It might be important to understand how some may have used cult methods to attract new members. They're used not only in cults, but also religions, politics, and even marketing to sell products/services.
No intention to claim which/who is right or wrong, or to accuse anyone here. We can even find them in gaming community, employed by both arguing parties : )
The following are some articles discussing those methods.
source: https://www.grunge.com/47584/cults-trick-believing/How cults trick you into believing
Right now, you may feel like you're reading this article as a curious outsider. Perhaps you're thinking, "Well I would never fall for that cult stuff." But you're wrong, according to professional research about cults and their recruits, structures, and behaviors. Anyone can be drawn into a cult, no matter how smart you think you are.
They've got to have charisma
Charismatic people have the proverbial golden ticket to success because they're great at manipulating people. If someone's persona is captivating, alluring, and commanding, they attract followers and admiration very easily. This is key to understanding how cults work. No average Joe lures people into cults. It's someone with the kind of personality that fits the job description.
The New York Times reported on the psychology of the cult experience by interviewing several experts in the field of psychiatry, one being Dr. Stanley H. Cath of Tufts University. The definition of a cult that he gave to the Times is "a group of people joined together by a common ideological system, fostered by a charismatic leader." Often, when people think about cults, they think about an organization, but as Dr. Cath points out, the leader is just as if not more important than anything the group stands for.
They tap into your weaknesses
Everybody's got 'em.
No matter how they portray themselves, all humans have vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Identifying and tapping into these aspects of your character is part of a cult leader's scheme. If you feel there is a problem in your life or with the world around you, you are vulnerable to being swayed by a cult member. If you feel like no one understands you or listens to you, you are also vulnerable.
However, a person doesn't need to be depressed to be subject to the will of a cult leader. A relatively happy, normal, intelligent person can be swept into a cult just as easily as anyone else. All it takes is figuring out what your wants and desires are, and a cult leader will find a way to exploit that for their own means. As this Vice interview with a previous cult member reveals, it's all about "hitting an area of interest." Humans are emotional beings, and that's what these people count and prey on.
They provide hope and solutions
Cults portray themselves as the best possible solution to whatever problem you're dealing with or whatever negative emotions you are experiencing. They set up a formula like, "X has hurt you, I can make X go away and make you feel all better." In short, it's the idea of comfort that they offer you and that ultimately persuades you. The term for this approach to recruiting cult members is called love-bombing.
Ever have someone shower you with all sorts of affection, attention and compliments to make you swoon? Think back to a few of the people you've dated. Was there one (or more) who totally enraptured you because they made you feel so wanted and good about yourself that it was like you were on cloud nine? But then the relationship took a turn. It started to include less love and affection and maybe even a broken promise or two. But you denied it because you were still under their spell. That's exactly what love-bombing is, and it's what cults do to their recruits.
According to a Psychology Today article on the subject, "Cults start seducing people with love-bombing, paying a great deal of attention to and being very affectionate with potential recruits—a very effective way of connecting with someone who is feeling lonely and isolated." Still think it could never happen to you?
They isolate you
Cult leaders want total psychological control over you. Once they've got you fooled into believing that the cult is a great place for you to belong, they begin to isolate you from your old life. They are your friends and family now, not the people you depended on before. To many outsiders, this would seem like a huge red flag. It's hard to believe that if they were in the same situation they'd completely abandon those they cared about. But when you're presented with what you're convinced is the ideal life filled with comfort, unity, and purpose, it can be an easy decision to make.
The importance of this step is monumental. The cult is no longer just exerting emotional manipulation over a new recruit but social manipulation as well. It's not just about the mind anymore—it's also about the environment. By disconnecting you from the rest of the world and making the cult your new home, they are fulling immersing you into their system of lifestyle and belief.
