“How very much I’ve loved you, how very much I’ve tried my best to give you a good life. In spite of all that I’ve tried, a handful of our people, with their lies, have made our lives impossible.”

These are the first, of the last words spoken by Rev. James Warren Jones to the over 900 members of The Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ.

The church was founded in 1955, as a progressive church that was the first in the United States to desegregate. Jim Jones was a charismatic leader. He gained his following over a period of time ending on November 18th 1978. Jones had taken his entire congregation to Guyana, to live in a compound.

The church had become a cult many years before. When they were being discovered and labeled as such, Jones brought the congregation to Guyana. Eventually, Congressmen Leo Ryan was petitioned by the families of the church members, to go and visit the compound, where he was given a tour and saw a nice happy healthy place. He was leaving Guyana with his entourage, when several of the church members had tried to escape the church along with him.

Rev. Jimmy Jones sent a posse of gunman to the airport to kill the congressman, and the escapees. Meanwhile, at the compound, Jim Jones had talked the entire congregation into drinking a sugar crystal juice mixture called “Flavor Aid” laced with cyanide. This is acutally where the popular cliche “don’t drink the kool aid” comes from.

909 people were murdered, with 304 of them children. Many call this a mass suicide, however, as these people were unable to psychologically control themselves, one cannot in good conscience call what happened in Jonestown as such. This was clearly murder. All drank the poisoned flavorade by the psychological manipulation, coercion, emotional, and mental abuse of Rev. Jimmy Jones.

A man speaking through his tears proclaims to Jones “If you tell us we have to give our lives now, we’re ready.”

During this mass murder, one woman tried to protest giving the poison to the children. Jim Jones, in a long discussion with this woman, told her “I’m gonna tell ya Christine, without me, life has no meaning. I’m the best friend you’ll ever have.”

There are five criteria for cults, that are identified by Dr. Alexandra Stein in her study “From Social Structure to the Mind: Disorganized Attachment as a Means of Control in Extremist Organizations.”

Stein escaped a political cult herself. Stein identifies these five criteria as:

Leadership: The existence of a living charismatic authoritarian leader.
Structure: A hierarchical closed structure.
Process: the use of coercive persuasion/brainwashing.
Ideology: a total ideology.
Outcome: exploitation of deployable followers, and potential for violence.

The emotional abuser in a relationship employs remarkably similar methods upon their victim. An emotional abuser will say things to their partner like “No one will love you as much as I do” or “You are nothing without me.” Stein writes further in regard to cults: “The lack of consistent security caused by alternating love and fear in the isolating group relationship creates an anxious dependency on the part of followers.” A dictator of a closed society, a cult leader, and an abusive partner employ the very same methods. They will dominate their victims totally, closing their victims off from the rest of society, and in turn make their victims dependent on them, or at the very least brainwash them to think that they are.

The followers of Jim Jones called him “Dad.”

Stein illustrates Bowlby’s attachment theory: “Bowlby’s evolutionary based theory posits that attachment to a particular other for the purpose of protection (and thus survival) is a fundamental building block of interpersonal relationships. A child seeks its parent when ill, tired, frightened, or in any other way under threat. The parent then functions as a safe haven for the child, providing protection and comfort. But once comforted, the child eventually wishes to explore its world again, and now the parent functions as a secure base, from which the child explores and to which they can return when protection and comfort is once again needed. Similar dynamics take place with adults in their close relationships with spouses, partners or very close friendships.”

As Stein illustrated, in a healthy attachment scenario, the individual terminates their attachment to their parent (authority) in order to seek out their own life. However, there exists what Stein refers to as “disorganized attachment” where Stein writes: “In disorganized attachment, the participant never achieves complete comfort. They thus are not able to terminate their attachment behavior. In effect they keep seeking comfort that will never be adequately delivered, as, at any moment, the group may instead introduce threat. The participant remains in a state of hyper-arousal, constantly seeking comfort from the only available source, and never fully achieving it.”

For anyone who has been in an abusive relationship, the parallels to cult behaviour are obvious. The cult leader has isolated the followers from society, much as how an abusive partner would isolate their victim from family, friends, and work. Much as how dictators close their societies to where the only information available to the public is designed and filtered for consumption by the people. Basic knowledge of Hitler’s third reich shows the same. The German people were suffering, and along came a charismatic leader who built them up. Who told them they were good and beautiful. However, as soon as he was in full power, Hitler employed the same psychological manipulations as the cult leader, separating the victims and closing the society in order to fully dominate and wield their abuse. The same as an abusive partner would, on a macrocosmic scale.

Stein in a taped interview says “you’re frightened the leader of the cult will come and get you…fear of retribution…the worst bit for me is what I call existential fear, you feel like you’re about to walk off the edge of the known world into a black void, and it’s very hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been there but you’ve been made to feel that the rest of the world is terrible, that there’s nothing out there.”

The dictator, cult leader, and abuser share the sentiment that you as the victim are nothing without them. That you as the victim need their protection from an unsafe world.
You can look at Tr***s speeches and current legislative actions yourself, and analyze them as you please. We all know what the republican administration is trying to do and what they mean by: “Make America Great Again.” We all know what the republican administration of the USA is doing by trying to “save” the public from the bad hombre immigrants. The world saw it before in 1933.

However, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had the taste for kool aid. It’s bad for you.

The dying words of Jim Jones and the victims of Jonestown were recorded, and you can listen to them and their children dying in pain here:

You can find an interview with Dr. Stein here:

And her published study here:


One thought on “Totalitarianism and abusive relationships or “How very much I’ve loved you.”

  1. Really well written as always! I find the attachment theory stuff very interesting. You’ve used it here for application to cults and oppressive leaders in general, but at the individual level it is a strong force as well. When one sees someone in an abusive relationship it is easy to think that they could never fall victim to such a thing, but with the right leader and the right circumstance I am of the opinion that it is a plausibility for a decent proportion of the population.

    I believe this because of an interesting anecdote actually. My grandmother is a very sharp and strong woman who has had a great deal of success in her financial life. She has an identical twin, however, who was shut out from the rest of the world in a physically abusive relationship for a number of years before her husband at the time passed away.

    This is neat because it is as though a quasi-experimental study was performed with a sample size of n=2. Both my grandmother and her twin share the exact same genetic code. They have the same temperament, IQ, looks etc. The only difference was individual environment. And while most would say my grandmother could never fall into an abusive relationship, I know it to be false, because her exact clone did through life circumstance.

    For this reason I think it is important to withhold judgement and proceed through life with an aire of caution, because a great many people could fall into a cult-type scenario.


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