Cults frequently use manipulation in order to gain psychological and emotional hold over their followers. This type of control is referred to as psychological manipulation and involves much more than someone trying to persuade another person to change his or her view on a particular matter. With diabolical cult leaders, it often includes or leads to murder. With psychological manipulation, the manipulator sets out to use deception, and sometimes abusive behaviors, for the point of gaining control over his or her victim. There is often a period of study where the manipulator watches and assesses the best way to gain control over the victim as well. This may be accomplished by determining a person’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities in order to gain their confidence and trust. Often with cults, this type of behavior is seen on a wide scale, such as a preacher or someone in a role of leadership preaching or teaching in a manner that appeals to the vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the victim. The manipulator or cult leader may use several different techniques until an effective method is found.
New! Follow Cults News on Facebook and on Twitter
Cult leaders that engage in psychological manipulation often have no concern for the well-being of the victim and could care less if they are suffering psychological damage or emotional harm from the manipulation. In fact, the goal of the manipulator is to wear down the will and independent thought processes of each individual so that a “group think” mentality ensues. Cult leaders will use a variety of techniques to make certain they have gained control of their victims. Psychological manipulation may involve breaking a person’s spirit or will, then rewarding them through forms of positive reinforcement when they outwardly demonstrate obedience to the cult leader. Cult leaders will often use aggressive behaviors and forms of punishment to maintain control over their followers. This may include sexual and physical abuse, food deprivation, threats, and intimidation. Some cult leaders have not stopped at physical threats but have used murder to instill fear in members and execute control over their followers. In many cults, there are examples of followers who have lost the ability to exercise critical thinking and reasoning skills and justify the cult leader’s homicidal actions or even participate in them.
Examples of cult leaders that used murder or encouraged mass suicide include Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Jacques Robidoux, Jeffrey Lundgren, Yahweh Ben Yahweh (Hulon Mitchell, Jr.), Pete Moses Jr., Roch Theriault, Shoko Asahara, Ervil LeBaron, David Koresh (Vernon Howell), Shukri Mustafa, Howard Douglas Porter, Swami Premananda of Tiruchirapalli, Marcus Wesson of the Wesson Family, Glenn Taylor Helzer, Neil and Christy Edgar, Credonia Mwerinde, Joseph Kibweteere, Charles Keyes, Sr., Donald DeFreeze (Cinque Mtume), Steven Tari (Black Jesus), Toni Sloan aka. Queen Antoinette, Joseph Di Mambor and Luc Jouret, Marshall Applewhite, and Winnfred Wright of “The Family” though he plea bargained to felony child abuse in the death of his 19-month-old son.
Each of these cult leaders used psychological manipulation including violence, intimidation, threats, and even murder to exercise their control over their followers. Most manipulators have one or more psychological disorders and the case may be made that most (if not all) cult leaders suffer from similar mental disorders. Most commonly seen in cult leaders are psychological disorders such as antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, Machiavellian personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder. Some cult leaders have previous diagnoses of schizoid personality disorders as well. Many cult leaders may accurately be defined as sociopaths as well as psychopaths.
Click the video player to the left to listen to lectures by Dr. Margaret Singer and Dr. Robert Lifton as they discuss cults. You may also see an explosive report on the new Australian cult “Divine Truth” led by Alan John Miller “AJ Miller” that shows how he uses psychological manipulation to gain control over his followers.