persecution complex and isolation

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Persecution complex is a term given to an array of psychologically-complex behaviors that specifically deal with the perception of being persecuted, for various possible reasons, imagined or real. Its common for unhinged abusive cult leaders to instill a persecution complex in the minds of their followers. They train them to think that the world misunderstands them, even hates them. They cultivate a a sense of us vs them, which pushes them to isolate from the world.

The founder of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Herbert W. Armstrong, preached coming persecution to his followers, frightening them with visions of an impending crackdown on their church, like what happened to the Branch Davidians. Lila (Deborah) and Jim Green preached this too, way before David Koresh. The day’s coming! They will persecute us! The government will raid us with guns! I remember how scared I was.

“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,‘ 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.”

Silenced. Cult Spottingthe International Cult Studies Association

“…there is a sense, spoken and unspoken, that others will not understand what we’re all about. There’s an assumption that (1) what we say, know or do is a result of being more enlightened (special, among the elite, chosen by god ), (2) others will not understand unless they become one of us (other people don’t know God); (3) others will respond negatively (they’ll criticize us, try to hold us accountable).

In a place where authority is legislated, persecution sensitivity builds a case for keeping everything within the system. Why? Because of the evil, dangerous, or unspiritual people outside the system who are trying to weaken or destroy us. This mentality builds a strong wall or bunker around the abusive system, isolates the abusers from scrutiny and accountability, and makes it more difficult for people to leave.”

—David Johnson, Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse