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Avoiding Unhealthy Influence and Cults
Most manipulative leaders are narcissists and there is a wide continuum of cult-like characteristics that are damaging before a group would be popularly classified as a “cult”
From the moment we are born, we are constantly being influenced by all kinds of people, ideas, and forces. Some of this influence is healthy, and promotes our ability to grow into independent, fulfilled, authentic adults. Other forms of influence instill dependency and obedience, at times even indoctrinating people to harm themselves and others. There is a wide spectrum of healthy and unhealthy influence.
Individual experiences vary within the same organization based on how the individual conforms to the norms of the group. . . .https://freedomofmind.com/cult-mind-control/influence-continuum/
Cults are often run by ‘charismatic and authoritarian’ leaders (Stein 2016, p.12) and Margaret Singer (2003, p.4) describes a cult as a group that ‘expose their recruits and members to organized psychological and social persuasion processes designed to produce attitudinal changes and to establish remarkable degrees of control by the group over… recruits and member’s lives.’ She also states that these groups ‘deceive, manipulate, and exploit their members and hope to keep them for as long as possible.’ From the outside, the cult often looks attractive and interesting to entice new members but often hides a hidden culture of control. Due to the confusion often associated with the word ‘cult,’ however, terms such has ‘high demand groups’ or ‘totalist groups’ are often used.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/autism-cults-richard-james-turner/
This is actually the most important thing for someone who wants to be a part of a commune to watch out for–since there is a significant percentage of narcissists in our society (speaking of at least the U.S. which I am familiar with). The diagnosable “narcissistic personality disorder” does not include many people who can be dangerous. Here is a video on how dangerous narcissism can be:
A renowned expert on narcissism, Dr. Ramani, has said the following about the actual percentage of narcissists in this interview:
. . .What percentage of the population in the US would you guess or would you be able to give us a number based on the research of the total population? What percentage are narcissists?
When we look at narcissistic personality disorder, which is a specific diagnosis that you have to jump through a lot of hoops to give someone that diagnosis, the research only suggests that maybe somewhere between 2% and 6% of the population has that. The reason that’s so low is because many people with narcissistic patterns don’t have the other things you need for a diagnosis. And that’s namely that they’re having impairment in their lives or they feel distressed.
We can contrast that to something like depression. When a person has clinical depression, they’re distressed. They feel miserable, they’re sad, they can’t get out of bed, they can’t get things done. That subjective sense of distress is what pushes them over that long list of symptoms plus the distress equals the diagnosis.
But narcissistic personality, these people are succeeding. They’re the head of the company. They have lots of money. They happen to be married. Their wife or husband might hate them, but they don’t know that, and they actually don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, everything is hunky-dory and they don’t think that there’s anything wrong with them, so they don’t show up on that distress or impairment meter. That’s why that rate is lower.
