Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-9q27g Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-23T09:48:17.009Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 17 - Pathological Spirituality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2022

Christopher C. H. Cook
Affiliation:
Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University
Andrew Powell
Affiliation:
Formerly Warneford Hospital and University of Oxford
Get access

Summary

This chapter describes the psychopathological consequences of harmful spiritual beliefs, practices and experiences. It explores the concepts of spiritual defences, offensive spirituality, false spiritual teachers or gurus, and attempts to define the characteristics of cultic groups and compare how they differ from healthy groups. Terms such as ‘conversion’, ‘brainwashing’, ‘thought reform’, ‘coercive persuasion’ and ‘mind control’ are discussed. The complex psychopathology experienced by people who have been harmed by cult-like organisations and the related abuse is examined, and specific diagnostic issues are considered. Current evidence-based recovery-orientated psychotherapeutic interventions are also described. Treatment may best be understood in four phases: separation from the cult, psychoeducation and story-telling, emotional healing, and – finally – a resumption of an authentic identity and new life. The themes of the chapter are explored in a series of case studies.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Aebi-Mytton, J. (2018) A narrative exploration of the lived experience of being born, raised in, and leaving a cultic group: the case of the Exclusive Brethren. DPsych Thesis, Middlesex University/Metanoia Institute.Google Scholar
Aebi-Mytton, J. (2021) “That’s not me”: an exploration of first, second and multi-generation adult leavers. ICSA Today, 12, 613.Google Scholar
Almendros, C., Eichel, S. K. D., Giambalvo, C. et al. (2013) Dialogue and cultic studies: why dialogue benefits the cultic studies field. ICSA Today, 4, 27.Google Scholar
American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
Barker, E. (1989) New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
Barker, E. (1996) New religions and mental health. In Bhugra, D., ed., Psychiatry and Religion. London: Routledge, pp. 125137.Google Scholar
Barrett, D. V. (2001) The New Believers: Sects, ‘Cults’ and Alternative Religions. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
Barron, B. and Maye, D. (2017) Does ISIS satisfy the criteria of an apocalyptic Islamic cult? An evidence-based historical qualitative meta-analysis. Contemporary Voices: St Andrews Journal of International Relations, 8, 1833.Google Scholar
Battista, J. R. (1996) Offensive spirituality and spiritual defences. In Scotton, W., Chinnen, A. B. and Battista, J. R., eds., Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books, pp. 250260.Google Scholar
Boon, S.. Steele, K. and van der Hart, O. (2011) Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation: Skills Training for Patients and Their Therapists. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
Brockway, A. R. and Rajashekar, P. J. (1987) New Religions and the Churches. Geneva: World Council of Churches.Google Scholar
Carhart-Harris, R. L. and Goodwin, G. M. (2017) The therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs: past, present, and future. Neuropsychopharmacology, 42, 21052113.Google Scholar
Chambers, W. V., Langone, M. D., Dole, A. A. and Grice, J. W. (1994) The Group Psychological Abuse Scale: a measure of the varieties of cultic abuse. Cultic Studies Journal, 11, 88117.Google Scholar
Chryssides, G. D. (2016) Jehovah’s Witnesses: Continuity and Change. Abingdon: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
Conway, F. and Siegelman, J. (2005) Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, 2nd ed. New York: Stillpoint Press.Google Scholar
Crowley, N. (2020) Perspectives from front-line exit-workers and exit-counsellors on what helps individuals leave cults and radical extremist groups: a thematic analysis. Unpublished MSc thesis, University of Salford.Google Scholar
Deikman, A. J. (1983) The evaluation of spiritual and utopian groups. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 23, 819.Google Scholar
Fisher, J. (2017) Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Frank, J. D. and Frank, J. B. (1993) Persuasion and Healing: A Comparative Study of Psychotherapy, 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Galanter, M. D. (1989) Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Galanter, M. D. (1990) Cults and zealous self-help movements: a psychiatric perspective. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 543551.Google ScholarPubMed
Giambalvo, C. (1995) Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention. Bonita Springs, FL: American Family Foundation.Google Scholar
Hassan, S. (2000) Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. Newton, MA: Freedom of Mind Resource Center.Google Scholar
Hassan, S. (2015) Combating Cult Mind Control, 3rd ed. Newton, MA: Freedom of Mind Resource Center.Google Scholar
Hassan, S. and Shah, M. J. (2019) The anatomy of undue influence used by terrorist cults and traffickers to induce helplessness and trauma, so creating false identities. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, 8, 97107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haworth, I. (2001) Cults: a Practical Guide. London: Cult Information Centre.Google Scholar
