Author Name: Sareem Athar
Qualifications: BA (Psychology, Mass Communication & Journalism, Literature), MSc(Clinical Psychology), Diploma in Child Psychology.
Designation: Former Admin Head, ACRO Mental Health & Wellness.
Word count: 780
Reading time: 7 Minutes
Reviewed & edited by: Aishwarya Krishna Priya, Mariyam Mohammed & Ayesha Begum.
The Dark World of Mind Control and Manipulation
The small town of Millwood seemed like any other town in the United States. It had its local diner, its quaint library, and its annual pumpkin festival. However, beneath the surface, there was something sinister lurking - a cult that had taken hold of the community (1,2).
The cult was led by a charismatic figure known as "The Prophet" (3). He had a way of speaking that drew people in and convinced them to join his cause (4). The Prophet promised them a better life, a life of fulfillment and purpose, and his followers believed him (5). They gave up their jobs, their homes, and their families to follow him (6).
At first, the townspeople didn't think much of The Prophet and his followers. They assumed it was just another eccentric group of people. Additionally, as the cult grew in numbers, the townspeople became increasingly worried (7,8). They noticed that the cult members would only associate with each other, that they would hold secretive meetings, and that they seemed to be preparing for something big (9).
As rumors began to spread about the cult's true intentions, a group of concerned citizens decided to investigate. They found evidence of brainwashing techniques, psychological manipulation, and even instances of abuse (10,11). They knew they had to act fast to save their community from the cult's grip.
The townspeople began to organize themselves, sharing their findings with others who were also concerned. They contacted the authorities and local media outlets to raise awareness (13-16). As they delved deeper into the cult's inner workings, they realized that they were dealing with a dangerous group that would stop at nothing to protect their leader and their cause (17,18).
The Prophet had built a fortress around himself and his closest followers, and they were heavily armed. The townspeople knew they couldn't fight the cult head-on, so they had to come up with a different plan. They decided to infiltrate the cult and gather evidence from within (19-24).
They came up with a strategy to overcome the cult's brainwashing tactics and restore members to reason using their understanding of psychology (25). They began to work with former cult members, helping them to overcome the trauma they had experienced while under The Prophet's control (26).
Eventually, the townspeople were able to gather enough evidence to bring The Prophet and his top lieutenants to justice (27). The cult was disbanded, and the townspeople were left to pick up the pieces of their shattered community (28).
The Millwood saga serves as a warning about the perils of cult psychology. Despite how alluring a charismatic leader may seem, it's crucial to keep in mind that no one person has all the answers (29,30). We must never stop being watchful and dubious of those who profess to have all the answers, and we must never lose sight of the importance of community in keeping us safe.
As a society, we frequently discover ourselves enthralled by the ominous and perilous realms that lie on the periphery of human experience (31,32). Cult psychology is one of the most sinister of these worlds, where the craft of mind control and manipulation is finely tuned. In this world, charismatic leaders take advantage of the weak, persuading them to give up their individuality and blindly follow their teaching (33). People frequently suffer devastating effects as a result, losing all sense of reality and occasionally even their lives (34).
Over the years, cult psychology has been extensively researched, with researchers looking at everything from cult leaders' methods to the characteristics of people who are most susceptible to their influence. Studies have revealed that particular characteristics, such as a need for belonging and a desire for personal development, can make people more prone to cult indoctrination (35).
Furthermore, employing mind-controlling strategies like seclusion, sleep deprivation, and public humiliation can erode a person's sense of self and increase their propensity to believe the cult leader's teachings (36).
Some people are fortunate enough to escape cults and eventually reclaim their lives, but others are less fortunate. The notorious Heaven's Gate cult, which committed mass suicide in 1997 (37), is one example of a cult that has been known to engage in violent and dangerous activities in extreme situations. It serves as a chilling reminder of the control vulnerable people can fall under the control of cult psychology (38).
In order to protect ourselves from the risks posed by cult psychology, society must exercise constant vigilance. We can help safeguard ourselves and those around us from falling prey to their influence by educating ourselves about the strategies employed by cult leaders and identifying the warning signs of potential cults. We can work toward a safer and more informed society with continued study and comprehension of this sinister and unsettling area of human behaviour (39).
(1)Rodriguez, L. M., & Rasoal, C. (2020). Vulnerability to Cult Indoctrination: The Role of Need for Belonging and Personal Growth Motivation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(21), 7823. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217823
(2)Hassan, S. (1990). Combating cult mind control. Park Street Press.
