Signs Of A Cult At The
Different Stages Of Membership

The signs of a cult can be fairly easy to spot by someone who is not involved in the group, but for those who are actively engaged, these signs can be, for all intents and purposes, invisible. There are many reasons for this, including the idea that cult members reasoning abilities have been blunted, the activities of the group have been redefined by the leader as beneficial, helpful, world changing etc. and the members have been trained to defend the group against all criticism.

With that in mind, if you think you might be in a cult and you are looking through this list to validate or deny your doubts, by all means keep reading. And when you have finished, go through this list again with a trusted friend. This friend should be someone who has nothing to do with the cult. They will see things differently than you do and may be able to help you to recognize things that you cannot spot on your own. This is not a criticism of you in any way, it's simply the nature of mind control.

We will look at the various indicators that a group is a destructive cult, starting with the initial contact with the group, then the indicators when someone is well into the group and other signs when someone is trying to get out of the group. So let's get started...


Signs of a cult - early stages

If you have just gone along to some group and you are wondering if it is a cult, or not, these are the things to look out for.

When you arrived, everyone was extra friendly. They went out of their way to talk to you and make you feel at ease.

If it was a special event for new people, there were more senior members there supervising everything while the leader gave his talk.

Watch out for love bombing. This is where the older members tell you how great you are doing, how well you will do in the group because you learn fast, you are intelligent, the group is exactly what you need. They make you feel special, unique. They act as if they are your friends already.

There were some odd things that you were expected to do, but when you looked around it seemed that everyone else was acting as if these things were normal and, in order not to stand out, you went ahead and did the activities anyway.

All the members are full of energy and enthusiasm, smiles plastered on their faces, and they seem as happy as any group you have even been to. They chat continually about how good the group is, how their lives have changed since they found the group and they say that they don't know how they managed before the group.

If you ask about the leader, you are told that he is wonderful, very clever, he has amazing skills, he is such a caring human being, he has helped so many people, he has special knowledge, he has answers to everything and so on.

If you ask the members to name three faults that the leader has, they will not be able to give you three. They may point out something that is not quite right but immediately they will justify why he is like that. This justification they give is typically involves some benefit of the members. For example, "He can be very strict, but that's necessary because some people need that to learn, and besides, it's a good reminder to all of us not to be doing things that slow us down." This is a very strong indicator that the leader is controlling the members. It is not normal at all that someone cannot point out of faults of another person that they have had some considerable contact with.

Are you offered to come along to other 'free' events? Do several people ask you about coming along again? Do they want you to commit right now? If you are doubting, do they ask why and then have answers to overcome any objections that you have? These answers are usually scripted and have been honed and developed over some time to deal with the common objections that new people often have. Notice how different people may give you the same answers to your questions. These are scripts that have worked in the past and the cult will have developed a list of such scripts to recruit people into the group.

Do they want your email and phone number? Do you find it hard not to give it to them because they seem so friendly and nice?

When you look the group up on the internet, are there rave reviews but also reviews of people saying how controlling and awful it was? Does anyone actually call the group a cult? If there are only rave reviews and no bad ones, it's possible that people are actually afraid to put negative reviews.

Upwards of two thirds of people are recruited into a cult by a friend or family member? If a family member or friend has invited you along to the group, how involved is this person in the group? Does the group seem to dominate your friend's life? Are they always talking about the group and the group ideas? If so, beware!

Is the group offering solutions to all your problems? Or has the group introduced a problem that you didn't really notice was a problem before, and it so happens that they have the perfect solution for it?

Is the group leader charismatic, smooth, and even slick? When he starts talking is it easy to get sucked into his particular logic and ideas? Or does what he says seem ridiculous and far fetched? Either one can be an indicator that you are listening to a cult leader.

Have you gone along to a talk on communications but you overhear the leader giving advice about diet, relationships or life problems to the other group members?


Signs of a cult - deeper into the group

Now that you have been in the group for some time, are there more and more rules appearing? Things that were never mentioned initially?

Have you noticed that people continue to struggle with the same problems, problems that the group techniques were supposed to take care of?

Is the cult leader adored by the members? More than the actual activity of the group itself? In other words, say it's a martial arts group we are talking about, are the members there because the martial arts training is so good or are they there because they consider the leader to be an amazing person? In cults, the activity typically becomes secondary to literal worship of the leader.

