Beyond QAnon: Life After a Cult w/ Jessie Shedden

Beyond QAnon

Adrienne MacIain 0:01

Hey everyone. We have here the wonderful Jessie Shedden. Once again, I'm going to do a little supplement to our podcast that's coming out this Thursday because I think this is so incredibly topical. And what a blessing that I happen to have this expert on the subject of kind of cult deprogramming. So what I'm going to do here is I'm just going to, basically what I want to talk about is QAnon. It is the big elephant in the room right now. A lot of people are dealing with this with friends, with family, with people on the internet. Some of you know a lot about it, some of you know nothing about it, so I'm going to start with the assumption that you have no idea what QAnon is. And I'm just going to read a little bit from the Wikipedia page here so that we're all on the same page literally. So QAnon is a disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theory, alleging that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles - yep, you heard right - is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against former US President Donald Trump, who has been fighting the cabal. Us prosecutors have called QAnon a group commonly referred to as a cult. There are, this is just me adding, there are, of course, religious overtones to this as well. It's this Satan, you know, satanic worshiping group. There are, of course, angels and people on the light side, the good side, that are fighting this, that have put Donald Trump in this place in the conspiracy theory. So you see, it's like a whole cosmic worldview. And so some people, it's not just the far right that has kind of glommed on to this, it's lightworkers, and it's people who believe, really believe, that they are fighting for good, they are doing the right thing. And so I just want people to understand this - it's not just like, you know, crazy wingnut, out-there people who are buying into this - it's like your next door neighbor, Karen. Okay, so, QAnon asserts that Trump is planning a day of reckoning, known as 'The Storm," when thousands of members of the cabal will be arrested. QAnon supporters have accused many liberal Hollywood actors, democratic politicians, and high-ranking government officials of being members of the cabal. They have also claimed that Trump feigned conspiracy with Russians to enlist Robert Moeller to join him in exposing the sex-trafficking ring and preventing a coup d'etat by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros. The QAnon conspiracy theories have been amplified by Russian state-backed troll accounts on social media, as well as Russian state-backed traditional media. So, that kind of gives us a starting point here, right? What I find most interesting about this is that because it's so high level, you know, this is like Illuminati-type stuff, it's so easy to say, Well, of course, we have no evidence because they've covered up everything. And so you can present just about anything, you can cherry-pick just about anything as evidence that this conspiracy is real. And that's when things get really dangerous. So my first question to you is, hearing that, what is your take on this? Is this a cult?

Jessie Shedden 3:34

That's a really interesting one because I'm, what's going through my head as I'm listening to is the similarities I see between the cult I came from and QAnon is that the basic premise is something that's actually got good at heart. So from mine, it was Christianity, in this one, I see the pedophilia and and the wanting to do right. But I see massive extremism around the good at heart, and then a lot of very innocent people being hurt through that, those being perpetrated and those doing the perpetrating. It's just, yeah, that's just what's come to me. And it's... I think I've completely forgotten what your question was. I just had that on my head. And I needed to deliver it.

Adrienne MacIain 4:28

No, that answers my question. Absolutely. So the other thing that I think is really dangerous about this is that there's this militarism behind it, there's this violence behind it, where we're saying, not just there's these Satan-worshipping cannibals that we need to save children from, but we need to hurt them. We need to kill them. We need to attack them to save these children. Whenever you get into that kind of rhetoric, where you're saying there needs to be this, this kind of day of reckoning, this apocalyptic event, to purify, that's when things get really scary and dangerous. And this particular danger is that because there was this attack on the Capitol by, largely, people who believe this conspiracy theory, the bloodshed has already started. Right? This has become real, they've made the bloodshed real. Now, when you look at the kind of bit, like you said, the basic premise of this, it's people who are good at heart who wants to do the right thing. And so it really saddens and sickens me to see these people, and I know people who believe this, I know people who believe this personally, and they're good people. And so it really saddens and sickens me to see these people used as puppets, and used as kind of patsies and scapegoats for these people who have their own, of course, political agendas. So, like you said, people are getting hurt.

Jessie Shedden 6:02

Yeah, yeah. And what I see that's interesting, and what came up for me in what you were saying then is, you get Crusaders whose, it's their modus-operandi, this goes into something I was going to cover a bit later on, but they have a burning desire to do something for good. They feel that they have a passion, and it's their calling in life. And they find something that relates to that for them, and they put absolutely everything into it. And it becomes very much one end or the other of the pendulum, there's no, there's no balance in it. And I've seen that in the cult I was in. In fact, interestingly enough, I think, as we said before, they feel like they're doing something good, but I've actually seen one who was within it, and absolutely full-out doing everything he could to promote it, and as soon as something went wrong he hopped entirely across to the other side, and now he's doing absolutely everything he can to bring it down. And I've had to stand back and say, You know what, this person has a characteristic of the Crusader. That's how he lives his life, is in full overdrive pursuing something to the extreme, because that feels fulfilling for him. And so it doesn't really matter what the cause is or who it is, it's just the base need to fulfill that. I would be fascinated, as an outsider, particularly if I was close to these people, and I'm not close to the one I'm talking about so I haven't done it, but to stand back and say Why. Why does this person have this need? What is this need coming from? What is unfulfilled in them that they're putting it into something like this?

