Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Follow Up To: What Are The Marks Of A 'Mind-Control' Religion Or Church.

Mr. Kenny Clarke shares another article excerpted from another book. Chapter two of Steven Hassan's Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, is an interesting read indeed.

Releasing The Bonds
The Evolution of the BITE Model
(Chapter 2, excerpted, of Steven Hassan's Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. FOM Press, 2000, Copyrighted, all rights reserved. Permission to use or reprint must be granted in writing.)
When done reading, click here for chapter 3


There are three components to Festinger's theory of control of behavior, control of thoughts, and control of emotions. Each component can be effected by the other two. It is by manipulating these three elements that cults gain control over a person's identity. Through my experience working with former cult members, I have identified a fourth component that is equally important control of information. When you control the information that a person is allowed to receive, you limit his capacity for independent thought. These four factors, which can be more easily remembered as BITE (Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotions), will serve as the foundation for your understanding of mind control. It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.


I. Behavior Control

1. Regulation of individual's physical reality

a. Where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates
b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears
c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects
d. How much sleep the person is able to have
e. Financial dependence
f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations

2. Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
3. Need to ask permission for major decisions
4. Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors
5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques -- positive and negative)
5. Individualism discouraged; "group think" prevails
6. Rigid rules and regulations
7. Need for obedience and dependency

II. Information Control

1. Use of deception

a. Deliberately holding back information
b. Distorting information to make it more "acceptable"
c. Outright lying

2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged

a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
b. Critical information
c. Former members
d. Keep members so busy they don't have time to think and check things out.

3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines

a. Information is not freely accessible
b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid
c. Leadership decides who "needs to know" what and when

4. Spying on other members is encouraged

a. Pairing up with "buddy" system to monitor and control
b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
c. Individual behavior monitored by whole group

5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda

a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, and other media
b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources

6. Unethical use of confession

a. Information about "sins" used to abolish identity boundaries
b. Past "sins" used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution

III. Thought Control

1. Need to internalize the group's doctrine as "Truth"

a. Adopting the group's map of reality as "Reality" (Map = Reality)
b. Black and White thinking
c. Good vs. Evil
d. Us vs. Them (inside vs. outside)

2. Use of "loaded" language (for example, "thought-terminating clich├ęs"). Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding, and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words."
3. Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged.
4. Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states
5. Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories
6. Use of thought-stopping techniques, which shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts

a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
b. Chanting
c. Meditating
d. Praying
e. Speaking in "tongues"
f. Singing or humming

7. Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate
8. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful

IV. Emotional Control

1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings
2. Make the person feel that if there are ever any problems, it is always their fault, never the leader's or the group's
3. Excessive use of guilt

a. Identity guilt

1. Who you are (not living up to your potential) 2. Your family
3. Your past
4. Your affiliations
5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions

b. Social guilt
c. Historical guilt

4. Excessive use of fear

a. Fear of thinking independently
b. Fear of the "outside" world
c. Fear of enemies
d. Fear of losing one's "salvation"
e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group
f. Fear of disapproval

5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows
6. Ritual and often public confession of "sins"
7. Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader's authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.

a. No happiness or fulfillment outside of the group
b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc.
c. Shunning of leave takers; fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family
d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group's perspective, people who leave are "weak," "undisciplined," "unspiritual," "worldly," "brainwashed by family or counselor," or "seduced by money, sex, rock and roll."


Behavior control is the incremental regulation of a person's physical reality, which includes both his environment (where he lives, who he associates with, what he eats, when he sleeps) and his conduct (tasks, rituals, and other activities). Behavior control comes in many forms, including sleep deprivation or manipulation, change of diet, invasion of privacy, separation from friends and other newcomers, and isolation for workshops or other indoctrination exercises.

Cults often impose an oppressive time schedule on their members' lives in order to control behavior. When members are not engaged in cult rituals and indoctrination activities, they are typically assigned specific goals that restrict their free time and behavior -- anything to keep them busy. In a destructive cult, there is always work to be done.

