International Churches of Christ (ICC)
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
- 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
- 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
- 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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