Cult basics: Characteristics of cults.

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Following is a list of social, psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns that are common within cult settings. This list was developed by  Michael Landgone, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist, and ICSA’s Executive Director. Thank you Dr. Landgone.

1. The cultic group displays an excessive, zealous, unquestioning commitment to its leader, and regards his or her beliefs and practices to be the truth, the law, the way.

2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged, and sometimes punished.

3. Mind-altering practices (e.g., meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

4. The leader(s) dictate, sometimes to great detail, what and how members should think, act and feel.

5. The group is elitist, claiming a special, superior, or exalted status. They’re on a mission to save something, the world maybe.

6. Cultic groups have an “us-vs-them” mentality.

7. The leader is accountable to no one, to no human, to no governing authority.

8. The leaders teach—or imply by their actions—that the “noble end” justifies the means—whatever it takes for their truth to prevail (e.g. falsifying, lying, deceit).

9. The leadership creates feelings of shame and guilt in its members in order to manipulate and control them.

10. Subservience to the leader(s) often leads to cutting family ties, ties with friends, teachers, and to putting personal dreams or goals aside to become one of them, one of the elite.

11. The group is preoccupied with recruiting new members, or making more money.

12. Members give inordinate amounts of time to serving the group, the group’s god, or attending group-activities.

13. Members are encouraged or required to live with or to socialize with only group members. A lot of group members believe that there is no other way, there is no life outside the group. Mostly they’re afraid for themselves or for others on the inside if they should leave, or even think of leaving.

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Again, Deborah (Lila) Green on cults

Short. 1:35 minutes

Leaving the Fold

An outstanding book for anyone questioning or leaving their faith.

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This book by psychologist Marlene Winell provides valuable insights into the dangers of religious indoctrination and outlines what therapists and victims can do to reclaim a healthier human spirit…. Both former believers searching for a new beginning and those just starting to subject their faith to the requirements of simple common sense, if not analytical reason, may find valuable assistance in these pages.”

Steve Allen, author and entertainer

being bamboozled

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regarding narcissism

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It’s amusing to me how this woman, Lila, AKA Deborah Green, self-proclaimed “Prophet of God,” and “General of His end-day army,” calls ME a narcissist. 

To understand Narcissism, let’s look up NPD, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD, 301.81) is described as a mental disorder with a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration or adulation, and a lack of empathy for others.

Five or more of the following criteria must be met for diagnosis. Quotes are from Dr. Sam Vaknin’s, Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited.

1. Feels grandiose and self-important.

The narcissist is prone to magical thinking. He thinks about himself in terms of ‘being chosen’… . He believes that his life is of such momentous importance, that it is micro-managed by God. Narcissism and religion go well together, because religion allows the narcissist to feel unique. God is everything the narcissist ever wants to be: omniscient, omnipresent, admired… .

2. Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance.

The narcissist is haunted by the feeling that he is possessed of a mission, of a destiny, that he is a part of fate, of history. He is convinced that his uniqueness is purposeful, that he is meant to lead, chart new ways, to reform… . He feels part of a grand design, a world plan and the fame of affiliation, the group of which he is a member [or leader], must be commensurate grand.

3. Is firmly convinced that he or she is special, and can only be understood by, or associate with, other special or high status people.

4. Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation.

A common error is to think that ‘narcissistic supply’ consists only of admiration, adulation and positive feedback. Actually, being feared, or derided is also supply. The main element is ATTENTION.

He feeds off other people, who hurl back at him the image that he projects to them. This is their [ the other people’s] sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest… .” In short, the group must magnify the narcissist, echo and amplify his life, his views, his history… .”

5. Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment.

“He considers his very existence as sufficiently nourishing and sustaining [of others]. He feels entitled to the best others can offer without investing in maintaining relationships or in catering to the well-being of his “suppliers.”

6. Is interpersonally exploitative; uses others to achieve his or her own ends;

He will not hesitate to put other people’s lives at risk. He will preserve his sense of infallibility in the face of his mistakes and misjudgments by distorting the facts, by evoking mitigating or attenuating circumstances, by repressing memories, or simply lying.”

7. Is devoid of empathy.

“… the narcissist does not care. Unable to empathize, he does not fully experience the outcome of his deeds and decisions. For him humans are dispensable, rechargeable, reusable. They are there to fulfill a function: to supply him with Narcissistic Supply (adoration, admiration, approval, affirmation, etc.). They [other people] have no existence apart from carrying out their duty.

8. Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her.

9. Have arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.

That which has cosmic implications calls for cosmic reactions. A person with an inflated sense of self-importance, reacts in an exaggerated manner to threats, greatly inflated by his imagination and by the application of his personal myth. Narcissists live in a state of constant rage, repressed aggression, envy and hatred. As a result, they are paranoid, suspicious, scared and erratic.”

NPD is a pernicious, vile and tortuous disease, which affects not only the narcissist. It affects and forever changes people who are in daily contact with the narcissist.”

