From Alexandra Amor's blog, Cult, a Love Story
Five Questions to Ask Before You Join a Personal Growth Group, Church or Spiritual Teacher
Do you know when you’re being manipulated or coerced? Unfortunately there are those who will deliberately prey on those of us who are seeking answers and guidance in life. When we are seeking answers, often our hearts and minds are a bit more open, and therefore a bit more susceptible to manipulation. I offer these questions as a way for you to take a measured assessment of any teaching or group that you are attracted to. I wish I had known to ask myself these questions before I joined a meditation group that turned out to be a cult.
1. Do the answers that are being provided by the group or the teacher seem too easy and/or too all-encompassing? Is what is being offered a panacea to ALL your problems? Life is never that simple; no once can make good on a promise of a one-stop solution.
2. Is there a sense of urgency that prevails in the group or that is layered into the decisions you’re being asked to make? In cults and/or coercive situations this is done purposefully so that you don’t have time to consider the downside or the arguments against joining. Urgency encourages us to ignore our normal decision-making processes and our intuition about the danger in a situation.
3. Do you have any intuitive heebie jeebies? Any red flags? Is your body expressing discomfort with the situation while your head/logic tries to talk you out of that? Your body always knows the truth. Don’t ignore it.
4. Does the intimacy in the situation move along too quickly? Is the teacher or leader a little too eager to like you and praise you and become your new BFF? Do you feel extremely flattered? This is seduction and a sure sign of coercive behaviour.
5. Are you in a time of transition or depression? It is more difficult to be skeptical and analytical at these times in life. Any time you’re in a major period of transition or feeling depressed, make a point to avoid big decisions and committing yourself to groups or individuals.
Two Bonus Questions
6. Are you being told, subtly or otherwise, that your life will be harmed if you don’t go along with what’s being offered? As though the group/leader/teacher knows better for you than you know for yourself. This is never possible. You always know what’s best for you.
7. Are you being asked to reserve judgment about morally or ethically questionable behaviours or situations in the group? Or do you find yourself telling yourself to reserve judgment? “This crazy behaviour will make sense when I’m more spiritual or educated or know more about how the group works.” If a situation seems wrong at the time, knowing more won’t explain that, you will only be convinced to ignore your initial hesitation.