For many decades, the cult phenomenon has fascinated the masses. A cult is an organization with deviant beliefs and practices, and is characterized by the apparent life-time membership of its participants. It seems to be very popular among troubled teenagers and adults. The psychology behind why some people are more susceptible to the charms and the lure of being in a cult is not very widely researched or understood. Many people are concerned with cultist behavior and the effect that they have on the individuals involved, believing that they have been “brainwashed” into this lifestyle. This paper deals with cult mentality and how people become involved in certain religious and secular cults. It will explore the personality traits of current and ex-cult members as well as look at case studies of members of particular cults. The format of this paper will first look at some preexisting dispositions, the psychological effects while in the cult, and any short term or long term effects upon leaving the cult, as well as some treatment options.
Individuals with certain preexisting or underlying psychological issues can render them more likely to join a cult. It’s evident that there are severe psychological problems originating in childhood including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect in the cult members. There seems to be a life-long pattern of self-destructive patterns of behavior that manifests in early childhood, which include self-mutilating behavior, chronic substance abuse, absent parents, and sexual perversion. Placing these individuals in emotionally and physically vulnerable situations such as in a cult seems to have adverse effects. The severity of the cult members’ psychological problems originating in childhood including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect are evident. Many of the members were exposed to abuse even prior to adolescence, as is evident when looking at the VAMPS cult. Short for “Victorian Age Masquerade Performance Society”, VAMPS was made up of teenagers in the Mid-West who engaged in fantasy games involving vampires and other fantasy creatures, and in acts of bloodletting, group sex, and drugs. Several members of the Vampire Cult were outcasts at their high school and as such, they found solace in each other. They all planned to run away together, and they decided to act after brutally murdering one of the new initiates’ parents. “The bodies were discovered at the parents’ home and had been beaten severely in the face; found face down on a bloody kitchen floor and a "V" sign surrounded by circular marks burned into the victims' body. It was the sign of the vampire clan and each circular mark represented a clan member (Miller, 1999)”
The attraction to cults and killing can be indicative of distorted perceptions regarding relationships with others, their inability to empathize and bond with others, and the lack of love and support they may have gotten in their lives. It’s...