By | March 19, 2012 65 Comments

BOOK REVIEW: Cults In Our Midst

I recently finished reading Cults In Our Midst—The continuing fight against their hidden menace, by Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer. The book is not new—it was originally published in 1995, and the revised edition that I read was published in 2003. It is a comprehensive description of cults, which the author defines as:

a group that forms around a person who claims he or she has a special mission or knowledge, which will be shared with those who turn over most of their decision making to the self-appointed leader.

Before reading Cults In Our Midst, I’d read and watched TV programs about some cult leaders, and noticed the similarity between their behavior and the behavior of sociopaths. I developed the opinion that cult leaders were simply sociopaths who employed their natural “skills” of charisma, charm, deceit and manipulation to convince others to follow them, and do as they commanded, even when it ended in death, as in Jonestown and Waco.

I expected to see a similar view in this book, and was surprised not to find it. Singer was an experienced clinical psychologist, yet, in this book at least, she does not link cult leaders and personality disorders. Perhaps she didn’t conduct formal research on what the two have in common. But in reading the book, the connection seemed obvious to me.

Cultic relationship

Singer defines a cultic relationship as:

one in which a person intentionally induces others to become totally or nearly totally dependent on him or her for almost all major life decisions, and inculcates in these followers a belief that he or she has some special talent, gift, or knowledge.

She describes cult leaders as self-appointed, persuasive, determined, domineering and charismatic. The cults are authoritarian in structure, and have double sets of ethics—members are to be open and honest within the group, but deceive and manipulate everyone else. The overriding philosophy of cults is that the ends justify the means.

Gee, where have we heard that before?

Anyone is vulnerable

Singer points out that everyone is susceptible to these master manipulators. She writes that two-thirds of the people who joined cults came from normal, functioning families. Still, there are some situations that increase risk:

Any person who is in a vulnerable state, seeking companionship and a sense of meaning or in a period of transition or time of loss, is a good prospect for cult recruitment. ”¦ I have found two conditions make an individual especially vulnerable to cult recruiting: being depressed and being in between important affiliations.

By “between important affiliations,” Singer meant a person was not engaged in a meaningful personal relationship, job, educational training program, or some other life involvement.

Singer spends a lot of time explaining exactly how cults go about recruiting people. One of the prime methods she describes is something we are all familiar with—love bombing. The author explains this as flooding new recruits with “flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark.”

Again, sound familiar?

Learning to manipulate

So how do people become cult leaders? As I said, Singer never suggests that cult leaders are disordered people who are exhibiting their natural, disordered behavior.

Singer calls the perpetrators “con artists.” She says that their prime skills are persuasion and manipulation. She writes:

There is no end to the ways a person can learn to manipulate others, especially if that person has no conscience, feels no guilt over living off the labors and money of others, and is determined to lead.

She continues:

I believe that the successful cult leaders monitor, observe, and learn from what they try and, as needed revise and reformulate the folk art of persuasion.

So, reading this book, Singer seems to say that certain people simply decide that they are going to become cult leaders, and then figure out how to do it. She makes no mention of inborn personality traits or any type of personality disorder—even though her words are perfect descriptions of sociopaths.

Ostracized by her profession

During the 1980s, Singer was an expert witness on court cases involving mind control. She testified in the trial of Kenneth Bianchi, the “Hillside Strangler,” that he was not suffering from multiple personality disorder, as he claimed. On a TV show, Singer said that Bianchi was a psychopath. She also repeatedly testified against the Unification Church.

In 1983, the American Psychological Association (APA) asked Singer to chair a task force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control. Then, the APA rejected her report.

In fact, the APA filed a “friend of the court” brief in a case against the Unification Church. Dr. Singer and a colleague, Dr. Samuel Benson, had argued that the Unification Church recruiters “engage in systematic manipulation of the social influences surrounding the potential recruit to the extent that the recruit, in fact, loses the capacity to exercise his own free will and judgment.”

The APA stated that Singer’s theory of coercive persuasion was not a meaningful scientific concept, and her testimony in the case should not be allowed. The brief stated:

Specifically, the conclusions Drs. Singer and Benson assert cannot be said to be scientific in any meaningful sense (Point I.B.), and the methodologies generating those conclusions depart so far from methods generally accepted in the relevant professional communities that they are incapable of producing reliable or valid results (Point I.C.). Stripped of the legitimating lustre of a scientific pedigree, plaintiffs purported scientific claim of coercive persuasion is little more than a negative value judgment rendered by laypersons about the religious beliefs and practices of the Unification Church. (Point I.D.).

Read Brief Amicus Curiae of the American Psychological Association

Singer sued the APA, and lost. Afterwards, she reworked much of the rejected material on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control into the book, Cults In Our Midst. Since the first edition of the book came out in 1995, powerful cults threatened and harassed Singer, and filed lawsuits against her. So the introduction to the revised edition explained that an account of one of the cults was deleted.

Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer died in 2003.

Cults In Our Midst is available on

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Ox Drover

Oh, Donna, I TOTALLY agree with you that “cult leaders” are indeed psychopaths (with a VERY few exceptions of psychotic people) but the more successful cult leaders are indeed fully fledged PSYCHOPATHS! They use all the same kind of manipulations to trauma bond their victims from love bombing on….and in many cases they persuade their followers to give them their young children as “brides”—look at Tony Alama, what’s his name Jeffs in Prison down in Texas for his 70+ under age “brides.”

Synanon in California in the 1960s, which started out as a drug rehab program, finally was recognized as a Cult, picking on drug users.

