The psychology of the sect: know it to avoid it


Terrifying and fascinating, cults or sects have a tendency to capture the attention of almost all people. Questions abound: where do these people come from? What are they really doing within those isolated groups? The most interesting, perhaps, it's psychological components of the life of worship, questions like: who in the world would like to go after a cult or join a sect? In an attempt to answer these and other questions, we have listed 10 things to know about psychology of sects.

The sects are attractive because they promote an illusion of comfort.

Humans crave comfort, and in a scary and uncertain world many turn to cults because they tend to promote exactly that. Jon-Patrik Pedersen, a CalTech psychologist, pointed out that i cult leaders often make promises that are totally unattainable, but also offered by no other group in society. Such things could include financial security, total health, constant peace of mind and eternal life: the things that every human being desires on the deepest level.

The sects satisfy the human desire for absolute answers.

Today's world is difficult. As Dr. Adrian Furnham describes in Psychology Today, humans crave for clarity. Many people join cults because they believe that solid and absolute answers are offered to questions such as good and evil, the religion, the meaning of life, politics, etc. Many cult leaders promote messages that are simple and seem to make sense, the exact opposite of what is often provided to us in typical everyday life.

Those with low self-esteem are more likely to be persuaded by cults.

People are often surprised to learn who those who join cults are, for the most part, ordinary people. They come from all backgrounds and all social classes. But research over the past two decades has uncovered an interesting pattern: many people successfully recruited by cults are said to have one low self-esteem. Cults generally do not try to lure people with certain handicaps or depression. however, people with low self-esteem are easier to convince in trying to teach them that cult is the supportive environment they are looking for.

The new followers come “bombarded with love”.

Once people have been lured into a cult, they come often “bombarded with love”. This odd phrase is commonly used to describe the ways someone with low self-esteem is constantly flattered, complimented and seduced so that one's brain can associate the sect with love and acceptance.

Women are more likely than men to join a cult.

According to various researches, women make up well the 70% of members of sects from around the world. Psychologists have different ideas as to why more women than men join cults. Dr. David Bromley of Virginia Commonwealth University points out that women simply participate more in social gatherings, religious or otherwise. This makes it statistically more likely that women will join groups that will eventually victimize them. Others suggest it has to do with the fact that women have been oppressed for much of human history. So they are more comfortable under an authority figure. Emma Cline, author of the bestselling cult novel The Girls theorizes that young women are often taught to seek men's attention and wait for it “salvation”. Becoming part of a sect, dice Cline, it's a way for many young women to feel like they are “grasping their fate”.

Many cult members have rejected the religion.

Dr. Stanley H. Cath, psychoanalyst and professor of psychology at Tufts University, has cared more than 60 former members of sects throughout his career. From this firsthand experience, Cath has noticed an interesting trend: many people who join the sects have experienced religion at some point in their lives and have rejected it. And this is surprising, whereas many cults tend to be religious – or at least they claim to be. But Dr. Cath says this trend is a sign of something deeper. Many of those who join the sects are intelligent young people from protected backgrounds. Growing up in such an environment, says Dr. Cath, it often means that "many have a history of inability to achieve intimacy, to blame others for their failures and to constantly strive for perfectionistic goals”.

Cults retain their power by promoting a mentality “us against them”.

Cults prove powerful because they are capable of isolate successfully members from their previous lives. One of the ways cult leaders accomplish this is by convincing their followers that they are superior to non-cult leaders.. This mentality of the “us against them” eventually leads the members of the sect to socially isolate yourself from friends and family. They replace those relationships with new ones within the cult.

Cult leaders are masters of mind control.

Sect leaders persuade their victims to separate from society, to give up personal possessions and sometimes huge sums of money. They get people to buy whatever they are promoting. To do all this, a cult leader must be a master of mind control. The ways in which leaders gain control over cult members vary, but some popular methods include:
Public humiliation: new members of the sect can be “bombarded with love” shortly after their arrival, but once they are established members, cult leaders often maintain emotional control through various exercises intended to publicly humiliate a member. One such method is to have someone sit in a chair surrounded by other members, at which time they are required to admit their recent failures, vile thoughts, shortcomings, etc.
Self-incrimination: A favorite tactic of notorious cult leader Jim Jones, self-incrimination requires cult members to provide their leader with written statements describing in detail their fears and individual mistakes. The cult leader can then use these statements to publicly shame individual members.
Brain washing: Cults leaders are known to repeat various lies and distortions until members find it difficult to distinguish between reality and falsehood.
Paranoia: to maintain a false sense of well-being, cults often rely on paranoia tactics. Cult leaders convince their victims that they are a group, their families and / or the government want to take them, but that the sect can provide security. Once a cult member comes to the conclusion that their families and the country cannot keep them safe, they begin to worship and put all their faith in their cult leader. Jim Jones was particularly adept at this mind control trick. He encouraged members to spy on each other and constantly spoke through loudspeakers at all hours of the day so that cult members could hear his voice both awake and asleep.

Cult members often have no idea that they are in a cult.

Although it may be obvious to those around them, people in cults often don't realize what they have become. Psychologist Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer has spent most of her career studying cult psychology and brainwashing. He found that most people enter a cult voluntarily, without realizing the power it is destined to have over them. Singer theorizes that this is partly due to the fact that some people are more willing to see the perceived benefits than the potential dangers.. He also claims that many people assume that cults are only religious, although in truth sects can also be political groups, lifestyle groups or business groups.

Life of worship can have a dangerous and lasting effect.

Victims of a cult often spend years overcoming the emotional damage suffered during their time in a cult. Psychologists who treat former cult members usually describe the long-term effects that belonging to a cult environment can have on the human body. Dr. John G. Clark, Jr., is a Harvard professor of psychiatry and cofounder of a nonprofit group that cares for former members and their families. He specifically mentions that “the symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy are similar to those observed or reported as a result of cult conversions: increased irritability, loss of libido or alteration of sexual interest, ritualism, compulsive attention to detail, mystical states, lack of humor and sobriety, heightened paranoia.”

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