October 31, 2011

Dear Editor,
Trinidad Express Newspaper,

Even after British Empire’s public apologies to people like Oscar Wilde. Even after the insights of people like Alfred Kinsey. Even after decades of peer reviewed, research by respected medical and psychiatric boards around the world that have proven homosexuality is neither a disorder nor danger to society. Even after animal biologists have identified sexual diversity in nature. Even after countless gay and lesbian luminaries have contributed to our society, Trinidad and Tobago remains one of the forty one (41) countries in the Commonwealth that still have the old British Empire law on their books that basically states that anyone caught engaging in homosexual sexual activity or has confessed to being a homosexual is liable to be prosecuted, fined, punished (corporal) and/or imprisoned.

The constitutionality of the Offenses Against the Person Act No. 10 of 1925 and the Sexual Offences Act No. 27 of 1986. have not yet been challenged in the courts and it is overdue for revision. Not just because of foreign pressure, but for our own good.

Since May, 1998, a paper called: Comments on the Equal Opportunity Act was submitted for review to Government, Opposition and Independent Senators, Members of Cabinet, the Attorney General's Office, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Ministers of Government and religious and group leaders. It included peer reviewed Statistics on Homosexuality, Mental Health, Homosexuality and Teen Suicide, Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation, Homosexuality and Child Molestation, The Genetics of Homosexuality, Homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago and Homosexuality and the Law.

Nothing came of it.

Now, Australian Commonwealth delegate Michael Kirby has said that at this Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, the agenda will include a request to scrap anti-gay laws. He told ABC Radio that HIV messages were “very difficult” to get across without removing laws against gay sex. Many representatives of the Commonwealth countries that have repealed their anti-gay laws- UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, are expressing disappointment with being associated with countries so backward in their human rights record in this day and age. There are even suggestions to attach economic penalties to countries that refuse to abide by the clearly stated human rights principles of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, has written an article in the Nairobi Star and I quote:

“I have consistently made it clear publicly that we deplore hate crimes of any nature and the vilification and targeting of gay and lesbian people runs counter to the fundamental values of the Commonwealth, which include non-discrimination on any grounds.

“I also recognised the Delhi High Court for its landmark decision to decriminalise homosexual acts. This addressed a legal legacy of the British colonial era that continues to affect more than three-quarters of Commonwealth countries long after Britain itself has moved on.”

He continued: “If attitudes are to change, if homophobia is to be challenged – as it should – and if laws on homosexuality are to be reformed the best hope lies in democratic and legal processes.”

Countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe in particular have been downright inhumane to gays and lesbians. Here in the Caribbean, Jamaica leads the field in hate crimes against gays. However in Trinidad and Tobago and other territories like Barbados and Saint Lucia, the law against homosexuality is basically already operationally defunct.

When was the last time you heard of anyone appearing before court being charged with the crime of homosexuality? We go against our laws and allow self-professed homosexuals to come to our shores, Elton John, Tim Gunn, tourists from gay cruise lines and more. The law does not even apply to lesbians! No Magistrate will ever send someone to jail just for being gay and/or having an adult consensual relationship. Nobody of any standing, save the extremely religious, ever wants to be known as THE anti-gay, inhumane, intolerant idiot by the global community. For the story will make international news just as the ridiculous religious protests over Elton John performing in Tobago in 2007, Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” and Jamaica’s homophobic dancehall made international news.

Our Government officials know all the arguements for gay rights and why they should decriminalize. They know fully well the existing laws are outmoded. They have gay and lesbian friends, family, colleagues, admired fashion designers, performers and artists too. They do not want to be seen by the world as ignorant, homophobic and backward. They are just afraid of public disapproval among certain religious circles that may cost them votes.

Why can’t we just admit it? The law is just a legislative wet blanket to existing cultural prejudices, ignorance and religious bias. It can only be enforced by catching two men in flagrante in public, a matter Public Decency Laws should sufficiently address. These laws have nothing to do with protecting consent, children, society or public decency. It is strictly a religious sanction against a group of people.

