We're going to looking at the clinical psychology topic of How Do Narcissists Use Cult Leader Tactics? In this episode of The Psychology World Podcast.
This episode has been sponsored by Social Psychology: A Guide to Social and Cultural Psychology. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can get the paperback, large print and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore or library if you request them.
How Do Narcissists Use Cult Leader Tactics?
People high in narcissism have very high self-esteem but it comes from an insecure place.
Meaning when their self-esteem is threatened, this causes them to become defensive and hostile.
As a result, they try to influence and control others around them so other people don’t threaten their self-esteem.
In fact, the tactics narcissists use to control and manipulate others have a lot of similarities with cult leaders.
Leading us onto the topics below.
Act Larger Than Life
It shouldn’t surprise you that narcissists and cult leaders both act larger than life. Since this seems them seem wonderful with innate goodness and they have special knowledge that nobody knows about. As well as they believe that nobody is above them.
For cult leaders, this makes sure the cult members don’t question them.
For narcissists, acting larger than life means the people around them don’t threaten their self-esteem because they’re special and gifted with secret knowledge.
Questioning Is Not Tolerated
In cults, questioning is horrified because if you question the cult, its leader and its purpose.
Then you will quickly become ostracised and socially excluded. Because in the eyes of the cult, you’ve committed heresy, since how dare you question the all-knowing leader!
As a result, narcissists can use the same trick because if they exclude or become rageful at people who question them. Then the people around them will know not to question the narcissist and this gives the narcissist some level of control over their behaviour.
Additionally, the reason why questioning is so terrible for narcissists is because this is a direct threat to their unsecure self-esteem. Because you could be implicitly implying in your questions that they’re wrong and they don’t know what they’re talking about. This will almost certainly decrease their self-esteem.
Lies Are Repeated So Often
With the cult leader being in such high regards and never ever being in the wrong. This means they repeat their lies so repeat that the cult member believes it.
Therefore, narcissists can do the same. All they need to do is keep telling those around them the same lie and how wonderful they are, and overtime the people around them will start to believe it as the truth.
Their Righteousness Justifies the Means
Continuing on with the fact that the cult leader is perceived to be righteous and almost divine in some cases. It should come as no surprise, and you only need to look at some cults in the past 50 years to see this, that cults take part in some activities that normal people will shunt.
Because it goes against their moral and ethical code.
Yet the reason why the cult members don’t have a problem with this is because the cult leader says it’s fine. Thus, the cult members believe it must be okay because the leader said so.
Additionally, if we think about it narcissists do some immoral behaviours at times. For instance, shouting, screaming and occasionally attacking people that threaten their self-esteem.
But if the narcissist has control and influence over those around them then these other people will most probably deem their behaviour as reasonable.
Meaning the narcissist’s righteousness justifies the end.
Independence Is Punished
A while ago, I was reading an article on the psychology of cults on Psychology Today and I remember this point being raised in one way or another. The writer of the article showed the point perfectly because when she was invited into a cult and she wanted to socialise. The cult leader moaned at her because she was inferring with God’s time.
Consequently, cult members are meant to be dedicated to the cult and they are meant to be one with the cult.
Otherwise, they are punished for their independence. This punishment can include social exclusion and ostracism and people prefer to keep social bonds even bonds that are bad for us. (Psychology of Relationships)
Finally, narcissists can control others around them using this trick because if the narcissist punishes someone for not being devoted to them. Then this could cause the narcissist to have stronger influence and control over this person.
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