I'm glad you posted about this. Don't be hard on yourself. I'm glad you left. I'm glad you got your refund.
Don't kid yourself, it is a cult. Lots of cults are more new age-y, probably just as many as fundamentalist bible based cults. Probably more. Berating someone or humiliating someone for their personal growth is trademark cult. (I think it was a big tactic used by Jim Jones). And you were only there for two days!!!
I don't like posting about my life but I grew up in a cult that my parents joined in their early 20's. The constant non-stop emphasis on "self-examination" and "growth" other ridiculous navel-gazing to the point of insanity would really start to make me feel like I was going to lose my mind some days. It was considered totally acceptable to pick someone apart in the most bullying way as long as it could be couched in silly pop psychology terms. Looking back now I can almost laugh at some of it because its all so absurd (like your example of when you arrived. wtf?) My own parents wouldn't stand up for me because this kind of treatment was considered good, not bad. It was like crazytown oppositeland. Needless to say we're pretty close to estranged.
And just to be clear there is no goal to "help the group" it's all either about money or someone who enjoys flexing their power over others because of some personality disorder.
When I was 17 I left. When I was 18 I started a job at a strip club after a rent check bounced. I was so happy just to live a life where I could work, buy things I wanted, go out when I wanted and not think all these crazy thoughts about my motives behind it all. I just did what I wanted to do. I didn't have to wring my hands and introspect about why I bought an eyeshadow I didn't really need but just wanted, or told my friend Chloe I wasn't feeling well when the truth was I just didn't feel like going out.
I still talk to my parents on the phone sometimes but I don't see them. In all honesty, I let their calls go through to VM about 80% of the time because I just have no respect for them, and I hate talking to them, and it puts me in a bad mood. I don't know what I'm going to do when I have children in regards to if they can have a relationship there. I've brought it up with my therapist.
To clarify, these weekend growth seminar things are recruiting for the cult. They will retain a certain percentage of attendees who are interested in finding out more and attending more events and eventually wind up all in.
And also, IL, anyone who finds that kind of thing an awesome experience is a total idiot. But I suspect those testimonials are fake. You know, it's just the internet....
You are an intelligent woman.