The group's identity is now your identity
After a cult has successfully thrown away your old life and replaced it with a new one, they focus on reshaping your identity. They break down your conception of yourself as an individual and replace it with the group. You are no longer the name you received at birth. You are now, for example, a disciple of the People's Temple. This tactic is discussed in an article published by San Diego State University about Jim Jones and his psychological revolution. The article reads, "The cost for Jones' followers was to further lose their independence of thought and opinion." The cult's identity consumes your own, and there becomes no difference between you and the rest of the group.
If it still seems hard to understand, think about this process in a different context. It is precisely how any extremist group works, not just cults. Cult tactics are employed by charismatic leaders to indoctrinate their followers and grow their cause. A perfect example of this is the rise of Hitler in the 20th century. A young man who was an outcast on the fringe of German society was able to persuade people to his cause with his charisma and incredible oratory skills. His small fringe group ended up growing into an entire army because he presented them with a vision of the world that made them feel hopeful and like they belonged to something greater than themselves. According to an interview Broadly did with Dr. Alexandra Stein, who herself used to be in a cult but now focuses on spreading awareness, "No matter what the ideology of a cult, the techniques are the same. Their leaders operate in the same way as both totalitarian leaders and domestic abusers, and to understand that is to protect yourself from their coercion." So really, cults and cult tactics are almost everywhere you look. But you never saw it that way before, did you?
"Us" versus "them"
To further erase your own identity and replace it with that of the group, cults frame the world as "us" versus "them." It pits the cult's view of the world and all of its ideals against the outsiders and the non-believers. Former cult member Diane Benscoter details this approach in her Ted Talk about how she once became a "Moonie," or a member of the cult started by Sun Myung Moon. "It becomes impenetrable," she says of the cult mindset. "And the most dangerous part of this is that is creates 'us' and 'them,' 'right' and 'wrong,' 'good' and evil'. And it makes anything possible."
The New York Times interview with Dr. Stanley H. Cath affirms what Benscoter has to say. "Often they set up a we-they philosophy," Dr. Cath says. "'We have the truth and you do not.'" This framing technique further brainwashes cult recruits and solidifies their connection to and belief in the group's values. This makes it virtually impossible for someone to convince a cult member that the cult is bad.
Reinforce with ritual
Once a recruit believes, the cult leader's work is far from over. They have to make sure that the recruit's faith does not waver, and the performance of rituals help with this task. The American Psychological Association details how cults keep people in line. "With thought-stopping techniques," their article says, "members are taught to stop doubts from entering their consciousness about the cult, often with a key phrase they repeat." "Repeating a key phrase" is also known as chanting a mantra. Repeating mantras is a form of psychological ritual that reinforces belief. In the case of cults, it is also an important aid in brainwashing.
So why do mantras and rituals work so well for cults? Scientific American has also researched and analyzed the significance of ritual. According to the article "Why Rituals Work," "the superstitious rituals enhanced people's confidence in their abilities, motivated greater effort—and improved subsequent performance." While ritual can be used for many purposes, even good and simple ones like how to manage your weight, they can be weaponized. In the eyes of a cult leader, this is a perfect tool to keep recruits obedient and passionate about the group's cause.
Part of the success of a cult depends on how it sets up and reinforces its logic and ideals. One example of the kind of logic that a cult employs is this: "We know the truth, and we know what is good. By complying with us, you know the truth and what is good. Anyone who doesn't follow suit is lying to themselves and is bad." Even though this may seem like BS to an outsider, it has its own internal system of logic and rules. If a person buys into the first premise that the cult knows truth and goodness, the rest makes perfect sense. This kind of logic makes it easier to see people outside the cult as enemies or targets.
If this sounds like mind control, it's because it is. A cult teaches you what to believe, how to demonstrate your belief, and what to say to people who question the cult's authority. As part of their research about the cult mentality, the APA spoke with several former cult members about their experiences. Kerry Noble, a former leader of a cult called the Covenant, Sword and the Arm of the Lord, became militant and hateful toward gays, blacks, and Jews while in the cult. After a stint in prison, he spoke to the APA about his recovery from cult mind control and brainwashing. "I've learned that hate is a learned behavior," he said. And that's how, with the proper dominoes in place, a kind and utopian-seeming group can turn into an armed and extremist organization.