Yes, anyone can be a victim. I went to a church service one night with some friends, back when I was 19-20 years old, and had never been to any kind of “holy roller” church, only mainstream up-tight churches, and this one got everyone going with a band and the standing and swaying and waving of hands then the minister said he had this great investment opportunity and he was going to jump on it and buy it all up for himself, and Then GOD (himself) told him in a vision he should SHARE not be greedy and everyone could invest in this opportunity. Everyone was standing and swaying to the music and I KNEW IT WAS A CON and yet, I was about ready to run to the front with the others and give him my money (if I’d had any). I’ve wondered to this day just how much that guy took in for his “investment scheme.”


I’m new here so take it easy on me!

I agree totally that these cult leaders are clearly displaying psychopathic traits.

I was baptized into a “cult”, also when I was about 20 years old. I was a member of a regular christian church at the time, and I really wanted to experience real spirituality. I was frustrated at the Sunday christianity that did not seem to extend to the rest of the week, or life in general. Then I met this small group of young people who met at the college campus. Their behavior was exactly as you described here… I was the center of attention, lots of affection, interest, etc., just as described in this article. And they were so serious about studying the bible! I felt it had to be what I had been looking for.

Well my mom, other people from my old church, and even my husband at the time, all did their own little “intervention” meeting with me. My husband threatened to divorce me if I didn’t leave the “cult”.

I did leave the cult. (And my church) Until I read this article, I have never really been sure that it was a cult. But I still stick to my decision at the time – let me apologize in advance to any religious people who might read this – if that was a cult, then so was my regular church. I could not then, and still do not now, see what the difference is.

There I said it.

Ox Drover

I hate to call you “black heart”, so I’ll just call you HEART if that is okay. Welcome to Love Fraud.

The differences between any organized group (religion or otherwise) and a “cult” are to an extent in the eye of the beholder.

However, I think that cults tend to have a single “prophet” or “leader” that has some direct contact with “God” (or whoever) that the ordinary people can’t have and their ideas and theirs alone must be followed without any questioning or you will be punished.

For example that Jeffs guy who is in prison in Texas, he was an offshoot of the Mormon’s but had plural wives and 70+ of these wives that were treated like slaves, besides the fact that they were well under the age of consent. That is a CULT for sure in my opinion, but the people who believe that he has a direct pipeline to God do not think they are in a cult at all.

I hope that you will stay around here and learn, this is a pretty wonderful group of people and we are all trying to recover from a cult relationship, even if it is a cult of only two people in a relationship.

God bless.


Thank you Ox!

I have been lurking for a while now, and I do see a great community here.

I’m looking for an appropriate place to share my story and give/receive support. Is there anywhere on here for that?


Blackheart: Fire away! We are all ears…
You have come to the spot to do that, right here…

I have just broken free of my ‘cult relationship’ too.
Getting there, anyways…

Please: share your story with us.
Once again, welcome. You have found a ‘safe place’ for your mind and your soul.

Peace on your journey.
Remember you and your value and worth.



Thanks Dupey.

Does anyone here also belong to the aftermath forum? I posted there a few days ago, but there has been no responses. It doesn’t seem to be very active.

I am hesitant to write here b/c I don’t see a “place” for just jumping in and saying “here’s what happened to me”, plus it’s a really long story. The format here is just different, it’s not set up as a forum, so do I just hijack a random article and start a comment thread?


Gotta start somewhere BH 🙂

The best part about telling your story is that its a part of the healing process for you.

You could also write to Donna and see if you could make it an article.

Your call.


BH2008 –

Welcome. Understand fully your experience with Aftermath. You are in the RIGHT PLACE here.

Write away, anywhere. Long stories don’t scare us, we all have them.


the difference between a cult and a religion is easily muddled because religions can become infiltrated by psychopaths who pervert the truth and the wisdom in the religion. And cults, of course, are just groups of people who are being led by a psychopath to do his bidding.

If you are being asked to submit your will to anyone other than God, then it is a cult or it is contaminated by spaths. Your will is your own, not meant to be submitted to others, only to God. It’s up to you to read and educate yourself so that you know the difference when you see it.


Hi Silvermoon!

I already wrote to Donna, that was the first thing I did when I found out about this place. She is interested in my story; however, she said she is not posting any new stories right now.

Hi Milo,
Thanks… I guess I will just start here, then… just feels a little strange, but I’ll get over it!

For starters I will copy & paste what I wrote for aftermath: (You might want to print this out, it’s a bit lengthy, I hope that’s not a problem)

My divorce from my Spath was final just a few months ago. I have a protective order that is valid for another year, so I feel fortunate because I read so many stories where people are still having to deal with their spath in their life. The idea makes me shudder!

I’m going to try to make this as brief as possible. Chronologically:
1. Met at a club party & he pursue d me for a few weeks.
2. I fell for him & he moved in with meafter only a few more weeks.
3. By the third month he was talking about marriage.
4. Married a year later.
5. A year into the marriage, he is arrested on felony charges of ID theft & organized criminal activity.
6. A year after that, he began serving his sentence.
7. Things got ugly & complicated. Out of jail, sting set up, back to jail, cheating, split up, death threats, just to name a few… not necessarily in that order…
8. I moved out & put my house up for sale.
9. It’s been another year and he has completed his sentence. He is still in town, but he has no idea where I live or what I drive. My best friend does not even know my address now.

It’s only recently that I have started to really process what happened.

