Checklists for High-Control Groups/Cults

by Lady Lee 26 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Checklist of Characteristics

    Deception lies at the core of mind-manipulating and high-demand ("cultic") groups and programs. Many members and supporters of these groups/movements are not fully aware of the extent to which they have been abused and exploited. This checklist of characteristics helps to define such groups. Comparing the descriptions on this checklist to aspects of the group with which you or a family member or loved one is involved may help determine if this involvement is cause for concern. If you check any of these items as characteristic of the group, and particularly if you check most of them, you might want to consider reexamining the group and its relationship to you. Keep in mind that this checklist is meant to stimulate thought. It is not a scientific method of "diagnosing" a group.

    We suggest that you check all characteristics that apply to your or your loved one's group, then print this browser page for future reference. You may find that your assessment changes over time, with further reading and research.

    • The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
    • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
    • The group is preoccupied with making money.
    • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
    • Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
    • The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).
    • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).
    • The group has a polarized us- versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
    • The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).
    • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).
    • The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
    • Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
    • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
    • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

    Copyright 1996 ICSA/AFF, Inc. How do you define a "cult"? ICSA, a cultic studies research and educational nonprofit organization, published this definition accepted by many researchers:

    Cult: A group or movement exhibiting:
    • great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and
    • employing unethical manipulative or coercive techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgement, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it),
    • designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders,
    • to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.

    Excerpted from Cultic Studies Journal, 3, (1986): 119-120.

    If a group that you belong to has many of the following criteria to a significant degree, you have cause for concern:

    • The group is led by a one or a few individuals, charismatic, determined, domineering.
    • The leader(s) are self-appointed and claim to have a special mission in life. Frequently, that mission is messianic or apocalyptic. Leaders answer to no higher authority, such as an oversight board. They are sole interpreters of doctrine and policy -- which may change frequently and whimsically.
    • The group centers its veneration on the leader(s) directly, rather than on God, a higher political power, science, or whatever.
    • The group structure is hierarchical and authoritarian. Rarely will you find an open election in a cult.
    • The group tends to be totalitarian, with elaborate rules and rituals that occupy large parts of every day. To break a rule or ignore a ritual carries the danger of expulsion from the group.
    • The group usually has two or more sets of ethics: one for the leadership, another for the membership; one for outsiders, another for insiders; a relaxed set for recruiting purposes, a much more demanding set for the committed member.
    • The group usually presents itself as innovative and exclusive, even elitist.
    • The group has two main purposes: recruiting new members and fund-raising. It's unlikely to support or even encourage legitimate charity work, except as a front for recruitment.

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Steven Hassan's BITE Model

    BITE Model of Mind Control

    Mind Control – The BITE Model

    From chapter two of Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs (FOM Press 2012) formerly Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves* © 2000 by Steven Hassan; published by Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville MA

    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

    It is important to understand that destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind controlled cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine-to-five jobs, be married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.

    Behavior Control

    1. Regulation of individual’s physical reality

    a. Where, how and with whom the member 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 for indoctrination sessions and group rituals

    3. Need to ask permission for major decisions

    4. Need to report thoughts, feelings and activities to superiors

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

    6. Individualism discouraged; group think prevails

    7. Rigid rules and regulations

    8. Need for obedience and dependency

    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 members so busy they don’t have time to think

    3. Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines

    a. Information is not freely accessible

    b. Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid

    c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what

    4. Spying on other members is encouraged

    a. Pairing up with “buddy” system to monitor and control

    b. Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership

    5. Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda

    a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, videotapes, etc.

    b. Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources

    6. Unethical use of confession

    a. Information about “sins” used to abolish identity boundaries

    b. Past “sins” used to manipulate and control; no forgiveness or absolution

    Thought Control

    1. Need to internalize the group’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”.

    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

    b. Chanting

    c. Meditating

    d. Praying

    e. Speaking in “tongues”

    f. Singing or humming

    5. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate

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

    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 leader’s or the group’s.

    3. Feeling-stopping (with number 4, Excessive use of guilt). Like thought-stopping, this is the automatic suppression or blocking of feelings that are not acceptable by the cult identity- such as feeling \”homesick\” or feeling \”depressed\” or feeling \”resentful\”.

    4. 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

    5. Excessive use of fear

    a. Fear of thinking independently

    b. Fear of the “outside” world

    c. Fear of enemies

    d. Fear of losing one’s “salvation”

    e. Fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group

    f. Fear of disapproval

    6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows.

