EACH OF US CAN BE MANIPULATED
Margita Kotas talks with Dariusz Pietrek – a founder and employee of the Silesian Information Centre, and a psychotherapist of the Psychotherapy Centre in Katowice and an employee of the Family Promotion Centre in Chorzów, about Sects and Psycho-manipulative groups
MARGITA KOTAS: - Do you think people are resistant to being recruited by sects and their influence?
DARIUSZ PIETREK: - No, but there are people who can feel on the basis of their experience and knowledge, that intentions of another man are not quite clear or not quite honest and then they can start a mechanism of safety. While when we look at the techniques of recruiting by sects as a techniques of manipulation, social influence, we must remember about one thing – indeed each of us can be manipulated, each of us can be deceived, each of us can be misled or fall a victim of a joke. We are only people, we are likely to be influenced.
– So, I understand that even mature people cannot feel safe in contacts with sects. However, it seems that sects are interested mainly in young people and these are young people who often fall victims to sects…
– That’s not true. Let’s start with what we understand by the word ‘sect’. And here, a kind of safety mechanism is switched off very often, it seems to people that a sect is a group of some strange, distorted people who have strange opinions and a kind of their master, guru, to whom they are subjected. However, this is a knowledge of the 90s of the last century. Today we must look at sects differently. There are various kinds of them: religious sects, economic, therapeutic or educational sects. For example, both a young man and a mature person or an elderly person, can be interested in a religious sect, who are suffering from the syndrome of emptiness and for this reason are looking for a new sense of life. Therapeutic sects are often the interest of elderly and ill people, who are extremely open. In their case we often deal with various groups which offer therapies, bio-energy-therapies, some courses of spiritual or personal development. So, it is seen clearly that the current offer of sects is addressed not only to young people. Young people simply enter various structures very quickly, because they still have very little experience, but in fact every man can be recruited to a sect.
– How can we notice that our relative or our close person became an object of interest or has already become a victim of a sect?
– Recruitment into a sect, entering a sect is a process. It is not that if somebody met somebody else and after one or two meetings he got into a sect. We often receive phone calls from people who are looking for their missing children, supposing that their child is in a sect. Then I ask about characteristic features of the child, which proved a process of his entering a group, for example, whether new literature appeared in his life, or whether he started reading the Bible suddenly, or whether he changed diet preferences, or if new people appeared among his acquaintances, friends, whether some talismans, figurines, music appeared, whether the child did not start practicing some new behaviors, meditation, whether he did not change the rhythm of his day, whether he leaves for some meetings and comes back agitated, excited and is able to speak only about one thing – about God, about the truth, salvation, damnation, starts using biblical verses or speak about experiences of masters of the Far East. These are elements which may prove increasing interest in and contact with a group which can be called a sect.
– Is there any way which allows us to protect ourselves from a sect?
– It seems that knowledge about sects can protect us from them, but, have a look at a kind of regularity, please. At present, absolutely nobody is dealing with the issue of sects. I must say it with full responsibility – the state is not dealing with it, whereas the Catholic Church only to a little extent. Although I am open to this kind of a cooperation with the Church, during a year I am invited only for 5 – 6 meetings with the youth who are preparing for Confirmation, During the meetings I speak about the issues of sects and techniques of recruitment to sects. I often hear priests say: ‘but this problem does not exist any longer’. This problem ‘does not exist’ because media do not speak about it. They often take an action ‘sects’ only before vacations.
And here, first of all, I would like to sensitize parents to the problem of sects. Parents should pay attention to where and with whom their children are going on holiday, they should find out whether a particular holiday camp or journey are registered, who organizes them, what day schedule is, whether an organizer meets all requirements of safety. It is important. There are often cases that various kinds of sects create allegedly safe associations and foundations. Whereas parents who are sending their children for holidays organized by such and such organizations or associations, often look only at a price, but not at what is going to happen to their child there.
– If somebody has already been recruited to a sect, is it possible to take him away from it on one’s own or it is better to find a professional help?
– I am a psychotherapist who works in the Psychotherapy Institute in Katowice and the fact that I decided to turn to psychotherapy was caused by an experience of meeting victims of sects, whom I did not know how to help. If somebody wants to help somebody to get away from a sect on his own, can do it in a wrong way by incompetence, for example, using a technique of depreciation, ridicule, which are completely ineffective in this case, but are even strengthening the belief of a person in a sect. It is not the way. I work within systemic therapy with a whole family, as it often happens that somebody enters a sect because he does not feel well in his family. In order to help this person return to his family, the scheme of the functioning of the family must be changed, because the family is whole where its members influence one another. Therefore, I suggest looking for specialists who are able to lead a family through the process of this return in professional and peaceful way. The process of freeing somebody from a sect is a very long and hard process. So, I suggest we should not act on our own. When we do not have a professional knowledge, we should look for specialists who can help us. A different thing is that there are fewer and fewer places where we can receive such help – so, the Silesian Information Centre about Sects is probably the only place in Poland, which has been dealing with psychotherapy of sect victims for three years. I must admit that it is very successful.