I don’t know anyone who isn’t dealing with some degree of existential angst these days. It’s pretty much par for the course with all the shenanigans going on around the world.
If you’re unsure of what the hell is happening right now, well, join the club. Most of us are having a tough time figuring out why people are so hateful to each other these days.
Unfortunately, it’s at times like these when cults spring up. And with the internet, cults are EVERYWHERE. Even where you least expect them.
Cults display signs. And they are obvious when you know about them. So, as a former cult member, here’s my advice (which you can take or leave, obviously):
“I have all the answers.”
If someone tells you that they have all the answers to life’s questions… RUN. Nobody has all the answers. Nobody. Period. I don’t care what they say.
On the other hand, if someone helps you look at different things to find your own answers and not blindly follow them, well, they’re likely a keeper.
I know that this can be considered controversial, but I’m sticking with it.
Cults are answer-pushers. That’s how they get you. But beware of the easy answer to a tough question.
Also, if you think you have all the answers, that’s fine. You have a right to think that. But try not to push your views on others, or tell them that your solution is the only solution. After all, that’s what cults do.
“It’s true, honest!”
To add to the above… don’t believe something just because someone else tells you it’s true. Look for yourself. Verify it as best as you can. Examine it in your life. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, then toss it.
I had to relearn everything after leaving Scientology. It’s been an interesting process. After all these years, here’s what I know with certainty:
- My husband adores me, and my friends often enjoy my company despite my over-the-topness.
- I can make good money writing all day (because I do).
- Treating people lovingly works way better than criticizing them. I work on this all the time because, you know, I’m human.
That’s about it. The rest, I’m still learning. And I don’t just take others’ word for it. I made that mistake before, but never again.
“I can fix you.”
If someone is trying to “fix” you, that’s the reddest of red flags. First of all, you’re fine just the way you are. And if you don’t feel fine (believe me, I get it), then nobody but you can fix that. (OK, that doesn’t apply to a heart surgeon performing surgery, but you get the idea.)
That’s what cults are all about: Promising they can fix your problems for the low, low price of your eternal soul. Not to mention LOTS of money.
Also: If you’re trying to fix someone else or wanting someone else to be different… STOP.
Other people are going to act the way they’re going to act, based on whatever is going on with them. So don’t get caught up in their drama. And DO treat them as kindly as possible.
Unless, of course, they’re being an asshole to you. Or trying hard to fix you, while pointing out (often passive-aggressively) how broken you are. In that case, walk away and don’t look back.
“It’s their fault.”
When someone says that “they” (i.e., others) are the problem, realize that you’re looking at black-and-white thinking, which is the stock in trade of cults. The whole “Us vs. Them” mentality is designed to separate people. And it causes nothing but trouble — and pain.
Cults prey on our fears with this type of rhetoric, because it’s common to fear what we don’t understand. If “they” are the cause of your problems, that makes things more “understandable” — but it’s never true.
So, if you find yourself thinking this way, please examine those thoughts.
As an example, right now, more people than ever won’t even talk to an individual who is a member of another political party, another religion, another whatever. But people are individuals, despite what bucket they may fall into. It pays to look deeper.
Just one more thing…
There you have it. My two cents. And if you’ve been paying attention, you can take those cents or leave them. That’s the beauty of having freedom of choice.
So, if you’re having an existential crisis — or even if you’re just feeling a bit exhausted by all this insanity — join the club. I’m not going to try to fix it for you. But I’m happy to lend an ear.