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The Hassan Mind Control Model and Relationships

[Revised to define a cultic one-on-one relationship from Chapter Four of Combatting Cult Mind Control, (Park Street Press, 1990) by Steven Hassan]
Destructive mind control can be understood in terms of four basic components, which form the acronym BITE:

I. Behavior Control
II. Information Control
III. Thought Control
IV. Emotional Control
These four components are guidelines. Not all cultic relationships will fit these components but what matters most is the overall impact on a person's free will and ability to make real choices. A person's uniqueness, talents, skills, creativity, and free will should be encouraged, not suppressed.

I. Behavior Control

1. Regulation of individual's physical reality a. Where, how and with whom the abused lives and associates with b. What clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears c. What food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects d. How much sleep the person is able to have e. Financial dependence f. Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations

2. Major time commitment required towards the relationship

3. Need to ask permission for major decisions

4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to the abuser

5. Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques- positive and negative).

5. Individualism discouraged.

6. Rigid rules and regulations

7. Need for obedience and dependency

II. Information Control

1. Use of deception

  • a. Deliberately holding back information b. Distorting information to make it acceptable c. Outright lying
2. Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged

  • a. Books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio
  • b. Critical information
  • c. Former members
  • d. Keep abused so busy they don't have time to think
3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines

  • a. Information is not freely accessible
  • b. Abuser decides who "needs to know" what
4. Spying on the abused is encouraged

  • a. Questioning abused's co-workers and friends
  • b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to abuser
5. Extensive use of abuser's generated information and propaganda

  • a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.
  • b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from professional sources
6. Unethical use of confession b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from professional sources 6. Unethical use of confession

  • a. Information about "sins" used to abolish identity boundaries

  • b. Past "sins" used to manipulate and control (this will be done in any legal matters initiated by the abused)

III. Thought Control 1. Need to internalize the abuser's doctrine as "Truth"

  • a. Map = Reality
  • b. Black and White thinking
  • c. Good vs. evil
  • d. Us vs. them (inside vs. outside)
2. Adopt "loaded" language (characterized by "thought-terminating clichés"). Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words". This can show up as using the cult's "loaded" language in the abusive relationship.

3. Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged.

4. Thought-stopping techniques (to shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts); rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism.

  • a. Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking

5. No critical questions about abuser, their doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate. The abused will be told to come up "with one good reason" which will never fit the abuser's definition of a good enough reason.

6. No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful

IV. Emotional Control 1. Manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings.

2. Make the person feel like if there are ever any problems it is always their fault, never the abuser's.

3. Excessive use of guilt

  • a. Identity guilt
    • 1. Who you are (not living up to your potential)
    • 2. Your family
    • 3. Your past
    • 4. Your affiliations
    • 5. Your thoughts, feelings, actions
  • b. Social guilt
  • c. Historical guilt

4. Excessive use of fear

  • a. Fear of thinking independently
  • b. Fear of the "outside" world
  • c. Fear of leaving the relationship
  • d.Fear of being shunned by friends and relatives
  • e. Fear of disapproval

5. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.

6. Ritual and often public confession of "sins".

7. Phobia indoctrination: programming of irrational fears of ever leaving the relationship or even questioning the abuser's authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the relationship.

  • a. No happiness or fulfillment "outside" of the relationship
  • b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: no one will ever want you, you failed at this relationship after all that I did for you, no one wants someone that is divorced, etc.
  • c. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.
  • d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the abuser's perspective, people who leave are: "weak"; "uncommitted"; "brainwashed by family, counselors"; money hungry, home wreckers, greedy.

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Have you or someone you know ever experienced the following by a boyfriend, husband or intimate partner?

  • name-calling or put-downs

  • isolation from family or friends

  • withholding of money

  • actual or threatened physical harm

  • sexual assault

These are examples of domestic violence, which includes partner violence, family violence, spouse abuse, child abuse, battering, and wife beating.

This violence takes many forms, and can happen once in a while or all the time. Although each situation is different, there are common warning signs - "red flag" behaviors - to look out for, including those behaviors listed above (see Section 4 for a list). Knowing these signs is an important step in preventing and stopping violence.

In this booklet, we will focus on domestic violence as partner violence, defined as violent or controlling behavior by a person toward a partner, usually a wife, girlfriend, or lover. Although the partner is the primary target, violence is often directed toward children as well, and sometimes toward family members, friends, and even bystanders in attempts to control their partner.

