A Review of
Captive Hearts, Captive Minds:
Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships

by Madeleine Landau Tobias and Janja Lalich
reviewed by Catherine Hampton

Publisher: Hunter House
P.O. Box 2914
Alameda, CA 94501-0914
# of Pages: 304
Binding: Hardback
  ISBN: 0-89793-145-9
  List Price: $24.95
Binding: Trade paperback
  ISBN: 0-89793-144-0
  List Price: $14.95

As in most fields of study, there are certain fundamental books about thought reform and cults. This is one of them -- the fundamental book on recovery after having been a member of a cult and leaving. This doesn't mean that this book covers everything, or that there won't be other valuable books on this subject. But Captive Hearts, Captive Minds is a milestone.

The book contains the following sections:

Foreword: Michael Langone's Foreword briefly reviews the history of modern cults and the modern anti-cult movement, showing how the need for this book became apparent.
Introduction: Here the authors explain why they wrote the book. If you usually skip introductions (like me), don't with this book.
Part One. The Cult Phenomenon: Contains information on cults, abusive relationships (which the authors refer to as "one-on-one cults"), cult recruitment, thought reform, and a hard-hitting analysis of what makes and motivates a cult leader.
Part Two. The Healing Process: In this section the authors get down to business -- they discuss how a former cult member can break the cult's hold over his mind, emotions, body and soul. In doing this they cover the "unmaking of a spiritual junkie", rebuilding your life (re-establishing independence, finding work, dealing with real friends, learning how to have healthy romantic relationships), finding therapists and support groups which actually help you, and dealing with other important issues in a helpful way.
Part Three. Success is the Best Revenge -- Stories from Ex-Cult Members: A series of "bios" of former members, most of which cover their recovery as much as their time in the cult per-se. As such, these bios are especially helpful for people who have left a cult and now wonder what to do next.
Part Four. Special Concerns: In this section the authors deal with the special problems faced by children raised in cults or exposed extensively to cults, and by cult members and former members who need inpatient psychiatric care.
Appendices: The book has an extensive and valuable bibliography, a list of the characteristics of a cult, and a list of organizations which offer help and support to former cult members.

While Captive Hearts, Captive Minds nowhere mentions the International Churches of Christ, that scarcely makes a difference. As Ursula Le Guin and others have noted, the real "secret" of evil is its banality. C.S. Lewis put it slightly differently; in the Screwtape letters the senior devil advises his pupil that, "Men are different in their virtues, if any, but alike in their vices." Cult members are individuals; cults are depressingly similar in most cases. Former ICC members will often find they have almost as much in common with a former Moonie or member of some other unrelated group as with a fellow former member of the ICC.

The only significant weakness I found in this book is probably due to one of its strengths. The book was written from a non-religious point of view, and because it approaches cults and recovery from a therapeutic angle, it is valuable to anyone regardless of their current religious beliefs or spiritual interests. While the authors acknowledge spiritual recovery as an important part of recovering from a cult, though, the book does not have many specific recommendations, probably because this is one area where its generic therapeutic approach can't be too specific. An ICC member who remains Christian and who wants to remain Christian will need to find help for this somewhere else.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been in a cult, had a friend or loved one get involved in a cult, or ever worked with a former cult member.