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Recognizing High Control Groups - Podcast Episode 10/10/22 (Season 1, Episode 2)

[00:00:00] This is Natalie Kember with freedom from spiritual abuse, the podcast. And I'm so glad you're here.

Natalie: Hey Rachel, glad you're here today and I'm just thinking it might be great if you can give a little introduction into who you are and what we're here to talk about today.

Rachel: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me, Natalie. I appreciate it so much. I'm Rachel Dy. I'm a licensed professional counselor in Florida and Virginia, and currently I own a mental health private practice.

And I'm a certified forensic mental health evaluator, and I have a particular interest in high control cultic groups, spiritual abuse, religious trauma, and I host a YouTube channel DIN Psychology, dedicated to getting out awareness and information on high control manipulative groups.

Natalie: That's awesome.

We're so glad you're here today. Thank you. So today we really wanna talk about specifically like cults, traits of [00:01:00] cults and the leadership that kind of comes with that narcissistic leadership and what to watch for. So let's, let's dig into the leadership end first. Uh, can you give us some signs that we should be looking for on what is a narcissistic leader and what are maybe some first red flags that people should look out?

Rachel: Oh yeah, definitely. So I always think about a new term coin and it's called a spiritual narcissism. And particularly in new age, spiritual groups, religious groups, when a leader really postures as being enlightened or having all. Answers to particular life questions or even really trying to tell members that they hold all those answers and to stray away from what they're saying will reap some kind of consequence or negative benefits to the members.

That right from the get go are the [00:02:00] major red flags of spiritual narcissism and a leader who has very destructive tendencies. Yeah.

Natalie: I love the term spiritual narcissism. I think that's great. It's a good way to kind of capture it and that, like you said, this doesn't just take place in like a church setting.

Mm-hmm. , so, So we're talking about a whole array of places this could happen, right? Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Rachel: Yeah, most definitely. So I always think about, of course, as I've already shared, the new age. Spiritual setting, the religious setting, but even workplaces, family units, uh, particular emphasis on companies that are structured as pyramid, well, I say pyramid schemes, but I guess they go by multi-level marketing companies.

And then the family unit, uh, romantic relationships, which has now started to become. Termed the cult of one or really a small scale version of a cult. It's very interesting to me that Steven [00:03:00] Hasson's bite model of behavior, information, thought and emotional control, which I know you're very familiar with.

Very much is applied not only to these large scale colick groups, but also romantic abusive relationships and toxic abusive family dynamics. So as you said, it is just so on the full spectrum in terms of how these high control, high demand groups can function in where they can show up. Yeah, for sure.

Natalie: I think it's fascinating to take the BITE model and apply it more to like an interpersonal relationship.

And that makes a lot of sense even within like a family dynamic. I, you know, you hear stories sometimes of people that will go to a church and then the, the church can be somewhat middle of the road, but then a certain family that really takes it to an extreme and like you said, can function almost like a mini cult.

Yeah. So this, that's pretty fascinating.

Rachel: I think so too, and something that you just said sparked in me that one of the signs of [00:04:00] even high control cultic groups is that there's the multiple levels of in our circles, and the higher that you go up the chain of command, if you will, the more that people are exposed to the true.

Inner workings of the group. And I just think about how sometimes people will share rumblings that they're hearing, Oh, this is going on in leadership, and it's quickly encouraged, Oh, we don't talk about that. Let's suppress it. And that's where, I mean, right from the jump. I just encourage people to pay attention.

What is being discussed amongst your peers, and are there instances or events occurring in those multi-layers of inner circles that do not need to be ignored? Yeah.

Natalie: Yeah, for sure. So let's take a step back for a minute and let's jump into the BITE model. [00:05:00] Mm-hmm. , some people listening might not have ever heard this term before, so can you help us break that down a little bit and we'll just talk about what that is and what it looks like, like in real life examples.

Does that make sense? Yes.

