oh, how the mind plays tricks…

I found this photo I shot in Amsterdam on my phone this morning, it got me curious and sent me down a research path (rabbit hole) of how our minds get distorted and subsequently exploited.  

Relationships.  Advertising.  Entertainment.  Politics.  Religion.  

Mostly though, I believe the distortion can be how we see ourselves.

Next, I stumbled upon this article on the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY website and thought it was worth sharing.  Joe Navarro has studied the life, teachings and behavior of cult-leaders; Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson, Bhagwan Rajneesh and Warren Jeffs, just to name a few. 

What he said was that these individuals were or are all pathologically narcissistic.

Then I started wondering about the differences between narcissism v. self-esteem.  It’s pretty stark and worth understanding better.  I thought I knew the difference.  I didn’t really.

Here’s a quick guide of the differences.  

n-v-se.jpg

Hey, the more we know, well, the more we know, right?

 

We all possess some narcissistic traits.  I’ve certainly had to take a look at myself.  It wasn’t easy at the time, but I’m grateful I did, and my relationships improved because of more awareness

It’s the extremes of these traits we need to notice.

Healthy narcissism is the characteristic of possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life, as unhealthy narcissists tend to be.

Joe Navarro (former FBI agent):  “From my studies of cults and cult leaders during my time in the FBI, I learned early on that there are some things to look for that, at a minimum, say caution, this individual is dangerous, and in all likelihood will cause harm to others.”

They all have or had an over-abundant belief that they were special, that they and they alone had the answers to problems, and that they had to be revered. They demanded perfect loyalty from followers, they overvalued themselves and devalued those around them, they were intolerant of criticism, and above all they did not like being questioned or challenged.

And yet, in spite of these less than charming traits, they had no trouble attracting those who were willing to overlook these features.” 

Here are some of the traits to watch out for and avoid if possible.

Link to entire list:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/dangerous-cult-leaders

  1. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance.
  2. Demands blind unquestioned obedience.
  3. Requires excessive admiration from followers and outsiders.
  4. Has a sense of entitlement—expecting to be treated special at all times.
  5. Is arrogant and haughty in behavior or attitude.
  6. Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows them to bend rules and break laws.
  7. Is hypersensitive to how they are seen or perceived by others.
  8. Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.
  9. Is frequently boastful of accomplishments.
  10. Insisits in always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing.
  11. Doesn’t listen well to others, communication is one-way in the form of dictates.
  12. Haughtiness, grandiosity, and the need to be controlling.
  13. Behaves as though people are objects to be used or exploited for personal gain.
  14. When criticized, lash out not just with anger but with rage.
  15. Refers to non-members or non-believers as “the enemy.
  16. Habitually puts down others as inferior.
  17. Is constantly assessing for those who are a threat or those who revere them.
  18. The word “I” dominates their conversations, oblivious to how often they reference themself.
  19. Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly – if so, acts out with rage.
  20. Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything, never apologize for their actions.
  21. Believes they possess the answers and solutions to world problems.
  22. Works the least but demands the most.
  23. Highly dependent of tribute and adoration and will often fish for compliments.
  24. Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from believers.
  25. Sees self as “unstoppable”, perhaps has even said so.
  26. Conceals background or family which would disclose ordinary they are.

“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

— Aldous Huxley, writer & philosopher

a late night conversation with myself…

Tonight I asked myself what do I want to understand a little bit better about America?  There’s something happening that feels very unique now.  Unfamiliar.   I paid attention to where my line of inquiry lead me.

First, I GOOGLED:  What makes people curious?

SOURCE: https://www.quora.com/Why-arent-many-people-curious

…’Curiosity’ is a discrete psychological trait that varies within human populations just like other personality dimensions such as extroversion/introversion and agreeableness/aggression.”

OK, some people are born curious and others aren’t.  Well, that makes a lot of sense, right?  Then I started wondering what’s the opposite of curious?  Skepticism? No, skepticism plays in the same sandbox as curiosity.  Disinterested?  Unconcerned?  It wasn’t very clear to me in any way.

I asked myself a question—How do I feel when I’m not being curious? 

I think I might feel certain.

I make assumptions based on my gut or environmental factors/circumstances.

I don’t feel very curious.  I don’t value other people’s ideas.  I don’t listen.

So, next I GOOGLED:  What makes people certain about things?

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-people-so-certain-about-things-that-there-is-no-way-they-can-be-certain-about

“,,,Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason. Feeling correct or certain isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us…”     Source: “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not”  by Dr. Robert A. Burton

So, certainty is actually a biological feeling, a mental sensation independent of rationality or reason?  We choose certainty because it’s easier?

Damn, that’s really interesting.  Now what?  CERTAINTY is so polarizing in America (and in my own home with young adult children).  It’s a conversation killer.  It’s a deal breaker.  It keeps organizations from growing.  How do we find common ground in our nation now?  It’s late—2:53 am—this is way too much for my very tired brain.

I had to further narrow my inquiry. 

HOW DO CERTAINTY & CURIOSITY MANIFEST IN MY LIFE?

Curiosity results in greater understanding & builds trust.

Certainty tends to make me rigid & judgmental.

I don’t want to be rigid & judgmental.

I want to be curious.

Whew, that was interesting and pretty exhausting.  After many hours and lost sleep, I’ve confirmed that my desire is to be a curious person and that few things in life are so certain that they don’t require some investigation.  Life is really funny sometimes.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

And just for reference…This is where I started 4 hours ago. 

My husband, Jeff listened to a book about Jim Jones and told me about it—fascinating and horrifying.  I needed to know more.  Curiosity takes us on interesting journeys, huh?  I’m not going to read the book (39 hours of audio).  Jeff told me enough to want to know a more.  I stumbled upon this information.

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

By Rick Ross, Expert Consultant and Intervention Specialist

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
  2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
  3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
  7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
  8. Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
  9. The group/leader is always right.
  10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
  2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower’s mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused–as that person’s involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
  3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.
  4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
  5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
  6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
  7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
  8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
  9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
  10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

  1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
  2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
  3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
  4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
  5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
  6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
  7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
  8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
  9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
  10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

I don’t know where all of this information will lead me.  I guess I wanted to better understand cult leaders.  This made me think about “ABC After School Specials” in the 70s and 80s when kids had to be “reprogrammed”.  In my memory, Jodie Foster was constantly reprogrammed after having fallen prey to a cult leader. 

 

 

SOURCES: wikipedia—Rick Alan Ross

cult education warning signs

Good golly, I’m certain it’s time for bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz