When we talk about sects, we think of images from the 70s or 80s, of a distant, retro past, which is neither close nor familiar to us. Is it because the phenomenon of sects no longer exists? Nothing could be further from the truth.
Not only did sects cease to exist, but they continued to multiply, adapt and modernize.. Very few go missing, and they usually do so as a result of terrible misfortunes, such as the collective suicide of members of the Order of the Solar Temple which nearly had repercussions in Spain. Or the end of Edelweiss, also in Spain, when the leader was assassinated by one of his supporters who had suffered sexual and psychological abuse as a child.
What are sects like today?
The destructive sects have adapted to their time, modernized and above all they were able to learn from the past how beneficial it is to be very airtight and discreet. They have adapted their proselytizing and are using the internet and all social media very effectively.
The speeches have also changed; their messages are no longer exclusively religious or spiritual, they can now talk about business, commerce, successful commercial projects … This guy it is very focused on young people who want to succeed. They are also presented with ambitious training plans, personal growth courses or training to become a therapist, coach or healer.
There is political discourse that tends to be very extreme, both right and left, and it is very surprising to compare groups of the two political tendencies and find out what they look like in the image they are showing. and capture dynamics. , proselytizing and indoctrination.
Thus, we see that recognizing the ancient sects of the extravagant guru with an apocalyptic message and a bible in hand is complicated. And the most important is not to value appearances or messages, we must promote the techniques of persuasion and coercion which characterize them as destructive sects, whatever their type..
The dynamics of persuasion and manipulation
Coercive persuasion strategies are used to capture, manipulate, detain and indoctrinate people, and are intentionally aimed at eliminate critical and rational capacity, to the point of bending the will of the person to the demands and demands of the leader or the group’s management.
The captured person becomes totally dependent on the guru and the group, influencing him in all aspects of his life (food, relationships, work …) and even if the consequences are very negative (divorce, health problems, financial problems …) the no one is incapable of having a critical and rational look at their situation and their problems.
A very important thing to keep in mind is that this person’s cancellation process is neither abrupt nor quick. People, when they come into contact with these groups, have an extremely positive first experience, because the deception is present from the first moment, and little by little the various coercive persuasion strategies mentioned are taking effect.
The main psychological consequences
Families generally do not detect anything at the beginning, on the contrary, they can see positive effects (new friendships, incorporation of healthier activities, enthusiasm …) and when the concern is already evident for the relatives, the degree of commitment of the follower is very tall and unwieldy.
The family alarm always rings late signs such as obsessive and monothematic speech, abandonment of leisure activities and friendships, abandonment of work or studies, and it is very important to know how you act in these first moments of confusion.
The follower will always be very willing to reject the critical vision of his environment, to the point of not hesitating to sever family ties and move away, which the group promotes in order to more easily control the will and information of the captured person. .
What to do?
Faced with this, it is important not to act on our own, because the actions that occur naturally and rationally are not the best and make the situation worse, so the first and most important thing is to know this type of problem well. .
Read, document yourself, meet people and families who have lived through this situation, and put yourself in the hands of professionals dedicated to this topic is essential to receive proper advice and support. It is necessary to understand in depth a problem about which unfortunately there is very little information and social sensitivity, while there are many families seriously affected in Spain.
Over the years, this problem has taken up less space for information and reporting, as the media is not very receptive if there is nothing sensational to show. Also aware that they may receive criminal consequences for their position of complaint, it is not played for something that does not give them a good hearing, and reporting becomes the least important.
Faced with destructive sects, the greatest prevention is the ability of everyone to know how to inform themselves, to have the right criteria, to dare to question without fear or shame, and above all to cultivate a critical sense in the face of everything that is read, heard and seen.
Cultivating personal knowledge takes a lot of effort on a daily basis, and you have to go beyond the complacency of researching what you already know. We must look for the unknown, you have to doubt, and be a critical person, but with judgment.
Author: Laura Merino Gómez, health psychologist at the TAP Center