The 3HO Dysfunctional Family - How I Figured It Out

Don't Talk - Roles - Sex Roles

Here are excerpts from the first-person story of someone who left the 3HO organization. Rachel has interjected Assembly term in brackets to bring out the Assembly parallels that helped her figure it out.

The first several years that I lived in an ashram [brother’s house or Assembly] I felt right at home. Had I been more self aware this would have worried me considering that "home" for me had been an alcoholic family. Now I can see that my early years in 3HO [the Assembly] were spent re-enacting many of the typical dynamics of my disturbed youth and that I (and most of my other Sikh brothers and sisters) were busy creating a "dysfunctional" spiritual family with all the same ground rules I had lived under for the first 18 years of my life.

Don't Talk

It would be hard to imagine me surviving in a family that didn't talk or to imagine an ashram [brother’s house or local Assembly] where conversation isn't one of the prime pastimes. Actually in my family (and in ashrams I have lived) we talked all the time. We just never talk about what was really going on. In my family the taboo subjects were as follows:

1. Don't talk about Mom and Dad's problem. 2. Don't be angry. 3. Don't question the rules, beliefs, and image of the family. 4. Don't deviate from your role.

I plan to deal with these ground rules and how they have affected my 3HO [Assembly] experience in a series of four articles for "Visions". I think I will tackle the last taboo first; that is, what are the roles we play in 3HO [Assembly] and how do we get stuck in them.


There are two different types of role playing dysfunctional families. The first type might be called "personality roles" and the second types are "sex roles". Some examples of personality roles are the addict, the co-dependent, the hero, the scapegoat, and the forgotten child.

Briefly, the addict is the power broker in the family. All the other roles revolve around keeping this person stabilized, protected, functioning and happy. These are all impossible goals.

Obviously in 3HO [the Assembly] it is a rarity for a Sikh [saint] to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it is not that uncommon for a Sikh [saint] to use money, sex or power compulsively and abusively…..

This is often the case with Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys]. In an alcoholic family no one knows just what the addict is going to do next. Similarly, Yogi [George Geftakys] is often a very surprising and confrontational person, which causes many of those around him to try desperately to keep him fed, pacified, controlled and happy so he won't do anything too outrageous too often.

This is very hard and unnecessary work, and the prime role of the co-dependent [the leading brothers, Workers, and Betty Geftakys]. [Note: In the articles containing transcripts of the Workers meetings - here and here - notice how Dan and the other leading Workers around George quickly jump in when George gets agitated, to "handle it".]

The co-dependent [the leading brothers, Workers, and Betty Geftakys] is the primary caregiver of the addict [George Geftakys]. Much of the co-dependent's [the leading brothers, Workers, and Betty Geftakys] job is public relations. They smooth the waters, rationalize away any problems, deflect consequences away from the addict [George Geftakys], keep everyone in their place and keep the public image and the belief systems in place.

In return the co-dependent [the leading brothers, Workers, and Betty Geftakys] gains intimacy with the addict [George Geftakys], a tremendous amount of manipulative power and a very strong sense of being spiritually superior.

The children's [average saint’s] roles of hero, scapegoat, and forgotten child are not politically powerful roles in the family or organization [Assembly], rather they are the flunkies of the system. Briefly, the hero is the good kid, the scapegoat is the bad kid and the forgotten child is the invisible kid.

Sex Roles

When I moved into the Philadelphia ashram [sisters or brother’s house] back in the 70s, I was handed a little pink book called Fascinating Womanhood. For any of you who missed having this book affect your life, it is a practical how-to manual on marriage from the woman's point of view, written by a Mormon. It is the philosophical opposite of feminism, completely committed to the belief that the spiritual fulfillment of women is achieved through unquestioning service and obedience to men.

I first read this little tome while in my militant women's liberation mode so, needless to say, the book angered and disgusted me. Yet since my marriage of 9 months was not going at all smoothly and because my ashram sisters [Assembly sister – particularly leading brother’s wives or Workers] assured me that Yogi Bhajan [George Geftakys] was into the book and getting his wife to read it, I decided to put some of the principles to a try.

It was a miracle! Instead of arguing with every little thing that came out of my young husband's mouth, I tried listening, nodding and pretending to agree with him and he loved it! Almost overnight my husband went from someone who avoided me to a lover who actually seemed to like to be around me. I was converted! I knew that it was the highest liberation of a woman to serve her husband sweetly, strive to be a "domestic goddess" and wear ruffles. Yes, I am afraid I even wore ruffles!

Inevitably this new philosophy got all tangled up with the 3HO [Assembly] concept of women being the Grace of God [man’s glory, wife as example of the church in the relationship of Christ and His Church].

(In most ways, 3HOers [saints] no longer play such extreme sex roles. [Think of the difference between the early Assembly and today]. It has been a very long time since I have seen a male head of an ashram lounging around while sweet young things ply him with foot massages. However recently there has been a lot of talk about how Yogi Bhajan has married a few middle-aged men off to teenage girls. In an attempt to understand why Yogi Bhajan might do such a thing, there have been several explanations put forward within my hearing. One was that perhaps the marriages would allow these older men to "mold" these young girls to their liking.)

Next: 3HO Personality Roles - the Hero, the Scapegoat, the Forgotten Child  »»

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