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Methods of a totalitarian cult: how to recognize that you are being zombied

The antithesis of freedom is not a prison, not a totalitarian state, or even slavery. This is a cult, when not only the body, but also the consciousness of a person is captured.

Photo: Shutterstock

According to psychologist Michael Langon, editor-in-chief of the magazine and several books on cult practice, there are over a thousand cults in the United States, most of them small, but some with tens of thousands of members. In his article, he cites studies according to which between 5 and 10 million Americans were involved in cult activities, at least indirectly.

The activities of cult organizations, both religious and any other, pass without the attention of ordinary Americans. They learn about them only when they themselves fall into their networks, when it happens to relatives, or loved ones, or from the media - when some tragic event occurs, such as the mass suicide of 912 members of the cult of Jim Jones in the jungle of Guyana in 1968 year.

However, everyone can become a victim of a cult, convince American psychologists who deal with this problem. Most people fall into the cults, without even noticing. Sometimes cults look like radical political parties, Bible study groups, meditation groups, personal growth trainings, yoga or breathing classes, and more. In the US, there were cases when workers were sent to the cult, which positioned itself as a course of professional growth.

On the subject: American told how he got into a religious sect in Texas

The methods of influence common in cults are also used in other social groups - from family to state.

Researcher Margaret Singer, now deceased, in her book "Cults Among Us" lists a huge number of techniques for subordinating one person to another. Based mainly on her research, I will give you signs that will help you recognize at the initial stage where you have ended up - really for personal growth training or still in a cult.

Important note: most of these signs do not mean that you have a cult, but the presence of at least one of them should alert you and make you look critically at what is happening around you.

"Bombing Love" (love bombing), as cult researchers call it. You have just appeared in a new group, and you are very happy to see you: they look into your eyes, hold hands, listen to every word, fall asleep with compliments. Well, I was finally appreciated, the newcomer decides. However, this “love bombing” has several goals. It is human nature to obey those he likes. In addition, it acts like a drug: then the members of the cult will treat the newcomer less gently, and he will crawl out of his skin to regain his affection and relive the euphoria of love.

Black sheep screening. Cults don't need any followers - they need those who can obey. Try during a lecture - and, as a rule, it all starts as a regular lecture or discussion - to pose a question. If this is a regular course, then the lecturer will be only glad: this indicates that you are listening carefully and taking in information. But cults do not need curious people. The lecturer will begin to ridicule and humiliate such a person. Sometimes strange rules are specially set to get rid of inappropriate "human material" as quickly as possible, such as the ban on going to the toilet during a lecture.

By the way, this logic works in the "letters of happiness" from the Nigerian princes. Illiterately written and absolutely fantastic in content, they in principle can not mislead a rational person. But fraudsters rational people and do not need. They are thus eliminated themselves, saving time and money to thieves, economists Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner explain.

If at this moment you breathed a sigh of relief - well, I am a critical thinking person and I do not fall into this trap - do not flatter yourself. Everyone has periods in life when they are extremely vulnerable: after a divorce, a major defeat, the loss of a job, a loved one, in a situation when the country is going through tragic events.

Cult leader The authority of this person is undeniable. Partly because questions can not be asked. From time to time, he or she abruptly changes his attitude towards followers: from hard and cold to warm and gentle. The followers with might and main want to remain committed to the leader, for the sake of which they are ready for something they couldn’t even think about before: give up their family, their savings, deceive other recruits by luring organizations into the network.

The mystery of the doctrine. If you come to the usual training, then you will be acquainted with its program at the very beginning, or at least will not hide it if you ask. In the cults they will tell you: “you are not ready yet,” “if you find out too early, then you will harm yourself,” and the like. Singer explains this by the fact that as a result of the cult's influence, its members shift the boundaries of the normal, and critical thinking regresses. If a neophyte is immediately informed that after he spends a lot of time and 3000 dollars, he will be trained to dutifully fulfill the leadership team, he will turn around and leave.

Neglect of all who do not share the teachings of the cult. If you came to study Adobe Premier video editing software, then the instructor can be sure that this software is much better than Final Cut Pro. But it will not prove that everyone who uses it is a lower-order human being, and that Final Cut Pro's sin can only be washed away by blood or financial donations to the instructor.

If everyone outside the group into which you fall is treated with disdain and is called a fictitious nickname by some of them, then this is already a sign of a cult influence.

Destruction of family ties. When preaching traditional religion, you will be reminded of the need to “respect your father and your mother,” and also take care of your own children. But in cults, from the very first day, an attack on the neophyte's connection with the family begins, because the cult should become his family, and the leader should become his father and mother.

And if adults in the cult become infantile, then children, on the contrary, are perceived as small adults. Singer, in the section on children in the cult, gives many examples of bullying, including sexual abuse, of children and ignoring their basic needs - children may not sleep or eat for days.

And those children who were born and raised in cults are often simply not able to live in society - they have no education, and often the skills to make decisions on their own. Psychologist Bruce Perry studied children whom the leader of the "Branch of David" cult David Koresh handed over to the authorities.

These children singled out from their group two leaders who made everything, even the simplest decisions for everyone, they did not know what family was, and the concept of themselves as individuals was at the most primitive level.

In cults are used numerous methods of physiological and psychological impact. Certain activities, such as chanting hymns or special breathing exercises, have expected physiological consequences. Hyperventilation of the lungs creates a feeling of lightness, floating, or vice versa - heaviness. In the cult, this can be interpreted as they need - contact with alien life or the exit of original sin.

Poor nutrition, hard work, lack of sleep leads to the fact that women stop their periods, and men do not grow a mustache and beard. And this is also open to interpretation, for example, they returned to childish innocence, or something.

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Very often, members of the cult are kept in a completely depleted physical state for years, so they simply do not have the strength for self-reflection, an assessment of their condition. Hard work and unsettled life - this is what helps to keep the inhabitants of totalitarian countries in check, and is very well described in the book “Nothing to envy: The lives of ordinary people in North Korea».

Psychological methods include hypnosis, trance, imposing a sense of shame, inferiority, rewriting your personal history, false memories, and psychological regression when children’s perceptions with a high level of dependence return to people.

Life is a difficult thing and even the simplest problems require complex solutions. And the one who offers a panacea for all ills will almost certainly turn out to be a charlatan and a swindler who hunts for money, or even the souls of other people.

Original column published on the Voice of America website.

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