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How Can I Help Someone Involved in a Cult?








by Brenda Lee

I recently attended the ICSA ( International Cultic Studies Association ) conference held in Lakewood , Colorado , October 2-3, 2009. As always, the sessions were informative and well-organized.

The first session I attended addressed the question: “How can I help someone involved in a cult?” Most of those attending were parents who were being shunned by a son or daughter involved in a cult. Understandably, attempts to reconnect intellectually and emotionally with their child had failed. (Milieu control, censorship of communication both internal and external, is one of the initial eight points of mind control that cults utilize to gain subtle control over new members.)

While a parent’s natural instinct might be to lecture and point out all the group’s flaws to save the child from something they know will be detrimental to the entire family’s well-being, shouting from the rooftops, “Don’t YOU realize this is a cult!?” isn’t necessarily the best approach.

We must remember: unsolicited advice comes across as criticism and the intangible cost of perceived criticism can drive a person deeper into a cult, resulting in the “handlers” [i.e., the cult leader(s)] attempt to harness even more control over the person. This point was driven home by a former Jehovah’s Witness who shared the following with me, “I think my father’s opposition to the family’s fanaticism caused us to draw even closer to the organization, thinking that he was a tool of Satan. That sounds crazy but that’s the way I looked at it.”

What Strategy Should I Use to Communicate?

An important component to communicating is to be patient because as trust builds, the cult member is able to share more with you. You should hold back your ace until you feel the person’s belief system is teetering. Going in with both barrels firing isn’t going to make the person consider what you have to say; it will only elicit defensive retreat.

I truly believe that simply asking questions about your loved one’s mindset, the group’s expectations and their history in a non-threatening manner is your best strategy. Unfortunately, few people have been educated about how cults work and their first strategy is to charge straight ahead from the front lines, hoping to mow down the enemy (cult leader) in the process.

Lee is a regular bullet columnist who has appeared as a regular on the TV documentary The Secret Lives of Women “Cults” segments. She has written several pieces in our starting rotation but her first essay for the bullet was on Mothers Day “An Author’s Reflection on Mothers Day…” She overcame her mother’s (mis)using religion like a scalpel in a power-mad effort to break her will, only to write a powerful book of revelation and triumph.

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5 Comments on "How Can I Help Someone Involved in a Cult?"

  1. @Toya your description of JWs and cults already show you pretty much agree with Brenda: “the type of cult where it’s adherents either separate themselves from friends or family or can not leave the particular group. In this case citing Jehovah’s Witnesses as an example of that.” From this point the ONLY question is, how much evidence do you need?

  2. Well, while I appreciate the response I respectfully disagree with you.

  3. Toya, you raised a good question. First of all, I do not consider Jehovah's Witnesses a cult. I consider the WATCHTOWER organization to be a cult. Jehovah's Witnesses are simply held hostage through mind control. That's an important distinction because Jehovah's Witnesses see themselves and the Watchtower organization as intricately woven together and that is simply not true. The leaders (Watchtower) are responsible for creating this high-control, authoritarian atmosphere like many other cult leaders of our modern day (Jim Jones, David Koresh, etc.) Until a member of a cult is able to see him or herself as an independent entity, he or she is unable to leave the cult-like group.

    The Watchtower fits into the eight points of mind control that all cults used, as researched and reported by mind control expert Robert J Lifton, in the early 1960's. If you'd like more information about why the Watchtower organization fits into the criteria of a cult, please feel free to email me through my webiste or for a quicker response, go to http://www.outofthecocoon.net/pdf/AreJehovahsWitnessesACult.pdf and read the article I have already prepared to answer this question. On the right-hand side of my website I have written articles describing the eight points of mind control as well.

    Brenda Lee, author of “Out of the Cocoon” A Young Woman's Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult” http://www.outofthecocoon.net

  4. I find it so interesting when I come across information that points to Jehovah's Witnesses as being a a cult.

    A cult is defined according to Miriam Webster as: (pardon me the definition is rather long)

    1 : formal religious veneration : worship
    2 : a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
    3 : a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
    4 : a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
    5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b : the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

    Ok that was purely for informational purposes but you can see how many groups, religious or otherwise could fall into the category of being a cult if applied according to that definition.

    Even people who follow a particular figure are considered to be cult like in their veneration of that person according to the definition.

    Naturally, I am aware that you are referring to the type of cult where it's adherents either separate themselves from friends or family or can not leave the particular group. In this case citing Jehovah's Witnesses as an example of that.

    But, I'm curious as to what evidence you have found that points to Jehovah's Witnesses as being such a cult?

  5. The following SUMMARIES OF OVER 1400 JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CRIMINAL and CIVIL COURT CASES will provide the BEST and MOST ACCURATE info about Jehovah's Witnesses, their beliefs, and how they ACTUALLY practice such day to day.

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    The following website summarizes over 500 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW “history” court cases:



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