Freedom of Mind Resource Centerhttps://freedomofmind.com Steven Hassan: America’s Leading Cult ExpertWed, 23 Jan 2019 19:05:46 +0000en-UShourly1https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3Exvangelicals Find a Voice and Speak Out Against Authoritarianismhttps://freedomofmind.com/exvangelicals-find-a-voice-and-speak-out-against-authoritarianism/ https://freedomofmind.com/exvangelicals-find-a-voice-and-speak-out-against-authoritarianism/#respondThu, 17 Jan 2019 17:16:56 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=17024  Dominionism A few weeks before the 2016 Presidential election, Stanford Russian history Ph.D. Dr. Christopher Stroop wrote an article, "After the Trump Tapes: Evangelical Authoritarianism Revisited." In it, he shared his concerns about what he saw was a powerful group of people publicly defined as white evangelical Christians who were supporting Trump and who exhibited [...]

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Dominionism

A few weeks before the 2016 Presidential election, Stanford Russian history Ph.D. Dr. Christopher Stroop wrote an article, “After the Trump Tapes: Evangelical Authoritarianism Revisited.” In it, he shared his concerns about what he saw was a powerful group of people publicly defined as white evangelical Christians who were supporting Trump and who exhibited the characteristics of an authoritarian movement. While many might not identify with the term Dominionism directly–the belief that Christians should take over America and the world and make it Christian in a very narrow way–they were Christian nationalists pursuing a de facto, and sometimes explicit, Dominionist politics. The majority of white evangelicals appear to wish to create a theocracy and abolish the separation of Church and State, something the founders of our country explicitly wish to make sure did not happen.

We are now in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history at the instruction of Donald Trump over his insistence of Congress grant billions of dollars to build a “Wall.” Trump even did a national speech from the Oval Office and described what experts say is a fake crisis, ignored many facts and actually told lies. However, polls estimate some 38% of Americans still believe in his leadership, despite many indictments being issued regarding Russian involvement with his election. The vast majority of white evangelicals appear to be blindly faithful to the belief that Donald Trump is God’s man and is being used to do Divine work. I was fortunate to arrange an interview with Chris Stroop which I wish to share. I found him extremely intelligent, articulate, and knowledgeable. I wanted to know about the movement called Exvangelicals and how it interfaced with my 40 plus years of working with people involved in destructive cult groups.

Chris Stroop wrote in Rewire News December 26, 2018, that:

“Exvangelicals, then, are by and large proponents of feminism, intersectionality, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. We don’t seek a common metaphysics or (a)theology, but rather seek to build bridges between those of us who have left evangelicalism for no religion and those of us who have departed for healthy religion. Many of us have religious trauma, and we began finding each other around the time of the 2016 election to foster our own healing through mutual understanding and the validation that comes from knowing we’re not alone. Leaving hardline faith communities can, after all, be extremely isolating.

At the same time, we’ve used our increased visibility, often through hashtag campaigns, to expose evangelical authoritarianism to the broader American public, something that major media outlets have mostly failed to do. Exvies contend that we are stakeholders in national discussions of evangelicalism, and should be treated as such. In 2018, we made significant progress in terms of gaining a recognized presence in the public sphere.”

Chris Stroop and the BITE Model

I reached out to Chris after our interview and asked if he had time to look at my BITE model and I asked him to please comment.  I think he is so eloquent, that with his permission, I am putting his response here.

“Steve,

I did look at your BITE model and Influence Continuum.

I can say that each of the four elements is common in evangelical subculture, if not in the most extreme forms. Certainly, evangelicalism encourages black and white, good vs. evil thinking, teaches that it has the only and absolute truth, and turns other sources of information into outsider doctrines. Often your access to information is not directly restricted by a church or, if you’re a child, how much your parents restrict your access to non-evangelical/fundamentalist reading material varies widely. But the insistence on positivity and the desire to control and curtail emotions is also present, and even if, for many evangelicals, it’s perfectly fine to leave one particular church and join another, if you stop believing in things like biblical inerrancy and/or break with right-wing politics, you will be seen as out of the fold and “brainwashed.” I have been accused of being brainwashed multiple times. Some evangelicals practice shunning; as a rule, evangelicals do not respect others’ boundaries, so that, even if families and church friends don’t directly shun or “ghost” on “rebellious” members, interactions with them may become unbearable, because they try to bring you back in. They try to control the narrative of your life–if you leave the faith, you were “never saved” in the first place, for example. As a result, some people who leave evangelicalism have to cut off contact with their evangelical family members for their own mental health if the family has not cut them off.

This will bring me around to the #Exvangelical movement. Leaving evangelicalism absolutely comes with high social and psychological costs, even if you’ve experienced the “kinder and gentler” end of the evangelical-fundamentalist spectrum. Everyone who leaves will be subjected to gaslighting. It’s an alienating and isolating process, and often a protracted and painful one. By coming together as a community and movement, we are able to understand that our thoughts, feelings, and experiences are valid, that we were in an abusive kind of religion, and that we are very much not alone. Collectively, we find the validation needed to reclaim our own stories, to no longer allow evangelicals to own them, to turn us into morality tales. I do not claim to have started the Exvangelical community and movement. Its growth is something that has happened largely organically, but I have been privileged to be at the center of its emergence and to have had some influence over how it has developed, for example with respect to getting us the attention of the broader American public and helping us get access to the press, where it is very important to counter evangelicals’ self-representation, which previously went largely unchallenged in major media outlets. The term “Exvangelical” comes from Blake Chastain’s podcast of the same name. It is also the name of a Facebook support group that was initially created as a discussion space for those who pledged at least $1 a month via Patreon to support the podcast. The group is now freely available to ex-evangelicals who agree to adhere to the guidelines (it is run as a safe space centering marginalized people and adhering as much as possible to the values of intersectional feminism). And it has over 4200 members.

I initially became one of the most visible exvangelicals as the community was emerging, around the time of the 2016 election, because my unique and uniquely weird combination of intellectual expertise and lived experience allowed me to comment on the Christian Right, contemporary Russia, and the affinities and connections between the two. All of that has been important to understanding Trump and Trumpism, and the major media outlets have also finally come around to recognizing that it’s white evangelicals, and not the white working class, that represent Trump’s primary base. My ability to speak to all of these topics helped me to get more freelance work and to get attention to my Twitter threads. I got Twitter verification in 2016, and I now have over 41,000 followers on Twitter. This has made me a key node in Exvangelical networks, and I work to promote the voices and perspectives of others from that background. I would like to give shout-outs specifically to Tori Douglass, Tabitha Wells, Cindy Wang Brandt, Akiko Ross, Kathryn Brightbill, Josiah Hesse, Nate Sparks, Emily Joy, Hannah Paasch, Asha Daya, Samantha Field, Charlotte Henderson, Chad Schobert, Amy Congdon, Emily Autenrieth, Jamie Lee Finch, Jessi Bennett, Linda Kay Klein, Daniel Hobbs, Jesse Reese, Bethany Sparkle, Kimberly Stover, Mandy Nicole, and Lindsey Naegeli for the important contributions they make to the Twitter and Facebook and offline communities. I could name many more, including some whose online identities are anonymous or first-name-only (some of these I have not mentioned simply for that reason). I’d also like to thank religious studies Professor Julie Ingersoll for her helpful involvement with our community, Liz Kineke for producing the CBS documentary on our movement, “Deconstructing My Religion,” and journalists and commentators like Paul Rosenberg, Nina Burleigh, Sarah Posner, Rebecca Klein, Bradley Onishi, and others who have written about us and who consider our perspectives necessary to include when writing about evangelicals. This community is very much not just about one or two people, and, though we are a mostly white group because evangelicalism is mostly white, so many of the critical voices in our community are women and POC. I’d like to see them get the credit they deserve.

