Thesis: The forces that draw individuals into cults can be explained by
What is a cult
Types of cults
psychotherapy or personal growth
popular or faddist
Popular cult groups
Sigmund Freud's beliefs
Belonging to a group
How thought reform works
Effects of a cult
What makes a person join a cult? What happens in a person's life to make them completely change they way they used to talk and act? Many are puzzled about the mysterious happenings in a cult member's life. They wonder how one could become involved in such a group. The forces that draw individuals into cults can be explained by psychological doctrine. Many in the psychology field have sought to provide answers to the various questions that society has.
A cult is a structured group, most of whose members demonstrate unquestionable loyalty to a dynamic leader. The cult leader governs most, if not all, aspects of the lives of his or her followers, often insisting that they break all ties with the world outside of the cult. A definition that is standard of all cults is that they consist of a "group of persons who share in a special interest differing from the established majority or current religious, social, or cultural values, who meet regularly to continue and extend their purpose or mission independent of previous relationships with family, friends, religion, school or career, with beliefs, practices and rituals which reinforce cult values and norms" (MacHovec, 1989, p. 10). One category that cults fall into is known as a destructive cult. "A
destructive cult is a rigidly structured absolutist group usually under an authoritarian, charismatic leader which isolates itself from established societal traditions, values, and norms, recruits members deceptively without informed consent, and retains them by continually reinforced direct and indirect manipulative techniques which cause personality and behavior change, deny freedom of choice, and interrupt and obstruct optimal personality development" (MacHovec, 1989, p.10).
Such groups are usually thought of in terms of religion, although other types of cults can and do exist. "Cults can be described by their major focus or function: religious, psychotherapy or personal growth, political, or popular or faddist" (MacHovec, 1989, p.10). Cults require strict adherence to a set of beliefs and, in turn, provide a sense of meaning and purpose to their followers. Many well-known groups with these qualities have emerged throughout history. The People's Temple, a Christian destructive, doomsday cult was founded by James Jones. Followers of this cult left the U.S. and went to a jungle in South America. While there, Jones persuaded members of his People's Temple group to commit a massive suicide by drinking poison. David Koresh, led people to their death when he refused to be served with a search warrant in Waco, Texas. Koresh's followers believed that he was the Messiah. A 51-day stand-off occurred between federal agents and Koresh and his followers. When agents launched a tear gas attack to end the siege, a fire
burned the compound and killed the followers, probably in a deliberate mass suicide. Bodies of similarly dressed men and women were found in San Diego, after a mass suicide led by Marshall Applewhite, cult leader of Heaven's Gate. The deaths were triggered by the cult's belief that a flying saucer would take them home to a place above human level. Members of this group were recruited via the...
References: (or sometimes divine) power to the group or its leadership" (Galanter, 1989, p. 5). Most psychologists would probably acknowledge that there exists a deep human
need to belong to a group
Lifton, R., foreword, Cults In Our Midst, by Margaret Thaler Singer & Lalich (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995).
MacHovec, F. (1989) Cults and Personality. Springfield: Charles C Thomas.
Roth, M. (1998). Freud Conflict and Culture. New York: Alfred A, Knopf, Inc.
Young-Bruehl, foreword, What Freud Really Said, by David Stafford-Clark (London: McDonald & Co., 1965).
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