These outmoded laws have no place in a multi-cultural democracy. Christianity is not the only majority religion represented in our country and even among many Christians, there are differing views. Father Clyde Harvey, parish priest of San Fernando's Cathedral, in his address Youth - "A Force for Change" commented:

“As heterosexual transmission [of HIV] increases, especially among married people, we are forced to consider the injustice of our discrimination and prejudice against HIV+ persons . Indeed, it is the same fear and prejudice which seeks to justify the exclusion of sexual orientation from the Equal Opportunities Bill.”

Anantanand Rambachan, professor of Hindu Studies at St. Olaf College, Minnesota commented:

“One of the fundamental and universally accepted teachings of Hinduism is that God exists equally in all human beings. It is the immanence of the divine which confers value and worth to the human person. Since God exists equally in all human beings, all human beings, without exception, must be regarded with dignity and treated justly. To discriminate against another in the workplace on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation is unacceptable from the Hindu standpoint and symptomatic of a failure to discern the equal presence of God.”

“Tolerance” is one of our motto’s watchwords. We are no longer under a Church/Empire that felt it was their Supreme Right to not only dictate what consenting adults do in private but publically punish even if you did not follow their religion. This is where the un-constitutionality of the Sexual Offenses Act is most glaring. Do you know that same colonial religious bias once forbade beating African drums and Orisha, Shouter Baptists and Hindus their equal right to worship freely as their conscience dictates?

These laws and the supporting culture are also killing us! To be clear, homosexual orientation is not what causes the spread of HIV/AIDS. Irresponsible, promiscuous, unsafe sex does. Living in secrecy and having low self-esteem because of social exclusion and fear of legal harrassment tends to lead to clandestine, fleeting and often risky sexual outlets. It makes education, testing and treatment difficult for our Health Services when gay men don’t come out and/or worse, hide in sham heterosexual relationships.

If you are gay, lesbian or a friend, relative or colleague of gays and lesbians who recognizes that it is time we come out of the dark ages, please sign the petition as I have. It is confidential. Trinidad and Tobago, "forged from the love of liberty" and "where every creed and race find an equal place" is the most culturally diverse, innovative, progressive and creative of the Caribbean Commonwealth Member States. We should already be ahead of the field when it comes to this matter, not be in the same basket with places like Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica and religious dictatorships in the Arab world.

October 27, 2011

2012 Survival Kit- Fear and Fighting False Phobias

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1933)

Your mind goes blank, and you feel unable to speak, move or think. Your mouth goes dry and all the moisture accumulates on your palms. Cold shivers run down your spine and explode in paralyzing currents through every capillary in your body and every muscle seizes up. Yet even so, your heart feels like it will pound out of your chest. In fact it is the only muscle somehow activated by this stomach churning paralysis.

What creates this sensation for you?

Is it a snake slithering or cockroach scuttling or armed bandit shuffling across your path? Hearing, “You’re fired!”, “This relationship is not working, I’m leaving you,”, “Sorry, you do not qualify for a loan,” or the ominous growl of an approaching dog whose bite is worse than its bark? Does derisive laughter of your peers with whom you long to fit in or having your hidden weaknesses, lifestyle or private parts put on display trigger this sensation for you? Or maybe being put on the spot or in the spotlight? What about thinking about getting old, sickly and dying or watching it happen to your loved ones?

How often do you feel this sensation? Once a month? Once a week? Once a day? Many times a day?

This sensation is of course Fear.

What Is Fear?

Feel free to check the dictionary definition but here is mine:
Fear is the innate FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE to a person, place, position or possible outcome which makes one FEEL UNCERTAIN about their ABILITY TO SURVIVE unscathed or at all.

Like pain, fear is part of our inbuilt survival instinct.

We evolved and survived as a species because of it this “Fight or Flight” response. It primed our ancestors to take on things like mammoths, saber tooth tigers and stampeding bison. It is what urged them to struggle out of sucking quicksand and fierce river currents. It got their legs moving to run away from landslides, lava and tidal wave surges. Those who did not, their genes did not survive to our time.