Rachel: Bite model is just one of my favorite models for really assessing if a group is high control, ctic in nature or, uh, you know, exhibiting authoritarian control. And so Steven Hasen created the Bite Model former Moony, and which is a, a cult. And he was able to extract himself and really, Demonstrates his application of real life, living it out to these four different domains of behavior, information, thought, and emotional control.

And so when I think about the behavioral control aspect, that is literally controlling someone's behavior, where they live, what they do, who they associate with a big one that [00:06:00] we see in. Or that I see in religious groups is the control of appearance, what someone puts on their body, what they're allowed to wear, not allowed to wear.

Um, and then of course just imposing extremely rigid rules and regulations for that behavioral control. What else do you think, Natalie, when you think about Yeah,

Natalie: I think that's great to to say like in churches we see a lot of the control about appearance. Mm-hmm. and like this outward projection of what am I showing to the world.

That can be a lot of like an all consuming thing in some church circles. Like what am I allowed to wear as a woman versus a man? And yes. So what is that communicating to people around me? And then it also, Ties into with a lot of shaming with the behavior control. A shame is a really big tool that we see in like high control environments to get your behavior to stay in line.

Rachel: That's right. That's absolutely right. And it makes me think about even the informational [00:07:00] control component of the bite model, just shaming individuals if they start to receive information that is outside the group approved. List of doctrine or, and just deliberately withholding information or distorting information.

And so we know that shame goes right into that Information is taken, it's thrown back at someone, and it's used as a tool to manipulate them, make them feel bad about themselves. So certainly the informational control and then, Thought control, just really requiring members to adhere to that doctrine as truth.

Mm-hmm. , I even tie that into individuals who are spiritually narcissistic, that is the name of their game. They posture as having all the answers and that their. Belief system is the only system that people need to adhere [00:08:00] to. Um, and then thought control, of course. Encouraging only good and proper thoughts.

Mm-hmm. , so that even leads into final, the emotional control domain where certain emotions are encouraged to be narrowed or minimized or suppressed. And then the promotion of guilt or unworthiness, because we know that. Somebody feels under constant guilt, pressure, a sense of unworthiness, control can much more readily be exhibited and maintained.


Natalie: and I think that one is seen a lot in religious circles when we're talking about what does a culture high control environment look like in a, in a religious environment. There's a lot of messaging we hear from, you know, you work with clients too about the shame and, and feeling like I am inherently evil inside.

There's so much evil out there, tempting me. . And so it's easy to control somebody who doesn't have self confidence at the end of the day, right? Y yeah. So, [00:09:00] So that's what's preyed upon in that sense.

Rachel: You got it. Yes. And it, it triggers in my brain just how in spiritually abusive organizations, they will take maybe something negative or bad that's happened to a person and then use it as a tool to convince that person they don't have enough faith or they're not believing enough and.

Such a way to foster complete dependency from the individual to the group and continue that authoritarian control. Yeah.

Natalie: Yeah. And I, I do a lot of work with spiritual abuse and religious trauma. And how would you say, like, the idea could play a role with the bite model and in this view that mental health or having issues with your mental health is somehow a deficiency in you, that that can be a lot of messaging in religious environments.

How would you see that playing a role with a bite model? Where would that come?

Rachel: I definitely could see [00:10:00] that playing a role in almost the emotional control, the thought control, really taking the experience of being human, having. Anxiety about a situation that is so appropriate to the situation and using that to tell the individual that they're flawed, they're inherently, uh, wrong or lacking.

Again, that faith system to be able to. Overcome. And so, yeah, I, I definitely see that falling in emotional and thought control. Maybe even a touch of informational control. So using scripture, you know, I can't remember the specific verse, but it's, uh, worry for nothing, be anxious for nothing. And so if you're presenting with worries, you're going against God's word.

It's a very sneaky and manipulative way to induce shame. Yeah.

Natalie: So could you, could you explain for us what this concept of the Toxic Triangle is and what that means, and just give us a [00:11:00] little background on that?

