Interview with Dr. Janja Lalich on the Nature of Cults

Dr. Janja Lalich is interviewed by Dr. Ramani on her 'Navigating Narcissism' podcast about 'What Is a Cult?' This is one of the best descriptions we have heard about how cults funtion. It immediately brings to mind aspects of the Assembly. The YouTube podcast is almost two hours long; here is a time-stamp of topics as they come up:

• 00:00 - 06:37  Dr. Lalich defines the four main characteristics of cultic groups.

• 6:37  There is always narcissism and exploitation. Emotions are suppressed.

• 10:03  Children miss developmental stages.

• 11:05  Cult leaders are intentional, are malignant narcissists, have features of psychopathy, and are very evil. They have an obsessive need for power. Betty immediately comes to mind.

• 11:36  Keith Ranieri NXIVM and Larry Ray cults are discussed.

• 14:05  Differents levels of accountability apply to sub-leaders. (See also 1:25:10.)

• 14:34  Janja's term 'bounded choice', and how it causes moral injury.

• 19:32  Janja tells the story of her own cult involvement.

• 20:26  Constant busyness and pressure causes numbness and functioning on rote.

• 29:18  The inability to trust is a legacy wound of being in a cult.

• 35:00  The breaking point event happens, but she felt trapped.

• 38:20  Finally the group comes to an end; very similar to the Assembly.

• 43:35  Recovery from the cult experience is not easy.

• 54:00  Emotions that were denied in the cult have to be recovered.

• 57:00  After leaving there is a feeling of being stuck, unable to make decisions.

• 58:13  Life feels empty after the intensity of the cult.

• 1:04:00  Psychoeducation - learning how the cult worked - is essential to recovery.

• 1:11:40  They discuss 'brainwashing', Janja proposes less loaded alternatives for unethical influence.

• 1:25:10  The opic of the accountability of sub-leaders is revisited.

• 1:30:00  Janja discusses the work of her non-profit.

• 1:38:54  She reiterates the importance of not attaching stigma to former cult members. Cults recruit the best and brightest.

• 1:40:05  Dr. Ramani summarizes her takeaways.

Back to Top