Adrienne MacIain 7:44

That's, I think you're absolutely right. And so many of these people just have felt like their lives have lost meaning and purpose. And so they've been seeking purpose, and this gave them that sense of purpose and community. And that's what has been driving it. So we have to look at that and say, you know, how can we create something positive for these people to put this wonderful energy towards?

Jessie Shedden 8:12

Yes. And I think also it's looking at how we can find something that taps into the base premise of what they were trying to do. So if it is around, say, pedophilia, what is it on sex-trafficking, what is it that they can do in a good way around that to help?

Adrienne MacIain 8:25

To actually save the children?

Jessie Shedden 8:26

Yes, yes.

Adrienne MacIain 8:27

Now, when you look at, so, of course, we just had the inauguration. That was really devastating for a lot of these QAnon folks, because they kept waiting for The Storm and kept getting these prophecies or these predictions of, like, it's going to happen on this date. Didn't happen. It's going to happen on this date. Didn't happen. And so now that Donald Trump is no longer president, they've kind of, either a lot of them are jumping ship and saying, Well, it didn't happen. What now? I put my whole life into this, I lost my family, I lost my friends, I lost my job to this cause - now what? But then you have the other side, where they're really digging in deeper, and just finding ways to make it work still, and saying You have to have faith, you can't lose faith. This is all just a test to test our faith. And the truth is it goes so deep that we now have a shadow government. That was actually, you know, who you thought was Joe Biden getting sworn in, that was actually Donald Trump in a state-of-the art Joe Biden mask. That's why Donald Trump couldn't be there at the inauguration. This is how far people will go to make sense of something that doesn't make sense anymore. So, my deepest question to you, I think, is how can we help these people? How can we help them?

Jessie Shedden 9:56

It's so fascinating to hear you go over all of that, because I knew none of that about the inauguration. I briefly looked up the organization before we came on. But there's so many parallels, there are so many parallels. And I can certainly see why people are referring to it as a cult for that reason. I think for those who have become, as it were, disenchanted with the whole thing, and I think, anyway, the one thing I would want to do is to give them a way to save face.

Adrienne MacIain 10:33

Right? Right. Give them grace.

Jessie Shedden 10:35

Absolutely. So there's a phrase that I remember over and over again, which is no one runs into the arms of a prison warder.

Adrienne MacIain 10:43


Jessie Shedden 10:43

So if you're gonna come at them with judgment and expectations and conditions, you're not giving them a space in which to reconsider that position and gently step down from it, if that's what they decide they want to do. I think in terms of those that are holding to it, that's a harder one to crack, to handle. Because yes, I can see it in where I came from, and the only reason I'm laughing is because I can see it better, not because I'm discrediting anybody that's currently in the situation. Because yes, it was like this is a test. And it is that, you just, there's more and more mythical layers added to keep the person in place that they were supposed to be. For myself, I can only give you my experiences, I can't tell you what somebody should do. But in the two years after I escaped, I didn't want to look at any of it, so I didn't. I didn't touch it at all. Didn't look at anything through a new lens. I just kind of denied to myself it had even happened. That was my only way of, it was just like a cold break. And I carried on with another life. But I didn't hate or speak badly about my past life, I just didn't even acknowledge it. And it took till the third year, where I felt in a safe space where I was not going to receive judgment and I was going to receive unconditional love, that I could stand back and start to make contact with people who had taken the journey I had taken already. So I think you get, kind of, I was gonna say the early adopters and the slow adopters. The early adopters who decide, This is it, I'm done with it, and I'm happy to go and talk to other people about it, and try and make sense of the whole thing. And then you've got those who just need to take their own journey. There's no standard procedure for deprogramming from a cult at all. Everybody arrives at different things in their own way. Many of them are very traumatized by things that they've come into contact with during that time. And there's a lot of guilt and shame around it. You know, these, as we said before, a lot of them come from wanting to do something good. When they stand back and realize that that good caused harm, there's a lot of shame and guilt about that. Because they were inherently a good person in the first place, but they've been sidetracked. And I think, you know, just for myself, in the third year I was finally ready to start to reach out to people who had taken that journey, because I missed them. I missed that sense of community, that sense of belonging. And I needed to be able to talk to people who had been through the journey I'd been through to make sense of it.

Adrienne MacIain 13:33


Jessie Shedden 13:34

But, but I tiptoed in. So I would start tiptoeing, and then they would say something that would trigger me and I would reverse out at top speed. And then I would come back and have another go. And it's been really gradual. And it's, yeah, it's taken the best part of a year for me to start to see things. And now I can kind of laugh at some of the things that we did that in the past I would have probably justified. And I'm still not there. There are still higher level things that I don't see any problem with. I would not do them and I would not suggest anybody else did them, but I don't, I haven't judged them. And I'm not ready to look at that yet.

Adrienne MacIain 14:10

And I don't know that it's your job to judge it. Do you know what I'm saying?

Jessie Shedden 14:18

I do.

Adrienne MacIain 14:18

I think at a certain level, it's not even really helpful to judge or condemn it. It's helpful to say, This isn't working for me, and I don't want to be part of it because it's not in line with my values.