The chosen one
What ultimately sells a person on the idea of being part of a cult is the notion that they have been uniquely chosen for a cause, that they are part of an important revolution or a divine plan. Remember what we said about love-bombing? It's not only being loved and accepted that attracts people to cults, it's the idea that they are being recognized as special and important. A woman named Lisa Kerr shared her story with The Huffington Post about being indoctrinated into a cult. "Almost immediately," she writes, "the Master's Commission disciples had me convinced that, by joining them, I would be joining an elite group of soldiers for Christ that would change the world by drawing people closer to God." For someone who might be feeling lost or like they want to change the world, what better line can you feed them than that?
Dr. Sharon K. Farber explains this phenomenon further in her article, "Cults and the Mind-Body Connection." "The cult preys upon the tendency of many to rely on magical thinking," she writes, "which reinforces the tendency to endow the leader with omnipotent and magical powers, much like the child's early mental representations of the parent who, at that time, did control his universe." You are loved, you are valued, you are special and you are wanted. You are looked after and I will show you the way. Who doesn't want to hear that? From a young age, these are the things we yearn for.
That's exactly what makes a cult so appealing. They lure you in with the promise of fulfilling those desires, and just a few weeks later, they send you on a crusade that you'd otherwise never have participated in.
Ultimately, what you do with your life is entirely up to you. You can choose to be part of something or you can choose not to be. But psychological manipulation is a powerful weapon, and with it, a cult can break down even the strongest person's defenses.
source: https://michaelbluejay.com/x/how-cults-recruit.htmlHow cults recruit & indoctrinate their members
Ever wonder how someone becomes a cult member? How exactly do they get sucked in? The process is actually remarkably similar from cult to cult, and here I'm going to explain the basic recipe. But before detailing the specific mind-control tricks, one thing to realize is that the indoctrination is typically a series of small steps. No one goes from rational person to brainwashed devotee overnight; instead, they're gently led through the process, one step at a time, each step being not very far from the old step, so it doesn't seem like a big change. Of course, once you take enough steps you're a mile from where you started. It reminds me of that old idea that a frog in a pot of water that's slowly heated from room temperature to boiling never realizes it. While I doubt that's actually true, it illustrates the concept. Anyway, with that in mind, let's follow the path of a new recruit into a mind-control group.
1. Invitation to a non-threatening event
Cult recruiters never give you the hard sell right off the bat. After all, if the pitch were, "Come be a part of our group, have it control most to all aspects of your life, possibly cut off ties with those you can't recruit into the group, and make the group the focal point of your life until you die," then most of us would run the other way screaming. So instead, a potential recruit is invited to a workshop, a poetry reading, a "party", a peformance, or some other seemingly innocuous event.
The invitation might incorporate some other tricks. For example, famed ex-cult member Steve Hassan originally accepted the invitation from the Moonies because the Moonies used attractive young women as the recruiters.
At the event, cult members shower the potential recruit with attention and praise. Psychologists call this "love-bombing". The cult people are trying to create a positive association in your mind between attending the event and having a good feeling. So when you're invited to the next event, you'll be more likely to accept because of the good feeling they instilled in you on your first visit.
The love-bombing might continue for a while. As one AR recruit later said, "Those first months, all my new friends from the AR Foundation were unusually kind to me....Little did I realize, that within a short time, I would cave in to their pressure to be outwardly expressive of a gratitude that I just didn't feel and they didn't deserve." Another ex-member, commenting on that story, said, "You really got it right as you explained how warm and friendly everyone can seem when they’re in recruitment mode..."
3. Dangling "The Prize" in front of you
At some point, cult members will suggest that if you join or study with them, you can attain something special, such as, depending on the cult, happiness (most cults), the answer's to the world's mysteries (Scientology), a "cure" for homosexuality (Aesthetic Realism), or fantastic wealth (various multi-level marketing groups). This offer could come before, during, or after that initial event you were invited to, but it'll be there, because they need you to want something from them, otherwise they have no leverage over you.
