Does it mean if we have good mental health we therefore do not have mental health issues. Many people will think if someone says they feel mentally well they will not have things like depression or anxiety. However, good mental health just means you are able to cope with life better than those who are said to have bad mental health, you are able to use your potential and be part of your families, friends and workplace community. So, good mental health means you may not be 100% happy but you can cope and not let problems take control. Therefore if you have bad mental health are you more at risk to being influenced by others?
We are all familiar with cults these days, there have been a number of documentaries, books and films based upon the cults that made an impact of todays society. Cults are social groups that have very different views on mainstream religion – who’s philosophical beliefs and spiritual beliefs seem extreme and strange to outsiders. Some of the most well known are:
- The Manson Family famously murdered seven people over the course of two nights to start a race warn
- Members of Heaven’s Gate were told that God was an alien. 39 members died by suicide
- Members of Aum Shinrikyo left five bags filled with a toxic nerve agent on three Tokyo train lines during rush hour.n
- The Branch Davidians had a 51-day standoff with the FBI.
- Children of God was accused by numerous members of child abuse. It later rebranded to The Family International
- Jim Jones founded The People’s Temple and instructed all of his followers to drink cyanide-laced Flavour cool Aid. More than 900 people died
It is an undoubtable fact that each cult has one specific leader, being an outsider I believe many people wonder why so many follow these men or women who have such extreme views; because I know I certainly did. But if we take a closer look the leaders of these cults all have the same traits. They all have charisma, they are unpredictable, power hungry and authoritarian. They are known to make tantalising promises: they can change the world with your help, they can change you, make you rich or seem untouchable.
If you have are already in a bad place, these promises can seem like your only option. The assumption put on cult members are drug addicts, drunks, a victim of abuse, someone with a personality disorder, a runaway, or you are gullible and naive. To be fair this could be true for the most part, but not all cults want these types of people. Of course people with bad mental health are more likely to fall victim of a cult leader but cults also need money, they need people who have the energy to be active and they need intelligence within the group. Remember what I said earlier about good mental health – and I think the scary thing is that anyone can be influenced to join a cult. As humans we crave for improving ourselves so cults appeal to those who – want to feel validated, believe they are a follower not a leader, those who are idealistic and are searching for answers – a cult leader can show authority, structure and a sense of belonging which brings a purpose and solution to life.
Then lets say you have been given all the things you wanted, you have been promised that you are now a new person, your purpose is being fulfilled. You have been brainwashed and moulded to the cult leaders vision and this can done by ways that are not socially acceptable. Yet while cults do not say they are evil and their members join freely and if they do not want to stay they are free to leave we know this is not true.
A cult survivor named Alexandra Stein who has wrote a book explains five points within a cult, which are:
- The leader is charismatic and authoritarian.
- The structure of the group isolates people.
- They portray ideology, like, “You only need me and no other belief system has any relevance”
- Process of brainwashing
- Creating deployable followers who will do what you say regardless of their own survival interests.
Leader of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Warren Jeffs was able to convince the men in his sect that only “seed bearers”; men of worthy bloodline chosen by him were able to have sex. As a result of this the men who were not “seed bearers” had to watch those who were, rape their wife or wives so they could spreed their seed among the members of the sect. Personally I don’t know a single male who would say yeah thats fine go ahead. NO!! unless you are brainwashed you would not let another man put his “seed” in your wife. There are techniques used in order to get members of a cult completely disconnected from societal norms. These include: sleep and food deprivation, drumming, chanting, lecturing on and on for hours, flashing lights, spinning around in circles, all of which assault the senses. Many are plagued with abuse – financial, sexual, emotional, physical and sadly this happens to children within these cults as well as women and men, There are a number of survivor stories coming out saying they were abused in some way by the leader or other members within the cult.
So what do I think about mental health within these cults. I personally believe that the leader is the person who suffers with the extreme case of mental health. These leaders are narcissistic – they share the same traits in which are described to be within the narcissistic personality disorder such as:
- grandiose sense of self importance – they have an unrealistic sense of importance. They believe they are better than anyone else and leaders say they are so superior they can speak to deities of a higher realm
- needs constant praise and admiration – they need their cult followers to feed their ego and continue to believe they are the one and only saviour
- sense of entitlement – cult leaders believe what their view point is, is the correct one and they should get it
- exploits others without guilt or shame – cult leaders can be malicious to their followers because the only thing they understand is their own needs
- frequently demeans, intimidates, bullies and belittles others – read up on any cult leader and there is your example
Although I believe the main focus with mental health lies within the leader itself, it would be naive to think that the members do not experience severe mental health issues. I would say many who leave would experience post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, substance disorders and eating disorders. I think we need to remember that many people within these cults join without even realising and once involved they are no longer in control of their lives. Think about it, if lets say a woman is in a relationship with a partner who has narcissistic tendencies or full blown narcissism; they have been isolated, abused and come out with mental health issues. There is no difference; except in a cult you are surrounded by more people being abused and more abusers. There is no doubt if you didn’t have serve mental health when you joined you will come out with some sever mental illness.
Although it is interesting to read about, watch documentaries about or we even joke about cults, there is usually a dark underlining problem within these groups and many of the members are victims who are unable to have a voice of their own. If you are more aware of how cults recruit then you are less likely to not fall victim to these dark and usually scary groups. There are still cults operating all over the world, one in particular has had ex members talk about manipulation, financial abuse and yet they are still able to operate. I can totally see the manipulation because if you show an interest in joining you are offered a personality test. That test will always diagnose unhappiness, unstable and liable to depression yet people still join and even celebrities are heavily involved BUT we must remember this is “not” a cult.
I think we just need to be more aware of groups we are thinking of joining, be more cautious of your mental health and whether you would be more gullible in falling victim to these dangerous cult groups.
Hope you enjoyed reading, I enjoyed writing this one.
Stay safe, lots of love