Rachel: Absolutely. That is also one of my other favorite models, in addition to the Bite Model, but the Toxic Triangle created by researchers Padilla Hogan, and Kaiser.

In 2007, it is a triangular model of the three elements that really go into creating a coercive controlling high control group. It was originally applied to workplace environment, but I absolutely. See this being applied to high control groups, uh, religious, spiritual, new age, everything we're talking about.

Mm-hmm. . Um, so when we break it down, the three components are, there must be destructive leaders present, there must be susceptible followers, and there must be conducive environments for the group to function, flourish, and maintain. Wow.

Natalie: That's pretty intense, right? To [00:12:00] think those three things kind of as a triangle, like feed into each other.

Yes, Kinda. So let's start with the leadership. Tell me what the leadership might look like when we're talking about this model. Mm.

Rachel: So it wouldn't be a high control group if we didn't have a touch of narcissism and the leader . And we hear, you know, the term narcissistic so much these days, but certainly four individuals.

To lead high control groups, I'm of the belief that there must be a lack of empathy for the individuals who they are leading because when it's all broken down, the group must function and really go into fostering whatever in fulfilling whatever need. The narcissistic leader has. Yeah. So narcissism, there is typically, and this is, you know, per the, uh, toxic triangle model, but also in my belief is there's that charisma.

There's [00:13:00] somebody's ability to speak to the intimate emotional needs that a person has. The charismatic leader is expert in being able to recognize vulnerabilities that potential recruits or current members have and capitalize on them, and so charisma is present. There is. Typically also that personalized need for power.

So again, it goes back into the group, is run in a way that everyone must function to fulfill the leader's own need for power. Yeah. Yeah, for

Natalie: sure. So let's talk about applying this to like church environments too. Hmm. Could, could the leadership be more than one person? Could we be talking about like an elder board or a group of deacons or things like that?

Because sometimes people will start to look at their own specific church and be like, Well, like maybe the lead pastor isn't as bad [00:14:00] as some of these other players that still have a lot of power. So what do we think about that? Does, does that apply to what we're talking.

Rachel: Oh my gosh. Yeah, a hundred percent.

Uh, I, I think in most, uh, controlling, spiritually abusive environments, there has to be both conforms to the group and polluters. And so when I think about polluters, that is somebody who also shares. Some kind of ambition or has an ambition or need for their own sense of personalized power. And so they're there to uphold the overarching leaders agenda, yet they also may have their own small following.

So maybe this looks like somebody who's the youth pastor. Maybe they're not the pastor, the entire church, right? They've got that ambition. They wanna work their way up the rank. Then I think about the other traits. Per the toxic triangle, but somebody who has similar worldviews [00:15:00] as the destructive mm-hmm.

will say the overarching leader. Um, this could be the similarly justifying or rationalizing abuse within the church. I even think about the s p s, uh, Southern Baptist Convention Report findings that just came out and how there were so many polluters who. Called the women who had come forward, all kinds of biblical names in a derogatory fashion.

I think one of 'em was ER's wife. Um, just to. Silence the victims and continue to uphold the image that the destructive leader, the abuser had engaged them. Yeah.

Natalie: Yeah. Wild, huh? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So let's talk about, um, what, what's one of the other parts of the triangle we should touch on next? What do

Rachel: you think?

I definitely think finally there's conducive environment. So every. Abusive organization. There [00:16:00] must be an environment that almost fosters that, that sort of functioning of the group. Um, with that, there can be instability within the structural, uh, system of whatever entity it is. Yeah, Perceived threat. We see this in high control cult groups.

I almost interpret this as the threat that everyone else is against us. If people question you, it's because they have an issue there of the world. They're, you know, stricken with the devil and trying to derail you. So there's always this functioning under a perceived threat that others are against them.

