How does someone get lured into a cult?


I am in no way saying that I think people who get trapped in cults are or were ever stupid (not sure if it comes across that way at all, but I wanted to make that very clear), rather I know there’s some bananas psychological methodology to coercing people into them and I’d very much like to know the breakdown of it.

In: 1

The same way someone ends up in an abusive relationship. You’re love-bombed in the beginning, then slowly isolated from any outside support system.

Once you’re in, there is an intense pressure to conform that typically involves manipulation and gaslighting.

If you start to question, you’re the problem. You’re the crazy one. And when literally everyone around you tells you you’re wrong, you believe them. Peer pressure is one helluva drug.

It meets emotional needs you may or may not be aware you have. Belonging, approval, love, an ingroup (and an outgroup), and so on.

On a side note, it’s worth perusing the [BITE Model of Control]( to understand how cults work.

Like most things very slowly then all at once. When someone is isolated, vulnerable, sick or in crisis they will eventually try reaching out for help, this survival instinct has made humans what we are today. Bad actors have already gathered money, resources and people into an organization who COULD help and have the aesthetic of an organization that helps to trap these people in. Say you moved to a new city and your car breaks down on the way too work.A covert cultist hears about your problem and says ‘my group has a fund that might help’,. Now I interject to say good actors have also gathered money, resources and people into an organization that helps people and it is these organizations; churches, schools, not for profits, that bad actors have emulated-sometimes very well.

You accept the help and while getting your car fixed they take you for coffee and ask you questions. This seems friendly and innocuous but it is part of trust building done to indoctrinate potential members. They learn you are new to the city, you left your girlfriend/boyfriend who didn’t leave you with much money and the whole thing caused issues with your family. Perfect, you are a prime target. They talk about how wonderful their community is and how they take care of one another (like with your car!) and how cute the women/men are but mostly they talk about ‘that guy’ who runs the whole show, he is just great! You have to meet him! (Also his name is on the check for the auto shop so like…)

So you agree to come to an event, probably a potluck (cults and churches alike love potlucks) and get to mingle with all these new people. It’s been lonely since you moved and all these people think you are the most interesting thing ever, they want to know everything (everything) about you, where are you from, what do you do, sisters, brothers, boyfriends, job, education. Everyone is going to peel one or two pieces of information so it doesn’t feel strange at all. Paul asked about your family, Joan asked about your job, Keith asked about your boyfriend/girlfriend. This is what being popular must be like!(It’s not).

Finally ‘the guy’ is going to give a lesson or speech and it feels almost like the message is directed at you!(It is) He will talk about how he was lost and alone and in crisis until he figured out ‘the thing’ that changed his life and now look at him! Giving speeches to all these people who love him and he loves them too, wouldn’t it be great to love and be loved in return? Not to worry about all the toxic people who make life difficult but instead spend time with people just like you who believe good things you believe and like cool things you like? (remember the questions, these people are good). After the message you meet him and he is electric, handsome and charismatic (most narcissists are) and he personally invites you back, the honor!

Now your hooked. Your brain has flooded you with happy chemicals and all week you think about your new friends, maybe you got added to a group chat or Facebook, maybe the cute one gave you their number, one way or another they will get a hold of you. ‘You coming to the message on Sunday?’ ‘Potluck and a movie Saturday?’ ‘Taco Tuesday?’ ‘Let’s get lunch across the street at this cool place then stop by ‘the place’ after to see if anyone is up too anything(they are). Soon your social life becomes consumed and you spend most of your time with them. Now it’s not ‘you coming to the potluck?’ it’s ‘we missed you at the potluck, is anything wrong?’ Then it’s ‘We expected you to help prep for the potluck like you said’ (did you?).

Eventually you stop being a party person and have responsibilities and a bit later you start rising threw the ranks (why are there ranks?) Until the lost cost fallacy has been implemented into your mind. You are one of them, that’s your identity now. The obligations become increasingly intrusive, cohesive control replaces love bombing and you become isolated to outside contact (you dont want to be around toxic people do you?). The fun thing about toxic people is that they will challenge your new lifestyle and friends, maybe even call them a cult (as If you would join a cult, preposterous!), These are the things the cult has already groomed you too look out for and label toxic. You don’t question the message, the leader is special, he speaks to God or pazuzu or the universe or whatever (like a normal person), one day if your really good and do everything the leader says maybe you can be special too! But toxic people will infect you with the bad juju and make you toxic, asking questions and whatnot, and then you could pass the infection onto the group! Oh no! You don’t want to be toxic, better cut this guy out of your life, he isn’t on the path to being special like you so it isn’t a big deal.

Congratulations your a cultist! Now you get to identify lonely people to exploit, I mean welcome into the loving arms of the group! Maybe you drive away toxic outsiders who want to invade your group and destroy your way of life, maybe you help the leader reach closer to ‘the thing’, usually by having sex with him. Most likely all of them and you will smile and nod the whole time because you know better to ask questions or act toxic by failing to be bubbly happy all the time.

I want to say again, cults and churches share many traits like buildings, jargon, clothing, rituals. Cult leaders are almost always narcissists and narcissists are good at appearances and bad at substance so they have a very easy time making it look the same but the fundamental structure is tertiary, which is why isolation and the demonization of questions and free thought are the hallmarks of cults. A religion shouldn’t stop you from free association, the expression of identity or questioning the doctrine. If your religion does these things I’m not calling it a cult but I am definitely encouraging you to start asking questions, if it’s a cult you will be labeled toxic and expelled. Like don’t fight cults if you can, they think they are right and are unwilling to compromise.