ICSA Annual Conference: Cultic Gaslighting

William Goldberg; Saturday, June 25, 2022; 12:00 PM-12:50 PM

Gaslighting refers to attempts by cult leaders to manipulate their followers by creating an environment in which the cult members doubt their own thoughts, observations, interpretations, and memories. By proclaiming their victims’ perceptions to be warped and their interpretations to be ignorant or wicked, the cult leaders systematically undermine the cult members’ faith that they can trust themselves. The result of this emotional abuse is that the victims become apprehensive, child-like, and malleable.

In this presentation, the speaker will define the term gaslighting and will present examples of both obvious and non-obvious ways that gaslighting occurs in cults. The goal is for the manipulation to be recognized and discredited. The speaker will also explain the personality disorder that leads some individuals to become cult leaders and to take advantage of others. This personality disorder allows the cult leader to harm their victims without feeling guilt or remorse. Finally, the speaker will discuss strategies that can be utilized by victims of gaslighting to counter the effects of this manipulation.

William Goldberg, LCSW, PsyA

William Goldberg

William Goldberg, LCSW, PsyA, is a clinical social worker and psychoanalyst with over forty years’ experience working with former cult members. He and his wife, Lorna, co-lead a support group for former cult members, which has been meeting for over forty years. It is the oldest group of its kind in the world. In 2007, Bill retired from the Rockland County, NY Department of Mental Health, where he directed several programs and clinics. He is presently an adjunct professor in the social work and social science departments of Dominican College and he is on the faculty of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies. Bill has published numerous articles in books and professional journals. Bill is a frequent speaker at ICSA conferences, and he and Lorna have been the recipients of the Authentic CAN Hall of Fame Award and the Leo J. Ryan Award. In 2010, Bill was the recipient of ICSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also co-editor of ICSA’s Cult Recovery: A Clinician’s Guide to Working With Former Members and Their Families, published in 2017. Website: BLGOLDBERG.COM. Email: bill@blgoldberg.com Phone: (201) 894-8515 Englewood, New Jersey.

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