comfortable, relatively speaking, at that training. And so I think that did enable me to bring more levity and it certainly, would have seeped out either way being around you. But I think you're right. I think I was a little bit more relaxed in that atmosphere. And so, we did that training. We spent a week together. And then we both went back to our lives. I went to Portland and you went back to St. Louis, and we both continued to be a part of the organization in very different ways. I was in the epicenter and within a couple of years I would leave the organization, but you and I sort of stayed in touch because even when I left, another thing that we really had in common is that we're both writers. And so we were friends on social media. We shared some banter back and forth about writing and this, that, and the other. And I left the organization and we never spoke about it. We just had this casual relationship from a distance, and then there were years where we didn't interact at all.
Tracy Stamper: 28:28
Candice Schutter: 28:37
So the structure of the organization was such that there was a home office and there were roughly a dozen people who worked at the home office. It consisted of administrative offices and a training center. There were classes based on this modality all over the world. So students would attend the classes and some of them would choose to come to the trainings and a certain percentage of those people would choose to become teachers. And then they would go seed more classes. And that's sort of how the organization grew. And in order to teach the modality, and this is not uncommon at all in the fitness world. I think of something like Zumba. If somebody wants to become a Zumba teacher, they go to a training, they licensed to teach that modality. And in order to use the word Zumba, they have to pay the certification fee for the training, and then they have to pay a licensing fee as long as they want to teach that class. So that was the structure of the business and sort of how the money flowed in and out. And at the time when I was working for the organization, the founders taught most of those trainings. Like the vast majority of them were taught by the founders. And then there were a handful of people that they had selected to be what they considered trainers, which is again, very much how it works in the corporate world, right. The trainers travel and replicate those trainings so that they can license and certify more teachers. And when I left, there had been an ongoing tension because the leaders of the organization wanted to grow the organization, yet they were, in my opinion, having a very difficult time surrendering control and allowing other trainers to teach the material. And so it kind of plateaued in terms of their growth and what they could sustain. And it wasn't long after I left that the mentor that I was most connected to left the organization. It was just the two leaders at the top left, the operational leader and the remaining founder that they decided, okay, it's time. It's time for us to create more trainers so that we can grow this organization. When they decided to do this expansion, they did reach out to me, even though I had unsubscribed from the email lists multiple times, somehow I kept receiving emails from the home office. And so I received this lavish invitation to become one of the trainers and I ignored it. And then I received a personal message from the founder asking me and I replied and said in no uncertain terms that I wasn't interested. Now my saying no was based on the experiences that I had while working there. Tracy received the same emails. Yeah? Do you remember when that was that they sent those out?
Tracy Stamper: 31:15
I believe it was about 2009, I received an invitation to become a trainer, and this was a modality that I had invested so much of myself in. It truly meant the world to me. I was so focused on it and so enamored by it and so impressed by it that this opportunity to go even deeper was exhilarating for me. And I said yes, with a whole lot of fear and anxiety and resolve and courage, and followed that path and did become a trainer so that I then was part of the machine of growth. So that I would be able to help convert students to teachers and the modality could spread even farther. So I did that for several years, and my journey with that was really kind of interesting because along with the invitation was an expectation that the trainers travel so that we could seed the different communities in different cities, different states, different countries. And I had just, several years prior, become a mother. So when I first received this invitation, I was just exhilarated over the moon to be recognized by my teacher, my mentor, my trainer. My second thought was fear based on dynamics that I had seen play out over the years. And then my next thought was, I don't know how I can do what they're asking because of my son. At that point in time, I just couldn't be away from him. I was having a tough time seeing myself plugged into the mold of the organization's expectations. And I didn't know what to do about that. So I wrote to the founder and I shared, I cannot travel. I really want to do this. And I can't travel. Therefore I don't know if I'll be able to make numbers. What has to be most important to me right now is my son.
Candice Schutter: 33:33
And when you say make numbers, tell us what that means roughly, like there were quotas in terms of how many trainings you were going to do or students who attracted, like how did that work?
Tracy Stamper: 33:44
Yes. Definitely both of the above. So trainers were asked to do four trainings a year and at different times throughout my journey, I think there were different expectations on how many trainees would be in each training. So I don't remember the specifics. Whatever they were at whatever point in time I would look at it and I'd think, I don't know how I'm going to swing this.
Candice Schutter: 34:10
Were you being paid to be a trainer? Like where were these expectations coming from? When I think of a company, I think an expectation is connected to a salary for example. We're paying you this salary and therefore the expectation is dah, dah, dah, dah. You weren't being paid by the organization, unless you were getting a percentage from the trainings that you did. So I guess what I'm wondering is what was the thing that you would lose if you didn't meet the quota?
Tracy Stamper: 34:36
Good standing.
Candice Schutter: 34:39
Okay. And when you say good standing, what is that? What did that look like?
Tracy Stamper: 34:44
It was a little bit nebulous, to be honest. There were always folks who weren't making the quota. They're always were. To me it felt like the expectations didn't really jive with reality.
Candice Schutter: 34:58
You had paid to become a trainer though, right? So just so we're understanding the structure, the intention is of course to attract trainers that then have these trainings that continue to feed the organization and spread the work. When you say that the expectations didn't fully line up with maybe what was possible or the reality, is it fair to say that there were perhaps more trainers than there were demand for these trainings? So therefore expecting each of you to meet certain quotas, the implication was that you go out there and hustle and create a demand that doesn't exist. And so the question becomes well, why so many trainers then? What was the incentive to have trainers? I think just for the audience out there to understand. So there's these four levels of training and then they added some other supplemental things that you could do that were sort of bonus things. And then there ended up being a fifth level of training that you could do. And many of the people who had been involved in the organization long-term, they had risen in the ranks and you had to be at a fourth or fifth level to even petition to be a trainer, correct?
