There is a difference between cults and non-religious, dangerous groups. This must be accepted and clearly defined so the waters of cultism do not continue to be convoluted.
First it needs to be clear that the meaning of the word cult in the dictionary is “a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous; a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much; a small group of very devoted supporters or fans.”
The origin of the world cult takes factual history into the Etymology Dictionary. cult (n.) 1610s, “worship,” also “a particular form of worship,” from French culte (17c.), from Latin cultus “care, labor; cultivation, culture; worship, reverence,” originally “tended, cultivated,” past participle of colere “to till” (see colony).
Many people throw the word cult around loosely and seemingly use it to encompass organizations which do not have an origin of worship. Thus, those who worship tend to reject the notion that the simple act of worshiping is indeed cult behavior.
Non-religious groups such as pyramid type organizations, sales seminars, some life coaching programs, meditative/hypnosis organizations, non-religious youth boarding facilities, and/or metaphysical groups which are not worship based, for example, can exude abusive, controlling and manipulative behaviors that mentally and physically damage an individual.
Both cults and non-religious dangerous groups have many characteristics in common. They both tend to have a classist system, demand members to adhere to their rites, rituals, rules and expectations, practice shunning anyone who either refuses to comply by excommunication or firing them, public humiliation, and poly abusive behaviors.Am I Being Recruited?
When it comes to anyone’s intent towards you, I would encourage a deep study of neurological linguistic programming here. The process of human recruitment into groups and situations is most often rooted in language, mirroring, and body language behavior.
Below are three videos that shed a light on the use of NLP in Deception.
NLP At Work On Consumers
A Simple Example of NLP
How To Spot a Liar
After you are made comfortable with the recruiter, you’ll most likely be invited to an event. The wide variety of events used to lure members can vary from speed dating sessions to Bible study classes to art events to youth camps to religious dating sites; the plethora of luring tactics, while rooted in base behavior, are constantly changing to seemingly keep up with current social trends.
Some of the most seemingly “smart” individuals who may be simply seeking out comradeship, friendships or dating relationships have been known to be lured with NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) tactics. You are not stupid if you’ve been lured. Again, the use of extremely intricate tactics are used to influence your mind. You may be looking for a new church or religious path on your search for discovering yourself. You may be excited about the presented prospect of a new business venture that you’ve been made to believe will make you a great amount of money. Whatever the pathway is into your “need”, a recruiter is keenly trained to spot many things about your behavior. Observing and mirroring you helps them lure you.
The great news is that once you recognize the signs, you will almost assuredly always recognize them.Behavioral Warning Signs of Dangerous Groups and People
- Being disallowed to question philosophies and structures
- Won’t disclose their financial structure regarding how monies you may be giving are being distributed or volunteer hours are being reported.
- A feeling of fear of the world outside of the group or relationship, a message of the world ending or that you all may be unduly persecuted because you are “different”.
- Those who choose not to buy into the idea or be associated are often shunned, disallowed to continue contact with group members including their family.
- You begin to continually questions yourself and often feel confused or that you are not in your right, clear mind. You may begin to feel foggy after the giddy stage begins to change.
- The leader/guru cannot be questioned or criticized, but you are criticized for doing so.
- The leader/guru is a channel for something/someone other than themselves. They speak in absolutes and their way and/or “god/goddess/deity” is the one true one from all other deities being worshiped.
- Criticism of science in regards to diseases and disallowing the option to take a child or to go to the doctor, but instead, encouraging meditation, prayer, chakra cleansing or the like. This is not to discount the use of homeopathic remedies. However, discernment must be allowed in regards to one’s own body and the well-being of a child.
re·li·gion – noun; the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. “ideas about the relationship between science and religion” – synonyms: faith, belief, worship, creed; a particular system of faith and worship.
rit·u·al – noun 1. a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. “the ancient rituals of Christian worship” – adjective 1. of, relating to, or done as a religious or solemn rite. “ritual burial”.
a·buse – verb 1. use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse. “the judge abused his power by imposing the fines” synonyms: misuse, misapply, misemploy 2. treat (a person or an animal) with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly. “riders who abuse their horses should be prosecuted” synonyms: mistreat, maltreat, ill-treat, treat badly – noun 1. the improper use of something. “alcohol abuse” synonyms: misuse, misapplication, misemployment 2. cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal. “a black eye and other signs of physical abuse” synonyms: mistreatment, maltreatment, ill-treatment
There is one thing which separates religious ritual abuse and abuse. The actual ritual itself. Everything which is incorporated into the abuse under the umbrella of this definition, is based on a theology from Christianity to Islam to Judaism to Transcendental Meditation. Spanking is a basic example. While it is justified by a theology, scientifically, it is proven to cause skeletal damage to the developing body of a child. Lengthy trance states repeatedly indoctrinated into small children can hinder their ability to develop critical thinking. In extreme cases, child marriage and faith healing resulting in death are a part of these types of abuses.
