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Why cult members live in denial that it’s a cult or fake

Why cult members live in denial that it's a cult or fake: The Jonestown massacre - 918 cult members  including approx. 300 children died/committed suicide by drinking poison
Why cult members live in denial that it's a cult or fake: The Jonestown massacre - 918 cult members  including approx. 300 children died/committed suicide by drinking poison
Why cult members live in denial that it’s a cult or fake: The Jonestown massacre – 918 cult members including approx. 300 children died/committed suicide by drinking poison

The fear of experiencing shame and the yearning for hope

The following is Part Fifteen of an expanded transcript of a detailed and in-depth interview Patrick Wanis PhD Human Behavior Expert gave to Michele Morrisette with  about gurus, cults and brainwashing. Here Patrick Wanis reveals why people find it difficult to admit being duped by a cult, guru, teacher or a scam; the sense of shame, and the experience of Cognitive Dissonance.  Click here for previous part of the interview, Part Fourteen:

Patrick Wanis: So here’s my final point, and this is a question that has been posed to me by an investigative journalist regarding this whole situation with Mahendra Trivedi. Why do so many of his followers refuse to accept the possibility that maybe it’s not real?

And the answer is that it’s the same thing that happened to James Ray’s followers in the beginning and I will explain what I mean by that.

It’s called Cognitive Dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance is the conflict that faces us when we have two clashing/conflicting ideas, values or emotions. We struggle because we can’t hold two opposing ideas in our mind simultaneously. We have to form one conclusion, but that is difficult since the first held belief is often so strong and has emotional attachments.

Accordingly, we suddenly have evidence put in front of us and we say, “This can’t be true. I’ve always believed Mr. Ray to be great. I put all my faith in him. I put my trust in him. I believed in him. I gave him my money. I gave him my energy. I gave him my time. I can’t believe that this is true.”

So what do I do? I deny it.

This is the result of two clashing beliefs – he is great versus he is fake (or some other such thing.)

Guess who else does that?

Women who find out their husbands have cheated.

Often, they will deny it at first. They will go straight into denial. It can’t be true because I always believed in my husband. I trusted him. I had faith in him.

So, the only way I can balance these two conflicting ideas is that I will deny one until the evidence is presented again and again and then that woman realizes it’s true: He did cheat on me.

That belief takes over and then she throws him out of the house or divorces him or does something else; and that’s what happened with James Ray’s people.

Mary Latallade - surivivor of self-help Guru James Arthur Ray's Sweat Lodge
Mary Latallade – surivivor of self-help Guru James Arthur Ray’s Sweat Lodge. ” “You do as he says. He plays that paternal role. And he let us know. He’s dad and we’re his kids and you just follow his lead.” – Mary Latallade

Right after the sweat lodge when the emergency services were called and emergency services showed up and the police showed up, the majority of James Ray’s people came right out of that sweat lodge and said there’s nothing wrong. Nothing happened. Everything was fine. There was no trauma. Everyone was fine.

That’s cognitive dissonance. They were in complete denial.

So some people on trial as a witness during the James Ray trial said, “Yes, I said that. I don’t know why I said that, but it’s not the truth.”

Eventually what happens is it sinks in and the mind accepts the new reality which was hard to swallow at first; to accept I was duped or I was wrong, simply that I was wrong. I believed James Ray to be this great person. I trusted him. I believed in him and he did something really wrong and now I have to create a new image of him and a new image of myself because I put my faith and my belief in him. And if I accept that I was wrong about him, what does that mean for me? What does that mean for my future life? Can I still live with myself? Can I trust myself? Can I still continue? I’m lost now. He was my purpose. He was my direction. I trusted in him. I feel ashamed!

Also review all that we have discussed and explored and revealed. Know that it is natural that if you were in crisis, you would turn to someone charismatic who offers, quite strongly, to have the answers and solution to your problem or void. Know also that hope is one of the greatest human motivations and unspoken needs. We all need hope, and when someone offers us hope of something better – a better life, a healing, a cure, a release, an extraordinary experience, emotional freedom, financial freedom or even meaning and purpose, that then, it is so easy for us to give away our power, trust, emotions, love, devotion and money to the one who promises to deliver on that hope!