Right now, I am unemployed. The state denied my unemployment claim on a technicality, so since July, I have had ZERO income. My savings, retirement, house and car are gone. I would be literally homeless, sleeping in a cardboard box if I had not met my current boyfriend, who I am living with. (He has been key in bringing me back to sanity, a little bit at a time.)
My job loss is my own fault, because I was out of control in the aftermath of all that, and I was drinking, suicidal, mixing antidepressants, anti anxiety meds, and alcohol… got briefly involved with another spath… not good… I completely fell apart. I guess I can blame him for some of that.
Maybe I can blame him partly for the general situation I am in too, because the fact that I was out of savings to begin with, comes partially from the fact that he never held a job or brought any income to the table when we were together, and constantly had his hand out for money. Usually a couple hundred here & there, a phone on my plan which he regularly racked up $300 – $1000 a month in international charges, and never once offered to pay anything. No help with the bills, no cash, nothing. I was helping him support his other family! He had a wife (I now realize they were never divorced) and 2 kids in his home country. Toward the end, I caught him in a HUGE lie. He told me before we were married that his kids knew we were about to get married, and that they were happy for us. They were maybe between 7 – 10 yrs old at the time. Then, right before he went to jail, his daughter contacted me on FB and asked me if we were married. I replied, yes of course sweetie… OMG his phone started ringing, there was yelling and crying… and he had the nerve to get mad at ME for outing him!

I truly hate him now. I have no lingering remorse, regret, or doubt about having helped put him in jail or divorcing him. I only have a trace amount of anxiety about what would happen if I ran into him unexpectedly, or if he might possibly have people looking for me.

When people hear my story, they almost always ask me, “how could you possibly not know what he was doing?” That always gets to me, although I do understand their skepticism. First of all, he lied in the very beginning about being a normal decent guy wanting to start a fresh new life with me. He always said he did not necessarily like the US, that he only wanted to move here because of me. I stupidly believed him. Perhaps a bit of my own narcissism allowed me to believe that ME, little old me, could have such an effect on this dark handsome stranger. Then he kept his true self concealed for at least the first 2 years, until after we were married for a year. Then when he started his real “business”, I did not want to see it, and stuck my head in the sand. So yes, I knew… but it was too late… and I do indeed regret not having the strength of character to OBJECT, the moment I saw what he was doing. He had me trained like a pet bird. And I was just like a stupid bird. I heard somewhere that turkeys are so dumb that they will look up when it’s raining and drown. That’s about how smart I feel about this whole thing.

Just a few of the things he has done to me, that I now realize are psychopathic / sociopathic behaviors:

1. He convinced me to buy a brand new car. He told me that he was going to make it “disappear”, and I could collect insurance money, and we would also get money for selling it on the black market. I actually went through with buying the car, partly because of my own lack of discipline, (I have always wanted a sports car) but partly because he was pressuring me. Thankfully I came to my senses enough to refuse to go thru with letting him make it “disappear”… I might be in jail right along with him!
The dealership would not take my SUV as a trade in, so I had a paid for SUV and a new car. I GAVE him the SUV, just handed him the keys and said “here you go”, since he did not have a car at that time. I never saw that SUV again. It disappeared, and soon he got himself a sports car imported from his country… seemingly with no money exchanged.
2. He and I went out of town with a friend of his and his friend’s date. He and the friend’s date, a very beautiful woman, talked in their language the entire time we were driving, several hours. The woman barely spoke to me. Once, when the guys went to pay for gas, she told me that my husband’s friend was NOT her date, and that she did not like him all that much. Later that night, we went to a night club. When the club was closing, there was some drama, it seemed that one of the guys tried to pay the tab with a fake credit card. There were burly guys chasing my husband’s friend out into the parking lot. My husband told me to wait for him by the doors of the club, and he would be right back. Three hours later, the club was completely closed and completely empty for most of that time, he finally came back for me, just him and his friends “date”. They continued talking and laughing and partying, him and her and about 8 to 10 other people.
3. He wanted to open a restaurant in our neighborhood. He found a place, and signed a lease with the property owner, convincing me to sign the agreement. The agreement put my house as collateral. Since my house is about to be foreclosed on anyway, I think I may have escaped from this particular consequence.

The entire time, leading up to, and during, and between all of these incidents (and there are many more), he petted and cooed and sweet talked about how much he loved me, he never missed an opportunity to tell my mom when I was on the phone with her, he would say thank you for having such a beautiful, wonderful daughter, blah blah blah, never ending. I could not get enough of that. That was the hook for me. My mom to this day, still believes that he did love me. It has taken a while, but I no longer believe he was ever capable of loving me or anyone.


So, my husband is a cult leader who controls everything and has removed my identity by putting everything into his name and making me a signer on his accounts.

i guess that makes me his follower…oh, NO joy!


It is a long road out of the pits of self loathing and despair when you do realize that you have been in a bad situation.

I think we all understand how it happens. There are lots of articles about the chemistry of falling in love and how the spath with their exceptional abilities to manipulate and lack of encumbrance with emotions and the same chemistry are able to use it to manipulate.

It happens. It happened.

The best part is the journey away and towards the person you now have the capacity to become. Stronger, wiser. More whole.

Its not a quick ride to get there. Its a long walk.

We are fellow travelers on the road to a future without spaths.

That, is a happy thought!


Gee, I wish I’d read this in 1995, or at least before early 1998, when I was targeted by a mentally ill man and his sociopathic church. They have all asked not to be identified as Tim Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, by the way. And we shall certainly not say that this is a church of the “Presbyterian Church in America,” the part of the church that split off from mainline Presbyterianism in the 1930s in the wake of the “Scopes monkey trial.”