Some extreme cults, like Heaven's Gate, control behavior by requiring members to rarely be alone, often having them together eating, working, meeting, and sleeping 24 hours a day. A former member of Heaven's Gate told me that Applewhite decided "how we lived, what we wore, how we cut our hair, what we ate, how we slept. We had all our funds in a group pot, all our time spent with the group." The Bible based cult, Twelve Tribes, employs all of the same tactics, only in the name of God. To discourage individualism, members of some cults are assigned to a "buddy," discipling partner, or central figure who monitors their daily behavior. All of a cult's members are bound together by group rituals, which may include mannerisms such as speech, posture, or facial expression. In the Moonies, since Koreans were considered to be the master race, we were made to feel special when we sang Korean folk songs, ate kim chee (Korean pickled cabbage), bowed, or removed our shoes before entering a group center.

The pyramid-shaped structure of cults allows leaders to enforce a strict system of rewards and punishments for all behaviors. Obedience and good performance are rewarded with public praise, gifts, or promotions, while disobedience and poor performance are punished with criticism, demotions, or assignment of menial tasks like cleaning toilets.

One of the easiest ways to understand behavior control is to look at the difference between a legitimate church and a Bible cult. In a legitimate church, if your mother is sick or injured, you might go to the minister or pastor and say, "My mother is ill. I'm going to visit her in the hospital. Please say a prayer for her." In a Bible cult, you are expected to humbly approach to the leader or sub-leader and ask, "Can I have permission to go visit my mother?" In the more destructive cults, the permission is often denied, or the person is told that their work in the group is more important. In the Moonies, whenever leaders didn't want members to get emotionally involved with their family, we were told to "Leave the dead to bury the dead." Of course, all outsiders were considered to be "spiritually" dead.

Other groups tell their members, "You can't choose your wife or husband; it has to be arranged," or "you have to get permission from the elders." If you fall in love with someone, it has to be a member of your group -- and if you fall in love with someone who isn't in the group, then you will be expelled, excommunicated, or disfellowshipped. Cult members often have to ask permission to go to college, or to study a particular subject. In the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses, members are told not to celebrate birthdays or holidays, like Easter or Christmas, because if they do, they will be in sin. I know a woman who was excommunicated from the Jehovah's Witnesses because she sent a birthday card to a non-member. Many cult members are not allowed to step foot inside a church because it's considered to be evil and a sin. When a cult tells members that they can't associate with former members, even with their best friends or members of their own families, it is using both behavior control and information control.


The human mind cannot function properly without information. By controlling both the flow of information and people's ability to process it, cults prevent them from making sound judgements about their own lives or the group's actions.

Information control begins during recruitment, when cults withhold or distort information to draw people in. People don't join cults -- cults recruit people. People become involved with cults when they are:

Approached by a friend or relative who is already a member
Approached by a stranger who befriends them (often a member of the opposite sex)
Invited to a cult-sponsored event, such as a lecture, symposium, or movie
Enticed into buying a cult book advertised as a "best-seller"
Invited to a seemingly harmless "Bible study" session
Curious about a personal or classified ad, flyer, or poster
Recruited when they take a job with a cult-owned business
Very often, a person does not suspect he is being recruited. Perhaps a friend or relative has just had some incredible insights or experiences and wants to share them. If the recruiter is a stranger, more often than not, the person believes he has made a new friend. But in reality, friendships don't form overnight. They take time to develop, with each person gradually sharing information in a balanced way. Cult recruiters are skilled at drawing information from people without revealing much about themselves or the group. They don't tell people up front who they are, what they believe, and what they want from them.

By compartmentalizing information, cults keep members from seeing the big picture. People are given only the information they are deemed "ready for," or as much as they "need to know" to perform their jobs. Cult ideologies allow for many levels of "truth," including "outsider" and "insider" doctrines. The more moderate outsider material, which contains diluted versions of the group's beliefs, is given to the general public and new converts. Recruits who ask questions are often told that they are not yet mature enough to know the whole truth. Insider doctrines are reserved for people who are already thoroughly indoctrinated. In this way, assessments of cult doctrines are delayed until the recruit's ability to make them objectively is impaired.

A common form of information control involves blocking out any critical or negative points of view. Some cults simply forbid members to have access to any non-cult material -- such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the Internet -- while others have more subtle ways of controlling information. For example, to restrict access on the Internet, Scientology provides software to members that automatically blocks access to sites by former members and critics.

The control of information also includes the supervision of members' interactions with all other people. People are expected to spy on one another and report improper activities or comments, such as criticism of the leader, doctrine, or organization. This information, as well as anything divulged by a member during confession, is often used against people to manipulate them. Some cults have even wire-tapped telephones and intercepted letters to gain information that could be used to control former and present members.

