Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
On November 18, 1978, more than 900 people, including a US congressman, Leo Ryan, died because of cult leader Jim Jones at Jonestown, Guyana. More than 300 were children forced to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid by their parents who believed they were doing God’s will.
The techniques of undue influence have evolved dramatically and continue to do so. Today, a vast array of methods exist to deceive, manipulate, and indoctrinate people into closed systems of obedience and dependency. If you are listening to this updated audiobook for the first time, please know you have found a safe, respectful, compassionate place.
This audiobook can help you protect or regain your sanity, freedom, and health. It can also help you protect others from the use of mind-control techniques. In this 30th anniversary volume, you will find:
- New stories of people who fell under the sway of cults and other forms of undue influence but who were able to break free.
- New information on the many sophisticated ways that social media is now used for mind control.
- Updates on the many types of organizations that use mind control.
- Information on the neuroscience behind mind control.
- A look at what legislators, courts, mental-health professionals, and ordinary citizens can do to resist mind control and make our world a safer place.
Sadly, the essential information in this audiobook is still not widely known or understood. People around the world remain largely unprepared for the new realities of mind control. But you are far from helpless. There is a great deal you can do to stay safe, sane, and whole - and to help the people you care about to do the same. And if someone you love is already part of a mind-control group, there is much you can do to help them break free and rebuild their life. This audiobook will give you the tools you need.
As you listen to this audiobook, you will learn to develop, use, and trust your critical thinking skills; your intuition; your bodily and emotional awareness; your ability to ask the right questions; and your skill at doing quick, useful research. You'll also learn to create a healthy balance of openness and skepticism. As you will see, the entire process begins and ends with discernment.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 35 minutes|
|Audible.com Release Date||August 31, 2018|
|Publisher||Freedom of Mind Press|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #11,224 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#50 in Social Psychology
#67 in Medical Social Psychology & Interactions
#125 in Popular Social Psychology & Interactions
Reviewed in the United States on December 18, 2018
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Cult dynamics are linked with terrorism and human trafficking, pimping, religions such as Moonies, Boko Haram, and Scientology, and run-of-the-mill domination in personal relationships. Recent well-known examples include North Korea (national level), as well as Sun Myung Moon, David Koresh (Branch Davidians), Jim Jones (Jonestown), Charles Manson (mind controller) and Patty Hearst (controlled) at the individual level. Political cults usually have the word 'fringe' or extremist' attached and are organized around a particular political dogma - eg. Tea Partiers. Psychotherapy/educational cults hold expensive workshops and seminars providing attendees with 'insight' and enlightenment' aimed at creating a hypnotic euphoria. Commercial cults deceive and manipulate people to work for little or no pay in hopes of getting rich - eg. pyramid-schemes, door-to-door sales. Moonies categorize people as thinkers, feelers, doers, or believers - with a different recruiting approach aimed at each.
We are all vulnerable. Many former cult members have become doctors, teachers, counselors, inventors, and artists.
Destructive cult leaders emphasize obedience, dependency, and fear. Information is manipulated and controlled, it is authoritarian, no guiding ethical principles, and focuses on controlling, preserving, and acquiring power and information. In some cults, members are systematically made to be phobic about ever leaving the group - eg. die of some horrible disease, hit by a car, or a nuclear holocaust will occur.
Con artists are professional liars. Their greatest assets are their looks (they don't look like a criminal) and ability to 'charm.'
People being recruited by cults are approached 1)by a friend/relative who is already a member, 2)by a stranger (often of the opposite sex) who befriends them, 3)through a cult-sponsored event - lecture, movie), or 4)through social media. A majority recruited into destructive cults were approached at a vulnerable time of stress in their lives - eg. moving to a new town, breaking off a relationship, losing a loved one. The more a 'recruiter' learns about a potential recruit (hopes, dreams, fears, relationships, job and interests), the greater their opportunity manipulate the person. Effusive praise and flattery, deliberate deception about the group, and/or evasive maneuvering to avoid answering questions may be used.
Elderly people are quite likely to be recruited - solicited for heavy financial contributions or public-relations endorsements; young people, for the most part, provide the core workers. Scientology recruits are often offered a 'scholarship' - in reality, a 90-hour work week. Few people with disabilities are recruited in cults because it takes time, money, and effort to assist them.
New members typically enjoy a 'honeymoon phase' for the first few weeks/months - treated as though they were royalty. Most cult members publicly say they are happier than ever, despite their lives having become full of sacrifice, pain and fear. They can't objectively see what is happening to them. Some destructive groups essentially make addicts out of their members. Eg. some pimps get their victims hooked on heroin etc. to make them dependent. Those fully hooked donate large amounts of their own money and asses to the groups - sometimes everything they own in exchange for care and meaning for the rest of their lives. This leaves the person dependent on the group for everything.
Those with health problems are often sent as indigents to a hospital or free clinic, or told their illness is caused by not totally devoting themselves to the group. Children are often raised communally and taught to place their allegiance with the cult leader or group, not their parents. they often receive an inferior education, if any.
Domestic abuse survivors often describe their relationship with an abuser as a cult with one follower and one leader. A multi-level marketing business that makes its money by misleading and recruiting ever more sales associates is a marketing cult. A pimp with four women under his control forms a cult of five. A sweatshop of foreign workers who cannot leave after being economically lured is a labor trafficking cult.
How would one know if they are under mind control? Most people realize this would be impossible to determine without outside help. Calling them 'brainwashed robots' makes them more committed than ever. Once people are away from their controllers and back in familiar surroundings, the effects tend to dissipate. Brainwashing is especially effective in producing compliance to demands such as signing a false confession/denouncing one's government - their believe then change to rationalize what they have done, at least until they are freed. Mind control is more subtle - the victim typically regards the controllers as friends or peers, usually unwittingly participate by cooperating with their controllers. Destructive cults commonly induce trances in their members through lengthy indoctrination sessions - repetition, boredom, and forced attention are very conducive to the induction of a trance - slowed blink and swallow reflexes, and blank, neutral facial expressions result.
How was it that people who had led ordinary lives prior to Hitler's rise became involved in a deliberate attempt to exterminate whole groups of people? Behavior modification techniques (eg. smiling when a professor moved towards the left), conformity, and obedience were keys. Cognitive dissonance is another technique - changing a person's behavior will result in his thoughts/feelings changing to minimize dissonance. Then those spared predicted disasters (eg. alien invasion) are told that the aliens had witnessed their faithful vigil and decided to spare the Earth, creating more commitment than ever, public humiliation notwithstanding.
In some of the more restrictive groups, members have to ask permission from leaders to do almost anything - eg. call a friend or relative not in the group. Every hour of the day has to be accounted for, and people may be assigned a constant 'buddy' or place in a small unit of members. Persons performing well are given public praise and sometimes promotions/gifts, while those performing poorly may be singled out and criticized, forced to do manual labor such as cleaning toilets, fast, staying up for an all-night vigil, etc. Those actively participating in their own punishment will eventually come to believe they deserve it. Those not behaving sufficiently enthusiastically may be accused of being selfish or impure.
Information control is the second component of mind control Deception is the biggest tool of information control because it robs people of the ability to make informed decisions. Outright lying, withholding information and distorting information are essential strategies, especially when recruiting new members. In many totalistic cults, people have minimal access to non-cult newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and online information. Certain information may be forbidden and labeled as unhealthy. People are not allowed to talk to each other about anything critical of the leader, doctrine, or organization. Members must spy on each other and report improper activities or comments to leaders. New converts are discouraged from sharing doubts with anyone other than a superior. Newbies are typically chaperoned, until they prove their devotion and loyalty. Most importantly, people are told to avoid contact with ex-members and critics - some go so far as to screen members' letters and phone calls.
Information is usually compartmentalized to keep members from knowing the big picture - in larger groups they are told only as much as they 'need to know.' Eg. Moonies are often ignorant of their cult's involvement in arms manufacture, and Scientologists of the imprisonment of 11 leaders for the largest infiltration of government agencies ever undertaken. Often an advanced member who thinks they know a cult's complete doctrine is still several layers away from what the higher ups know.
