In this YouTube video by Surviving Narcissism, the host Dr. Les Carter explains how cult-like systems work, and how they’re often controlled by malignant narcissists. Cult systems aren’t limited to religious groups; they can appear in family groups, workplaces, and in politics.

Dr. Carter lists the indicators of a cult system. They are:

  1. Unquestioned loyalty toward the leader: the leader establishes the ideology, practices, and “truth,” that the group must abide by. This feeds into groupthink.
  2. Dissent and questioning is strongly discouraged
  3. Micromanaging: Activities are closely monitored and controlled
  4. Elitist attitude of the cult compared to the outside world/ “Us vs Them” mentality
  5. Scorn and disdain for anyone outside the group
  6. Intolerance for differences
  7. Control via shame and guilt
  8. Shunning of those who don’t follow the rules
  9. Need for outside enemies
  10. Leader’s failures are hidden or excused
  11. Members’ mistakes cannot be discussed

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Dr. Carter goes on to say being part of groups like this is no way to live; they’re built on sickness and insecurity. They hate individuals’ free will, and anyone who respects themselves and others should leave such a system. Having personal boundaries is vital for protecting your unique personhood.

Not for the first time, I’m reminded of an observation by the scholar Theodore Dalrymple. He said that political correctness and communist propaganda don’t operate in order to convince or persuade; the exist to humiliate. Think about the political strife of the last 5 or 10 years, and consider whether you felt free to express ideas. Were you interrupted or shamed? That’s a sign that the other person is an enemy of freedom and liberal democracy.