Looking at a group's attitude towards information is the fastest way to evaluate whether it is using destructive mind control. A legitimate organization will allow people the freedom to think for themselves, read whatever they like, and talk to whomever they choose in order to arrive at their own decision, whereas a destructive mind control group will want to do the thinking for people.


In a mind control cult, the group's doctrine is seen as absolute "Truth" and the only answer to people's problems. Cult doctrine teaches its members to think: "We are the way! We are the truth! You who are not in the group are lost. We know, and you do not know." It preaches black and white thinking, dividing the world into simplistic dichotomies good versus evil, us versus them. The cult doctrine is reality. Believers have a hard time approaching the doctrine as a mere map or set of guidelines that are open to interpretation as well as alternatives.

Many cults have their own "loaded language" or coded symbols and expressions, including buzz words, cliches, and trite platitudes that are used to shut down the thought process. In the Moonies, whenever something went wrong, it was called "indemnity," which meant that you had to meet a spiritual condition to right a past wrong. If it rained while Moon was giving a lecture at Yankee Stadium, it was "indemnity" because America wasn't loving the Messiah enough. Words are the tools that we use for thinking. If you can control the words people use, you can control their thoughts.

In the majority of destructive cults, most of the techniques members learn are not taught directly or consciously, but rather through the process of behavioral modeling. They learn by watching older members, listening to the leader, and modeling themselves after their behavior. Eventually, they unconsciously pick up some of the leaders' behaviors, including speech patterns and gesticulations. When I was being taught how to lecture in the Moon group, I learned by attending countless lectures, observing, listening, and praying to God to let His spirit come into me so that I could be like the older brother who was teaching. Four years after I got out of the Moonies, I started learning more about hypnosis, and I realized I had been trained to use hypnotic processes without even knowing what hypnosis was. For example, I was taught that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and when you talk to people you should look at a point three inches behind their eyes. I later found out that this technique was actually a hypnotic induction pattern, called eye fixation, which can be used to produce an altered state of consciousness, or "trance," in other people. These unethical uses of hypnotic techniques can be used to confuse and disorient a person, thereby setting them up to become obedient slaves.

Although I am aware of several cult leaders specifically studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), I suspect that most cult groups use informal hypnotic techniques to induce trance states. They tend to use what are called "naturalistic" hypnotic techniques. Practicing meditation to shut down thinking, chanting a phrase repetitively for hours, or reciting affirmations are all powerful ways to promote spiritual growth. But they can also be used unethically, as methods for mind control indoctrination.

When a person enters a trance, the conscious, analytical mind is disengaged. The subconscious mind is engaged. Trance is not sleep, but focused attention. If you have the ability to focus your attention, then you can enter an altered state of consciousness. It is a gift to be able to shut out noise and distraction, but it can also be a liability if a cult recruiter is trying to influence you. When you're in a trance and someone with an ulterior motive or hidden agenda tries to indoctrinate you, you're that much more susceptible. In this very special state of relaxation, messages can easily take root in your subconscious. Some cults even use hypnosis to manipulate people's memories or implant false memories.

Cult members are taught that the leader is always correct, and are not allowed to doubt or question him or her. Thoughts that go along with the leader are good. Any other thoughts need to be pushed down by chanting, praying, or speaking in tongues. Any negative feelings are always blamed on the individual. Any disillusionment means the member is doing something wrong: "You are not really committing yourself to God," or "You are not meditating correctly." No room is left to say, "Maybe the leader is wrong," or "Maybe the doctrine misquotes the Bible." Consequently, the member's ability to reality-test is suppressed. If you can only think positively, you bury your bad thoughts and feelings. Meditation or prayer, used in an automatic way, can shut off critical thinking. Through a technique called "thought stopping," these ordinarily useful and valuable actions are programmed to become mechanical whenever the member feels doubt, anxiety, or uncertainty.

Thought stopping is a behavior modification technique that can be used ethically. It is currently being used successfully as a technique in behavior modification programs. People who are chronically depressed often have a running negative conversation with themselves: "I'm stupid," "Nobody cares about me," "Life stinks." Running over and over in their heads, these repetitious negative thoughts keep them locked in depression. When used in an ethical, therapeutic way, thought stopping substitutes positive thoughts for these negative ones: "I'm growing," "I'm getting better." In this case, there is no hidden agenda. The patient, not the therapist, is in control of the behavior modification.