This about says it all:

“Any person who is in a vulnerable state, seeking companionship and a sense of meaning or in a period of transition or time of loss, is a good prospect for cult recruitment. ” I have found two conditions make an individual especially vulnerable to cult recruiting: being depressed and being in between important affiliations”

It pretty well describes the state of 30-something single women in and around Manhattan. Turns out, keeping women subservient in your church and not allowing them to hold leadership positions tends not to attract them to the church. Hence the need for recruiting by training these guys to pose as ideal husbands. Go ye forth, to the suburbs, and procreate!

I must say, though, sending out an ideal husband candidate with a split personality is a new wrinkle in the technique. And advising him on some rather strange sexual practices is a good one, too. Not to mention, the lack of privacy in discussing this relationship over dinner every Thursday night.

They can go ahead and try to sue me for identifying them here — I’ve already threatened them with a lawsuit. I hope more women will come forward and identify this organization as a cult. Because not all cults hole up in the hills with Kool-Aid. Some of them are truly “in our midst” and accepted even by their liberal church neighbors under the doctrine of “tolerance.”

Ox Drover

Dear Heart,

Your story, like many/most/all here is long and complicated and they entice us to support them, do for them, and their only contribution are the lies and the fantasy…and maybe criminal activiity.

One of the first things I look at in a relationship is HONESTY…if they don’t have that, no go.

YOu have only been gone from this bad relationship a short time, and in the meantime you have had another relationship with a spathy, and now you have another relationship with a man who is supporting you and you have lost everything you had previously, your house, your job and your car. I’m sorry that you are in this situation now where you are dependent on this other man (good man or not is beside the point)

I hope you have given up the drugs/alcohol mix and are working on getting yourself in order. Maybe you could contact the domestic violence hot line and see if there are any groups or therapy, I think you would qualify with your restraining order.

Educating yourself is important and I suggest that you read Donna’s book RED FLAGS, it will show you some good ways to identify psychopaths, but we also must take responsibility for our own part in allowing the abuse to continue.

Knowledge is power, so educate yourself by reading here and take back your independence and power. God bless.



I hear you loud and clear. Yes I am free from drugs (I never refilled my one month supply of both the anti depressants and anti anxiety meds, for multiple reasons) and I am pretty much free from alcohol… I have some wine once every couple of weeks or so. My head continues to clear up more every day.

I will add “Red Flags” to my reading list… Now that my eyes are open, I finally see the pattern that has been mystifying me for years now. I’ve always know something was wrong, and have had many false diagnosis, either myself or shrinks, but thanks to Donna and this site, I finally really understand what is wrong and I will not stop reading and participating and growing!

I agree, I will contact the Women’s center again. I was going there consistently for at least a year, but have not been in quite a while. I was going for a whole different reason, whole other can of worms… sexual assault survivors (completely unrelated to the spath relationships) but I guess they can probably help me with this too.

Ox Drover

Dear Heart, Putting YOURSELF first and healing yourself is your prime objective now…..each layer that we uncover sometimes has another layer underneath it, sort of like peeling an onion to find ourselves buried deep inside.

It takes time, work and focus and introspection. All painful at times, but well worth the trouble and the pain.
The antidepressants may be helping you, and I would NOT stop them suddenly, most must be tapered off of. The anti-anxiety meds can be tapered off if you are taking them regularly, but I suggest that you do taper off them. Panic attacks and anxiety can be controled with some therapy in many instances. With realizing that as uncomfortable as they are, a pannic attack is not a heart attack and won’t kill you and if you will sit still and quiet and breathe and breathe again, it will pass in a few minutes.



Good advice, but it’s way too late for tapering off. I actually would have continued at least for a couple months, but could not get refills because A. they were not set up as refillable, the pharmacy said I had to go back to the doc, and B. I do not have health insurance, and no $$ to pay for either the doc visit nor the meds.

Also, it has been over 6 months since I stopped, and now I am doing OK because of friends, family, reaching out to people like you & Donna here, etc…

I’m peeling away at that onion!

Ox Drover

Good, Heart, glad that you are doing well in spite of stopping the meds cold turkey! keep on reading and learning and doing good things for yourself!


BH2008 ~ I’m glad you posted your story. The longer you are on LF and the more you read you will realize that when people on here say “You are not alone”, they really, really mean it.

You will no longer feel like that “stupid bird” because you never were.

Glad you are picking up the pieces. Listen to the advice you are given here because it works.

Ox Drover

Hey, MiLo, just a personal aside…how many gallons did you get this year, and how many gallons of syrup did it take to make it?

Son D and I set out blue berry bushes and thorn-less black berries today, got storms and will rain for next 3 days….weather is warm and springlike, grass is sprouting and I guess we need ot build an ARK! LOL

It is so good to have D home, and he is SOOOO GLAD to be home too. He is just marveling at how pretty everything is and how good home is….and glad to be away from the Drama Queen as well! It makes me smile inside and feel all warm and gooey to just have him so happy! He had fun with his friends, they even went skinny dipping at 5 a.m. in a little creek, only to find out the water was only 2 feet deep! LOL ROTFLMAO How funny! He said the water was nice and warm but it was COLD when you stood up! 😀


Oxy ~ Welllll, for as early a start as we got with syrup season, we only ended up with just under 200 gallons. With the onset of the very warm weather, it came to an abrupt end. Last year we were still boiling until almost the 1st of April and made twice that much. Not sure how much sap that is.

After a trip back to the trees, the old lady (that would be me) discovered they had tapped WAY too close to the holes from last year. The tree doesn’t get a chance to “heal” from the previous year and you don’t get nearly as much sap. Guess we won’t get all that fancy equipment paid off this year. These young folks think they know everything…..I call them pretend farmers. LOL

Glad your son is home safe and sound. I can imagine skinny dipping in a shallow creek, did someone have a camera?

