Cults? In my life? It’s more likely than you think.
In my last post, I talked about how the Law of Attraction and Christian prosperity gospel both use the same thought control techniques as cults. I’ve received several public and private replies to that post: some expressing contempt for “sheeple” who can be lead astray by cults, and others who say my post made them scared that they might be part of a cult without knowing it.
I want to address both of those types of replies in this post. I want to talk about what a cult really looks like, and how you can know if you’re dealing with one.
If you type the word “cult” into Google Images, it will bring up lots of photos of people with long hair, wearing all white, with their hands raised in an expression of ecstasy.
Most modern cults do not look anything like this.
Modern cultists look a lot like everyone else. One of the primary goals of most cults is recruitment, and it’s hard to get people to join your cause if they think you and your group are all Kool-Aid-drinking weirdos. The cults that last are the ones that manage to convince people that they’re just like everyone else — a little weird maybe, but certainly not dangerous.
In the book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, author Jeff Guinn says, “In years to come, Jim Jones would frequently be compared to murderous demagogues such as Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. These comparisons completely misinterpret, and historically misrepresent, the initial appeal of Jim Jones to members of Peoples Temple. Jones attracted followers by appealing to their better instincts.”
You might not know Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple by name, but you’ve probably heard their story. They’re the Kool-Aid drinkers I mentioned earlier. Jones and over 900 of his followers, including children, committed mass suicide by drinking Flavor Aid mixed with cyanide.
In a way, the cartoonish image of cults in popular media has helped real-life cults to stay under the radar and slip through people’s defenses.
In her book Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control, Luna Lindsey says: “These groups use a legion of persuasive techniques in unison, techniques that strip away the personality to build up a new group pseudopersonality. New members know very little about the group’s purpose, and most expectations remain unrevealed. People become deeply involved, sacrificing vast amounts of time and money, and investing emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and socially.”
Let’s address some more common myths about cults:
Myth #1: All cults are Satanic or occult in nature. This mostly comes from conservative Christians, who may believe that all non-Christian religions are inherently cultish in nature and are in league with the Devil. This is not the case — most non-Christians don’t even believe in the Devil, much less want to sign away their souls to him. Many cults use Christian theology to recruit members, and some of these groups (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) have become popular enough to be recognized as legitimate religions. Most cults have nothing to do with magic or the occult.
Myth #2: All cults are religious. This is also false. While some cults do use religion to recruit members or push an agenda, many cults have no religious or spiritual element. Political cults are those founded around a specific political ideology. Author and cult researcher Janja Lalich is a former member of an American political cult founded on the principles of Marxism. There are also “cults of personality” built around political figures and celebrities, such as Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao, and Donald Trump. In these cases, the cult is built around hero worship of the leader — it doesn’t really matter what the leader believes or does.
Myth #3: All cults are small fringe groups. Cults can be any size. Some cults have only a handful of members — it’s even possible for parents to use thought control techniques on their children, essentially creating a cult that consists of a single family. There are some cults that have millions of members (see previous note about Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses).
Myth #4: All cults live on isolated compounds away from mainstream society. While it is true that all cults isolate their members from the outside world, very few modern cults use physical isolation. Many cults employ social isolation, which makes members feel separate from mainstream society. Some cults do this by encouraging their followers to be “In the world but not of the world,” or encouraging them to keep themselves “pure.”
Myth #5: Only stupid, gullible, and/or mentally ill people join cults. Actually, according to Luna Lindsey, the average cult member is of above-average intelligence. As cult expert Steven Hassan points out, “Cults intentionally recruit ‘valuable’ people—they go after those who are intelligent, caring, and motivated. Most cults do not want to be burdened by unintelligent people with serious emotional or physical problems.” The idea that only stupid or gullible people fall for thought control is very dangerous, because it reinforces the idea that “it could never happen to me.” This actually prevents intelligent people from thinking critically about the information they’re consuming and the groups they’re associating with, which makes them easier targets for cult recruitment.
So, now that we have a better idea of what a cult actually looks like, how do you know if you or someone you know is in one?
A good rule of thumb is to compare the group’s actions and teachings to Steven Hassan’s BITE Model. Steven Hassan is an expert on cult psychology, and most cult researchers stand by this model. From Hassan’s website, freedomofmind.com: “Based on research and theory by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Edgar Schein, Louis Jolyon West, and others who studied brainwashing in Maoist China as well as cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger, Steven Hassan developed the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. ‘BITE’ stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control.”
Behavior Control may include…
Telling you how to behave, and enforcing behavior with rewards and punishments. (Rewards may be nonphysical concepts like “salvation” or “enlightenment,” or social rewards like group acceptance or an elevated status within the group. Punishments may also be nonphysical, like “damnation,” or may be social punishments like judgement from peers or removal from the group.)