Christopher Stroop
Writer, Commentator, Journalist
PhD, History and Humanities (Stanford University)
Senior Research Associate, Postsecular Conflicts Project (Kristina Stoeckl, Principal Investigator), University of Innsbruck, Austria (https://www.uibk.ac.at/projects/postsecular-conflicts/team.html)

https://uibk.academia.edu/ChristopherStroop
@C_Stroop (Twitter)
https://chrisstroop.com/contact/

Video Interview with Chris Stroop

Additional Resources

 

Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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Islamophobia and Psychiatry: Recognition, Prevention, and Treatmenthttps://freedomofmind.com/islamophobia-and-psychiatry-recognition-prevention-and-treatment/ https://freedomofmind.com/islamophobia-and-psychiatry-recognition-prevention-and-treatment/#respondSat, 12 Jan 2019 16:51:12 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=17012  Introduction The book begins by covering the general and clinical challenges that are unique to Muslims, drawing from an internationally, ethnically, and intergenerationally diverse pool of experts.  The text covers not only how psychiatrists and other clinicians can intervene successfully with patients, but how we as clinicians can have a role in addressing other [...]

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Introduction

The book begins by covering the general and clinical challenges that are unique to Muslims, drawing from an internationally, ethnically, and intergenerationally diverse pool of experts.  The text covers not only how psychiatrists and other clinicians can intervene successfully with patients, but how we as clinicians can have a role in addressing other societally connected mental health challenges arising from Islamophobia. The text addresses three related but distinct areas of interest: Islamophobia as a destructive force, Islam as a religion that is threatened by stigma and misinformation, and the novel intersection of these forces with the field of psychiatry.

Islamophobia and Psychiatry is a vital resource for all clinicians and clinicians in training who may encounter patients struggling with these issues, including adult and child psychiatrists, psychologists, primary care physicians, counselors, social workers, and others.

Editors and affiliations

  • H. Steven MofficMedical College of Wisconsin (Retired Tenured Professor), Milwaukee, USA
  • John Peteet: Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  • Ahmed Zakaria HankirBedfordshire Centre for Mental Health Research in Association with Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK
  • Rania AwaadDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, USA

Keywords

Community Resilience, Radicalization Prevention, Extremist Idealization, Psychosocial Aspects of Terrorism, Cultural Literacy

Bibliographic Information

Psychological Determinants and Social Influences of Violent Extremism

Mine is the last chapter, Psychological Determinants and Social Influences of Violent Extremism, and I did it with one of the editors, Ahmed Zakaria Hankir, who was first author. (Pages 391-406)

Abstract

I know but one freedom, and that is freedom of the mind. – Antoine de SaintExupéry

Terrorists seek to wreak havoc in society, whether they are the self-proclaimed Muslim marauders who rammed their vehicles into revellers on London Bridge and Borough in the United Kingdom or the far-right fanatic who shot and killed Muslim worshippers in a mosque in Quebec in Canada. But what do we know about the conflicting and terrorizing forces that often operate in the minds of those who perpetrate heinous and horrific atrocities such as these? What are the psychological determinants and social influences that could drive people to carry out such abhorrent and abominable activities?

This chapter aims to answer these questions and to provide mental health practitioners with a map to help them navigate through the precarious territory of the minds of those who perpetrate terrorism. In Section 1, we will discuss, describe and delve into some of the major psychological determinants and social influences of violent extremism. In Section 2 we offer insights into the pernicious phenomena of undue influence, brainwashing and mind control and the roles that each potentially plays in the cognition, character and conduct of members of destructive cult organizations. We conclude with clinical considerations for mental health practitioners as well as suggestions for how to stymie the proliferation of dangerous mind control cults of all kinds.

How This Important Book Came To Be

My sincere apology for our video interview which did not capture accurately the full story. This has the gist of the evolution. Rao Gogineni is the psychiatrist behind the scenes who inspired all the interfaith Symposia like this one, including one of forgiveness. This textbook, ‘Islamophobia and Psychiatry: Recognition, Prevention and Treatment’ was inspired by a Symposium given at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in May 2017. Led by Roomana Sheikh, M.D., “Islamophobia: Social, Religious and Clinical Perspectives” was well attended, and stimulated considerable discussion.
Following this session, Dr. Moffic was contacted by Nadina Persaud – Editor of Clinical Medicine at Springer – about the possibility of an edited book on the topic. Dr. Moffic, in addition to editing other psychiatric books, had focused on cultural psychiatry over his 45-year career, including establishing the first model curriculum on this subject for psychiatric residents in training. Following that, another of the symposium’s participants, John Peteet, M.D., who has had a major interest in the importance of religion and spirituality in the practice of psychiatry showed interest, and both then decided to test the feasibility of the project through collegial contacts. Fortunately, not only did there seem to be enough potential chapter authors, but serendipity and contacts soon led to two other well-known psychiatrists, co-editors Ahmed Zakaria Hankir, M.D., and Rania Awaad, M.D., each a major spokesperson on Islamophobia and Psychiatry in their respective countries, Great Britain and the United States. That left us with four co-editors – spearheaded by Dr. Moffic – representing a spectrum of age, experience, religion, gender, and countries of professional work, united in a passionate concern for the psychological and societal harm of Islamophobia.

How My Involvement Came About to Contribute

For some eighteen years, Dr. John Peteet and Dr. Mary McCarthy have had me come to speak to their 4th-year psychiatry residents at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, part of Harvard Medical School. It is a primer of Dissociative Disorder 300.15 and my work with destructive cults of all types. I have done Psychiatry Grand Rounds at Harvard Medical School two times and Psychiatry Grand Rounds at Boston University Medical Center, as well. Another way of saying this is: if we well-minded, psychologically sophisticated, and compassionate co-editors and chapter writers of very different cultural backgrounds can’t get this task of how to address Islamophobia (and potentially Anti-Semitism) right, then the likelihood of successfully negotiating this challenge in our field, our societies, and the world is about nil.

An additional resource, for former members but especially for mental health professionals, is a two-hour program I did for the famous psychiatrist, Dr. Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery. In a very unusual case, a former client who had exited the International Church of Christ after being in leadership for many years, suffered (after leaving the group) for 11 years in the mental health system, being misdiagnosed and mistreated. When she heard I was teaching for Dr. Herman’s course, she begged us to let her come and speak. She passionately wanted to educate the mental health professionals and discussed her case with them. To protect her privacy, her face was blurred on the public video, but Laura gave permission to give access for training purposes to credentialed mental health professionals.

Video Interview with Ahmed Hankir

Table of Contents

General Issues

 Psychiatric Implications of Islamophobia

Specific Clinical Challenges

Social Psychiatric Implications

Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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Ending the Game: Explaining Coercion to Help People Healhttps://freedomofmind.com/ending-the-game-explaining-coercion-to-help-people-heal/ https://freedomofmind.com/ending-the-game-explaining-coercion-to-help-people-heal/#respondThu, 03 Jan 2019 15:57:12 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=16987 Human TraffickingHuman Trafficking is a form of undue influence and a serious global issue affecting an estimated 21 - 27 million worldwide. According to the Defense Department, "Human trafficking is a crime in which force, fraud or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labor, services or commercial sex. It affects all [...]

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Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking is a form of undue influence and a serious global issue affecting an estimated 21 – 27 million worldwide. According to the Defense Department, “Human trafficking is a crime in which force, fraud or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labor, services or commercial sex. It affects all populations: adults, children, men, women, foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, and all economic classes.”

