In a world filled with mysteries, few subjects spark our curiosity as much as the complex web of cult psychology. How do seemingly rational people become trapped in the grips of these alluring but dangerous groups? Today, we have the pleasure of delving into this fascinating topic with Victoria, a clinical psychologist from the Chiromo Hospital Group. Victoria, what is a cult? By definition, the term cult refers to social groups whose identity is pegged on unusual beliefs and practices that widely differ from other social groups' conventional beliefs and practices. Their foundation could be based on any matter such as religion or politics. What are some of the main reasons people join cults, and how do these groups appeal to their psychological needs and desires? People from diverse backgrounds and of varying age groups join cults. They could be experiencing some psychological vulnerability and are seeking meaning in issues of life. Factors like loss and grief, strained family relationships, social alienation, and relationship breakdowns contribute to their decision. Cults provide belonging, hope, and a restored vision, addressing individuals' need for love, self-esteem, and attachment. Charismatic leaders and cult members prey on lonely individuals with unmet psychological needs, promising fulfillment within the cult. What are some of the techniques that cults use to recruit and indoctrinate members? Cults will manipulate, use charisma, persuade and deceive vulnerable people into membership. They put up a very noble front and entice new members by seemingly having solutions to life questions. What is life all about? What happens when we die? How can I live eternally? Cults will also invoke fear in their members who do not conform or those who want to leave. They also use different types of abuse such as physical or emotional abuse to retain their members. They easily indoctrinate members by demanding total obedience and disallowing critical thinking. They also ensure that members are cut off from family and friends. When members become isolated from their social networks, they become more dependent on their fellow cult members. What psychological vulnerabilities make people more susceptible to cult indoctrination? Certain psychological vulnerabilities such as a lack of belonging, an absence of purpose or meaning in life, and experiencing a turbulent family environment, lead to rejection and loneliness. Additionally, personal crises during transitional life stages can heighten susceptibility to cult indoctrination What are some common psychological effects of being in a cult? Cult members tend to lose their identity. They acquire what is known as a pseudo-personality as a result of exposure to prolonged environmental stress whereby a person dissociates and acquires a pseudo-identity. They are now defined by other people; they cannot think their own thoughts or even feel their own feelings. Mental health illnesses may develop such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even psychotic disorders where they lose touch with reality. How can former members begin to recover from their experiences? First prioritizing their needs. Is there a medical issue such as a wound due to physical abuse? A professional can evaluate them for any mental illness and take them through therapy to help them cope with their feelings and emotions. Medication can also be used to help them cope for example with depressive symptoms and insomnia. Former members need psychoeducation on life skills to enable them to cope with the vulnerabilities of life. Uncovering their self-awareness and self-worth, learning how to create boundaries, and building their resilience will help them integrate back into society. What challenges may mental health professionals face when working with cult members? It may be a very hard task for a mental health professional to absolutely deal with a person who is an active cult member. This is because the cult has total and complete hold over its members and anything that seems contrary to what they ascribe to may be met with physical, emotional, or other forms of abuse. They may have been threatened with expulsion from the cult and their initial reasons for joining the cult such as feelings of loneliness, and of not belonging may become heightened at the thought of being let go from the cult. The fear of contravening these rules may cause a cult member to resist help from a mental health professional. How can family members and loved ones best support a cult member who is trying to leave the group? Support is very important from family and friends in accepting a cult member who is trying to leave the group. The fact that they have been isolated from friends and family leaves them with the desperate feeling that even if they want to leave, where do they go? They may have left their jobs or means of livelihood and do not have a base to start from. The family members and friends can offer support in terms of housing, work, medical attention, or other support to enable them to start their lives all over again away from the cult environment. They can also glean information from their loved one who has left the cult. They need to understand what led to their joining and if possible remedy the situation if it is within their control. If not, they can help the victim through a mental health professional process the reasons that led to them joining a cult so that there is no repeat. Leaving a cult requires a lot of effort and a lack of resources to integrate them back into normal society could lead to drug addictions, reentering the cult, mental health illnesses, and worst case scenario, suicide.

About The Author

Kagwiria Njagi

Subscribe to our newsletters

  • Events
  • Movies
  • KenyaBuzz Kids
  • Whatsapp/Telegram

    The latest buzz and hottest trends in a bite-size daily message