I can read stories of fellow cult survivors and be okay. I may feel sorrow or anguish but I’ll be okay. The writings on cults that bother me are from people who have not survived one, confidently boasting that they’re too smart to fall for such nonsense. It makes me simultaneously mad to see them victim blaming and anxious that they’ll be next.
People don’t join cults because they are “stupid”. People don’t join cults because they are less intelligent than some standard. People don’t join cults. Cults recruit people. This distinction matters and it’s part of why intelligence is no immunity.
Cults recruit people who are grieving, people in pain, people trying to recover from addiction. Cults recruit people who are lonely, who have been abandoned, who want to belong. Cults recruit people who believe in a cause and want to make the world a better place. Cults recruit people who need people.
They do it with love bombing, group cohesion activities designed to confuse the mind or flood the body with endorphins. They do it by helping people get off drugs and giving them a sense of purpose. They do it by tapping into the best human impulses and the deepest human needs.
Smarts are no match for these techniques. Intelligence doesn’t stop a desperately needed hug from producing oxytocin even if the person giving it is trying to recruit you. The best defense against cult recruitment is a stable happy life with a solid support network. That’s it. If you’ve managed to avoid cults, you’ve been lucky. You haven’t been better than survivors, just more fortunate.