Pimps and traffickers control the environment, access to information, relationships – every aspect of a person’s life – using techniques that manipulate how a person thinks, feels and acts. Using the lens of undue influence, activists, social workers, law enforcement, and mental health professionals can better learn how pimps and traffickers recruit, how to spot current victims, how to ethically intervene in a trafficking case, and how to help trafficking survivors recover from their experience.

Sex trafficking refers to when a person is coerced, deceived, pressured, or forced into prostitution. Often those targeted are vulnerable and come from a history of abuse or are runaways. The pimp or trafficker wants someone who will align with their rules: someone that can be viewed as an asset, not a liability. They look for easy ways to break a person, seeking nothing less than to create a dependent, willing, and obedient slave. With their minds controlled in such a way, the victim may appear to be an active participant in their suffering for the profit of the pimp. However, mind control does not erase the person’s old identity; it creates a new obedient one to suppress the original self.

Labor trafficking is another form of trafficking, further split into bonded labor, forced labor, and child labor. Forced labor, or involuntary servitude, is work or services provided under the threat of violence or punishment. It is one of the most common types of labor and often associated with slavery. Bonded labor is when an individual is paying off a debt or a loan through their work. Child labor is using children as cheap or free labor in factories, workshops, and other places.

Ending The Game

Since January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I wish to mention a curriculum I helped to co-develop with Rachel Thomas, Carissa Phelps, and D’lita Miller. I wrote about Rachel Thomas’ story in the latest edition of Combating Cult Mind Control in Chapter Six. Rachel came to an ICSA conference and we did the first-panel talk discussing trafficking as a commercial cult phenomenon. (The video of the talk is here.) On the panel, we had other incredible people including Christine Marie Katas, MBA, Ph.D. student, survivor/mentor, founder of voicesfordignity.com; Christina Arnold, Founder/Board President Preventhumantrafficking.org (2nd oldest anti-trafficking organization in the U.S.) born into the Children of God cult and escaped at age 20; Kim Meyer, PCC-S, LICDC-CS, Former director of services at Beechbrook, raised in Worldwide Church of God cult (a video of an interview with Kim and Bill Meyer is here); Halleh Seddighzadeh, Ph.D, JDc, Forensic Traumatologist director of Arman-healing.org, comment by Stephanie Spanos, MD, child psychiatrist.

On our YouTube channel, we have a playlist of other interviews and programs I have done on human trafficking.

Ending The Game is a ground-breaking “coercion resiliency” curriculum that reduces feelings of attachment to traffickers and a lifestyle characterized by commercial sexual exploitation, thereby reducing the rate of recidivism among sex trafficking victims.

The curriculum is designed to educate and empower commercial sex trafficking victims by providing a framework to uncover harmful psychological coercion (aka “The Game”) that victims have been subjected to with their trafficking experience. By revealing a sequence of commonly-used, yet seldom-explained, mind control techniques used by traffickers, sexual abusers, media and other coercive agents, we aim to empower victims to acquire skills and end “The Game.”

Bring Ending The Game, the first National Sex Trafficking Intervention Curriculum to your organization! Click here to find out how you can bring the curriculum to your organization as well as understand the different options available.

ETG Curriculum Kits are now available: Click here to go to the ETG shop.

Download Ending the Game 1 Page Info Sheet

Free Training Video on Coercion, Identity Disturbance, and Recidivism

This is a preview of an advanced educational training video on psychological coercion in commercial sexual exploitation. This video is intended for professionals, students, families of survivors and all service providers seeking a better understanding of coercion, Identity Disturbance, recidivism, commercial sexual exploitation, and human sex trafficking.

To access the full 45-minute video: https://endingthegame.com/register/

National Human Trafficking Hotline

Need help? United States:
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SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish and 200 more languages

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Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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Traumatic Narcissism: From Muktananda and Gurumayi to Donald Trumphttps://freedomofmind.com/traumatic-narcissism-from-muktananda-and-gurumayi-to-donald-trump/ https://freedomofmind.com/traumatic-narcissism-from-muktananda-and-gurumayi-to-donald-trump/#respondThu, 27 Dec 2018 16:42:01 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=16931Daniel Shaw and Siddha Yoga This week's blog features an interview with a licensed clinical social worker, Daniel Shaw.  Dan is a private practice psychotherapist in New York City and in Rockland County, New York. Dan was deeply involved for many years and even a staff member at Siddha Yoga before he woke up and [...]

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Daniel Shaw and Siddha Yoga

This week’s blog features an interview with a licensed clinical social worker, Daniel Shaw.  Dan is a private practice psychotherapist in New York City and in Rockland County, New York. Dan was deeply involved for many years and even a staff member at Siddha Yoga before he woke up and walked away. As part of his healing journey and restarting his life, he decided to become a mental health professional. Like many former members, he was involved in helping others to wake up and realize that the guru was not enlightened but, in fact, a very insecure, narcissist with delusions of omnipotence. He currently maintains the ex-member site, Leaving Siddha Yoga. This site has lots of important information for not just former members of this Indian guru group but all Indian guru groups.

The founder of Siddha Yoga was Swami Muktananda who had many celebrities flock to him and his energy sessions. Secretly, Muktananda was a serial rapist and the group, including his successor Gurumayi, went to great lengths to cover up incredible abuse. Gurumayi even reportedly held her brother, Swami Nityananda, hostage in an effort to force him to step aside and let her take over the group.

In 2014, Shaw wrote an important book entitled Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation. The book is written for professional psychoanalysts (therefore somewhat expensive) but contains important material for everyone, especially for former members of abusive families, relationships and cult groups. As Dan explains, it is extremely important and helpful for former members to understand what is really going on with people that claim to be the greatest, enlightened, or superior to all others. Indeed, cult figures like Sun Myung Moon or Muktananda claim to be holy and claim to possess great spiritual powers. In my studies, the root of such behavior is an insecure attachment to parental figures along with a lack of healthy development of “self.” The false or unhealthy self compensates for a lack of control internally by wishing to overcontrol people and things outside of them. Delusions of grandiosity force the cult leader to feel entitled to abuse followers and to demand loyalty and obedience.

Donald Trump and Traumatic Narcissism

This June, Dan authored an article for the New School of Social Research entitled, Authoritarianism and the Cultic Dynamic: Traumatic Narcissism in American Politics Today.  The photo used beneath the title features President Donald Trump. Malignant narcissism, the pathological lying, the lack of empathy and social perspective taking, the attitude of always blaming others and never admitting when wrong is a dangerous but completely familiar profile of many cult leaders we have studied. (A list of my Trump blogs is here.)  This article correctly identifies Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and her devotees (who call themselves libertarians) as a major force in promoting greed and self-interest over conscience and a sense of decency to help others less fortunate. It seems that a number of superwealthy people who want to make money in fossil fuel industries, like Putin’s Russia, want to do everything possible to use social influence to get people to question whether human-impacted global climate change is real and dangerous.

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump edited by Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist, had contributions of 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts who all felt a “duty to warn” that was compelling them to speak despite the Goldwater Rule. They were not diagnosing Donald Trump but assessing him based on his traits and his behaviors which demonstrate extreme psychopathology. Dr. Lee has a list of some of the more potent quotes worth reading. Trump seems to need to avoid any people, even those who work for the White House, who tell him what he is doing is harmful and hurtful to the American people as well as to our longtime allies. Hence General Mattis resigned over Trump’s impulsive decision to withdraw from Syria and take troops from Afghanistan. Then Trump fired him and wanted him out quickly. The military apparently had great trust and faith in General Mattis and now he is gone. The future, unfortunately, will become less and less stable and hopes of reason and good policymaking seems dimmer.

