HOW TO TALK TO A CULT MEMBER
Mind control is like an occupying fortress built in the mind of a person. The cult leader / organization installs in your brain a foreign object: A battle fortress proprietary to the cult. Think of it like an immaterial brain implant.
Once the cult mind-control fortress is built inside the brain, it's a powerful force.
This is a subject I'm fascinated by for a variety of reasons. I made this post for my own reference. Full disclosure: I've never been in an overt cult, nor dealt with anybody personally escaping a cult. Any knowledge I have on this specific subject is by proxy of knowing people in similar-ish situations, observation, and research.
This list was culled from a variety of sources I follow on the subject — people who are true authorities: ex-Scientologist Tory Christman, ex-Moonie / mental health counselor Steve Hassan, ex-Scientologist Chris Shelton, etc...
1. Don't be confrontational!!
Instead, say: Tell me about that.
Joining a cult can be a rush, at first, for the new member. Talking about the cult is like crack to them. Use this as an opportunity to extract information from your friend, to figure out the extent of their involvement, to understand what aspect of the cult speaks to them (because it likely isn't doctrinal: i.e.: community, life meaning, a job, etc)
You want them to teach you about their new group.
2. Talk to them alone.
You don't want to speak to them with other cult members surrounding them. That's going to change the entire dynamic.
Instead, come up with an activity the two of you can do together alone (something not related to the cult, even better if related to a passion they used to have before joining the cult).
Later, casually bring up, as if it's an after-thought, the new group they just joined...
3. Talk to them about talking.
Let them know you want to have a conversation about this subject, but if there's a question that they shouldn't ask or that they should ask, to please let you know.
Let them know you will be careful about your tone. You're not trying to be critical. You're curious. You're genuinely curious. You want to learn more about the other person...
Let them know if they're offended not to pack up & run off... To give you a chance to correct any mistake you may have made in tone or phrase or question.
Let them know why you want to talk about this: It's not to doubt them, it's not to criticize them, it's not to question them —
It's because you care, it's because you love them.
And they're doing something you don't know a lot about, and you'd like to know more.
Hand the indoctrinated person the keys of power to the conversation. What you're doing is keeping the line of communication open with them by gaining their trust.
Because cults & cult members routinely cut communication with loved ones.
3. Be calm, positive, & curious. Not an angry know-it-all.
It may be pretend at first. You may have to force yourself a bit into uncomfortable territory. But you're doing it because this tactic works. Your anger or righteous indignation will make the cult member entrench deeper into the cult...
The tone you want to strike is: I'm wondering out loud...
Every time you get angry, you make the cult leader more powerful. Remember that, because it's true.
Also, cults demonize people not inside the cult as it's an important part of the indoctrination / fortress building process. So by acting in a way entirely opposite of what's expected from the outside group meaning calm & positive & curious & respectful — then you're actively putting a little seed in their brain to wake them up in the future. Cult members are trained to be confronted by angry & rude infidels. To do the opposite is to begin un-wiring the cult mind control.
You will also probably know more about the cult than they do, since you belong to the "outside world" where there is no information control being ran by the cult. You can look up whatever about whoever. Cults often control streams of information to cult members by either physically cutting off access to information or by doctrinally demonizing large bodies of information. Either way, you don't want to come across as if you do know more about the true nature of the cult... because that won't be heard.
Instead, out of curiosity, say...
"Oh, certainly you've seen [Person's Cult] on the media doing [Person's Cult Controversial Thing]. What's your experience been like?"
4. Don't be critical about other parts of their life.
No blaming. No life advice.
You just want to be a positive, open channel of communication: validating their experience, gathering information, and planting little seeds.
You may really want to bring up some blame-thing to your friend, (like how if they had done this-n-this they would have their life together, etc) but for their actual good you should suppress this feeling until a much different day.
5. Do talk about other cults.
Ask how their group is different.
Per cult psychologist Steven Hassan, you can talk about other groups which both you & your friend agree is a cult. Then do a simple comparison —
A cult member does not believe they're in a cult. Nobody willfully enters a cult.
Remember: Do not make this a "gotcha!" or a debate. Let the answers hang in the air... Ask follow-up questions in the spirit of curiosity, out of love, out of care...
6. If they get upset by something you bring up, apologize and change the subject.
If in the course of the conversation, you bring something up that they consider to be controversial, and the cult member gets mad, immediately own up to it & apologize.
End that conversation and say, "Oh I think I hit a note there that was unpleasant for you, I pushed a button, I'm sorry. That's why I'm asking you to guide me and let me know how to talk to you about this...."
