#38 – Conspirituality, Coercion, & Cult Recovery | Janja Lalich, PhD

Candice sits down with world-renowned cult expert Dr. Janja Lalich — who retired for a hot minute in 2019 until the pandemic hit and her inbox began blowing up.

The episode opens with Janja’s personal story about her involvement in a far-left political cult back in the late ’70s & early ’80s. She shares about her role in leadership and the eventual disbanding of the group, speaking candidly about the mental health challenges she faced during her own cult recovery. Dr. Lalich shares some of what she’s learned working as an expert in cults & coercive influence for over three decades, including a brief history of the human potential movement and how it’s since morphed into present-day conspirituality culture. Large group awareness trainings are a byproduct of this modern-day self-help economy, and Janja describes how LGATs alter judgment and erode personal agency in real-time. She highlights some of the red flags to look out for when it comes to cultic influence, as well as the #1 thing that people who join cults appear to have in common (it’s probably not what you think).

Candice shares how she regrets moving from one wellness cult to another in her late twenties and early thirties, and Janja underscores the importance of psychoeducation to avoid this common ‘cult hopping’ tendency.  Other topics covered include peak experiences and why they’re so addictive, common misconceptions about coercion, what makes us vulnerable when it comes to recruitment, and Janja’s groundbreaking bounded choice framework. Finally, Janja celebrates Candice’s recent decision not to consult with those who are still hoping to change things at the Org – a ‘cult’ure she’s spoken about in-depth in previous episodes.

This is a jam-packed conversation and is quite arguably the seminal episode in the ‘cult’ure series.

Janja Lalich, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Sociology, is an international authority on cults and coercion. Researcher, author, and educator, she specializes in recruitment, indoctrination, and coercive methods of influence and control. Dr. Lalich is the author and/or coauthor of six books, including the now classic, Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships. In addition to working with survivors and their families, she leads workshops and educational sessions for government agencies, international intelligence agencies, private companies, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and leads online psychoeducational courses for trauma survivors, families, and mental-health professionals. She has also served as an expert witness in civil and criminal legal cases. Dr. Lalich may be reached at drlalich@sbcglobal.net, through her website www.janjalalich.com or on Instagram @janja_lalich.

The stories and opinions shared in this episode are based on personal experience and are not intended to malign any individual, group, or organization.

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