Chapter one excerpts - The Cultic Relationship.
Cults may be large or small. What defines them is not their size
but their behavior. In addition to the larger, more publicized
cults, there are small cults of less than a dozen members who
follow a particular "guru"; "family cults,"
where the head of the family uses deceptive and excessive persuasion
and control techniques; and probably the least acknowledged, the
The one-on-one cult is a deliberately manipulative and exploitative
intimate relationship between two persons, often involving physical
abuse of the subordinate partner. In the one-on-one cult, which
we call a cultic relationship, there is a significant power imbalance
between the two participants. The stronger uses his (or her)
influence to control, manipulate, abuse, and exploit the other.
In essence the cultic relationship is a one-on-one version of
the larger group. It may even be more intense than participation
in a group cult since all the attention and abuse is focused on
one person, often with more damaging consequences.
Many marriages or domestic partnerships where there is spousal
abuse may be characterized and explained in this way. Other one-on-one
cults may be found in boss/employee situations, in pastor/worshipper
milieus, in therapist/client relationships, in jailor/prisoner
or interrogator/suspect situations, and in teacher/student environments
(including academic, artistic, and spiritual situations - for
example, a school professor, a yoga master, a martial arts instructor,
or an art mentor). It is our hope that those who have suffered
such individualized abuse will find much in this book to identify
with and use in healing their pain.
Since the upsurge of both public and professional interest in
the issue of domestic violence, there has been some recognition
to the link between mind control and battering. Men or women
who batter their partners sometimes use manipulative techniques
similar to those found in cults. The most common include "isolation
and the provocation of fear; alternating kindness and threat to
produce disequilibrium; the induction of guilt, self-blame, dependency,
and learned helplessness." The degree to which these features
are present in a relationship affects the intensity of control
and allows the relationship to be labeled cultic.
The similarities between cultic devotion and the traumatic bonding that occurs between battered individuals and their abusers are striking. An abused partner is generally made to submit to the following types of behaviors:
When psychological coercion and manipulative exploitation have been used in a one-on-one cultic relationship, the person leaving such a relationship faces issues similar to those encountered by someone leaving a cultic group.