Hoyt Richard - Advisory Board Member, Award-Winning Filmmaker, Writer, Actor - Los Angeles, California, USA

Our Advisory Board member Hoyt Richards knows he will never be boring at cocktail parties. “I can drop the cult bomb,” he reflects with a laugh in this recent BBC interview. Widely credited as the first male “supermodel,” the Princeton-educated writer and actor strongly contradicts the myth that only unintelligent or emotionally “needy” people can be recruited into destructive cults. “People think you’re not that bright, or naive, or that you’ve got some sort of dysfunction going on at home … all those things are inaccurate,” he affirms. “The brighter you are, the more easy you are to be manipulated.”

Addressing the question of how anyone could “buy in” to some of the “crazier” beliefs which seem to crop up in many high-control groups, Richards reflects on the parable of the frog in the pot on the stovetop: the bizarre, destructive elements are not introduced right away, but come as part of a slow process of indoctrination. “The more sensitive and more fantastical … information comes kind of as a reward for you hanging around long enough to find out the secret truths of what’s going on.”

This insightful conversation takes on many of the myths of what a destructive group looks like, reminding us how anyone can be seduced into a predatory situation. Richards ends on a positive note: “it doesn’t have to be a bad thing … the silver lining can be the lessons learned and re-building relationships in a way that actually end up becoming stronger.”

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about a surviving and thriving after high-pressure group that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!