I was recently watching the news about the 26 November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Several terrorists had entered Mumbai, India from the sea route and had attacked the Taj Hotel, Oberoi, Trident and a building called Nariman House at Colaba. My spouse who was also watching with me said “I just don’t understand how these idiots can be so ruthless and kill innocent people as if they were mosquitoes and not humans. I wonder what they get out of it.” After a few moments I said “What if the terrorists aren’t idiots? What if they seriously got something out of it; maybe the greatest thing they could ever dream of?”
My spouse was stunned and thought that I had gone crazy; maybe I needed a rest after watching too much TV and urged me to go and sleep. However, I stood my words and said that I could explain. Once I received the “proceed” nod, I went on:
Anyone can be tempted. There is no human alive that can’t be broken down, provided it is the right temptation, at the right place, and at the right time. In my opinion, based on the recent research I was doing on human behavior and psychology, I said that “hope” is one of the biggest promises that these cult organizations gave to their members. They first have a group of experts, who move around in the right places and identify the “prospective converts” to terrorism by judging their mental and physical ability to do the heinous work. Or, who can be trained to do it. They especially look out for folks who are in urgent need of “finance” or a need which can be fulfilled by them. Then another group of experts are set off to “lure” or “seduce” them.
They first identify the core issues of prospective terrorists, aggravate their pain, and finally make them believe that only they hold the key to bring them out of their present pathetic situations. Cult leaders are masters at covert persuasion and human psychology and they know how to brainwash these young folks. They possess a brutally honest understanding of human nature. Although large sums of money are also given to join them to take care of any financial problems (and most personal problems are certainly solved by finance) the leaders ensure that the members totally, unconditionally, faithfully believe in the cause that they are made to believe. The incredible pictures that are painted in their prospects minds make them believe that it is truly a rare opportunity to join them; it is the ultimate path to “nirvana”, so to speak.
Cult leaders also control the hidden needs that humans are prone to, of their prospects. Some of these are:
1. People need to feel they are right: Cult leaders make their members feel that they are absolutely right in their expectations from life and certainly deserve everything that they hope to achieve in life. They show that they can get everything for a mere sacrifice of their life. They put very high stakes on their expectations and very low stakes on their life by giving examples of how cheap life really is, how people will kill even for a meal, how life is uncertain anyway and how you can lose it at the snap of a finger by an accident, earthquake, etc. On the other hand they agree that the expectations are genuine and although they are capable of achieving it, there is so much uncertainty that the chances are pretty slim. But if they join the community their expectation will be fulfilled. In fact, this is also a chance of going to jannat (heaven) if he died of jihad (the struggle to improve one’s self and / or society).
2. People need to be noticed and felt understood: This is a big one. Today, people are so busy with their lives and goals; they hardly have time to spend with their children. Recession, employee layoff, uncertainty, competition, etc add to the reason. Because of this, teens today are almost left on their own to decide what is best for them. They are bossed around, dictated, advised to improve, preached, and argued with more often than spending time to play with them, understand their point of view, and expressing the love for them. Cult leaders take full advantage of this weakness and can easily lure them into their community.
3. People need to feel needed: There is an enormous difference between telling someone that you need them and making them feel that you need them. Extending the example above, I can safely say that, sadly, most parents lack far behind in this issue. They fail to express themselves, thinking that their children will take advantage of that fact. In my opinion, you can easily separate the need with being practical. You can very well say that although you need them, you will manage without them if required; that’s how life is anyway. The takeaway here is, cult leaders take their parents place and express their need of them emotionally, and then leave it to them to decide if they wish to join. They’re actually doing a two fold manipulation – first, they’re expressing that they need them. This drives the prospect to feel that they should reciprocate in some way. And when the ball is left in their court, they feel like being treated like a grown-up and not being pushed. This way, they automatically fall in the trap.
I hope this article gave you some insights of how cults work. The purpose of writing this is not to learn how to become a cult leader, rather, how to take care of your children so that they don’t fall prey to such manipulative and misguiding people.