Undue Influence Undermines Autonomy
It is completely understandable that people might resist any request to help a person who has been unduly influenced. The person might say, “Why should I? They are an adult. I don’t think it is right to interfere with their decision.” If the person isn’t asking for help, why get involved? Americans generally have great respect for privacy and expect that people are functioning of one’s own volition. In fact, the law states that once people reach the age of majority (usually eighteen but in some countries twenty-one), they are responsible for their own actions. However, unethical mind control impairs an individual’s capacity for mature, autonomous decision-making.
When a person or group is exercising undue influence on a loved one, even if they are an “adult,” in my opinion, the recruiter has interfered with that person’s autonomy. My friend Frederick Clarkson (watch his recent talk on Religious Freedom) pointed out to me that when the Moonie recruiters lied to me by saying they were “students” and “not religious,” they were interfering with my religious freedom to be a Jew. Little did I know that I would be persuaded within weeks to drop out of college, donate my bank account, move into the Moon center, and become isolated from family and friends. In other words, I was deceived, manipulated, and indoctrinated into an entirely alien belief system and group. One I would have never chosen of my own free will to join–provided I had informed consent.
“Don’t Tell Me What to Do. I am an Adult”
Under normal circumstances, respecting a person’s wish to be respected and left alone is good policy. People have a right to make their own mistakes that hopefully they will learn from and not repeat. However, undue influence changes the equation. Usually, at the very beginning of the cult involvement, family members and friends know that something is wrong. They try to reason with the person, often confronting them with facts or accusing the group of being a cult. That approach usually backfires. Family and friends often retreat and back off when the adult cult member says, “Don’t tell me what to do. I am an adult. Don’t try to control my life.” People don’t realize that this is a tactic taught to cult members to neutralize objections and induce passive acceptance. Cult members often threaten to cut off all contact if they are not “treated as an adult.”
The fact that a person is of legal age does not mean that he is functioning as a responsible adult. For example, hypnosis can be covertly used on a person. The person can be age-regressed to childhood. The individual thinks, feels, and acts like a child–that becomes his “reality.” It is common for cult leaders to ask members to become like “children of God.” In fact, an essential aspect of the cult identity is to possess the naïveté of a child. A child’s idolization of the parent figure is precisely what a cult leader needs in order to be in total control. By taking advantage of the desire for childlike innocence, cult mind control undermines the normal resources of a mature mind.
Concerned Family and Friends Need to Help
If a concerned friend or family member is questioning his own right to interfere, remind him that his love, conscience, and integrity gives him the right to be concerned. If a loved one is under the influence of destructive mind control, relatives and friends have the right and the obligation to take steps to undo the mind control process so that the person can think independently. Once the cult member has an opportunity to learn about mind control, recognize the features of destructive cults, and meet with former members and critics, he will be in a better position to make an informed choice. Once the individual understands the BITE model and the Influence Continuum, he can begin to question independently and may be open to speaking with former members and critics. Likewise, identifying and removing phobias will unfreeze them from the fear programming that has enslaved their mind. My Strategic Interactive Approach is the method of choice to assist an individual in reclaiming their personal power.
**This is part four of an on-going series. In case you missed any, see the following links**
About the Author:
Steven Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC has helped thousands of individuals and families recover from undue influence (mind control). With over 40 years of experience, he is sought after as one of the foremost authorities on undue influence and controlling groups and individuals. Steve understands the subject from a unique perspective as both a former cult member and as a clinical professional.
Steven is the Founding Director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a coaching, consulting, and training organization dedicated to supporting individuals to have the freedom to think clearly and to freely consider how they want to live their lives. Steven pioneered a breakthrough method called the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), an effective and legal alternative for families to help cult members. The SIA teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in the cult.
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