The Barnabas Ministry
Book Review


Combatting Cult Mind Control
Steven Hassan (Park Street Press, Rochester, VT., 1990. 236 pages.)

Steven Hassan is a former "Moonie" (that is, a former member of Sun Myung Moon's "Unification Church") and licensed counselor. He discusses mechanisms for manipulation and control in unhealthy groups-- whether religious, political, business or educational. He estimates that there are some three million Americans in unhealthy groups utilizing some form of mind control-- from UFO cults and business pyramid organizations to "one true church" and business/training groups. Drawing upon his experiences as a Moonie and counselor, he illustrates how people are attracted to and retained by these groups.

If you're like me, the concept of "mind control" might bring up an initial reaction of "you've got to be kidding me" with images of hypnotism and extreme tactics. But mind control isn't about some bizarre indoctrination by a known enemy, it has to do with cleverly limiting options and giving the illusion of "free choice" by those whom one perceives as friends.

Hassan discusses case histories relating to dozens of unhealthy groups (from the well known to the obscure) who share a common set of dynamics. He summarizes his "how to recognize an unhealthy group" criteria with a "BITE" acronym:

  • Behavior Control- warped emphasis upon unity and conformance to group behavior.
  • Information Control- information enables people to make decisions; hiding information prevents sound decision making.
  • Thought Control- internalizing group teaching, simple answers to complex questions, and using "loaded language" to shunt the thinking process.
  • Emotional Control- using affection, guilt and fear to manipulate people into loyalty and devotion.
Hassan also discuses how to break through the control with love, truth and hope. His approach is not to just get people to exit a group; it is about empowering them to truly make informed and free choices.  I found Combatting Cult Mind Control to be eye-opening and incredibly relevant. 

Copyright © 2004 John Engler. All rights reserved.


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