In the Moonies, I was told thought stopping would help me grow spiritually, and allow me to remain centered and focused on God. I didn't know it was a mind control technique. I had been indoctrinated to believe that thinking negative thoughts would allow "evil spirits" to invade me. When someone would ask me, "Why does Moon have an M-16 gun factory?" I would automatically start chanting in my head: "Glory to heaven, Peace on earth." Frequently in many Bible-based cults the "devil" or "satan" is the source of the member's doubts. Reciting scripture, speaking in tongues, and humming can be used to stop critical thinking.

From the point of view of a mind control cult, there is never a legitimate reason to leave. The only people who leave are weak, selfish, or cannot control their need for sex, drugs, or other addictive substances. In the mindset of the group, people who leave are incapable of sacrificing or transcending spiritually.


Nobody sets out to join a group with the intention of being deceived and manipulated. Most ex-members will tell you, "During the indoctrination process I had a voice inside of me saying, 'Be careful! Get the heck out of here!" In order to achieve emotional control, the cult has to silence that voice.

Emotions tell us things we need to know. Emotional control diminishes that self-awareness by distorting and narrowing the range of a person's feelings. Cults gain control over members' emotions by keeping them off balance. On the one hand, most cults make people feel special by showering them with praise -- a practice called "love bombing" -- to encourage loyalty and devotion. On the other hand, they spend a lot of time and energy manipulating their members' sense of guilt and fear to make them dependent on the group. Anger, homesickness, and jealousy are called "selfish" feelings. Members are expected to always think of the group, and never feel for themselves.

Fear! Lots and lots of fear! Although the group's message starts out with love and idealism, once a person gets indoctrinated into the inner levels, his world becomes one of fear -- fear that the planet is going to explode, fear of nuclear holocaust, fear that he will lose his spiritual connection, fear that he will be possessed by the devil. Cults instill fear to bind members to the group, to such an extent that members may become paranoid or phobic.

A phobia is an irrational fear reaction to someone or something. An intense phobic reaction can cause physical responses like racing heartbeat, dry mouth, sweating, and muscle tension. Although I will touch on the subject here, Chapter 10 of this book describes in detail how cults practice systematic phobia indoctrination, and how you can unlock the phobias that make it impossible for the member to even conceive of ever being happy and successful outside the group.

Phobias often immobilize people and keep them from doing the things they truly want to do. Indeed, phobias can rob people of free choice, and in mind control cults, phobias are methodically implanted to keep members from feeling they can leave the group and be happy. For example, the Moonies tell members that ten generations of their ancestors are stuck in the spirit world and are depending on them for salvation. If they don't do what the leadership tells them, all of their relatives in the spirit world will accuse them throughout eternity of lacking faith and betraying the Messiah. In the Jehovah's Witnesses, a person can have a severe phobia against merely walking into a church building. I remember hearing about an incident involving a young Jehovah's Witness who refused to participate in an emergency evacuation from a public school into a church. The ten year old boy, absolutely would not enter the building, and had to be carried in crying and screaming, because he thought the church was filled with "devils."

I've encountered people whose preexisting phobias were used against them in a cult. During her childhood, one woman had been locked in a closet with a rat. When she got involved with a cult group, she was told that if she ever betrayed the leader, she would be trapped in a room with 10,000 rats with no way out for eternity. I once met a former Hare Krishna member who was told that if he ever left the group, he would suffer 10,000 reincarnations as a roach or a flea. Since I was raised in a Jewish family, the Moonies told me that 6 million Jews had died in the Holocaust to pay for the indemnity of the "sin" of failing to accepting Jesus as their savior. These horrible deaths, they said, set the foundation for Moon, the Messiah, to come again -- and if I didn't follow Moon, all of these people would be angry and accuse me for the rest of eternity.

Control of behavior, information, thoughts, and emotions on their own, each has the potential to significantly alter a person's identity. When all forms of control are used, the effect is much more extreme. The BITE model is a guideline for identifying and understanding aspects of mind control. Most destructive groups do not use all of the criteria I mentioned. A group that changes names, insists on a dress code, lives on an isolated compound, and cuts off contact with all outsiders is likely to be more dangerous than a group that does not. But what matters most is the overall impact on a particular individual on his free will and ability to think independently.

