File under: Gurubusting
Due to speak at the Mountain States Conference on Cults, Gangs and Hate Groups this weekend, pro cult counselor Nancy Miquelon offers a few of her thoughts on Robert Jay Lifton's criteria for thought reform:
One is to just control someone’s environment, what Lifton called “milieu control.” Sometimes that’s external environment. A lot of groups, as a part of their recruiting, take people to secluded places and unfamiliar places. That leaves you in unfamiliar surroundings, so you don’t have your normal points of orientation and points of reflection and reality checks with family and friends. Another part of milieu control becomes internal, in that as the group begins to do their persuasion and their indoctrination, part of it is repetitive and part of it is taking away your normal system of checks and balances, to where you start believing some of what they’re saying, and you start programming yourself. So your mind becomes part of that milieu, and matching their definition of “the right way to be” becomes part of the internalized control.Now we know where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living cult picked up their recruitment practices.
Another idea would be “sacred science,” and that’s where a group would say, “We have the real truth.” That kind of thinking is aimed at stimulating your critical thinking, but it really ends up shutting it down.
Another would be setting up what is called the “demand for purity,” where you must be completely perfect or you’re horrible. The demand for purity sets up this impossible standard, which often happens with what we call some “lovebombing” initially — where they say you’re perfect and you’re wonderful and we’re the only people that will accept you unconditionally — but once you’re in, then you have to match this perfect standard. Of course, nobody can quite get there. It’s this carrot.