Thought Reform?

Thought reform or mind control seems like something that only happens in a movie or a novel, but it is prevalent in our society today. One only has to look as far as the Catholic Church to find victims of spiritual abuse. While the stories of altar boys molested by priests have made headlines, countless victims are still suffering in silence. Whenever there is a power imbalance in a relationship, there is a danger that the person who holds more authority will abuse his or her power. It can occur on a large scale as with the Unification Church (the Moonies) or in smaller groups such as Heaven's Gate (39 members) or even in one-on-one relationships such as a priest and parishioner or a professor and a student. Victims of mind control are not crazy cult followers. They are people like me and you who have fallen into a trap set by a predatory leader. In my experience, the trap was built with trust and words and compassion which lured me into thinking that I was safe until it snapped down on me. Victims of mind control are robbed of time. Sometimes years or decades are lost while in the group or relationship. Victims of mind control lose family and friends. Most are told to end contact with outsiders. Many who are able to return to their families find the relationships fractured. Victims of mind control lose their identities. It's difficult to know who you are after being told by someone else how to feel, how to dress, how to act. It's one of the darkest and most frightening feelings in the world. There are very few facilities that treat these victims or therapists who are equipped to handle these cases. It makes for a long, lonely journey for these victims. Compassionate understanding and education by society is lacking. This novel is dedicated to raising awareness and giving a face to victims of mind control.

1. Every person should have the right to his or her own thoughts, ideology, and identity.

2. Thought reform does not simply exist in cults that are on the news. It can occur in one-on-one relationships and in small groups in your neighborhood

3. In any situation where there is an imbalance of power (priest/parishioner, therapist/client), there is potential for abuse.

Friday, January 11, 2013

I think my loved one is in a cult....what now?

Steve Hassan is an expert in the field of thought reform or coercive persuasion.  He has written several books including "Combatting Mind Control" and "Releasing the Bonds".  He is a former member of the Unification Church (the Moonies) and writes of his own experience in "Combatting Mind Control".  Building upon Robert J. Lifton's eight criteria, he introduced the BITE model.  BITE is an acryonym for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control. Hassan has also pioneered the SIA model--Strategic Interaction Approach--which is designed to help survivors of thought reform/mind control recover after leaving thier abusive environment.  More information about BITE and SIA can be found at his website:

from Steve Hassan:
What should I do if I suspect a family member or friend is getting involved with a destructive cult?

What should I do if I suspect a family member or friend is getting involved with a destructive cult?
My best advice is to get help before you do or say anything. Continue to act naturally. Learn before you act. Think before you speak. Adopt a “curious, yet concerned” attitude with the person you suspect is in trouble.
Don’t get hysterical in front of the individual. Don’t attack or confront. Don’t ask him or her if they are in a cult.
Position yourself as a possible “recruit” and try to elicit as much information as possible. Ask questions in a friendly manner and insist on getting specific answers. Don’t settle for global generalizations or evasions. Ask for any literature, but be cautious about going to meetings without getting properly prepared first. From time to time I hear stories of people falling victim when trying to help someone else.
If a group is legitimate, it will stand up to scrutiny. Members will be forthcoming with information and that information will be verified by facts. If a group is legitimate, they will not pressure people to make commitments before there is complete disclosure. If a group is legitimate, it will not lie nor will it use phobias to enslave new members.
Get information. Maintain contact. Try to get the person to engage with you in a process of researching the group objectively. Talk with former members, particularly former leaders if you can. Destructive cults vilify critical former members and make up stories to make them untrustworthy. While that might be the case, use your own good judgment to listen to all of the facts objectively. Make your best decision based on your experience and the information you have collected. Periodically, as new information or experiences present themselves, you might review your evaluation.

I agree with Mr. Hassan and would stress to maintain contact, remain non-judgemental, and be patient.  This will be a long process of recovery, but it will be worth it.

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