However, as with all things, if it is not used purposefully fear will become a problem, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

To Be Used Sparingly

Fear places tremendous stress on our heart and drastically alters our body’s chemistry so you can burst forth with superhuman strength and single minded focus in order to survive.

For those who push through fear, they find that just like pushing through pain, on the other side is often extreme euphoria, comfort, strength and power. But in that moment, when you get slammed in the chest by fear, it truly feels you ran a marathon in a matter of seconds. Something so profound is not a reaction to waste on petty things and should be saved for moments that truly deserve it- defending your life and health or the life and health of your loved ones.

The human body and mind is a marvelous thing and able to grow stronger when subjected to stress with purposeful intent. The brave spiritual/truth seeker can also get stronger by learning how to use the sensation of fear to their advantage.

Today we rarely have to stare down snarling wild animals and hostile natural elements with little to no protection or understanding as our ancestors once did. In fact, some of us miss the thrill so much we deliberately seek danger and scary experiences to trigger the adrenaline rush our ancestors enjoyed several times a day.

Embracing fear, much like embracing pain can lead to pleasurable feelings on the other side as well as strength.

So how come with all our technology, seeming control over Mother Nature, freedom and prosperity our society seems so sick with fear induced stress? Why do so many people feel so confounded and powerless and afraid even though there are no lions scratching outside our door and we understand sickness is caused by micro-organisms and defective genes, not nefarious demonic forces?

Surprisingly, despite all our advancements as a species, we are still ruled by a lot of uncertainty, some of it is real and some of it is rooted in the spiritual diseases of Lack and Masculine/Feminine Imbalance. Do you wish to be free of unnecessary fear?

Freedom from Fear involves two things:

1. Understanding what is Real Fear and how to transcend it to power and purpose
2. Identifying what is False Fear and how to stamp out the Lack and Masculine/Feminine imbalance at its core.

There is a reason why I capitalized certain words in my previous definition of Fear. Here are those words again:


When trying to differentiate Real Fear from False Fear these three key aforementioned factors play a vital role.

Fight Or Flight

When fear is based on real factors, choosing one of the following (Fight or Flight) immediately frees you from it in the short term and helps you survive. For example:

A woman finds an intruder in her apartment. She experiences the Fight Or Flight response. She chooses to fight and grabs a kitchen knife, defends herself and manages to discourage him and he runs off.
Same scenario and she flees and calls for help.

In both cases, she is attempting to safeguard her survival. She may not be successful and may in fact die but her response to the situation is honorable, purposeful and valid. If she survives the incident, even with injuries emotional and physical, she emerges feeling extremely empowered and capable of dealing with the situation again.

Studies into the recovery of victims of sexual assault show that women who fight back while being raped recover faster from the shame, violation and fear. Women who become paralyzed by the Fight or Flight reaction take a much longer time to recover a sense of power and freedom from shame and fear.

Understand that Fight or Flight do not always mean literal Fight or Flight.

Sometimes Fight or Flight can translate to: (A) Staying and fighting for a relationship, goal or cause or (B) Fleeing from a relationship or abandoning a goal or cause.

On the other hand, when a fear is based in falsehood rooted in Lack or Masculine/Feminine Imbalance, the Fight or Flight reaction does not work!

This is often your first indicator that the fear is not valid. For example:

A singer has extreme stage fright and deals with it by fleeing from any public appearances. The fear never goes away. She never becomes empowered or capable of dealing with the source of that false fear.
A man is extremely fearful of rejection and so, lashes out violently at any and every opportunity that brings up that fear. His fear is going nowhere! He is not becoming empowered and capable of dealing with the source.

So first clue that your fear is false:

• It does not go away when you apply Fight or Flight
• When you apply Fight or Flight you actually make matters worse for yourself and others.

Feeling Uncertain

Uncertainty is at the very center of fear. Or to put it another way, the actual sensations you feel as Fear is that indecisive, anxious, sickening crux between Fight OR Flight. You have no idea how the situation is going to turn out and for a split-second, you are indeed in a state of paralysis.