Thought control is the third major component of mind control - to be a good member, a person must learn to manipulate their own thought processes. Usually the doctrine is absolutist - dividing everything into black vs. white. Complex situations are reduced to cult clichés that govern how a member thinks in any situation. The clichés and special language helps members feel special and separates them from the general public, as well as serving to confuse newcomers. Newbies think they merely have to study harder to understand the truth (expressed in this new language) - reality, however, is that this loaded language helps them learn how not to think or understand. Another key aspect of thought control involves training members to block out information critical of the group - members become so twisted they defend their own new cult against their old, former self. The first line of defense includes denial.
Information transmitted to a cult member is perceived as an attack on either the leader, the doctrine or the group - creating a defensive wall that members are trained to disbelieve. Factual information that challenges the cult view does not register properly. Members are also taught to use 'thought-stopping' - when experiencing a 'bad' thought, they halt the 'negativity' and center themselves, shutting out anything that threatens or challenges the cult's version of reality. Techniques can include concentrated praying, chanting aloud or silently, meditating, speaking in tongues, singing or humming. A person who employs extensive thought-stopping techniques normally goes through a difficult withdrawal process before they can overcome this addiction. Since the doctrine is perfect and the leader is perfect, any problem that crops up in assumed to be the fault of the individual member. They learn to always blame themselves and simply work harder.
Emotional control attempts to manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings. Either you feel wonderful as a 'chosen' member of the elite, or you are broken, unspiritual, have bad karma, need to try harder and become a better, more devoted member. Most cult members can't see that guild and fear are being used to control them. Members are conditioned to always take the blame. Fear is used to bind group members together - the first means is the creation of an outside enemy (the FBI, Satan, non-members will shoot of torture/prosecute you). Happiness is often defined as suffering so you can grow closer to God or the cult leader.
Many groups exercise complete control over interpersonal relationships. Leaders can and do tell people to avoid certain members or spend time with others. People are often kept off balance - praised one minute and tongue-lashed the next. Misuse of reward and punishment fosters dependency and helplessness, and is commonplace in cults.
Confession of past sins or wrong attitudes is also a powerful device for emotional control Rarely is that old sin truly forgiven - the minute they get out of line, it will be hauled out and used to manipulate them into obeying. This can even extend to blackmail if one leaves the cult.
The most powerful technique for emotional control is phobia indoctrination. Members will have a panic reaction at the thought of leaving the group - they will be lost and defenseless in the face of dark horrors. (Cult leaders love to tell the public, 'Members are free to leave any time they want.')
Radical personality changes occurs all the time. Author Hassan explains how coercive and manipulative leaders/groups create psychological hostages out of vulnerable and well-intended humans - those going through painful life transitions or searching for higher truth. People who stay in such groups damage their self-esteem and their connection with the outside world. Some members suffer physical abuse, others become slaves.
The key to reversing mind control is to replace destructive bonds with healthy long-term relationships. In the way, however, are eg. Moonies who do a thorough job convincing people that former members are satanic and even being in their presence could be dangerous.
Hassan then presents Edgar Schein's three-step model for brainwashing, drawn from studies of American POWs captured by the Chinese during the Korean War. First comes unfreezing - challenging and breaking their understanding of themselves and their surroundings. Sleep deprivation, changed diets, and hypnotic processes - most effectively accomplished in a totally controlled environment like an isolated country estate (also a hotel ballroom). Sensory overload - bombardment by emotionally laden material at a rate faster than can be digested results in one's mind ceasing to evaluate material pouring in. Guided meditations, personal confessions, vigorous calisthenics, and even group singing are used. This also enforces privacy deprivation and thwarts a person's need to be alone, think and reflect.
