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Glenn Close reflects on 'really awful' upbringing with her family in religious cult

The legendary actor reflected on how 15 years of living in what she called "a cult" in her youth has affected her close relationships to this day.
/ Source: TODAY

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Glenn Close has opened up about how 15 years of living in what she describes as "a cult" in her youth continues to affect her personal relationships more than 50 years after she left the group.

The legendary actor shares her experiences in the newly released Apple TV+ docuseries by Prince Harry and Oprah Winfrey called "The Me You Can't See," which focuses on mental health issues and awareness.

Close, 74, describes living from when she was 7 until she was 22 as part of a group called Moral Re-Armament (MRA), which she says was "basically a cult." Her parents joined the movement, which was first developed in the early 1920s by an American minister who started "a worldwide evangelistic campaign based on God’s guidance, moral absolutes, and the 'life-changing' of individuals through personal work," according to Encyclopedia Britannica. In 1938, the group took on the Moral Re-Armament name.

"Everybody spouted the same things, and there was a lot of rules — a lot of control," Close said in the docuseries. "Because of how we were raised, anything that you thought you would do for yourself was considered selfish."

Her parents never took the family on vacations, and Close said there was no "collective memory" of anything other than being part of MRA.

"It was really awful," she said. "We were so broken up. It's astounding that something you went through at such an early stage in your life still has such a potential to be destructive. I think that's childhood trauma."

Close also spoke about her time in MRA on the "WTF with Marc Maron" podcast in November, sharing how she realized while as a student at the College of William & Mary that she wanted to leave the group.

"I felt like there was a stamp on my forehead," she said on the podcast. "And I felt a sense of terrible shame. It wasn't my fault. But I felt terrible shame, and it really wreaked havoc with me and my siblings. ... It's devastating to go through something like that when you're that young."

Close has been divorced three times and feels the lifelong effects of her time in MRA may have something to do with her personal struggles despite all her professional success. She said she's avoided situations of vulnerability in relationships due to her experience in MRA.

"Because of the devastation, emotional and psychological, of the cult, I have not been successful in my relationships and finding a permanent partner, and I'm sorry about that," she said on the Apple TV+ series. "I think it's our natural state to be connected like that."

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However, she has strengthened the connection with her family. She is now living in Montana with her two sisters, Tina Close and Jessie Close, and their families.

"Here I am at this point in my life after 45 years of being an actress getting comfort and companionship on a regular basis from my family," she said. "I've come home to them."

"That for me has psychologically grounded me in very important ways," she added.


Her sister Jessie, who is also featured in the show, was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder with psychotic tendencies at 50, according to Close. She was hospitalized after asking Close for help because she had persistent thoughts of suicide.

Jessie has since gone on medication and says that she is "quite steady now" and no longer has psychotic thoughts.

"It's not fun having a voice in your head telling you you need to commit suicide all the time," she said on the show.

Jessie's son, Calen Pick, 38, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 18, so mental health issues have been a recurring part of their family's story.

"This issue, if it's in our family, and if we're dealing with this kind of pain and this kind of fright and this kind of sense of shame, there are millions of other families who are going through the same thing," Glenn Close said. "My story is fully realized when I'm with my family. People die without connection, that's how we're wired."