This in-between phase often manifests as avoidance or inaction. And some people never get out of that state of paralysis because their fear is false and as we mentioned earlier, cannot be solved by either Fight or Flight.

Nothing is as torturous as dwelling in the uncertain middle ground between Fight and Flight. It is literally like dwelling in a state of fearful, paralyzing paranoia all the time.

Fear only becomes a problem when you remain stuck in that limbo between Fight Or Flight. Often people get very comfortable in this state of fearful non-action and even find ways of justifying it. This is where resistance to change, compromise and the stagnation of the growth of your soul takes hold.

I speak from personal experience here.

For years I was afraid to lay my cards on the table in my relationship out of a paralyzing fear that my partner would be unable to deal with it and it will mean the conclusion or a drastic change in some way we both would not find pleasant. I justified it as being mature, civil, accomodating and long-suffering but the truth was it would keep me up at night. It would affect my mood. It would make me shut down all communication which would escalate into even more serious problems- constipation, piles, stress fuh so!

When you have no idea how something is going to turn out or which action you should take (Fight or Flight) you begin to fill that void with your own speculations of what will happen if you take action. Suddenly what you become afraid of is taking any action. Those of us with wild imaginations know how we can self-torture ourselves into insomnia and insanity. Worse yet you can be exploited by others to live in a state of Avoidance & Inaction, while others can commit great crimes. For example:

As we speak, we know something is wrong with unbridled Capitalism and so-called free markets. However we are so afraid of what revamping it will bring, we choose to just do nothing or even worse, stubbornly defend the failed system, its culture, politics and accompanying religious systems.

Fearful inaction by people who should know better has been at root of so much evil in our society.

The Cure For Uncertainty

There are three guaranteed cures for Uncertainty.

1. Knowledge
2. Enlightenment
3. Divine Trust

Whether you are theist, deist or atheist, one, two or all of the above work wonders. Let us explore how it works within one particular and very common scenario: A parent finding out their child is gay.


A mother learns her beloved son is a homosexual.

Before this, she has never had any personal dealings with a homosexual and her only knowledge about homosexuals came from one, very limited source which has painted a negative picture.

This picture is what causes her Fear because she as far as she knows her son is doomed, deviant, hell-bound, evil. However, this conflicts with other things she knows; her son is also kind, talented, loving and genuinely distressed by not being able to change to please her and fit into their family and community.

She is stuck in a state of uncertainty which can manifest passively as:

Avoidance and Inaction: Pretend my child is not gay, avoid the subject.
Or actively as:
Ignorant Rush to Fight or Flight: Condemn, denounce and try to change him or ostracize him and then spend the rest of her time over-defending her actions she knows it cannot be easily validated.

Because both responses are rooted in ignorance, it will wind up hurting her and her son.

The mother will remain in this state until she embarks upon a mission to broaden her knowledge and research ALL the medical, historical, sociological and legal facts. This will result in a new choice based on greater understanding of the situation. Knowledge can empower a more informed Fight or Flight response. She can now choose to:

Fight: For her relationship with her son, his happiness, his well-being and equality in society
Flight: Discard and remove herself from any false or one-sided beliefs that cause pain and suffering and the people and situations that promote them.

However knowledge only works if someone is receptive to it.

A pre-existing resistance to knowledge will cause someone to actually choose to remain in that limbo state of uncertainty and conflict or Fight or Flight in ignorance and then grasp at ways to justify it as it hurts others.The ability to be receptive to Knowledge comes from having Enlightenment.


Knowledge is indeed Power. But knowledge alone is not what leads to power. What leads to power is being able to:

Accept the knowledge however disquieting, process it fearlessly and then make whatever compromises are necessary to live in harmony with that newfound truth, even if it hurts your ego, status, feelings, comfort level.

This requires Enlightenment.

If our mother of the homosexual already has the raw ingredients for Enlightenment- a level of fearlessness, freedom and fullness of self-esteem, when she learns about the medical facts, research and spiritual basis for natural sexual diversity her paralysis is instantly healed. She feels empowered to Fight or Flight from a place of truth even if she risks social, peer and family disapproval.

