Could Your Teen Be Involved In A Cult? Part I


'Cult' is one of those words that gets thrown around so much that they start to lose meaning. It's often used to describe a group that defies the 'mainstream', harmful or not. While many groups labeled this way don't deserve it, there are some that do. But how can you tell?

I know it seems like an odd thing to worry about, but I'm writing this post because cults and cult-like groups often target teenagers who are having problems figuring out where they belong in the world. They might feel as though they aren't getting acceptance or understanding at home or school and feel the need to seek it elsewhere. Cultists play on this and offer what seems like unconditional love to draw people in for their own purposes. By the time the person realizes they've been manipulated, it's often too late to get out. Hopefully you won't need this information but, in the interest of caution, here are some signs of a cult.

Cults are often centered around a single charismatic leader. Christianity, for instance, was originally thought to be a cult led by a Jewish carpenter with a new message for the world. While most cults don't grow into the world's largest religion, the pattern is the same; the leader comes out of nowhere and claims to have the solution to the world's problems. He-and it is nearly always a 'he'-alone has 'the truth' and that only a select few are privileged enough to receive it. The 'status quo' is oppressive and/or evil and needs to be either changed or escaped entirely. While most teenagers don't go to this extreme, the idea of going against a world they don't feel they fit into can be very attractive.

Another sure sign of a cult is an excessive level of control. Once everyone is sufficiently devoted, the leader (and perhaps a select few others) starts to dominate them physically, emotionally and/or sexually. Members are expected to give a great deal of time, energy, money etc to the group. They are told where to live, who to see, where to work, what to eat, etc with the proviso that others outside of the group are to be avoided at all costs. Since it is not uncommon for a cult leader to claim some sort of divine origin or endorsement, members don't question this the way they would otherwise. In fact, questioning taken as a grave sin. If a person were to leave the group-voluntarily or not-, they risk being completely cut off from what has become their main (or only) support system. Again, this doesn't happen right away; like an abusive relationship, the control begins gradually and after a person has 'fallen in love' with the group. It's not hard to see how a young person still 'feeling their way around' can be drawn in.

(continued in the next post)

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