Cult leaders as psychopath

As it is the same with majority of the cults, the cult of Mojahedin cannot be truly explored and understood without understanding its leader. Massoud Rajavi is known to be an egocentric power maniac whose character and leading flaws has so far suggested exhibiting many of the behavioral characteristics of marked megalomania and paranoia. Many even go beyond to state that he is a psychopath who has succeeded to enforce himself onto the leadership position. Their assertion is in no way an arbitrary judgment but based on comprehensive researches done by prominent academics and cult experts.

It is also said that most cult leaders, especially those who lead a destructive cult, have suffered personality disorders of some kind that relate to certain unyielding, maladaptive behaviors that cause a person to develop prejudice and anti-social functioning. Psychiatrists are of the opinion that the roots of these disorders can be traced to have often been manifested in the person’s childhood and which later set the ground to create problems in how to deal with the society and the rest of the world.

Similarities between cult leaders of all sorts are in fact character disorders commonly identified with the psychopathic personality as asserted by psychiatrists who have studied the behaviors of the leaders from the very beginning when cults came to jeopardize the society around them and even in a global scale. No cult originates unless established and run by people who believe to possess superhuman talents and skills who gathers around themselves a collection of devoted followers to convince them that they are ordained leaders with the ability to sense their followers’ needs and draw them closer with promises of fulfillment. It is only the beginning and gradually, as Madeleine Landau explains, “the leader inculcates the group with his own private ideology (or craziness!), then creates conditions so that his victims cannot or dare not test his claims. How can you prove someone is not the Messiah? That the world won’t end tomorrow? That humans are not possessed by aliens from another world or dimension? Through psychological manipulation and control, cult leaders trick their followers into believing in something, then prevent them from testing and disproving that mythology or belief system”.

In the same way that Thaler Singers’ Cults in Our Midst played a great role to prove Mojahedin Khalq’s cultic nature, there are many more other sources that may help reach a conclusion that the group’s leader Rajavi inherits psychopathological traits studied and traced in most cult leaders. The following is an excerpt from the book entitled "Captive Hearts, Captive Minds" by Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich studying the cult leaders as psychopath.

Cultic groups and relationships are formed primarily to meet specific emotional needs of the leader, many of whom suffer from one or another unotional or character disorder. Few, if any, cult leaders subject them- selves to the psychological tests or prolonged clinical interviews that allow for an accurate diagnosis.

However, researchers and clinicians who have observed these individuals describe them variously as neurotic, psychotic, on a spectrum exhibiting neurotic, sociopathic, and psychotic characteristics, or suffering from a diagnosed personality disorder.

It is not our intent here to make an overarching diagnosis, nor do we intend to imply that all cult leaders or the leaders of any of the groups mentioned here are psychopaths. In reviewing the data, however, we can surmise that there is significant psychological dysfunctioning in some cult leaders and that their behavior demonstrates features rather consistent with the disorder known as psychopathy.

Dr. Robert Hare, one of the world’s foremost experts in the field, estimates that there are at least two million psychopaths in North America. He writes, "Psychopaths are social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets. Completely lacking in conscience and in feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret."

Psychopathy falls within the section on personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the standard source book used in making psychiatric evaluations and diagnoses. In the draft version of the manual’s 4th edition (to be released Spring 1994), this disorder is listed as "personality disorder not otherwise specified/Cleckley-type psychopath," named after psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley who carried out the first major studies of psychopaths. The combination of personality and behavioral traits that allows for this diagnosis must be evident in the person’s history, not simply apparent during a particular episode. That is, psychopathy is a long-term personality disorder. The term psychopath is often used interchangeably with sociopath, or sociopathic personality because it is more commonly recognized, we use the term psychopath here.

Personality disorders, as a diagnosis, relate to certain inflexible and maladaptive behaviors and traits that cause a person to have significantly impaired social or occupational functioning. Signs of this are often first manifested in childhood and adolescence, and are expressed through distorted patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself. In simple terms this means that something is amiss, awry, not quite right in the person, and this creates problems in how he or she relates to the rest of the world.

The psychopathic personality is sometimes confused with the "anti- social personality," another disorder; however, the psychopath exhibits more extreme behavior than the antisocial personality. The antisocial personality is identified by a mix of antisocial and criminal behaviors–he is the common criminal. The psychopath, on the other hand, is characterized by a mix of criminal and socially deviant behavior.

Psychopathy is not the same as psychosis either. The latter is characterized by an inability to differentiate what is real from what is imagined: boundaries between self and others are lost, and critical thinking is greatly impaired. While generally not psychotic, cult leaders may experience psychotic episodes, which may lead to the destruction of themselves or the group. An extreme example of this is the mass murder-suicide that occurred in November 1978 in Tonestown, Guyana, at the People’s Temple led by Jim Jones. On his orders, over 900 men, women, and children perished as Jones deteriorated into what was probably a paranoid psychosis.

The psychopathic personality has been well described by Hervey ClecMey in his classic work, The Mask of Sanity, first published in 1941 and updated and reissued in 1982. Cleckley is perhaps best known for The Three Faces of Eve, a book and later a popular movie on multiple personality. Cleckley also gave the world a detailed study of the personality and behavior of the psychopath, listing 16 characteristics to be used in evaluating and treating psychopaths.

Neuropsychiatrist Richard M. Restak stated, "At the heart of the diagnosis of psychopathy was the recognition that a person could appear normal and yet dose observation would reveal the personality to be irrational or even violent." Indeed, initially most psychopaths appear quite normal. They present themselves to us as charming, interesting, even humble. The majority "don’t suffer from delusions, hallucinations, or memory impairment, their contact with reality appears solid." Some, on the other hand, may demonstrate marked paranoia and megalomania. In one clinical study of psychopathic inpatients, the authors wrote: "We found that our psychopaths were similar to normals (in the reference group) with regard to their capacity to experience external event~ as real and with regard to their sense of bodily reality. They generally had good memory, concentration attention, and language function. They had a high barrier against external, aversive stimulation….In some ways they dearly resemble normal people and can thus ‘pass’ as reasonably normal or sane. Yet we found them to be extremely primitive in other ways, even more primitive than frankly schizophrenic patients. In some ways their thinking was sane and reasonable, but in others it was psychotically inefficient and/or convoluted."

Another researcher described psychopaths in this way: "These people are impulsive, unable to tolerate frustration and delay, and have problems with trusting. They take a paranoid position or externalize their emotional experience. They have little ability to form a working alliance and a poor capacity for self-observation. Their anger is frightening. Frequently they take flight. Their relations with others are highly problematic. When dose to another person they fear engulfment or fusion or loss of self. At the same time, paradoxically, they desire closeness; frustration of their entitled wishes to be nourished, cared for, and assisted often leads to rage. They are capable of a child’s primitive fury enacted with an adult’s physical capabilities, and action is always in the offing.

Ultimately, "the psychopath must have what he wants, no matter what the cost to those in his way."  

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