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February 18, 2011 / Man in the Mirror

Cult Leaders: “You are special” routine

The awe that followers feel for their leader can become devotion to that leader. An awe-inspiring group and its leader stimulate excitement and subsequent devotion to the cause and mission of the group. This in itself is not wrong, but a cult leader (or “ideological totalist”) will exploit this zeal and faith within the followers to the point where the mission is given more importance than the immediate needs of the members. The members eventually accept and endorse this “importance” of the mission as their own, even coming to the point where they feel it is necessary to submit to pain and abuse by the leader or by his commands in order to fulfill the “higher purpose.” This may mean to the member, his own ultimate salvation. The member, now a victim, is encouraged to accept these painful manipulations on a basis of ultimate trust or faith.

For example, a leader says to the new recruit, “You are a very fine person and I can see that you will be a greater person in the future.

To get there you will face some painful experiences. But trust me, I know you will be strong enough to get through those experiences and will be that much better and stronger later.” In saying this they have set this person up to accept willingly the harsh reality of what they will face after trust has been built.

Being led to believe that the leader has good intentions, the member hangs on to a hope that he is actually headed in a positive direction for himself and others.

The above text is exactly what happened in the group. It became quite obvious what the cult leader was doing because I was the last to join the group but the others could not see it as they were happy to “be special”.

The leader would claim that God and a particular saint had joined him to that group because one of the members was deemed to be “special”. He claimed that there was a reason he had to be so attached and involved in their life as it was God-ordained. He would say many times that the particular member was going to be a famous and great person one day. The leader would try and control the member’s life by telling them who to marry, how to spend their free time, which job to accept, where to live so that the member may achieve the “greatness” that had been foretold.

Obviously a lot of things did not work out as the leader claimed and when that happened, the cult leader would claim “oh God is testing you but trust me it is only momentary. If you get passed this without any consequences, better things are waiting for you around the corner.” Such statements would satisfy the member and their family but soon enough another obstacle would arise and again the cult leader would make the same claims.

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