The opposite is true. If she is powerless and enslaved to a belief or the external trappings of her social standing and peer and family approval she will continue to choose deliberate ignorance. But where exactly does that power to be Enlightened come from?

Divine Trust

When that mother of the gay son learns about his sexuality, she feels genuinely powerless.

Now, she can rail against her utter powerlessness or she can simply admit the truth:

Although I gave this child birth, food, shelter and inculcated my values based on what I know, in the end, I have no control over many innate qualities this child possesses; his personality, talents, intelligence, sexuality and most of all, his self-determined, life choices.

It does not matter if you believe in a Purposeful Universe or Divine Plan or not. This is a Universal Truth- we cannot control everything and everyone. It is also called The Law Of Allowing.

Recognizing where your control ends and the will of another and the Universe begins is one of the most liberating, empowering lessons that sadly many do not learn before it is too late. Throughout their entire lives they take on other people’s shit, let other people’s shit unduly affect them and try to control what others do with a false sense of power.

Prayers for Bobby- The movie is based on the true story of Mary Griffith whose conservative Christian beliefs and standing in her church community made her reject her gay son leading to his depression and suicide. His death is what finally enabled his mother to find the courage to be Enlightened. Today Mary Griffith shares her Enlightenment with the world to save countless lives and countless parent-child relationships.

However, those who do believe in some form of Universal or Divine Purpose and truly act in accordance with what they believe, often find a lot more comfort in the process of admitting their powerlessness. Why? Because they feel a safety net under them if they just free-fall with love and trust into something higher, bigger, all-encompassing, even if they cannot exactly define or understand what it is.

This is also known as faith.

Not blind faith mind you! But faith based on Universal Truth about our human limitations; humbly admitting we lack the ability to understand everything right away and simply trusting that with time the answer will come.

Those whose entire sense of security rests in being overly certain they know ABSOLUTELY FOR SURE how everything OUGHT TO BE right now, are actually the ones demonstrating blind faith and are usually the ones plagued by the most fears. Certainty or false pride in having a certain position becomes a crutch for other insecurities. Sometimes only a truly tragic or humbling experience gives them the courage to let go, be still and let the truth unfold as it should.

To him that waits all things reveal themselves, provided that he has the courage not to deny, in the darkness, what he has seen in the light. ~Coventry Patmore

So, there is in fact a more empowering option than disempowered paralysis between Fight or Flight. It is Divine Trust.

Divine/Universal Trust is not dejectedly throwing your hands up in the air. It is not giving over your power or cowardly refusing to do the right thing. It is throwing down your burdens and weapons and admitting, “Okay, I am lost! I need a map before I continue!” or “Okay, I am tired. I need strength beyond what I can fathom to deal with this!” or "This is not working, I need to try something else, I don't know what yet but I will cease and desist until it becomes clear."

Throughout history, great strides in human rights, social justice and yes, even science have been made by people who did just that instead of CONTINUING TO PRETEND THEY KNEW WHAT WAS BEST BASED ON THE SAME PARADIGM THAT LED THEM TO THE CONFLICT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

The greatest warriors and martial art philosophies of the world embrace this state of being still or Zen just before you unleash your Fight or Flight. When you get good enough at it, you can actually do it on command or in a split second when your life is on the line. Combining wise, purposeful focus with the power of that adrenaline rush can save your life and the lives of others.

There is a favorite scene of mine from the movie The Last Samauri where the character Nathan Algren played by Tom Cruise, foreplays the entire battle in his head, analyzing each outcome before he launches his attack. Yet it happens in a split second. The state of being still and letting God/Universe is actually like getting the benefit of hindsight without the regret.

Conversely, great tragedy and human set-backs have been made when we rushed to Fight or Flight without the benefit of either Knowledge/Enlightenment that can only be obtained in that moment of stillness.

Can you imagine what our world look like right now if the USA had not rushed into bombing Hiroshima, invading Iraq or adopting post WW2 economic plans based on unbridled consumerism and corporate omniscience?

