How to distinguish a cult?
Posted by: happytown ()
Date: February 11, 2017 12:24AM

So I've been involved with three spiritual groups, and they've all ended badly.

But thousands of people in the groups are happy and flourishing. I've been drawn into these groups by a need to belong. I have a tendency to be a know-it-all and have suffered group attempts to "bring me down a peg or two".

I've been accused of "resistance", and if I would just "surrender" to the guru then everything would be ok. But I'm now on medicine and in therapy.

I can clearly identify some things which are "bad" e.g. deliberate double-binds, boot-camp style toughness designed to break me. Deliberate miscommunication and mishandling of situations designed to cause distress to my evil ego. I have a history of psychosis, and it quickly sent me into a tailspin that I recognised: but the diagnosis was that I was going through my "dark night of the soul".

The message I get from therapists (and from some people in the groups) is that "this kind of thing isn't for everyone". The mixed message there of course being that I'm too weak. I'm left not only angry but also with a constant fear that it's all my fault.

I have nothing like Scientology to grasp onto, where it's really obvious that how I've been treated is abuse. It's more subtle, like they thought they could help me but they couldn't, but there no room in the paradigm to admit they messed up.

It's just so overwhelmingly crippling. It's hard to let go of the idea that if it doesn't work out then it's my fault.

If anyone can relate, or just help to create some way of looking at this so I can move on, I'd be grateful. I've lost family, relationships and friends and I'm now totally alone.

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Re: How to distinguish a cult?
Posted by: Misstyk ()
Date: February 27, 2017 08:19PM

Requiring you to "surrender to the guru" is a red flag. Attempts to impose "groupthink" or to "break the ego" are a red flag. Restricting reading material to that produced by a single author is a red flag. These are some of the warning signs.

If you think about the typical church experience, that might help you tell what's a cult and what is just a spiritual community taking inspiration from a teacher or clergy member. In most churches, people go once/week, take inspiration from a sermon, and go home. There's no enmeshment with others in attendance, or with the priest. Even in a bible-study group, there's usually (except in fundamentalist churches) no pressure to conform, rewire members' psychology, etc.

That's the type of group you should be looking for. They shouldn't be that hard to find, unless you're looking at Hindu groups, which do tend to have a hidden agenda. Some Buddhist traditions are more prone to that than others, as well, but there are still plenty of groups that are simply about studying the principles of the tradition, nothing more.

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