Dictating where and with whom you live. (This includes pressure to move closer to other group members, even if you will be living separately.)
Controlling or restricting your sexuality. (Includes enforcing chastity or abstinence and/or coercion into non-consensual sex acts.)
Controlling your clothing or hairstyle. (Even if no one explicitly tells you, you may feel subtle pressure to look like the rest of the group.)
Restricting leisure time and activities. (This includes both demanding participation in frequent group activities and telling you how you should spend your free time.)
Requiring you to seek permission for major decisions. (Again, even if you don’t “need” permission, you may feel pressure to make decisions that will be accepted by the group.)
Information Control may include…
Withholding or distorting information. (This may manifest as levels of initiation, with only the “inner circle” or upper initiates being taught certain information.)
Forbidding members from speaking with ex-members or other critics.
Discouraging members from trusting any source of information that isn’t approved by the group’s leadership.
Forbidding members from sharing certain details of the group’s beliefs or practice with outsiders.
Using propaganda. (This includes “feel good” media that exists only to enforce the group’s message.)
Using information gained in confession or private conversation against you.
Gaslighting to make members doubt their own memory. (“I never said that,” “You’re remembering that wrong,” “You’re confused,” etc.)
Requiring you to report your thoughts, feelings, and activities to group leaders or superiors.
Encouraging you to spy on other group members and report their “misconduct.”
Thought Control may include…
Black and White, Us vs. Them, or Good vs. Evil thinking.
Requiring you to change part of your identity or take on a new name. (This includes only using last names, as well as titles like “Brother,” “Sister,” and “Elder.”)
Using loaded languages and cliches to stop complex thought. (This is the difference between calling someone a “former member” and calling the same person an “apostate” or “covenant breaker.”)
Inducing hypnotic or trance states including prayer, meditation, singing hymns, etc.
Using thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thinking. (“If you ever find yourself doubting, say a prayer to distract yourself!”)
Allowing only positive thoughts or speech.
Rejecting rational analysis and criticism both from members and from those outside the group.
Emotional Control may include…
Inducing irrational fears and phobias, especially in connection with leaving the group. (This includes fear of damnation, fear of losing personal value, fear of persecution, etc.)
Labeling some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, low-vibrational, or wrong.
Teaching techniques to keep yourself from feeling certain emotions like anger or sadness.
Promoting feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness. (This is often done by holding group members to impossible standards, such as being spiritually “pure” or being 100% happy all the time.)
Showering members and new recruits with positive attention — this is called “love bombing.” (This can be anything from expensive gifts to sexual favors to simply being really nice to newcomers.)
Shunning members who disobey orders or disbelieve the group’s teachings.
Teaching members that there is no happiness, peace, comfort, etc. outside of the group.
If a group ticks most or all of the boxes in any one of these categories, you need to do some serious thinking about whether or not that group is good for your mental health. If a group is doing all four of these, you’re definitely dealing with a cult and need to get out as soon as possible.
These techniques can also be used by individual people in one-on-one relationships. A relationship or friendship where someone tries to control your behavior, thoughts, or emotions is not healthy and, again, you need to get out as soon as possible.
Obviously, not all of these things are inherently bad. Meditation and prayer can be helpful on their own, and being nice to new people is common courtesy. The problem is when these acts become part of a bigger pattern, which enforces someone else’s control over your life.
A group that tries to tell you how to think or who to be is bad for your mental health, your personal relationships, and your sense of self. When in doubt, do what you think is best for you — and always be suspicious of people or groups who refuse to be criticized.
One more assignment and then the first year of my masters will be done! I’ve always hated working at home so lockdown is really making it difficult to focus - less than a week to go until the due date and I still don’t feel like it’s real.
Self-acceptance, clear sense of identity, self-compassion, self-protection, capacity to draw comfort from relationship, ability to relax, capacity for full self-expression, willpower & motivation, peace of mind, self-care, belief that life is a gift, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Emotional competenceis the ability to deal in an appropriate and satisfactory way with one’s own feelings and desires.
It includes capacity to feel our emotions, to express our emotions, the awareness of our needs that need our attention and care and the ability to recognise what are real needs and what is coming as a result from past experience.
“Emotional competence presupposes capacities often lacking in our society, where “cool”—the absence of emotion—is the prevailing ethic, where “don’t be so emotional” and “don’t be so sensitive” are what children often hear, and where rationality is generally considered to be the preferred antithesis of emotionality”.
Karena anakmu kelak akan mengikuti setiap hembusan napasmu, setiap degup jantungmu, setiap langkah kakimu. Bagaimana caranya kamu berputar, melompat hingga terguling jatuh. Bagaimana kau merasakan luka, tangis hingga air mata. Bagaimana kau tersenyum, tertawa hingga terbahak-bahak.