We had 78 degrees today, unheard of for Ohio and it has been warm for a week now. I’m sure not complaining, I love spring. I already feel like a new person.

Grand’s mood has also improved tremendously. He and the neighbor boys have been back at the lake fishing everyday and the fish are really biting. Nothing like a pocketfull of worms to cheer a little boy up.

Take care

Ox Drover

Mijlo, Well we are being flooded out now, thank goodness we live on a hill, but our entire state is under storm warnings and horrible rains. Had significant damage from straight line winds in the county seat, over 150 homes severely damaged.

Nah, no cameras it was still dark anyway, but it is a funny story none the less. I can just see about 15-20 of them neck’ed as jay birds trying to get into 2 ft of water! LOL (head shaking here) I think there had been some drinking involved too.

My spiced apple cider, a drink called “apple pie” won 2nd out of 41 entries in the “jug contest” which I thought was pretty cool, and another drink I sent won third. Son D took the prize money and bought raffle tickets for a knife and won a really high quality one of a kind hand made damascus blade knife worth several hundred dollars so he was happy! He said this event was the best run of the 10 or so yearly events that we have been to.

Well, sorry your syrup harvest was down, but that’s the way farming goes…first your money, then your clothes! LOL My piggies are starting to really get big and I have in an order for more for the end of april to start them out. Also my friend that I gave my last pure bred highland calf to, he wanted to break him out as a single ox, has had health problems and is giving him back to me, so I will have another Ox on the place. Son D is really happy about that as he said “I miss having the steers” He is only about 5 or 6 months old now, but already broken out nicely so will just need some polishing and to get used to us.

Went back to where they are putting in the natural gas pipe line and almost choked on my tongue, what a MESS….so called the land agent and talked to him, he’s coming out Friday (if the rains stop or the Ark floats one or the other) to look at it…but a neighbor just won a law suit against the pipe line company for the mess they left on hsi place so maybe they will be better and fix it. I’m hoping so. Dealing with them is like dealing with a crooked wall street banker. LOL LIARS ALL.


send some apple pie my way!
congrats on your cider drinks winning. I had no idea your talents encompassed making prize winning beverages!


Okay….I’m not so sure that all cult leaders are psychopaths or sociopaths. I personally know people from the Jim Jones catastrophy and believe me – drugs had more to do with that than anything. Drugs can take people to completely different levels of psychosis- but lets not get the two confused. Psychopaths & sociopaths- the real ones- have something wrong at birth, brain defects, chemical defects etc..Lets get the full story on how Jonestown really went down before we jump to too may conclusions. It doesnt do any of us any good on learning about these people unless we see the truth and facts of what really happened. Thoughts?

Ox Drover

Thanks, Sky, the first time I drank apple pie I fell in love with it, but it had so much “ever clear” in it I got knee walking before I realized it….I make mine with very little alcohol, so you can drink quite a bit and still not “over dose”—-I told son D that if I had known there was a jug competition that I would have made some “carrot cake” which tastes just like carrot cake and frosting, but it has considerably more alcohol than MY apple pie, so can’t drink much of it.

He said the winning jug had some sort of “peach pie” type drink in it and he said it was WONDERFUL. But anyway, I was pretty pleased with 2nd place among that group of folks! When the jugs go round the camp fire after all the public leaves, mine is always one of the most popular.

Ironschool 7, I’m not really clear on what your point is above, could you clarify please?

Bob Wyman

Might I point out that the term “cult” has come to mean something evil which is problem especially with the media. Motorcycle clubs were called “gangs” which came from a California attorney general who wrote about motorcycle clubs (how he gained his information is a mystery to many). The media picked up on it and it has been “gang” for decades.
Also Jonestown has nothing in common with Waco. Waco was perpetrated by the ATF 100%. Mr. Koresh could have been arrested during any one of his trips into town. However our power hungry feds choose to act any way they please as they have come to think their own brainwash tactics are working. I would not hesitate then to call the ATF a “cult”! Plus their display of barbarian actions wholly sickens me to this day.
The powers that be though as pointed out on this blog can run roughshod over anyone they please.


I see what you all above are saying & agree with a lot of it- however in my opinion, and being so close to the Jonestown tragedy, I think we have missed how much drugs played in to it and possibly other tragedies like it. If you look at the history of Jim Jones & Larry Layton- I do not feel they started out as wanting to be cult leaders or were socio/psychopaths. I think the drugs slowly but surely took them to a delusional path with a horibble terrible ending- but I do not think they started out that way. As I understand, psychopaths & sociopaths are either born that way, have massive head injuries along the way or have had an upbringing that alters thier thoght process. I think Jones & Layton were jacked up so heavily on drugs for so long it altered thier minds. Layton was definetly brainwashed by Jones. But is that a sociopath? Psychopath? I’m not so sure. So what I’m saying is that not all cult leaders are pschopaths/sociopaths & we need to look further in to things before we label. I see on this sight where people label someone as a psych/sociopath because of the experience they have had with lying etc…and I think thier are others reasons for that behavior that they were not born with etc…like a psycho/sociopath.
Love the feedback!

Ox Drover

Ironschool, I’m sorry you were close to the Jones cult. I suggest though that you educate yourself more about psycho/socio-paths and how they get that way…they are not evil from the womb, there are DNA parts to it, and environmental as well, and not all are as apparent as you might think, there are many of them who “love bomb” people into thinking they are “normal” and “good”–Bernie Madoff for example. Ted Bundy for another.

