It can be frightening when a loved one joins a cult. You may not know what to do, or how to help them. Here is how to encourage them to think independently and to keep their heads.
Method 1 Understanding the Situation
- Notice signs of a cult. Some religions are very community-based or unusual, but this does not automatically make the group a cult.
- They spend time only with other members, pushing everyone else away
- They don't trust anyone other than their "superiors" within the group
- They try to convince family and friends to be a part of their group
- They don't have normal conversations about anything other than "God," their group leaders, or the "salvation" available only within the group
- Recognize that good, reasonable people can end up in cults. Vulnerable people are at risk. Many of them are lonely and lacking in confidence, and are naive and idealistic. Many people who fall victims to cults are well-adjusted.
- Someone facing instability in their lives
- Bright people with no sense of direction
- People facing problems such as a bad breakup or personal failure
- People with problems at home
- Research cults. It can help to have a better understanding of the institution that your loved one has fallen victim to. Find out how cults work, so you know what the person is facing.
Method 2 Being a Good Friend
- Keep lines of communication open. The cult may try to shut you away from the person. Don't give them any excuses. Tell the person that you're there for them, and they can contact you any time.
- Spend time with your loved one. The cult leader hopes that you'll do something drastic, that will make the person shun you. Don't do that. Instead, be there for them and be kind. Invite them to hang out with you. Send cards, emails, or letters. Keep showing your love.
- Mention other friends and loved ones. This helps remind the person that their old life is still there for them, and they can come back to it. For example, "Jean is holding a party on Saturday and she's hoping you can come" and "Your brother said he misses you."
- Be patient. The person may believe that the world revolves around their cult. However, they are unlikely to be open to other ideas unless they come to them.
- Be loving and non-judgmental. Being pushy or confrontational may lead to their resenting you and strengthen their faith in the cult. They may consider your efforts religious persecution. Be kind, loving (even to strangers) and understanding with them.
- Take them on vacation, if you can. A cult keeps people in by its magnetizing and entrancing environment, so if the person gets away from this environment, they'll have space to think and reflect.
- A place with limited internet or phone will be especially helpful in giving them time away from the cult.
- Use the vacation to have fun, not to press your views onto the person. The conclusion that the cult isn't perfect needs to come from the person.
- Stay stable and safe. Provide a predictable, friendly environment. This helps build trust. The easier it is to leave a cult, the more likely the person will leave, so make your place be easy to access.
Method 3 Talking to Them
- Avoid speaking badly about the cult. Don't use terms like "cult," "brainwashed," or "mind control." This may cause the person to become defensive, instead of being open to listening to you. Instead, be polite and inquisitive.
- For example, say "I can tell you really respect Pastor Johnson. Can you tell me more?"
- If they ask you to join the cult, listen respectfully. If they press you to make a decision, say that you need more time to make a thoughtful decision.
- Discuss their future plans. Consider your relationship with them and their stage in life when deciding how to talk to them about their desires, goals, and plans for life beyond their group, including educational plans and talents and gifts they may have (musical, software, knitting, anything), as well as family plans.
- Ask what they feel about the limitations of the cult. Ask them how they feel about the restrictions and limitations of the cult. Keep your tone indirect and open, rather than confrontational.
- "How do you feel about the group limiting what you are allowed to wear?"
- "What do you think about the group only allowing you to date certain people?"
- "I heard that your leader predicted that the world would end last year. I don't know what to think of that. What are your thoughts?"
- Give them room to think for themselves. Avoid telling the person what to think, or forcing your ideas on them (even if you are obviously right). Being heavy-handed may drive them deeper into the cult.
- If you ask a question, and they don't know how to answer, let them sit and think.
- There are counselors who specialize in helping former cult members or victims of other forms of abuse. Inquire about such services locally
- Some cults do illegal things. You can report this to the authorities.
- Never issue an ultimatum, such as "it's the cult or me."
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Tags: How to Deprogram, How to Encourage