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Emotional Abuse

Refuting Common Misconceptions About Mind Control Cults

There are common myths and fallacies surrounding cults.

Key points

  • Everything is not mind control, although destructive mind control can be seen in many types of institutions or even in individuals.
  • The fact that a person is of legal age does not mean that they are functioning as a responsible adult.
  • Intelligent people do fall prey to cults.

There are many misconceptions about cults and its members. Below, I have identified 10 of the most common fallacies about mind control cults.

Errant Belief #1: "There's No Such Thing as Mind Control."

Mind control is often misunderstood because relatively few people have had experience with cults.

To the untrained eye, cult members can appear completely normal. Asking questions that can test a person’s thoughts and free will is the only way to evaluate the extent of mind control.

Errant Belief #2: “Everything Is Mind Control.”

Mind control is everywhere, some people state—in psychotherapy, advertising, education, and the military— so it must be acceptable. But when we generalize and say that everything is mind control, all distinctions are lost. A more productive model is to think in terms of a continuum of influence: at one end is a respectful, ethical, growth-enhancing influence that recognizes the value of individuality, human rights, and creativity; at the other end is conformity, dependency, and slavery, where the value lies in the leader and the group.

Errant Belief #3: “Why Should I Do Anything? He Says He’s Happy!”

It is wishful thinking to accept at face value a cult member’s words that they are “happy.” Cult identity is created by sophisticated mind control techniques. It does not represent the whole individual.

Don’t get taken in by the smiling mask who might be doing emotion-blocking techniques. Remember, members are taught to suppress negative personal thoughts and emotions; trained to speak only positively of their involvement. When the cult member says he is “happy,” it is usually the cult identity that is talking, doing what it has been instructed to do.

Errant Belief #4: “He’s an Adult. We Have No Right to Interfere.”

Unethical mind control impairs an individual’s capacity for mature, autonomous decision-making. Under normal circumstances, respecting a person’s wish to be respected and left alone is good policy. However, undue influence changes the equation.

Usually, at the very beginning of the cult involvement, family members and friends know that something is wrong. They try to reason with the person, confronting them with facts or accusing the group of being a cult. This usually backfires. They often back off when the adult cult member says, “Don’t tell me what to do. I am an adult. Don’t try to control my life.” This is a tactic taught to cult members to neutralize objections and induce passive acceptance. Cult members often threaten to cut off all contact if they are not “treated as an adult.”

If a loved one is under the influence of destructive mind control, relatives and friends have the right and the obligation to take steps to undo the mind control process, so that the person can think independently.

Errant Belief #5: “He Has the Right to Believe What He Wants to Believe.”

Freedom to believe is only real freedom if you also have the freedom to not believe.

Cult mind control makes it seem as though members are exercising their own free will, but this is only the illusion of choice. When people in a controlled environment are subjected to psycho-social influences—like group conformity or behavior modification techniques—they can be manipulated and indoctrinated into accepting a completely different belief system.

Errant Belief #6: “He’s Too Intelligent to Join a Cult."

Cults thrive to the extent that they can recruit intelligent, dynamic people. Many have a hard time believing that bright, talented people could fall under the control of a cult. But cults intentionally recruit “valuable” people that are intelligent, caring, and motivated. Most of the former cult members I have met are exceptionally bright with an active imagination, a creative mind, and the capacity to focus their attention and enter deep states of concentration. Most are idealistic and socially conscious. They want to make the most of themselves—and to make a positive contribution to the world.

Errant Belief #7 “He Must Be Weak, Stupid or Looking for Easy Answers or Someone to Tell Him What to Do”

This is a very commonly held, but fallacious, generalization about people involved with destructive relationships and cult groups. People often try to find fault with people who experience tragedy by blaming the victim. Laying blame gives people a false sense of control over their own lives by distancing them from the victim. However, the idea that people knowingly join destructive cults is patently wrong. Most are recruited at a vulnerable moment, without understanding the forces that are brought to bear on them.

There is no doubt that many people in cults have emotional baggage and other assorted problems. But focusing the blame for cult membership on the individual is a mistake.

Errant Belief #8: “She’s Better Off Where She Is”

Cult involvement is not healthy. It may provide temporary relief from traumatic circumstances, but involvement in a suffocating, mind control environment doesn’t promote a healthy mind nor a healthy body. It causes a dissociative disorder and often buries real issues and suppresses them. Unethical mind control disconnects people from critical thinking about the leader, doctrine, or policies of the group. It is, in itself, a form of psychological abuse.

Errant Belief #9: “She’ll Walk Out on Her Own When She Is Ready.”

This attitude presumes that the cult member has the freedom of mind, finances, and the resources to just “leave.” Depending on the length of his involvement, the “exit cost” is usually very high to walk out of a high-demand group. The indoctrination of the group’s beliefs, along with the habits ingrained into behavior, make it difficult to leave without help.

Errant Belief #10: “We’ve Lost Hope.”

Giving up hope is a dysfunctional coping mechanism to deal with the pain. Unfortunately, it suggests incorrectly that there is nothing constructive that can be done. Do what is within your control to do to educate yourself, get advice, network with others, including former members, and do positive things to promote change!

Remember, as long as the cult member is alive, there is a reason for hope.


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