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Captive Hearts, Captive Minds

Captive Hearts, Captive Minds : Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Other Abusive Relationships
by Madeleine Landau Tobias, Janja Lalich (Contributor), Michael Langone 

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Captive Hearts, Captive Minds by Madeleine Landau Tobias

From Library Journal
Tobias and Lalich spent a combined total of 24 years in "restrictive groups" (i.e., cults), and both are currently involved in providing post-cult counseling and therapy. Their first collaboration, this book succeeds as an ambitious, comprehensive explanation of the cult experience and works well on several levels. Its stated focal intent is to encourage and assist those former cultists struggling to readjust to the "real world." Powered by the authors' experience, compassion, and intellect, it capably provides such support. In addition, however, Tobias and Lalich's systematic analysis of the shared characteristics of cults and cult leaders, along with extensive first-person accounts by former cultists, will educate those readers with a purely intellectual interest in the allure, power, and structure of cults. Recommended for public and religious libraries.
Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Excerpt from the book

The Master Manipulator


Let us look for a moment at how some of this manifests in the cult leader. Cult leaders have an outstanding ability to charm and win over followers. They beguile and seduce. They enter a room and garner all the attention. They command the utmost respect and obedience. These are "individuals whose narcissism is so extreme and grandiose that they exist in a kind of splendid isolation in which the creation of the grandiose self takes precedence over legal, moral or interpersonal commitments."(l8) Paranoia may be evident in simple or elaborate delusions of persecution. Highly suspicious, they may feel conspired against, spied upon or cheated, or maligned by a person, group, or governmental agency. Any real or suspected unfavorable reaction may be interpreted as a deliberate attack upon them or the group. (Considering the criminal nature of some groups and the antisocial behavior of others, some of these fears may have more of a basis in reality than delusion!)

Harder to evaluate, of course, is whether these leaders' belief in their magical powers, omnipotence, and connection to God (or whatever higher power or belief system they are espousing) is delusional or simply part of the con. Megalomania--the belief that one is able or entitled to rule the world--is equally hard to evaluate without psychological testing of the individual, although numerous cult leaders state quite readily that their goal is to rule the world. In any case, beneath the surface gloss of intelligence, charm, and professed humility seethes an inner world of rage, depression, and fear.

Two writers on the subject used the label "Trust Bandit" to describe the psychopathic personality.(l9) Trust Bandit is indeed an apt description of this thief of our hearts, souls, minds, bodies, and pocketbooks. Since a significant percentage of current and former cult members have been in more than one cultic group or relationship, learning to recognize the personality style of the Trust Bandit can be a useful antidote to further abuse.

The Profile of a Psychopath

In reading the profile, bear in mind the three characteristics that Robert Lifton sees as common to a cultic situation:

A charismatic leader who...increasingly becomes the object of worship

A series of processes that can be associated with "coercive persuasion" or "thought reform"

The tendency toward manipulation from above...with exploitation--economic, sexual, or other--of often genuine seekers who bring idealism from below(20)

Based on the psychopathy checklists of Harvey Cleckley and Robert Hare, we now explore certain traits that are particularly pertinent to cult leaders. The 15 characteristics outlined below list features commonly found in those who become perpetrators of psychological and physical abuse. In the discussion we use the nomenclature "psychopath" and "cult leader" interchangeably. To illustrate these points, a case study of Branch Davidian cult leader David Koresh follows this section.

We are not suggesting that all cult leaders are psychopaths but rather that they may exhibit many of the behavioral characteristics of one. We are also not proposing that you use this checklist to make a diagnosis, which is something only a trained professional can do. We present the checklist as a tool to help you label and demystify traits you may have noticed in your leader.

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