Cult Of Two
I've met cult leaders before. You've probably talked to some yourself, or even had a friend or relative who was a member of a cult. Perhaps even you yourself were a member. They're fairly common. Remember Heaven's Gate group leaving their 'vehicles'? The press gave us our fill on what to look for, warning signs that the person we are following may be a cult leader, or the group a friend or relative has joined, may be a cult.
One leader claimed to have psychic abilities and be able to determine 'fate', while the other, a more commom claim, was outstanding in the clever ability to see the intentions of others and win against their tricks and games. Both leaders gave forwarning of the things people would say to spoil the relationship between the follower and the leader.
Both my friends were initiated over time, with the cult leader being
very nice at first, helpful even. They were told the cult leader accepted
them, understood them, that they and the cult leader were alike, kindred
spirits with common ideas and goals. They were encouraged to share with
the cult leader, with the leader accepting their faults, encouraging their
ideas, forgiving their past and telling them this was their chance to
start anew. Rarely does anyone get the complete acceptance cult leaders
offer during the confessional period of initiation.
Once that initial control was set in place, the restrictions were carried a step further. The follower would only be allowed to see people outside the group when the leader granted permission. Any contact outside of the cult was closely supervised. Usually the cult leaders made sure they themselves went along with the individuals any time they were outside the cult compound. Their phone conversations were monitored. Sometimes the excuse of 'safeguarding' the individual was given as the reason for the strict attention. Other times it was said to be simply a matter of the cult wanting to be with the person, wanting to share their life, and their interests. Any interests not shared with the cult were derided as things coming between the leader and follower which would make the relationship less than it could be.
If the individuals went against the restrictions the leader set, they were punished. At first the punishment was light, perhaps not speaking to the individual - shunning them, while accusing them of trying to spoil the relationship between them and the cult leader. Noting the disappointment of the leader, the individuals would snap back in line, fearing the loss of trust with their leader. But once the two people I knew were brought further into each cult, the punishments grew physically violent.
At this point, both persons had been successfully isolated from anyone who had tried to warn them about their situation, so they remained with the cults. They may have wanted help, but they also wanted the approval of the cult leader. They had grown to love the cult leader, grown accustomed to their guidance, and lost almost all decision making skills in their subordination. When the cult leader explained the physical violence as a one-time occurence, or told them it was because they had pushed the cult leader too far with their purposeful disobedience, and it was for their own good, they believed it.
Sounds like the basic description of cult membership doesn't it? The only difference is both my friends had joined Cults of Two, often refered to as co-dependent relationships. One friend was a female, one male, both drawn into situations sometimes more destructive than most cult environments, and grossly more common. The manipulation tatics are the same. The loss of a sense of self to the 'group mind'. But the group mind is only the mind of their leader, their lover, their significant other.
When the Heaven's Gaters left their vehicles the general public seemed
shocked the followers could believe so strongly in one man, 'Do', that
they would gladly commit suicide for his belief. Yet everyday, all around
us, people we know cut ties with friends and family to commit themselves
to relationships which spell out a slow death for them.
Though the same 'I love you/I don't trust you' methods are used to keep the individual always striving for the approval of the leader, in a Cult of Two the attention is direct. There is no middle man letting the follower know the leader is disappointed in them. The direct contact of the leader and follower makes for a very tight bond. A bond friends and family trying to help, find very difficult to broach, and while belonging to a group with some mission the general public criticizes can give a follower a sense of doubt in their choice, being in a relationship is normal. The leader convinces the follower all relationships are really like theirs. All relationships have bad times and struggles. Their situation is nothing unique.
In cult relationships, the following member is often completely dependent
on the leader, or believes they are. Not for spiritual guidance, as
religious cults propose, but life guidance. Monetary support, guidance in
daily activities - job choices, wardrobe, friends - all the decisions
independent people will make with, at most, some advice from a friend or
family member, the cult follower is lead to believe they are incapable of
handling without the guidance of their leader.
We understand, from the cult experts, that many people are drawn into cults by a desire for something more in their lives, something or someone to believe in, or who claims they believe in them. They want acceptance. Those drawn into controlling relationships are the same, having never accepted themselves, they find comfort with a group or individual who professes to accept them, and wants to help them become better, wiser people. Rather than look inside themselves and discover who they are, it is simpler to relinquish who they are, what they have been, and the sometimes over-powering question of what they will be, and become the definition the controlling person, be it a cult leader or an oppressive lover, sets out for them.
Of the two friends I mentioned earlier, the female got out of the
controlling relationship. She isn't sure what was the final straw for
her, but she is free from her Cult of Two, and enjoying her life again.
Over eight years of her life she was just a shell of a person. She lived
in fear when home, and with her secret when she was out. She had almost
lost complete contact with her family and friends, but is slowly gaining
back confidence in herself, and others.
© J. Simon