I invite you to listen to the interview with Daniel Shaw and myself. We cover many other interesting points.

Video Interview with Daniel Shaw

 

Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

 

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Scientology and The BITE Modelhttps://freedomofmind.com/scientology-and-the-bite-model/ https://freedomofmind.com/scientology-and-the-bite-model/#respondThu, 20 Dec 2018 17:46:48 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=16896BITE Model In June of 2018, I did an interview with psychologist and ex-Mormon John Dehlin for his Mormon Stories podcast. In preparation for the show, John read Combating Cult Mind Control and told me that the book was transformative. Then he did a wonderful analysis of the BITE model of the Mormon Church [...]

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The BITE Model and Scientology

BITE Model

In June of 2018, I did an interview with psychologist and ex-Mormon John Dehlin for his Mormon Stories podcast. In preparation for the show, John read Combating Cult Mind Control and told me that the book was transformative. Then he did a wonderful analysis of the BITE model of the Mormon Church which we included in a blog. Afterward, we got the idea to do a similar analysis of the BITE model and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, it is Scientology’s turn. I encourage people to use the BITE model to systematically evaluate the core beliefs and behaviors to determine if it is a destructive group which uses mind control techniques.

Mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought-stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts. I developed the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. “BITE” stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control. It is based on research and theory by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Edgar Schein, Louis Jolyon West, and others who studied brainwashing in Maoist China, as well as cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger.

Destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause; it is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. In fact, there only needs to be a few major behaviors under each of the four components.

To learn more, download this detailed handout on The BITE Model or read Combating Cult Mind Control which explores cult psychology, curing the mind control virus, how to protect people you care about and strategies for recovery. (The new 30th-anniversary edition is available in print, digital format, and audiobook.) Or watch What is a Cult? Whiteboard Animation Explaining the BITE Model.

Assessing Scientology Using the BITE Model

Below is a list of main points included in the BITE model. With the help of Karin “Spike” Robinson, we have colored the bullet points in the following ways:

  • Green means does not apply to anyone in the group
  • Orange means it partially applies (true for a subsection of members such as Sea Org or RPF)
  • Red means it absolutely applies to all members

Since each person’s experience is unique, there may be some slight differences in opinion. We did our best to represent the majority. This is our initial assessment, and we welcome feedback. I am interested in developing a comprehensive analysis for everything from public Scientologists to Staff to Sea Org to RPF. Please let me know what you think! (contact us)

Behavior Control

  • Regulate an individual’s physical reality
  • Dictate where, how and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates (all members are told to disconnect from SP)
  • Dictate when, how, and with whom the member has sex
  • Control types of clothing and hairstyles
  • Regulate diet -food and drink, hunger and/or fasting
  • Manipulation and deprivation of sleep
  • Financial exploitation, manipulation, or dependence
  • Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time
  • Major time spent with group indoctrination and rituals and/or self-indoctrination, including the Internet
  • Permission required for major decisions
  • Thoughts, feelings, and activities (of self and others) reported to superiors (e-meter/audits & reporting on each other by all)
  • Rewards and punishments used to modify behaviors, both positive and negative
  • Discourage individualism, encourage group-think
  • Impose rigid rules and regulations
  • Encourage and engage in corporal punishment
  • Punish disobedience by beating, torture, burning, cutting, rape, or tattooing/branding
  • Threaten harm to family or friends (by cutting off family/friends) (fairgame policy)
  • Force individual to rape or be raped
  • Instill dependency and obedience

Information Control

  • Deception
    • Deliberately withhold information
    • Distort information to make it more acceptable
    • Systematically lie to the cult member
  • Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
    • Internet, tv, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, other media
    • Critical information
    • Former members
    • Keep members busy so they don’t have time to think and investigate
    • Control through a cell phone with texting, calls, and internet tracking
  • Compartmentalize information into Outsider vs Insider doctrines
    • Ensure that information is not easily accessible
    • Control information at different levels and missions within the group
    • Allow only leadership to decide who needs to know what and when
  • Encourage spying on other members
    • Impose a buddy system to monitor and control member (RPF, “twinning”/course partner)
    • Report deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership
    • Ensure that individual behavior is monitored by the group
  • Extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda, including:
    • Newsletters, magazines, journals, audiotapes, videotapes, YouTube, movies, and other media
    • Misquoting statements or using them out of context from non-cult sources
  • Unethical use of confession
    • Information about sins used to disrupt and/or dissolve identity boundaries
    • Withholding forgiveness or absolution (RPF – the act of confessing through auditing “blows the charge” and makes you no longer guilty – but in the RPF, you’re “the lowest of the low” and a “degraded being” until you get everyone in your group to forgive you – in writing.)
    • Manipulation of memory, possibly false memories (remembering past lives via auditing)

Thought Control

  • Require members to internalize the group’s doctrine as truth (this is a bit complicated because they’ll trumpet the quote “it’s only true if it’s true for you.” But until you actually AGREE with the course materials, you will have to keep “word clearing” it (looking up the definition of each word), because the only reason you wouldn’t agree is that you didn’t understand. So, you have to agree, even though they claim you don’t.)
    • Adopting the group’s ‘map of reality’ as reality
    • Instill black and white thinking
    • Decide between good vs. evil
    • Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs. outsiders)
  • Change a person’s name and identity
  • Use of loaded language and cliches which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzzwords (use of acronyms, words are given different meanings,” study tech” and “word clearing”)
  • Encourage only ‘good and proper’ thoughts
  • Hypnotic techniques are used to alter mental states, undermine critical thinking, and even to age regress the member
  • Memories are manipulated and false memories are created (past lives, reframing of the past)
  • Teaching thought-stopping techniques which shut down reality testing by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only positive thoughts, including:
    • Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking
    • Chanting
    • Meditating
    • Praying
    • Speaking in tongues
    • Singing or humming
  • Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism
  • Forbid critical questions about leader, doctrine or policy
  • Labeling alternative belief systems as illegitimate, evil or not useful
  • Instill new ‘map of reality’

Emotional Control

  • Manipulate and narrow the range of feelings – some emotions and/or needs are deemed as evil, wrong, or selfish (negative emotions are only allowed during auditing)
  • Teach emotion-stopping techniques to block feelings of hopelessness, anger, or doubt
  • Make the person feel that problems are always their own fault, never the leader’s or the group’s fault (anything bad that happens, they “pulled it in” – even if it’s an ancient sin committed billions of years ago on a distant planet.)
  • Promote feelings of guilt or unworthiness, such as:
    • Identity guilt
    • You are not living up to your potential (thus need to “stay on course” and continue spending money)
    • Your family is deficient
    • Your past is suspect
    • Your affiliations are unwise
    • Your thoughts, feelings, actions are irrelevant or selfish
    • Social guilt
    • Historical guilt
  • Instill fear, such as fear of:
    • Thinking independently
    • The outside world
    • Enemies (psychiatry, pharmaceuticals, critics)
    • Losing one’s salvation
    • Leaving or being
  • Extremes of emotional highs and lows – love bombing and praise one moment, and then declaring you are a horrible sinner
  • Ritualistic confession of sins (auditing, rundown, and reports)
    • sometimes public confession of sins
  • Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about leaving the group or questioning the leader’s authority
    • No happiness or fulfillment possible outside the group
    • Terrible consequences if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc
    • Shunning of those who leave; fear of being rejected by friends and family
    • Never a legitimate reason to leave; those who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly brainwashed by family or counselor, or seduced by money, sex, or rock-and-roll
  • Threats of harm to ex-member and family (threats of cutting off friends/family) (fairgame)

Summary

Many people incorrectly think of mind control as an ambiguous, mystical process that cannot be defined in concrete terms. In reality, mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques. Destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause; it is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. In fact, there only need to be a few major behaviors under each of the four components.

