Cult Detector: How to Safely Find Your Tribe

Spot red flags in a support group. Stay informed, guard against potential harm, prioritize well-being and find solace in genuine community.
Support Group. A background of three retro patterns in bright colours. On the left, a pale yellow section with white daisies. On the right, a lavender section with white daisies. In the middle, flowing colorful lines in purple yellow, orange, and pink. In the foreground of the picture are four diverse people sitting in a row smiling, all wearing different white tops and denim bottoms.
Author: Nina Izel
By Nina Izel
December 28, 2023(Updated: February 12, 2024)

7 Red Flags of Potentially Harmful Groups

In today’s fast-paced world, the search for support, belonging, and guidance has led many individuals to seek solace in various spiritual communities and groups both online and in real life. However, not all groups are created equal. Some provide genuine support, while others may be detrimental to your well-being. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to discern whether you’re in an actual support group. Whether it’s a like-minded community or if you’re potentially involved in a cult. We’ll also discuss why some are drawn to these communities and how to protect yourself from falling into their trap!

This piece was compelled by a Netflix documentary I recommend that you watch, namely, Escaping Twin Flames. It beautifully demonstrates all these red flags and the damage a cult can create. 

The 7 Red Flags

1. Disempowerment and Isolation

A genuine support group should empower you to grow and make your own choices. If you feel disempowered or controlled, it’s definitely a warning sign. Cults often push for disconnection from family and loved ones in order to control your relationships and your life.

2. No Questions Allowed

In a supportive community, questions should be encouraged and responses freely discussed. If asking questions is discouraged or forbidden, it’s a sign of potential manipulation.

3. Full Compliance or Else

If you’re required to fully comply with the group’s rules against your better judgment, be cautious. The same applies if you face threats of expulsion for non-compliance. If the group controls every aspect of your life—from your sexuality to your diet—you may be in a dangerous situation.

4. Atmosphere of Fear and Confusion

Cults often employ tactics of gaslighting, shaming, and humiliation to manipulate and control members. Feeling afraid of fellow members, leaders, or the consequences of leaving the group is a significant red flag. Actual support structures mean safety, upliftment, and empowerment, and genuine support should provide clarity and understanding. If you feel confused and have doubts, it’s time to share those with a trusted friend.

Support Group. A background of a retro pattern of flowing colorful lines in purple yellow, orange, and pink. In the foreground of the picture is the top half of a person's head. They are furrowing their eyebrows and have their hair in a bun. There are doodles of arrows swirling around their head indicating confusion.

5. Secrecy

If the group operates in secrecy, and you can’t discuss what happens inside, it’s time to think about why. While privacy is always understandable, keeping secrets will only weigh on your soul.

6. Unpaid Labor

Demands for free labor or financial contributions can be a sign of exploitation. 

7. Special Powers

Leaders who assert that they possess unique abilities to set the rules can be manipulative. People who think they are beyond human flaws can easily fall into a type of God Complex. If you are told that you have special powers and are given special treatment, also be vigilant. This can be part of a grooming process. 

Why People Are Vulnerable and How to Protect Yourself

In an age where more and more individuals seek support and purpose, the allure of like-minded support groups is understandable. Vulnerabilities can arise from loneliness, trauma, personal crises, or the desire for belonging but most of all—naivete and blind faith. The promise of community and guidance can be compelling, especially when packaged as a solution to your challenges.

Educate Yourself

Learn about cults, manipulation techniques, and red flags. Awareness is your greatest protection.

Trust Your Intuition

If something feels off, trust your gut. Don’t dismiss your inner warnings: speak with a trusted person!

Stay Connected

Maintain relationships with friends and family outside the group to avoid isolation and possible control.

Ask Questions and Seek Professional Help

In a genuine support group, questions are encouraged. Don’t shy away from seeking clarity. If unsure, consult a mental health professional or cult expert for guidance. There are many online support groups.

Report Abuse

If you’ve experienced abuse, report it to the relevant authorities or support organizations to prevent further abuse from happening. 

Stay Safe 

The search for support and meaning in a complex world can make you susceptible to harmful cults and groups. It’s important to understand the red flags and take proactive steps to protect yourself. By doing so, you can distinguish between a supportive community and a potentially dangerous cult. Stay informed, trust your instincts, and prioritize your well-being.

Follow your Curiosity

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The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

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Author: Nina Izel
Nina Izel
Nina Izel is a healer, teacher, and author of the book: Heart Medicine, Ayahuasca Assisted Therapy and the Integration Process. Nina combines psychology, holistic healing tools and shamanic healing technologies to assist individuals to take back the power over their health and life. Nina's motto is "You are the healer and love is the medicine!" Learn more at Nina's website or her Psychedelic Support community group.

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