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Destructive Cults

In: Social Issues

Submitted By cici1986
Words 808
Pages 4
Part 1
Destructive cults defined within literature Much of what American society has come to understand or know about cults has been depicted by the media in controversial headlines and television dramas which primarily have been depicted on a negative note. Therefore, it is important to establish that not all cults are negative or destructive nor are they technically considered cults, but are rather labeled due to their unorthodox views. Over the years the definition of a cult has shifted and is used differently depending on the perspective or the context in which it is used, in North America there are three general perspectives used in relation to knowledge about cults; religious perspective, sociology and academic theology, and the mental health field, (Tapper, 2005). Based on each perspective or specialization is how the different definitions are used; in particular, religious conformists define a cult as any group or religion that deviates from traditional religious scripture, those who study cults find the term judgmental and prosecuting to those whose belief system is different, and lastly is the perspective from former cult members, their families, and the mental health professionals who treat them who do not focus on the belief of a group rather on the specific behaviors that violate human rights and cause harm (Tapper, 2005). For the purpose of this research paper, the focus will be on destructive cults from a mental health perspective. A destructive cult is defined as, “excessive devotion to a person or cause and that uses unethically manipulative persuasion and control to serve the goals of the leaders, regardless of possible harm to its members and others”(Tapper, 2005). The harm that is inflicted in destructive cults can range from cult to cult, for this research the effects of being in a cult were derived from former cult members. Destructive cults can potentially create aftereffects for those who leave them, “Survivors of destructive cults report a number of symptoms resulting from the aftereffects of traumatic experiences of physical abuse, sexual, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse which include: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, guilt, self-blame, anger, shame, humiliation, and a variety of other distressing emotions” (Pignotti, 2000).
Strengths and Limitations Defining a cult is challenging due to the ambiguity within the criteria of what a cult is which leaves much to public opinion or perspective. The definition that was chosen for this research focuses on the behaviors and intent of those in control within the cult to manipulate and cause harm, leaving room to focus on the negative aspect and experience of the members which many report can be traumatic. Another strength in the definition is the lack of focus on religious beliefs or unorthodox believes which would otherwise include large numbers of groups who are not destructive nor inflict harm resulting in trauma. The definition is restricted in that some of the criteria also leaves room for interpretation, for example, who can judge how much is excessive devotion? Or even unethical? This leaves individuals who are outside of the cult to become “experts” on what is considered within “society” what acceptable devotion is and what is unethical.

Occurrence in the general population
Due to mislabeling and different definitions of what a cult is, it is rather challenging to approximately identify how many cults are in the Unites States. Based on research, it is estimated that there are several thousand cults in the Unites States and the number of cult members nationally is at least four million people who have at some point been in one or more cultic groups, (Shaw, 2003). Although there is no standard profile of the destructive cult victim, many of individuals who have been studied and treated who were former members of a cult were identified as being from the middle and upper classes and predominantly more male than female.
Part 2
Intersectionality
This paper will discuss post-cult difficulties in relation to cult recovery, the impact of the trauma, and the manifestation of trauma according to the established identity markers. We will examine white, middle and upper class, married survivors of destructive cults. The research on the married couples that will be used in this paper are identified as both individuals having been former cult members not necessarily from the same cult, only one partner deciding to leave the cult and/or, only one partner having been a former cult member. Former cult members experience similar symptoms and feelings associated once they have left their cult; “however, former cultist who are married also have to deal with their marital relationship and, consequently, with their cult-influenced reactions to their spouses”, (Goldberg, 2003).
Protective Factors/Barriers to Recovery Individuals who are white and from the middle/upper classes tend to have less stigma regarding seeking treatment, more resources available, and the funds to pay for such treatment.…...

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