Esther Friedman’s excellent new book is The Gentle Souls Revolution: A Secret Cult, an Open Rebellion, and Lessons in Protecting and Honoring Your Gentle Soul. This memoir and guide offers valuable insights and guidance for survivors of narcissistic abuse through creative therapy. It serves as a roadmap for those seeking to heal and rebuild their lives after leaving a cult. Through her personal experiences and professional expertise, Esther provides practical tools and strategies for navigating the complex emotions and challenges that arise after undue influence. The Gentle Souls Revolution also emphasizes the importance of self-expression and creativity in healing. Esther encourages survivors to explore their artistic side through writing, painting, music, or other creative expression. By engaging in these activities, survivors can tap into their inner strength, process their experiences, and find a sense of empowerment.
One of the hottest topics in modern psychology is utilizing psychedelics to aid psychotherapy. Renowned forensic psychologist Stanley Brodsky, a regular member of my forensic thinktank at Harvard Medical School, suggested I interview Rachel Harris about her new book. I am glad he did. Research is being conducted on the potentially beneficial use of substances like psilocybin, LSD, DMT, and MDMA in a controlled environment. In recent years, it’s gotten attention for its efficacy in treating treatment-resistant depression and PTSD, addiction, and end-of-life anxiety. Related to this is the psychedelic underground, a movement that similarly wants to use these substances to improve lives but takes a different, more spiritual approach. I spoke with Rachel Harris, who has experience in both, about this exciting world. Rachel is the author of Swimming in the Sacred: Wisdom from the Psychedelic Underground and Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction, PTSD, and Anxiety. A psychologist who has been in private practice for 40 years, she spent ten years in an academic research department where she published more than 40 scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals and received a National Institutes of Health New Investigator’s Award. Rachel splits her time between an island in Maine and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most common and powerful techniques for weakening psychological defenses. It is one of the most significant policies in the Behavior Control criteria of the BITE Model of Authoritarian Control. Once an individual joins a mind control cult, their sleep patterns often change dramatically. Members are frequently required to work long hours for the group or do endless chanting or hypnotic meditations through the night, drastically limiting their sleep. Cult members must prioritize the leader’s policies and goals over their personhood, leading to inadequate rest, poor nutrition, and minimal downtime. When assisting clients who have recently left a cult, one of my first steps is to help them establish healthier sleep and eating habits, which allows them to recover as they begin to tackle the psychological aspects of healing.
Medicine and spirituality are not often concepts we combine. Still, Dr. Jeffrey Rediger has done just that, chronicling the remarkable stories of people who beat the odds on terminal illnesses in his book Cured: Strengthen Your Immune System and Heal Your Life.
Dr. Rediger, MD, MDiv, is a board-certified psychiatrist, best-selling author, and popular speaker. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and has served as Medical Director of McLean SE Adult psychiatry and Community Affairs at McLean Hospital for many years.
Cults are often thought about as organizations with charismatic leaders who pull people in, strip them of all their worldly goods and autonomy, and implement mind control. However, many of these abusive methods can also be associated with domestic abuse, gangs and organized crime, and political extremism. Additionally, they can be seen in relational power abuse dynamics such as employee abuse, abuse by tutors, mentors, and coaches, and misconduct within various professions. Christian Szurko talks with us about these issues and how recognizing the pervasiveness of these methods informed and broadened his approach to abuses of relational power.
From Growing Up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses to Counseling People Who Wish to Exit it with Frances Peters
When we think of cults, we think of being recruited into them. It’s easy to forget some people are born into them like my guest today, Frances Peters, who was born and raised in the Jehovah’s Witnesses before leaving in 2004 with her husband and two children. As soon as she realized how controlling and harmful the group was, she decided to leave. Since then, she’s been researching the workings of undue influence and what people can do to (re)gain their identity. She experienced how challenging it is to become a thriver instead of remaining a victim of institutionalized undue influence.
We can use psychology to understand media shaming and ask the right questions Media shaming has been around for decades, but the advent of the Internet and 24/7 information cycles have taken it in an
Jon Atack’s Opening Our Minds is quite simply the best new book on authoritarian cults. It digs into the reasons why authoritarianism is ruining the world and what we can do about it. Jon and I first met over thirty years ago; I was the “go-to” guy on the Moonies, and Jon was the “go-to” guy on Scientology. However, we found more in common than our expertise on cults – we hit it off immediately and have been fast friends ever since. There is much to admire about Jon: he is an artist, a musician, a writer, a historian and biographer, a scholar-practitioner, and a truly grounded, authentic individual. Despite decades of exploring the worst aspects of human behavior, he is also thoroughly life-affirming and believes that we have the tools to save the future from the human predators who are so intent on wrecking it.
In my book, The Cult of Trump, I explored the parallels between Trump and cult leaders, arguing that his presidency was much like a destructive cult. The indoctrination techniques Trump used to build fanatical devotion in his supporters is akin to those of Jim Jones, David Koresh, Ron Hubbard, and Sun Myung Moon. Trump’s lies, lack of conscience, inability to admit when he is wrong, and projecting his shortcomings onto others can be seen in many cult leaders. With his rise to the presidency, he became more authoritarian and though he lost the election in 2020, he continues the lie that it was stolen and his supporters continue to believe him.
In the past two years, I have been doing intensive research to understand authoritarian mind control as it relates to Indigenous peoples. Profound thanks to Desiree Kane, and especially Dr. Cindy Blackstock, CEO of The First Nations Child & Family Caring Society. I have read books, watched documentaries, and essentially been deprogramming myself from the cultural programming of American society. Colonization has been perpetrated on Indigenous cultures all over the world, essentially by countries wishing to impose Christian ideology and steal the land and resources of native peoples. I had the distinct pleasure of participating in two essential webinars sponsored by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.
Committing to a practice of being grateful may seem like an odd prescription for healing from adverse life experiences. However, for over 46 years, I have worked with clients who have survived cult indoctrination and known many friends who have experienced various types of tragedy in their lives. Because of their experiences, many have become cynical and lost their sense of joy in life. When I came across the work of Kristi Nelson, I knew she had something valuable to contribute. Kristi is Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living and the author of Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted. So, I invited her to appear on The Influence Continuum to share the healing effect of practicing gratitude with my clients, friends, and the general public.
If you have read Jason Kander’s book or listened to his self-read audiobook, you know why the title – Invisible Storm: A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD – is important. Jason sat in President Obama’s office as the president said, “I think you should run for president.” Dropping out of that race in the lead, Jason made what would have been a successful run for mayor of Kansas City. Yet, he eventually recognized his need to get help as a former army captain in the intelligence division for what he describes as a “secret psychological disorder,” PTSD.