A number of cult leaders may exhibit many of the behavioral characteristics of a sociopath–an outstanding ability to charm and seduce followers. Since they appear apparently normal, they are not easily recognizable as deviant or disturbed. Although only a trained professional can make a diagnosis, it is important to be able to recognize the personality type in order to avoid further abuse. These traits also apply to a one-on-one cultic relationship.
Language can be used without effort by them to confuse and convince their audience. Captivating storytellers that exude self-confidence, they can spin a web that intrigues others. Since they are persuasive, they have the capacity to destroy their critics verbally or emotionally.
Manipulative and Conning
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. He dominates and humiliates his victims.
Grandiose Sense of Self
Feels entitled to certain things as “his right.” Craves adulation and attendance. Must be the center of attention with his own fantasies as the “spokesman for God,” [or experts or a leader/guru ~Invicta]“enlightened,” “leader of humankind,” etc. Creates an us-versus-them mentality
Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and able to pass lie detector tests.
Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at his core. Does not see others around him as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters [pettiness ~Invicta], yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since he is not genuine, neither are his promises.
Incapacity for Love
While he talks about “God’s love” he is unable to give or receive it. Since he does not believe in the geniuses of his followers’ love, he is very harsh in testing it from his devotees and expects them to feel guilt for their failings. Expects unconditional surrender.
Need for Stimulation
Living on the edge, yet testing the beliefs of their followers with bizarre rules, punishments and behaviors. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal.
Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them. Their skills are used to exploit, abuse and exert power. Since the follower cannot believe their leader would callously hurt them, they rationalize his behavior as necessary for their ( or the group’s) own “good” and deny the abuse. When devotees become aware of the exploitation it feels like a “spiritual rape” to them.
Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believes he is all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for his impact on others. His followers only see him as near perfect.
Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
Not concerning about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blame their followers or others outside their group. Blame reinforces passivity and obedience and produces guilt, shame, terror and conformity in the followers.
Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
Totalist leaders frequently practice promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts. This is usually kept hidden from all but the inner circle. Stringent sexual control of their followers, such as forced breakups and divorces, removal of children from parents, rules for dating, etc.
Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future. Many groups claim as their goal world-domination or other utopian promises. Great contrast between the leader’s opulent lifestyle and the followers’ impoverishment. Support by gifts and donations from his followers who are pressured to give through fear and guilt. Highly sensitive to their own pain and health.
Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
Changes their image and that of the group as needed to avoid prosecution and to increase income and to recruit a range of members. Is able to adapt or relocate as needed to preserve the group. Can resurface later with a new name, a new front group and a new twist on the scam.
Other Related Qualities:
Contemptuous of those who seek to understand him
Does not perceive that anything is wrong with him
Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where his tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
Goal of enslavement of his victim(s)
Exercises despotic control over every aspect of his victim’s life
Has an emotional need to justify his crimes and therefore needs his victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
Incapable of real human attachment to another
Unable to feel remorse or guilt
Extreme narcissism and grandiose
May state readily that their goal is to rule the world