Caranya (anakmu) menilai orang lain adalah tentang bagaimana caramu menilai orang lain. Caranya (anakmu) memaknai hidup adalah tentang bagaimana caramu memaknai hidup.
Anakmu akan belajar banyak darimu. Segalanya! Dari terbukanya kedua matamu di pagi hari hingga menutupnya kedua matamu di malam hari. Seluruhnya takkan luput dari pandangan matanya.
Karena pada usia emasnya yakni 0-4 tahun, ia akan banyak belajar dari apa yang ia lihat, bukan dari apa yang ia dengar.
Maka perhatikanlah gerak tubuhmu. Ayunan tanganmu, caramu menimang, merangkul dan memeluk. Pancaran sinar matamu, tatapan hingga lirikan, serta gerakan bibirmu. Pancaran tawa dan tangismu, hingga nada bicaramu saat memperkenalkan nama-nama benda yang perlu ia tahu.
Ingat, anakmu memulai mempelajari dunia, memenuhi 50% kapasitas otaknya dengan merasakan auramu. Maka kumohon berubahlah! Bangun kebiasaan baik dalam hidupmu sebelum kau menjadi seorang ibu.
Perkembangan otak anak
Usia 0 - 4 tahun, otak manusia berkembang 50%
Usia 4 - 8 tahun otak berkembang menuju 80%
Usia 8 - 17 tahun, otak berkembang seukuran orang dewasa menjadi 100%
Hello! I thought I would compile a list of healthy coping mechanisms for you all, but I also thought I would explain what coping mechanisms are and why we need them.
Just a disclaimer before I get started: I am a first year psychology student, I don’t know everything but I do know some and I have made sure to do my research before making this post.
What Exactly Is A Coping Mechanism?
By definition, provided by the APA, a coping mechanism is any conscious or nonconscious adaptation that helps decrease tension and anxiety in a stressful situation. In other words, a coping mechanism is a skill or strategy to help alleviate your stress or anxiety.
However, one thing to note is that not all coping skills will work for you. The effectiveness of a coping skill is dependent on a few factors: the situation or the circumstances; the type of stress you are under; and you, the individual.
Why Are Coping Mechanisms Important?
They are not only important but necessary in order to help alleviate stress. Coping strategies also give an individual some sort of control in a given situation. If an individual does not know how to cope or they do not have coping strategies, it could lead to them hurting themself because they cannot process what they are going through. They may find ways to cope that are harmful to them because they don’t know how to manage the situation they are in.
Example: an underage person begins drinking alcohol regularly to cope with their depression.
Also, having healthy coping strategies means that you realize the problem, and you want to fix it. So you’re taking active steps towards that.
What Are Some Types Of Coping Strategies?
Centers around the management of the emotions that accompany an individual’s stress
Centers around gathering information about the source of one’s stress and then learning new skills to adapt to the problem.
Centers around an individual changing the way they think
There are more but these are the main 3.
Examples of Maladaptive (bad) Coping Strategies:
Eating when you’re stressed
Lack of sleep or sleeping too much
Trying to escape the problem
Examples of Adaptive (good) Coping Strategies:
This is probably the part everyone has been waiting for but I wanted to do some explaining rather than just giving you all a list of good coping skills.
Call or text a friend
Write a letter to the person(s) who is upsetting you but never send it. You can do whatever you like with it afterward.
Breathing techniques (e.g., breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds; breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, breathe out for 8 seconds)
Write down 2-3 things you like about yourself and/or your situation, once in the morning and once at night. Or whenever you need to.
Write down positive or motivational quotes and stick them in places frequently go or look
Counteract every negative thought with a positive thought.
Go for a walk
Do something creative (e.g., draw, paint, write, sing, play an instrument, etc.)
Blow bubbles (it may seem silly but it works!)
Exercise or any other kind of physical activity
Puzzles (any kind, but personally I like ones that make me think!)
*stakes my entire charlatan ‘cult-recovery’ psych career standing on arguing that a file I found on tumblr called ‘sissybimbohypno.gif’ literally works exactly the same as institutional abuse, food+sleep deprivation, and isolation*
Studying psychology be like: here is what we known about the human condition, but here’s the exception, here’s the exception, here’s the exception, here’s the exception, here what we learnt from a study on cis white men in there 20s living in America that we apply to everyone
Data analysis day today. I have been doing the remaining analyses for the book chapter I’m working on. I’ll also gonna try and squeeze in some research time for the two essays I have due at the end of July.
Another online lecture down. I’m enjoying being able to have a cup of tea and lie on my bed when my back hurts, but at the same time it’s difficult to resist getting my phone out when I know no one can see me. Next assignment is due at the end of this month, so I better sort out my focus soon.
Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
“Optimism is not only a false but also a pernicious doctrine, for it presents life as a desirable state and man’s happiness as its aim and object. Starting from this, everyone then believes he has the most legitimate claim to happiness and enjoyment. If, as usually happens, these do not fall to his lot, he believes that he suffers an injustice, in fact that he misses the whole point of his existence.”
Shadow work is the proccess of transmuting ones suppressed aspects of ones self. Unconscious habits or some buried thought patterns inside it. The term ‘the shadow’ was made popular by Carl Jung. He saw it as the uncivilised, even primitive side of our nature. He believed that we needed to fully see this dark side of ourselves if we were to be a fully integrated human.
The ancient Greeks understood the need to honor all of the parts of the psyche. For them, these parts were worshiped as autonomous gods and goddesses. The Greeks knew a god or goddess you ignored became the one who turned against you and destroyed you. Any part we disown within us turns against us. The personal shadow represents a collection of these disowned parts.
The shadow can operate on its own without our full awareness. It’s as if our conscious self goes on autopilot while the unconscious assumes control. When someone is not getting their shadow integrated they tend to be naive and is not their whole self anymore, thus, not being the best version of themselves.
How the shadow is born
Every young child knows kindness, love, and generosity, but also expresses anger, selfishness, and greed.These emotions are part of our shared humanity.
But as we grow up, traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected.
We adjusted our behavior to gratify our needs and learned to adapt to the external world.
This repression of unwanted parts creates what psychologist Carl Jung called the personal shadow.
What Happens When You Repress Your Shadow
Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others.In psychology, this is called projection. We project onto others anything we bury within us.
Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself—to defend how it perceives itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow.
Fundamentals of Integrating the Shadow Self
The first and most important step is admitting that you have a shadow self
To proceed, the next step is to look for triggers: anything that triggers negative emotions or makes you feel uncomfortable. This could be anything and it could be thoughts and actions of your own, or someone elses. Look for similarities and start connecting the dots.
Then, you need to ask yourself questions: why am I responding this way? and where has this way came from? this is to know the root cause of that thought pattern, and it is very powerful and necessary in order to move into the next step.
Last but not least, Be the destroyer and the healer: Take the limiting beliefs and start asking: what is this belief causing me? is it serving me or not? then destroy it.
“Eloquence, when at its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection; but addressing itself entirely to the desires or the affections, captivates the willing hearers, and subdues their understanding.”
“I seek not to instruct but only to lead, to point out and describe what I see. I claim no other right than that of speaking according to my best lights, principally before myself but in the same manner also before others, as one who has lived in all its seriousness the fate of a philosophical existence.”
So, i’ve been in the house since last Thursday, and this whole month is exhausting. May had a fucking crazy start for me, like a total irrelevant one, a weekend, which contained eveything that I’m not anymore. I’ve spent the past 3 weeks with regression, with patience - to my body, to my mind, to my soul. I’ve started learning more about moon cycles, about period, i’ve started finding connections between my body, my soul and the nature. To be honest, I just can’t wait to go out in the woods, to inhale the fresh scent of the nature, to shut down my brain. But right now, i need to focus, and i must not forget, how grateful I am for studying what I’ve always wanted to study. So this is it, wish me luck, wish me energy, a kind of energy that can reborn.
I’ve gone from sitting on the bed to study to pretty much getting into bed. I’m not feeling great this week which is just making focusing on this lecture even harder. This lockdown is really starting to affect my degree more than I thought it would.
A few years ago, a team of psychologists set out to study how kids too young to wield the word “unfair” would respond to unfairness. They recruited a bunch of preschoolers and grouped them in pairs. The children were offered some blocks to play with and then, after a while, were asked to put them away. As a reward for tidying up, the kids were given stickers. No matter how much each child had contributed to the cleanup effort, one received four stickers and the other two. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children shouldn’t be expected to grasp the idea of counting before the age of four. But even three-year-olds seemed to understand when they’d been screwed. Most of the two-sticker recipients looked enviously at the holdings of their partners. Some said they wanted more. A number of the four-sticker recipients also seemed dismayed by the distribution, or perhaps by their partners’ protests, and handed over some of their winnings. “We can … be confident that these actions were guided by an understanding of equality, because in all cases they offered one and only one sticker, which made the outcomes equal,” the researchers reported. The results, they concluded, show that “the emotional response to unfairness emerges very early.”
Meaning and morality of One’s life come from within oneself. Healthy, strong individuals seek self expansion by experimenting and by living dangerously. Life consists of an infinite number of possibilities and the healthy person explores as many of them as possible. Religions that teach pity, self-contempt, humility, self-restraint and guilt are incorrect. The good life is ever changing, challenging, devoid of regret, intense, creative and risky.
B. R. Hergenhahn, An Introduction to the History of Psychology
“Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within.”