Cults, their leaders and beliefs, and their demises continue to come and go. Terrifying cults include the School of Prophets, Love Has Won, Heaven’s Gate, the Manson Family, Children of God, and the Branch Davidians.
These and other ideological organizations, known as cults around the globe, all operate on similar principles. A strong leader typically heads a cult and demands high levels of commitment from its followers. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that they live in a cult because they are so well masqueraded, tricking them into joining.
Members are kept in line through emotional manipulations and exploitation. In some cults, there are even incidents of abuse to prevent members from leaving. People born in cults can find it extremely difficult to leave because they only have friends and connections. Even for people who join them, it takes enormous reserves of strength to go.
An Illusion of a Safe Space
One of the grooming tactics preferred by cults is to lure people in by tricking them. People are bombarded with attention and love, making them believe they have found a safe space. This tactic works very well on people already feeling vulnerable. Once the person is drawn in, they are soon isolated from their family and friends.
This isolation then allows the person to have fear instilled in them. These fears are about the outside world and the dread of acting in a way that doesn’t please the group and its leader. Thus, the cult becomes their haven, even more so for children born in a cult because it is the only safe place they know.
Not all cults live in secluded spaces, so this isolation is not always physical. Here members are hidden at an emotional level. This is also done by controlling their relationships with friends and family outside the group and being told they are evil. Families outside the cult are also never given access to information about it. In most cults, “sharing the truth” is only for those properly converted and not shared with those on the outside.
Instilling Fear Through Their Gift of Imagination
Doomsday scenarios are used to instill fear in cult members, and the rewards of eternal afterlife go to those who have been the most obedient. The teachings of cult leaders are persuasive enough to ensure their followers provide the cult with money.
Like Herbert Armstrong from the Worldwide Church of God, some leaders have an extravagant lifestyle and flourishing enterprises. Meanwhile, his followers had to survive on the rest of their earnings not taken by the cult.
Cult Warning Signs
Cults do differ, but they use similar methods to influence people and draw them in. This is either through behavioral control, thought control, emotional control, or information control.
Behavior is controlled by imposing rigid rules and regulations; they dictate how a new member lives their life. For example, sleep deprivation and fasting are used to manipulate and control the person, and financial exploitation is used.
Propaganda and cult-generated information are used to deceive people into believing. Additionally, new members are discouraged from seeking information online, on the news, or mingling with older members.
Thought control is an integral part of the process, and some cults even employ techniques to alter the state of mind of their members. People’s names are often changed, and everyone must embrace the cult’s doctrine; everything else is evil.
Finally, emotional control is vital to them. Some feelings are deemed evil and elfish, and members are taught techniques to reduce feelings of doubt, homesickness, or anger. Fear of the outside is instilled, and any problems that arise are never the leader’s or cult’s fault.
The warning signs are usually there from before joining. Becoming aware of them and personal vulnerabilities can make individuals more resistant to falling target to a cult. Those who abandon a cult are detested by those remaining behind, and their adjustment to the outside world is complex, and PTSD is a real problem for them. For people born into a cult or who joined during their teens, lack of any formal training makes it hard for them to find employment.