Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month! I wanted to write this blog on how some high control groups program their members away from mental health help. This is true, especially in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, The Moonies, as well as countless other high control Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups. A recent murder-suicide by Lauren Stuart, an ex-JW, is a horrible reminder of the need for any former member to get educated about mind control as well as the healing necessary by going to a specialized mental health professional. Family members and friends need to become aware of the unique issues regarding leaving a totalistic, religious group, especially.
However, any group (including other types of cults) that wants to have total control over their member’s minds and lives see “outside” mental health professionals as a threat to that control. Fear tactics that “spiritualize” any desire to question or challenge authority, rob people of their human rights to education, as well as, proper diagnosis and mental health treatment. Beliefs and feelings, including gay attractions, are often labeled with a number of “loaded language” terms such as entheta or fallen or Satanic. In other words, legitimate issues, like depression, anxiety, eating and sleep disorders, and panic attacks are not viewed as curable by anyone outside the group. These groups exercise control over how a person thinks, feels and acts, causing great emotional and mental health issues. [See BITE Model to learn more about undue influence.]
For many trapped inside of a high control group, such as the Watchtower, the norm is not to seek out qualified, professional help for anxiety, depression or any mental health issues. Rather, the solution to emotional problems is to pray more, read the Bible daily, attend all meetings, and increase preaching activity. The clear inference is if one works harder at being a Witness, one would not be depressed or suffer from anxiety.
As stated by a former member, Paul Grundy, of JWFacts.com, “The Watchtower does not forbid a Witness from seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist, however, it does speak disparagingly of these professions. Experiences are related to how becoming a Witness succeeds where psychiatry has failed. Psychologists are to be avoided because it shows the person has lost faith in the Bible’s ability to provide the solutions, will likely direct people away from the Watchtower religion and may resort to “demonic” hypnosis.”
Notice how Watchtower’s own literature discusses mental health professionals.
Awake! 1960 March 8 p.27
“As a rule, for a Christian to go to a worldly psychiatrist is an admission of defeat, it amounts to ‘going down to Egypt for help.’ Isaiah 31:1. Often when a Witness of Jehovah goes to a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist will try to persuade him that his troubles are caused by his religion, entirely overlooking the fact that the Christian witnesses of Jehovah are the best-oriented, happiest and most contented group of people on the face of the earth. They have the least need for psychiatrists. Also, more and more psychiatrists are resorting to hypnosis, which is a demonic form of worldly wisdom.”
Watchtower 1988 Oct 15 p.29
“What, though, about accepting treatment from a psychiatrist or a psychologist? This would be a personal decision to be made with due caution. … Of even more concern is the fact that some well-intentioned practitioners have given advice that flatly contradicts the Bible. … Does the physician understand and respect the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
Hubbard hated psychiatrists even though we have a letter he wrote asking for help from one. Since the beginning of Scientology, the organization has been strongly opposed to its members receiving mental health help.
“For decades, Scientology has waged a worldwide war against psychiatry. This war began with Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986), and continues under his successor, David Miscavige (b. 1960). It aims to eradicate psychiatric practice (especially psychiatrists’ use of pharmaceuticals) from the planet and replace it with Scientology’s own techniques. Scientology began as Dianetics, which was a supposed alternative to other 1950s mental health therapies.”
Referring to psychiatrists as “psychs”, Hubbard wrote of psychiatrists as denying human spirituality and peddling fake cures. He taught that psychiatrists were themselves deeply unethical individuals, committing “extortion, mayhem, and murder. Our files are full of evidence on them.” (Hubbard, L. Ron (1969). “Crime and Psychiatry”.)
Scientology claims to be the authority in curing mental illness and reportedly goes to great lengths to prevent members from receiving professional help.
Waking Up and Leaving the Group is Step One
Once free, ex-members unfortunately still walk around with the programmed fears. Most still have phobias of Armageddon and Judgement Day. Some carry guilt for not living up to cult “standards” and others are unable to fully trust themselves, much less “outsiders.” What is the number one strategy people use to deal with a phobia? They avoid! They avoid and they rationalize their avoidance behavior. Someone with an elevator phobia will do anything to avoid an elevator unless they learn how to reclaim their personal power and cure themselves. The fastest way to cure an elevator phobia? Spend hours riding elevators til it is “no big deal.” It is called “in vivo” exposure. While many people need professional help to get to the point of being able to ride an elevator, many people, if they understand what is going on, can exert willpower, confront the irrational fear, do deep breathing, do positive self- talk, and use supportive friends to cure their own phobia (who themselves have gotten better).
Destructive cults can have long-term effects, even if you have been physically away for some time. Many people have all kinds of symptoms such as headaches and other body aches. Instead of dealing with the underlying issue, which is the involvement in a mind control cult, many people turn to drugs, alcohol and other behaviors. Some cults actually program members to believe that if they ever”fall away” their lives will fall apart and they will commit suicide, become a drug addict, a sex pervert, or worse. And guess what? Some people do act out the programming. Unfortunately, countless people have killed themselves, being unable to cope when out of the totalistic group.
It is important to retrain and rewire your brain, all the way back to things learned in childhood. It takes intense commitment. It takes motivation to get strong and free! It takes the desire to reach out and trust a mental health professional, thus overcoming the cult phobias.
As stated in the book by Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself, “Analysis helps patients put their unconscious procedural memories and actions into words and into context, so they can better understand them. In the process, they plastically retranscribe these procedural memories, so that they become conscious explicit memories, sometimes for the first time, and patients no longer need to “relive” or “reenact” them, especially if they were traumatic.”
You can rewrite living in a healthy way with healthy modeling. (https://freedomofmind.com/the-freedom-of-mind-approach-to-recovery-and-healing/)
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.
Learn about how the Strategic Interactive Approach can help rescue your friend or loved one out from under predatory influence.
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