Cults and the power of suggestion

By Kyle Perkins

 

A lot of research went into my latest series, Teabreeze. Not that I actively sat down and did research specifically for this book, but I have spent a lifetime researching cults, serial killers, and the occult(I think everyone has, to a degree). I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and spent the majority of my childhood there. Now, anyone that has grown up in the Midwest and then actually left… Well, they know there are a few weird things about the area that you can’t really find anywhere in the US. Couple that with the fact that I then moved to an even weirder place(Florida), and you have the makings of a good story.

The Midwest is deeply into family, and family is all that matters. We are told from a very young age that the only people you can ever trust or count on is family. Which, if any of you have a family, you know this can be complete bullshit. When I first came to Florida, it was a culture shock. In Florida, people are so standoffish and neighbors don’t really speak. If you smile at someone walking down the street, they may take it as a sign of aggression. I had to learn very quickly that I couldn’t just walk up to someone and be like “Hi, how are you doing? Rough weather out there today, huh?” to someone in Florida. They would wonder my angle, or if I’m trying to sell them something.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest people go out of their way to spend time with neighbors, decorate their houses for holidays, and it’s just a lot more communal as a whole. I was so ignorant to other races that when I came to Florida and met my first Mexican-American, I said “how,” as Native Americans greet each other in movies. I seriously thought he was a Native. I had never met anyone that was Hispanic in my life. Luckily, the guy was nice and we ended up becoming great friends over the years, and I am grateful he didn’t just punch me in the face.

The big move from the Midwest to Florida showed me that people are different everywhere, and the world is rich with culture. I felt ignorant, and naked in a new world. I might as well have been dropped on another planet. So, not wanting to be caught with my pants down again, I jumped right into learning about cultures, places, religions, and everything in between. Coming from the Midwest, there were only a couple of religions to choose from, Catholicism or Christianity, so to find out there was an entire world full of these other fascinating religions and beliefs out there, it blew my mind.

After learning everything I could about your mainstream religions, I started looking at fringe religions, cults, that sort of thing. Up until this point, I considered myself a Christian. I was young, and like most of us, the idea that it was an absolute truth was planted into my head pretty early on. I never even bothered questioning it. As I went deeper and deeper into learning about these cults, I began to see similarities. See, you never think you’re in a cult, you think everyone else is. Mormons think Christians are wrong, Christians think Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong, Jehovah’s Witnesses think Scientologists are insane, and the list goes on. What really makes a cult a cult though? In my experience, a cult is any religion that hasn’t been accepted as mainstream yet. You know, Christianity was a cult to the Romans. So, if the only thing separating a cult from being a religion is time, aren’t all religions cults at some point?

Now, am I trying to spit on religion? No. I think we as humans need beliefs. They hold a lot of people together, and everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to. These are just my personal beliefs and I could be totally wrong. I never claim to be an expert of anything. I am just stumbling around in the dark like the rest of you.

Realizing that every single religion can be categorized as a cult(depending on which side you’re on) taught me that people are very open to suggestion, and in times of peril, we will reach out and grab hold of anything. We are all drowning in the ocean, and for some, religion is an escape rope. Plus we all really want to believe in things don’t we? Once everything is explained away, life loses a little bit of its magic. I sometimes wish I could go back to a time when I thought wrestling was real, David Blaine was really doing magic, and there was a heaven waiting for me.

We want to believe so badly, and that’s why people are susceptible to scams, con artists, and cults. Given the right circumstances, any of us can fall victim to any of these things. Who’s to say you haven’t already? Just because you believe in something that you’ve always believed in, and it has become your life, doesn’t mean the idea wasn’t implanted and ingrained into you.

In my book, there is a woman named Cadence. Now, Cadence leads this cult, she is very charismatic, beautiful, and motivated. There is another woman called Eve. Eve is a very intelligent woman and is not gullible by any means, and yet she falls victim to this cult, and Cadence. When most people look at what they consider to be a cult, they look at their followers as dumb, or gullible. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes it just takes the perfect storm, the right circumstances and any of us can fall victim to a false belief. The scary thing is, I believe there is a bit of  both Eve, and Cadence in all of us.

We see it all the time. Power corrupts. Televangelists don’t start out as maniacs running across a stage screaming with obnoxiously fake tans. They are cultivated. They probably start off as a normal pastor, just trying to do the right thing. I don’t even think huge CEO’s of companies start off evil(not that all are), but given that unlimited power over others, it makes them dismissive. We are all just a few moves from being a sheep or a wolf. It’s in all of us, so my book basically highlights this and shows people how easy it can happen. How easily normal people can fall victim, and how easily they can become predators.

This is only part one in the series, but I hope you guys take the time to check it out. Things are going to get more bizarre in this next book, because that’s how I roll, so I hope you enjoy the first one enough to stick around for the second.

You can find my book: HERE.

0 thoughts on “Cults and the power of suggestion”

  • Really enjoyed this read! I, too, brought my wikipedia-bender background into play while I was writing Teabreeze. It definitely helped when trying to write the perspective of somebody joining a cult in a way that made her relatable and realistic. The scary part is, it really isn’t that much of a stretch. Like you said, we’re all just a step or two away from becoming a sheep or a wolf.

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