Jessie Shedden 14:34

Yeah, I see. Typically sit in the case in which we're talking about, but again in mine, I think it's more important for me to have arrived at what's right for me, in terms of it's no longer right for me, and then to do what I can to perpetrate the opposite, if you know what I mean. So either, so lack of judgment towards people which, cults tend to encourage a lot of judgment, a lot of heaviness, and heavy emotions, and it's like, Well, okay, I'm gonna be the opposite of that now. Or what can I do to undo what's happened? But I don't need to spend time muckraking through it. I'm feeling the pain of it. It's okay. What can I do that, I wouldn't say makes up for, but kind of achieves what I wanted to achieve out of my pure motives in the first place.

Adrienne MacIain 15:28

Exactly. Yeah. And I think that's the key is finding something positive to go toward, instead of constantly fighting against this negative. Because the thing is, what you resist persists. And so whether you're fighting against shame, or you're fighting against a satanic cabal, when you put energy against something, it strengthens it, it strengthens it.

Jessie Shedden 15:56

I love that. It's such a timely reminder for me as well, so thank you.

Adrienne MacIain 16:00

Absolutely. Absolutely. All right. I want to keep this brief, because of course, we have a whole wonderful show to listen to with you. But I just wanted to set this up too so that people can understand that this is still happening, and this is happening all around you. And whether you're aware of it or not, there are a lot of people right now who are looking for something to believe in. And this was offered to them as something, a way to do real good in the world to save children. And are their children being sex-trafficked right now? You bet there are. Are there horrible, awful, cannibalistic rituals probably happening somewhere in the world? Yeah, there probably are. Does that mean that there's a shadow government, and that there's a spiritual war being waged? Probably not. But we, you know, I mean, I don't know, I'm not the expert in the world. But the bottom line is when somebody tells you you need to hurt people to do good, that is when you should always go, Ah, wait a minute, that doesn't sound right to me.

Jessie Shedden 17:13


Adrienne MacIain 17:13

That's my personal values. I was raised Quaker, so...

Jessie Shedden 17:18

Yeah, yeah. And I think so much, I see a lot of emotion and energy being used in a negative way, rather than actually constructively. If you look at some of these people that are working in sex-trafficking, they're not the raging people that go around wanting to lop people's heads off. They know that's not how you make a real difference in that world.

Adrienne MacIain 17:39

Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for this. Is there anything else you'd like to say on this before we wrap up?

Jessie Shedden 17:47

No, my own, well yes. The one underlying thing I would say is, if you're dealing with someone that's considering that position on it, unconditional love and acceptance. That does not mean you have to agree with what they think and that you have to change your values to align with that. But unconditional love and acceptance was the safe space that gave me the ability to stand back and look at stuff and go, Well, this doesn't make sense.

Adrienne MacIain 18:19

Thank you so much.

Jessie Shedden 18:21

You're welcome.

Breaking Free From a Cult Mindset

Adrienne MacIain 0:01

Hey everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. This is your hostess, Adrienne MacIain, and I'm here with Jessie Shedden. Hey, Jessie, how you doing?

Jessie Shedden 0:10

I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.

Adrienne MacIain 0:12

Absolutely. So let's jump right in. What story is the world not getting?

Jessie Shedden 0:22

Well, I guess from my perspective, it would be one of what it's like to escape a cult.

Adrienne MacIain 0:31

Mm hmm. And what is that like?

Jessie Shedden 0:37

And I think I should follow that up with and what the ramifications are.

Adrienne MacIain 0:42

Absolutely. So where does this story start for you?

Jessie Shedden 0:50

In terms of escaping the cult, that was just three years ago. But, to go further back from that, I was born into it, so it's kind of all I've ever known. And the story doesn't, I was gonna say it doesn't end when you leave. It almost begins when you leave, really.

Adrienne MacIain 1:14

Absolutely. But tell us a little bit about what it was like to live in a cult, to be raised in a cult.

Jessie Shedden 1:24

Interestingly, I think some of that I'm still discovering. Because when you've grown up so conditioned, you really don't see it any other way. Obviously, some of the basics are really clear. So for my situation, I was unable to wear jeans or trousers. We were unable to socialize or eat with people outside of it, certainly not have relationships outside of it. There were a definitive number of things that women could do in life, so owning or running a business was out of the question. Home-making was very much in and that was predominantly your role. Certainly you wouldn't have a business if you were in a relationship and your husband was at home looking after children, that was just not a possibility. So very, very staid, social typicals. And no visiting pubs, clubs, nightclubs, restaurants, bars. No smoking. No drugs. Not such a bad thing. Very ultra-conservative. Certainly no questioning on the part of women as well. No university, no college. Yeah, a lot of nos. But then you also get a lot of protection and support that you realize isn't there when you leave.

Adrienne MacIain 3:07


Jessie Shedden 3:08

So it wouldn't have been uncommon for me to walk into another cult member's house and know that I could put my car keys, down my wallet, everything, driver's license, the lot and never have to worry about it. Because you're a very tight knit community. If you're going to do something, you're a bit of an idiot, because everyone's going to know very quickly.

Adrienne MacIain 3:24

Right, yeah. There is certainly a sense of safety there.

Unknown Speaker 3:28

Yes, to a degree. So yes, you didn't expect violence or physical harm. But the backstabbing, the criticizing, that was all there and plentiful.

Adrienne MacIain 3:40

Yeah. So that brings me to the next question, which is what made you realize that you needed to make a change?

