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Strike One You're Out

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Strike One You're Out:

Along with shaming, cult leaders use other methods to manipulate and control the thoughts of their members. One technique commonly used is "traumatic one-trial learning". Catching unsuspecting members, cult leaders shame them for something they may or may not have known violated cult rules. Using verbal abuse, explosive anger, or intimidation, they abruptly make the member aware that a line was crossed. In many cases, that line was either vague or unknown.

After being abruptly and publicly shamed during the first offense, cult members are suddenly afraid they might make more mistakes. Those publicly shamed will do everything in their power to avoid letting that happen again, and find themselves continually evaluating and re-evaluating their statements, actions, and even thoughts. Almost instantly, they find themselves being governed by their own mind, but through the cult leader's filter. Worse, since they do not know the limits of that filter, they enforce rules upon themselves that are far stricter than the cult leader would originally demanded.

As a result, those same people that were shamed begin critiquing other cult members by their new standards. As they begin to judge and talk about others, their new filters spread through the group. Like wildfire spreading through a dry forest, the entire group adjusts to new, stricter rules. This is especially true during times of the cult leader's absence; when the leader returns after an extended time, they find the group more rigid than when they left. At this point, they praise the cult members for their "good behavior", and start a brand new cycle of the same pattern. Cults that last more than a few decades have far different and stricter rules than when the cult originally formed.

When cult members awaken, they get very angry at memories of "traumatic one-trial learning". Some struggle with critique of any kind. They will never again be shamed for something they were not aware.