Keep in mind, the BITE model exists on a continuum and can range from slight to very intense between groups. Also, the degree of mind control can vary greatly within a particular group. Someone at the widest ends of the pyramid and, especially, fringe members will usually experience much less control than someone at the core. I look at the core membership of organization, not its fringe members, in my evaluation. For example, the Transcendental Meditation (TM) organization fits the BITE model although most TMers are on the fringe -- they pay their money, are initiated and receive their "private" mantra, practice the 15 minute TM technique twice a day, and go no further. Those who go on to advanced courses, meditate for hours each day, learn to "fly," go to Maharishi International University, and come to view their Master as the only enlightened being on Earth, surely fit the mind control model.

Although influence processes are evident in virtually all aspects of modern life, constructive influences can easily be differentiated from destructive ones. In a benevolent group, influence processes are positive and ethical and the locus of control remains within the individual. Influence is used only to promote independent thinking and decision-making, self-awareness, and self-control. Individuality, creativity, and free will are respected and promoted. People recognize and understand the influences around them. Access to diverse information sources is encouraged.

In a destructive cult, the locus of control shifts to the group or its leader. The new recruit abdicates his ability to make decisions. A pseudo-identity is created which suppresses the authentic self and surrenders control. Individuality is submerged, and free will subverted. People are kept in the dark, and the very processes that influence them are made to seem mystical or spiritual. Access to any contravening information is cut off.


Cults consistently manipulate the elements that form an individual's identity, including important beliefs, values, and relationships. Cult mind control dissociates a person from his authentic identity, and makes his new cult identity dependent on the group. From a mental health perspective, cult mind control splits elements of an individual's psyche into another distinct personality. The cult member actually comes to exhibit symptoms of a "dissociative disorder," as defined in the DSM-IV, the diagnostic manual for the American Psychiatric Association (300.15). His behavior can also resemble that of a person with a dependent personality disorder.

One of the universal concerns of family and friends is their loved one's radical personality change. In order to be a good cult member, your loved one is taught how to manipulate and suppress his old self. The make-over often includes a new name, new clothes, new hair style, new manner of speech, new mannerisms, a new "family," new "friends," new thoughts, new emotions, and a new relationship with God.

Cult involvement seems to pull much of the common ground out from under family members, friends and their loved one. When you are talking to someone in a mind control cult, it is especially difficult to talk on a rational level. They are operating according to a different set of criteria than what makes sense to you in your model of reality. The use of destructive mind control techniques calls into question the very nature of any shared reality. After I joined the Moonies, my family and friends really didn't understand how the cult dismantled, or "unfroze," my personality. It was perfectly obvious to them that something was changing me into a person they did not recognize. By the time I "refroze" into the cult identity, they could no longer communicate with me in the ways they had previously.

The most common method for shaping a cult identity is pairing a new member with an older member. The "spiritual child" is instructed to imitate the "spiritual parent" in all ways -- even to the point of mimicking the tone of the leader's voice. The cult identity is, essentially, a clone of the cult leader. During my every waking moment -- and especially under trance -- I was being instructed to be a "small Sun Myung Moon." I wanted to think like him, act like him, feel like him, talk like him, and walk like him. The Bible cult, The International Church of Christ, encourages an intense imitation of one's leaders in its practice of "one-over-one discipling." This modeling technique serves several purposes. It keeps the "spiritual mentor" on his best behavior. It also whets the new member's appetite to become a respected model so he can train junior members of his own.

After I left the Moonies, I found Edgar Schein's book, Coercive Persuasion, extremely useful in understanding how cults impose a new identity on their members. Schein described the mind control process by using Kurt Lewin's model of thought reform:

Unfreezing: the process of breaking a person down
Changing: the indoctrination process
Refreezing: the process of reinforcing the new identity
I have adapted and expanded Kurt Lewin's three-stage model as described in Coercive Persuasion.


a. Disorientation/confusion
b. Sensory deprivation and/or sensory overload
c. Physiological manipulation