Natalie: Which is really reinforcing that idea of the in and the out. Right? Hmm. You're, you're in this group or you're out, and if you're out, you're most likely against us in some way. And that, that creating of like almost an enemy is necessary too to that dynamic of [00:17:00] control. We're more apt to keep you in the group if we're afraid of these harmful people out there, even if it's more ambiguous and not even a specific person.

It can just be this kind of, Boogeyman that nobody even knows what it looks like, but we just know there's this force perhaps that we have to like protect against.

Rachel: Yes. And I even think about just in specifically considering different groups institute and basic life principles, uh, it really. Became became very popular when the Dugger were a part of it.

And I've done some studying of that group, but they really put the emphasis on rock music being devilish and leading someone down a very dark path. They were very, um, Emphasized a lot about clothing and appearance and what women had to wear and that anything going against that would lead a person into a life of iur thoughts and behaviors.

And it just makes me think [00:18:00] again about that perceived threat. If you don't do it our way, if you don't adhere to our doctrine, you're under. By the enemy, and the enemy can be of course, whatever. Um, Right,

Natalie: right. Mm-hmm. , Which, you know, that reflects back to the bite model too. If we're, if we're telling you that certain music is, you know, demonic or evil, or gonna lead you into temptation, even if it's music, it's still a form of information control.

Because music can be a resource for people. Yes. So if we're demonizing that, then, then we're, we're controlling the information and influences you have outside the group.

Rachel: Right. Yes. And Natalie, now that you've mentioned that, it even makes me go into thinking about how, um, music can even be a, a form of emotion and it evokes that emotion.

And spiritually a group, uh, abusive groups, high control cult groups, they want to suppress emotions. It just makes perfect sense. Why not limit even the very music that [00:19:00] you can listen to because the. Commonality I've noticed is that so many of these groups really seem to want these robotic beings who deny their experience of being human and just go along with what is said and anyone who steps outside of that is bad and they can easily be ostracized.

But it's that constant suppression, um, of thought of who they are.

Natalie: Yeah, for sure. Which, which also continuing to reflect on the bite model and how it plays out. Mm-hmm. , there's, it's like you want everybody to look the same, act the same, and think the same. Is, is really the ultimate goal. Yes. So, So critical thinking or questioning is certainly not gonna be welcome in these groups, right?


Rachel: No, definitely not. Any kind of individuality is not respected, and this is very problematic in that a lot of times, even in my own work, clinically, it's been shared with me over and over [00:20:00] again how growing up in a faith system, if a child has a question, Well, why do we believe this? Or why do we think that this happened?

Those questions are discouraged many times, which goes into discouraging critical thinking. We don't ask questions, we just accept it at face value and keep moving through our, our faith system, and so it's just. A commonality I happen to see come up quite frequently just in individuals raised, um, versus joining as an adult even.


Natalie: absolutely. And, and if you're raised within that type of environment, think about from, from birth up until twenties and thirties through those probative years, how, how little autonomy you're gonna have as you continue to grow. Mm-hmm. , which I think can bring us even later, we'll check back to this in a minute, into how hard it is to leave.

Right. That's

Rachel: right, That's right. And even critical thinking, I think about how [00:21:00] that connects to the bite model and the emotional control component. Because to engage in critical thinking a lot of times is evoke through an emotional reaction. Yeah. Your responding emotionally, you feel angry. Something or sad.

And so then you start to ask questions, Why do I feel sad? Why am I angry? Why did so and so get excommunicated from our faith system? Yeah. And, and it just, but these high control groups, it's almost like they all know this and so they want to suppress any kind of emotional response because then critical thinking is very much.

Natalie: Suppressed. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . Well, if you can't trust your emotions, then it stops right there. Right? I'm not gonna ask the follow up question as to why am I feeling this way? I might feel that way and then stomp it out real quick because I'm scared of what that emotion could do if it plays out in some big way.

Which I've probably [00:22:00] been told is horrifying . Mm-hmm. , Right? So I'm not listening to or in tune with my inner experience, so That's right. Therefore, I can't trust myself. And so my gut response to this is wrong is really just silent at that point.