Tracy Stamper: 36:00
Candice Schutter: 36:01
You had to go through those levels. So once you get to that high level, there's sort of this plateau and the only money that's being made off of you is your annual licensing fee, which is really quite fair. It's pretty much standard for the industry. And so then, if you create this trainer training, then suddenly that's a whole other avenue for income. So if you signed up for this trainer training experience, it was more than one event that you would have to travel to.
Tracy Stamper: 36:29
I think there were a couple of trips involved, two or three trips involved perhaps. There was a significant amount of work. Huge amount of work. Reading, writing, group projects, just seemingly unending. You're paying for your spot in the trainer training. You are paying for all of the different parts that fit into that. There was a checklist that we all had to go through. For example, we had to repeat trainings that we had done before, so we're paying for all of those opportunities to call up a colleague and say, I want to attend your training as part of my trainer training.
Candice Schutter: 37:16
You had to be invited to attend this trainer training. It started as a short list and then it became a long list and all the individuals who were invited to do this training would come and they would go through this experience, which was sort of marketed as a next level experience and was sort of a courtship. And this is one of the things we're going to talk about is this concept that is very commonly articulated in high demand groups. It's something called love bombing. And love bombing is where there's just this deluge of positive, glorious, loving energy coming at you. This is what was so confusing for me. I was love bombed into staying, by being given what I, on the surface, appeared to want. And because I was so convinced that this invitation came from a place of pure motives to support me and help me, it felt impossible to say no. It was ingracious.
Tracy Stamper: 38:18
Candice Schutter: 38:19
It was ingracious to walk away from these generous offerings. Even though I wasn't getting paid a lot, it felt like a golden ticket over and over again. I remember just being lavished with all of this love and attention, and I was overwhelmed by it. And it stood in this stark contrast to earlier in the day or three days later, when I would go into a meeting and be held to a standard that the people I was working for didn't hold themselves to. And it was so confusing. The love bombing thing, it has definitely worked with a mechanism of keeping me engaged. And these trainer trainings were sort of created to be that. They were courting individuals to come closer to the inner circle and be a part of the spreading of the work of this organization.
Tracy Stamper: 39:08
Actually, there was one point where before the first trainer training, where I backed out and it was a combination of my concern about not being able to meet numbers and anxiety.
Candice Schutter: 39:21
Tell me a little bit about the anxiety. What did you tell yourself that was and what do you think it was? And are those the same thing?
Tracy Stamper: 39:30
It's a great question. What did I tell myself that was, over and over and over again? I put it in the framework of finding the courage to work through my fear, developing my personal power. So whenever I would feel anxiety come up, I would look at it as an opportunity to call on all of the tools that I had learned through the organization. And I felt a real sense of pride that I could walk into scary situations and come out standing. So that's the framework that I used in terms of working through anxiety. What do I see now that I'm more educated about dynamics? Walking on eggshells comes up for me. When I traveled to and from the epicenter, in order to move through the next level, it always involved me traveling since there wasn't anything locally at that time. So I would go to the epicenter or I would go to Chicago where I met you and go through these incredibly intense, emotionally intense trainings for a week. And there's something about the bonding that happens in those trainings, where the intensity, I'm looking at it from the lens of personal power and personal development, and now I'm seeing very much the egg shell sensation when I never knew what I was going to get. Things could be intense in terms of love bombing, things could also be intense in the other direction.
Candice Schutter: 41:22
Let's talk about that intensity for a minute, because we know that that intensity was built in for a purpose. And also you and I both know having studied high demand group dynamics, that two things are true at once, that technique of intensity can create a container for rapid growth. And it can also create a container that is almost too much for the system to bear. The nervous system can only handle so much at once. And so there's this fine line that gets crossed over where intensity for the sake of growth pushes people to a point... I've heard it described in questionable yoga circles, where a person is brought to the front of the room and they are used as a model for a particular teaching. And because of the power dynamic, the student wants so deeply and profoundly to please the mentor and to do it right, that they demand something of themselves that they're not truly yet capable of and everyone's watching them. And what often happens in these situations is that the person dissociates and on the surface, it looks as though it was a great success because the person does whatever the person is told. And the perception is that the outcome was achieved. Everyone applauds, the person is praised like crazy for being so courageous, and then the facilitator is like, okay, onto the next thing. And they call it performative trauma therapy because it actually serves to reinforce the facilitators place in the hierarchy. It's a performative act that reinforces look at what the facilitator can do with even this person who was so afraid and then had this breakthrough moment, which may have been a breakthrough moment. I'm not saying they don't happen. Also, it might not have been. And that intensity is a really tricky thing because... I talk about this in episode three. When I talk about the first organization I was involved with before this one, Dahnhak, the practice that we would do, it was called yeon dahn, and we would stand and hold a yoga posture for 30 minutes as our bodies, shaked and quaked. They would crank up Japanese Kodo drumming music, and it was intense. And the masters would walk through the room and say, my body is not me, but mine, my mind is not me, but mine. And it was an exercise in endurance to overcome the self-talk and to overcome the limitations. And for me, it actually was a helpful lesson in endurance. I don't recommend it, to be crystal clear, nor would I do it again. And also for other people, it was abusive. I will even say that for me, there were times when I definitely disassociated to deal with getting to that 30 minute mark. And yes, I did feel a sense of accomplishment when I got to the end of it. And yes, I did hear that silence still voice within. And also, if I had chosen to stop... it was always clear that I could choose to stop. It was always clear that I had choice, but there's this concept, it's called a bounded choice. What is the binding agent? Belonging, affection, approval, right? So we have choice, but the cost of choosing the thing that is contrary to the indoctrination is so big that we conform. And this other thing happens, which is called trauma bonding. When you're in an intense environment, you become very close to the people who you survived that intensity with. And so there's this real shitty mindfuck thing going on, where you're so deeply and profoundly and intimately connected to this community that you're in.
