"Sterling is preying on those who have been hurt"

January 1998
By a Weekend Walk-Out

I attended the first day of the Sterling’s Men's Weekend. What I experienced that day convinced me to abandon the rest of the weekend. Moreover, it required me, out of a moral obligation, to report what I experienced to help other men and women avoid what I believe to be an insidious trap.

I was approached by a member of a Men’s Team in central Illinois, who had learned from a mutual acquaintance that I was "hurting" following a divorce. He told me that the Men’s Team (6 men) would be a good thing for me. I was attracted to the idea of having a group of men with whom I could talk about important issues, a support group as it were. I met each of the men, individually and on a work weekend when we repaired a Rail to Trails bridge. However, in order to join the Men’s Team, I was required to attend the Sterling Men’s weekend. They did not tell me what would occur, only that it would impair the results if I knew ahead of time. I had to identify goals to accomplish as a result of the weekend activities. My goals were: 1) to be emotionally present at all times with my loved ones (I tend to space out and withdraw from people and I feel that this behavior may harm close relationships) and 2) To heal anger from the fact that my children were taken away from me and from their hometown as a result of my divorce.

What I experienced at the Weekend is not only consistent with the reports by other witnesses here (in fact, I believe that I experienced the initiation rites of a cult), but also convinced me that Sterling’s methods would produce opposite results to my goals.

His advice about how to deal with intimate relationships (do not "talk" to your woman openly, do not "compete" with your woman, that women like men who have good "bullshit", that women use sex as "currency") would encourage me to act out a false life and encourage me to withdraw from any risk of conflict even more.

As an exercise at the end of the first day, we were required to vent the anger we had inside from the abuses of one or two women in our lives. To demonstrate, one of Sterling’s henchmen did the exercise in front of our group. This man screamed and yelled while another man standing before him listened impassively. When he stopped, the men who attended the Weekend applauded. Sterling chastised us, saying, "This is no show, this man’s hurt and anger is very real." If a volunteer who has been with Sterling for perhaps years is still feeling this anger, it demonstrates that Sterling’s techniques will probably not help me overcome my anger, but will instead increase it.

Sterling is dangerous because he says powerful things that appear to be true, especially on the surface. He talks about things that men and women have experienced in bad relationships. Most issues seem to revolve around power struggles, and most take advantage of the "war between the sexes" inspired by our current culture. What is so deceptive is that he says things that seem true at one level, but are really contrived to confuse the hard truth of what being in an intimate long-term relationship really means. His program not only does just the opposite of what he proposes to accomplish, and makes its members highly dependent on the Men’s Team and the Sterling organization, to the exclusion of family and friends (especially spouses).

Sterling claims that he wants to enhance the romantic relationship between men and women. He says that the relationship needs to come above the selfish wishes of one or the other member. (The psychological literature also claims that such a perspective is a critical factor in healthy marriages). However, almost all of his advice on how to accomplish these things drive a deep wedge between men and women in general, and individuals in a loving, committed relationship. He strives to weed out intimacy and gut instinct/ intuitive knowledge. Any opposition to his Men’s program is publicly belittled as "feminization". He pulls apart people who want to make their committed marriage work well, and engenders a sick, cultic dependence– he teaches that the only people you can really trust are the men on the Men’s team, to the exclusion of the important people in your life.

Sterling is preying on those who have been hurt and angered by poor relationships in their past.

I cannot deny that committed relationships can involve pain and hard issues. The issues are difficult and the solutions require a lot of work from both partners. However, I believe that Sterling has nothing helpful to contribute. I believe that his teachings will only lead to more isolation and unhappiness. The path to health and happiness requires trusting other people, not being defensive. As an alternative to the worldview of Sterling, I would suggest Dean Ornish’s Love and Survival where he offers scientific and medical evidence for the healthy effects of true intimacy, something that Sterling’s approach can never provide.

Copyright © 1998 Rick Ross

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