“Sooner, or later, everyone around the narcissist is bound to become his victim. People are sucked, voluntarily or involuntarily, into the turbulence that constitutes his life, into the black hole that is his personality, into the whirlwind which makes up his interpersonal relationships. Different people are hurt by different aspects of the narcissist’s life and psychological make-up. Some trust him and rely on him, only to be bitterly disappointed. Others love him and discover that he cannot reciprocate. Yet others are forced to live vicariously, through him.”

Sources: (click on links below to learn more)

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Malignant Self Love: the narcissist bible. 

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Freedom of Mind: book

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Another book by Steven HassanAvailable through Amazon Prime:

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 11.24.07 AMJust now purchased this on my kindle (along with a lot of other books). If it’s anything like another book of Hassan’s I’ve read, Releasing the Bonds, then it’s going to be good.

 

isolation and disconnection from family

Many cults expressly forbid its members from being in contact with friends and family outside the fold. The most widely-known example is the Church of Scientology’s Disconnection Policy where members are forced to sever ties with anyone the church deems antagonistic or an enemy.  This is enforced to reduce the threat of its members encountering dissenting opinions against their faith and the organization.

WCG (Worldwide Church of God) had similar policies during the height of its power. Church members who left the fold were seen as “doomed to the Lake of Fire” for “knowing the truth but rejecting it.” Ex-members were seen as irredeemable and therefore their friends and family in the church were instructed to shun them.

PCG (Philadelphia Church of God) has an active “no contact” policy, where any friends, family members and especially those in other COG cults are seen as interlopers and bad influences. The followers of Gerald Flurry are infamous for falling silent after joining PCG and often are not heard from again for years.

This is a sword that cuts two ways, as PCG’s intolerance of “Satanic influences,” meaning outsiders, often leads to witch hunts against perceived dissenters.

These policies cause cults to remain small, isolated and intolerant communities with members disconnected from their external support networks.”

http://silenced.co/2012/01/cultspotting-6-is-your-church-isolationist/

 

persecution and isolation

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 Persecution Complex

The ICSA (International Cult Studies Association) outlines ways to identify and characterize a cult, and speaks at length about isolationism and its effects on members.

Many cults have instilled an active persecution complex in the minds of their members. They have been trained to believe the world hates, fears and misunderstands them. This often results in cults isolating themselves from the outside world. The leader cultivates, and the cult maintains, a sense of “outside” persecution.

Herbert W. Armstrong taught WCG would be persecuted, and even set dates for when that persecution would begin relating to his 1975 apocalyptic predictions. Armstrong and his acolytes kept Chruch of God members frightened and constantly looking toward an impending crackdown on their church, similar to the massacre in Waco, Texas in 1993 when their spiritual cousins the Branch Davidians were besieged by federal agents.

Incidents such as these and the constant drumbeat that “secular, godless liberals” are destroying society creates a cohesion of fear where members band together and tend to socialize internally to the exclusion of the outside world. Members are taught to believe everything that happens in the world they disagree with is an affront to their beliefs and values, and thus a direct threat to their community.

This also takes the form of “mean world syndrome,” a term coined by communications professor George Gerber to describe the ways people believe the world is more dangerous than it actually is, based on mass media portrayals. Cults tend to feed upon this phenomenon by convincing their members the world is a harsh and dangerous place that will erode their values. People outside the cult are viewed as “sinners,” bad influences who will drag them down and threaten their salvation or enlightenment.

This paranoia only fuels cult isolationism.”

from Silenced. Cult Spotting

understanding mind control

I got a lot out of this book—Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, by a leading cult counselor, Steve Hassan.

Below are Hassen’s outlines delineating his BITE model which evolved out of Leon Festinger’s theory of  cognitive dissonance. As an ex-cult member, I whole-heartedly appreciate Hassan for his research, his publications, his talks—-all his work that helps us to understand how mind control works. We’d do well to teach our kids about this subject—to give them this tool of awareness. Someday they may need it.

IMG_5141IMG_5149 IMG_5157 IMG_5163 IMG_5165Yes, I mark my books up a lot. It’s how I learn. And yes, EVERY category of this model–behavior Control, Information Control, Thought Control and Emotional Control—are true of the cult I came out of, true of ACMTC, and what’s highlighted with red pencil is particularly spot on!

Thank you Steven Hassan for this great tool for understanding!

primary control mechanisms of cults

Sensory deprivation (especially sleep); the severing of all familiar social support systems (old friends, family, former church ties); removal to a highly structured environment where all aspects of one’s life are controlled; indoctrination by a exclusivistic group possessing “the truth;” limited access to outside stimulation; diminished ability to think for oneself; the use of fear and intimidation—these are the ties that bind the spirit and cripple the mind.

The lure of the Cults, by Ronald Enroth

Generals Jim and Deborah Green employ all of these methods!