Every group and relationship seems different and unique to those involved, so it often takes former cult members years to realize that their group used very similar methods to those of other toxic groups. Members usually have a sense of superiority that prevents them from seeing the similarities, but careful study shows the same behaviours and the same methods in all toxic groups or relationships.

People are broadly the same. We are variations on the human template, so we share the same behaviours and react to the same pressures in very similar ways.

At one end of the spectrum there are totalist nations – such as North Korea – at the other end are coercive relationships. In between are the many forms of destructive groups, from violent criminal gangs and terrorists to the many forms of cult groups, including pseudo-religious, therapy, business and political.

At Open Minds, we recognise the similarities and we share information about the predators who prey upon others and control toxic groups and relationships. We also expose the manipulative methods used for that control.

Many expressions are used for manipulation. The popular term is brainwashing, but coercive control is used legally in the UK for manipulation in relationships, and undue influence has been used for centuries at law where one person has taken over the will of another. Among the other terms are coercive persuasion, mind control, thought control, thought reform, exploitative persuasion, and even menticide, or ‘mind-killing’.

All forms of manipulation rely upon normal human psychology. Predators use our need to belong and our friendliness against us. The only society in which manipulation would not work would be a society of predators, where no one would trust anyone else. For a beneficial society to work, we must trust one another, and this makes us vulnerable to predators.

To comprehend and proof ourselves against manipulation, we have to understand the nature of predators, our natural susceptibility to influence and the methods of manipulation.

By bringing together all of the relationships in which predatory manipulation occurs, we can share not only understanding, but also recover and protect ourselves from that manipulation. This is the aim of Open Minds – a multidisciplinary approach to the problems of undue influence.

We have identified key areas: cults, gangs, totalist nations, human traffickers/slavers, pedophile groomers, toxic partners and alienating parents. By sharing what we know – whatever our level of expertise – we will make a safer world: a world where predators are recognised and not allowed to have power over the rest of us. Please help us to spread the word!

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about a toxic group or relationship that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!