Approximately 95 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women. However, violence also happens in both gay and lesbian relationships. and in a small number of cases, by women against men. 4. Warning List This list identifies a series of behaviors typically demonstrated by batterers and abusive people. All of these forms of abuse, psychological, economic, and physical - come from the batterer's desire for power and control. The list can help you recognize if you or someone you know is in a violent relationship. check off those behaviors that apply to the relationship. The more checks on the page, the more dangerous the situation may be. Emotional and Economic Attacks *Destructive Criticism/Verbal Abuse: Name-calling; mocking; accusing; blaming; yelling; swearing; making humiliating remarks or gestures. *Pressure Tactics: Rushing you to make decisions through "guilt-tripping" and other forms of intimidation; sulking; threatening to withhold money; manipulating the children; telling you what to do. *Abusing Authority: Always claiming to be right (insisting statements are "the truth"); telling you what to do; making big decisions; using "logic." *Disrespect: Interrupting; changing topics; not listening or responding; twisting your words; putting you down in front of other people; saying bad things about your friends and family. *Abusing Trust: Lying; withholding information; cheating on you; being overly jealous. *Breaking Promises: Not following through on agreements; not taking a fair share of responsibility; refusing to help with child care or housework. *Emotional Withholding: Not expressing feelings; not giving support, attention, or compliments; not respecting feelings, rights, or opinions. *Minimizing, Denying & Blaming: Making Light of behavior and not taking your concerns about it seriously; saying the abuse didn't happen; shifting responsibility for abusive behavior; saying you caused it. *Economic Control: Interfering with your work or not letting you work; refusing to give you or taking your money; taking your car keys or otherwise preventing you from using the car; threatening to report you to welfare or other social service agencies. * Self-Destructive Behavior: Abusing drugs or alcohol; threatening suicide or other forms of self-harm; deliberately saying or doing things that will have negative consequences (e.g., telling off the boss).. * Isolation: Preventing or making it difficult for you to see friends or relatives; monitoring phone calls; telling you where you can and cannot go.. * Harassment: Making uninvited visits or calls; following you; checking up on you; embarrassing you in public; refusing to leave when asked.. Acts of Violence * Intimidation: Making angry or threatening gestures; use of physical size to intimidate; standing in doorway during arguments; out shouting you; driving recklessly.. * Destruction: Destroying your possessions (e.g., furniture); punching walls; throwing and/or breaking things.. * Threats: Making and/or carrying out threats to hurt you or others.. * Sexual Violence: Degrading treatment based on your sex or sexual orientation; using force or coercion to obtain sex or perform sexual acts.. * Physical Violence: Being violent to you, your children, household pets or others; Slapping; punching; grabbing; kicking; choking; pushing; biting; burning; stabbing; shoots; etc.. * Weapons: Use of weapons, keeping weapons around which frighten you; threatening or attempting to kill you or those you love.. from "Domestic Violence: The Facts" - A Handbook to STOP violence (courtesy of Peace At Home (formerly Battered Women Fighting Back), Boston)

Cults come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Categories of cults that are recruiting successfully today include:

Eastern meditation: characterized by belief in God-consciousness, becoming one with God. The leader usually distorts and Eastern-based philosophy or religion. Members sometimes learn to disregard worldly possessions and may take on an ascetic lifestyle. Techniques used: meditation, repeated mantras, altered states of consciousness, trance states.

Religious: marked by belief in salvation, afterlife, sometimes combined with an apocalyptic view. The leader reinterprets the Scriptures and often claims to be a prophet if not the messiah. Often the group is strict, sometimes using physical punishments such as paddling and birching, especially on children. Members are encouraged to spend a great deal of time proselytizing. (Note: included here are Bible-based neo-Christian and other religious cults, many considered syncretic since they combine beliefs and practices). Techniques used: speaking in tongues, chanting, praying, isolation, lengthy study sessions, many hours spent evangelizing, "struggle" (or criticism) and confession sessions.

Political, racist, terrorist: fueled by belief in changing society, revolution, overthrowing the "enemy" or getting rid of evil forces. The leader professes to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Often the group is armed and meets in secret with coded language, handshakes, and other ritualized practices. Members consider themselves an elite cadre ready to go to battle. Techniques used: paramilitary training, reporting on one another, guilt, fear, struggle sessions, instilled paranoia, long hours of indoctrination. -- Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, Lalich and Tobias, Hunter House, 1993.