And then change the subject. Because there's other things to talk about.Remind them that there's plenty of other things to talk about in this conversation, it's okay to move on... Then move on. No big deal...
You want to leave them feeling like they really enjoyed your company, more than they expected, and now that you're gone they miss talking to you...
7. Familiarize yourself with the basics of the teachings.
You don't want to be an expert because there's no gain from arguing dogma. First, you're stuck inside the mind control prison if you do that; Second, the indoctrinated member has been drilled on how to respond to these variations of dogma.
All you want is familiarity with the phrases & ideas that you can speak to your indoctrinated loved one in such a way that they look at you with respect.
But if you purposefully don't learn their cult lingo, or get it wrong, or antagonize the lingo, you will be instantly shut out of the conversation.
8. Ask them to define cult lingo in their own words.
Assuming you've been let inside the mind fortress of the cult member, we can now begin planting seeds to help destroy the mind control from within.
One of the ways is to ask your friend to define cult lingo in their own words. You might not understand a lot of their insider talk, so say: "I really want to understand what you're saying. Tell me again about that idea, in your own words..."
The "in your own words" concept is powerful because it empowers the person to think.
Cults shut down critical thinking early in the indoctrination process. So this is a powerful jump-start to the individualistic executive function of their brain...
9. Make Them Laugh
Cults are tense environments. Making a cult member laugh is a gift.
It's also a little seed planted inside their mind-control fortress, which will slowly flower into a positive reminder of the outside world.
10. Talk about their passions before joining the cult.
Mention new world developments related to it.
This is part of de-programming, and planting seeds. This is to remind them of a world of good feelings, a world of individual passion, and not being controlled... Something to look forward to outside the cult's control... Of the freedom of the human spirit...
Remind them that life wasn't so bad before they got involved with the group.
Maybe bring some pictures of you two before they joined. Or talk about a really good time you experienced with them before they joined the cult. But, of course, make it seem like, "Oh! This just occurred to me..."
11. Note contradictions with earnest puzzlement.
Ask them to make any (obvious to you) contradictions clear. For your understanding.
But never use the phrase "contradiction" or "dichotomy" or "paradox" or "can't you see..." Nothing like that. You're not trying to show how clever you are.
You're not trying to prove the cult mind control correct by acting like the stereotype of the evil outsider they've created.
You just want to know more about them. You're asking questions because you care.
If they feel that the conversation is making them upset, remember Step 2.
But if they're willing to talk about it, because they're 100% confident about the correctness of their teachings, then let them talk. Listen.
And if you or they note the contradiction, let it hang in the air. Don't rub it in. Maybe an "Mmm." Maybe a sincere follow-up —
"You don't find it strange that the leader teaches [X] but everybody's doing [Y]?"
12. If you've had a combative conversation in the past, apologize for your freak out. Start at Step 1.
It's normal to freak out at the information your loved one joined a cult.
But to break into the fortress of mind control, you're going to need to be invited in. This won't happen by trying to batter their fortress wall down with angry facts... Instead, start at Step 1 above, and have them lower the main door for you.
It's only from within (with trust & patience) can you dismantle the cult programming.
13. If they drag you to a demonstration, be prepared.
This is a risky venture as you can get recruited. Be strong-willed & prepare for a hard sell recruitment by a gang of cultist. Prepare for massive peer pressure. Prepare to see a look in your friend's eyes that's a million miles away.
Before you go, there's one important step: Agree ahead of time that if you go to this event / conference / congregation / seminar / lecture, that you're doing this because you love your (indoctrinated) friend.
That this ONE SPECIFIC ACTION is very difficult for you to do, and that you hope by the end of the ONE SPECIFIC EVENT your friend acknowledges you did something big & uncomfortable out of love for them, that you did it to learn more about them.
The goal is to symbolically mark your sincere attempt ahead of time. Why? Because undoubtedly, after the event is over, you will be pressured to go to more events or pay for something (or some other excuse) that will invalidate your one action.
If nothing is said up front, your friend may not only ignore the fact you went to a cult meeting for them, but will blame you for not responding in a particular way. This may blow things up for you & your friend. That's why this step is a huge risk.
There's ex-members of various cults who do not recommend this because of the invasive hard-sell nature of cults.
The only thing we want to blow up is the occupying fortress of mind control.
Nobody close to me has ever joined a cult (thankfully!). But I've known people who were either in them, nearly recruited, or born in them & left. It's an intense subject.
Cults are going to get more influential & more prevalent. Be on the lookout.
And if you think you're too smart to join one, you're the perfect mark.