Cults, pt 1
You may have seen that I have some expertise in cults — I also have some personal experience. In the past several months, it has become clear that a lot of folks are currently experiencing the negative impact cults and fundamentalist groups can have, so I have decided to publish a document that I hope is useful and helpful both to ex cult members and to the counselors working to support them.
Here’s what we’re going to cover over the next few weeks:
Who Gets Involved in Cults and Why?
Being in a Cult
Singer’s 6 Conditions
Lifton’s 8 Themes
Demand for Purity
Loading the Language
Doctrine Over Person
Dispensing of Existence
Leaving the Cult
How People Leave
Medical and Health Care Concerns
Difficulties Seeking Help
Undoing Thought and Emotion Control
Undoing Behavior and Information Control
Floating and Dissociation
Grief, Feelings of Loss and Betrayal
Self-Esteem and Defining One’s Own Beliefs
Practical Difficulties Re-Entering Society
Special Considerations for Children of Cults
Groups for Recovering Ex-Cultists
I will define and describe cults of various types – philosophical, psychological/therapy, spiritual, political, abusive one-on-one relationships, and more. Then we’ll explore issues of cult recruitment and particularly vulnerable populations, as well as look at examples of what life inside cults might be like and how cult members might leave the cult. I’ll use Robert Jay Lifton’s eight themes to discuss the mind control and thought reform techniques cults employ. I’ll describe the resulting issues for ex-cultists and offer suggestions of therapeutic approaches for psychotherapists working with ex-cult members, including: issues of sexual abuse and sexual development; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); grief; medical and healthcare concerns; and self-esteem.