Tracy Stamper: 45:20
Candice Schutter: 45:21
And these communities are full of some of the most phenomenal people you will ever meet. People who genuinely want to make the world a better place. People who genuinely are willing to practice self-awareness and look at themselves. And people that you can have deep, intimate conversations with. And it's just this really rich, amazing environment that you don't find anywhere else out in the world. And so you're asked to do a thing. I'm going to ask you to give an example of something here in a second, that I know is a great example of this. You're asked to do a thing and you think, what? Why? Huh? And you do it anyway because you know that it will secure your place in that group. And the people who are at the top of the hierarchy are going to positively reinforce the fact that you did the thing. And you think, well, this may seem a little strange, but it's a small price to pay for belonging. It's a small price to pay for all these glorious teachings because there's tremendous value that's there, which is another thing that's part of the mind fuck that is so confusing. Your life is genuinely in many ways getting better, and yet there's this ugh in your gut that's just continually will not go away. And you think, based on the teachings, that's the thing I'm doing all this to get rid of.
Tracy Stamper: 46:42
Candice Schutter: 46:44
And the indoctrination itself is creating the thing and it becomes this insidious cycle because the teachings keep saying that you are going to get to a point where that feeling is going to go away, if you adhere to the practice, if you do the things... that's going to go away, but that is your... like, why do you think people out there that I'm constantly beating my head up against the microphone saying like, listen to yourself, follow the numinous within, your soul, your voice, your, your, your, your, because that part that's saying, I don't know. I ignored it for years. And there is a way for us to have that community connection and that bonding and that love and everything and not lose touch with that. And that's really the aim of this. We can do that. We can have that. So I want you to share if you don't mind, because you have a really great example of one of those moments where you were asked to do something that was a little strange as a part of the training process. Walk us through what that was and how these things play out in the moment. You know what I'm talking about, right?
Tracy Stamper: 47:48
Oh, absolutely. Ding ding ding ding ding.
Candice Schutter: 47:52
Like this story has to be told it's just too spot on.
Tracy Stamper: 47:57
So I'm wanting to remember at what point this occurred. So the initial love bombing was like a three-day event where we had not yet committed to becoming part of that next level yet. So we were invited, we were love bombed. It was glorious and...
Candice Schutter: 48:21
Yeah, love bombings feels pretty good in the moment.
Tracy Stamper: 48:23
It feels amazing. I just soaking it up. It felt amazing. I remember actually feeling like after the initial love bombing session, I remember thinking, you know what, I might be able to fly home without a plane. I think I could do it.
Candice Schutter: 48:43
So tell us what love bombing looked like just a few examples.
Tracy Stamper: 48:47
So love bombing was three days of being celebrated, absolutely being celebrated, being wined and dined and praised. It was a real feeling of having done the work, risen in the ranks, and being recognized for the intense inner work that we had all done. And it was also very exciting because I was in a circle for the first time with people from all over the world whose names I had heard, but I hadn't met. And to be in a space with, like you were saying, amazing individuals, amazing. To be in a space with all people that I respected and admired so much in and of itself was bliss. It was pure bliss for me to be able to stand in that circle shoulder to shoulder with people I had so much respect for. And in particular, in terms of what the love bombing looked like, there was one moment where we were all sitting on the ground in a circle, and the founder was sharing with us her vision, a little bit about her process, about how she arrived at this point. And I remember her words really struck. She said, you know, she had worked with thousands and thousands and thousands of people over the years. And some people were so dedicated and so committed to the vision that they were inspired to put in the work in a way that was just very visible to her. She saw what we were doing. So in that moment, she was telling everyone in the circle, I see you. And I remember she said, cream always rises to the top." And I remember sitting there thinking I'm the cream. I worked so hard. I'm the cream.
Candice Schutter: 51:02
It makes me think of, and I can't remember in what context I heard it, but just this metaphor of a mouse running in milk.
Tracy Stamper: 51:11
Candice Schutter: 51:12
And how, if the mouse runs fast enough, it's going to whip it into cream. And I want to say to that point, the folks who are at this point where you're sitting in this room with the cream, so to speak, the practice is central to their life. It's not some peripheral thing that they do on Saturdays, perhaps that's when their class is that they teach, but in terms of the embodiment of the practice and what these intensives are designed to do, if you continue to move through them is to put the work into your bones, right. And to make it a part of who you are. And that's both good and a bad thing, because everyone who's the cream, so to speak, has been like that little mouse in the milk, running their asses off, getting to that point at which it's reinforced that you deserve to be here. Because of all that you've done and the sacrifices that you made and who doesn't want to be reinforced for their hard work? We all want to be seen and appreciated, so that had to feel good.
Tracy Stamper: 52:14
It felt amazing.