    7. Ritual and often public confession of “sins”.

    8. Phobia indoctrination : programming of irrational fears of 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.

    a. No happiness or fulfillment “outside”of the group

    b. Terrible consequences will take place if you leave: “hell”; “demon possession”; “incurable diseases”; “accidents”; “suicide”; “insanity”; “10,000 reincarnations”; etc.

    c. Shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family.

    d. Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group’s perspective, people who leave are: “weak;” “undisciplined;” “unspiritual;” “worldly;” “brainwashed by family, counselors;” seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.

  • jgnat


  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Checklists of cult behavior

    While the religious, philosophical, and spiritual beliefs vary widely from one cult to the next, many believe that the actions of cults show characteristic similarities. Many popular checklists of "cult behavior" circulate, and sources differ in the terminology they use and how they group the behaviors together. Two examples of checklists appear hereunder. [1,3,5]

    First example of checklist

    • Milieu control – Cults seek to control members' sources of information and social interaction. They encourage members to sever communication and relationships with friends and family members.
    • Infallibility, or "The Sacred Science" – Cults teach that the chosen philosophy or experientialpanacea forms the only possible path to salvation. Cults discourage critical and rational thinking. Persons who question or challenge what the cult offers are denied access or exiled.
    • Demand for purity – Cults have unreachably high standards for the behavior of their members.
    • Confession – Even trivial violations of the group's demand for purity must be confessed immediately and thoroughly, often to a large group.
    • Loading the language – Cults redefine common words and use glib thought-terminating catchphrases as an answer to questions. The constant use of acronyms and abbreviations by some cults has a similar thought-terminating effect.

    Additionally, many cults are described as having the following characteristics, though they are not as unique to cults as the behaviours listed above:

    • Authoritarianism -- Control of the organization stems from an absolute leader or a small circle of elite commanders. Often the cult's leadership is glorified with a vast personality cult. The leader may be recognized as divine, or even as God.
    • Secret doctrines - certain "secret" (esoteric) teachings that must not ever be revealed to the outside world
    • Promised Ones - members of the cult are encouraged to believe they were chosen, or made their choice to join the cult, because they are special or superior
    • Fire-and-Brimstone - leaving the cult, or failing at one's endeavor to complete the requirements to achieve its panacea, will result in consequences greater than if one had never joined the cult in the first place.
    • Shunning -- members who leave may not contact members who remain.
    • Mystical Manipulation - Cults ascribe events to supernatural influences even where such influences do not exist.
    Second example of checklist

    The following characteristics need not all apply to every case, but the more of them that do apply, the more likely this is a cult:

    • The group has a firm hierarchical structure and is led by one person or a small group of people who rule absolutely.
    • The leader or leading body is not accountable to anyone (on earth).
    • The leaders claim to have a special mission.
    • The group has a clear view of their enemy.
    • The leaders direct admiration, reverence and maybe even worship to themselves.
    • The group exerts a total control over its members. Thinking and behavior in everyday matters is prescribed.
    • The group applies a double standard (behaves differently towards their own group and towards outsiders).
    • The group portrays itself as something new and exclusive or as the only true version of a larger religion.
    • The teachings of the group are (at least in part) not open to the public but only to members or even only to some inner or advanced circle.
    • New members are introduced to the teachings only gradually.
    • There is a discrepancy between the way the group presents itself to the public and the way it is seen by neutral outsiders.
    Total control

    This has four basic aspects:

    • Control of behavior and activities: The way of life is rigidly laid down in detail (dress, food, contacts, music, motion pictures, computer and video games, Web sites, rites to be observed) and members are kept so busy that little spare time remains.
    • Thought control: Cults teach their members techniques to stop thinking processes involving questions or doubts immediately. Criticism is labelled unethical or sinful.
    • Control of emotions and feelings: Members are kept under control by means of feelings of guilt and fear which supposedly can only be relieved by means of the group.
    • Information control: Access to independent information, education and culture is reduced or forbidden. Contact with former members is forbidden.

    These techniques make a mature, critical reflection of one's attitudes and the one-sided information given by the group largely impossible.

    I wouldn't normall cite wikipedia but he includes his references which are publised and credible, They include many of th eabove characteristics and his references

    1 William Chambers, Michael Langone, Arthur Dole & James Grice, "The Group Psychological Abuse Scale: A Measure of the Varieties of Cultic Abuse", Cultic Studies Journal, 11(1), 1994. The definition of a cult given above is based on a study of 308 former members of 101 groups.