However, it is obvious from the above evaluation that Scientology is a dangerous and destructive group that exercises control of the behavior, information, thoughts, and emotions of its members. All members must follow rules, some more strictly than others. They must behave according to these rules, disconnecting from SP (suppressive persons) and critics, confessing private thoughts and actions during auditing sessions, and reporting on each other. Information about Hubbard and certain teachings are kept hidden with certain beliefs being revealed only at higher levels in the group. The fear of losing friends and family from disconnection is a powerful example of control. Scientology uses internally-produced propaganda along with misquotes from non-cult sources to manipulate members. They use all of the methods above to reshape a member’s identity and reality. Yes, Scientology exercises dangerous undue influence and destructive mind control on all involved.

If you have never been a Scientologist but, rather, have been involved with another controlling group or relationship, I encourage you to review the BITE model components, along with the Influence Continuum and honestly evaluate whether your organization or relationship practices some of most of these behaviors.

Videos With Former Members:

Jon Atack interview – Author of A Piece of Blue Sky

Tory Christman, ex 30yr Scientologist (OT7) August 2012

Steven Hassan and Jeffrey Augustine

Denise Brennan interview – February 2013

Hakan Jarva, Ex-Scientologist, a psychologist with Steven July 2013

Sasha Zbitnoff ex 2nd generation Scientologist November 2012

Karen Pressley, Ex-Scientologist, Paul Grosswald, and Steven Hassan

Chris Shelton: Sensibly Speaking Podcast #77: Dealing with Destructive Cults ft. Steve Hassan

 

Vlog:

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Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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Problems with the ISKCON Krishna Movementhttps://freedomofmind.com/problems-with-the-iskcon-krishna-movement/ https://freedomofmind.com/problems-with-the-iskcon-krishna-movement/#respondThu, 13 Dec 2018 13:48:08 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=16883George Harrison, Shyamasundara Dasa, and Mukunda Goswami in Vrindavan in front of Jiva Goswami Samadhi, 1996 The Truth About ISKCON Despite my profound appreciation for the musical genius of Beatle, George Harrison, ISKCON devotees influenced him. Harrison wrote songs like “My Sweet Lord” and donated large sums of [...]

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George Harrison, Shyamasundara Dasa, and Mukunda Goswami in Vrindavan in front of Jiva Goswami Samadhi, 1996

George Harrison, Shyamasundara Dasa, and Mukunda Goswami in Vrindavan in front of Jiva Goswami Samadhi, 1996

The Truth About ISKCON

Iskcon logo
Killing for Krishna cover by Henry Doktorski

Despite my profound appreciation for the musical genius of Beatle, George Harrison, ISKCON devotees influenced him. Harrison wrote songs like “My Sweet Lord” and donated large sums of money to the cult. I can only guess that many people were lured into the cult without proper research as a result of hearing his music. Clearly, the group used him as a recruiting tool. Since my own exit from the Moonies cult in 1976, I have met numerous former members who have helped educate me about the dark side of this organization.

Ex-ISKCON member Nori Muster, author of Betrayal of the Spirit, worked in the ISKCON Public Relations department for ten years. Since leaving, she has done a large amount of research along with providing support for people who have been harmed by the group. She wrote Child of the Cult, with one chapter on ISKCON, and documented the history of the Krishna kids at her website, The Children of ISKCON: Who are They? The History, the Lawsuit, and the Mythology. ISKCON separated children from their parents at age five and sent them to abusive boarding schools. During the 1970s and 1980s, as many as one thousand children were spiritually, emotionally, physically, or sexually abused. Nori helped the children start their lawsuit, Children of ISKCON vs. ISKCON, in 2000, which was settled in favor of the children in 2008.

Steven J. Gelberg was a devotee for seventeen years and graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1990, three years after ending his affiliation with the group. He authored Oh, The Things I Learned! Lessons from Seventeen Years in the Hare Krishnas and India In a Mind’s Eye: Travels and Ruminations of an Ambivalent Pilgrim. I did a video interview with them both of them in 2015 at an ICSA conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Krishna founder, Srila Prabhupada, died in 1977. He was a pharmacist who left his family and business to start this group which was supposedly a revitalization of a 500-year-old totalistic sect. Prabhupada was himself homophobic, racist, sexist and even anti-science. He taught absolute obedience.  Skeptical thoughts were evil. Some of his devotees were reportedly involved with guns and smuggling drugs. Its leadership had a large number of child molesters who are still in power today.

Henry Doktorski

This blog features an interview I conducted with former ISKCON member Henry Doktorski who authored the book Killing for Krishna: The Danger of Deranged Devotion. Doktorski was a member for 16 years. Researching this book and writing it served to be therapeutic for him, as it is for many former cult members. Today, he is a professional musician, teaches chess and lives in Los Angeles. His website is http://henrydoktorski.com.

Radhanath Swami is prominently featured in his book which focuses on the assassination of a former disciple Sulochan. One look at his website and you can see how much he is involved with promulgating himself and the Krishna cause. He has a New York Times best-selling book and speaks at major companies and universities. He has an Ecovillage in India where yoga is taught. Radhanath was part of the conspiracy to track down and murder Stephen Bryant (Sulochan) but has never been held accountable. Krishna devotee Thomas Drescher was convicted of the murder and, reportedly, his best friend is Radhanath. Doktorski wrote this 600-page book for his godbrothers and sisters who are still in the Krishna group as well as for former members and other interested people.  He was given documentation left behind by the now deceased head, Bhaktipada of New Vrindaban Krishna Temple in West Virginia. Doktorski also did many interviews with present and former disciples. I was on an NYC morning talk show with Bhaktipada when he was doing a book tour. Needless to say, I was a critic.

A Skeptic’s perspective video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V83jESoKtqI

Video Interview

Personal Note from Nori Muster

Nori emailed me this and I wanted to add these personal comments of hers:

“George loved Prabhupada along with other Hindu gurus. In the 1980s, Mukunda flew to England twice to interview George for the book, Chant and Be Happy. Mukunda returned with six hours of tapes, which we transcribed. The manuscript was heavily edited. For example, Mukunda asked George which guru he respected the most, and George said the Maharishi. That of course was edited out. Transcribing the tapes was one of the highlights of my time in ISKCON. I often answered the phone when George called and met him in person once when he came to my door looking for Mukunda.

George loved the first devotees he met in England in 1970 – Mukunda, Shymasundar, and Gurudas, and their wives. He stayed in contact with these devotees until the end of his life, and the family invited these men to be with George in Los Angles when he died.

As far as people being lured into ISKCON because of George’s album, All Things Must Pass – I was one of them!”

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Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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Scripted Violence, Conspiracy Theories and Concernshttps://freedomofmind.com/scripted-violence-conspiracy-theories-and-concerns/ https://freedomofmind.com/scripted-violence-conspiracy-theories-and-concerns/#respondThu, 06 Dec 2018 13:18:50 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=15755It has been several weeks since Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue in his hateful, rage-filled attack against Jews. This week, I had the opportunity to interview Chip Berlet, an investigative journalist, research analyst and scholar of right-wing movements. I had been wanting to interview him so he could explain the [...]

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Steven Hassan & Chip Berlet interview

It has been several weeks since Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue in his hateful, rage-filled attack against Jews. This week, I had the opportunity to interview Chip Berlet, an investigative journalist, research analyst and scholar of right-wing movements. I had been wanting to interview him so he could explain the concept of scripted violence. This seems to be exactly what took place with Bowers. He had been influenced to hate and fear Jewish people to the point that he acted out and committed a terrorist act. I also wanted to ask Chip about the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a Russian propaganda tool used to stir up hatred of the Jews around the world, including the United States. He reminded me that carmaker Henry Ford was the main proponent of spreading this Russian propaganda as a bonafide conspiracy theory in the U.S. Chip also talked about other conspiracy theories such as the Obama birther, that autism is caused by vaccinations, that there was no lunar landing and others.