Rachel: Yes, Yes. And all the thought terminating cliches that high control groups really instill in their members.

I think about FLDS and the "Keep Sweet" phrase. Uh, that was, you know, really. Not only thought, terminating cliche, which is essentially when there's a statement that's given, that stops the conversation. So that could be, it is what it is. It's in God's plan. And then it goes into, of course, a spiritual bypassing component of.

Using a religious belief, but twisting it and manipulating it, or a spiritual belief and, and using it against that person to silence them. Mm-hmm. .

Natalie: So the susceptible followers. So what does that look like? [00:23:00] What, what would that feel like maybe if you're kind of in that place in that.

Rachel: Yeah, most definitely. There's always the two kind of overarching tiny umbrellas under the umbrella of susceptible followers. Yeah, so the colluders and the conforms, we've touched on colluders, and that would be in the individuals, of course, who have their own personal ambition, need for power. The similar worldview as the overarching destructive leader, but then we also always must have conforms.

Yeah. These are the individuals who go along with what the group is saying or offering. This can often be fueled by their own unmet needs. This can be maybe they had in most. I like to believe that most people who join a high control group absolutely have a genuine, a genuine need for something. They're [00:24:00] looking for something good, something bigger than themselves to feel a part of and contribute to sense of community, a sense of belonging.

And so these are the individuals who, they're in the group, they. May recognize some discrepancies in what the group is saying and how they're acting, but because they have a sense of community, they have their own sense of fulfillment, they kind of go along with it. And not to mention, maybe they have also been under some kind of mental duress, such as fear and intimidation being instilled in them.

But the conforms, I would say make up a large bulk of, of a high control group. There has to be individuals who are willing to participate. Yeah. In. Destructive group.

Natalie: Yeah. And as I'm listening you, listening to you describe that, I think too of some of the phrases I'll hear people say who are [00:25:00] in the group and, and maybe have a gut feeling some things off, but they quickly, you know, maybe spiritual bypass around that or suppress it and, and we hear things like, no church is perfect, or, Well, everybody's flawed, so,

You don't have to focus on that because look at all the good that's being done here. Look at, look at this wonderful community that we have. Mm-hmm. . It's so strong and so close knit, and so it's so easy for them to focus on what you said, like the benefits that they're reaping personally. Well, there are legitimate concerns.

We can just push those to the side pretty quickly with some of these little platitudes and, and move on, because that's probably too scary and painful for them to consider. What if this place isn't healthy? Because that would mean I'm gonna have to act whether that's, I'm gonna have to say something or I'm gonna have to leave.

And that could be really scary if the need that you're having met is, Hey, I've got community, I've got support. I've got this thing to do every Sunday that otherwise I wouldn't have. So it feels like so much is [00:26:00] on the line that we can ignore some of those maybe major red flags that are happening.

Rachel: You got it.

It, it's almost as if sometimes going into a state of denial or not acknowledging can be the easier option versus, as you said, taking action. And of course, I think about the use of group think and almost that echo chamber effect where. If you are a part of a spiritually abusive group to speak out of line against what the group is doing, what the leader is doing is almost immediately going to ostracize you.

Or, you know, even certain high control groups have languaging for what those people are called apostates or excommunicated or disfellowshiped, and. No one that, that's, uh, the other psychological manipulative layer of this is the [00:27:00] fear and the threat of losing, as we've touched on this, but losing what you've built up mm-hmm.

and the true maybe relationships in your support system. How terrifying for anyone.

Natalie: Yeah. Who wants to risk that? Nobody. Yes, exactly. We're, we're kind of hardwired to want community and safety right. So to intentionally lose that is, is way too risky for a lot of people to

Rachel: consider. Most definitely, yeah.

It'll keep someone in, in a situation for, for longer than maybe they even want to be there. Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Natalie: So let's talk a little bit flipping back to, to the narcissistic leadership component. What do you, what do you think makes it so easy for these leaders to have control? What do you think makes it so easy for them to form these groups and then somehow, whether it's a large group or small, they somehow rope people in?

