How Cults Work - A New Look I have written many posts online about cults and taken on many separate aspects of cults in the past few years. This post is going to be different. It won't just list one or two ideas. It will bring together several different ideas for me to try to present together as an integrated model. There are subjects I have explored in the past to understand cults like cognitive dissonance theory, thought reform, narcissism, neuroscience, rhetoric, hypnosis, propaganda analysis and logic and critical thinking. Many concepts from these subjects have been useful to me in trying to both understand cults and personally recover from my own twenty five years in Scientology. Several of the most helpful and cohesive references I have found in my efforts have had one quality in common. They have been efforts to combine ideas and form a synthesis or combination with parts from different hypotheses, even different subjects - to bridge the gap and improve understanding. There are many examples - the eight criteria for thought reform by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer's work, Leonard Mlodinow's book Subliminal, Leon Festinger's cognitive dissonance theory and many more. Of course I started with the work of Jon Atack in his excellent Scientology Mythbusting series at The Underground Bunker blog and his article Never Believe A Hypnotist. There are a few dozen books I could recommend that offer several different helpful ideas on cults and human psychology. But I knew that despite all this study and about three hundred posts written by myself that there was still something missing. I discovered in looking at cults that many subjects or experts are strong in some areas but weak or frankly wrong in others. One example is many experts on critical thinking do not understand how influence works and just assume people stupidly have faith and do not understand ideas like rhetoric, influence, subconscious processes, and the effects of awe and fervor on thought and belief. I recently found the book Terror, Love and Brainwashing - Attachment In Cults And Totalitarian Systems by Alexandra Stein. Alexandra Stein is a social psychologist and cult expert with a PhD who was in the political cult the O years ago and has written and taught about cults for many years. Her book has some of the ideas and stories I have seen from Margaret Singer, Robert Jay Lifton, Steve Hassan and others but it also has a couple of very different things. It has extensive research on neuroscience in ways linking it to understanding trauma and influence. It links evidence regarding brain structure and function to information regarding trauma and attachment. She covers attachment in relationships and forms a compelling and to me original hypothesis on how cults function. She incorporates information from Hannah Arendt on totalitarian regimes and combines everything to in my opinion form a cohesive whole. So, together we get information from classic thought reform folks like Robert Jay Lifton and Margaret Singer that I have covered in the past and new to me attachment theory, trauma and ideas from neuroscience and psychology to explain the physiological processes and response to a cultic relationship. I plan to in fine detail go over her book and give my opinion on ideas and experiences I have had that compliment her ideas. I want people who have read some or all of my three hundred posts to understand this is going to have a lot of new material. And if you have not read my stuff I can tell you I hope to make a lot of the gaps in our knowledge about cults hopefully smaller and possibly even fill in a few of them.