(3)Conway, F., & Siegelman, J. (1978). Snapping: America's epidemic of sudden personality change. J. P. Tarcher
(4)Keith Henson, H. (n.d.). Sex, Drugs, and Cults. An evolutionary psychology perspective on why and how cult memes get a drug-like hold on people, and what might be done to mitigate the effects. Retrieved June 11, 2023, from Smokyhole.org website: http://smokyhole.org/kh/kh-sex_drugs_and_cults.pdf
(5)La Barre, W. (1962). They shall take up serpents: Psychology of the southern snake-handling cult. Pp, 208. Retrieved from https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/1963-04791-000.pdf
(6)Retrieved June 11, 2023, from Researchgate.net website: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Georg-Oesterdiekhoff/publication/292547836_
(7)Shamdasani, S. (1998). Cult fictions: C. G. jung and the founding of analytical psychology. London, England: Routledge.
(8)Aronoff, J., Lynn, S. J., & Malinoski, P. (2000). Are cultic environments psychologically harmful? Clinical Psychology Review, 20(1), 91–111. doi:10.1016/s0272-7358(98)00093-2
(9)Lloyd, A. B. (1989). Psychology and society in the ancient Egyptian cult of the dead. In J. P. Allen (Ed.), Religion and Philosophy in Ancient Egypt (pp. 117–133). Yale Egyptological Seminar, Dept. Of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Graduate School, Yale University.
(10)Carlton Best, J. V. (n.d.). Cults: A psychological perspective cults: A psychological perspective. Retrieved June 11, 2023, from Columbusstate.edu website: https://csuepress.columbusstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1356&context=theses_dissertations
(11)Collins, G. (1982, March 15). The psychology of the cult experience. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/15/style/the-psychology-of-the-cult-experience.html
(12)Rousselet, M., Duretete, O., Hardouin, J. B., & Grall-Bronnec, M. (2017). Cult membership: What factors contribute to joining or leaving? Psychiatry Research, 257, 27–33. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2017.07.018
(13)Retrieved June 11, 2023, from Researchgate.net website: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233367770_Cult_Commitment_from_the_Perspective_of_Former_Members_Direct_Rewards_of_Membership_versus_Dependency_Inducing_Practiceshttps://www.researchgate.net/publication/233367770_Cult_Commitment_from_the_Perspective_of_Former_Members_Direct_Rewards_of_Membership_versus_Dependency_Inducing_Practices
(14) Rousselet M, Duretete O, Hardouin JB, Grall-Bronnec M. Cult membership: What factors contribute to joining or leaving? Psychiatry Research [Internet]. 2017 Nov;257(257):27–33. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178116319941
(15) Comas-Díaz L. Ethnic minority psychology: Identity, empowerment, and transformation. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health. 1998;4(3):151–2.
(16) Young JL, Griffith EE. Expert testimony in cult-related litigation. The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law [Internet]. 1989 [cited 2023 Jun 21];17(3):257–67. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2676025/
(17) Gregson R, Piazza J, Boyd RL. “Against the cult of veganism”: Unpacking the social psychology and ideology of anti-vegans. Appetite [Internet]. 2022 Nov 1 [cited 2022 Jul 24];178:106143. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666322002343
(18) Feldmann TB, Johnson PW. Cult membership as a source of self-cohesion: forensic implications. The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law [Internet]. 1995;23(2):239–48. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8605408/
(19) Salande JD, Perkins DR. An Object Relations Approach to Cult Membership. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 2011 Oct;65(4):381–91.
(20) Aronoff J, Lynn SJ, Malinoski P. Are cultic environments psychologically harmful? Clinical Psychology Review. 2000 Jan;20(1):91–111.
(21) Freckelton I. “Cults”, calamities and psychological consequences. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. 1998 Apr;5(1):1–46.
(22) S. Alexander Haslam, Reicher S, Platow MJ. The Old Psychology of Leadership: Great Men and the Cult of Personality. 2010 Sep 13;27–46.
(23) Lunde DT, Sigal HA. Psychiatric testimony in “cult” litigation. The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law [Internet]. 1987 [cited 2023 Jun 21];15(2):205–10. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3435785/
(24) Gordon JS. The Cult Phenomenon and the Psychotherapeutic Response. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis. 1983 Oct;11(4):603–15.
(25) SPERO MH. Psychotherapeutic Procedure with Religious Cult Devotees. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 1982 Jun;170(6):332–44.