Thank goodness for all the people that embraced that stabbing shard of doubt, that unsettled feeling, that twinge on their heart-strings, that moment of pause and simply surrendered and learned to be still long enough to be enlightened before acting.

Ability To Survive

Remember how we started this discourse. Fear (Fight or Flight) is a tool that primes us to have the strength and focus to act in defense of our own survival. So truly the ultimate barometer of whether that Fight or Flight response is valid is whether it has resulted in- Our Survival or Our Demise.

In the last Survival Kit essay on Masculine/Feminine Imbalance, one false fear was already laid bare. The False Fear Of Losing Ownership/Control Over Another.

In the next easy we unveil some more false fears that are plaguing society by measuring them against the litmus tests of this essay. We will also reiterate and affirm the Spiritual Power-Ups that fight these false fears.

I truly hope that a newfound level of courage will come to you and me by the end of this exploration.

October 04, 2011

Warning Signs Of A Harmful Cult

The next installment of the Survival Kit Series is being worked upon, I promise.

Would you be able to tell right now whether the group to which you belong, whether religious or secular was a dangerous cult? After all, basic group dynamics that prioritize conformity are at play in almost every organization. Is there an objective method to differentiate innocuous groups from cultic or extremist ones that seek to deprive individuals of an unreasonable amount of their autonomy and power?


Below are some warning signs that can help you reasonably determine whether or not a group is likely to be a destructive cult, and if you should be concerned about a friend, co-worker, or loved one or even yourself.

Now chances are that you will find at least one or two warning signs may apply to most groups and organizations. This is normal as belonging to any cohesive social group naturally requires at least some level of individual compromise on certain freedoms.

The key is the extent of compromise being asked and for what purpose? In my opinion, if MORE THAN TWO of the warning signs presented below apply to your group, your red flag should go up immediately. It may not necessarily mean that you are in a destructive cult but you are certainly in a high-control group that may rob you of your self-autonomy and self-actualization if you let it.

Try to be as objective as possible and ask yourself if the following criteria apply to the group you are concerned about.

1. Total control of its members' behaviour.
Cults are likely to dictate in great detail not only what members believe, but also what members wear and eat, when and where members work, sleep, and bathe, and how members think, speak, and conduct familial, marital, or sexual relationships. You are strongly discouraged from pursuing your unique talents and ambitions. Doing what is best for your individual needs and circumstances and thinking for yourself using your own common sense, is strongly discouraged. To outsiders members of your group are like clones of one another acting and speaking the same way, using special language and symbolism exclusive only to members of the cult.

2. Lack of privacy for members but total privacy for management
Members are urged not only to be obedient within the cult and carefully follow the rules but are also encouraged to be overly revealing and honest within the group. You are urged to refrain from keeping secrets and must constantly confess all to the leaders, even telling the intimate secrets of other members. Tattle-tailing is rewarded and encouraged. You cannot somehow have your “own private business” or “private family life”. Members pry, interrogate and instigate themselves in your life all the time and you have no space, no room to just be.

Meanwhile, the inner workings at the top levels of the group regarding things like appointments, finances and decisions that affect the entire group are kept strictly under wraps. The rank and file have no idea how or why certain decisions are made. They just are! And all must comply or else.

Are you feeling like you are losing your identity?

3. Dishonesty
While full-disclosure is encouraged inside the group, outside the group the members are encouraged to be secretive and even dishonest, especially in defence of the group or leaders of the group. You may be encouraged to act unethically by manipulating outsiders or non-members by not being forthcoming about the true experience within the group, especially when trying to attract new members. Things that most would find unpleasant, offensive and objectionable are sugar-coated or hidden until it is too late and the convert has already sealed their commitment in some way.

4. Suspicious double standards
Even though your group may claim all must abide by one set of ethics you clearly see that there is a pecking order and levels of justice and freedom depending on hierarchy or other forms of classification. Undue amount of sacrifices may be asked of the lower rank and file in the group, like living frugally, avoiding certain diversions, celibacy, abandoning or altering their families, friends, and careers to suit the group. Yet the higher ups in the group seem to enjoy special dispensation from these sacrifices.

