The Freedom of Mind approach to recovery and healing from destructive cults is customizable and designed to meet the needs of most any person who has been influenced by a cult. People who were born or raised in a cult have spent their early developmental years under cult control. Other people may have entered into a cult later on in life as adolescents, young adults, adults, or older adults. Both sets of former cult members may have very significant needs for recovery and healing. The Freedom of Mind approach to recovery and healing helps the former cult member to find an internal locus of control, self-awareness, self-efficacy, and the tools needed maintain their own safety, well-being and effective functioning as they move throughout their lives. This approach is unique, focused on addressing the issues created by cult influence, and customizable to simultaneously address each person’s other individual needs. And, the intensive 1-week session of coaching and counseling will help to bring about healing and recovery in a much shorter timeframe than having therapy for 1 hour per week over many years.
Complications from Being Raised in a Destructive Cult
Being raised in an authoritarian group that teaches black & white, “us” vs “them” and/or good vs evil is developmentally stifling for any child. Developmental psychologists describe the ideal environment as being one of safety, love, consistency and age-appropriate encouragement of learning, play, risk-taking, and emotional and cognitive stimulation.
Over the past decades, I have had the opportunity to work with and help people who were raised in destructive cults such as Scientology, The Children of God, The Way International, The Krishnas, Moonies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so many more. These groups all cultivated a highly programmed ideology and strict BITE model conditions. Many of these insisted on hitting, spanking, caning, paddling and other forms of corporal punishment. Some groups punished parents who wouldn’t hit their own children to discipline them. All of these groups told their members that they, alone, were the elite group on earth and that “outsiders” were not going to be saved or were downright Satanic. Rigid rules and punishments were imposed. If they were gay, autistic, had some kind of psychiatric problem or were otherwise disobedient to the cult regime, they became isolated, were punished and, in many cases, were kicked out of the group.
Potential Problems After Exiting a Group
The resilience of the human spirit to not only survive torture and abuse but to find a way to freedom with a new life for themselves is truly a heroic feat. Unfortunately, some are picked up by human traffickers and further exploited and abused. A percentage turn to alcohol and drugs and try to self-medicate to deal with their cult programmed phobias. Some, unfortunately, have severe breakdowns, are institutionalized, misdiagnosed, or put on medications that do not deal with the underlying issue. Others get involved in abusive relationships, as a stepping-stone out of the cult. Some even end up joining another destructive cult. I have worked with some people who hop from cult to cult, trying to find their way.
The Freedom of Mind Approach
After decades of training as a mental health professional with extensive “in the field” experience, I have written and given talks about what has helped me the most to recover. I have taught at international conferences about mind control cults, speaking about how to identify them, along with effective means of treatment. At some point in the future, I will be publishing a recovery book and hopefully a set of online webinars to transmit the approach I have found to be most effective.
In this blog, I wish to share the basic model. To start with, the way to heal from destructive mind control is to learn how to heal yourself. This implies getting the most important information on social influence, thought reform, mind control, hypnosis, and developing a toolbox that you can use to help heal. The locus of control must move from an external (outside authority figure, ideology or group) to an internal one, where you learn to identify your authentic self.
It also demands that you learn how to self-monitor and self-assess your states of consciousness. Plus, you need to have the necessary tools to get resourceful in a variety of circumstances. One needs to be comfortable in one’s own body. One needs to be a master of time and dwell in the present without being taken over by past triggers or future anxieties. One needs to learn how to trust oneself again, having a reliable way of determining who is trustworthy in one’s life moving forward. One has to identify the cult programmed beliefs and phobias so as to systematically cure oneself by determining healthy beliefs and strategies. One needs to know what is “normal” and what is “healthy.”
Become a Master of Your Own Life
What I do with my clients is teach them to become the master of their own lives. I am not a substitute authority figure for the cult, rather, I act as a coach and a model for what might work to help a person recover their personal power, reaching their highest potential. Over the many years, I have found the absolutely fastest way to help people “jumpstart” their lives is for them to come to Boston and spend 4 days working intensively with me. For those who have the financial ability to do this, it is six hours a day (three in the morning, long lunch break and three hours in the afternoon) Monday, Tuesday (Wednesday off) Thursday and Friday. To have my full attention, people have flown in from as far as Australia and South Africa. I customize a plan that will help them leave their past cult identity behind, using all of the valuable things they have learned in going forward.
If you have been influenced by a cult, I do recommend reading Combating Cult Mind Control, followed by Freedom of Mind. (If you read the old edition of Combatting from years ago, read it again with fresh eyes. The new edition is much richer and deeper than the original, plus I cover the topic of people that are born into cults.) If you are not sure if the Freedom of Mind approach is right for you, I encourage you to schedule a one-hour video consultation (using Zoom Video Conferencing) with me- subject to availability. If you are out of a group but your family or loved ones are still in and you want to help them wake up and leave, contact us to learn about how my Strategic Interactive Approach may be able to help. Doing so can be an enormously 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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