So how, how does this keep happening? Why do we think this is happening? Yes.

I think, to [00:28:00] be honest, that. As we've discussed, even with the toxic triangle model, there is a lot of times such a sense of charisma. There is the ability to speak to people and almost, I, I've heard the, the. Description before of individuals that, you know, I really felt like so and so was just talking directly to me.

Yeah, Yeah. So there's that almost uncanny ability to figure out what is it that this person is looking for, and how do I use that to bring them into the fold. There can of course, be someone who. Is expert at fostering that sort of dependency and attracting a group of people who maybe they're in a vulnerable state.

Mm-hmm. , and that's why I'm so glad we're talking about this now, because we are living in such major times of transition. And for a narcissistic leader, [00:29:00] this is. Yeah, a breeding ground to try to get folks into their group. And not to be dramatic over here, but it just plays out so much during these times of heightened transition, emotional instability, um, a sense of insecurity.

And so to have those. Charismatic leader stand up posture as being able to provide what someone is looking for. It is such an attractive option for someone who is feeling a bit lost or unsure of themselves. Yeah,

yeah, for sure. Like it's, it reminds me of marketing in the sense, right? Mm-hmm. , like, we're gonna figure out what this need is and how do I portray it to them?

and I'm gonna, I'm gonna draw them in and promise them something. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And sometimes they deliver on some of it, like we've talked about, like you can feel like, Wow, I've got this great community of people around me and, and people seem to really like me. And, and that can be so disorienting when the red flags start to show up.

So let's talk about that first [00:30:00] drawing in like the term love bombing. Does that play

Rachel: a role here? Yes, 100% we, That's another buzzword that we're hearing and seeing so much more frequently, but essentially love bombing is when somebody is given so many compliments, words of affirmation, they're told, I've never met anyone like you.

You would be such a great leader in our organization. See so much within you. You have so many gifts. You're blessed on and on and on, and it's this overabundance of emotional affection in the dating relationships. It can be physical affection, it can be gifts, but it's basically meant to sink proverbial.

Clause into the potential recruit or member and, and have them start the process of being indoctrinated. Because to be bestowed and love bombed [00:31:00] with so much affirmation can feel so good. Especially if you are currently in a state of feeling low self worth, you're in a major state of life transition. You show up at a group and they just bombard you with, with sweet nothings.

I mean, what a, what a great way to feel good and just really feel emotionally validated. But this can be a very treacherous tactic that is so manipulative.

Natalie: Yeah, and I think too, like in a church environment, you walk in for the first visit and it's like overly welcoming. , right? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. , like above and beyond what might even be comfortable normally speaking.

Yes. Yes. Um, you know, they're probably not gonna parade you with gifts, but, but just welcoming you with, with incredible positivity and we're so, so glad you're here. And, and it can be like an overwhelmingly positive experience for somebody who's really longing for connection and community. But it can also be a red flag like we're talking.[00:32:00]

Rachel: Major red flag. And this has become an increasingly popular tactic used on college campuses with the senior and elderly population because these are two groups of people who are at these high transition times. And if you can get someone in those formative years of 18 to 24, it it, it can sometimes be a great way to alter the course of their life and.

When I also think about, not to jump ahead too much, but when I think about the other, Tactics that can be used to bring someone into a group. Yeah. A lot of times I observe a lot of elitism as, as in the destructive leader, the colluding leaders will all use languaging. We have all of the answers. We know the one true way.

Yeah. Any other religious belief or practice is wrong because of this. We are the ones that [00:33:00] really. Have the belief system and again, People most often thrive when there is a sense of certainty. Yeah. And so if somebody can join a ready made group and it be prophesized to them that they have all the answers, Yet another attractive option for someone who is looking for certainty in such uncertain times.