At the event, the members will all seem very happy, and you'll probably be introduced to some "success stories", people whose lives have supposedly been totally turned around since joining the group, maybe either attaining the prize or being close to doing so. Now, so these success stories say, they're finally really happy, or they understand how the world works, or they're no longer gay/alcoholic/whatever, or they've made lots and lots of money, etc. You're supposed to look at them and imagine yourself attaining that same prize.
4. Extracting an agreement from you that you want the prize
After introducing the prize, they get you to agree that you want it. This is actually pretty easy, because the prize is usually attractive (who wouldn't want it?), and because admitting your interest in it seems safe because you don't see any obligation attached. The pitch might sound like any of these:
"You do want to become financially independent, don't you?"
"Wouldn't it be exciting to really know the secrets of the meaning of life?"
"Would your life be better if you were no longer [gay/addicted to alcohol/etc.]?"
"Is it one of your goals to find a way to truly help the world?"
"What have you got to lose? Isn't it worth [$x or y action] to find out whether this can really change your life?"
Once you agree, the cultists have sunk an important hook into you, and they'll use it. By the way, notice some of the psychology here: They don't tell you what you should want, they get you to articulate it. They're trying to get you to feel that the idea came from you. In the future, you'll be less likely to argue, because you'd feel like you'd be arguing with yourself. Once you say what you feel out loud, that becomes part of your identity. Unfortunately, that means you've taken the first big step into identifying with the cult.
5. Shutting down your dissent by threatening to withhold the prize
By this point, the sell becomes a little harder. You'll be encouraged to do things that you might rather not, like devote more of your time to the group, start recruiting for them, pay for expensive programs or study materials, or adopt more extreme beliefs. Naturally, you might protest. But the cultists are ready for that. When you show any resistance, they simply threaten you that you'll never attain the prize if you keep up that kind of attitude.
This tactic is shown quite plainly in the transcript of an Aesthetic Realism consultation. The cult leaders shoot down the student's questions by suggesting that he's doomed to a life of homosexuality if he doesn't stop being "difficult".Teacher: Did you study the tape of your last lesson? I'll be direct. Did you actually listen to it?
Teacher: Did you like yourself for the way you talked, the way you listened? As you listened to yourself did you like the way you answered questions and even the way you asked questions? Did you, do you think...you were being argumentative for the purpose of not seeing what is true, and in fact thwarting?
Student: Well, I guess, maybe it would be, if I tried to, I guess I would have to say I was disappointed in myself for not catching on quicker.
Teacher: Yeah, but do you think there was anything argumentative? When I began to study Aesthetic Realism I wanted to see, but I also made a mistake in wanting to be superior...I did not know Aesthetic Realism and the tremendous knowledge that Eli Siegel had came to -- on one hand I was grateful that Aesthetic Realism was so big there was something for me to learn -- and it was true about me, I was grateful for that. But on the other hand, I made the stupid mistake of resenting the, the size of Aesthetic Realism and the fact that there was something new for me to learn. And do you think anything like that is going on in you?
Teacher: Because think about it this way: If Aesthetic Realism was something you already knew...your life, you've got a situation in your life you want to change, homosexuality...
Teacher: Right? So if what you know already, what you've met all these years, had helped you in this field, you wouldn't be homosexual, right?
Teacher: So what's your hope? Does your hope lie in Aesthetic Realism being just what you already knew, or Aesthetic Realism being new, and big, and explaining things you haven't understood, though you've been troubled by them?
Student: I want it to be new and big and explain things...
Threatening to withhold the prize isn't the only way the leaders shoot down objections, though. Notice that they used another one in the transcript above: They say that anyone who questions the teachings is simply trying to feel superior.