1. Sleep deprivation
2. Privacy deprivation
3. Change of diet

d. Hypnosis

1. Age regression
2. Visualizations
3. Storytelling and metaphors
4. Linguistic double binds, use of suggestion
5. Meditation, chanting, praying, singing

e. Get the person to question self-identity
f. Redefine individual's past (implant false memories, forget positive memories of the past)

a. Creation and imposition of new "identity," done step by step

1. Formally within indoctrination sessions
2. Informally by members, tapes, books, etc.

b. Use of Behavior Modification techniques

1. Rewards and punishments
2. Use of thought stopping techniques
3. Control of environment

c. Mystical manipulation
d. Use of hypnosis and other mind-altering techniques

1. Repetition, monotony, rhythm
2. Excessive chanting, praying, decreeing, visualizations

e. Use of confession and testimonials

a. New identity reinforced, old identity surrendered

1. Separate from the past; decrease contact or cut off friends and family
2. Give up meaningful possessions and donate assets
3. Start doing cult activities: recruit, fundraise, move in with members

b. New name, new clothing, new hairstyle, new language, new "family"
c. Pairing up with new role models, buddy system
d. The indoctrination continues: workshops, retreats, seminars, individual studies, group activities

As I looked back at my involvement with the Moonies, Lewin's three terms -- unfreezing, changing, and refreezing -- struck a chord in me. When I was first recruited, I experienced a meltdown of my personality. During indoctrination, I underwent a radical personality change. When my identity refroze, it was as if I had become a clone of our leader, Sun Myung Moon.

This aspect of cult indoctrination was scientifically demonstrated by Dr. Flavil Yeakley, a well-respected psychologist and a member of the mainline Church of Christ. He administered the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory Test to 800 members of The Boston Church of Christ, a cult group led by Kip McKean. At that time, this cult was trying to recruit members of the mainline Church of Christ. I suppose the leaders agreed to participate because they may have thought they could gain credibility with the two million member mainline Church of Christ Churches.

The Myers-Briggs Inventory describes sixteen basic personality types. Whatever your type, it should remain the same throughout your lifetime. The major categories are Introvert/Extrovert, Sensing/Intuitive, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving. A questionnaire is filled out that reveals a person's preferences and disposition. For example, Extroverts are outgoing and feel comfortable with others. Introverts prefer to be with books, computers, and by themselves. People who are more Sensing are more practical (realistic), while Intuitives can be described as more innovative (following hunches). Other categories are Thinking (making objective, impersonal judgements) and Feeling (emotional, personal). Those who are considered to be Perceiving tend to keep things open ended and wait until the last minute to make a decision, while those who are deemed Judging like to reach closure quickly by choosing as soon as possible.

Yeakley did something that was very creative. He had the members fill out the Personality Type Inventory Test three times. They were instructed to:

1. Answer each question the way they would have before they joined the group;
2. Fill it out as present members of the group; and
3. Fill it out projecting five years into the future.

When Yeakley correlated the data of the first test, he found that before members joined the group, they varied widely in their personality types. In the second test, the members were moving towards one personality type. They were beginning to match the personality type of the cult leader of The Boston Church of Christ. The third test showed even an almost universal move toward the leader's personality type. As a comparison group, Yeakley administered this test to members of Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches and mainline Churches of Christ. There was no personality change before, during, or after they joined their churches. Yeakley published the results of this study in his book, The Discipling Dilemma, which is available free on the Internet.

Everyone has an authentic self. Although a healthy individual will grow and mature over time, his personality type should never change. Changes in personality type often indicate unhealthy social pressure that forces a person to act as if he were someone else. The results of Yeakley's study showed that cults create this kind of pressure. It also verified the existence of a cult identity which binds and gags the authentic self like a straitjacket. In my opinion, Yeakley statistically demonstrated the effects of destructive mind control techniques.

When interacting with your loved one, it is essential that you recognize the differences between the pre-cult identity (before recruitment), the cult identity (during membership), and the person's authentic self, which stays with them forever. Even people who are born into cults have an authentic self that was suppressed at birth. It is the strength of the authentic self that makes it possible to rescue people from cults years, even decades, after becoming involved with the group. When informed family and friends begin working as a team to educate their loved one about mind control, the walls erected by the cult identity will begin to crumble.


(Chapter 2, excerpted, of Steven Hassan's Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves. FOM Press, 2000, Copyrighted, all rights reserved. Permission to use or reprint must be granted in writing.)

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