Natalie: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And that sense of certainty feels good. Mm-hmm. , at least for a while, right? Yeah. Like, man, life is chaotic and swirling around me, but these people know the truth and don't I want the truth like that. That's what we all want, right? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . But we're talking about red flag here. It's not a good thing.

Rachel: No, definitely.

Natalie: Because who has the corner market on truth when we're talking about these? Big, ambiguous things, right? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So, so let's talk too about what it's like to think about leaving. We touched on this earlier. Why is it so hard to leave these groups and why can it take people so long? I mean, [00:34:00] we've talked a little bit too about how this can play out in like relationship dynamics and we know a lot from like domestic violence, like how it takes so many times leaving to leave for that final time.

Yes. And so I think that there's some overplay here when we're talking about high control groups of like, That difficulty in cutting ties and saying, Enough is enough, I can't be here anymore. That's how difficult that is.

Rachel: Um, yeah, it's, it's difficult on so many different levels. The first one I think about is literally on a biological, physiological level.

Being exposed and traumatized repeatedly, literally changes the brain, literally changes how our brain functions and works. So right from the get go, I mean, I just think about individuals who have grown up in a, an abusive organization or environment. Right there. That is a fundamental foundational part of why it can be so hard to leave.

If you've been told all your life you're [00:35:00] evil, you're of the devil, you, if you leave this group, you will be damned to hell or never make it to the promise land. You're already, you know, working against so many. Just beliefs that have been ingrained into your very being. Mm-hmm. . So right from the get go. I just think about the, at the brain level.

Yeah. That's difficult. Mm-hmm. , But then even the sense of support and community and the thought of leaving. Your, your people, your closest people in your life. This could be the, the only people who you've ever known Oh, yeah. To try to think of leaving how, how scary. And then in terms of finances, especially for women.

Mm-hmm. , I, I have seen time and time again that women, many women in high control religious organizations, Are encouraged not to work. They are encouraged to stay within the confines of their [00:36:00] home and raise the kids, be the homemaker. And that's, that's great for all intents and purposes, unless you're in a high control CTE group.

And then it becomes a way to. Maintain control because you must have financial stability of some sort or some access to resources to leave. So those are the few that come up almost immediately when I think about why it can be so hard to leave. Yeah, for

Natalie: sure. And like we had talked before about that sense of certainty and even if you, you're gut is telling you.

What if, What if they're wrong? Your mind will still play the what if they're right? Yes. And so, so I am risking so much. I better feel pretty darn confident to walk out that door, right? Mm-hmm. , I better feel pretty good about this decision because most of these groups that we're talking about, , you're really not welcomed back.

And if you are in some groups, like there might be some path to a redemption of some sort. It's not gonna come without social or emotional cost. And maybe you'd go through some sort of time [00:37:00] of rein initiation, or like you said, you might have been excommunicated and there might be a formal process to come back, but.

that's gonna be a lot of emotional toil on you and potential friends or family members. So the thought of leaving has this looming, there's just looming things that come with that, right? Like, I, I don't wanna risk having to go through that process. I've seen it before and it destroys people. Mm-hmm. . So maybe it's better to stay, but maybe I wanna leave and maybe I can't leave because of financial resources like you.

That's a, you, you wanna be a stay at home mom. That's great if you choose it, right? Yes. But if you don't have the freedom to choose it, that's, that's what we're talking about here. Or they sometimes will say things like, Well, you can choose that, but you know that the pressure is that that's what's best.

Mm-hmm. So do you really have a choice? I mean, technically you might, but in reality, in the way it plays out, you might not.

Rachel: That's right. That's right. And I, I even think about in [00:38:00] organizations where they are high demand, high control, uh, there's often that sense of identity that is very prescriptive. So members are almost handed, uh, uh, sometimes literally handed a physical, you know, book or whatever on who they are supposed to be.

And so if you. Think about leaving a group. You're also almost having to come to terms with my sense of identity is going to shift, especially if you've been a part of that group since birth and you were raised to be this kind of person. That can feel overwhelming. I mean to consider reconstructing your very being, figuring out who you really are, finding out what you like and dislike that that can be internally so disruptive and just difficult.