Healy, J. P. (2011) Involvement in a new religious movement: from discovery to disenchantment. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 13, 221.Google Scholar
Herman, J. L. (1992) Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. London: Pandora.Google Scholar
Hillman, J. (2004) A Terrible Love of War. New York: The Penguin Press.Google Scholar
Holland, S. (2001) The Politics and Experience of Ritual Abuse: Beyond Disbelief. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
Howard, R. (1996) The Rise and Fall of the Nine O’Clock Service: A Cult Within the Church? London: Mowbray.Google Scholar
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (2019) The Anglican Church Case Studies: 1. The Diocese of Chichester 2. The Response to Allegations Against Peter Ball. London: Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.Google Scholar
Jenkinson, G. M. (2008) An investigation into cult pseudo-personality – what is it and how does it form? Cultic Studies Review, 7, 199224.Google Scholar
Jenkinson, G. (2016) Freeing the authentic self: phases of recovery and growth from an abusive cult experience. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.Google Scholar
Jenkinson, G. (2019) Out in the world: post-cult recovery. BACP Therapy Today, 30, 2226.Google Scholar
Joseph, S. (2011) What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Katchen, M. (2018) Interrelated moral panics and counter-panics: the cult brainwashing panic and the false memory/ritual abuse moral panic. In Noblitt, R. and Noblitt, P. P., eds., Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social, and Political Considerations. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers, pp. 193236.Google Scholar
Kendall, L. (2006) A psychological exploration into the effects of former membership of ‘extremist authoritarian sects’. PhD thesis, Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College.Google Scholar
Kernberg, O. (1986) Institutional problems of psychoanalytic education. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 34, 799834.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kurz, R. (2016) The cremation of care ritual: burning of effigies or human sacrifice murder? The importance of differentiating complex trauma from schizophrenia in extreme abuse settings. European Psychiatry, 33(Suppl.), S580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lacter, E. and Lehman, K. (2018) Guidelines to differential diagnosis between schizophrenia and ritual abuse/mind control traumatic stress. In Noblitt, R. and Noblitt, P. P., eds., Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social, and Political Considerations. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers, pp. 85154.Google Scholar
Lalich, J. (2004) Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Lalich, J and McLaren, K. (2018) Escaping Utopia: Growing Up in a Cult, Getting Out, and Starting Over. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Lalich, J. and Tobias, M. (2006) Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships. Berkeley, CA: Baytree Publishing.Google Scholar
Langone, M. D., ed. (1993) Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
Langone, M. D. (2007) Responding to Jihadism: a cultic studies perspective. Cultic Studies Review, 5, 268306.Google Scholar
Lifton, R. J. (1989) Ideological totalism. In Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of ‘Brainwashing’ in China. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, pp. 419437.Google Scholar
Lifton, R. J. (1999) Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism. New York: Henry Holt and Company.Google Scholar
Lifton, R. J. (2019) Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
McKibben, J. A., Lynn, S. J. and Malinoski, P. (2000) Are cultic environments psychologically harmful? Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 91111.Google Scholar
Martin, P. R. (1993) Cult-Proofing Your Kids. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Company.Google Scholar
Martin, P. R., Langone, M. D., Dole, A. A. et al. (1992) Post-cult symptoms as measured by the MCMI before and after residential treatment. Cultic Studies Journal, 9, 219240.Google Scholar
Masson, J. M. (1994) Against Therapy. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.Google Scholar
Matthews, C. and Salazar, C. F. (2014) Second-generation adult former cult group members’ recovery experiences: implications for counseling. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling. 36, 188203.Google Scholar
Miller, A. (2018) Recognising and treating survivors of abuse by organised criminal groups. In Noblitt, R. and Noblitt, P. P., eds., Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social, and Political Considerations. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers, pp. 443478.Google Scholar
Moghadam, A. (2008) The Salafi-Jihad as a religious ideology. CTC Sentinel, 1, 14-16.Google Scholar
Murray, S. (2004) Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press.Google Scholar
Noblitt, J. R. and Noblitt, P. P., eds. (2018) Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social, and Political Considerations. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers.Google Scholar
Nogueira, F. (2019) The not so divine acts of medium ‘John of God’. Skeptical Inquirer. 43, 1113.Google ScholarPubMed
