Friendship beginning to resemble past cult experience
Posted by: dsm ()
Date: December 07, 2009 12:03PM

I am a cult survivor. Not important which one, just that years ago I was recruited to a controlling cult similar to many you list here and that left me with a lot of wariness after I left it.

One of the problems is that with the PTSD that remians, I can sometimes be "hypervigilant". I am wondering if I am being hypervigilant now, or if a trusted friend is in fact acting as a cult recruiter.

I just found out that this friend went to several business contacts of mine with the excuse she could not "find" me, and expressed lots of concern about my welfare. Both contacts know me well enough to laugh about it. I am indeed going through an economic rough patch, and I was able to explain that my friend is a bit of a spoiled type who panics at the thought of not being able to afford a day at the spa, while I make a hobby of surviving economic train-wrecks, but in the back of my mind I am beginning to get concerned.

My past experience with a cult was that they used to "encircle" their members by getting involved in meddlesome ways with their new recruits' relationships. When I began to notice these patterns of behavior I was told I was "paranoid" and I was abused because I could not convince my own family and friends that the interference in my life was deliberate. I really could not be sure, myself, at times, and that is what made exitting the cult very difficult.

Now I feel like it is happening again. This friend is someone I care about, but she does have some naive associations with people in "support" networks, and I worry that her behavior might be more than just her own tendency to be a nervous mother hen. I have criticized her support networks and told her some concerns that such networks can be cults, but it did not seem to be a threat to me and my criticism was mild.

Now I worry that she may have shared my criticisms with her network and they want her to cripple my private life. But I also worry that I may be over-reacting because of past trauma with a cult that used to do that.

Has anyone got any suggestions about what I could do or say to find out if my friend is just being a little over-bearing or if she is in fact working a strategy on behalf of a cult that may have felt threatened by my criticism? (mostly I was just being sarcastic, not trying to de-program or anything, but if she shared my remarks innocently with a genuine cult they might get paranoid that I meant more than expressing an opinion.)

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Re: Friendship beginning to resemble past cult experience
Posted by: Confused7609 ()
Date: December 08, 2009 08:37AM

Many people who have left cults and experienced cult "brainwashing" or "abuse" are hypervigilant. From what I understand, the negative side of hypervigliance does border on paranoia and lack of trust is a huge component of that. The self protective or positive side to hypervigilant is that you do recognize early warning signs of difficult situations or relationships regardless if they are cult related or not.

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Re: Friendship beginning to resemble past cult experience
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: December 08, 2009 09:56AM

dsm, congratulations on escaping your hellish cult. You are among friends and a terrific on-line support group here. If you haven't seen this yet, please check it out as it may help:


As an outsider to your problem I can't give you anything more than my uninformed opinion. My uniformed opinion is that your friend may be innocent of any cultic controlling intent. Many times paranoia can totally color your view of the world and the intent of those around you.

Does your friend know about your recent escape from the cult? Was she ever involved in cults since you mention she is involved in "support" networks? Why is she in "support" networks?

Answer these questions yourself. I would ask her why she called business associates of yours looking for you if she knew where to find you? Is it possible she didn't know where you were? No matter what you ask her for clarity, make sure you do not lose your cool or be arguementive or accusing of tone or you may lose a friend if she was truly concerned for you.

What did she say to you business associates? They laughed it off. She said nothing bad about you to them, I assume.

You may just be feeling paranoia still. She may be still a good friend and innocent. As you know, cults shove a load of crap into the minds of their victims making them fearful of leaving/outsiders.

You may need some therapist who is familiar with your ex-cult to assist you. Please check out the links at the top the this page to find help, or contact Rick Ross personally at the "contact" link above where you can discuss with him your specific cult and location and see if he can recomend a good therapist in your area to assist with your recovery. Good luck!

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Re: Friendship beginning to resemble past cult experience
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: December 09, 2009 01:31AM

One thing to do re your friend is set some ground rules.

If she is 'concerned' about you, she should act like a grown up and contact you directly.

Its childish to go running around and contacting others. And in fact, by her doing htat, she's not respecting your privacy.