BTW head injures do not cause people to become psychopaths, though they may alter the behavior of the injured person.

Drugs also do not cause people to become psychopaths, and alcohol doesn’t either, but frequently people who ARE psychopaths will “self medicate” wiht alcohol/drugs.

There are lots of articles here about psychopaths, so help yourself to reading and learning about them.


Believe me – I have read and studied a lot about them & how they get what they want. But I still stand tall on my position that we label way too much & many of the people we are labeling are not psych/sociopaths at all. We cheat ourselves that way.If you look in to serial murderers such as Bundy, you will find that a huge percent of them have had traumatic head injuries. Very interesting-


my spath bro hit his head many times as a child.
My spath sis tumbled down some stairs at age 1. Then had an extremely traumatic head injury at age 15, in a car accident.

The thing is, they both were extremely manipulative BEFORE the incidents. YES, my one year old sister was manipulative since she was born. My mother has commented many times that she was a flirtatious infant, smiled at strangers.

It’s very difficult to do any studies on humans.

My sister’s head injury DID change her personality though. She was smart before the injury, as were all of my siblings, but afterwards there was something missing. She could still get good grades, but she seemed to lack the most basic common sense. It’s very difficult to describe. All I can say is that she lost the ability to perceive nuances. She began to see things in very black and white terms. Spaths do that.

Even still, though she became more selfish after her car accident, she wasn’t a spath. I was her role model, she wanted to be a good person. When she met her spath husband (sent as a trojan horse by my spath to marry her for her money), she became pure evil.

It’s a very complicated subject, with so many opportunities to go one way or the other. The high road is harder to take. In a way, we the empaths, are just lucky to have landed where we did.


…thats my point exactly. It’s complicated. I love the feedback either way- thank you.

Ox Drover

Ironschool, I am a retired registered nurse practitioner and I worked in a rehab facility for head and spinal cord injuries. I absolutely know that head injuries do CHANGE people (depending on where and how severe the injury is) but it does NOT make them psychopaths. It may make them violent but it doesn’t make them psychopaths. It doesn’t make them manipulative.

They are finding out now that even smaller head injries (like in football etc) causes DEMENTIA and many boxers, foot ballers etc have evidence of these injuries in their brains that are very visible on autopsy. But dementia is not anywhere near the same as psychopathy.

BUT that is not to say that psychopaths can’t get a head injury and become demented as well as psychopaths.

Psychopaths are also more frequently bi-polar, ADHD and at a higher rate of left handedness than non psychopaths. So having ONE thing doesn’t mean you cant have the other or that the one thing CAUSES the psychopathy.

There is a lot of research going on now about the brains of psychopaths and the brains of head injuries (because of sports injuries) that are telling us a great deal about the brain that we didn’t know before. But even 30 years ago I wouldn’t let my children ride bulls or play foot ball because of the risk of brain injury.


sky – your line, ‘My mother has commented many times that she was a flirtatious infant, smiled at strangers.’ squicked me out. are you at a point where you can entertain the lack of veracity in that statement by considering its source? sounds more like a jealous mother to me. just sayin’.


it wasn’t said with disdain or jealousy, it was more like pride.
spathsis is the golden child. Her ability to manipulate is a source of pride to my mom, or so it seems to me.

My mother can’t seem to tell what is a good trait and what isn’t.

She once said something like, “spathsis is an extremely feminine woman.”

I said, “what? you call selfishness and being spoiled, feminine? True femininity is giving and nurturing. She has none of that.”

My mom said, “oh, you’re right. She’s not feminine at all.”

WTF? People like my mom, just have no sense of what IS. To them, a cardboard cutout is like the real thing. Even when they can see it’s a cardboard cutout.


I hope it’s clear to everyone that “cults” don’t necessarily have to be “religious” in character, or even pretend to be “religious.” There are groups which are “cults” in all but name, and are just as exploitative or even downright dangerous to those who get entangled with them. I think Margaret Thaler Singer’s definition that Donna quoted here is a good one. Groups of this kind claim, through their leader, to share some special gifts, talents, skills, or “powers” of some kind with their followers. Sometimes the “powers” they claim are religious, spiritual, or otherwise supernatural in character, but they don’t have to be.

One example of what I mean is Landmark Education. I understand it’s some kind of offshoot of Werner Erhard’s “est” seminars that were popular back in the 1970s. At any rate, Landmark claims to “turn your life around” if you join and follow their program, but they’ve been accused of using sophisticated psychological techniques amounting to “brainwashing” to manipulate their clients. It seems to be a racket to get more and more money out of people.

Then there’s an outfit called Reevaluation Counseling, which I understand still exists. RC seems to have some roots in common with the Scientology charlatans—another racket, as everyone knows—so that should be a warning in itself. But it’s not the same outfit, and while Scientology calls itself a “church,” I don’t believe RC ever did. It was founded back in the 1950s by a guy named Harvey Jackin with some dubious far-left affiliations—he’d been a member of the Communist Party among other things—but he’d also looked into L. Ron Hubbard’s “dianetics” and started up this RC group to free followers of the psychological hangups in their lives by a system of “co-counseling.” So there was nothing explicitly “religious” about that. But RC was a “cult” in all other respects, with a highly manipulative authoritarian culture designed to keep dissenters obedient to its “charismatic leader,” Harvey Jackin, one of whose obvious goals was the wholesale sexual exploitation of women followers. Jackin kicked the bucket in 1999, and good riddance, but I have no idea whether RC cleaned up its act after that.

