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  • Writer's pictureJ. Basil Dannebohm

Consuming excessive amounts of Kool-Aid may lead to toxic inebriation.

J. Basil Dannebohm

In the 70s, we called it Jonestown. In the 90s, we called it Waco. Today, we call it commonplace.

Perhaps it’s due in large part to the state of the world, or access to unlimited information and communication; but more and more people are joining cults, and often they don’t even know it. While social media gives us an unprecedented opportunity to communicate, it also isolates us from actual physical contact, something necessary for the human mind to function in a healthy manner. This leads to loneliness, which generally leads to vulnerability. Subsequently, since the rise of social media, the cult of personality is the ultimate brainwashing tool leveraged by narcissists to appease their egos. Consuming a narcissist's Kool-Aid can lead to toxic inebriation.

Most cults are hyper nationalist and/or hyper religious. However, there are many different types of cults: pro/anti religion, celebrity, holistic or health based, new age or metaphysical, pro/anti government, pro/anti science. Even multi-level marketing programs can easily become cults. Most seem harmless and sometimes enjoyable at first. This is paramount in order to ensure the possibility that one’s subconscious is open to brainwashing, gaslighting, and manipulation.

Quite often, cultish influencers commence their mission by carefully studying society. They meticulously examine various groups of people in order to identify which group is the most vulnerable or susceptible. Then, the individual adapts a persona that best reflects the need, motive, or mission of the group. Usually, that persona appeals to both the group’s fears and passions.

Once he or she gains control of the group, the influencer will often make ominous statements that eventually some sort of authority figure will “come for them.” This serves the second purpose of the cult influencer: the need to say or act above prescribed laws or norms without reproach or consequence. Generally unaware of what the influencer does out of plain sight, the warning given by the leader deceives the group into believing that he will eventually face some sort of unjust, albeit self-inflicted form of martyrdom.

More often than not, the group is willing to ardently defend the words or actions of the cult influencer, disregarding any facts or concrete evidence as merely lies and conspiracy. Any challenges against the leader are done by persons the group calls “degenerates,” “infiltrators,” “apostates,” “traitors,” or other such derogatory label.

It’s easy to get caught up in a cultish movement. It’s incredibly difficult and often impossible to escape such a movement. For the few who do manage to escape, it takes years to heal from the mental, emotional, spiritual, and sometimes even physical trauma inflicted during one’s time in such a group.

Is this to suggest that all groups or movements are cults? Not at all.

There is, however, an old saying: the truth hurts. If you’re reading this and your emotions are stirred, or you're inclined to block, dismiss, or delete this information the odds are that you are part of such a group or movement -- a cult by any other name is still a cult.

Nobody can force you to rethink your loyalties or associations, and if you’re inclined to disregard this information you are probably content in your delusion. If and when you awaken from the deception and abuse you are experiencing, help is always available; and contrary to what the movement would have you believe, the various forms of help are not the enemy.

While there are many indications of a dangerous movement, here are ten warning signs you may be involved in a cult —

1. The leader is the ultimate authority; any authority above him or her is either not a validly appointed leader or is some sort of sinister operative.

2. The group suppresses skepticism: attacking, threatening, and slandering anybody who challenges their claims.

3. The group delegitimizes former members, often through some sort of public shaming or false accusations. Quite often the group will employ name calling as a means of shaming.

4. The group is paranoid about the outside world, often believing that some sort of nefarious force is at play, though they have no actual proof with the exception of the words of the leader and his or her appointed minions.

5. The group relies on shame cycles, especially when one or more members of the group second guesses situations. Shaming techniques include threats of eternal damnation or preying other fears and vulnerabilities of the individual. This is precisely why the leader gets to know the fears of the group as a whole.

6. The leader is perceived as being above the law or asserts that the law is invalid due to the perceived “illegitimate” figurehead of the opposing force deemed by the leader to be “the enemy.”

7. The group uses "thought reform" methods, including self-published doctrine, study materials, traditional catechesis that has been re-tailored to fit the needs of the group, neo-constitutions, oaths, courses of study and/or training.

8. The group is elitist, alleging that membership is intended exclusively for “like-minded” individuals, which is to say impressionable or vulnerable people who can be easily persuaded. Often these groups attempt to isolate members from friends or family, especially if they raise concern or opposition to the group.

9. There is no financial transparency, and excuses are made for a lack of accountability. Quite often such groups will falsely assert that a non-profit status protects them or grants them some sort of immunity or concession for confidentiality.

10. The group performs protest marches, rites, initiations, or obscure ceremonies that are often steeped with symbolism and antiquated language or slogans. These are done to deceive the individual into a sense of belonging as a means to compensate for the outside isolation.

If you sense something is unhealthy about a group you're involved with, trust your gut. If you leave the group and find yourself threatened, shamed, or attacked do not submit to the assaults. An important way to avoid cults is to avoid excessive amounts of social media and isolation. Remember: healthy religious and civic engagement never involves hatred against any person or organization.




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