Actress Sarah Fazeli relates how the Landmark leaders threatened her with not getting the prize when she raised an objection. Early on she tried to get her money back, and the Landmark rep came back with, "Let’s talk about this. Why do you feel this way? What could you be resisting in your life? What if 'I want my money back' is just a story you are telling yourself?"
Sarah then talked to another rep, who said, "Sarah, can you honestly say you are where you want to be in your life?" That's exactly out of the playbook. He followed up with, "What is really going on here? What are you resisting?" Resisting, trying to feel superior, whatever, it's just always turned around as a criticism ofthe questioner. And then back to threatening non-attainment of the prize: "I hear you, Sarah, but I want you to be open to the possibilities that lay ahead for you...."
But maybe the most direct example of holding back the prize was at the seminar that Sarah attended, when a leader chastised attendees for taking unauthorized bathroom breaks: "You get up and take a break? Don’t blame me if come Sunday everyone else 'gets it' and you don’t. I can’t guarantee the transformation that will happen Sunday at 5pm unless you are here and present every second."
6. Establishment of guilt
Okay, so the recruit is in the door, and no longer asking difficult questions. The next step is to make the recruit feel guilty. Yale professor Robert Lifton called this shaming the establishment of guilt in the landmark book about the brainwashing of prisoners of war. The prisoners had so successfully been made to feel guilty that they came to blame themselves for their own incarceration.
Cult leaders shame their recruits because that makes the recruits feel vulnerable and more susceptible to further manipulation. It's also used to guilt-trip recruits into getting more involved with the group. (For example, see this ex-member's story.)
For the already-indoctrinated, playing the shame game ensures that they remain committed to The Cause. As one ex-AR member said:
"We would sit, thirty or so people, listening to the leader tell us how much good he had done in our lives, and how we would never be happy until we acknowledged to the entire world our debt of gratitude to him. I would sit as far to the back of the room as possible, tears of shame running down my face, bending my head down behind the person in front of me so I wouldn't be called on to speak, and vowing inwardly to be 'honest' from now on." (more...)
The Aesthetic Realists actually blew a third of a million dollars on a double-page ad in the New York Times to tell the world about AR, and in that ad they talked about their guilt for not having respected their cult enough: "We ourselves, we say with shame, resented Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism because we respected them so much." Another ex-member explains where that kind of thinking comes from:
"In almost any situation, one of the most surefire crowd pleasers was to 'express one's regret' for where one had been 'unfair' to the leaders or the group. The more eloquent and heartfelt one could be on this subject, the better. The people with the highest standing in the organization were those who were most adept at not only praising Siegel, Reiss and AR extravagantly yet convincingly, but also expressing, often with tears, their 'everlasting, searing regret' for having, in the past, been unfair to them."
An ex-member of Zendik had this to say: "For me, the creepiest element of Zendik Farm was the way that shame was used as a control mechanism...if the Zendiks didn’t like something about you, they could shame you into submission by making your private sh*t a matter of public disapproval."
Behavior is reinforced by rewarding "good" behavior and punishing "bad" behavior. Since we naturally seek to minimize pain, this is a pretty powerful tool. An ex-member of Zendik explains this clearly:
"[I was a vegetarian, but] I was pressured to eat meat by the Zendik Health Admininstrator and others in the community. I resisted for maybe a year. When I finally did eat some meat (chicken, I think) I received much praise. Other Zendiks took notice and gave me approving looks as I walked past with my plate of dead bird (or whatever it was). Vegetarianism was just another corrupting remnant of my old life (like my Led Zeppelin t-shirt and my name), something I needed to let go of in order to achieve happiness and enlightenment. Of course I felt better after eating the meat-- I was being smiled at for a change."
8. Control of identity, information, environment
The above explains how a recruit gets sucked in. Once a recruit is firmly in, more advanced techniques can be used to keep them in. One of the most powerful is getting members to disassociate from the previous family and friends. Not all cults do this, but those which do are able to hold a tighter rein on the members. However, these and other methods are a bit beyond the scope of this article, which was to explain how even rational, intelligent people can slowly get sucked into a cult group. Now you know.
source: https://people.howstuffworks.com/cult3.htmHow Cults Work
You may have an idea of a "cult recruit" as an obviously troubled young person, maybe "mentally ill," easily exploited by unethical cultists. But studies show that people who join cults have only a slightly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders than the general population.