Candice Schutter: 52:15
Tracy Stamper: 52:24
So that was the love bombing that was the shorter event. And then later on came the trainer training and there were actually, I think about two different trainer trainings. So I'm not sure if this happened, you know, in the first one or the second one, but what I do know is that every aspiring and current trainer was expected to be at the epicenter for a week. And there were logistics. We all had massive amounts of homework to do to get ready for it. And we also were asked to pack a bathing suit, which was confusing because it was like January. We're not going to the tropics. We're going to a place that you do not want to be walking around in a bathing suit. So I'm thinking, well, maybe there's a hot tub party. I had been loved bombed. I could see being served champagne in a hot tub.
Candice Schutter: 53:24
Tracy Stamper: 53:25
I'm up for that.
Candice Schutter: 53:26
You're like, sign me up.
Tracy Stamper: 53:28
And then it was really interesting to watch how that one invitation kind of rippled throughout the community. Fairly soon after we were asked to bring our bathing suits, there were some calls behind the scenes like, what the fuck? Why do we need our bathing suits? And the very simple ask, bring your bathing suit. No explanation given, stirred up a lot of anxiety.
Candice Schutter: 53:59
So perhaps it was brewing under the surface, this anxiety, and this was just a symptom of like, why is everyone reacting? Because if you're listening, you might be thinking, so what, like, it's a little strange, but just pack your bathing suit. What's the big deal? I think it's important to speak to that, like while the anxiety, well, because it was already there.
Tracy Stamper: 54:17
It was already there. And all of us who had reached that point. So like you were saying to reach that point, we've gone through four levels of training. We had seen the epicenter, we had been involved with the people in the center of the inner circle. And we all knew at this point that things can go sideways, that there are eggshells that sometimes I'm going to walk out of there thinking I can fly home thousands of miles without the help of a plane. And other times I'm going to come home and spend a week in bed because I am fried. My nervous system has just cracked. I remember coming home after one of the trainer events and I wasn't feeling well. I was really having a tough time and the best way I knew to describe it was it, it felt like my nervous system was on the outside of my skin. I felt that raw, I felt that vulnerable and open and exposed. And as time went on, I learned, I wasn't the only one feeling that way.
Candice Schutter: 55:37
And if you were to express that there's a real, sort of tough love energy that comes at you.
Tracy Stamper: 55:44
Oh, you don't express that.
Candice Schutter: 55:45
You don't express that. You know, not to make it known because you know that you would be gaslit, that there's something that you are not getting, or you're just not far enough along. And so you don't need to say anything and get gaslit because you're gaslighting yourself.
Tracy Stamper: 56:02
Absolutely. Absolutely. So having experiences where I left the epicenter and felt on top of the world and having other experiences where I left the epicenter and felt flattened, I didn't know what I was going to get. So what's going to happen to me when I'm in this bathing suit? I'm a work in progress, and I've come so far, and I'm so proud of that. And I don't know one woman who lives in this country in this day and age, who doesn't have some issue with body image. From talks with my colleagues, I was learning that others were just as anxious. Had I never seen anyone poorly treated or unfairly treated or aggressively treated, I imagine my anxiety would be very different, but there was a very real possibility that this was going to turn out to be not good, that there might be some shaming or I had no idea. But what I did know is that it was an anxiety that I was definitely not the only one.
Candice Schutter: 57:18
Well, I think it's also important to note that those calls that requested clarification, that clarification was not given, correct. It was to remain a mystery. You aren't able to make a clear choice around whether or not this is something you want to engage in. My read on it is when you're unwilling to give that clarification, the mystery in and of itself removes choice.
Tracy Stamper: 57:39
Candice Schutter: 57:40
Tracy Stamper: 57:42
And there were questions, like, why are we doing this? And, the question being asked seemed to cause some consternation in and of itself. There was a bristle there. Prickly. Don't ask. These are eggshells. Don't walk on them. So the morning came when we were expected to wear our bathing suits. Once the session started, you enter in in just your bathing suit. So we're all in this huge room in our bathing suits inside in January.
Candice Schutter: 58:18
Roughly how many people are there?
Tracy Stamper: 58:21
I am guessing about 50.
Candice Schutter: 58:24
Okay. So a large group.
Tracy Stamper: 58:26
A large group, very many bathing suits.
Candice Schutter: 58:28
Very many bathing suits and bodies in bathing suits. And both genders are represented.
Tracy Stamper: 58:36
Both genders. I was not the only one who purchased a new bathing suit for this occasion. And there was a palpable scent of fear in the air. And also that old determination, this is an exercise in personal power. I can walk in there in my bathing suit. Hopefully I won't pass out or throw up because both of those things felt like possibilities. And we went in and it turned out to be a positive experience all around. It was crafted and created so as to be positive and it thankfully turned out that way, which was almost another mind fuck that, wow, why did I get so anxious?
Candice Schutter: 59:24
What were you doing in your bathing suits? Just sitting on the floor, having normal training exercises, or?
Tracy Stamper: 59:31
It's been long enough that I don't remember all the specifics, but what I do remember is that the spotlight was on each one of us for a moment. It was almost like a catwalk situation where one by one, one of us was called and we would step into the metaphorical spotlight and we were celebrated. It was fun. There was laughter. It was a little bit goofy. Because there had been so much anxiety around this to finally show up to it and to have it be so lighthearted, there was almost a euphoria that came out of that. It was very interesting.
Candice Schutter: 1:00:12
Did you get the sense that most everyone, and of course, there's no way to know the answer to this, but did you get the sense that most everyone was having that same experience of relief and liberation and euphoria? Did you feel that was the common experience? Or you're not sure, or?