    3 Galanter M. "Unification Church ('Moonie') dropouts: psychological readjustment after leaving a charismatic religious group". Am J Psychiatry. 1983;140(8):984-989.

    5 Singer, M with Lalich, J (1995). Cults in Our Midst, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Deception, Dependency & Dread

    Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

    Farber, Harlow, & West (1957) coined the term "DDD syndrome" to describe the essence of Korean war thought reform with prisoners of war: debility, dependency, and dread. Lifton (1961), who also studied thought reform employed in Chinese universities, demonstrated that the process did not require physical debilitation. Contemporary cultic groups, which do not have the power of the state at their disposal, have more in common with this brand of thought reform than with the POW variety, in that they rarely employ physical coercion. In order to control targets, they must rely on subterfuge and natural areas of overlap between themselves and prospects. As with all Korean era thought reform programs (those directed at civilians and at prisoners), however, contemporary cultic groups induce dependent states to gain control over recruits and employ psychological (sometimes physical) punishment ("dread") to maintain control. The process, in my view, can be briefly described by a modified "DDD syndrome": deception, dependency, and dread.

    Although the process here described is complex and varied, the following appears to occur in the prototypical cult conversion:

    • A vulnerable prospect encounters a cultic group.
    • The group (leader[s]) deceptively presents itself as a benevolent authority that can improve the prospect's well-being.
    • The prospect responds positively, experiencing an increase in self-esteem and security, at least some of which is in response to what could be considered "placebo" The prospect can now be considered a "recruit".
    • Through the use of "sharing" exercises, "confessions," and skillful individualized probing, the group [leader(s)] assesses the recruit's strengths and weaknesses.
    • Through testimonies of group members, the denigration of the group's "competitors" (e.g., other religious groups, other therapists), the tactful accentuation of the recruit's shameful memories and other weaknesses, and the gradual indoctrination of the recruit into a closed, nonfalsifiable belief system, the group's superiority is affirmed as a fundamental assumption.
    • Members' testimonies, positive reinforcement of the recruit's expressions of trust in the group, discrete reminders about the recruit's weaknesses, and various forms of group pressure induce the recruit to acknowledge that his/her future well-being depends upon adherence to
      the group's belief system, more specifically its "change program."
    • These same influence techniques are joined by a subtle undermining of the recruit's self-esteem (e.g., by exaggerating the "sinfulness" of experiences the recruit is encouraged to confess"), the suppression or weakening of critical thinking through fatiguing activity, near-total control of the recruit's time, trance-induction exercises (e.g., chanting), and the repetitive message that only disaster results from not following the group's "change program." These manipulations induce the recruit to declare allegiance to the group and to commit to change him/herself as directed by the group. He or she can now be considered a convert embarking on a path of "purification", "enlightenment", "self-actualization", "higher consciousness," or whatever. The recruit's dependency on the group is established and implicitly, if not explicitly, acknowledged. Moreover, he/she has accepted the group's authority in defining what is true and good, within the convert's heart and mind as well as in the world.
    • The convert is next fully subjected to the unrealistically high expectations of the group. The recruit's "potential" is "lovingly" affirmed, while members testify to the great heights they and "heroic" models have scaled. The group's all-important mission, e.g., save the world, justifies its all-consuming expectations.
    • Because by definition the group is always right and "negative" thinking is unacceptable, the convert's failures become totally his or her responsibility, while his or her doubts and criticisms are suppressed (often with the aid of trance-inducing exercises such as meditation, speaking in tongues, or chanting) or redefined as personal failures. The convert thus experiences increasing self-alienation. The "pre-cult self" is rejected; doubts about the group are pushed out of consciousness; the sense of failure generated by not measuring up to the group's expectations is bottled up inside. The only possible adaptation is fragmentation and compartmentalization. It is not surprising, then, that many clinicians consider dissociation to lie the heart of cult-related distress and dysfunction (Ash, 1985).
    • The convert's self-alienation will tend to demand further psychological, if not physical, alienation from the non-group world (especially family), information from which can threaten to upset whatever dissociative equilibrium the convert establishes in an attempt to adjust to the consuming and conflicting demands of the group. This alienation accentuates the convert's dependency on the group.
    • The group supports the convert's dissociative equilibrium by actively encouraging escalating dependency, e.g., by exaggerating the convert's past "sins" and conflicts with family, by denigrating outsiders, by positively reinforcing chanting or other "thought-stopping" activities, and by providing and positively reinforcing ways in which the convert can find a valued role within the group (e.g., work for a group-owned business, sell magazines on the street).
    • The group strengthens the convert's growing dependency by threatening or inflicting punishment whenever the convert or an outside force (e.g., a visit by a family member) disturbs the dissociative equilibrium that enables him or her to function in a closed, nonfalsifiable system (the "dread" of DDD). Punishment may sometimes by physical. Usually, however, the punishment is psychological, sometimes even metaphysical. Certain fringe Christian groups, for example, can at the command of the leadership immediately begin shunning someone singled out as being "factious" or possessed of a "rebellious spirit." Many groups also threaten wavering converts with punishments in the hereafter, for example, being "doomed to Hell." It should be remembered that these threats and punishments occur within a context of induced dependency and psychological alienation from the person's former support network. This fact makes them much more potent than the garden-variety admonitions of traditional religious, such as "you will go to hell if you die with mortal sin."