This week is Hanukkah and that Temple has a special reason to light the Menorah. (It is a minor holiday not even mentioned in the Torah with a backstory that I am not proud of, but I always loved the spinning dreidel games, potato latkes, the jelly doughnuts and of course, the presents.) I wrote a blog following the attack with some of my ideas to combat hatred and violence.

Berlet wrote two books. The first, co-authored with Matthew N. Lyons, is Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, a broad historical overview of right-wing populism in the United States. The second is Eye’s Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash about the tea party. Berlet was a senior analyst since early 1982 at Political Research Associates (PRA), a non-profit group that tracks right-wing networks. He has studied conspiracy theories and has appeared often in the media.

Berlet, along with journalist Russ Bellant, has written about Lyndon LaRouche‘s National Caucus of Labor Committees, calling it anti-Jewish and neo-Nazi, urging an investigation of alleged illegal activities. My friend, Yves Messer, is a former member of the LaRouche cult and put up a wonderful website. At the request of the Duggan family, he and I traveled to the U.K. with the hope of speaking at the new inquest that ultimately found he did NOT commit suicide. The British student died in disputed circumstances near Wiesbaden, Germany. Cult leader Lyndon LaRouche ran for President eight consecutive times.

If you are interested in listening to an entire talk Berlet gave on these themes, I highly recommend watching “Trumping Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Right-Wing Propaganda, and Scripted Violence.”

I would also like to mention an excellent podcast on Conspiracy Theories by ex Scientologist, Chris Shelton.

How Can We Counter Falsehoods & Propaganda?

What can we do in a country that places such a high value on free speech? I think we need to do a much better job of countering falsehoods and propaganda. There are organizations which help to fact check and offer alternative explanations which are much more solid, especially when it comes to state-run propaganda, such as done by Russia and China. But the answer is to use your critical thinking and do research with vetted, reliable sources. Even so, be open to other points of view, as long as they stand up to scrutiny and fact-checking. What you can’t do is just blindly believe anybody or any source.

For example, Factcheck.org is really good. Check out this 2008 article “That Chain E-mail Your Friend Sent to You Is (Likely) Bogus. Seriously” and the November 16th, 2016 article “How to Spot Fake News.” Also, watch this great, short video on evaluating bogusness.

Another site I like to use is Snopes.com. Whenever I encounter something from a questionable source that doesn’t sound logical, I visit Snopes. Also, I subscribe to their daily email which sends the latest stories and explains which are true and which are baseless.

I want to end this blog on a positive note by suggesting my readers check out https://www.gapminder.org. I recently listened to a TED talk given by the Roslings and suggest my readers do so, too. You will be made to realize how ignorant most of us are about the positive things happening in our world. Lastly, check out the book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

Video Interview with Chip Berlet

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Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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Highlights from my EXJW Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything)https://freedomofmind.com/highlights-from-my-exjw-reddit-ama-ask-me-anything/ https://freedomofmind.com/highlights-from-my-exjw-reddit-ama-ask-me-anything/#respondThu, 29 Nov 2018 13:06:56 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=15751Top Ten Questions & Answers On Monday, November 19, 2018, I participated in my first ever AMA (Ask Me Anything) for r/exjw on Reddit to an overwhelming response. Reddit users interviewed me by posting questions which I then answered on the Reddit forum. I want to thank Kimmy O'Donnell who helped arrange it [...]

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Steven Hassan AMA image

Top Ten Questions & Answers

On Monday, November 19, 2018, I participated in my first ever AMA (Ask Me Anything) for r/exjw on Reddit to an overwhelming response. Reddit users interviewed me by posting questions which I then answered on the Reddit forum. I want to thank Kimmy O’Donnell who helped arrange it and everyone for their support and contributions.

My opening post directed the discussion, “Good morning. I will be available for the next 24 hours to answer your questions. We can discuss the Jehovah’s Witnesses and how they fit my BITE model, how to help family and friends stuck in and ways to recover. Feel free to ask about my work, too. I look forward to being here.” (You can see the original AMA here.)

For this week’s blog, I will share a sampling of the AMA with ten questions from Reddit users along with my responses. (Minor edits to the original posts have been made for formatting and length.)

One link that is particularly important is a video of a talk I gave in Stockholm, Sweden on Helping Individuals Born in High-Demand Groups and Cults and for anyone born into a dysfunctional family or a cult; watching this video will be very helpful.

Question & Answer #1

From FrodeKommode:

“My question to you is more about leadership. From your study on how cults work, what are your opinions on how the mind works on those at the top of a Cult like this? Are they all trapped in the same mind control, just like the R&F, or do they realize in another level that this is all about keeping themselves in power, no matter what happens? We have Ray Franz waking up and writing the Crisis of Conscience, but do you believe that there might be more of the Governing Body (top leadership) knowing that something is wrong? Do the writing department realize themselves that they are building a lie? Some of the quote manipulations could give a hint that they do. What are your thoughts on this, based on other cults?”

My answer:

“Good question about leadership.
I have been doing this work for over 40 years and so have learned about many, many cult leaders. They all seem to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathy as well as other problems. I have not seen a cold calculating criminal just deciding, “I want to start a cult” and if such a person did this, it would not last many years, much less for decades. Most cult leaders were raised in a family system where they never developed a secure attachment and a healthy sense of self. Most cult leaders were actually in a cult themselves, where they learned a lot about the dynamics of a mind control cult.

As far as members of the GB, I am very interested to know more about these specific individuals and just how much exposure they actually have to critical literature. I doubt any. I would predict if they sat and read Combating Cult Mind Control from start to finish, they would never be able to function in the same way. And if all read my book and discussed it, it could change the organization permanently. I realize this must sound pretty bold to say. Ray Franz is an example of someone that was raised in the group and woke up and acted on his conscience.”

Question & Answer #2

From zakharijah:

“How is it many of us ex Jehovah’s Witnesses fall into the trap of conspiracy theories?”

My Answer:

“I would say all former members of mind control cults, unless they understand the essentials of how they operate AND do the therapeutic healing work to get their minds to function in a more balanced way, which includes critical thinking, will be very susceptible to any ideology that presents itself in a way to give an explanation of what ” reality is.” In other words, people need to develop an internal locus of control for a formulation of what is a workable “map” of reality.”

Question & Answer #3

From CovertFade:

“What advice would you give to a JW who has literally just woken up and is feeling overwhelmed by the realisation that they are in a cult? What practical things can they do to get a handle on the situation and work out what to do next?”

My Answer:

“I think the initial few weeks of waking up is very jolting to the system and so I definitely recommend people gaining access to a support system of folks who have left years ago and have gone on to have good counseling [ . . . ].

I would say getting a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep (it is not unusual for someone just coming out to sleep much more.) Sleep is very healing. Exercise, good food, being in nature. Doing things you love to do (music, dance, sports, comedy, reading. Reading was a major strategy for my recovery. I was obsessed with understanding what happened to me but I was recruited in at age 19, not born in. For folks like me, reconnecting to my past life and identity was huge- friends, family. Learning about brainwashing, mind control was huge. Learning about the Bible and deconstructing the ideology to see how they misquoted scripture was important. So much more!”