Second comes 'changing.' Indoctrination takes place formally through seminars and rituals and informally bye spending time with members, reading, and listening to recordings and videos. Many of the unfreezing phase techniques continue in this phase. Repetition, monotony, rhythm. Recruits are told how bad the world is and that the unenlightened (they) have no idea how to fix it - the leader is the only hope of lasting happiness. They're also told that 'Your rational mind is holding you back from fantastic progress. Surrender. Have faith.' Another potent technique for change is the induced 'spiritual experience.' Private information about the recruit is collected by his/her closest buddy and secretly passed to leadership. Later, this information can be pulled out suddenly to create an 'experience' in a different locale. Knowing they didn't tell anyone in this new place about it, the recruit thinks the leader has read their thoughts or is being informed directly by the spirit world, become overcome, and begs forgiveness for not being a better member. Perhaps the most powerful persuasion is exerted by other cult members - they've probably never met anyone else so absolutely convinced they know what is best for you. Further, a dedicated cult member also does not take no for an answer. Group psychology plays a major role in the changing process, and those asking too many questions are quickly isolated from the main body of other members.
Refreezing is the third step, with many techniques from the first two stages carried over into this stage as well. The most important task of the new person is to denigrate their previous sinful self. Their memory becomes distorted, minimizing the good things in the past and maximizing their sins, failings, hurts, and guilt. Special talents, interests, hobbies, friends, and family usually must be abandoned if they compete with commitment to the cause. New members are paired with older members assigned to show them the ropes. This gratifies the older members and whets the new member's appetite to become a respected model. Great pressure is usually exerted on the member to turn over money and other possessions - it enriches the cult, freezes the person in the new belief system (too painful to admit this was a foolish mistake), and makes survival in the outside world harder for the new recruit. The new member is typically assigned to proselytizing duty ASAP - research has shown that nothing firms up one's beliefs faster than recruiting others to share them.
Hassan says it's an eerie experience to be talking with someone and sense that, mid-sentence, a different identify has taken over their body. The good news is that cult indoctrination almost never totally succeeds. Reversion to one's former identify is speeded up by positive exposure to non-members and the accumulation of bad experiences the person has while in the group. He adds that his clients are able to recall horrible things, yet couldn't deal with it while their cult identity was in control. The real self can exert pressure on the cult self to go home for a visit, using the excuse needing to collect clothes/funds or look for new recruits.
Religious cults are the best known and most numerous - they focus on religious dogma. Though most involve a spiritual realm and/or follow a strict code of religious principles, usually the leaders enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Moonies selectively recruited those who were strong, caring and motivated - those with emotional problems have trouble handling the rigorous schedule and psychological pressures imposed on them. Cult members don't have to be paid for their services - thus, cults try to recruit talented professionals to run their affairs, put a respectable face on their organizations, and ensure their success.
Whenever recruits leave the group long enough and begin discovering revealing books etc. by former members, they almost always break away. The problem occurs when they rely on the group for all key information. Not knowing any better, they give the cult the benefit of the doubt. The most effective cult doctrines are those which are unverifiable and cannot be evaluated (Eric Hoffer). There is never room for pluralism. Rank-and-file members are humble before superiors and potential recruits, but arrogant to outsiders. Different cult leaders have strikingly similar tactics for fostering dependency - transferring members frequently to new locations, switching their work duties, promoting and demoting them on whims. Another technique is to assign impossibly high goals and force them to confess their impurity when they inevitably fail.
Most members believe the group has the 'highest level ' of love on earth - and that it is depends on good performance. Real friendships are a liability in cults and covertly discouraged. Friends are dangerous, partly because if one member leaves, they may take others with them. Emotional allegiance should be vertical to the leader, not horizontal towards peers.
Hassan states that in every destructive cult he's encountered, fear is a major motivator. Many teach that the apocalypse is just around the corner. Members believe that if they leave, terrible consequences will befall them, their family and/or humanity.
A good starting point for evaluating potential groups is learning about the leader - his life history, education, training and occupation. Werner Erhard of est sold used cars and later, encylopedias. Ron Hubbard of Scientology started as a writer of adventure stories and pulp fiction; his 'doctorate' came from a diploma mill. Cult leaders usually make exaggerated biographical claims. Jim Jones had a long history of helping the poor, but then reportedly started to use amphetamines. Three things make them terribly dangerous - their psychological instability, that they believe their own propaganda, and their surrounding themselves with loyal devotees unlikely to disagree with them. Even more useful is knowledge of a leader's criminal background, or lack thereof.
