by Fred W. Anson
Since none of you have never been in a Mind Control Cult, and I have been, I thought it might be instructive to help you all understand what it’s like.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking so let me set the record straight right now:
Contrary to popular rumor, I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Further, as Richard Packham said so well in his (very tongue in cheek) introduction of Cult Expert Steven Hassan at the 2008 ExMormon Foundation Conference
“Steve Hassan is a Cult Counselor and Mind Control Expert, a Nationally Certified Counselor and licensed Mental Health Counselor. He has a break through approach to helping loved ones to get their loved ones out of cult mind control.
Now by asking Steve to speak to us we’re not necessarily implying that Mormonism is a cult!
I mean, you ask any Mormon and they will tell you that the church isnot a cult. They recognize that the FLDS IS a cult, but not the LdS Church. President Monson would not run a cult. He is a Prophet of God. Other so-called Prophets run cults but not President Monson.
So we have cleared that up! . . . it’s now my great pleasure to introduce to you Steven Hassan.”
Thank you Mr. Packham. So for those of you that might have been thinking “those” thoughts . . . well now, you can just relax, take a deep breath, and “simmer down” can’t you? You see, though I was never a Mormon, I was a member of what has come to be known as The Shepherding Movement for 11-years (from 1978-1989).
Here’s how the overview reads in the Wikipedia article for our group:
“The Shepherding Movement (sometimes called the “Discipleship Movement”) was an influential and controversial movement within some British and American charismatic churches, emerging in the 1970s and early 1980s. The doctrine of the movement emphasized the “one another” passages of the New Testament, and the mentoring relationship described in 2 Timothy.
The movement gained a reputation for controlling and abusive behaviour, with a great deal of emphasis placed upon the importance of obedience to one’s own shepherd. In many cases, disobeying one’s shepherd was tantamount to disobeying God. A few of these criticisms were exaggerated, but many lives were damaged.”
Before I joined the Shepherding Movement I was pretty much your typical 1970′s anti-establishment “Jesus Freak” with long hair, a head band, and a belief in a Jesus that was pretty much a hippy just like me. I was flakey, irresponsible, politically liberal, a registered Democrat (an obvious sin if there ever was one!), and with a theology that was far more reflective of hippy culture than anything aligned with Biblical Christianity.
However, despite that self-admitted immature, theologically compromised mess I did have one thing going for me: I could think for myself – maybe not so well, but I could think independently none-the-less. After joining the group this all slowly began to change.
Of course, like the name implies Mind Control Cults are defined by tactics and techniques – be they intentional or not – that control the thinking of their adherents. For those of us who have come out of Mind Control Cults this can all be perplexing and painful to figure out. For years I beat myself up with questions like, “How could I am been so stupid?” and “How could I have not seen what was so obvious to those who were on the outside?”
That’s why when I discovered Steven Hassan’s BITE model (via the aforementioned ExMormon Foundation Conference address) I felt like the clouds had parted, the sun had finally broken through, and the fog had finally cleared. I finally “got it”.
Hassan introduced the BITE model in his book “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” , “BITE” stands for “Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional Control. The model is based on the Cult and Mind Control research of Clinical Psychologist Margaret Singer, the Thought Reform/Brain Washing research of Robert Lifton, the Cognitive Dissonance and Social Comparison theories of Leon Festinger, and Hassan’s own research and personal experience in Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
Because the model is based on scientific empiricism it can be used to assess any group entity or social institution be it religious, business, political, or otherwise to determine if it’s behaving like a Mind Control Cult or not. Further, it is non-sectarian as well as doctrinally and theologically neutral.
The components of the BITE model are:
o Regulation of individual’s physical reality
o Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
o Need to ask permission for major decisions
o Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors
o Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques positive and negative)
o Individualism discouraged; “group think” prevails
o Rigid rules and regulations
o Need for obedience and dependency
o Use of deception
o Access to non cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
o Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
o Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
o Spying on other members is encouraged
o Unethical use of confession
o Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
o Use of “loaded” language (for example, “thought terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding, and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words.”
o Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
o Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states
o Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories
o Use of thought stopping techniques, which shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts
o Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate.
o No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
o Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings
o Make the person feel that if there are ever any problems, it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s
o Excessive use of guilt
o Excessive use of fear
o Extremes of emotional highs and lows
o Ritual and often public confession of “sins”
o Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.
And with that “milk” foundation now laid, in Part 2 I would like to use the BITE Model as a framework for walking you through the “meat” of what I and others experienced via the Mind Control tactics and techniques employed in The Shepherding Movement.
My hope is that by “putting myself out there” like this you will come to understand how groups that use Mind Control tactics and techniques acquire, retain, and control their members so that, maybe, just maybe, you will never suffer the fate of becoming a mind control cultist like I once did.
 Link to YouTube Video Playlist for Steve Hassan ‘Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves Link to portal page for AUDIO/VIDEO: Steve Hassan ‘Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves’
(Keynote Address from the 2008 ExMormon Foundation General Conference)
 Wikipedia article on the Shepherding Movement; retrieved 2011-06-25
 Sources: “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” by Steven Hassan; Ch. 2, Aitan Publishing Company, 2000 and Freedom of Mind Webpage on the BITE Model
(Originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs site where this article premiered on August 22nd, 2011)