5. An over-emphasis on recruiting new members and fund-raising.
Many altruistic movements, established religions, and other honourable groups also recruit and raise funds. However, these actions are incidental to improving the lives of its members, community and of humankind in general. Destructive groups on the other hand are obsessed with recruiting and fund-raising. Their goal is clearly to increase the prestige and often the wealth of the leader or group of leaders. The followers' possessions, money, time, and lives become totally wrapped up in furthering the cause of the cult and they spend a disproportionate amount of their time and resources recruiting new members. Successful recruiters are rewarded either financially or given more respect and rank within the group.

6. Exclusive and isolationist
The group presents itself as the ONLY viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ill or the ONLY true path. You spend most of your time learning how to defend this stance instead of actually examining the validity of the “absolute” claims of the leader and the cult. You are either physically, emotionally or mentally isolated from the rest of the world- sometimes all three. You are encouraged not to have any meaningful social interaction with anyone outside the group, even family members. You are encouraged to see the cult as “special”, “privileged” and the rest of the world as misguided, evil and doomed.

7. Subtly or strongly discourages questioning, investigation
Natural doubt and curiosity is seen as disobedience or “lack of faith”. You are forbidden from reading, watching or interacting with sources of different information or challenging information. Certain limitations are placed on academic study, children are indoctrinated early and are then kept ignorant about anything different or outside the teachings of the cult or are told such things are “totally evil” and taught to fear them. Any discussion or interchange with different views or outside media is strongly discouraged. Various forms of pressure are used to illicit total compliance. You do not feel free or able to have a different opinion without fearing some kind of reprisal. You do not feel free to interact with people of differing views, beliefs, cultures etc. You feel scared, frustrated and flustered when you question anything you have been taught.

8. Authoritarian in its power structure.
The leader/s of the group is regarded as the supreme authority and members are discouraged from questioning their actions or do not feel emboldened to do so. Power may be delegated to subordinates but it is for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes. There is no appeal outside the leader’s power system to any greater system of justice. If you are ill-treated within the group, you are discouraged from going outside for help. Injustice or conflicts resulting in loss or bodily harm are kept hush-hush. Members police one another to be submissive to the power structure, anyone caught “bad-mouthing” a superior is quickly reported (See No. 2) because the leaders are seen to have some kind of special divine knowledge, revelation or power that set them apart from others and exempts them from human scrutiny.

9. Counter-intuitive or dangerous requests made.
Last but not least, any group that asks you to accept as true something that is clearly (scientifically, historically, ethically) untrue or asks you to do anything that will bring serious harm or bring death to yourself or another for any reasons other than legally justified self-defense is not to be trusted.

What to do if you or someone you love is at risk?
If you know someone who belongs to a group that demonstrates at least FOUR OR MORE of these warning signs- THEY ARE DEFINATELY IN A DANGEROUS CULT. How destructive depends on how many more of these warning signs the cult exhibits. The Branch Davidians (David Koresh) for example demonstrated all nine signs.

If you have serious reason to suspect your loved one is in a cult, remember that while your suspicions may be justified, the person you care about may see things very differently. Their judgement of the situation has been impaired by dependency, peer pressure, emotional blackmail and mind control. It’s you, the outsider who has the most objective view of what is going on and will notice changes in their personality and glaring forms of manipulation. But they won't and you will be tempted to jump in, guns a blazing to the rescue.


Here are three dos and donts for helping a person trapped in a cult:

DONT: Say or do anything to make the person feel ashamed or hurt for choosing the cult. Many cults pre-empt family or friend objections by telling converts to expect persecution. Your stern condemnation of your friend or loved one will be seen as persecution and you will be reinforcing in their mind that the cult was right! And while you “persecute” your loved one, the cult will be there to comfort them and gain solidarity in “shared suffering”. Who do you think your loved one will trust afterwards?

DO: Offer unconditional love and support. It will be hard but try to keep your cool and phrase your objections in the form of open-ended, calmly delivered questions that prompt their inner evaluation. For example:

Isn’t it curious that they do not want you to read any opposing information? I always thought it is smarter to hear both sides of an argument before making a decision. If I was ever in court, I would certainly hope the jury deciding my fate was open to hearing both sides of the story. What about you?