By far the most common impression potential recruits have is that they are making a new friend. To family and friends, the person begins seeing not only more distant, but deceitful and evasive. The most telltale sign of the work of a destructive cult is radical personality change.
Maintenance of membership is achieved by cult activities designed to undermine relationships with the new member's family and friends. One way this is achieved is by having new members recruit everyone they know. Sleep deprivation is a common strategy for keeping people in line. The final criterion for judging a group is the members' freedom to leave without having to overcome phobias.
Encouraging cult members to leave requires getting them to think for themselves. The healthier a person's family relationships and sense of identity prior to being recruited by a cult, the easier to deprogram them. Also important are how long he/she has been a member, has be been living with other members, alone, or with non-members, has he ever expressed doubts/difficulties about his membership? Who was and was not willing to help up to this point - a close sibling initially unwilling to help can often become the most important element in a successful case. Everyone must pull together - reading material bout cults is a good start.
If contacted within the first few months of recruitment, prognosis for successful exit with a year is extremely good. But if the person has been in a cult for ten or more years, it might require quite some time. Hassan encourages the immediate family to speak with former cult members and ask them how a group member would likely respond to a straightforward approach. Without exception, ex-members have told family members that the group member would immediately consult his discipleship partner or leader for advice, and the group would do everything to convince him to avoid contact with his family since it was obviously controlled by Satan's power.
Hassan prefers to have a sibling or friend ask the cult member if they would be willing to hear a little of the other side of the story. The person asking for the meeting must also raise the issue that if other group members find out, they will try to convince the member to break their agreement. They need to ask, 'Will you fulfill your promise regardless of group pressure?' If the member says yes, a verbal contract is established. Family member involvement and understanding is key. Hassan also presents examples of 'deprogramming.'
Classic Ineffective Responses: Blaming themselves, failing to take care of themselves (eating, sleeping, relaxation), overreacting (tirades, inappropriate uses of words like 'cult' and 'brainwashing'), trying to argue the person out of their cult involvement through a condescending, confrontational approach, and getting angry with the person who has been victimized. More examples, including helping the person visualize a happy future outside the cult, providing them concrete definitions of mind control and specific characteristics of a destructive cult.
Former cult members report a variety of psychological difficulties after they leave - the most common being depression, especially during the first few months after leaving. Another is an overwhelming tendency toward continued dependence (learned dependence). Still another - the loss of concentration (eg. ability to read through a book) and memory. Feelings towards friends still in the group is still another.
Bottom-Line: 'Combatting Cult Mind Control' starts out a bit slow, but overall is an excellent source of background information and suggestions for freeing one from a cult-like existence - even if that cult is simply a personal relationship involving a mind-controlling individual.
As I mentioned to the Editor of this blog, as a book reviewer I would love to contribute some articles about books written by or for Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are a number of books available, I hope to help give a quick general overview of these books so that you can decide which you’d like to read.
I chose this book as the first to review because it marked the beginning of my journey out of “the truth”. As such, it is a personal favorite of mine. It is the first book I read when I finally realized that “the truth” was in fact… not truth at all. Usually I don’t get particularly personal when writing a book review for my blog, but it’s impossible to divorce my feelings and impressions of this book from my own “waking up” story. So I will try to keep it short and to the point but you know how it is. I mean… we are all sisters here right?
As it is for many, my waking up process was stretched out over a series of years. I liken it to a crack in the windshield of a car, it starts tiny. I gained more cracks over the years for a multiple of reasons, some doctrinal some personal. I could feel the religion slipping away from me little by little, but it was as though my brain refused to acknowledge the reality. One afternoon, July 28, 2016 to be precise, I drove home from work listening to a podcast interview with a Mormon who had left his church. I heard a voice in my head saying, “that’s what you’re doing, you’re leaving.” I was stunned at this thought. It was too much to think about and it made me feel afraid. I turned the podcast off, and searched online for a recording of the Watchtower but found I couldn’t concentrate. It was boring and unbearable. I reached a local pizza place and walked in half in a daze, ordered dinner to-go for my family and sat down at a table to wait. I searched my phone, desperate for an article, a talk, something from Watchtower to restore my equanimity.
