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,scriptureand 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
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:
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
What clothing, colors,
or hairstyles to wear.
Forbid the use of cosmetics.
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
such as relaxing, sleeping, leisure activities, and vacationing. Once behavior
put into effect, recruits respond and react accordingly. The
to the required indoctrination sessions and group rituals.
Relinquish many personal decision-making
and go to the group to determine minor and/or major live decisions.
Are required to report
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
Adhere to often unforeseen rigid
rules and regulations.
a need for obedience
to and dependency on
(2) Information Control
Information control in cults can involve
six key elements:
Deception Outside Information
Forbidden Levels of Information Spying and
Survelliance Group Propaganda Un-confidential
Cult members will often:
withhold information from recruits
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:
articles, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio shows that expose
information pertaining to the internal problems within the group
Written critiques, letters,
editorials, or history of involvements of former members of the
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
Information varies at different levels and
missions within pyramid.
Leadership decides who "needs to know"
Spying and Surveillance
Pairing up with
"buddy" system to monitor and control.
Reporting deviant thoughts,
feelings, and actions to leadership.
magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes,
Misquotations, statements taken out
of context from non-cult sources.
"sins" used to abolish identity
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
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.
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 Extremism Phobia Indoctrination
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-adjustedfamilies are to feel guilty for having had it so
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)
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 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,"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.