Jessie Shedden 3:51

There's kind of two ways to that, parts to that, I suppose. One is the gradual. It's like, from the age of eight, I was on the raw end of bullying. And I just knew that I didn't really fit and nothing really felt right, particularly when I came to look at relationships. I was like, I knew that the older I got, the less I felt like I belonged, because the less I could pursue who I was in myself, and the options just weren't there for what I wanted. So my sticking points came in, I didn't really like any of the options that were available in terms of relationships. I didn't actually feel it's my calling to have children and I knew I wouldn't have an option on that. And I wanted to stay very much as a businesswoman, and I wouldn't have an option on that either. So if you take away all of those, that you're not going to end up in a relationship with anybody, so you're gonna stay in your family home. You're not allowed to own a business, so you're still gonna have to work for somebody no matter what age you are. And that you are expected to have children if you did get into relationship. Things were looking pretty bleak.

Adrienne MacIain 4:59

Yeah. So you decided...

Jessie Shedden 5:05

Yeah, so the main catalyst, I suppose, came when very suddenly my mother was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 66. And we never planned for that. I mean, you don't, but more specifically,

Adrienne MacIain 5:19

Who plans for that?

Jessie Shedden 5:20

I don't, crazy to even say that. But more specifically, she was eight years younger than my father, so we had always planned for him passing on first. We'd set her up financially, we made sure the house is all ready for that. And, if I can say it kindly, he was the one who enjoyed being ill. She never did. She never complained about her health. She worked really hard to have good health. So it was totally unexpected. I was like, this wasn't supposed to happen this way. And I think, because we had planned for the opposite, it was like, Who are you fooling Jessie? You don't know how much longer you've got. And you're not happy now. You can't wait till some undefined time in the future to change that.

Adrienne MacIain 6:03

Yeah. So what did you do?

Jessie Shedden 6:08

I was, to go a stage back again, I had found myself being sexually abused at the age of 16, partly as a product of no sex education, no education around relationships at all. So total, I mean, I guess there's a lot of lack of understanding around the difference between lust and love. But specifically more, because that just was such a lack of teaching in that area. And that was actually by somebody outside the cult, not within it. And then, at the time, that wasn't seen as that. It was seen that it was my fault. So I ended up being kind of dragged over the coals by priests who were very similar age to the person who had done this. They wanted to know all the minor details, which was a pretty traumatic experience. As I was healing from that, or attempting to, in my own kind of shut-in way, because there was no one really to talk to in the perspective that it wasn't actually my fault, I met someone outside the cult who believed in me, which was kind of, it felt like one of the first people to actually do that. And at the time, I thought I loved him, because he believed in me.

Adrienne MacIain 7:23


Jessie Shedden 7:24

And we went on to have, kind of, a very much contraband dating situation for about four years. But I'm talking about 20 minutes snatched here and there. So that was when I was 18. And then it was discovered. I was again, kind of, in the doghouse for having a second relationship in their eyes. And I went from being already under house-watch to being even more intensive house-watch. So I wasn't able to, from 18 onwards, I was not able to go out shopping on my own, I didn't go anywhere on my own. Things were often done for me. I wasn't trusted, I was accountable for every minute of my time. My bedroom, anything, any of my devices, not that I had many, were open to being scrutinized. And there was just no safe place to be myself at all. And then, once that was discovered after four years, I was made, under duress, to write him a letter and tell him that I didn't love him anymore. And contact ceased. I was issued to burn things that he had given me, all contact details I had to get rid of. And so we went for about eight, nine years, and we never, we had nothing to do with each other. He realized it would make it very difficult for me if he dared to make contact again.

Adrienne MacIain 8:42

Of course, yeah.

Jessie Shedden 8:42

He didn't want to bring more pain on me and kept out of the way. And then things just got harder and harder for our family. They were under a lot of pressure, a lot of discrimination, bullying. I saw my father being just ripped to shreds by hypocrisy and wrongdoings within the cult itself. And when you're very close to your parents, it's soul-destroying to see that, and because you're a woman you're supposed to shut up and not say anything. You can't do much. And if you do, you bring more problems on them. And just the unrest in me, just, it got to a point where I just, I couldn't ignore it anymore. And so I reached out to the guy I'd been in contact with previously, just very tentatively, because I felt I couldn't go to my deathbed him thinking that I didn't love him, because it wasn't true. I wanted to put that right. And it, just as soon as we saw each other connection was like that, we were just like there'd never been any time apart. However, he was in a relationship, a coexisting relationship, not necessarily a blossoming one, but still in one. And I was then in this, I'm now treading on somebody else's relationship. But he was my hope. I'm in such a dark place, I didn't want to let go of that hope. He didn't want to let go of me because he remembered what it was like back then. And it was a very difficult position to be in. On top, add to that, your mother then getting diagnosed with cancer as well. So it was all kind of layering up at the same time. And I reached out to a counselor. And I was like, it took me three attempts to find a counselor that actually was a counselor as well. So the first one just tried to fleece me and had no qualifications and was nothing more than a sleazy salesperson. Second one actually was degrading, and did not have the empathy there at all. And third one, finally, I was like, Is this meant to happen? You know, how many tries? And with his help, I was able to see that I could actually leave. I could find hope outside of the guy that I was leaning on at that point in time, and find the strength to be able to plan a way out. Because even thinking about leaving was, you're doing the unthinkable. Prior to me leaving in the particular church I was in, the last person before that was 23 years prior. So it doesn't happen often.

