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An Object Relations Approach to Cult Membership

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Several pieces of literature suggest that most individuals who are successfully integrated into cults do not typically manifest symptoms of mental illness. However, the public is often taken aback by the lack of autonomy displayed by cult members and is bewildered by the ability of the cult leader and other cult members to transform fundamental personality functioning in an individual. Within the framework of an object relations model of personality structure and functioning as delineated by Otto Kernberg and using existing data concerning the cult experience, the authors engage in a theoretical exploration of cult membership. The authors propose that some behaviors exhibited by cult members may be a function of an object relations–level regression, which is exemplified by the activation of primitive defensive operations that are usually relegated to those suffering with severe personality disorders.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2011

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