Watchtower… just pick something. *tap*
JW Facts? *tap*
United Nations… oh my god… United Nations.
The windshield of my faith shattered in an instant. I collected my pizza, made my way home and explained to my mother that it was all over.
As you all know, that moment is not the end of the story but the beginning. Now is the hard part. Now is when we pick up the pieces and try to understand what has happened to us. I asked, how could this happen to me? I’m a bright woman, I’m not stupid. How did I allow an organization to deceive and control me to this extent for so long? Why did I not see it? I needed to understand, first, why I had let Watchtower exert control over me to begin with, and second, how to extricate myself from the disaster of my faith now that I’d pulled it all down.
Thankfully I found this book pretty quickly. It helped me to regain a measure of understanding. I imagined that reading about Mr. Hassan’s personal experiences with cult indoctrination was inoculating me against further manipulation. I was frightened by the prospect of returning to a state of indoctrination. How can I keep from going back? How do I keep other groups from taking advantage of me? I know that my inclination will probably be to allow others to reinsert a measure of control into my life so how do I prevent that? This book helped me to understand that all the questions I was asking and the sense of insecurity I felt was a natural part of being subjected to undue influence for so many years.
I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new when it comes to the B.I.T.E. model. This model is used to explain the ways in which a cult asserts its power over you. I touched on these points in a review for another book, but I think they really belong here with this book, where I found them to begin with:
Behavior – The lives of JW’s are highly controlled. Their dress and grooming, what jobs they perform, their entertainment, the amount of time they spend studying Witness publications and witnessing to outsiders is all highly controlled. And then there is their prohibition of holidays and their stand on blood transfusions.
Information – JW’s are not allowed to listen to any information about the Jehovah’s Witnesses unless it comes directly from Watchtower. This includes anything on the internet or from the news media. JW’s are not allowed to speak with people who have left the organization. You cannot even acknowledge that persons existence. Needless to say, lack of un-biased information is dangerous.
Thoughts – All thoughts are to be regulated. Doubts about the religion are not tolerated. You can be brought before a Judicial Committee and expelled from the congregation for holding a different opinion from the Governing Body. If you voice that opinion then watch out!
Emotions – Guilt and fear figure mightily in this religion. No matter what you do in service of this religion, it is never, ever enough. JW’s are encouraged to spy and tattle on each other to the elders in the congregation for even minor offenses. JW’s are not allowed to speak with anyone who is expelled (disfellowshipped or disassociated), even if it is an immediate family member.
This synopsis is admittedly superficial, there is much more information to be found in Mr. Hassan’s book. If you are newly awake to your time within the Watchtower organization this is an excellent book to read. It is the first that I recommend to anyone who is leaving the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
If you are finding it difficult to understand why the cracks in the windshield can make you feel so free and so lost all at once, allow the examples in the book to assure you, these feelings are temporary and you can regain the control you once relinquished to The Cult. With understanding you can start to live the life you were meant to live.
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” Khalil Gibran
Song for this book: Level up by Vienna Teng
While I don't believe this person is involved in a cult, I do believe this person is involved with another person or people in the group that practice mind control, or at the very minimum, extremely poor and even unlicensed therapy.
While reading the book, I couldn't believe the similarities of what Steve describes and what has been happening to the person I know.
With this book and help, I hope to break this person free from their control.
If you aren't sure that someone you know is involved in a cult but is involved in something you feel is "off" you should read this book immediately.
Top reviews from other countries
I have high hopes that I will eventually fully recover from many years of indoctrination and emotional abuse, after now feeling that the mental chains have been released. This book has given me a positive outlook for the future and I hope that others reading this will have the same experience.
There's a lot of emphasis on extracting cultists away from their toxic environment, where they can think for themselves without being directed by others, there's interesting examples throughout in a fairly easy to read format.
It's certainly left me with a little more insight into how it can spiral, it's a book that would be great for teenagers that want to look into this area, and certainly concerned parents.