Adrienne MacIain 11:24

Yeah. So a couple of things that come up for me. First of all, I always find it so ironic when I see religious control like that, because God is very clear on this point in any religious texts you ever read, that humans have free will for a reason. They have to choose for themselves. It doesn't count if somebody does it for you. And so this obsession with controlling the behavior of other people is completely contrary to any teaching, any religious teaching, in any tradition. So that's one.

Jessie Shedden 12:07

I have two answers to that, but keep going.

Adrienne MacIain 12:09

Yes. And the other thing is, I just want to really congratulate you, because what you did was incredibly difficult, incredibly brave. And the fact that you sought out counseling, knowing that you were going to need that kind of inner help, not just external help, was so wise of you to realize that. And to not give up after it didn't work over and over, to try to find that right fit to find someone to help you. That kind of deliberateness is really rare. And so I just really want you to take a moment to pat yourself on the back for that, because that is a big deal.

Jessie Shedden 12:52

Thank you.

Adrienne MacIain 12:53


Jessie Shedden 12:53

Thank you. And I think, looking back, some of the, because so much has happened since, because the transition isn't smooth, I think the intensity of, some of the intensity of that time has been buried under all the layers.

Adrienne MacIain 13:10


Jessie Shedden 13:14

Yeah, I totally hear you on the two previous, the previous point you made, because I think one of the things, as I came more and more towards leaving, I would read a lot about dictatorships and communist countries. So that, North Korea I was reading quite a lot about. And I also looked at other cults, I suppose. So I was looking at the Amish and the Mennonites, and one of the things I liked about the Amish was that they actually have Rumspringa, where you can go and test it out and see what you want for yourself. And I think, and do you know, that's, it gives, it puts the power back into the hands. You don't feel so powerless, you don't. And I think the the fact that you feel so powerless, you resent more, because you don't have that choice, you don't have the ability to make that choice where the thing, they get the opportunity to go and try stuff. And we never did. And I think also one thing, because everything was dictated for you, you never had to really make those decisions. So it sounds awful. And I still kind of feel this way. Because I think my faith is finding its balance at the minute, it's just finding its level as to where it wants to be. But I couldn't tell somebody when I've been converted. I have no idea because I've been so brought up in the whole thing, I didn't know when my first interaction with Christ really was because it just... I don't know. I've been having communion since I was a week old. So I can't... do you know what I mean? I didn't have to actually do that work.

Adrienne MacIain 14:38

Mm hmm. There's no 'again,' there's no deliberateness.

Jessie Shedden 14:41

And I could see it for others around.

Adrienne MacIain 14:42

Yeah, there's no choice there.

Jessie Shedden 14:43

No. Yeah. And you could see that for many others in there that it's kind of an entitlement. It's like you've just been given it.

Adrienne MacIain 14:56


Jessie Shedden 15:01

Which I didn't, it just didn't feel authentic. And the hypocrisy, I think that's one reason why I haven't gone back to a faith at the minute. I feel like I'm just in this nominal believer situation that I feel like I believe. I don't practice particularly. And I'm certainly not in position to trust another congregation right now, because there's so much hypocrisy, so much damage done. As I said, when I left, I can worship him wherever I want, on my own, you know, lying in bed looking at the ceiling, I don't have to be doing something specific. And I certainly don't have to be with a group of people. I think, because I've been so heavily let down by a group of people, or in my view, I would be quick to find that again in others. And I know no congregation's perfect, they're just a bunch of imperfect people trying to become perfect. You know, I wouldn't want to join a perfect one anyway, because I would make it imperfect immediately. But it's just that potential to be let down. And I think I'm just not in the right place for it. To trust.

Adrienne MacIain 16:01

Yeah. So you said, obviously, the path was not easy, still is not easy. What are the ongoing challenges for you?

Jessie Shedden 16:10

I think probably the first two for me leaving was establishing who you can and can't trust and finding friends. I mean, obviously, I've left from a situation where I had probably three people on you outside of it. And one was an osteopath, one was my dentist, a couple of counselors who I'd got to know on a local level in the government. And there was a photographer, because I was a photographer at the time, that was it. And none of those can you lean on, and you're needing support at that point in time. You know, they've got their own lives, they're not equipped to deal with somebody that's left a cult of which they know nothing about. So finding a support circle, finding people in it is still very... I think it comes home to me more when I'm talking to people who say, Oh, yeah, I knew him from school. And you're like, well, That's nice for. You know, I don't have friends that are 20, you know, I've known for 20 years, I can trust, I know their upbringings and their lives. I really don't. And as I've continued to develop myself over the last three years, many of the people I have got to know, I have decided not to surround myself with anymore, not to be in their company. Because I've learned you're not healthy. You're not what I need. So that's the first, that was probably the first thing, because it's very lonely when you're on your own with no one else around and you've come from congregation that you saw daily. And then secondly, it would be relationships. Having no experience, no training, no guidance. And I see that over and over again. I have now connected with a number of ex-members of the same cult, and over and over again they're crashing and burning, crashing and burning in their relationships.

Adrienne MacIain 18:10

Yeah. Well, relationships are hard, straight out, for anyone. But then when you didn't have any kind of healthy, balanced, give-and-take relationships to base what a relationship is on. Right?