    The result of this process, when carried to its consummation, is a person who proclaims great happiness but hides great suffering. I have talked to many former cultists who, when they left their groups and talked to other former members, were surprised to discover that many of their fellow members were also smilingly unhappy, all thinking they were the only ones who felt miserable inside.

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    Thought Reform

    [Adapted from Robert Jay Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (Norton, 1961) (now reprinted by the University of North Carolina Press)]
    Dr. Lifton's work was the outgrowth of his studies for military intelligence of Mao Tse-Tung's "thought-reform programs"commonly known as "brainwashing."In Chapter 22, Lifton outlines eight criteria for when any environment can be understood as exercising "thought-reform"or mind control.

    Lifton wrote that any group has some aspects of these points.

    However, if an environment has all eight of these points and implements them in the extreme, then there is unhealthy thought reform taking place.

    1. Milieu control Environment control and the control of human communication. Not just communication between people but communication within people's minds to themselves.

    2. Mystical manipulation Everyone is manipulating everyone, under the belief that it advances the "ultimate purpose."Experiences are engineered to appear to be spontaneous, when, in fact, they are contrived to have a deliberate effect. People misattribute their experiences to spiritual causes when, in fact, they are concoc ted by human beings.

    3. Loading the language Controlling words help to control people's thoughts. A totalist group uses totalist language to make reality compressed into black or white;" thought-terminating clich_s."Non-members cannot simply understand what believers are talking about. The words constrict rather than expand human understanding.

    4. Doctrine over person No matter what a person experiences, it is the belief of the dogma which is important. Group belief supersedes conscience and integrity.

    5. The Sacred Science The group's belief is that their dogma is absolutely scientific and morally true. No alternative viewpoint is allowed. No questions of the dogma are permitted.

    6. The Cult of Confession The environment demands that personal boundaries are destroyed and that every thought, feeling, or action that does not conform with the group's rules be confessed; little or no privacy.

    7. The demand for purity The creation of a guilt and shame milieu by holding up standards of perfection that no human being can accomplish. People are punished and learn to punish themselves for not living up to the group's ideals.

    8. The dispensing of existence The group decides who has a right to exist and does not. There is no other legitimate alternative to the group. In political regimes, this permits state executions.

    Hopefully, this summary will motivate you to read the entire Chapter 22 and possibly the entire book. It is considered to be one of the most important descriptions of political mind-control programs. It is also important to note, that now there are 3rd, 4th, and 5th generation mind-control groups a nd the patterns have evolved and become more refined and sophisticated.


    Lady Lee..

    Good Thread!..

    JW`s Admire Their..

    "WBT$ Governing Popes"

    ............................ photo mutley-ani1.gif ... OUTLAW

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee


    I thought it might be good to put these all together

    If anyone knows of some I have missed please add them along with the link to where you got it from. I know I have seen others that were good.

  • MrFreeze

    But the JW's definitely aren't a cult...

    There are people (I'm referring to non-JW's) who disagree with people defining the JW's as a cult. Not sure how they can see it any other way.


    Hey Lady Lee!..

    You did a good Job..It`s a good read..

    Seeing more than one check list really puts it all into perspective..

    .......................... photo mutley-ani1.gif ... OUTLAW

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