Welcome to OBSESSED, in which I provide you a reading list / media consumption list that speaks to my primary hobby: doing obsessive amounts of research into a singular topic or story for no reason. This week I finished the Freeform documentary “The Deep End” about Teal Swan, a dangerous spiritual guru with a massive following.
Who is Teal Swan?
Teal Swan sells herself as a “spiritual catalyst” with unique gifts that enable her to help people move through suicidality, uncover and process past trauma and heal their psychic pain. Since 2011, she’s been attracting followers through her YouTube channel and websites, gaming SEO to make her the number-one hit for topics like “should I kill myself?” She’s designed her internet presence so impeccably that it takes an unusually long time to find information on Teal Swan that isn’t from Teal Swan herself.
Refinery29 describes her as “a tall, Amazonian woman with piercing blue eyes and long, dark hair, is a well-spoken wellness guru for the Goop generation.”
She describes herself as an “International Speaker, Best-Selling Author and survivor of severe childhood abuse.”
Teal Swan believes she is the smartest person in the world and a “medical savant” who can see your food digesting through your skin. She identifies as a multi-dimensional Arcturian alien. She grew up in Utah, knew she had special gifts from a young age, and claims to have spent 13 years in a Satanic Cult but also somehow allegedly spent those same years working as a highly successful international runway model in locations including Fiji and Milan, although no evidence exists that she ever modeled professionally (or was in a Satanic cult).
She claims that her childhood mentor, who she describes a sociopath with multiple personalities, sewed her into a human corpse for 12 hours, an act he followed up with eating the dead man’s thigh muscle. He also forced her to lure immigrants over the border for ritual child sacrifices, although none of these alleged murders were ever reported.
She has referred to death as a “reset button,” encourages suicidal people to visualize their own deaths, and insists suicide hotlines and mainstream medicine lack the tools she uniquely possesses to help suicidal people.
Teal Swan has 1.25 million followers on YouTube, over 607,000 on Instagram, and 771,000 on TikTok. She has published five books of non-fiction and one novel. She hosts speaking engagements all over the world, such as her signature Synchronization Workshops, where for $99.99 you can “connect with yourself on a deep level and expand out of your comfort zones towards new horizons.” She hosts week-long $5k “Curveball retreats” in Costa Rica where Teal Swan will personally show you the truth about yourself and your life. She will also bully you if you challenge her or ask questions she doesn’t want to answer! She sells meditations and e-courses online, as well as a plethora of merchandise, much of it featuring her objectively visually offensive “frequency paintings.”
The core of her practice is a “Completion Process,” an 18-step visualization that walks you through an emotional trigger towards an early memory, enabling you to resolve your unmet childhood needs trough the mental visualization of resolution and awareness through an adult perspective. This process controversially involves, often, summoning the dead to resolve past trauma or “uncovering” buried trauma. Which brings us to…
Teal Swan and Satanic Ritual Abuse
Some of the childhood abuse Teal says she experienced was Satanic Ritual Abuse, repressed memories she uncovered while working with therapist Barbara Snow, a central figure in the Satanic Panic of the 80s. Snow has been accused of employing scientifically unsound techniques to inspire children to testify they’d experienced Satanic Ritual Abuse and popularizing the concept, a situation that lead to the wrongful imprisonment of many (like these four Latina lesbians in Texas). To add insult to injury, the fact that doctors like Snow were found to have summoned false memories through questionable practices (like offering children candy to agree they’d experienced certain things) has since been weaponized by people attempting to discredit survivor’s true allegations of abuse when their memories of what happened aren’t crystal-clear.
This article from Vox talks about how the Satanic Panic never really ended and is now being re-invigorated through various QAnon conspiracy theories.
One thing is for certain: investigating repressed memories of abuse is an undertaking that requires extensive education and care, but Teal Swan has no professional background or education in psychology. She often tells people she just met that she can sense they’re burying specific traumatic memories, and then subjects them to the Completion Process to address them. She also certifies Teal Tribe members to orchestrate the Completion Process themselves! It’s very reckless!
Freeform’s “Deep End” Documentary Exposes Teal Swan as a Manipulative Monster
Although I doubt Teal Swan’s ability to safely and carefully restore memories of traumatic abuse, “The Deep End” solidified her ability to trigger memories of emotional abuse in me personally. Teal Swan is simply such a manipulative narcissist that I felt second-hand emotional terror just bearing witness to it.
Teal Swan’s team, supporters and followers worship her, desperately seeking her approval and attention. That includes Blake, the Teal Swan LLC Operations Manager who she dated when she was 19 and has considered her “safe place” ever since. He’s dedicated his entire life to spreading the good word of Teal Swan’s high vibrational frequency, but as the docuseries begins, Teal’s feeling threatened by his new relationship with Juliana, another Teal fan who left her perfectly lovely family in Germany to be with Blake.
In Episode Two, Teal informs Blake that their relationship will be a problem if Juliana ever has “a truth that opposes [Teal’s] in any way,” and tells them both they’re prohibited from traveling to meet Juliana’s family unless it’s somehow business-adjacent. In the final episode, Teal brings Juliana to some kind of demented team meeting to publicly shame her for bristling against some of Teal’s behavior. Teal calls Juliana an adversary, and asserts that it’s a contradiction for Julianna to value Teal’s work and also criticize it — because with Teal, you either pledge undying and unquestioning loyalty to her every thought and plagiarized quote, or you are an adversary. You can watch this entire scene here.