DONT: Attack the cult directly or make it all about the cult or its leader. They probably have already programmed your loved one to become defensive on their behalf. This is not about the cult , not really. The cult is just the end result, a symptom of a deeper issue lurking within your friend or family member. That issue may be their self-esteem, their intellectual capacity, their coping skills with life’s challenges, their need to belong, their need to have a purpose in life. Just like a drug addict, that cult is the substitute for something.

DO: Hone in and then try to heal the source of weakness, dysfunction, hurt, pain, loneliness, confusion that has made your family member or loved one vulnerable to a cult. In their evangelizing/recruitment preparation, many cults encourage their proselytizers to seize on any opportunities presented by people who have suffered loss and/or are in a weakened state. When someone is hurt, scared and alone, they are not in a mental or emotional position to make good judgements and ask rational questions. How many of us could resist being bombarded by love, charity and acceptance by a total stranger when we were in a weakened state? Cults are the vultures feeding off family road-kill. So pay attention to your friends and family and their well-being. If you don’t, I guarantee that someone less savoury else will.

The "black sheep" that does not get love, acceptance and understanding from their family and friends is an easy target for cults

DONT: Wait or doubt the signs you see or be fooled by little positive changes like stopping certain vices or addictions or their new convert “euphoria”. Parents who lost children to cults recall how, “I was skeptical and I knew the group was shady but she seemed so happy! After being involved in drugs and unhealthy living, I thought she finally put her life together!”

Political correctness is another dangerous delayer of proper action. Yes, we should all have freedom of religion and you do not want to be a accused of being a bigot or intolerant but religious freedom is NOT AN EXCUSE for someone to be harmed. Many fearing the "intolerant" brush shied away from taking action until it was too late. There are UNIVERSAL signs of somebody being manipulated againt their knowledge or will and guided to give away all their power. These signs DO NOT LIE! Take action! Deal with the accusations later.

DO: Be unrelenting until your friend or loved one is free! Always keep the lines open. Be prepared for that phone call in the night, “I need help! I am scared! Come and get me!” and be prepared to act right away. In fact, if you know the situation is truly bad (6 to 9 signs of a cult), don’t even wait for the phone call. Sometimes physical intervention and extrication is needed and therapy will come later.

There may be certain cases where swift physical intervention may be justified. Families who managed to get their children out of the David Koresh cult before the Waco incident do not regret taking drastic action.

If you are reading this and it strikes home that it’s you who is in a cult, you are fortunate to still have your wits about you.

Do not feel ashamed because you suspect that you have fallen prey to a cult. Shame often leads to a defensive attitude as you try to take your power back by justifying your choice. Master manipulators know that a secretly insecure, defensive group members are loyal members. The more time you spend defending your choice, the less time you spend looking at it critically. That is why cults always need a ‘Them” to their “Us” to keep their members distracted with being on the defense.

Look, even intelligent, confident, decent and accomplished people have fallen prey to cults. It could happen to anyone. You are not a bad person. You are not a stupid person. Remember, these groups and their masterminds are well rehearsed in taking advantage of people who are either deeply wounded by trauma, going through a difficult situation or desperately searching for the meaning of life. Most of us are not taught how to withstand such tactics as a vital part of our upbringing, so we often have no way of even suspecting we are being sucked into a pyramid scheme, sexually exploitative pit or a position as a clueless political pawn. Most of all, it is our nature to want to believe the best about others. It comforts, reassures and keeps us sane.

The only reason some of us are now more vigilant is because of being a former victim. Trust me it is not because we are better people than you or anyone else.

Take heart, you can still find wholesome fellowship to enrich your life, offer you comfort and shelter as you seek for the answers to life’s deepest questions. Just be careful and always alert for signs (blatant and subtle) of manipulation (emotional, mental, social), injustice, invasion of freedom and suppression of individuality.


If you would like more information on how to deal with destructive cults or mind control, here is a good place to start.