Noll, R. (2014) Speak, memory. Psychiatric Times, 19 March 2014. www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/speak-memory (accessed 15 December 2020).Google Scholar
Ofshe, R. J. (1992) Inadvertent hypnosis during interrogation: false confession due to dissociative state; mis-identified multiple personality and the Satanic cult hypothesis. The International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 40, 125156.Google Scholar
Ofshe, R. and Singer, M. R. (1986) Attacks on peripheral versus central elements of self and the impact of thought-reforming techniques. Cultic Studies Journal, 3, 324.Google Scholar
Pollan, M. (2019) How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
Radcliffe, P. and Rix, K. (2019) DID in resurgence, not retreat. BJPsych Advances, 25, 296298.Google Scholar
Raschke, C. (2018) The politics of the “false memory” controversy: the making of an academic urban legend. In Noblitt, R. and Noblitt, P. P., eds., Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social, and Political Considerations. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers, pp. 177192.Google Scholar
Raubolt, R., ed. (2006) Power Games: Influence, Persuasion, and Indoctrination in Psychotherapy Training. New York: Other Press.Google Scholar
Reber, A. S. and Reber, E. (2001) The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd ed. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
Reinders, A. a. T. S. (2008) Cross-examining dissociative identity disorder: neuroimaging and etiology on trial. Neurocase, 14, 4453.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Rodríguez-Carballeira, Á., Martín-Peña, J., Almendros, C. et al. (2010) A psychosocial analysis of the terrorist group as a cult. International Journal of Cultic Studies, 1, 4960.Google Scholar
Schein, E. H. (1961) Coercive Persuasion: A Socio-Psychological Analysis of ‘Brainwashing’ of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
Shaw, D. (2013) Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sinason, V. (1994) Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Sinason, V., Galton, G. and Leevers, D. (2018) Where are we now? Ritual abuse, dissociation, police and the media. In Noblitt, R. and Noblitt, P. P., eds., Ritual Abuse in the Twenty-First Century: Psychological, Forensic, Social, and Political Considerations. Bandon, OR: Robert D. Reed Publishers, pp. 363380.Google Scholar
Singer, M. (2003) Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, revised ed. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
Spring, C. (2016) Recovery Is My Best Revenge: My Experience of Trauma, Abuse and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Buxton: Carolyn Spring Publishing.Google Scholar
Stahelski, A. (2005) Terrorists are made, not born: creating terrorists using social psychological conditioning. Cultic Studies Review 4, 3040.Google Scholar
Stein, A. (2017) Terror, Love and Brainwashing. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Storr, A. (1996) Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
Tedeschi, R. G. and Calhoun, L. (2004) Posttraumatic growth: a new perspective on psychotraumatology. Psychiatric Times, 21, 5860.Google Scholar
Temerlin, M. K. and Temerlin, J. W. (1982) Psychotherapy cults: an iatrogenic perversion. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 19, 131141.Google Scholar
Temerlin, J. W. and Temerlin, M. K. (1986) Some hazards of the therapeutic relationship. Cultic Studies Journal, 3, 234242.Google Scholar
Tylden, E. (1995) Psychological casualties. In Watt, J., ed., The Church, Medicine and the New Age. London: Churches’ Council for Health and Healing, pp. 6183.Google Scholar
Van der Hart, O., Nijenhuis, E. R. S. and Steele, K. (2006) The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
Van Eck Duymaer Van Twist, A. (2015) Perfect Children: Growing Up on the Religious Fringe. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Vergani, M., Iqbal, M., Ilbahar, E. and Barton, G. (2018) The three Ps of radicalization: push, pull and personal. A systematic scoping review of the scientific evidence about radicalization into violent extremism. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 43, 854.Google Scholar
Walsh, Y. and Bor, R. (1996) Psychological consequences of involvement in a new religious movement or cult. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 9, 4760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
West, L. J. and Martin, P. R. (1996) Pseudo-identity and the treatment of identity change in captives and cults. Cultic Studies Journal, 13, 125152.Google Scholar
Winell, M. (2017) The challenge of leaving religion and becoming secular. In Zuckerman, P. and Shook, J. R., eds., The Oxford Handbook of Secularism. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 603622.Google Scholar
World Health Organization (2020) ICD-11: International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision. Geneva: World Health Organization. Available at https://icd.who.int/en (accessed 11 December 2020).Google Scholar
Zeiders, C. and Devlin, P. (2020) Malignant Narcissism and Power: A Psychodynamic Exploration of Madness and Leadership. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Zimbardo, P. (1993) Understanding mind control: exotic and mundane mental manipulations. In Langone, M. D., ed., Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 104125.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×