What should I do if I suspect a friend or family member is getting involved with a destructive cult?

2018-11-09T17:30:21-05:00November 9th, 2018||

Get help before you do or say anything. Continue to act naturally.  Learn before you act.  Think before you speak.  Adopt a "curious, yet concerned" attitude with the person you suspect is in trouble.  Don't get hysterical in front of the individual.  Don't attack or confront.  Don't ask them if they are in a cult, or use the word “cult” at all. Position yourself as a possible “recruit” and try to elicit as much information as possible.  Ask questions in a friendly manner and insist on getting specific answers.  Don't settle for global generalizations or evasions.  Ask for any literature, [...]

Are terrorist groups destructive cults?

2018-11-09T17:29:54-05:00November 9th, 2018||

Yes.  It is useful to think of them as destructive cults (with political and/or religious orientations) which advocate the use of violence.  Any pyramid structured authoritarian group which uses deception and mind control to recruit and indoctrinate their followers is a destructive cult. Members of terrorist organizations are programmed to think in simplistic black and white, us-versus-them terms.  They depersonalize and demonize their enemies. It is crucial that we understand how cults function in order to help neutralize this grave threat to the world.

Are all destructive cults religious?

2018-11-09T17:27:40-05:00November 9th, 2018||

No. In addition to religious cults, there are psychotherapy cults, political cults, commercial cults, terrorist organizations, and trafficking rings. There are also personality cults, particularly if one person absolutely controls another (or a small group of people, such as in a family).There are groups which combine all or some of these elements, especially when the group is large and has a variety of "fronts" or other entities.

Are all cults equally bad?

2018-11-09T17:27:06-05:00November 9th, 2018||

No, there are definitely wide variations among different organizations. For example: Aum Shinrikyo and ISIS/Daesh have committed horrific acts of violence and terror against the public. This is extreme when compared with large group "training" programs which use hypnotic techniques to get you to believe the leader is the "messiah" and which inculcates the membership to recruit all of their families and friends. Individual experiences also vary within the same organization based on how the individual conforms to the norms of the group. For example, a lesbian teen in a homophobic church will be subject to a different degree of [...]

Am I in a destructive cult?

2018-11-09T17:26:32-05:00November 9th, 2018||

Being in control of your own mind includes: being in touch with your feelings, having the ability to question and think analytically, having the freedom to act independently, and being able to look at issues from multiple perspectives. Use the BITE Model to evaluate your own situation. If you have been involved with a person or group for a long time, can you have time away to take a vacation, visit friends or family, or just be by yourself? Are you irrationally afraid to really evaluate for yourself any critical information, including speaking with ex-members? Do you have [...]

What’s the difference between a destructive cult and a benign cult?

2018-11-09T17:25:31-05:00November 9th, 2018||

A destructive cult is a pyramid-shaped authoritarian regime with a person or group of people that have dictatorial control.  It uses deception to recruit new members and does not tell them what the group is, what the group actually believes, and what will be expected of them if they become members.  It also uses mind control techniques to keep people dependent, obedient, and loyal.  The BITE Model is our way of understanding the phenomenon.  Dr. Robert Jay Lifton has his Eight Criteria for Thought Reform.  Dr. Margaret Singer has her Six Conditions for understanding destructive cults, which typically seek to "clone" [...]

Is all “mind control” bad?

2018-11-09T17:25:06-05:00November 9th, 2018||

No.  Although we typically use the term to refer to unethical and abusive social influence, many techniques such as prayer, meditation, singing, chanting, and dancing can be used ethically to promote positive spiritual and personal growth.  Positive influence keeps the locus of control within the individual, while unethical or undue influence undermines their ability to think and act independently. For example, prayer can be used ethically, or it can be used destructively as a tool of manipulation and coercion.  Praying with a person aloud, and asking "God's blessing to help direct and guide him" (in an "open-ended" way) is just fine.  Praying with [...]

What is “mind control?”

2018-11-09T17:24:31-05:00November 9th, 2018||

The BITE Model of mind control outlines many key elements that need to be controlled: Behavior, Information, Thoughts, and Emotion.  If these four components can be controlled, then an individual's identity can be systematically manipulated and changed.  Destructive mind control takes the "locus of control" away from an individual.  The person is systematically deceived about the beliefs and practices of the person (or group) and manipulated throughout the recruitment process- unable to make informed choices and exert independent judgment. The person's identity is profoundly influenced through a set of social influence techniques and a "new identity" is created- programmed to be dependent on the leader or group ideology. The [...]