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Social Psychology And Group Dynamics

by Jan Groenveld

Studies have shown that today’s cults use a stronger form of control than those of 50 years ago. The advent of new psychological experiments in the 60’s and 70’s have produced the modern methods of mind control which are far more sophisticated than the BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION TECHNIQUES and THOUGHT REFORM developed by the Chinese. To understand mind control you need a basic understanding of BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION TECHNIQUES.

What is “behaviour modification.”

Simply described, it is “reward or punishment for actions” association. It was used on you as a child whenever you were being commended or otherwise for your behaviour.

Taking away a privilege is usually a sure-fire method to persuading a child to change its behaviour when that child is old enough to under- stand the process. Praising a child for doing good is another method of changing behaviour, especially in the child who is anxious toplease. The rod of education applied to the seat of learning is another method of bringing about a desired behaviour change.

When behaviour modification techniques such as these are applied in a loving, caring and consistent way, the child changes their behaviour without holding feelings of resentment. However, if these techniques are perverted in any way, damage is done to the child’s psyche, their emotions. e.g.. the abused child syndrome. Cults use a sophisticated and perverted form of behaviour modification which damages an individuals emotions.

Cognitive Dissonance

Leon Festinger is a psychologist who studied groups that predicted the end of the world. He found that most members became stronger than ever when the prophecy failed. His investigation revealed that members had to find a way to cope psychologically with the failure. They needed to maintain order and meaning in their life. They needed to think they were acting according to their self-image and values. Festinger described this contradiction which they had to overcome as what has become known as the “COGNITIVE DISSONANCE THEORY” The three components he described are:

“Control Of Behaviour” - “Control Of Thoughts” - “Control Of Emotions”

Each component has a powerful effect on the other two: CHANGE ONE AND THE OTHERS WILL TEND TO FOLLOW. When all three change the individual undergoes a complete change. Festinger summarised the basic principle:

“If you change a person’s behaviour, his thoughts and feelings will change to minimise the dissonance.”

When there is a conflict between thoughts, feelings or behaviour, then those in conflict will change to minimise the contradiction. This is because a person can only tolerate a certain amount of discrepancy between these components which make up his identity. In cults this dissonance is created to exploit and control them.

Steven Hassan, author of Combating Cult Mind Control, added a fourth component to Festinger’s:

“Control Of Information”

By controlling the information one receives you can control and restrict the individual’s ability to think for himself. You limit what he is able to think about.

Behaviour Control

- The control of an individual’s physical reality.

This can include control of where he lives, what he eats, his clothing, sleep, job, rituals etc. This is why most cults have a stringent schedule for members. There is always something to do in destructive cults. Each cult has its own distinctive set of behaviours that bind it together. This control is so powerful that the cult member will actually participate in their own punishment and come to believe he actually deserves it! No one can command a person’s thoughts but IF YOU CAN CONTROL BEHAVIOUR THEN HEARTS AND MINDS WILL FOLLOW.

Thought Control

- The control of an individual’s thought processes

The indoctrination of members so thoroughly that they will manipulate their own thought processes. The ideology is internalised as “the truth”. Incoming information is filtered through the beliefs which also regulates how this information is thought about.

The cult has it’s own language which further regulates how a person thinks. This puts a great barrier between cult members and outsiders.

Another form of control is “thought stopping” techniques. This can take many forms: chanting, meditating, singing, humming, tongues (some even pay money to learn it), concentrated praying, etc. The use of these techniques short-circuits the persons’ ability to test reality. The person can only think positive thoughts about the group. If there is a problem the member assumes responsibility and works harder.

Emotional Control

- The control of the individuals emotional life

This manipulates a person’s range of feelings. Guilt and fear are used to keep control. Cult members cannot see the control by guilt and like other abuse victims are conditioned to blame themselves when things are wrong, even grateful when a leader points our their transgressions.

Fear is used to manipulate two ways. The first is to create an outside enemy (we vs them) who is persecuting you. The second is the fear of punishment by the leaders if you are not “good enough.” Being “good enough” is following the ideology perfectly. The most powerful emotional control is phobia indoctrination. This can give the person a panic reaction at the very thought of leaving the group. It is almost impossible to conceive that there is any life outside the group. There is no physical gun held to their heads but the psychological gun is just as if not more powerful.

Information Control

- The control of the individuals information sources

Deny a person the information needed to make a sound judgment and he will be incapable of doing so. People are trapped in cults because they are denied both the access to the critical information they need to assess their situation. The psychological chains on their minds are just as powerful as if they were locked away physically from society. So strong is this psychological process they also lack the properly functioning internal mechanism to process any critical information placed in front of them.