This is the third and final article in a series about the clear and present danger of undue influence in the manipulative hands of charlatans, con artists, abusive partners, and cults. In this post, we will explore positive practices that directly address undue influence, identifying needed research projects, a questionnaire to test your knowledge and awareness – and finally a call to action.
Best Practices & Resources
There have been pockets of success involving groups and individuals who have been educating the public about undue influence. Their efforts are creating a broader awareness of the prevalence and danger of undue influence and suggesting effective ways to help victims recover.
- A good example is Sweden’s EXIT Fryshuset. It’s an organization that helps members escape from violent extremist groups that unduly influence their members and helps victims to re-integrate into society. EXIT was launched in 1998 and has operated successfully with rehabilitation and preventive work. They coach relatives of active Neo-Nazis and consult and educate professionals who come in contact with these individuals (in schools, social services, police force, etc). Visit their website at: http://exit.fryshuset.se/english/and https://www.counterextremism.org/resources/details/id/63/exit-fryshuset
- Another best practice can be found at: http://www.ontmaskermanipulatie.nl/ This Dutch website allows visitors to respond anonymously to a 26-question questionnaire. If a person scores 50% or higher, they are being unduly influenced.
- If one lives in The Netherlands and suspects that either he or she, or a friend is being unduly influenced, they can call a hotline funded by the Dutch government. The caller will talk with someone who has been trained in the use of undue influence by high-control groups and cults. The callers will also be helped if they want to escape. The call center is open 7 days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. One can find out about this service at: http://www.sektesignaal.nl/
- In Switzerland, the government funds an educational help group that responds to requests for information about cult-like groups at http://www.infosekta.ch/
- Another gem that is worthy of a visit is ICSA at www.icsahome.com. Founded in 1979, the International Cultic Studies Association is a global network of people concerned about psychological manipulation and abuse in cultic or high-demand groups, alternative movements, and other environments. ICSA supports civil liberties, and is not affiliated with any religious or commercial organizations. ICSA is unique in how it brings together former group members, families, and how it helps professionals and researchers.
- The largest database of material relating to cults and undue influence is the Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network, FACTNet www.factnet.org
- Alexandra Stein, Ph.D. is an educator and writer, specializing in “totalist” cults and dangerous relationships. Get to know Alex at www.alexandrastein.com
- Gillie Jenkinson is a therapist’s therapist helping people recover from cults and abusive relationships. Connect with her at www.hopevalleycounselling.com
- Steve Hassan is a writer and tireless crusader helping people get out destructive relationships and cults. Check him out at freedomofmind.com
- Alan W. Scheflin has championed undue influence as a university professor for many years. His article, “Supporting Human Rights by Testifying Against Human Wrongs” is a masterpiece. (6 International Journal of Cultic Studies 2015 – Pages 69 thru 82)
- Masoud Banisadr makes a convincing case for undue influence and why it, and not ideology, drives terrorism in aberrant Islamic groups. His book Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery is a revealing read, although he prefers to use the words mind manipulation instead of undue influence.
The Need for Research Projects
The public and media definitely need many more completed research projects to validate the harm and cost of undue influence by unethical high-control groups. One such project was performed by Dr. Flavil Yeakley, albeit a long 30 years ago:
In 1985, the Boston Church of Christ asked Flavil Yeakley, a personality test expert, to make a study of its members. Critics insisted that the group caused unhealthy transformation of personality in its members. The Boston Church of Christ was accused of being a cult that was brainwashing its members.
Over 900 members filled in extensive questionnaires. Yeakley also administered the Meyer-Briggs’ Type Indicator to 30 members each of six groups generally regarded as “manipulative sects” (Yeakley’s expression), which included Scientology, The Way, the Unification Church (or Moonies), the Hare Krishna Society, Maranatha and the Children of God, and to 30 members each in five mainstream churches: Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian. The same personality test was filled out three times by most of the subjects, as if it were five years earlier; from their present perspective; and how they anticipated they would answer five years into the future.
In Yeakleys words: “Changes in psychological type do not indicate normal healthy growth. Such changes indicate some pressure in the environment that causes people to deny their true type and try to become like someone else. There were no significant deviations in personality type over time among members of the five mainstream churches, but all of the ‘manipulative sects’ showed significant movement, including the Boston Church of Christ, in direct opposition to its leader’s belief that his group was not a cult.”
Yeakley found there was a convergence towards a particular personality type within each manipulative sect, but that the type varied from group to group. In other words, “manipulative sects” were changing the personalities of their members each towards its own specific type. The effect has come to be known as “cloning” and is a substantial proof that “thought reform”/undue influence occurs in some groups.
Are You Being Unduly Influenced?
Amazingly, many, many people are being unduly influenced and have no idea that this is the case. Millions of people spend most of their lives without being aware of the undue influence that was brought to bear upon them on a daily basis. Here are ten questions to ask to see if you are being unduly influenced:
- Does your group insist on blindly following a set of dogmatic ideals that cannot be challenged?
- Does your group threaten members with shunning, if they deviate from the group’s ideology?
- Does your group treat its belief system as the truth and all other belief systems as false and the work of the devil?
- Do you belong to a closed, stigmatized group that schools its members in black-and-white thinking, framing society as conspiratorial and everyone outside the group as an enemy?
- Does your group decide on what is the appropriate dress code and hairstyle for members?
- Does your group require you to proselytize and canvass for new members?
- Does your group encourage spying and tattling on other members to find incriminating information?
- Are failures and false predictions coming from the group blamed on human error, rather than upon the group’s leaders or its ideology?
- Do your group leaders promote feelings of guilt and unworthiness, and undermine your sense of self-worth?
- Does your group instill fear and phobias about the world beyond the group, departure from the group, the fate of former believers, losing your faith or not achieving the group’s manifest destiny: be it everlasting life, an ideal political state with no injustices, Utopia or untold riches?
Another set of 26 questions has been developed by two well-respected Dutch therapists, and can be accessed online at: http://www.ontmaskermanipulatie.nl/
Where Do We Go from Here?
Much more work needs to be done, as most people just are not aware of the real danger of undue influence in today’s world. If you would like to help draw attention to this fast-growing menace and take actions as outlined in this article, please visit me at Open Minds Foundation (openmindsfoundation.org) when it goes live in August. In the meantime, you can email me at my aawa.co address.
The average person is totally unaware of just how sinister and invasive “undue influence” has become. The use of undue influence is not confined to just cults like Watchtower and Scientology. Please note this article in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/22/us/campaign-donations-linked-to-white-supremacist.html?_r=0