Thought of the Month


"Removing individuality by demanding conformity to the group dress code."


      When the cult  enforces a dress code, the members start looking a lot alike. But the worst aspect of cloning is that the member's minds become just as uniform as their hair and dress. Members don't just look like the leader, they also talk and think like the leader.
      Cults simply rob members of their individuality.


Don't Trust Your Own Mind!

      1) Church members are taught that they cannot trust their own minds, that their thinking is somehow flawed. The cult members let the cult leader or cult elders do their thinking for them

      2) Members will be told that they have not prayed or studied meditated enough.

      3) Preached from the pulpit: Satan has corrupted your mind and you cannot trust your thinking.

      Abusive churches, past and present, are first and foremost characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, scripture and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line."In the abundance of counselors there is safety. He who trusts his own mind is a fool."

      Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day."

      Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of member's lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. Excommunication is common.

      What is a Cult? For those having difficulty understanding what is a cult and what is not, it is best to keep in perspective that cults generally B.I.T.E -- that is, they use behavioral, informational, thought, and emotional control to obtain and maintain their flock. These four components are guidelines. Although most groups practice these four aspects of mind control, not all will practice them to the extreme. On Behavior Control, On Information Control, On Thought Control, On Emotional Control, what is the overall effect? What matters most is the overall impact these thought-stop processes have on a recruit's free will and ability to make personal choices. A person's uniqueness, talents, skills, creativity, and free will should be encouraged and not suppressed in any healthy group. Mind control seeks to mold recruits into the image of the cult leader(s), although recruits may not be aware of this. This process is called "cloning" from a psychological perspective. Recruits' "new identities" within a cult are the result of a systematic process to dissociate them from previous identities, including beliefs and values as well as significant relationships. The end result is the creation of a dual identity: the dominant "cult identity" that is constantly at war with the subconscious old identity.

      Here is a simple self-test to take to determine whether or not the group in concern is a high-pressure, destructive group, commonly referred to as a "cult". Be fair to yourself and give yourself time to think about each and how the group in question may have implemented these:

      Loss of free will and control over one's life.
      Only our sect will survive Armaggedon.
      Loss of spontaneity or sense of humor.
      Inability to form intimate friendships outside of the cult or flexible relationships.
      Only our church has the correct interpretation of the Scriptures
      Psychological deterioration (including but not limited to hallucinations).
      We are God's Chosen Children.
      Development of a dependency on the cult and it's teachings.
      Only our sect is being trained or purified to be used for Gods purpose.

      If you marked off the majority of the scenarios presented on this form (over four), then you might seriously consider the possibility that the group in question is a cult.


      (1) Behavior Control

      Behavior control is described as the regulation of one's physical and mental reality. A new recruit is coerced repeatedly to squelch his/her critical-thinking skills and gut instincts in return for group approval and inclusion. Exerting such a control over people allows high-pressure groups to determine most or all of the following:

      • Where, how, and with whom recruits live and associate.

      • What clothing, colors, or hairstyles to wear.

      • Forbid the use of cosmetics.

      • Which foods/ drinks are accepted or rejected.

      • How much financial dependence recruits are to have on the group, what percentage of recruits income are collected for group's purposes.

      • How much time is spent on leisure activities such as relaxing, sleeping, leisure activities, and vacationing. Once  behavior control is put into effect, recruits respond and react accordingly. The recruits will:

      • Unwittingly commit themselves to the required indoctrination sessions and group rituals.

      • Relinquish many personal decision-making processes and go to the group to determine minor and/or major live  decisions.

      • Are required to report all doubts about the group, perceived negative thoughts, personal feelings, and external activities to their superiors.

      • Undergo endless cycles of verbal and or physical abuse, then being praised or rewarded.

      • Steer clear of individualism and independent thought as group-thought prevails.

      • Adhere to often unforeseen rigid rules and regulations.

      • Develop a need for obedience to and dependency on the group


        (2) Information Control

        Information control in cults can involve six key elements:

        Outside Information Forbidden
        Levels of Information
        Spying and Survelliance
        Group Propaganda
        Un-confidential Confessions`


          Cult members will often:


      •   Deliberately withhold information from recruits

      •   Distort information to make it appear acceptable

      •   Lie to obtain their goal


         Outside Information Forbidden

          Access to information outside of that of the group is minimized or discouraged.
          These restrictions are set on:


      •   Certain books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio shows that expose the group

      •   Critical information pertaining to the internal problems within the group

      •   Written critiques, letters, editorials, or history of involvements of former members of the group

      Levels of Information

      Often, and necessarily so within cults, information is compartmentalized. That is, only certain top-notch members are privy to exactly what is happening in the leadership and with the group as a whole. Information pertaining to the group doctrine is fed in small, digestible spoonfuls to new recruits for a reason -- so that they remain ignorant for the time being of the workings of the system. Leaders are seen as possessing what Lifton called "sacred science," or having the ability to decipher and interpret doctrines, philosophies, etc, in a way that no one else has ever done or could ever do.


    • Information is not freely accessible.

    • Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid.

    • Leadership decides who "needs to know" what.


      Spying and Surveillance

    • Pairing up with "buddy" system to monitor and control.

    • Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership.


      Group Propaganda

    • Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.

    • Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources.


      Non-Confidentiality Confession

    • Information about "sins" used to abolish identity boundaries.

    • Past "sins" used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution.

      (3) Thought Control

      Here are a few guidelines for thought control:

Need to internalize the group's doctrine as "the truth"

  • Map = Reality

  • "All-or-none" mentality

  • Good against evil

  • Us against them (inside versus outside)

Adopt "loaded" language characterized by "thought-terminating cliché"

Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words."

Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged.

Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.

  • Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking

  • Chanting, meditating, praying

  • Speaking in "tongues"

  • Singing or humming

Group is unquestionable

No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate


No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful

        (4) Emotional Control

      Emotional control allows cults to manipulate and narrow the range of a recruit's feelings. The objective of cults is to make recruits think that any doubts about the group is their fault, and never that of the leader(s) or the group. Any negativism toward the group is often misdirected back to the recruit -- causing the recruit to internalize their doubts.

      This section contains the following:

      Guilt Association
      Fear Induction
      Phobia Indoctrination

      Guilt Association

      Cults exude severe amounts of guilt, typically, in association with the following:

    •  Who you are (and why you are not living up to your potential)

    •  Who your family is (those from dysfunctional families are to attribute their dysfunctional past to their not being a member of the group yet, those from well-adjusted families are to feel guilty for having had it so good)

    •  What secrets lie in your past (sexual history, childhood mistakes, any past criminal involvement overly emphasized)

    •  With whom you are affiliated (the company you keep, boyfriend/girlfriend, family, friends etc.)

    •  What you think (how you feel, and what you do about your feeling, whether what you think and feel is acceptable to the group)

    •  Social guilt (recruit is made to feel inadequate because of his/her social status)

    •  Historical guilt (recruit is forced to take on the oppression of his/her ancestors and the plight of martyred persons)


      Fear Induction

      In order for guilt induction to successfully operate, cults must be able to instill fear in their followers:

    •  Fear of thinking independently (recruits wonder whether they are making right decisions, what the consequences will be if they think independently)

    •  Fear of the "outside" world (recruits have a "we/they" mentality and generally see all in the group as "saved," yet all outside the group as "lost")

    •  Fear of enemies (recruits are indoctrinated to be very paranoid of all those on the outside including the government, cult awareness groups, and/or society in general)

    •  Fear of losing salvation (recruits taught that salvation is attained only through group affiliation and nowhere else)

    •  Fear of being shunned (recruits often risk losing family, friends, job, etc. if deciding to leave, many cults "mark" or otherwise collectively shun former members)

    •  Fear of disapproval (recruits learn to live according to the laws of the leaders and that deviating from these laws are detrimental to one's well-being as well as that of those in the group)



      Cults often deal in extremes. Here are a few examples of extremism in cults:

    •  Extremes of emotional highs and lows (rewards and punishments go hand-in-hand)

    •  Ritual and often public confessions of sins (confessions provoked and exaggerated by inductor, i.e. a recruit who confesses having had a few beers is labeled as an alcoholic)

    •  "We/they" mentality in which group sees itself as better than the rest of the world as the only ones capable of accurate doctrinal interpretation (also called "sacred science")


      Phobia Indoctrination

      Phobia indoctrination is the programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the group or even questioning the leadership's authority. Recruits are manipulated to the extent that they cannot visualize a positive and successful future without being in the group. They are taught that horrific consequences will ensue if they are to leave (i.e., "hell," "demon possession," accidents, suicide, and/or insanity, etc.) Often, former cult members are so confused upon leaving that the group's predictions become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many former cult members have killed themselves because that was exactly what the group said they would do. Those who leave are often shunned and rejected by the group. From the group perspective, there is never a legitimate reason to leave. Those who leave are perceived as "weak" or "undisciplined," "nonspiritual" or "worldly," "brainwashed by family, friends, counselors" and/or seduced by the world of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.


      Eight Conditions of Thought Reform

      Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism by Robert Jay Lifton, W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1963.

      Milieu Control

      Purposeful limitation of all forms of communication with outside world. Environment control and the control of human communication. Not just communication between people but communication within people's minds to themselves.

      Mystical Manipulation

      Potential convert is convinced of the higher purpose within the special group. Everyone is manipulating everyone, under the belief that it advances the "ultimate purpose." Experiences are engineered to appear to be spontaneous, when, in fact, they are contrived to have a deliberate effect. People mistakenly attribute their experiences to spiritual causes when, in fact, they are concocted by human beings.


      Only by pushing toward perfection, as the group views goodness, will the recruit be able to contribute. The environment demands that personal boundaries are destroyed and that every thought, feeling, or action that does not conform with the group's rules be confessed; little or no privacy.

      Self-sanctification through Purity

      Public confessional periods used to get members to verbalize and discuss their innermost fears & anxieties as well as past imperfections. The creation of a guilt and shame milieu by holding up standards of perfection that no human being can accomplish. People are punished and learn to punish themselves for not living up to the group's ideals.

      Aura of Sacred Science

      Idea that the cult's laws, rules and regulations are absolute and, therefore, to be followed automatically. The group's belief is that their dogma is absolutely scientific and morally true. No alternative viewpoint is allowed. No questions of the dogma are permitted.

      Loaded Language

      The invention of a new vocabulary, confusing well-known words with their own meanings, trite cliches. Controlling words help to control people's thoughts. A totalist group uses totalist language to make reality compressed into black or white using thought-terminating cliches. Non-members cannot simply comprehend what cult members are talking about. The words constrict rather than expand human understanding.

      Doctrine over Person

      Past experience and values invalid to new cult morality--value of individual insignificant compared to value of group. No matter what a person experiences, it is the belief of the dogma which is important. Group belief supersedes conscience and integrity.

      Dispensed Existence

      Elitist world view--sharp line drawn by cult between those who have been saved, chosen, etc. (the cult member) and those who are lost, in the dark, etc., (the rest of the world). The group decides who has a right to exist and does not. Former members are seen as "weak" or "lost" and even "the enemy." There is no other legitimate alternative to the group.




    Back to Painful Truth menu

            The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2010 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.

    Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.