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Being a Hostage in a Foreign Country


Being a Hostage in a Foreign Country

The most dramatic influence that ignited my passion to research combat-related posttraumatic stress stemmed from my own personal experiential trauma. In 2014, a prestigious surgeon from a renowned medical institution contacted me. This surgeon recruited me for a temporary contract position in India for with a high-profile Indian guru, a VIP client. At the time I was somewhat well-known as a leading fitness professional. The caveat for accepting this position was the fact I would not know the actual identity of the VIP client I was to work with until I arrived in India.

Ironically, at this time I was working on my master’s thesis. I was seeking a location to conduct observational fieldwork regarding the benefits of meditation on trauma. The opportunity to work, and simultaneously conduct my observational fieldwork research, appeared to be a dream come true. I was granted unlimited access to the meditation guru’s disciples to conduct my research and was embedded within the guru’s disciple community.

Unbeknownst to me, the guru had very different intentions beyond our original contractual agreement. His intention was to indoctrinate me into being of service to him for life, as are all of his devoted disciples. The guru had approximately fifty million disciples as followers who hailed him as the one and only true God. This guru displayed unprecedented extravagance and was touted by the press as the ‘guru of bling’. This guru was at the height of his popularity, admired and affluent, all of which afforded him unlimited political power, the support of the military and judicial protection.

This was in spite of this guru’s previous arrests for murder, housing sex slaves and castration of disciples. At the time the Indian government turned a blind eye to the guru’s indiscretions to avoid mass civilian unrest, effectually wealth and power made this guru untouchable. His disciples worshiped him and happily devoted their lives to being in servitude to him. The Hindu belief system proclaims servitude to a true guru, a touch, or even a look, from this Godly guru could elevate one to attain moksha. Moksha is considered the highest form of existence, which affords liberation from the cycle of life and death. This is considered true enlightenment and the highest form of existence.

Not knowing who I was to work with negated my ability to conduct due diligence, in combination with my naivety, resulted in my blindly volunteering for the surreal experience of being a hostage in a foreign country. This guru employed a small militia of 15 to 20 armed soldiers and bodyguards, each dressed in black, and looking much like ISIS fighters. The guru’s militia greeted me armed with AK-47 machine guns, handguns, grenades and even rocket launchers. I was informed the guru needed protection from potential assassination, after several attempts on his life.

My assigned caretaker was the guru’s chief medical doctor, and only Indian who spoke English. Unbeknownst to me this caretaker was in fact my brainwasher as well. He was highly proficient in mind control, coercive persuasion, thought control, reform and belief system re-education. This caretaker initially befriended me, however, the conversations quickly turned into daily sermons, lectures, and interrogations from early morning to late evening. My caretaker was notorious for daily spontaneous visits to my room at any hour of the day or night. My meager protests for privacy were laughed off and brushed aside.

I was forced to submit to daily full-body searches, as all possessions were confiscated during sessions with the guru. Even more disturbing, where all the unannounced, logistical “shifts,”. These abrupt shifts sent chills down my spine, as I was never informed in advance of our departure or new location and occurred every few days. Armed soldiers or bodyguards would pound on my door, order me to pack my luggage, as they observed my every move.

These frequent and abrupt logistical shifts made it virtually impossible to inform anyone of my exact whereabouts, as most locations were in remote mountainous villages void of phones and Internet service. I was shuffled around in long caravans of twenty to thirty sequentially numbered vehicles that drove at ridiculously high speeds (80 to 90 mph) with four-armed militia soldiers, rocket launchers in hand, riding in Jeeps on our perimeter, every few vehicles.

During my third week in India, we arrived at the guru’s Ashram in the middle of nowhere. The lack of Internet service made informing loved ones of my precarious situation or escape virtually impossible. Two armed guards were posted at my door 24/7, as I was informed never to leave my room without my caretaker. I had no logistical conception of my whereabouts other than the fact we were in walking distance of the Pakistani border. To make matters worse I did not speak, or understand the Indian language, nor did anyone other than my caretaker spoke English. Additionally, I had to rely on my caretaker and captors for all water and sustenance.

Eventually, through a strategically risky reverse psychological maneuver I was able to secure my release and ultimate freedom. Apparently, I had convinced my kidnapper/ brainwasher that he had been successful in radicalizing my belief system. I let him believe he had accomplished his task with flying colors. Then through some strategic coercion, manipulation and a series of empty promises, I convinced my caretaker to allow me to go home for two-weeks, under the pretense I needed to complete two academic courses and then I would return to India. To my utter amazement he agreed to this plan.

My arrival at Los Angeles International Airport was exnihilating and liberating. However, my excitement proved to be short lived, as once again in my naivety, I was oblivious to the ominous consequences of post-traumatic stress (PTS) that awaited me. PTS proved to be a powerful foe as I struggled for two arduous years to recover from the traumatic event. It took even longer for me to verbally acknowledge I had actually been a hostage in a foreign country.

The daily fear, stress, and uncertainty experienced daily, and the continuous strategizing of my escape, along with the daily brainwashing sessions, proved to be too formidable. I was thrust into the darkness of psyche’s underworld for yet another life and death battle. However, this time the battle was being fought between my ears and in my body. My brain and body struggled to process the invisible wounds nobody else could see or understand.

The recovery process was filled with confusion, indecisiveness, severe bouts of depression, constant fear, erratic mood swings, hypervigilance, and a complete lack of trust in myself and in others. This horrific experience was the eventual catalyst that ignited the flames for my calling into the field of trauma research and my work with combat veterans and posttraumatic stress.


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