Brainwashing and abuse: one woman reveals what it’s really like to be in a cult

August 30, 2018
” … A former cult member shares her story, and shines a light on the horrifying psychology of cults around the world.”
​” … ​A wannabe cult leader can use anything they think will work in a given time and place as a means to draw people in, isolate them and begin the process of gaining control of their lives.​”​
​”​Cults are started and led by charismatic and authoritarian leaders​ …​t​hese leaders share traits with psychopaths: a combination of being charming with a grandiose sense of self and an incapacity for love, along with being cruel, having a lack of empathy, remorse or guilt, and being skilled at manipulation and lying. Although most cult leaders are men, cultic abuse has been alleged to occur in many women-led groups such as Siddha Yoga, Sahaja Yoga or the Australian group The Family​.”
​” … Cult leaders (or sometimes leadership groups) rule over closed group structures that are emotionally, socially and psychologically isolating. They do not, however, have to be geographically isolating. In ​[Alexandra Stein​’s]​ group, we lived together in flat shares in the Minneapolis and also had jobs in the outside world. But our interactions with outsiders were strictly limited. People in cults are often taught that they are the elite (although only the leader is perfect), and that those outside of the cult are lacking at best, and evil at worst. Within the cult one is taught not to speak freely to other members – communication has to be strictly within the cultic language and boundaries ​.​..”
” … Processes of coercive control or brainwashing operate within cults. Once a person is isolated from any differing points of view, it becomes very difficult to stand up and object. During my decade in The O. I was isolated from most of the other members of the group, which was one of the cult’s ‘security’ measures. In a cult, even if one knows all the other members, one can’t share doubts – this is the biggest “crime” and people sharing doubts will be criticised or punished. This keeps cult members from talking about and understanding the control mechanisms and reality of the group.”
“But more than that, cults engulf followers within their own world almost entirely, and then claim it, and the leader, are the only source of goodness and truth, and the only ones who care about you. But at the same time, the cult creates stress and feelings of threat through constant, alarming messages about oncoming disasters and what will happen if followers are not loyal enough. A cult might also humiliate followers, and make them feel guilty and ashamed for not doing enough. Rewards and punishments are wielded to remind followers just who has the power.”