Cult members come from all walks of life, all age groups and all personality types. However, one common thread among most cult recruits is heightened stress: Research indicates that a majority of people who end up joining a cult were recruited during a particularly stressful period. This could be the stress associated with adolescence, leaving home for the first time, a bad breakup, losing a job or the death of a loved one. People undergoing significant stress can be more susceptible when a person or group claims to have the answer to all of their problems. Michael Langone, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in cults, also identifies some psychological traits that can make a person more likely to be successfully recruited, including:
- dependency - an intense desire to belong, stemming from a lack of self-confidence
- unassertiveness - a reluctance to say no or question authority
- gullibility - a tendency to believe what someone says without really thinking about it
- low tolerance for uncertainty - a need to have any question answered immediately in black-and-white terms
- disillusionment with the status quo - a feeling of marginalization within one's own culture and a desire to see that culture change
- naive idealism - a blind belief that everyone is good
- desire for spiritual meaning - a need to believe that life has a "higher purpose"
Cult recruiters hang out in places where you might find people in a period of extreme stress or possessing the above personality traits -- which is anywhere. Some particularly fruitful recruiting locations might include college campuses, religious gatherings, self-help and support groups, seminars related to spirituality or social change and the unemployment office. In a 1990 article in the San Francisco Examiner, an unnamed ex-cult member commented on how easy it is to get sucked in: "People don't realize how susceptible we all are. Those smiling faces lead you to buy it when you're naive and accepting." She was recruited on the UC San Diego campus when she was 19. Her parents arranged for her to be "deprogrammed" eight years later (more on deprogramming in the "Getting Out" section).
The main methods of cult recruitment revolve around deception and manipulation. Potential recruits are not told the true nature or intentions of the group. Instead, recruiters portray it as something mainstream, low-pressure and benign. They may tell people at a church gathering that their group meets once a week to brainstorm ways to raise money for a new homeless shelter. They might invite a high school student to a talk about how public service can enhance a college application. Recruiters identity the specific needs or desires of their targets and play to them. They learn to pick up on a person's fears and vulnerabilities and portray the cult accordingly. For instance, if a young woman just went through a bad breakup, and she's feeling depressed and alone, a cult member might tell her that his group helps people to overcome interpersonal problems and rebuild their confidence for a fresh start. If a man just lost his wife in a car accident, and he can't bear that he didn't get to say goodbye to her, a recruiter might claim that his group helps people reach peace in the wake of sudden death.
It might seem strange that someone would accept these types of invitations, but there are a couple of factors that make it seem more palatable. First, the recruiter might be someone these people know. He could be in that young woman's college dorm or that man's survivors' support group. And someone who is sad, lonely or desperate might be more inclined to trust someone who claims to know the path back to happiness. Also, cults typically isolate recruits so they can't get a "reality check." They may hold meetings or services at times that would normally be spent with family and friends; they may hold "retreats" that submerge the recruit in the group's message for days at a time; and they may ask recruits not to discuss the group with others until they know more about it, so they don't mislead people or give them only part of the story. This kind of isolation narrows a person's feedback structure drastically for a period of time, to the point that the only people they're really communicating with are the members of the cult they're being invited to join. Their doubts about the group, therefore, are never reinforced, and they end up turning into self-doubt, instead. Looking around them at all of the smiling, friendly people who have obviously found peace and happiness by following this path, it appears that it must be the right way.
Once a person attends one meeting or service or lecture, he's invited to another, and another and another. He's welcomed into the cult family and invited to commit himself to the group. From day one, it's a process of manipulation and deception. And for those who stay on, the recruiting process culminates in the submission of their own personalities to the "will of the group."