By Leah Bond, Mikayla Dunford, Alexander Glando, Marlana Barnard, and Ashley Mays
1. You may experience violence
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Cults are often stereotyped as having a lot of violence toward and within their separate groups, even though the majority of cults do not inflict violence upon each other. The history of violence in the listed cults often had to do with the psychological control leaders wanted to have over their members. A couple of instances of extreme violence from cults include the Manson Family murders, Peoples Temple murder-suicides, and the Heaven’s Gate suicides. Professors and historians from around the world want you to know that although there is a history of extreme cult violence from different cults around the globe, these incidences are not an all-encompassing portrayal of cults overall.
2. You may be socially deprived.
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In a paper written by Stark and Bainbrige that examined the typical recruitment process of several cults, noted that cults tend to actively seek individuals who suffer from social deprivation. Such individuals are likely to be described as social outcasts, people who have been rejected by the larger society. These individuals are likely referred to as awkward, weird, and perhaps cold individuals. In general, we are social creatures. Therefore, cults are more likely to appeal to those who are socially deprived because it could be an opportunity for lonely persons to surround themselves with others who have the same interests.
3. You probably live in California.
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There are 501 independent cult groups around America that hold different beliefs and perform different rituals. The state of California remains home for 1/3rd of the discovered cults today. Regionally, the Pacific side of the U.S. has the highest cult rate (6.9 per million) and the Southern region has the lowest. The Eastern side of the U.S. had the larger proportion of cult before the 1930s, but they migrated toward the Pacific, because America is known for having fertile ground for new religions regardless of the direction traveled.
4. You might be a vegetarian.
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Candidacy for cults is an important aspect in order for cults to find out who you really are and if you will be of use for their agendas. Spero touches on a few ideas of candidacy such as: constant movement (usually searching for candidates), chants, discussions, some members are followed constantly by their leaders, and control over diets by implementing vegetarian diets for everyone. Leaders tend to ingrain anxiety and other kinds of psychological disorders into their candidates early on in the process, emphasizing how they need to distance themselves from their former lives as much as possible.
5. You aren't necessarily "brainwashed."
People tend to believe those who join cults are brainwashed and uneducated when these people have actually been selected through areas where they apply good sense and critical judgement within the boundaries of the cult. Brainwashing is simply considered the fundamental level of control within the cult, because a cult is organized around a strong authority figure. Members have been known to lose their individuality throughout the process, but brainwashing is the misconception for the authoritative control of the leader.
6. You probably don't think you're joining a cult.
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Think joining a cult is all sunshine and rainbows? Researchers Salande and Perkins believe that is what they have found in their study from 2011. When people seek to join a cult, they believe that they are not actually joining a cult. They believe that they are joining a group of people that would never seek to harm them, and instead a group that has similar values and ideals. How does this happen? Well, according to Salande and Perkins, the reason we join social groups in general is the desire to fit in, to feel loved, to have meaning, and to feel happiness, all things that cult members also feel that they are joining.
7. The cult you join will match your intellectual strengths.
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If one is more educated, it is understood that one probably can understand more complicated and more challenging topics than others. While this may not always be true, it does apply to cult membership. Bader and Demaris found in their study just that idea: the more educated one is, it is more likely that they will join a cult that has “higher order” ideas. In other words, a cult that has more expansive techniques or has very skilled topics of interest, then that is more likely to attract an educated person.
8. You need to brush up on resisting social control.
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So you have made the plunge to join a cult, but are still unsure of how you will be treated. Say goodbye to all your old friends and family, as your cult leader will attempt to isolate you by removing all contact with those who do not share the same beliefs as you do. They will attempt to coerce you, using violence or threats. Rewards may even be offered, giving you incentives to stay in the cult and contribute. The cult leader will attempt to legitimize their control over you, stating that they have a right to order you around and you have an obligation to follow their orders.
9. Want to get out? Involve your family in the process.
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So you have managed to escape your cult in one piece, and now you want to try and get back to normal. While it may seem embarrassing, your family will most likely have to be involved in this process. It is important to use a combination of both family therapy and individual therapy. Including your family in the process can help prevent you from regressing back to your beliefs when you were a cult member, and it can help to keep you motivated to continue on with the individual therapy sessions.
10. There is a path to recovery.
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Martin and others note that cult leaders use psychological control and personality manipulation techniques to control all members. Former cult members explain that they endured abused in some fashion, typically physical or mental abuse. Members felt pressured to conform and were greatly pressured into remaining an active member. As a result, cult members are under great distress and when they decide to leave the organization they tend to face many challenges. There are also challenges while trying to readjust to a normal life. Despite these challenges, most individuals are resilient and with the proper forms of help are quickly back to living a normal life.