Dhyana Levey, Saturday, June 25, 2022, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM – online
Cults are a topic that is particularly misunderstood by the public, and sociologists have complained that the people who join them are unfairly stigmatized in newspapers, television shows, books and films as bizarre, potentially violent individuals. However, previous studies have shown that former cult members are actually vulnerable people who need help, as they leave their groups suffering from such problems as shame, disassociation, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and self-destructive tendencies. The study being presented examined whether former cult members frequently accessed media about cults, and if that exposure related significantly to their symptoms of distress and wellbeing. It was conducted by a journalist and second generation adult (SGA) as part of a dissertation for an MSc in the Psychology of Coercive Control. It was the first of its kind to research whether biased or unfair media coverage about cults is a factor involved in survivors’ wellbeing and included a newly developed scale to gauge former members’ exposure to media. Findings suggested that the more exposure former cult members have to media about cults, the more negative feelings they develop about themselves and their senses of wellbeing regarding personal growth, self-acceptance and their relationships with other people. This research suggests that education campaigns by psychologists to media professionals about ethical ways to portray cults could be helpful. The presentation will be about the research and the presenter will also discuss her interest and experience with the topic.
Dhyana Levey grew up on a commune connected to the United Lodge of Theosophists and now hosts the podcast Generation Cult, an interview show about people who grew up in high-demand groups and how they acclimated to mainstream society after they left. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter in California and overseas for about 15 years before becoming a freelance writer for magazines and websites in the San Francisco Bay Area. She recently received her MSc in the Psychology of Coercive Control from the University of Salford.