Tracy Stamper: 1:00:31
That is a great question. Because it was my experience I'm realizing in this moment that I think I did assume that. But like you said, there is no way for me to know that. I didn't visibly see anyone struggling, and there were other situations in that same space where I absolutely saw people struggling where I absolutely saw myself struggling. I didn't pick any of that up, but I really don't know.
Candice Schutter: 1:01:00
And were you wearing the bathing suit the whole entire day, or was it just like an exercise for a little while and then you...
Tracy Stamper: 1:01:06
I think it was just an exercise for a little while. And the funny part is that I don't remember the whole point of the exercise.
Candice Schutter: 1:01:14
That's not uncommon. Sometimes the people who are inviting the group to do the thing, aren't even really sure what the point of it is. But that's part of what indoctrination does is we fill in the gaps ourselves. At this point you have just a vast amount of principled teachings to pull from. Okay, well, there's a real emphasis on body awareness and self-love, so this is an exercise in being visible in the skin that we're in and being celebrated for it. And in turn the implication being that I'm going to fall in love with myself that much more, because I have been loved bombed. I mean, it is sort of a love bombing exercise of the group on each other. And if some people are listening and thinking, well, why are you taking something as wonderful as being taken out wined and dined as a negative thing or being celebrated in your body? Why are you spinning it in such a negative light? And I can't stress enough that what defines something as love bombing and what defines something as performative trauma or any of the other things that I've mentioned. It's not so much about the act itself. It circles back to something I've talked about in previous podcasts, this question at the heart of depth psychology, which is what is this in service to? The why is absolutely essential. And choice. Those two things. What is this in service to? If I'm being courted to be part of an organization and I'm being taken out for a four course meal and I'm being praised and all this stuff... Is there a motive here, a hidden motive that may even be hidden to the person themselves that's doing it? And so I think of the bathing suit exercise, and I say, well, sure, there's nothing wrong with celebrating people's bodies and being in a spotlight where you're just being lavished with love. That's a wonderful thing. Silver lining. There was often a silver lining in all of these exercises. And what is the purpose of asking people to participate in an exercise that they did not choose? Based on what I know, it feels like a power play.
Tracy Stamper: 1:03:20
Candice Schutter: 1:03:22
It feels like a I'm going to ask these individuals to do this thing, and when they ask me why I'm going to say trust me. And that's the mechanism that I have such an issue with. I am interested in learning about things that teach me to trust myself.
Tracy Stamper: 1:03:37
Candice Schutter: 1:03:38
And so, just because it turned out to be a positive experience, if it was in service to something else, to me it's still wrong. And this happens all the time, all the time in personal growth circles. The motive, or the intention, or the ask is loaded. It's so loaded and we can feel that. And yet we do the thing and then we rationalize it according to everything that we've learned that has helped us. And then when the little knot in our gut starts talking to us, we're like, shh. It's okay. We're like, but it was fine. Everybody was happy. We all loved it. It was great. Yet, does that make it okay? I have a lot of gray area in my mind as I try to extract myself from all of this and see the good and the bad. And even though it went well overall and it landed okay, I want to speak to the altered state that these environments create.
Tracy Stamper: 1:04:34
Candice Schutter: 1:04:35
I remember going back to the epicenter probably a year, year and a half after I left. Because I loved the practice itself,
Tracy Stamper: 1:04:44
Of course. Me, too.
Candice Schutter: 1:04:45
I missed the experience in my body and I said, okay, I'm just going to go take a class and it's fine. I have really clear boundaries. It's all good. I'm going to go. And I remember walking into that studio and there just happened to be a training going on, which was like a regular class on steroids. And I remember how mind blowing it was to me because I was no longer in the same trance.
Tracy Stamper: 1:05:08
Candice Schutter: 1:05:09
And I felt so weird. I just was looking around and people were... only way I can describe it is that everyone was high on something that I wasn't mainlining. It was exactly like when you walk into a party and like everyone's tripping on acid or everyone's had way too much to drink or whatever. And you're just sort of like, whoa...
Tracy Stamper: 1:05:29
Whoa. One of these things is not like the other.
Candice Schutter: 1:05:34
Exactly. Except in this instance I felt sick. Like I felt nauseous. I had to leave. Like I think about it right now, and it makes me sort of emotional. I felt so nauseous because I realized that that's where I had been, that I had been in that state, and that I wasn't in it anymore. And I felt this tremendous sense of relief and horror.
Tracy Stamper: 1:05:55
Candice Schutter: 1:05:57
I just felt myself on the outside looking in and I could feel for the first time that this was more than just a movement class.
Tracy Stamper: 1:06:06
Candice Schutter: 1:06:07
That this was a movement. And that's something that folks who are involved might take pride in. And it's something I took pride in for a long time. And when a movement creates a fog around us, I don't know that it's actually serving us on an individual level. It might create traction and facilitate said movement, but what if we lose ourself in that movement?
Tracy Stamper: 1:06:35
Candice Schutter: 1:06:37
The price of that I have learned is too high. Because it really was like, oh my God, everyone here is high on something that I'm not high on. And that altered state I think is really important to speak to. So when you tell the story of the bathing suit exercise...