People have asked me to spitball this number and I am literally spitballing this. I honestly think when we’re talking about enough narcissism in a person’s patterns so people can notice it, we’re probably talking somewhere between 15% and 25%. One in five to one in four people, where this is a real problem. If we really were liberal with the definition and included all those benign narcissists, we might be closer to 25% to 30%.https://www.getyourselfoptimized.com/the-narcissists-are-among-you-with-dr-ramani-durvasula/ (last accessed 2021-04-25)
I recommend Steven Hassan’s work for cults: https://freedomofmind.com
Narcissists tend to especially draw in people with codependent characteristics. This is a helpful book for learning about that: https://www.amazon.com/Human-Magnet-Syndrome-Codependent-Narcissist-ebook/dp/B07D99945P/ (there is one misleading thing in this book that I feel that I can correct from experience: narcissists can indeed be attracted to other narcissists) also see: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-bad-looks-good/202010/do-narcissists-attract-each-other Here is a helpful book for recovering from codependency: https://www.amazon.com/Codependency-Recovery-Plan-Understand-Codependent-ebook/dp/B07NF611YT/
In addition, I have found this podcast helpful for understanding and avoiding cults: https://www.parcast.com/cults
Communes in Context of Preventing Narcissism and Unhealthy Influence
The context of how communes can help with narcissism is that–in general–most economic and corporate systems today reward people who display a higher measure of productivity. However, productivity does not lead to altruism (characteristics opposed to narcissism) and there are ways to measure yourself as productive without being productive. Notably, one out of every five CEOs is a psychopath: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/psychopaths-ceos-study-statistics-one-five-psychopathic-traits-a7251251.html and the prevalence of psychopaths increases in management before the highest level: https://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/04/25/the-disturbing-link-between-psychopathy-and-leadership/ There is no evidence that psychopaths are actually more productive just that they are better at being measured as productive:
Our findings are consistent with other research suggesting that individuals with more psychopathic traits seems to be able to ‘talk the talk’, but not ‘walk the walk’,” she says. “Psychopaths are more likely to gain power through dominance, bullying and intimidation, rather than respect, she adds. “However, gaining power is not the same as wielding it effectively.https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20171102-do-psychopaths-really-make-better-leaders
Narcissism is a component of psychopathy that is also encouraged by most corporate systems:
But in the last decade or so, there’s been an outpouring of research on what’s called grandiose narcissism. These individuals have high self-esteem. They are much more agentic, more extroverted, and really more dangerous. And evidence shows that they’re achieving high positions in organizations, getting promoted and making more money than normal people.https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/how-narcissistic-leaders-destroy-within
Narcissists and psychopaths manipulate others to increase the narcissist’s/psychopath’s measure of productivity. We need a system that rewards altruism and not just measures of productivity. Closer communities and communes prevent manipulators from climbing over the more loosely connected people that make up the corporate ladder before they burn bridges; getting to know our neighbors makes us deal with their psychology or relocate rather than getting them promoted away from us. Voluntary and open communes where people must cooperate and look out for each other provide a basis for a new system that can help encourage altruism rather than just measures of productivity. Communes that are successful will find ways to attract and encourage altruistic tendencies among their members. These people will in turn be more successful and more likely to influence the next generation. While communes that don’t will fail and not influence the future as much. The way you construct a society will influence how it evolves along with the people in it.
Please check out the rough draft of our paper on the communal teachings in the Bible and give us feedback. The link is here:
Also one member is presenting drafts of blog articles as part of this group for feedback: https://faithlife.com/messianic-koinonia/activity
If you want to give your time and meet people that are similarly dedicated, here are some suggestions for volunteer work that someone volunteered to send us! The act of volunteering can help you and your community: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm The following is from them:
Trials and tribulations are a part of this life, but we are called by God to help others who are facing challenging situations. Sometimes it can be hard to see how you can make a difference, though. The following resources can point you in the right direction.
People the world over go without one of our most basic necessities: food. Yet there are easy ways you can address food insecurity.
- Organizations like Feed the World work to teach people to become self-reliant through better utilization of local resources.
- Did you know homes with children are more likely to experience food insecurity? Teach your kids about generosity by helping to feed others.
- You can donate or volunteer at your local food bank.
- Do you know someone who is struggling to put food on the table? Bring them a meal.
A Roof Overhead
Homelessness is a problem all over the world. How can you help in your community?
- Having no place for protection from the elements leads to health issues and a shortened life span.
- Homelessness is caused by many issues, like being unable to find employment due to a criminal history or drug addiction.
- You can volunteer for or donate to organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
- Consider hosting a clothing drive for the homeless.
People of all ages and social backgrounds can be victims of abusive relationships. From women in oppressive situations, children who are neglected, and elderly who are mishandled, there are ways to help.
- There are organizations all over the world who help women in oppressive or abusive situations.
- Do you have a heart for children? Check in with groups that support them.
- Aging presents vulnerability and challenges, but you can help.
- People with special needs are often victimized. Connect with an agency that assists them.
There are people in your community who need help, just like there are people across the globe who are in need. Decide where you feel called, and lend them a hand up.