top of page
LCF the podcast graphic FINAL.png

Living Cult Free: The Podcast

Welcome to Living Cult Free: The Podcast, where survivors of high-control groups share their raw, unfiltered stories. No narrators, no sensationalism—just pure, unadulterated survivor accounts. Listen to the voices often eclipsed by cult leaders and hear the truth, one story at a time.

This podcast was originally called Everyday Cults, Everyday People and produced by C.Jane Taylor and Gerette Buglion. To hear Gerette riff about the stages of cultic involvement described in her memoir, An Everyday Cult, listen to Season One, episodes 1-6. 

To check out helpful conversations with Dr. Steve Hassan about the Influence Continuum and the BITE model, head over to Season Two, Episodes 1-6.

Please note: In Seasons One and Two, listeners may hear references to #IGotOut, a movement Gerette Buglion co-founded in 2020 but with which she is no longer affiliated. Living Cult Free is the new name for the nonprofit that grew out of that movement. We are so glad you found us here.

Season Three

Check back each month for a new episode!

LCF podcast episode 1 graphic FINAL.png

Is it a sin to talk about it?

Grappling with existential questions about the origins of her thoughts, the influence of external forces on her autonomy, and her experiences with a religious cult, Ciara reflects on themes of control, deception, and the struggle for personal identity and freedom within a structured belief system.

 

Listen to find out how Ciara finds bursts of inspiration often fueled by a sense of urgency or emotional resonance throughout her daily life. Find Ciara on Instagram.

Season Two

This season features in-depth conversations with Steven Hassan, PhD, a mental health professional and expert in undue influence tactics used by authoritarian leaders and destructive cults. Visit freedomofmind.com to learn more and access Dr. Hassan's resources.

 

Please note: Listeners may hear references to #IGotOut, a movement Gerette Buglion co-founded in 2020 but with which she is no longer affiliated. Living Cult Free is the new name for the nonprofit that grew out of that movement.

Everyday Cult pod art.png

Get out or help someone you love get out

In this episode, we explore strategies you can use to get out of a cult or help a loved one get out. To set up the framework for our discussion, we look at numbers and definitions. The numbers are huge. Up to 10,000 cults still exist today in the United States. That number is growing. And language matters. The way we talk about cultic abuse influences how our good intentions are received. Someone who might shy away from what Gerette calls the c-word (cult), could respond better to "controlling group," "high demand group," or "spiritual abuse."

 

We discuss Dr. Hassan's "reality testing," Gerette's escape after 18 years from the Center for Transformational Learning, and the strategies that worked for her. We also talk about strategies we can employ when helping others who might be embroiled in a controlling group. 

Emotional backfire

Like it or not, as human beings, we creatures tend to respond emotionally. Comfort, praise, recognition, and a sense of belonging are among our top stimuli. Our yearning for these is manna from heaven to cult leaders. They prey upon exactly this type of vulnerability. They lure us in under the veil of comfort and specialness and then set up an "us" versus "them" dichotomy. While under cultic influence, Dr. Hassan was told others were false -- even evil. Vaxxers versus anti-vaxxers is a similar fault line. Today we discuss the ways cult leaders disrupt the normal right brain/left brain integration necessary to make rational decisions. By sidestepping reason, cult leaders foment fear and self-doubt. We also explore phobia indoctrination, the Christian persecution complex, and FreedomofMind.org's itemized list of methods cult leaders use to control their followers. 

Everyday Cult pod art.png
Everyday Cult pod art.png

They co-opted my brain!

Freedom of thought is a universal human right. As modern, functioning adults, we like to think that we are in control of our own thoughts. This is not always the case. As we know from Gerette's book, an Everyday Cult, and from this podcast, we know that destructive cults use any number of techniques to get members to stay and commit themselves to what may be harmful activities. Thought control is the most insidious. 

Listen in as we discuss the different techniques cult leaders use to control the thoughts of their followers. Some techniques are extreme, others are subtle but insidious. 

Standing up to scrutiny

Controlling information is a critical way authoritarian leaders and cult leaders control the hearts and minds of their followers. In this episode, we discuss how they do it and how you can take some agency regarding the information you consume. 

Dr. Hassan suggests that we must each do independent research, we must ask difficult questions, and we must really dig beyond the cult-controlled internet algorithms to challenge our own beliefs. 

Gerette describes her experience within a cultic group, whose leaders subtly controlled information by dominating cult members' free time. She sheds some light on the difference between information control in an everyday cult versus that in more controlling cults. 

We talk about personal truths, political truths, and objective truths. And how ambiguity tolerance--allowing for the possibility of another person's truth to coexist with one's own--can open the door to a more objective reality. 

Everyday Cult pod art.png

Love is stronger than mind control

Everyday Cult pod art.png

Our focus today is Behavior Control, the first methodology in the BITE model, which refers to the control of Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotion. Dr. Hassan developed BITE as a model for evaluating degrees of undue influence. As functioning adults, we like to think that we are in control of our own behavior. The last episode about influence leads us to reexamine that possibility. 

In this episode, we discuss how we become vulnerable to behavior control, types of behavior control, and how our environment shapes our behavior. Vulnerability to influence is part of the human condition. Dr. Hassan suggests that we are susceptible to behavior control from the moment we are born. Using healthy cynicism, curiosity, and discernment, we can begin to understand exactly who or what is in control of our behavior.