Tracy Stamper: 1:06:51
Candice Schutter: 1:06:51
I'm like, well, yeah, everyone just slid right in there. All it takes is a couple people and then it's like contagion. It just spreads through. Like, we have defined a purpose for this and we're going to steep ourselves in this deliciousness. And it may sound like I'm being cynical, but I'm just talking about psychology here. This is just what happens when we're in a group environment and we lose touch with... what feels right to me? What would I want? What would I choose? Because we're just suddenly, we're just pulled up into this tornado. And it's the reason I think you sometimes felt like you could fly at the end of the training. I felt that too sometimes, and I also felt the crash. When I realized that I was going to return to my humanity every single fucking time. That the thing I was trying to achieve was not possible. And yes, I was learning a lot. Yes, I was growing a lot. There was a lot of great stuff happening and I have every journal from this period and I recently went through them all, and I could see how often I crashed. It was...
Tracy Stamper: 1:07:58
Candice Schutter: 1:07:59
mind boggling to me. I would go so high and I would fall so low, and I would go so high and I would fall so low. There was one year when I was really in the thick of it, where I was sick with a cold four or five times. And my body was continually feeling heavy. The word heavy must have appeared in these journals like a hundred times. Like I just felt so heavy and I'm doing all the things to transcend my humanity. And the higher you try to go the stronger the force of gravity, the further you fall, the harder you hit the ground. And I felt like I was just doing that over and over again. I can fly home and then, boom. I don't know. Did you have that experience? I know you did because this is part of what leads to the next part of the story, right?
Tracy Stamper: 1:08:43
Absolutely. Absolutely. And that, there's something about that intensity that is addictive.
Candice Schutter: 1:08:50
Well said. Yes.
Tracy Stamper: 1:08:51
When I get that thud. When I fall. When I am told that I'm not enough within the organization, which was a very common theme. You know, love bombing. You're not enough. Love bombing. You're doing it wrong. Love bombing. You suck. Love bombing. So when I was over on this side of the equation and I felt like shit. I felt ashamed or I felt dehumanized or just like I wasn't enough. Like I hadn't put in the work, I wanted to get back up here because that felt good.
Candice Schutter: 1:09:27
Sure. You're chasing the dragon.
Tracy Stamper: 1:09:30
Chasing the dragon, and there was, there was a definite intensity cycle that I recognized with in particular, those of us who chose to invest everything in this modality. Like you were saying, it seeps into your bones. It becomes not just the way you act when you're practicing, but it becomes who you are, how you see yourself, how you interact in the world. It becomes identity.
Candice Schutter: 1:10:02
Absolutely. Yes.
Tracy Stamper: 1:10:03
So I can definitely relate to that thud.
Candice Schutter: 1:10:08
So if your identity is tied up in the practice and in these highs and lows, like, Ooh, what a ride. When I left, I was so disenchanted. And so I took a long break and I was feeling into my body and I was just uncomfortable. And I finally started going to a health club again. I said, I'll just try some different classes. And I have to say that as part of the indoctrination, I became quite snobby about this practice being the best of all the things. And so it took me awhile to even lower myself to go, to take a class that was different. I mean, it sounds a little strange. It wasn't conscious, but I had just really convinced myself it was the end all be all best thing out there, and that everything else was just less than. I was really uncomfortable in my body. I was desperate. I just was like, I just have to move. So I went to the gym and I took a Zumba class, and I began taking Zumba classes and I just fell in love with dancing and movement all over again. And I decided, hey, I could teach this. I felt, and this is again yet another red flag. I felt guilty. I felt like I was cheating on someone. I felt like I didn't want anybody from that community to know that I was doing this thing because Zumba was seen as this or less than, not as conscious. The narrative was that it was hurting people and we don't hurt people. We're all about body awareness and bringing people into alignment with their truth. Hahaha, ironic, jokes on us. It's all about teaching people to take this care. And in Zumba they don't take this care, and it's just sloppy and they wear shoes. And I mean, just there were just so many things.
Tracy Stamper: 1:12:00
The horror.
Candice Schutter: 1:12:01
The horror. There were so many things that I had just absorbed from the ethers that I was like, even when I went to the training, I was sort of judgy. Even though I actually had somewhat a crush on the person who taught the training, to be honest, she was phenomenal in terms of the way she moved. I was just like, I gotta get me some of that. The training itself, it was like a day long thing. And we did seven days, and like, oh, as if, right? So I was a little snobby about the whole thing, but I trained in it and it was really fun. And I realized it was like my ticket back into my body. And the thing that I loved about it was that I would walk in the room, I could, or didn't have to say, Hey, I'm Candice, this is Zumba. And then I would turn the fucking music on and just start moving. In the practice that we taught, there was a kind of a lesson at the beginning of class to set the tone, which can be really powerful as we know, for those of us who practice yoga and whatnot, like that's kind of part of that vernacular and it serves its purpose. And for me, having done that for years and years and years, and having all these principles and teachings to pull from, I was just so over it. I didn't want to hear any of that language. I didn't want to say anything. I didn't want to decide for someone else how the whole experience was going to go. I just wanted to move my body. That's all I wanted. And so teaching Zumba for me, it was like this liberation, this great liberation of just like, let's just get in our bodies and move. And you know, what take care of yourself. I realized the codependency that had been built into the hierarchy where I became codependent on the feedback of the people above me, that I was in some ways, reinforcing that in the classes that I taught. You're so free, do whatever you want, and also I'm going to continually reinforce these ideas that need to be embodied.
