Some say there could be as many as 5,000 religious groups in America preying on the weak and vulnerable, with five to seven million victims and 180,000 new recruits each year. Learn the warning signs of dangerous groups before you become a victim.
Rick Ross is the founder and executive director of the Rick A. Ross Institute, and an expert on cults, controversial groups and movements. He's been researching cults for 26 years and helps families intervene with victims of destructive cults, and he offers warning signs of dangerous groups and leaders, brainwashing and how to avoid being taken in by mind control.
Tools of Mind Control:
1. Control environment: Loved ones are cut off from family, no communication.
2. Break down sense of self: Break down their sense of self-esteem, literally attack them as individuals on the basis that they are wrong and that the group is right.
3. Instill new sense of identity: New identity is reinforced by the group environment, where you get no feedback except from other members who tell you that they understand the right behavior and the right way of being.
4. Isolate: Cut off from outside world. Fear keeps them trapped inside the environment of the group.
Warning Signs of a Potentially Harmful Group/Leader:
1. Totalitarian: Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
2. Little tolerance: No place for questions or critical inquiry.
3. Unreasonable fears: Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
4. Never good enough: Followers feel they can never be good enough.
5. No reason to leave: Former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
People Who Are Vulnerable to Mind Control:
Rick says that people who have been brainwashed come from all walks of life, regardless of education, social status, family background and/or intelligence. However, the people who are more vulnerable to mind control are those going through a difficult time in life and/or a transition:
1. Recently divorced
3. Personal tragedy
4. Career failure
5. Away from home for the first time
Warning Signs of a Brainwashed Victim:
1. Obsessive: Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
2. Dependency: Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought, a seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
3. Agrees with group: Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
4. Loss of spontaneity: A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
5. Isolation: Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
How to Avoid Mind Control:
"Don't be naïve. You can protect yourself from unsafe groups and leaders by developing a good BS detector. Check things out, know the facts and examine the evidence. A safe group will be patient with your decision-making process. If a group or leader grows angry and anxious just because you want to make an informed and careful decision before joining; beware," Rick says.
For more information on cults or mind control, visit the Web site of the Rick A. Ross Institute.