In the end, love is stronger than mind control. 

From mild extreme and everything in between

Can understanding the nature of influence support people in cult recovery? Dr. Steve Hassan, a former cult member and an author, educator, and world authority on cults, is our honored guest throughout season two. 

His published works include The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control; Combating Mind Control: The Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults; and Freedom of Mind: Helping Loves Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs. In this episode, we  discuss his dissertation published in January 2021: "The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control: Undue Influence, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Mind Control, Trafficking, and the Law." 

Our focus this episode is the BITE model, which refers to Behavior-Information-Thought-Emotion control. Dr. Hassan developed BITE as a model for evaluating degrees of undue influence. Gerette also references Influence: Science and Practice, by Robert Caldini.

Everyday Cult pod art.png

Season One

Views and opinions expressed in this season are those of LCF Founder Gerette Buglion, arising from her 18-year cultic involvement and her work in cult recovery and education. Tune in for a frank discussion about everyday cults and how they can endanger everyday people like you and me.

Please note: Listeners may hear references to #IGotOut, a movement Gerette co-founded in 2020 but with which she is no longer affiliated. Living Cult Free is the new name for the nonprofit that grew out of that movement.

Everyday Cult pod art.png

We explore what Gerette has identified in her book as the final stage of cultic involvement: Waking Up Again and Again. In this ongoing phase, one becomes fully aware of the reality of cultism. Awake, cult survivors remain ever watchful for the potential for harmful power dynamics that play out in the world or in themselves. Waking Up Again and Again is the effort required to be a conscious, conscientious human being.

In this episode on post-cult life, we discuss the human need to be part of a group, cult-hopping, self-care, the importance of recognizing one own's vulnerability, and how to be an ally. 

In this episode, we explore what Gerette identified in her book as the fourth stage of cultic involvement: Snapping--as in snapping out of it.

This is the period of dawning recognition. It's the acknowledgment that you have been indoctrinated. It demands a huge shift in consciousness. For many, it is also an awakening of conscience when you see how you or your loved ones have been harmed by the group. It may also be a realization that you have been complicit with something that is in direct contradiction to your deepest personal values or even morality itself.

 

We discuss complicity, accountability, and then ask the one question cult survivors hate to be asked.  

Everyday Cult pod art.png
Everyday Cult pod art.png

Controlling information is a critical way authoritarian leaders and cult leaders control the hearts and minds of their followers. This week we discuss how they do it and how you can take some agency regarding the information you consume. 

Dr. Hassan suggests that we must each do independent research, ask difficult questions, and really dig beyond the cult-controlled internet algorithms to challenge our own beliefs. 

Gerette describes her experience within a cultic group, whose leaders subtly controlled information by dominating cult members' free time. She sheds some light on the differences between information control in an everyday cult versus more controlling cults. 

We talk about personal truths, political truths, and objective truths. And how ambiguity tolerance--allowing for the possibility of another person's truth to coexist with one's own--can open the door to a more objective reality. 

We explore the five stages of cultic involvement Gerette identifies in her memoir, An Everday Cult. In the last episode, our subject was Falling--as in falling for the trickery of a cult. In this episode we discuss drifting, the second stage. 

Drifting is a period of psychological meandering where part of one's psyche is lulled into unconscious complicity with a doctrine. During this stage, one can be easily influenced but can also hold down a job and raise a family without great negative impact, even though they are living a split reality. 

We also discuss the cult leader's lack of accountability, training, or ethical standards for the 'therapy' sessions he conducted, and the predatory, non-consensual relationships Doug had with members of the Center for Transformational Learning cult he founded. (For the protection of those who have been and are subject to cultic abuse, "Doug," and "Center for Transformational Learning" are pseudonyms.) 

Everyday Cult pod art.png
Everyday Cult pod art.png

Just as no one intentionally falls in love with an abuser, no one intentionally joins a cult--we fall for them. Falling, in this case, refers to both falling in love and falling asleep. Gerette fell. Her fall lasted 18 years.

Often, but not always, cultic involvement begins with "love bombing," a starry-eyed stage where someone is magnetically drawn to a group or a leader who promises the moon; it feels really good. Typically, the early stages of cultic involvement can include a lot of longing, learning about one's self, and a whole lot of idealizing. 

In this episode, we discuss the early days of Gerette's cult life which devolved into the gradual erosion of her psyche. 

Everyday cults 101

What is a cult? How are they created? Who joins a cult? Why? How can we recognize a cult if we're in one? In this introductory episode, cult survivor Gerette Buglion, author of An Everyday Cult and founder of Living Cult Free, delves into her experience living in a cult for 18 years to answer these compelling questions. 

Cult dynamics exist in all layers of society. They can be political, racist, religious, sexual, satanic, or educational. They can be founded on human potential, mass transformation, or mass marketing. Initially, many everyday cults can seem perfectly normal and acceptable until that very convincing facade starts to crack. 

We discuss the techniques cults use--such as "love bombing," polarized thinking, and loading the language which we'll investigate further in future episodes--to attract and keep members and the unbalanced power dynamics that often result. We talk about the recognition of abuse that caused Gerette to leave the cult and dedicate her life to helping others come to similar realizations. 

Everyday Cult pod art.png
bottom of page