Tracy Stamper: 1:13:57
Candice Schutter: 1:13:58
And there was none of that in Zumba. Around the time that I started teaching it, Zumba was really taking off. And I saw posts from the community that I used to be a part of, and there was a lot of resentment and just judgment. There was a lot of, uh, we need to educate people about how bad this thing is. And it was really coming from a place of, we've been around 20 years longer and we're not getting anywhere near the traction that this program is getting. And I just remember sitting with a former colleague that worked there just being like, well, duh, the first thing that Beto Perez did when it was discovered that he had this skill set in his body and this ability to convey this information was he hired people who were experts in business and marketing, and he deferred to them. He deferred to them every step of the way. And he built an empire. He did really well. He did really well. And I was hoping that that would be somewhat of a wake-up call for the organization that they would be able to see what seems so obvious to me. But they weren't willing to let go of the power in order to grow. And so when they had all these trainers come in and they're setting these expectations and the expectations aren't getting met, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to self reflect and say, Hey, it seems like a lot of people aren't meeting these expectations. Maybe it's not because of something they're doing. Maybe it's something that us as leaders are lacking in terms of preparing them and equipping them to achieve the outcomes we want. That accountability was never there, which is why I had to leave. And it sounds like, perhaps, where the story is going for you, yeah?
Tracy Stamper: 1:15:40
Absolutely. And something you said about mixed messages was really in a nutshell that defines my time with the organization. Mixed messages, this, you're standing with the cream of the crop. The cream always rises. You're not enough. You're our top practitioners. Why can't you do this very simple elemental thing? Let's all stand up and tell you how poorly you're doing this. And the other words that you said that really resonated was pie in the sky. There was almost like a dreamscape where we would get together and we'd brainstorm and how can we take over the world? How can we get everyone doing this thing that will save the whole world? And that was fun. And that was exciting. And then we were expected to go out and make that happen. And there would be parts that the epicenter promised us. And then there were things that we were expected to do. Now having spoken to a lot of the trainers, not all, definitely not all, but enough to know that I definitely was not the only one. When we looked at these expectations, It was almost like an exercise where we would be asked, can you do this? A lot of us knew we couldn't, but you say yes, because you're in a situation where you're expected to say yes. At the same time, the epicenter is promising that they're going to do certain things to help us get to that point. And we knew that they're not going to follow through on things. So there was this weird mixed messaging.
Candice Schutter: 1:17:21
Everyone's making promises they know they can't keep.
Tracy Stamper: 1:17:25
Exactly. And so when everyone's making promises they know they can't keep, where's the grounding underneath us? What is there to stand on? Nothing. Right. Yeah. And interestingly, if you don't mind, if I segue.
Candice Schutter: 1:17:38
Not at all.
Tracy Stamper: 1:17:39
We have not talked about this since we've reconnected and I hadn't even thought about this really, but when you brought up teaching Zumba, I had a flashback to scrolling on Facebook, seeing that you had decided to start teaching Zumba. And then I... here's my, my dear friend and you were part of the inner inner circle.
Candice Schutter: 1:18:05
Tracy Stamper: 1:18:07
And how do you go from this practice that we all know is the best without question, how do you go from this to teaching Zumba?
Candice Schutter: 1:18:18
You're in it? And so you're looking through that lens. Like, how is this even possible?
Tracy Stamper: 1:18:22
I had all the feels around it. I was confused. I was profoundly sad.
Candice Schutter: 1:18:30
Pause there for a second. Say more about that.
Tracy Stamper: 1:18:34
It felt like a loss. We lost one of our key players. She went over to another team.
Candice Schutter: 1:18:43
Right. So did it feel like, and it's okay to be honest around this,
Tracy Stamper: 1:18:46
A betrayal?
Candice Schutter: 1:18:46
Did it feel like a betrayal? Yeah.
Tracy Stamper: 1:18:50
Yeah, it absolutely did. Yeah. Isn't that funny? I knew the word that you were going to before
Candice Schutter: 1:18:55
You knew it because it's... I felt that, too. I felt that I was betraying something and again, these emotional red flags are so key. Like, why would it be a betrayal for me to choose to teach something different?
Tracy Stamper: 1:19:12
It really makes no sense.
Candice Schutter: 1:19:15
Yeah. No. And it does make sense if you understand the psychological dynamics at play. Because we were both conditioned to think of it as a betrayal. And a choice that I made in my full volition based on the information that was true to me, that nobody else could see or understand was somehow wrong, because it didn't fit the ground that we had all agreed to stand on. We don't stand on that ground. Right? One of the tools of indoctrination is loading language. You're doing something that doesn't fit the fluency that we speak, the language that we speak. That's a whole other planet that we do not engage with, but we're all loving and all accepting, but it's just like a lower vibration. It's not judgment. I'm just observing that it's just not as far along as we are. And we're sort of taught to think of it as a hierarchical distinction and that there's this sense of having betrayed the family. I mean, one of the things that you said to me, Tracy, that almost knocked me out of my chair when we were talking about this a few weeks ago, you said, and I think you'll speak to this more specifically when you're talking about your choice to leave, but you said, I felt like I had been taught to guard the family secrets. Part of that agreement is not only to not speak about certain things that happen it's to stay within the fold.
Tracy Stamper: 1:20:52
Candice Schutter: 1:20:53
And one of the ways you stay within the fold is to guard the family secrets. And another way you stay within the fold is to adhere to the guidelines as they've been established by the practice itself. And if you step outside of them, which is why it sounds absurd to say, like in Zumba, they wear shoes, what the hell is wrong with them? But it's like, this is a symbol of something where we come from in this organization. And it is, it is a symbol of not adhering to what makes what we do better than.
