Characteristics of a Destructive Group

Authoritarian pyramid structure with authority at the top

Charismatic or messianic leader(s) (Messianic meaning they either say they are God OR that they alone can interpret the way…..these leaders are self-appointed.)

Isolation from society — not necessarily physical isolation, but this can be psychological isolation — the rest of the world is not saved, not Christian, not transformed (whatever) — the only valid source of feedback and information is the group

Milieu Control: Control of the environment and communication within the environment; hierarchy decides what is acceptable.

Mystical Manipulation: Leaders claim to be agents chosen by God, history, or some supernatural force, to carry out the mystical imperative; the “principles” (God-centered or otherwise) can be put forcibly and claimed exclusively, so that the group and its beliefs become the only true path to salvation (or enlightenment)

Demand for Purity: The world becomes sharply divided into the pure and the impure, the absolutely good (the group/ideology) and the absolutely evil (everything outside the group) one must continually change or conform to the group “norm”; tendencies towards guilt and shame are used as emotional levers for the group’s controlling and manipulative influences

Confession: Group confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal and therapeutic expressions; sessions in which one confesses to one’s ”˜sins”™ are accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism, generally transpiring within small groups with an active and dynamic thrust toward personal change (the focus on confessing negatives about themselves creates vulnerability and reinforces dependency on the group to get well)

Sacred Science: The totalistic milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic doctrine or ideology, holding it as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence questioning or criticizing those basic assumptions is prohibited; a reverence is demanded for the ideology/doctrine, the originators of the ideology/doctrine, the present bearers of the ideology/doctrine offers considerable security to people because it greatly simplifies the world and answers a contemporary need to combine a sacred set of dogmatic principles with a claim to a science embodying the truth about human behavior and human psychology

Loading the Language: Words are given new meanings — the outside world does not use the words or phrases in the same way — it becomes a “group” word or phrase

Doctrine Over Person: If one questions the beliefs of the group or the leaders of the group, one is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to even question — it is always “turned around” on them and the questioner/criticizer is questioned rather than the questions answered directly the underlying assumption is that doctrine/ideology is ultimately more valid, true and real than any aspect of actual human character or human experience and one must subject one’s experience to that “truth” the experience of contradiction can be immediately associated with guilt; one is made to feel that doubts are reflections of one’s own evil when doubt arises, conflicts become intense

By cutting off and isolating somehow those that are critical to the organization the leaders don’t have to deal with dissent and don’t need to worry about the subsequent effect it may have regarding other members. This makes damage control within the organization comparatively easy. Dis-fellowshipping essentially often replaces the need for leaders to have any meaningful dialog with members that don’t agree with them.

Dispensing of Existence: Since the group has an absolute or totalistic vision of truth, those who are not in the group are bound up in evil, are not enlightened, are not saved, and do not have the right to exist; impediments to legitimate being must be pushed away or destroyed; one outside the group may always receive their right of existence by joining the group; fear manipulation — if one leaves this group, one leaves God or loses their salvation/transformation, or something bad will happen to them; (most often heard: get fat, loss of soul, sickness, death) the group is the “elite”, outsiders are “of the world”, “evil”, “unenlightened”, etc. Groups like this often feed upon confrontation and claims of “persecution” which bind members together and keep them dependent.