Question & Answer #4

From RayMomma:

“For those that are trying to fade and leave JWs, we’re often hounded by calls, visits, and text messages from people who are genuinely concerned for our spiritual well-being and don’t understand how their behavior comes across. It’s suffocating and anxiety-inducing. On a basic level, it’s supposed to get you to come back – they think because of their love shown, but it’s actually guilt and social pressure. How can someone request that the behavior stops, clearly communicate how it actually makes them feel, all while not attacking their “good” intentions?”

My Answer:

“I would say there are a variety of strategies you can employ. It will vary if the person is a family member or former close friend, or just someone else you might know but more peripherally.

Please keep in mind, I am an activist and so my bias is to help others. So rather than pretend you aren’t home, or blocking email or specific phone numbers, I recommend active engagement. If you have not yet read the new Combating Cult Mind Control (not the volume from 1988/1990 with Combatting with two “t”s), I would encourage you to start there. And then read my book Freedom of Mind. You will learn a ton of concrete things you can say to help people. Some ex-members literally show the active member the book, saying that it was written by a guy who was in the Moonie cult (the one with the mass weddings) and that you would like to loan the book to them to read, so you both can have a discussion about the ideas in the book. Of course, you risk being cut off.”

Question & Answer #5

From frrodrigoramalho:

“Are you aware of JW propaganda? If yes, in your opinion, how effective is that? What is the best way or practice to fight against these propagandas and keep a peaceful mind?”

My Answer:

“Kimmy O’Donnell, a former Jehovah’s Witness who has been working with FOM to support my website and social media, has been keeping me informed about every major development with Watchtower in the past year. This has resulted in my writing more blogs about the Watchtower than probably any other group at this point. As far as how effective propaganda is, it depends. Some of this is aimed to keep people still in and not to convince ex-members or outsiders.

The Watchtower now has an online presence and so they are in a situation where they are having to deal with information that everyone can have access to with a cell phone or access to a library computer system.

As far as how to keep a peaceful mind (and not get triggered), it is essential to not only educate yourself but to actually do the healing process that is necessary to reclaim your own mind and internal locus of control for your life decisions.”

Question & Answer #6

From MultiStratz:

“I’m new to your work and the BITE model, what’s a good place to start as far as reading? Are you an exJW?”

My Answer:

“I am a former member of the Unification Church, otherwise known as the Moonies.

Have you been to my website freedomofmind.com? I encourage you to look at my site and my blogs including this one http://freedomofmind.com/the-bite-model-and-jehovahs-witnesses/

Question & Answer #7

From dem0n0cracy:

“If I could say one thing to a JW that will put a pebble in their shoe, what should that be?”

My Answer:

“I do not think there is only one thing. There are many. And I would never describe it as a pebble in their shoe. But I understand it is an expression.

Being warm and friendly, connecting with them and asking them if they have a friend or family member who has left or were disfellowshipped? And then if they say they know someone, ask them if they would like to speak with them to hear how they are doing and why they left? It will bring up programmed fears. But as a follow-up suggestion, if they prayed about it and felt that Jehovah wanted them to think for themselves and wanted them to investigate, would they do so?”

From letmylightshine:

“I’d like to know this too. Every now and then, they surround the area I live in during the morning ‘rush’ and I’d like to be able to impact them in some way… especially the younger ones. (I’m exmo..)”

My Answer:

“There are many more things. If you are a former member, just talk with them warmly and then, before you leave, let them know you left and how happy you are to feel free. To understand, that fear of Armageddon is something thousands of different cults, as well as religions, teach in order to control members and that they all say you need to be in their organization to be saved.”

Question & Answer #8

From Modified_whale_shark:

“Do you think that because of the availability and increasing amount of information on the internet we will see a decrease in cult membership. Especially the younger generations (so-called millennials and gen z). Do you think this will cause the traditional cults to “starve” in the upcoming years?”

My Answer:

“I am seeing the internet actually increase the number of destructive cults. And wealthy cults manipulate Wikipedia as well as search engines to bury critical information. Then, there are the disinformation campaigns against cult critics and any information the cults do not like. I also believe that influence professionals, which includes governments, do not wish to educate their citizens about mind control. Schools do little to nothing.

So I think we need former members who are educated to do a grassroots activism campaign. (Read my blog http://freedomofmind.com/a-call-to-action-for-all-who-have-suffered-from-mind-control/)”

Question & Answer #9

From Reality-101:

“For someone pursuing therapy, are there any specific references we should present to our therapist to better explain the situation we went through? Or are there specific things we should be looking for in a therapist?”

My Answer:

“Very good question. Some people are still on the fence, but really need help to make the move.

Unfortunately, most mental health professionals have not received any training in terms of helping former members. So you need to do a lot of consumer research. You want to know about a person’s training and background. If they are like me, a mental health professional who was in a cult and wrote about it, start by reading what they wrote. Many former members go on to become mental health professionals. Look at their website, read their blogs, interview them. If you can’t find someone on your insurance network (I do not take insurance) then your financial ability to pay out of pocket is going to be a big factor. More and more, people are needing to do video conferencing sessions with someone not nearby. This is not ideal, but better than going to someone who does not have training or experience. If you are looking for someone locally and no one has this training and experience, see if there is someone who is willing to pay for their own training and supervision. Someone willing to read books, watch videos, go to conferences. What you do not want to do is pay someone so you teach them- and you are having real results with each session. I should say I have a number of free videos of workshops and talks I have done for mental health professionals on my website.”

Question & Answer #10

From MZLions:

“My question is in regards to small children who are still attending the meeting with my ex-husband. I can see already how strong an influence the group has on their young minds. How can we help our kids see for themselves that it is a cult?”

My Answer:

“Children who are still involved with the cult through an ex is a logistical challenge. While cult parents often program the children against the parent who has exited (they have left “Jehovah” and the “Truth”), if the ex-member parent does not maintain warmth, love, joy with the kids, this is not good. Likewise, if the ex-gets defensive or attacks the other parent, this is harmful as well.

So, I believe every case needs to be customized to the specifics of the strengths, weaknesses and the resources.

Social psychology education is a benign but helpful place to start. Anti-bully concepts. Being true to one’s own conscience and answering your children’s questions in developmentally appropriate ways. Stories are a great way to teach.”

Video

Reflections of my AMA

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Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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What is a Cult? Whiteboard Animation Explaining the BITE Modelhttps://freedomofmind.com/what-is-a-cult-whiteboard-animation-explaining-the-bite-model/ https://freedomofmind.com/what-is-a-cult-whiteboard-animation-explaining-the-bite-model/#respondThu, 22 Nov 2018 12:39:17 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=15746BITE Model Since my deprogramming from the Moon cult in 1976, I have come to learn of countless thousands of groups that I have never heard of before. Are they cults? Do they use mind control? Is it brainwashing? I have also been asked to comment on destructive family systems and controlling relationships. [...]

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slide: what is a cult? Whiteboard animation explaining the BITE model

BITE Model

Since my deprogramming from the Moon cult in 1976, I have come to learn of countless thousands of groups that I have never heard of before. Are they cults? Do they use mind control? Is it brainwashing? I have also been asked to comment on destructive family systems and controlling relationships. Over the decades of research, my way of systematizing a method to evaluate a weird group with crazy beliefs from a destructive one has come to be grounded in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It seems to me that while there are countries, like China, that do not support that document, the vast number of civilized countries do take a positive stance so that individuals have human rights.

I have developed an Influence Continuum which shows the thematic differences between ethical influence and undue influence. My BITE model (Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotion Control) offers a list of variables that can be easily identified and which quickly show if a group or individual is exercising unethical influence. For example, if a recruiter lies and does not give fully informed consent to the person they are trying to influence, one can quickly say they are unethical and using Information Control. If a group tells members they cannot and should not speak with former members or critics or read any of their material, this likewise is Information Control. If a group indoctrinates people to believe that if they ever want to leave the group, their safety and salvation will be lost, this is Emotion control and in many cases phobia indoctrination. By examining the behaviors, one can determine a group is a benign or even a positive cult or a destructive cult.

