“Freedom of Mind is a courageous and powerful book that combines innovative theory with effective, practical applications to penetrate the often misunderstood and seemingly mysterious realm of cults, mind control, and other forms of psycho-spiritual slavery. Steven Hassan, whose late 80’s groundbreaking and essential text on cults, cult dynamics, and the extrication and recovery of people who have become ensnared in cults (Combatting Cult Mind Control), has clearly matured and evolved in his thinking and practice; he has gone on to produce another invaluable contribution to this still poorly understood area of human experience. Filled with deep compassion and wisdom, Freedom of Mind takes the reader on a journey through the mazes of pathological human influence, cult practices, and the patterns and beliefs that sustain various forms of psychological hostage/slavery behavior and dynamics. His book aims to assist people (and their families and friends — helping in, and also benefiting from, the healing process in Hassan’s vision of healing) victimized in cults to understand and contextualize their experience in clearly stated universal principles. Hassan’s thorough and systematic presentation of intervention strategies and their underlying philosophy is truly impressive. He explains how to disentangle people (and help them disentangle themselves) from matrices of utter and complete personality destruction, where individuals have almost completely lost any sense of critical thinking, autonomy, or authentic personality functioning. Hassan’s deep understanding of the cult survivor’s problems of shame, loss of dignity, and attachment to ideologies and omnipotent authority figures offers a solid foundation for clinicians and, clergy, and family members and friends who are approaching those victimized by extreme undue influence and groupthink. In a word, Hassan has covered all the bases and done so with a level of clarity and sophistication.
Unfortunately, cult dynamics and undue influence are still subjects that remain on the periphery of education in the mental health fields. Because Hassan’s latest book significantly demystifies cult practices and delineates methods to support victims’ struggles to heal at an even deeper level than in his prior work, Freedom of Mind represents a rare and essential contribution to the field that should be required reading for all mental health professionals and clergy as well as lay people involved in various recovery programs. The book is both encyclopedic and yet completely accessible. It exposes in systematic detail the methods and madness of cults and the creative and relationally-oriented interventions required to help restore the cult victim to sanity, to dignity and freedom, and to resurrect his or her critical thinking capacities most which had become buried, dislocated and compartmentalized during the years of cult indoctrination and cult membership. Hassan’s work is actually translatable across a wide range of human hostage and malevolent group situations beyond mainstream and underground cults — from pathological family systems, exploitative business and self-help/human potential movement groups, pimps/prostitution, human trafficking, criminal cartels, and to all past and modern day slavery situations. His compassionate approach underscores the value of human relationship, inclusivity, dialogue, patience, persistence, humor/creativity and non-dogmatic forms of intervention. His keen savvy as a kind of warrior approaching these complex matters — turning cult mind control upside down and forcing it to collapse in on itself — is always balanced with tenderness, humor, and an appreciation for the irony buried in cult hypocrisy. While not shying away from articulating disturbing aspects of human nature and human group experience, Hassan reminds all of us — readers, healers, victims, survivors, theorists, philosophers, clergy – that in spite of the undeniable power and efficacy of cult strategies and systems, there remains an authentic self buried and protected at the core of all human beings regardless of the amount of time spent in the cult, regardless of how deeply and cruelly the participation in the worst of the group behavior might have been. I highly recommend this book not only for all the reasons outlined above, but because this book serves as a truly rare and powerful light on a still poorly illuminated region of our collective human experience where hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings remain trapped, helpless, and almost beyond reach. I wholeheartedly honor and celebrate Steven Hassan’s contributions and commitment to the universal struggle for freedom, human rights, and transparency in human social systems.”
Dr. Harvey Schwartz, Ph.D.
Author of Dialogues With Forgotten Voices and The Alchemy of Wolves and Sheep