The above definitions are basic applications. These root definitions cannot be changed to suit whoever’s situation doesn’t want to be classified beneath the definition of religious abuse. This is a different circumstance than say, the victim of an alcoholic or generally abusive parent wherein there is no justification based on theology.
The basic definition of ritual abuse is an extreme, sadistic form of abuse of children and non-consenting adults using methodical, systematic forms of sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. Ritual includes brainwashing through requirements that certain rules/rituals be adhered to on a daily basis or incorporated into one’s life.
Many groups include worship/ritual into their system. It is up to you and your understanding of yourself and the law in regards to child safety, to decide whether believing in their theology and ritual is or is not abusive to you and/or your familyBeing A Support Person
It is sometimes difficult to relate to survivors of abuse simply because we want to take their pain away. Any human with empathy feels this compelling urge to make things better for those who we feel are suffering. Encouraging a survivor of abuse to leave their memories in the past as an attempt to make them feel better, when the survivor is in deep emotional pain, or trying to minimize the emotions, such as telling them that at least they’re alive, or here now, usually only serves to make the survivor feel dismissed, minimized and worse. This type of behavior is not support, although this may be your intent.
Here are some suggestions to implement into your life if you intend to be a great support person to a trauma survivor.
BELIEVE THEM. Sometimes what we hear is so horrible, our brains cannot accept the reality of it. When we do not believe a survivor of abuse, we create a new wound in them. Sometimes they may doubt their own memories, since abuse memories can be vague. Sometimes they sound so extreme, you cannot picture the survivor’s description without recoiling. It is not your place to make an abuse survivor be in a position of defending their memories. They simply need to be believed and supported.
EDUCATE YOURSELF. Be willing to educate yourself. If they write a blog, journal or wrote a book, be willing to read their story so that you may have a deeper understand of who they are. If you are here reading because you want to be a good support person, we applaud you.
OFFER TO ASSIST. Assist in helping the survivor feel that you and their environment is always safe for them. They may feel shame and fear. Help them identify these feelings by having open conversations with them without telling them what they should do or need to do. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help them feel more safe. Listen to their suggestions and be willing to implement them.
NEVER sympathize with or apologize for the abuser. You are neither a judge nor a lawyer. You should never try and reason why an abuser would do what they did or ask a survivor if there was anything the survivor could see good in the abuser in attempt to initiate “forgiveness”. This can create another wound of invalidation. Hold space quietly, and tell them that you are very sorry they have been harmed.
BE PATIENT, and remember that there is no definitive timeline on a someone’s healing. People grieve, heal and recover in different ways. Ask the survivor what they need. For instance, some survivors may need to feel a long hug, while others may need to just have you listen because they don’t like to be touched. Sometimes touch is comforting for a survivor. Sometimes it can be a trigger.
OFFER ENCOURAGEMENT if the survivor decides to seek professional help. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them choose the right person for them. Offer to go with them to group therapy if they choose to talk with other survivors.
BE OPEN TO CHANGE. As a survivor heals, the dynamic between you and the survivor may change. For partnerships, remember that open, mindful and kind communication, which is not blaming or projecting. is best to grow and resolve issues. Be willing to be flexible and understanding. Many things may change, from intimacy to time to behavior. Be willing to also talk to your partner or friend’s counselor about how you can adjust to these changes.
UPLIFT SURVIVORS. See their strengths and vocalize it to them. You may find it is difficult for them to take compliments. Do not criticize or put them on the spot for that. Allow them to process the compliment by letting it be. The more you continue to vocalize the strengths in the survivor you relate to, the more they will see those same strengths in themselves.Grounding Tips
Grounding tools are everywhere around us. The key is to go from the moment of dissociation to that grounding point. Here is a list of ways to ground into your immediate surroundings. Most of these techniques also work well with children.
- Breathing in four counts. Four count in through the nose. Four count out through the mouth. Repeat. This will slow your heart rate down, since it tends to race when the body begins to feel anxiety and/or dissociation.
- Find three to five things around you that are the same color.
- Touch something and focus on how it feels beneath your hand.
- Have an activity on hand that allows for rhythm, knitting, crocheting, a pocket adult coloring book, a Rubik’s cube or other small puzzle; something that can be kept in the pocket for use in public .
- Trace your finger in a pattern against a surface to ground into your own body. Focus on it.
- Listen to soothing music.
- If you can go to a safe space, go there. If it is your car, then it’s okay to sit there until you feel comfortable.
- If you have a safe person, call them.
- Go into nature. Use your senses to explore what your eyes see. Touch the leaves and trees. Let yourself be present in your tranquil space.
- Name ten objects present in the room.
- Drink some ice water.
- Use your fingers to drum a rhythm.
- Do simple addition