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3 Ways a Cult Gains Control

[Adapted from Kurt Lewin's three-stage model as described in Coercive Persuasion (Norton, 1961) by Edgar Schein]

 

  • 1. Unfreezing
  • a. Disorientation / confusion
  • b. Sensory deprivation and/or sensory overload
  • c. Physiological manipulation\

  • 1. Sleep deprivation
  • 2. Privacy deprivation
  • 3. Change of diet
  • d. Hypnosis

  • 1. Age regression
  • 2. Visualizations
  • 3. Story-telling and metaphors
  • 4. Linguistic double binds, use of suggestion
  • 5. Meditation, chanting, praying, singing
  • e. Get person to question self identity
  • f. Redefine individual's past (implant false memories, forget positive memories of the past)
  • 2.  Changing
  • a. Creation and imposition of new "identity"done step by step

  • 1. Formally within indoctrination sessions
  • 2. Informally by members, tapes, books, etc.
  • b. Use of Behavior Modification techniques

  • 1. Rewards and punishments
  • 2. Use of thought-stopping techniques
  • 3. Control of environment
  • c. Mystical manipulation
  • d. Use of hypnosis and other mind-altering techniques

  • 1. Repetition, monotony, rhythm
  • 2. Excessive chanting, praying, decreeing, visualizations
  • e. Use of confession and testimonials

  • 3. Refreezing
  • a. New identity reinforced, old identity surrendered

  • 1. Separate from the past; decrease contact or cut off friends and family
  • 2. Give up meaningful possessions and donate assets
  • 3. Start doing cult activities: recruit, fundraise, move in with members
  • b. New name, new clothing, new hairstyle, new language, new "family"
  • c. Pairing up with new role models, buddy system
  • d. Indoctrination continues: Workshops, retreats, seminars, individual studies, group activities


Remember, cult mind control does not erase the person's old identity, but rather creates a new one to suppress the old identity (John-John and John-cult).