Later, Blake and Julianna are packing to leave, and Teal pulls out all the stops to stop him from getting the hell out of there. She seethes that he promised her that they’d do “this” together forever. (“This” = whatever Teal wants with no regard for his personhood.) Getting no reaction, she digs the knife in further. “I think you’re weak,” she says. She continues that he lacks bravery and honor, and will not achieve greatness on his weak path. She calls him a “fucking absolute loser.” Everything he’s given her for 18 years is nothing, now. It’s classic splitting. Crying, he manages a “love you,” which she refuses to return. You can watch this entire scene here.
Also in this episode, you can find Teal gaslighting the private investigator she hired to determine if Teal Swan’s group could be accurately described as a cult. This is typical, she generally says what works in the moment with little concern that she’ll ever be held accountable for it in a different moment.
She then assembles her team, post-Blake-departure, to further cement their commitment to her by signing a pledge. They need to “keep her safe” by agreeing only have partners who are enchanted by Teal (although she’d prefer they don’t have partners at all) and promising to never have children. (Teal herself has been married three times and has a son.) You can watch that scene here, it starts about halfway through.
Podcasts About Teal Swan
The Gateway (Gizmodo Podcast) – My introduction to this batshit universe happened with this podcast in 2018. In six parts, journalist Jennings Brown travels to Utah and to her retreat center in Costa Rica, talking to Teal, her followers, her detractors, and going through the “completion process” himself. A main focus of the podcast is Teal’s controversial views on death.
Conspirituality: Traumatic Influence – Beginning at around the 48 minute mark, they get into Teal Swan’s “suicide-teasing trauma psuedo-therapy,” Barbara Snow and Satanic Ritual Abuse.
A Little Bit Culty: A Little Bit Culty: Bigger Than The Pope – Jennings Brown on Teal Swan & The Fellowship of Friends (Part One) – Jennings Brown on Teal Swan – This podcast is about cults and is hosted by two former NXIVM members who are now married! They talk to Jennings Brown about Teal Swan and make a lot of interesting parallels. This also came out while the documentary was airing.
Oh No Ross and Carrie: Ross and Carrie Synchronize With Teal Swan (Part One) – This is definitely the most light-hearted approach to the topic if you don’t wanna get too dark! There’s lots of jokes, particularly about her art, and Ross and Carrie take a funny little journey to a Synchronization Workshop in Los Angeles.
Reality Life: The Deep End – Teal Swan Docuseries Director Jon Kasbe and Sarah Edmonson (of A Little Bit Culty) talk to show host about Teal’s practices and persona.
Cult Faves: The Regina George of Cults – This one I’ve not listened to yet, but I did read the article that came with it!
Testimony From People Who Knew Teal Swan
Growing Up With Teal Swan: Okay this is um, four hours long, but — Diana Hansen Ribera grew up with Teal Swan and was one of her only friends through childhood and adolescence. (Warning: there is some discussion around the 30-33 mark of Diana not seeing any “physical evidence” of Teal’s abuse. Many abuse victims show no external signs so these claims are irrelevant.) Her insights and memories are revealing, and as a passionate debunker of fantastical tales, I appreciated her getting into some of the seemingly minor technicalities that invalidate many of Teal’s stories. Diana also struggled with self-harm, suicidality and an eating disorder as a pre-teen and teen — all situations that Teal herself began experiencing shortly after Diana did. The podcast host said one thing that really stuck with me:
“Between the fact that her mission is the most important thing on the earth and the fact that she’s been through so much trauma and pain, there’s no space for anybody else’s emotions or opinions or feelings or thoughts.”
An conversation between Cameron Clark and “Doc”– So Cameron Clark, a former member of Teal’s inner circle, and writer John Anderson, tracked down the family friend Teal has accused of abuse and being the leader of a Mormon Satanic Cult, and had a very long conversation with him. Honestly, I don’t trust this man entirely so I hesitated to even include this here, but… it was an incredibly interesting conversation, the most captivating thing I read about Teal. YMMV. It’s a really long post that also includes eventually a debunking of Teal’s claims about her career as a potential Olympic skiier, confirmed by the President of the US National Telemark Ski Association president.
Leaving Mormonism to Join Teal Swan’s Cult – Jared Dobson, an ex-boyfriend of Teal Swan, talks about his experience joining her cult, falling in love with her, and finally leaving the Teal Tribe.
Teal Swan Miscellany
Teal Swan, a glam guru for the YouTube Age with controversial views on death – A summary of who Teal is, released around the same time of the podcast.
Teal Swan Doesn’t Get It & Other Problems – A deconstruction of her views on suicide.
I Think About This a Lot: The Beauty Habits of This Possible Cult Leader – “I Googled Teal Swan, and discovered that she is a stone-cold hottie with perfect skin. This still didn’t explain anything, but I did find myself wondering how she gets her skin so good.”
Teal Swan’s Model Mayhem Profile is a real journey!
Swan vs. Associated Newspapers – Her lawsuit against The Daily Mail. They settled out of court for The Daily Mail to agree to take down the article.
Teal Swan Exposed – An entire blog trying to expose Teal Swan.