Jessie Shedden 18:32

And this, it's so closed, it was so closed. It was like, you would have a very small amount of verbal contact beforehand, decide that, yes, you were going to be with each other. Probably get engaged, maybe, I don't know, four months after you had started to know each other. And then you'd be married, then you'd move in, the physical contact would start. And by the way, that was for life then. And you just accepted it, you sucked it up, and you did it. And it wasn't always a success. You've got domestic abuse and lots of other things that go on. But it was so different to being able to try before you buy and deciding what type of personality was right for you, and whether you particularly like their hobbies, and where they lived. You didn't have any of those options.

Adrienne MacIain 19:19

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that's, that's an arranged marriage. And arranged marriages are about property rights. And they're about family alliances. They're not about creating domestic harmony.

Jessie Shedden 19:37

No, and they're not based on love, which is a whole different relationship. Love and respect.

Adrienne MacIain 19:45

I love that you added respect.

Jessie Shedden 19:48

That was just so key for me. So you can't, my view is you cannot love somebody without respecting them. You can respect somebody without loving them, but not the other way around.

Adrienne MacIain 19:58

Yes. Yeah. Respect is a prerequisite for love. And I think so many people do not understand that and go through most of their lives not understanding that. And if I can share a personal anecdote here. So I went through a period of my life where I was making just spectacularly poor choices in my relationships, and prioritizing romantic relationships over my family relationships, and friendship relationships, and things like this. Alot of things that young people do. But I had one relationship that was incredibly important to me, which was the relationship with my adoptive sister. She was my best friend, and I, you know, we trusted each other implicitly, and she was the person who, whenever I would get broken, she would put me back together and support me through anything. Well, I put a romantic relationship above that relationship. And she said something to me at that time which just cut me to the bone. And she said, You understand love, but you don't understand respect. All of this time, I've been respecting you, but you haven't been respecting me. You love me, I believe that. But you don't respect me. And I argued with her. And I said, No, no, you've misunderstood me or my intentions or whatever, blah, blah, blah. But she was absolutely right. She was absolutely right. Because I didn't even know what respect was. I wasn't expecting it from any of my relationships, and I wasn't offering it either. Because I didn't know what it was or how to do it. And for two years, she didn't talk to me. Two years. And during those two years, it was the best thing that could have happened. Because during those two years, I broke myself down and figured out why is this happening? Why am I losing these people that actually mattered to me, and built myself up from scratch, and figured out what respect was. And so I came back to her two years later, very respectfully, apologized, offered to make amends. And she accepted. And now we're closer than ever. But I think so many people go through their lives just never having been respected. And it definitely sounds like that's what happens to you, that you were in a situation where women just aren't respected, particularly.

Jessie Shedden 22:32

Totally, totally, and I, I have to say, after, when I got started getting into these relationships, it was so painful. I mean, it was on top of having been bullied for years and trying to make a stand for myself and leaving. And then to find myself back in that position was like, I can't function. I am just not able to function, the pain is so high. And mercifully, I stumbled upon a workshop, did a couple of workshops around love, relationships, and one was called the Invitation of Love, the other one was called Balance of Power. Amazing, and I will never forget them, and they've been completely life changing. And one of the things, they allowed me to see a lot of things in relationships, but one of the major things I saw was the pattern in which I was conducting my relationships. Firstly, how I was modeling what my parents had. And I do believe they loved each other, and that they were great together, but I was, I was very much following in their footsteps. And came to see, I didn't want that. I didn't want that for myself. That wasn't the type of person I wanted as a partner, was the person my father was. And then I also came to see the pattern I was taking in them. So this outwardly confident, bubbly personality, which attracted guys like flies to a honey pot, because I was confident, which in itself is sexy, it's attractive. And then, because I had really nobody outside of them, as soon as we did that, it kind of clicked, and we were now in a relationship, I didn't want to let go of them. I wanted to do everything I could to keep them. And the low self-esteem that was underneath that bubbliness didn't take long to get impacted. And then I've just let them walk all over me so that I wouldn't lose them. And I just became this puppy dog that would just lie there and go, Do whatever you want, because I don't want to lose you, I've got no one else outside of this.

Adrienne MacIain 24:29


Jessie Shedden 24:30

And it was that kind of waking up and going, You know what, this really isn't serving me, this isn't what I want to keep doing. And there were, very fast there became two prerequisites for me in relationship. One was I wanted an assertive person, not a weak personality, because being confident I was attracting weak personalities. And then, as as absolute power corrupts absolutely, so does absolute weakness. And in my absolute weakness, these weak personalities who weren't used to having power, were becoming abusive with it. I was like, Okay, I need an assertive person that's going to meet me in the middle. I'm going to stand up for myself as well. And we're going to have that respectful kind of tension as opposed to way over one way or way over the other. So it's in the middle there. And I also wanted someone that, and I laughed but shouldn't laugh, another prerequisite was they had to have had a daughter. Well, I tend to date up quite a lot, I date up by at least 20 years. I wanted them to have had a daughter, I wanted them to have understood the pain a woman can go through, and how she needs protecting and caring for, because I had a lot of healing to do. And I needed someone who was really strong in themselves and wasn't questioning their own life and what they should be doing. Because I wasn't in a position to support that. I was doing all of that work myself in a major way. I could not support their journey at that point in time. I was desperately trying to heal so that I could become an even partner with them, and I just kept picking up all these broken people. So there was a lot of stuff I needed to look out there in a short space of time, thank goodness, because it wasn't, you know, I've gone through at least three times when I have very seriously come close to committing suicide, because it was just raw pain. And you don't want suicide, you want the pain to stop.