I can’t let this subject go without reminding everyone of James Arthur Ray, another of these “charismatic leaders.” I can’t forget him myself since it was just up the road from me (so to speak) in Sedona that Ray was responsible for the deaths of two people, with a score of others hospitalized, in one of his “sweat lodge” exercises. I suppose Ray’s claims to “bring success” to his followers did pretend to some bogus “spiritual” basis: a load of Newage (rhymes with “sewage”) mumbo-jumbo he referred to as “Harmonic Wealth.” More like the “harmonic convergence” of their money into his bank account, I’d say! Those who got sucked into his racket attended a series of seminars, each more expensive than the last, with some costing five figures. The significance of the “sweat lodge” is that Ray claimed it would bring them some “spiritual experience” involving “altered states of consciousness” or something of the kind. In reality any trance-like condition was induced by heat, thirst, and oxygen deprivation, which left the subject in a more suggestible state for Ray to implant his ideas. (He of course took care to position himself near an entrance with a better supply of fresh air.) Only this time he overdid it, and two of his followers were left with a permanent “out of body” experience. Some of these groups are not just “dangerous”; they’re outright lethal.

A treasure trove of information about cults can be found at


But I still stand tall on my position that we label way too much & many of the people we are labeling are not psych/sociopaths at all. We cheat ourselves that way. If you look in to serial murderers such as Bundy, you will find that a huge percent of them have had traumatic head injuries.

Well, I think Bundy was a classic psychopath, but I do agree that a great many wrongdoers are not in fact psychopathic. That’s a point I’ve made here before. Other causes of abusive and violent behavior generally can be as diverse as head trauma (just as you mentioned), a variety of disorders such as borderline personality disorder, or outright psychosis. When it comes to serial killers, quite a few have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia: Kaczynski, Sutcliffe, and Berkowitz are just three that come to mind. Henry Lee Lucas on the other hand was visibly affected by head trauma due to violent physical abuse from his mother as a boy. The lesions in his brain could be seen on a PET scan, and they were in regions that would affect his judgment and ability to control his behavior. For another, Lock Ah Tam was a notable head trauma case, and a very tragic one, though not a serial killer.


Psychopaths are also more frequently bi-polar, ADHD and at a higher rate of left handedness than non psychopaths. So having ONE thing doesn’t mean you cant have the other or that the one thing CAUSES the psychopathy.

Oxy, are there any sources you can point to for the finding that psychopaths are frequently bipolar? I’ve looked for one myself but I haven’t found one yet. I find the idea a little surprising, I guess because being bipolar is so much about emotional variability, in the form of extreme mood swings of great intensity, while the psychopath on the other hand is known for shallow emotions. (Except for “rage,” I dare say!) It would be interesting to know more about this.


Lots of great information from you all- very appreciated.I guess what I’m asking is this: are psycho/sociopaths born that way or can drugs have the same affect on the behavior in your opinion? Could Jim Jones & Larry Layton along with other cult leaders been born “normal” with no spath traits – for real- nothing wrong – and through environment and drugs etc… somehow wound up with the same behaviour? If you look at thier backgrounds it doesn’t fit, where if you look at Bundy etc…the spathy behavioue was there all through his childhood & parenting. I’ve seen a few “real” spaths in my days & I just cant help but wonder if there are people who have taken so many drugs who arent really spaths but end up as as ruthless and unhuman as a real spath.


Brain damage to the centers where emotions are felt could create what appears to be spathic behaviors.

If we define narcissism and psychopathy as a state of emotionally arrested development – as in, having the emotional awareness of a two year old – then I don’t see drugs as capable of taking a fully integrated adult human being and turning them into a spath permanently. Maybe some drugs can numb emotions temporarily – I think meth and crack can.

On the other hand, there are many people in our society whom I call “fence sitters”. They also have the emotional capacity of a young child, maybe 7 or 8 years old. It’s easy to influence them because they don’t have set values which are fully integrated into their identities. Drugs can have a more dramatic impact on their brains.

So it all depends on what you start with before you add the drugs.

People are “cocktails” of their genes and everything that has ever happened to them. It is now becoming commonly accepted that the expression of genes is very often tied to the environment of the organism.


Having known and having had many close personal relationships with alcoholics and addicts in my life experience… I can only speak from what I know and have witnessed with addictive behaviors.

Both drugs and alcohol can produce many bad & inexcusable behaviors in people. Yet I believe there are many fine lines that differ from an addicts behavior vs spath behavior. The lines although FINE they may be, still exist.

If you have a close personal relationship with an addict you can occasionally still SEE the person that you know and love trapped within the disease that seems to now define them, their actions and their behaviors. In other words if you stripped away the alcohol or drugs from them they wouldn’t be DOING what they are doing under the influence.

There is ALOT of guilt that is buried below the surface of an addict. The guilt even plays a part in the cycle of the addiction. Particularly during the early years as addiction progresses.

And an addict doesn’t WANT to be an addict…Although sometimes their behavior doesn’t show this outwardly. It can appear that they are in control of their behavior. But the truth is they are totally out of control & if you know them well enough you can see the suffering.

This guilt is NOT found in spaths. Nor is the suffering. With a spath all of this is an illusion they create. Not real.

There is something that is hard to define here….In other words yes, the addict SEEMINGLY IS making the choice on a daily basis to continue to drink or drug to continue the cycle of the addiction.
However you also begin to understand that for the addict this choice isn’t the same as it would be for you or I to make a choice if we would like to have a cocktail for dinner.
The addiction itself has taken away from them the ability to make this choice with normal REASONING behind it.

Many drugs often take this one step further and do cause delusional thinking & psychosis.