So I think even the overwhelm of. Who will I even be? Maybe that may not even be a conscious thought, but [00:39:00] I've just seen that come up, whether it's with individuals leaving a domestically abusive relationship or a high control environment.

Natalie: Absolutely. So as we close and kind of wrap this up, let's talk about this idea of is there any accountability for these leaders?

Is there any recourse to hold them accountable? Is there any way. Stop them, so to speak, because people will hear these stories and think, Man, this is terrible. Like what can we do about this? And will this ever. Mm-hmm. ,

Rachel: I think that you made a great point cause I know we just briefly touched, you know, just kind of written dialogue about this before we started, but I love your point that there is almost the legal side of it.

Yeah. Where accountability can be. Upheld if there are, you know, situations occurring or incidents of abuse that are against the law, right? Those are absolutely reportable. Mm-hmm. . But then just realistically speaking, because I am [00:40:00] such a realist when it comes to things like this, for every high control or destructive leader that pops up, there is seemingly three to five other people that pop up in his or her place.

And so that's why Prevention awareness. Yeah. In my opinion, I, I, I know I'm fairly certain that you agree is just so important here because ultimately if we can talk about it and talk about the signs and indications that an organization is abusive, then hopefully it can help people make those connections and keep themselves from.

Becoming a part of it. Becoming exposed or abused. Yeah.

Natalie: Yeah, for sure. Like you, like we were talking about, you can't, you can't abuse people if nobody's sitting there listening, Right. These, these churches won't function if there's nobody there with butts in the seat giving money. So That's right. So if we can create more education, more [00:41:00] conversation about the harm of this, and people can feel validated and empowered to maybe reach out and get help, . You can't really stop these leaders from existing and there is some accountability, you know, if there's sexual abuse going on or other forms of abuse happening that could be reported and prosecuted.

Yes. From that. It's unfortunately not illegal to be a

Rachel: cult leader, . That's right. There's so much gray area when it comes to undue influence, defining what that is, coercive control in some instances, and whether, you know how prosecution can take place if somebody's exhibited controlling behaviors. Um, there are still many issues.

If you will, with certain laws surrounding emotional abuse, manipulation. And so that's why as as we've said, talking about it, I think is so important.

Natalie: Yeah, for sure. Well, I appreciate this conversation. I think it's so necessary, and like you said, timely with all this happening in the world, and conversations are [00:42:00] really spiking about this, and I think that's so good.

Yes. So thank you for coming.

Rachel: Oh my gosh, my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. Yeah. Can you tell everybody

Natalie: real quick where they can find you and follow what you're doing and follow up

Rachel: with you? Yeah, most definitely. So I would say the two main places, Instagram and YouTube, you can find me, user handle is dine in psychology on both.

So I would love to have you join me. I talk all about high control cult groups, abusive, romantic relationships, family units, and my final kind of thought for today is, You have a question about something, If something doesn't feel right, seem right, pay attention to it. Just consider it. Start to ask those questions, even if it's on an internal level, because that can be the all important experience of cognitive dissonance and listen to it.

That may be your internal radar going off.

Natalie: Absolutely. Awesome. Well, thank you so much and I think this is a big topic, so maybe we'll have you back again. [00:43:00] I

Rachel: would love it. Thanks, Natalie. Bye.

Natalie: Thank you for joining Rachel and I, as we discussed some of the ways to recognize a cult or high control group, we know this topic is broad, but we're hopeful that you're walking away with a better idea of what these kinds of groups look like and how they function. Check out the show notes, to see more information about how to follow Rachel's work and check out the therapist directory below.

If you're looking for a therapist who's well-versed in religious trauma and spiritual abuse. If you enjoyed the podcast please don't forget to subscribe so you'll be in the know about new episodes as they come out i'm looking forward to continuing this conversation next


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