Adrienne MacIain 26:28

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So, those workshops sound amazing, and like they really helped you recognize some important patterns. What self-work did you do after that, to kind of create a basis for self respect and self love? Bcause I know that that's, again, a prerequisite for being in a relationship with anyone else.

Jessie Shedden 26:53

A healthy relationship. I think one of the things I've done and continued to do is to be very protective of my energy. I am a giver. I'm an empath, too. And takers turn up in flocks when they see that.

Adrienne MacIain 27:09

They sure do.

Jessie Shedden 27:11

And you just have to know it's not bad to have boundaries. It's not bad to protect yourself. And I still feel like I walk away from a lot of people, and I'm sure I actually don't. I'm sure that I just walked away from a healthy amount of people that weren't supposed to be around. But it still feels like a lot when you're an empath and that you have been a people pleaser. And actually, you spoke about your sister earlier, and I've had, I mean, as I've said to you, my friendships are really new, they're still taking roots. But I had a friend who went through a lot of these relationships, went through at least at least one of the courses with me and then stayed around. We went through similar patterns in our relationships, and then she just disappeared this year. And that kind of hurt. I was like, Wow, you just walked away, and I would have supported you. And looking back, I'm like, thankfull she did. Because my journey's gone on. I'm in a very stable and happy relationship now, happily engaged to a complete soulmate.

Adrienne MacIain 28:11

Congratulations. Wonderful, wonderful.

Jessie Shedden 28:12

So pleased, so lucky, so happy. Genuinely am. But hers hasn't. She's still stuck in the same place. And not only would that pull the traction back, but I also believe me stepping out and not being that prop will make her face our own work much like you did.

Adrienne MacIain 28:31

Absolutely. One of the things I have learned over and over is that if you are taking pain away from someone, you are taking power away from that person, because pain can be powerful. Facing your pain is your greatest teacher. And so if you're buffering someone from that pain, you are taking away from them the opportunity to learn and grow and change.

Jessie Shedden 28:55

Yes, yes, yes. And I've seen that with other friendships. I've had, I used to have a lot of male friends, because I just didn't seem to, I don't know, I just didn't really seem to find, growing up, my interests were similar to the women in there. Obviously, that's why I've left. So I guess that's why I gravitated towards the men. And having left some of the male friendships I've developed, I'd be I'd be up till all hours taking calls from them when they were suicidal, or they had problems, or they were having constant cycles with exes. And I'd like, You come you dump all this at my door. And then you go back into it because you've had your pain relief. You've had your pain relief, and you're not sorting it, you're just dumping it. And in the meantime, I'm ruining some of my relationships, because I'm spending all this time taking care of you. The kindest thing I could do is to walk away from providing that painkiller so that you wake up and figure out what you need to get your shit together.

Adrienne MacIain 29:19

100%. So everyone out there listening, you know when that's happening, right? You know when that's happening, when someone's using you as a pain relief balm. Stop doing that. Honestly, the kindest thing you can do for that person is just to stop being that for them. I promise. So, let's switch gears here. We're at about the point where I usually do this. So I'm gonna do a little exercise with you, if you don't mind. So you can close your eyes or open them, however you feel most comfortable, but I want you I'm going to wave my little magic wand here. Okay. I have just made all your wishes come true. Everything that you desire on a deep soul level has just come to pass. And so I just want you to look around your life as it is right now in this ideal space. See what you see. Hear what you hear. Smell what you smell. Taste what you taste. And just describe for me what this perfect life is like.

Jessie Shedden 31:06

It smells of country. Smells of space and fresh air. And peace. Tranquility. But there's a high vibe to it. It's busy, but relaxed, if that makes sense. There is plenty going on, but not overwhelming.

Adrienne MacIain 31:57

Yeah. What can you feel?

Jessie Shedden 32:04

Earthy textures, so wood and stone.

Adrienne MacIain 32:09

Is the stone cool or warm?

Jessie Shedden 32:12

Warm, but smooth. And there's a lot of light.

Adrienne MacIain 32:21

Do you hear anything?

Jessie Shedden 32:24

Nature. There's birds, and there's obviously my chickens.

Adrienne MacIain 32:32


Jessie Shedden 32:37

There's the sound of loving voices.

Adrienne MacIain 32:45

What's bringing you meaning in this space?

Jessie Shedden 32:52

Can you rephrase that?

Adrienne MacIain 32:54

Absolutely. Is there something that you do in this ideal life that really brings you a feeling of meaning and purpose?

Jessie Shedden 33:16

I don't know that this really answers your question, but I feel like the most important thing is that I feel a sense of just being, rather than having to be productive.

Adrienne MacIain 33:34

Yep. So I want you to picture for a moment that there's someone here in this space that looks up to you. Now that could be a child or it could be someone else, but this person really looks up to you. And they see you just being, and just being content. I want you to see them kind of getting that and tell me what that feels like for you. Having that example of you just being.

Jessie Shedden 34:14

Just incredibly fulfilling. I just feel like it fills me up.

Adrienne MacIain 34:17


Jessie Shedden 34:23

Yeah, I just... I can't... like I just kind of fill out, if you know what mean, like you blow up a balloon. Just fulfilling like, that's the only way I can put it.

