Common Cult Tactics

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on cult tactics used for manipulating and controlling cult members. Part 1 Part 3

Manipulation through fear and guilt.

Fear and guilt are central to any thought reform/mind control program. A fearful person is one who cannot think critically and whose ability to make decisions is reduced. Cult tactics include inducing fears and phobias (strong, irrational fears) in group members to allow the leadership to maintain control. Members can believe that all sorts of horrible things may happen if they don't follow the rules, if they don't earn more money, if they leave the group or even think of leaving the group etc.

Guilt is introduced in many ways, too. Guilt because of their weaknesses, their mistakes, weak faith, inability to understand, evil spirits, in fact, anything the leadership decides!

Add fear and guilt and you get dependency. The members come to depend on the leader to know who they are, how they are, how they're doing. In many destructive groups the members are on an emotional roller coaster.


Emotional highs and lows

Cult tactics include creating many emotional highs in destructive cults, from knowing the Truth (with a capital T) to group exercises designed to create euphoria, compliments from the leader, especially in public, and sometimes just believing that what they're doing is changing the world.

There are also many lows, any problems being attributed to the member's inadequacies, punishments for doing things or not doing things, being ostracized by the group for not following the rules, the verbal abuse plus the guilt, fear and shame heaped on the members by the leader.

These emotional extremes place a huge burden on the member, psychologically and physically. It also makes it very difficult to think critically and make decisions when there is such an emotional overload.

Am I in a cult? Take this quick quiz

Family member or friend in a cult? Read more


Loaded language

The jargon in cults has multiple effects.

  1. The group members feel understood because they all use the same words and it generates a sense of camaraderie (and elitism - see below).
  2. New people may feel left out and often want to learn what the words and phrases mean, drawing them deeper into the mindset of the cult.
  3. Complex situations are often reduced to a few words, and this begins to shut down the critical thinking of the members.
  4. The words and phrases can dictate how the members should act in certain situations without having to make decisions. For example, one group had a phrase that meant that seniors in the hierarchy of the group were always right. So if there were any problems or disagreements, the phrase sorted everything out!
  5. When the jargon is second nature, talking to outsiders may become tedious and awkward and this keeps group members isolated from outside influences.


Elitist mentality

As part of cult tactics, members are made to feel special. They are part of an elite group that is going to, for example, change history, save the world, change humankind in some way or be saved by god. They have a strong sense of mission or purpose which binds them together and keeps them working hard and giving of themselves - in other words, slaving and sacrificing!

This sense of elitism makes them feel more important or superior to those outside the group, especially to people in other cults, which they can easily spot!

This gives rise to one of the many contradictions in cults. While members are obedient and humble before the leadership, they can be arrogant to outsiders.

This elitism also brings responsibility, because they feel more responsible for saving the world. And of course, this sense of responsibility can be used by the leaders to manipulate them even further, inducing guilt if they don't properly perform their duties, earn enough money, recruit enough people, and so on.


The end justifies the means

Because they are doing very important things like god's work, or saving the earth, rescuing mankind, or simply doing 'The Work, members are led to believe that lying, cheating, and deceiving outsiders for money or getting them to come along to the group is justified.

And remember that many group leaders are psychopaths. This means they have no empathy, guilt or remorse. Ever!

Add to this their inflated sense of self worth, grandiosity and sense of entitlement, and they believe they can do whatever they like, take what they want, abuse whoever they please etc. etc. without any consideration for others. For them the end always justifies the means.

And then consider that the leader is creating clones of himself...!!!


More information

Think you might know a psychopath? Here's a quick test... Read about how to brainwash someone.

Read about more cult tactics in Part 3 (Part 1)

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