The cult quality: Will you become a Satya Sai Baba devotee ?

Date: 06-25-06

Document date: 08-17-02

By: Balvinder Singh S Bal

Copied from:

Have you ever wondered if you or someone close to you could be recruited by a charismatic cult leader? Recent studies from Harvard University Medical School, show that there is no universal profile of cult members. What they have in common is being in a state of transition something we all experience from time to time.

Transitions, such as losing a parent or spouse, leaving home, or losing a job, create vulnerability because you can't predict what will happen next. Your brain and body go on high alert to prepare you for danger; soon you may not be sleeping or eating the way you used to. You may long for old routines, a sense of belonging.

The temptation is to relieve the pain ' fast. Old friends leave town, so you try to grab a new identity by, perhaps joining the cult. Cult members start their recruitment slowly, inviting people to a meal or meditation classes or bhajans. Like marriage, cult unity may seem to hold out the promise of structure when life appears chaotic. The difference is that typically, cults consciously capitalize on vulnerability and step up the seduction ' staying with you constantly, praying or lecturing until the brain goes into overdrive. 'Cult conversion syndrome' can happen in matter of days. Real-life adjustments takes months or even years.

If you're in transition, keep life simple but structured. A classic study by psychiatrists at Harvard Medical School found that being organized is more important for negotiating life changes then is personality, experience, or even values. Organize your wallet, cleanout your closet ' every small task will give you a sense of control.

Don't forget to exercise. The routine is reassuring

Stay in contact with close empathy, encouragement and resources to help with what comes next. Studies show that best friends can more than double your chances of coming out of a transition stronger

Try to view any life discomfort as a kind of spiritual sprain resulting from an unfamiliar emotional workout. In the end, the pain will have been worth it. You'll have new skills for meeting your own needs, increased self esteem, and more empathy because youve 'been there'.