Read the example of Joanne Mulholland who had such severe scoliosis — a twisted spine – and such pain that she turned to a psychic healer who eventually sexually assaulted her.  Read more about this bizarre case here:

So it’s very hard for people to accept that they were duped – that they are humans. I don’t know about your experiences but I’m sure that you can share that to explain what you experienced Michele working with Trivedi and then how you chose to go a different path. So I don’t know if that answers all your questions, Michele, but I’ve talked for a long time.

Michele Morrisette: No, that was brilliant and I’ve just taken so much of your time. I don’t want to go any further because I know you have other commitments. But I just want to tell you one, Patrick, it has been a pleasure and what my biggest hope was – I had a hope going into this interview with you, was that anybody who may have questions just as you summed up, “Why did I do this? Geez, I got duped and I feel kind of guilty or embarrassed about this,” you have just helped explain so many things in such a beautiful way for a lot of people listening.

We learned.

We’ve learned a lesson and all we can do is go forward and charge on and carry on and try to do the right thing as we know it and well, thank you for spending the time and to anybody listening, just know that it’s OK. There are a lot of people who may have come in for good intentions. In my personal perspective, the most important thing is what you choose to do once you have the knowledge. Do you then make that ‘I can’t do anything’ or do you decide ‘I’m going to make a good decision and move on’?

So for anybody who would like to learn more about Patrick and everything that he said has just blown me away and I really highly recommend anybody who would like to learn more about it, go to his website at and take a look. He’s just a phenomenal individual. He has given us some real tools and some real concepts about why some of these things might have been happening and again just thank you.

From the bottom of our hearts, Patrick, thank you for joining us. You had nothing to gain by it but you chose to do it and so perhaps you’ve done what Trivedi hasn’t. You have chosen to walk Venice Beach with the average person and share your expertise to help make a difference and for that, may you have a fantastic day and thank you for sharing your time with us.

Patrick Wanis: It’s my pleasure, Michele. I just want to say thank you for thanking me. It’s OK for us to be selfish and to say I’m going to help you because I’m going to feel better for helping you. Do you understand what I mean by that?

Michele Morrisette: Yes, I do.

Patrick Wanis: So in my helping you, I feel good when I help you and I think that that’s the point: look back at the entire experience and say to yourself, “OK, maybe I was part of this group. Now I learned something. How can I help other people? How can I use my knowledge and wisdom to help other people to make a positive difference?”

And this is the last thing I want to say because this is really important. Please don’t put me on a pedestal. Please feel free to embrace the message that I’ve shared with you and to say, “That’s a really good message and I learned a lot from it,” but what I’m saying about me is what I want to say about you. We’re all humans. We all make mistakes. We’re all imperfect.

It’s OK that you made a mistake. If you, whoever “you” is, got duped or got brainwashed or felt that you were made a fool of or your felt embarrassed or stupid from your actions or behavior, we all make mistakes and we have to learn from those mistakes because if you can’t forgive yourself for the mistake you made, you won’t be able to forgive the people in your life, your husband, your wife or your children or your friends.

Forgiveness starts with you. Forgive yourself for making a mistake. It’s OK. You made a mistake. That’s why you’re human then you move forward and that’s the primary part of the message and that’s the key point. Separate the message from the messenger. Don’t fall in love with the messenger. Embrace the message if the message is good.

Michele Morrisette: Perfectly put. I think that’s a perfect way to end it.

Patrick Wanis: All right, Michele. Well, I thank you and I honor and respect the work you’ve done and are doing.

Michele Morrisette: Thank you. Best wishes to you and I hope to meet you again.

Patrick Wanis: All right, Michele. Thank you.

Michele Morrisette: Take care, Patrick. Bye.

Patrick Wanis: Bye.

Click here for Part 1 of the expanded transcript of the in-depth interview by Patrick Wanis PhD, Human Behavior Expert about gurus, cults and brainwashing:

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