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REVEAL: The Crisis Line

Singer's Six Steps

In the following series of six points, Dr. Margaret Singer, a psychologist and researcher who has done some of the seminal work in the field of mind control, describes how an abusive group establishes mind control over its members.

Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how she or he is being changed a step at a time.

Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. In the ICC, potential new members are invited to "nondenominational" Bible studies, or even to social events, without being told who is sponsoring these events or for what purpose.

Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.

Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible. In the ICC, members are kept so busy with church activities that most report being chronically short of sleep. Many experience drops in work performance or lower GPAs at school.

Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.

This is accomplished by getting members away from their normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members. The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.

Cults also strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of it) to the group. A combination of time pressure, leading people to quit school and/or cut hours at work, and strict tithing, leading a member to give much of his/her money to the church, accomplishes this in the ICC.

Once stripped of their usual support network, the member's confidence in their own perception erodes. As their sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgment and understanding of the world is diminished. (Their "ordinary view of reality" is destabilized.)

As the group attacks their previous world view, it causes the member distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it -- the leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance. ICC members who object to the actions of leaders are thrown out. Those who persist are "marked" -- current members are forbidden to talk with them, restricting the information available to current members.

This process is accelerated if you are kept tired, and the ICC will keep you constantly busy.

Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person's former social identity.

Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through various methods of trance induction, including such techniques as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions. The member's old beliefs and patterns of behavior are defined as irrelevant or evil. The leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them. Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group's beliefs and behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.

Quiet times, emotionally charged religious services with constant, group-induced agreement ("Ay-men, brothers?" "AY-MEN!") from the congregation, and singing accomplish this in the ICC.

Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors.

Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. If one expresses a question, he or she is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to be questioning. The only feedback members get is from the group, they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.

Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviors expected by the group. The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system in and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be. Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member's behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members).

A member's relationships with their peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display the new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts -- new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.

Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.

The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing. Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain -- if they do, the leaders allege that the member is defective -- not the organization or the beliefs. The individual is always wrong -- the system, its leaders and its belief are always right. Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behavior in order to be accepted in this closed system, they change -- begin to speak the language -- which serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviors. This is the ICC.

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