Do you see a different side to the leader now? Perhaps he is more self centered than he seemed at first. Or maybe you have seen his temper, which can be very fierce. Not something you were expecting, based on how kind he was at the first encounter with him, or her.

If you have any doubts or confusion in your day to day activities, do you ask yourself, "What would the leader or the group recommend in this situation?"

Do you realize that you have actually shared a huge amount of your life with those in the group? You have told them all your thoughts, your fears, all about your past, even things that you have never admitted to anyone else before? Or maybe you have told the leader all these things? So much that he or she knows more about you than anyone else, including your close friends and family...?

Do the people in the group feel like kindred spirits, like very close friends, and you feel that these friendships will last forever?

Do you accept everything the leader is saying? Or do you have any doubts about the group? If you do have doubts, do you simply fake it, pretend that you accept the ideas of the group, not wanting to cause any ripples?

Are you allowed to question, criticize and express your own opinion? Perhaps you have seen what happens to others who do that (they are hauled over open coals) and you have learnt that that kind of thing is 'just not done'.

What happens when people in the group break the rules? Does someone tell tales to the leader? Are they reprimanded on the spot by other members? Are they basically shamed and made an example of? Does the leader talk about other people's problems and mistakes in front of the whole group?

When you notice someone breaking the rules, do you feel a strong urge to 'fix it'? Do you run to the leader to tell them that something needs to be fixed? Or do you feel so uncomfortable that you have to point out to the rule breaker that they need to stop?

Are you monitoring other's behavior to make sure the rules are adhered to? Do you feel that everyone is watching you in the same way?

Do you find yourself whispering to a close friend about something in the group that you don't like but you wouldn't dare share this with everyone in the group? Might this friend agree with your grievance but neither of you actually do anything about it? The consequences of speaking out might be too unpleasant...?

Do you have genuine conflicts in your head about the leader or the doctrine, the ideas of the group? Perhaps you have seen the leader do things that you really don't like, or the ideas of the group go against some of your ideas... But you don't do anything about it, you just suck it up and carry on as best as you can...


Signs of a cult - leaving the group

Has the accumulation of things that go against your values got to the point where you just can't keep ignoring them and you think you don't want to be in the group any longer?

Have you been thinking of leaving the group for some time but for some reason you haven't done anything about it?

Are you actually afraid of leaving? Are you concerned about how you will manage without the group?

Are you worried that they will talk about you they way they speak of people who have left in the past? You are lazy, you will lose your salvation, you will stop learning, you will go backwards, you are not prepared to do what it takes etc.?

Are you afraid that bad things will happen to you if you leave, the way the leader predicts?

Do you think you might miss out on something very significant if you leave?

Do you go back and forth in your head, one minute thinking that leaving is a mistake, but the next thinking that you know you have to leave?

Do you feel that you need the group, for the support, the camaraderie and so on?

Do you know in your head that leaving is the right thing to do, but in your body you feel that you should stay?

Do you sometimes think you are going crazy because of all these inner conflicts?

Do you think you are actually the problem?

What makes a cult?

Have you seen the leader not following the rules, and at the start, you justified it to yourself one way or the other, but now it's getting to be too much?

Do you feel that you have lost yourself in the group? That you don't know who you are any more? Do you have difficulty making your own decisions without having to refer to the group every time?

Don't expect that you will recognize each and every one of these signs of a cult in your own situation. However, if you do recognize that there are several of these things happening to you, then you need to pay very close attention. Chances are that you are in a cult.

Talk to people outside the group about what is going on. Ask their opinion. Listen closely to what they say. They will see things differently to you. And right now, you need a different perspective. You need to hear different reasons for things than the ones that the group has put in your head.

It's important to question what the group is about, what it's doing and why it's doing things. You must start thinking critically. It's difficult because of what they have done to you. That's why I suggest that you give a lot of importance to what the people who care about you (not the group members!!!) say about the group. They will help you to think critically and rationally again.

If you think you may be in a cult, get professional help from someone who understands cults and mind control. It will help validate your experiences as well as speed up your recovery.


Signs of a cult - more reading

If you still have questions, (and if you have got this far, you will!!) you can read more about what does cult mean, cult control, cult psychology, how brainwashing occurs, the characteristics of cult leaders and how to escape a cult.

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Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?

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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