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How a cyberphilosopher convinced followers to cut off family Add to ...

"I was using FDR as an escape from reality . . . It was an addiction and it consumed me," said Rob Griesbach, a former member from Virginia, who began reading FDR at 16.

"They invite you to share your history. He always tries to pick out abuses, reasons to be angry. Whatever problem you have, he'll track it back to your parents," said Dylan Boswell, a former member from Arizona. "I was at a vulnerable point in my life and I wanted to be part of this community."

Many relatives are loath to come forward, fearing that going public will further alienate their children.

"The members have been taught to perceive any criticism of [FDR]by a parent as a personal attack on the child, and it drives them further away," said a New York businessman whose child left after discovering FDR.

His child's only explanation was a two-sentence note: "I need to take a break from the family for a few months to sort out some issues. Please do not try to contact me."

Another father, Ray, a 53-year-old Tennessee retiree, said his daughter, Laura, who studies psychology at an Ivy League university, just stopped answering her parents' calls and e-mails. "We didn't know if she was sick or dead."

He only grasped what had happened when, on a photo-sharing website, he discovered a picture of Laura and her husband wearing T-shirts that said: "Freedomain Radio."

"He's torn my family apart," said Ray.

Mr. Molyneux justifies his intervening in other people's lives by saying "It's like stepping over someone on the sidewalk who's collapsed and saying `I don't want to get involved' ."

He argues relations with parents are artificial, a falsehood from biology rather than one's choice. The parents' inability to understand their children shows their love is phony, he writes.

He talks of the dread people feel when mother calls. "What are you afraid of? . . . You are afraid of being revealed as a slave -- not to your mother, who already knows -- but to yourself." (page 206 of the book Real-Time Relationships .)

Mr. Molyneux is estranged from his parents.

He says he grew with an absentee father. As for his mother, he described her in one podcast as "crazy as a bat hound." ( podcast 676 , starting at 30:20)

In some podcasts, he is joined by his wife, Christina Papadopoulos, a psychological associate, meaning a practitioner who has a master's degree in psychology, not a doctorate.

Two years after they married, Ms. Papadopoulos stopped contacts with her parents.

Her parents weren't abusive but the relationship was superficial, Mr. Molyneux and his wife said in a podcast ( podcast 451 , starting at 2:07) where they read a letter from her father which said "Ma is very depressed and cries every day."

The philosophy behind this is codified and has its own lingo. For example RTR (Real-Time Relationship) means you're willing to confront a spouse or parent if you feel they're hurting you. "If you don't want to be a slave, stop acting like a slave," he writes.

Members also talk about FOO (family of origin) and deFOO (leaving the family of origin). For example, Laura's husband, Stephen, shared news of his breakup with his family in a posting titled: "DeFoo letter to my father ."

Mr. Molyneux estimates about 20 FDR members have "deFooed" their families. In a posting, he compared that number to what he claims are his 50,000 regular listeners. That proportion, he said, is smaller than the four per cent of the population that is sociopathic.

"If we assume that separating from a truly sociopathic parent would be emotionally advantageous, then we are far below the average," he wrote.

(In an e-mail to the Globe, Mr. Molyneux explained that he learned of the percentage of sociopaths, people without conscience, from a book by psychologist Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door .)

Mr. Molyneux's writings outlines various parental reactions followers can expect, explaining that those reactions are forms of denials or defensive behaviour.

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