Destructive Sects - What Are They?
How Do I Recognize Them?

Read 'what is a sect?'

What makes a sect destructive?

Steve Hassan, an ex-sect member, says that destructive sects have authoritarian leadership, deception, and destructive mind control.

A destructive sect is an authoritarian group with an all-powerful leader, who claims to have special information or power that is available only from him. Again, there is nothing wrong with being a powerful leader. The difficulty arises when this power is abused to deceive members, making them dependent on him and incapable of thinking critically and making their own decisions. Most leaders are actually psychopaths.

Destructive sects use deception to attract and recruit members. Potential members are offered all sorts of things to get them to come along to group meetings, meals, weekends away and the like. Communication skills, a way to make money quickly, a way to understand the Bible, the offer of new friends, better relationships, better health, etc etc.

But what they end up getting can be very different - a different set of values, a pseudo-identity or a pseudo-personality, loss of friends, breaking up of family relationships, spending their time working for nothing, while any income they do generate goes to the leader, and so on.

The members making the offers can be very convincing, firstly because they have been deceived themselves (having been exposed to the same mind control techniques they themselves are now using to recruit), and secondly because they may actually believe completely in what they are offering.

And thirdly, the use of destructive mind control, which is a system of influence designed to unfreeze the person's identity, make changes, and freeze a new identity, a pseudo-identity in place. By using a rigidly controlled, high-pressure social environment, destructive cults change people's Behaviors, Emotions and Thoughts and controls their access to Information. (This is Hassan's BITE model). In essence, they take over and control their minds.


A sect for everyone!

Destructive sects are no longer confined to religious groups, and today we have all sorts of destructive sects, political sects, therapy/large group awareness training sects, commercial sects, martial arts sects, yoga sects, and many others.

In fact, the experts say that there is a sect for everybody! What they mean is that nowadays there is such a variety of sects, that literally any person can be recruited. Whatever any person is looking for, there is a sect offering that. And therein lies the danger. We are all more susceptible to compliments, lures, deception and enticements when we are lonely, sad or upset. And if someone friendly is offering an easy solution to the problems we are facing in a particular moment, well…

Read more about particular vulnerabilities here.

It is a mistake to believe that only stupid, crazy or weird people join destructive sects. Nobody joins a sect. Sects recruit people. If a person knew what they were really getting into in a destructive, sect they would never go near it!

Studies have shown that most members of sects are from good backgrounds, are healthy (or at least were healthy when they joined!) and have no previous mental problems.

In fact, sects are actively looking for people who are healthy, ambitious, idealistic and who get stuff done. Who better than these types to earn money and attract new members!

Sects do not want the hassle of having to deal with drug addicts, psychiatric patients and others who are going to cause them problems.

In fact, cults and sects as part of the cult psychology offer utopias, the answer to people's problems… the lure is that if you just come along, follow us, everything will be ok.


One other important aspect is the size of cults and sects. Some destructive sects have hundreds of thousands of members and some have only two. For example, a therapist and his patient can be considered a cult if there is destructive mind control involved. A psychopath and her husband can also be considered a cult. (With all the attention on one person, the results can be devastating!)

For this reason Margaret Singer prefers to talk about cultic relationships, because the same process of mind control can work between two people with similar results as between a personal development guru and the hundreds of people in one of his courses. 

The one person, or the hundreds, have their reality modified and narrowed for them, and then make their decisions based on this 'bounded reality' which is totally dependent on the manipulator/guru/partner/therapist etc.

Read more about sect definitions, cults and destructive cults...

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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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