three causes individuals be part of cults, in accordance with a cult-recovery therapist

  • HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” examines the intercourse cult NXIVM and asks the central query: “How does somebody get wrapped up in a harmful cult?”
  • Based on therapist Rachel Bernstein, who treats former cult members, there is not one profile or set of traits that make somebody inclined.
  • Fairly, it is a combination of wanting self-improvement and neighborhood, in addition to timing.
  • Go to Insider’s homepage for extra tales.


HBO’s new docuseries “The Vow” about NXIVM, a intercourse cult coated up as a multi-level advertising firm that bought self-improvement programs, has introduced conversations about cults to the forefront.

“The Vow” goals to reply a central query: How can somebody get sucked right into a cult when its chief brainwashes members, and in some instances exploits them sexually, financially and emotionally?

NXIVM founder and chief Keith Raniere, who members known as “Vanguard,” did simply that for many years, and was arrested on seven expenses together with intercourse trafficking in June 2019.

Listening to these disturbing tales of cult-related sexual abuse, branding, and blackmail, it is comprehensible viewers might imagine: “I may by no means be fooled into becoming a member of a cult.”

However in accordance with therapist Rachel Bernstein, who makes a speciality of treating cult survivors from teams together with NXIVM and Scientology, it is not that easy.

“Lots of people will say, ‘How may you could have gotten concerned?’ And it is since you’re by no means given all of the details about a bunch that seems to be a cult from the start,” Bernstein informed Insider. “So that you solely have the data to go on that you have been given, which may be very choose and also you make your judgment name based mostly on that. Nobody’s capable of make a completely educated resolution earlier than getting concerned in a cult.”

There are, nonetheless, just a few widespread threads that draw individuals in the direction of these kind of organizations.

They wish to higher themselves, both professionally or personally

Cults are usually marketed as organizations that promote self-betterment, whether or not meaning the promise of enlightenment within the case of tantric intercourse cults, or the abilities to make your whole skilled desires comes true, which NXIVM preaches within the type of self-help programs.

That is why people who find themselves on a mission to enhance themselves in an individual or skilled sense could possibly be inclined to becoming a member of a cult, in accordance with Bernstein.

Although it is tough to generalize the kind of one who’d get wrapped up in a cult, Bernstein stated those that wish to heal from childhood or different previous trauma and people who wish to turn out to be extra productive and profitable of their careers is perhaps swayed to affix an insidious group.

They need a larger sense of neighborhood

Of us who lengthy for larger human connection might also be extra prone to fall sufferer to a cult. Shut relationships are a human want. By capitalizing on this proclivity, cults might be that rather more insidious.

In “The Vow,” an nameless former member dubbed “Jane” stated she had been drawn to NXIVM due to the sense of neighborhood it supplied.

Jane stated she struggled forming deep relationships with different ladies all through her life, so when she heard how close-knit NXIVM members had been, and that there was a women-only group she may be part of, she got interested. 

Within the podcast “Escaping NXIVM,” Sarah Edmondson, one other former member, stated she realized in hindsight that the promise of deep human connection subtly drew her to the group, regardless of the very fact she thought-about herself an individual with many mates.

Based on Bernstein, neighborhood is a trademark of any cult as a result of it permits the chief to create a pack mentality, constructing peer strain. 

“Typically individuals are simply wanting to attach with individuals they suppose they’ve one thing in widespread with, and a cult offers on the spot neighborhood and love-bombing and a language that immediately you all converse,” Bernstein stated, referring to the jargon cults typically create for his or her members.

In NXIVM, for instance, members would name emotions like nervousness and concern “limiting beliefs,” and name chief Raniere “Vanguard.” 

“So the adage, ‘She or he speaks my language,’ it type of makes you’re feeling like you could have some issues in widespread with these individuals. That is what cults do. Every one has its personal lingo, Bernstein stated.

They’re in a state of utmost vulnerability

A person’s character and life objectives aren’t the one issues that make them weak to cults, in accordance with Bernstein. Timing additionally performs a job.

She stated her former cult member sufferers typically inform her they’d’ve by no means joined the cult in the event that they weren’t going by means of a tough life occasion on the time they had been approached to affix.

Based on Bernstein, individuals who had been lately recognized with terminal or power sicknesses, reside on their very own for the primary time, skilled the loss of life of a cherished one, or had a critical profession blunder are typically in fragile states, and due to this fact may be part of a bunch they won’t in any other case acknowledge.

“Timing performs a giant a part of individuals’s susceptibility,” she stated.

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