Mind control refers to a specific set of methods and techniques, such as hypnosis or thought-stopping, that influence how a person thinks, feels, and acts. I developed the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. “BITE” stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control. It is based on research and theory by Robert Jay Lifton, Margaret Singer, Edgar Schein, Louis Jolyon West, and others who studied brainwashing in Maoist China, as well as cognitive dissonance theory by Leon Festinger.

Destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause; it is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. In fact, there only needs to be a few major behaviors under each of the four components.

To learn more, download this detailed handout on The BITE Model or read Combating Cult Mind Control which explores cult psychology, curing the mind control virus, how to protect people you care about and strategies for recovery. (The new 30th-anniversary edition is available in print, digital format, and audiobook.)

Watch: What is a Cult? Whiteboard Animation Explaining the BITE Model

The following animation describes in great detail how the BITE model can be applied so as to determine if a group or relationship is healthy or destructive. It was sent to Freedom of Mind from a former member who was helped by my work and wanted to pay it forward and help others. Thank you very much, Michael!

Animation by Michael Keay, office@michaelkeay.co.uk

Influence Continuum

the influence continuum according to the BITE model

Additional Reading:

To learn more, please download this detailed handout on The BITE Model.

The BITE Model and Jehovah’s Witnesses

The BITE Model & Mormonism: An Exploration with Ex-Mormon John Dehlin

Shunning and the BITE Model of Mind Control in the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Freedom of Mind: BITE Model

A Response to Academics Who Say There Is No Undue Influence in Destructive Cults

Freedom of Mind: Undue Influence

Please read Combating Cult Mind Control which explores cult psychology, curing the mind control virus, how to protect people you care about and strategies for recovery. (new 30th-anniversary edition available in print, digital format, and audiobook)

Join our email list for the latest news and special events

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Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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A Call to Action for All Who Have Suffered from Mind Control!https://freedomofmind.com/a-call-to-action-for-all-who-have-suffered-from-mind-control/ https://freedomofmind.com/a-call-to-action-for-all-who-have-suffered-from-mind-control/#respondThu, 15 Nov 2018 12:23:55 +0000http://freedomofmind.com/?p=15738The Age of Influence I believe that we are no longer living merely in the "Age of Information" but the "Age of Influence." Information has long been collected, legally and illegally about billions of people, building very sophisticated profiles. With such a persona or profile, influence can be very efficiently used to manipulate [...]

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Call to Action

The Age of Influence

I believe that we are no longer living merely in the “Age of Information” but the “Age of Influence.” Information has long been collected, legally and illegally about billions of people, building very sophisticated profiles. With such a persona or profile, influence can be very efficiently used to manipulate people’s minds and behavior. In the past forty years that I have been studying cult mind control techniques and patterns, in this digital age, I see “influence” developing at a high velocity.

For example, the Chinese government, along with every country with a top-down control of power, money and human lives, is instituting infrastructures used to control people. You cannot do anything in China on your phone or on the internet without the government censoring or at least knowing all of your activities. The United States is open, but much too open without laws to protect Americans. I recently watched a story on 60 MINUTES about how European citizens have laws giving ownership of personal information to individuals. No such law exists in the United States! Unless major technology platforms commit to the European standard (the default is such that data belongs to you and not the tech company), Americans will be at the mercy of those who have our information and seek to influence our behavior, thoughts, feelings, and decisions. This, of course, involves politics and electioneering in all its facets.

Humans Behave in Accordance with Known Psychological Models

This blog is a call to action, for all people born and raised in totalitarian societies and destructive cults, to educate others. Become an activist for freedom. My hope is that human beings will develop more awareness and consciousness and make choices based on conscience and integrity. Social psychology uses thousands of experiments to teach us that human beings behave according to models. These models include cognitive dissonance, confirming to groupthink, and blindly following leaders believed to be legitimate. For those familiar with my work, the Influence Continuum and BITE model are useful to sort through ethical versus unethical influence. In order to educate others, you must start by learning and healing oneself. Of course, everyone who is a family member or friend of a person who has suffered from abusive social control is invited to act too!

Jerry Minor

This week, I had the pleasure to interview a Hollywood personality, Jerry Minor. Jerry is an actor, comedian, and writer who is willing to talk about growing up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a celebrity (he was on Saturday Night Live as one of his major credits), he is willing to speak out to help people better understand the devastating effects of having been raised in a destructive cult. He appeared in a special produced in conjunction with the third season of Leah Remini’s A&E Series on Scientology. I just watched the show and it was two hours of heart-wrenching stories about the horrors of growing up in the Watchtower Society. Lloyd Evans, who I wrote about in chapter six of my book, was the main explainer of the group structure and policies. There were so many stories of depression, agony, isolation, phobia implantation, manipulation of family and social bonds, suicide, drugs, and death. I wish there had been more explanation about mind control, along with direct comparisons to Scientology, the Moonies, and other cults. Still, it was very strong and a positive contribution, especially for those people who think the Jehovah’s Witnesses are an ok group. (Additionally, UFC champion Nate Quarry was on the Leah special sharing some powerful personal stories.)

Jerry told me he has noticed that there are many people still “walking wounded” even though they have left or were kicked out of the group years earlier. Maybe they still had loaded language terms in their thought processes. Maybe they still had programmed phobias of Armageddon. Perhaps, they still feel like they have left God or were rejected by God’s organization. They suffer from a wide variety of issues, including confusion, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger, sexual abuse trauma, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Jerry realized that he was still embarrassed to tell people about his involvement with the Witnesses and was still experiencing harmful effects. Many years ago, he found my book, Combating Cult Mind Control, called me up and decided to fly to Boston to work with me so as to better understand cult mind control and healing strategies. Learning to trust oneself and others is a major achievable goal of intensive recovery services.

Jerry Minor knows my friend, Hoyt Richards, who also is a former member of a cult. Hoyt has chosen to be very public about it and has helped to educate others. He is referred to as the first male supermodel and gave millions to his cult leader, the head of the Eternal Flame in New York City, now defunct. I did a video interview with Hoyt here. Hoyt is a very talented actor, producer, director. I know many famous, accomplished people who are still “in the closet” about publicly speaking out about their cult experience. However, I believe the stigma is lifting and there are more and more documentaries being done to help explain the cult mind control phenomenon. Please consider becoming an activist and share your story and your knowledge. I salute Jerry, Nate, Leah, Hoyt and other celebrities who are standing up to speak out!

Video Interview with Jerry Minor

Additional Reading on the Watchtower Society

Malice Found by Jury in Montana Watchtower Society Sex Abuse Case 10/11/2018

The BITE Model and Jehovah’s Witnesses 8/02/2018

Shunning and the BITE Model of Mind Control in the Jehovah’s Witnesses 3/18/2018

How Jehovah’s Witness Teachings Can Damage Brain Development in Children 1/09/2018

Video Blog: A Watchtower Tragedy – Death of Éloïse Dupuis 11/29/2017

Is It Good Policy to Ban Religious Cults? 3/30/2017

JW Leadership Fails to Protect Children 12/08/2016

A Watchtower Tragedy 10/21/2016

Prince and the Power of Undue Influence 4/29/2016

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Steven Hassan

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.

Contact Freedom of Mind to schedule a consultation or to learn about offered services.

Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.

Subscribe to receive updates on news, events, blogs, videos, webinars, and workshops.

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