Adrienne MacIain 34:35

Yeah, feel your energy, just filling that space, just filling that space with your content. And it's seeping into everything and everyone else in that space. Is there anything else you want to share about it?

Jessie Shedden 35:18

I think it adds... does it add meaning? It improves the quality of my relationship even more.

Adrienne MacIain 35:26

Mm hmm. I want you to take a moment and see your partner in this space. And just feel, like you said, that deepening of this relationship, in this space of calm, and peace, and balance. So now I want you to think back, you're looking back into your memory from this space. What had to happen for this to be possible? Did anything need to change from what you're doing now so that this space, this life could be?

Jessie Shedden 36:33

My initial reaction is absolutely, but I can't tell you what. So I need to do some digging.

Adrienne MacIain 36:38

And that's fair. That's absolutely fair. So my, I guess, homework for you, or suggestion is that you find something that can bring you back into this space. And sometimes it's an image, sometimes it's a sound, or a piece of music. Sometimes it's a texture, like that warm stone that you talked about. But find something that helps to put you into this space, and just stay there for a little while every day, creating this feeling for yourself. And keep trying to look back and just see what the path was. And anything, any routines that needed to be set, any commitments that needed to be made in order for this to be possible for you.

Jessie Shedden 37:41

That really crystallizes the journey. The ladder, as it were. Wow.

Adrienne MacIain 37:53

That is my gift to you.

Jessie Shedden 37:56

That's, that's priceless. That's really priceless. That...

Adrienne MacIain 38:03

Thank you.

Jessie Shedden 38:05

Yeah, I can, I can just literally see the ladder. And I'm like, I just want to know what those rungs, what the labels are on those rungs.

Adrienne MacIain 38:12

Yeah, it'll come to you.

Jessie Shedden 38:15

Mm hmm.

Adrienne MacIain 38:16

And sometimes it's just being open to that energy and allowing yourself to shift a little bit over here, a little bit over there. Seeing opportunities and going through doors. It doesn't have to be a specific path, it's just having that destination can really help your energy align to it.

Jessie Shedden 38:40

Hmm, I'm definitely gonna be listening to this back.

Adrienne MacIain 38:44

Good. Good. So what I do is I have a little slideshow that I watch every morning, it's just 15 seconds long. But it's just a few images and a little song, and that just really puts me emotionally in that space of where I want to be. And it changes. I put in different images sometimes. But it it really helps set the tone for my day, and to remind me that I don't actually physically have to be in that space to have those emotions. I can do that right now. I can start feeling those feelings immediately.

Jessie Shedden 39:28

Very true. Very true. And this I will know, a lot of this I know. And it's like, it's actually having it and getting it and doing it.

Adrienne MacIain 39:36

Yeah. Yeah, there's knowing and then there's feeling.

Jessie Shedden 39:43

Yes, yes. And acting on it. And I feel like you just gave a window, like a portal, and I'm only quiet for once because I'm really thinking. Not because I'm not interested, I'm just really thinking.

Adrienne MacIain 40:03

I love that. I'm gonna leave this in, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna cut this down because I want people listening to have that breathing space too. To really think about this for themselves too. So take your time.

Jessie Shedden 40:19

I want, yeah, I'm definitely, I need to go back to that place you took me to and just walk through those steps, as in the questions you're asking. Because I really want to know more. Like I feel, obviously, because I've been doing a lot of healing, I feel like there's more I need to let go of in order to reach where I want to reach. And yet I feel like I'm, in some ways, holding so tightly to things that aren't helping.

Adrienne MacIain 40:47

It's amazing how tightly we hold on to things that are holding us down. We just hold on to those stones that weigh us down, don't we?

Jessie Shedden 40:59

Yeah. And I'm like, I just want to know what it is I need to let go off because I wouldn't want to, you know, I'd want to let go them as quick as I could.

Adrienne MacIain 41:09

Yeah. A beautiful meditation that I was taken through recently, by a guy, Daniel Bruce Levin, he's wonderful, you should look up his book, 'The Mosaic.' But he did this wonderful meditation called the Trash Man meditation. And he has this character in his book of the Trash Man, and how we we overlook this man who is so important, and takes away all these things that we don't want anymore, and that would be gumming up our space and causing problems if it was still here, right?

Jessie Shedden 41:40


Adrienne MacIain 41:41

And so it's this beautiful meditation of giving everything to the Trash Man. Just let him have it, take, you know, and giving him things that we think we need. Giving him everything we think we are, every story that we think defines us. Everything, just give it to the Trash Man and be in the void for a moment. Have nothing and realize, Wait, I'm okay. I'm okay, I didn't need any of that stuff. And then ask the universe to fill you with what is really yours. What is yours and cannot be taken from you. And it's a very powerful experience. So that's another one that you can try.

Jessie Shedden 42:33

We get in our own way.

Adrienne MacIain 42:35

So that's all we do. We are our own worst enemies.

Jessie Shedden 42:38

And I feel like I'm doing it right now. Right now, at this time, I feel like I'm doing in the biggest way possible. And it's doing my head in, if I'm honest. And I'm like, But I can't see around it. And it's just like, if I could only get out of my own way I'd be able to see past myself. And it's just...

Adrienne MacIain 42:38

Absolutely. Yeah. Well, I'd love to work with you some more but we're almost out of time here. So please tell the lovely people at home where they can find you.