(26) Good BJ. Culture, diagnosis and comorbidity. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry [Internet]. 1992 Dec [cited 2019 Dec 8];16(4):427–46. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00053586
(27) Koss JD. Therapeutic Aspects of Puerto Rican Cult Practices†. Psychiatry. 1975 May;38(2):160–71.
(28) Clark JG. [Destructive cult conversion]. Praxis Der Kinderpsychologie Und Kinderpsychiatrie [Internet]. 1983 [cited 2023 Jun 21];(24):95–107. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6844254/
(29) Three faces of culture-bound syndromes: Their implications for cross-cultural research. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 1978 Sep;2(3):207–8.
(30) Hardcastle G. The cult of experiment: The Psychological Round Table, 1936–1941. History of Psychology. 2000;3(4):344–70.
(31) Henderson DJ. Exorcism, possession, and the Dracula cult: a synopsis of object-relations psychology. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic [Internet]. 1976 Nov 1 [cited 2023 June 21];40(6):603–28. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1021204/
(32) Gaines AD. Breaking a Tradition; the 2016 Honoree. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. 2015 Nov 7;39(4):583–3.
(33) Alarcón RD, Foulks EF. Personality disorders and culture: contemporary clinical views (Part A). Cultural Diversity and Mental Health [Internet]. 1995;1(1):3–17. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9225544/
(34) Kriegman D, Solomon L. Cult Groups and the Narcissistic Personality: The Offer to Heal Defects in the Self. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy. 1985 Apr;35(2):239–61.
(35) Ross C. Treatment strategies for programming and ritual abuse. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation. 2017 Mar 20;18(3):454–64.
(36) Patsdaughter CA, Christensen MH, Kelley BR, Masters JA, Ndiwane AN. Meeting folks where they are: collecting data from ethnic groups in the community. Journal of Cultural Diversity [Internet]. 2001 [cited 2023 June 21];8(4):122–7. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11908076/
(37) Urban HB. The Cult of Ecstasy: Tantrism, the New Age, and the Spiritual Logic of Late Capitalism. History of Religions. 2000 Feb;39(3):268–304.
(38) The Psychology of Cults | Study.com [Internet]. Study.com. 2020. Available from: https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-psychology-of-cults.html
(39) Curtis JM, Curtis MJ. Factors related to susceptibility and recruitment by cults. Psychological reports [Internet]. 1993;73(2):451–60. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8234595
Although the articles published on our website are not scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles, we aim to provide readers with authentic information on mental health and the daily problems of the 21st century. All content caters to the South Asian population living in India and other countries. We refer to other population groups and ethnicities but do not discriminate against any individual or group.
Some of our write-ups are creative pieces and have all narrative styles. Some articles are not monologues but academic-style essays that cite scholarly articles. Moreover, our content is for all age groups. If we have pieces that require parental advisory, we will put up a cautionary statement.
The above information has been written by a qualified mental health professional or journalist. It has been reviewed by a panel of experienced, qualified, skilled and trained news editors, journalists and mental health professionals. All precautionary measures have been taken to ensure that these articles are not just casual write-ups from youngsters. This is an informal method of sharing important information on the web, so one must seek the positive side of the articles shared on our website.
We also understand that not everyone will be happy to read our information or have qualms about the use of our language. However, we can assure you that our intentions are not to hurt anyone. Moreover, if you have any valuable feedback that you would like to share as a member of the audience or an avid reader of our blog posts, please write back to us at email@example.com.
All articles are purely for information and educational purposes only. Please remember that everything we share promotes positivity, but not everything shared on our website may work in your favour. All tips and tricks to tackle your issues may have negative outcomes, so please be mindful when you try something on your own without proper guidance or professional supervision. If you happen to be facing a mental health issue or disorder, we request you to seek professional help from the nearest mental health service provider available in your city.
We, the authors or publishers, do not claim responsibility for any harm caused to viewers and readers due to our choice of words or published posts. Furthermore, we will vehemently disregard any abusive language or comments shared by some readers for any given reason and take necessary steps to curb such uncivil behaviours.
COPYRIGHT INFORMATION AND INFRINGEMENT
All contents of the website, blog posts, main texts, captions, and ideas are the intellectual property of ACRO Mental Health & Wellness and individual writers. We have taken special care in trying to reference all our work to avoid plagiarism or online trolls. We have used references of audio-visual content that does not infringe on anyone’s IP nor belong to us in some cases, but have given due credit to every individual and site that we referred to before writing our articles. Any unauthorised copying, publishing, or circulation of this content is illegal and will be subject to legal consequences as per the jurisdiction of the Indian Copyright Act.