Also many studies have been done where depending on how old the person was when they first started drinking or drugging……If they started young there is a very good chance that they have arrested development.
So if they started at 15 let’s say even though they might be an out of control alcoholic at 45 years old now….They still have emotional capacity of a 15 year old.

Most addicts need help to stop using. If they continue they can inflict alot of pain to their family and loved ones.

But the intent behind this pain isn’t the same as pain inflicted by a spath.

NOW there are many spaths that also drink and drug. This is a total different story.

I do not believe that drugs contribute to ending up being a spath.

Ox Drover

Redwald, sorry about the CRS, I’ll have to check and see my source, but I am SURE that the bi-polar thing is in one of the research books I read. I will also e mail Liane Leedom and see if she knows the source. I can’t remember where the left handedness came from either, but I remember it also as well as the ADHD…it maybe from Liane’s book, just can’t remember off hand.

I have another source of research that I will contact too. I’ll get back to you ASAP. Joyce

Ox Drover

Red I have sent off my missives to my experts so hopefully will hear back in a day or two.

The mania in bi-polar can cause grandiose thinking and so on, and many of the people with bi-polar seem to like the highs of mania, and refuse to take medication because it robs them of this “high.” Many also “self medicate” for depression with drugs and alcohol, as do psychopaths, and the alcohol and drugs by dis-inhibiting them bring out the spathy behavior in spades, maybe increase the physical violence as well.

Just because someone has ONE mental health issue doesn’t mean they can’t have two or more. The Trojan Horse psychopath was bi-polar, left handed, diagnosed ADHD and ASPD as well as was also a drug user /substance abuser. Talk about a LOSER PEDIOPHILE! LOL

As far as I know my son Patrick is not bi-polar, depressed and hasn’t shown any great problem with drugs that I know of, but really he hasn’t lived in my house since he was 17 and drugs are available in prison. I know he got nabbed once for drinking rot gut liquor and passing out when he first went to prison. Another time he drank paint thinner (the report said) but I don’t have a lot of evidence. He is not ADHD I am pretty sure, but he is left handed.


Thanks, Oxy! Yes, disorders that mimic one another can be confusing. That “grandiosity” that can appear in the manic stage of bipolar disorder can look just like a typical case of narcissism. Then the mood shifts, the “cyclothymia” often seen in borderline personalities could be confused with bipolar disorder. It’s all very difficult for a diagnostician, I’m sure.


and it works the other way too.
When my spath was in the middle of his last conjob on me, he became “unhinged” so to speak.

This guy is what would usually be described as rock steady.

Nerves of steel, unruffled. Though he networks like a hummingbird, it’s always with the air of authority.

Yet, during his last “performance” he resorted to crying, yelling, threats etc… All of this was to demonstrate that he was under “stress” because Homeland Security was after him. LOL.

So this would make it even more difficult for a diagnostician to figure out. A spath can appear bi-polar by using his acting skills, just as much as a bi-polar can appear spath during a manic stage.

I’ve been lurking on enough of the spath websites to learn that they not only study empaths, but they study the other PD’s and mental illnesses in order to mimic them as well. It helps them slide under the radar when they commit murder or whatever.

One spath guy was even bragging how he was taking in a few thousand from the government by using his mental disorder to get government assistance. Then he was running several businesses on the side. He said that the first couple times he tried to get diagnosed as schizophrenic, he failed but he would just move and try again with a different agency. He finally succeeded. He’s a happy spath now.


I must add that my spath wasn’t faking all of his craziness during the last con. That is when he “lost it” and called his mother a c**t. He had never shown disrespect (for her) before since I had known him. He had kept it under his mask that he hated her since he was 12 years old.

His attack on me and his determination to murder me brought it all to the surface. I was just a subsitute victim for the woman whose love he really wanted but could never feel, his mom. Their cons make them giddy. I’ve heard it said that a predator is most vulnerable when he has his prey in his sights because he becomes most focused at that time.


My experiences have led me to believe that cult leaders are simply adept psychopaths/sociopaths who have discovered the ultimate platform to act-out their greatest desires to control, manipulate, and emotionally exanguinate their victims.

The “garden variety” of spath that we discuss on these boards are typically people whom we had intimate relationships with – intimacy does not always mean sexual, either. The inclusion of drugs (prescribed or illegal) does not, in my humble opinion, factor in to the development of a sociopath – it only exacerbates their grandiosity and tactics.

OxDrover often remarks about educating the professionals, FIRST, and she is spot-on with this belief! Even the “pros” cannot come to any rational conclusions on this issue, and most “professionals” are either ignorant of true sociopathy, or they’re spaths, themselves.

Always remember this fact: power corrupts. What’s more powerful than the ability to form, mold, alter, and nullify a person’s core beliefs?


SKYLAR!!!! Omigosh, it just dawned on me how flipping TRUE your statement was about how and what the spath “studies!”

The exspath read all of the popular spathy books after I did! By reading these books, a spath can actually learn to guard their “tells” better and troll for victims more effectively!!!! THEN, when they are caught between the hammer and anvil that they’ve created for themselves, they will mimic organic mental disorders to excuse their behaviors and choices!

About 2 weeks before I discovered what the exspath really was, he actually asked me, “Do you think I might be bi-polar?” Now, this was prior to the repulsive and alarming physical evidence that I discovered, and I look directly at him and said, “What do you think the symptoms of bi-polar disorder are?” Well, he named off a couple of them that were correct, and I suggested that he’s never exhibited any of those symptoms, but a professional (UGH!) would be qualified to give him an answer.

Holy cow, Skylar, thank you SO much for that valuable insight!!!!

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