So one way to clean it up is to tell her to call you first and not involve third parties. Tell her to contact YOU, or at most, you can designate one other person, just one, she can check in with if she cannot easily reach you.

If she gives you hissy fits or tantrums, she may not be someone you want to continue to have in your life. If you're digging out of an economic slump, coping with someone like this can be a drag.

2) If you need to preserve your sleep, you are not obligated to respond to phone calls or emails or tweets before a certain hour in the morning, or after a certain hour at night.

3) You are under no obligation to disclose personal information. In fact, if this friend tends to be a gossipy 'drama queen' type, dont tell her anything if you want it to remain private.

4) If she wants to chatter to you about a third party who is not present to give his her side of the story, its wise to refuse.

5) If she wants to go to some great new event or workshop or presentation, tell her to give you the name of it, so you can fact check it first.

If you do go, decide in advance that you will not remain there past a certain hour. Some gigs intentionally start late, so as to keep people past their bedtimes.

IF anyone starts a program more than 20 minuts late, they dont respect your time and energy and you have every right to decide they are flakes. This not only applies to cults but also to dates.

(Now that I am middle aged, I deeply regret that it took me so long to figure out that anyone who runs 20 to 30 minutes late is a dweeb and that I should refuse to associate with 'em)

Doesnt matter how charming, funny, or sexy someone is. If they run late---walk the fuck out.

Keep your checkbook or credit card at home. Use your own transportation so you are not dependent on her for a ride back home. That way, if you need to leave on your own, you can do so, and keep control over your life.

(If you dont have a car, take enough cash for cab fare)

Finally, keep control of your car keys, cell/mobile phone and checkbook.

All this will serve you well, for the rest of your life.

BTW for eduction here is a long list of redflags from a lovely website called Heartless Bitches

Though most items carry the masculine pronoun, they apply just as well to women.


Finally, if any of this seems hard to do, therapy might be a help. You might not even need to be in it for long.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/09/2009 01:38AM by corboy.

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Re: Friendship beginning to resemble past cult experience
Posted by: dsm ()
Date: December 10, 2009 09:19AM

One thing to do re your friend is set some ground rules.......Finally, if any of this seems hard to do, therapy might be a help. You might not even need to be in it for long.

Thank you, lots of good reminders there.

Well, the thing about hyper-vigilance is that it is triggered as much by my own internal stress level as by specific actions outside, and this has been a terrifically stressed week. I started to move into my new place on the same day that a wintry wet cold front moved in and I got sick, but had to tough it out and work then sleep then work then sleep. So that set me up for triggers.

Now I am in the tail-end of the awful head-cold that I have been battling, and most of my furniture is in the apartment, and I am comfortably sitting in a warm kitchen eating comfort food and chatting with y'all.... so I am not feeling stressed and I can put my worries about my friend into perspective:

Yes, there is a definite cult-flag issue because in fact we both have history with the same cult. She has not exitted. She believes she can control her life while accepting the perks of membership that she enjoys, but she has become more self-protective because of my criticisms of the way the cult manipulates people, and so I do not think she would be deliberately playing their games. She has more personal integrity than that. Sooner or later the cult will press a button that will cause her to choose her path.

For now, we are both pretty busy in different directions and won't be crossing paths as much. I have more non-cult resources than she does. This in fact may have been one of her reasons to panic, because I have been silent about my resources that I don't want exposed to her carelessness.

The problem is, some cults are "layered". They don't pose threats to certain classes of members but they go way overboard in their attempts to exploit and control other classes of member. I fell into a highly-targetted category as a female artist, and my friend is not an artist. She did not understand some of the tactics she witnessed when we were both in contact with the cult, she thought it was just a personal conflict between me and a couple of individuals. She stuck by me and helped me get safely out of their sphere of influence, because cults count on someone having no witnesses at all when they go on a character-assasination campaign, which is what they did to me.

Her concern about me was genuine, but her manner of contacting others was a little immature and I can ignore it because it did not do any damage. In fact, it may have been good for her because my friends now see her as a kind person and if she starts to get hit with the horrific personal assaults that a cult is capable of, she'll have more than just me out here ready to balance her load.

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