Tracy Stamper: 1:21:26
Candice Schutter: 1:21:27
I get where you say you felt betrayed. And I get when you said that you're so sad because I think another piece of it, and this is a guess, you can confirm if this is right or wrong, you felt betrayed. And the other part of your sadness was probably that you sort of felt sorry for me.
Tracy Stamper: 1:21:40
Of course, of course we were doing the ultimate. What we shared was the ultimate practice that would save all of humankind. Right.
Candice Schutter: 1:21:51
And how could she just go do this layman mainstream thing that is hurting people by the way, everyone.
Tracy Stamper: 1:21:59
And that was very directly spoken to specifically a lot.
Candice Schutter: 1:22:05
It had to be reinforced to you all so you wouldn't go get certified to teach it. Because there was obviously something attractive about it that was pulling people in droves. And so how do we keep them here? We make that wrong. If you create an us versus them, then people stick around because they feel right. They feel better.
Tracy Stamper: 1:22:23
They feel right. And, so as I've studied and immersed myself in high demand group stories, the more I see that a key in creating a high demand group is a shared belief that what we are doing is so important.
Candice Schutter: 1:22:43
And special.
Tracy Stamper: 1:22:44
And special and necessary and healing and needed. Because if it is all those things, then it kind of makes sense to sometimes excuse behavior that is harmful.
Candice Schutter: 1:23:00
Tracy Stamper: 1:23:01
If I just keep seeing that point, and I'm convinced that what I'm doing is integral to my development and can be shared, I'm more invested and it's easier for me to overlook things that I otherwise wouldn't.
Candice Schutter: 1:23:19
And to put your comfort secondary to the mission.
Tracy Stamper: 1:23:23
Absolutely. Absolutely.
Candice Schutter: 1:23:26
Tracy Stamper: 1:23:27
Once I got to the point where I knew I had to leave, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who knew my story, and I should say not many people knew my story. I didn't share what happened to me openly. I shared it with not even a handful of people. It was a very difficult time and there was so much shame for me around my story, and how I ended up no longer being part of the organization. This one woman I did share with, and she had been having her own doubts. She was seeing red flags and had been reckoning with them.
Candice Schutter: 1:24:07
So this is a person who was in the organization as well?
Tracy Stamper: 1:24:10
She was a teacher. She was not in the inner circle. And I would also like to say that we are using language that came out of the group. Like, it's not you and me calling it the inner circle. That is how it was referred to. So this, this woman had been involved in a much more distant way.
Candice Schutter: 1:24:32
Which is another thing I think, to just reinforce that part of what was so confusing about this experience is that, and this is, again, something that's very common in the high demand group situations is that the people on the fringe who are the furthest away from the center of the action are receiving the most benefit, and the dysfunction is in the center. And so there's all this juicy, great wonderfulness just spilling out the periphery, and all these people are soaking it up. And it's part of what builds the practice and the program is that... I mean, you see this with an organization like NXIUM, the people who are just attending like a class or a workshop, we're receiving all these wonderful, personal growth benefits, not knowing that there was a sex cult going on in the center.
Tracy Stamper: 1:25:16
Candice Schutter: 1:25:17
So it's very, very common for fringe members to have a very different experience. And I say this to those of you who I have known for years who went to my classes and you know, the program I'm speaking of and you attended my classes and you received tremendous benefit. None of this takes away from the benefit that you receive. None of it.
Tracy Stamper: 1:25:36
Candice Schutter: 1:25:37
Because that is valid and it's real. It's the reason why Tracy and I stuck around so long because we were receiving that benefit, too. So that is real and it needs to be celebrated. And I have sincere gratitude to the founders for having turned me on to that part of it.
Tracy Stamper: 1:25:55
Immense, forever.
Candice Schutter: 1:25:57
Tracy Stamper: 1:25:58
Which confusing in and of itself.
Candice Schutter: 1:26:00
Which is part of the mindfuck.
Tracy Stamper: 1:26:02
Candice Schutter: 1:26:03
So you're speaking with somebody who is not on the fringe-fringe. She's not a student. She's a little bit closer to the center, but she's still pretty far removed from the inner circle, yet close enough to maybe be picking up on some things. So, continue.
Tracy Stamper: 1:26:18
And she knew my journey. She knew the final straw for me. And she knew my wrestling with staying going. And she made a comment to me, as she had been thinking about no longer teaching the practice and moving into a different modality. And this became such a fraught heavy decision for both of us. And one time she just said, you know, Tracy, people stop teaching Pilates, for example, all the time. And no one shames them, blames them, questions them, pities them thinks they're betraying. No one's angry with them. That in and of itself is a red flag.
Candice Schutter: 1:27:08
Absolutely. Tracy and I will be back next week to pick up right where we left off. In the meantime, if you're enjoying the podcast, please consider sharing it with a friend and perhaps take a moment to offer up a five-star rating on your favorite listening app. I ask this of you not to stroke my ego, but because clicks are like oars in the water, they propel the work further and further out into the ethers. And also based on the feedback that I've received thus far, I know that many of you listening can personally and or professionally relate to some of the stories that we're sharing. If you feel moved to reach out to one and or both of us for comment, or to share a bit of your own story feel free to message us at thedeeperpulse.com/share. We'd love to hear from you. May you never underestimate the power of sharing your story and of celebrating others who are brave enough to share theirs. Despite what we've been taught to believe. We grow and benefit most when power is shared. Thank you again for listening and we'll see you next time. Until then keep on moving toward what moves you. Caio.

© The Deeper Pulse, Candice Schutter