Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Helping a Loved One Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs


I agreed to review this book because the topic fascinated me.  Throughout my many decades of life I had come across people who operated in groups that were somewhat foreign to me. Some people held beliefs which were not only different than mine, but, for the most part, they were based on the statements or claims of another human being, and added to, subtracted from, or misrepresented the ‘truth’ as I was reading it in the Bible.  When these beliefs were dangerous, I learned to dub the groups as “cults”.  When they were just plain “ridiculous” but otherwise less harmful, I could well have dubbed them as “belief controllers” and when it was an individual imprisoning the thoughts, feelings, actions of one or more other people, I referred to them as “controllers” and where such control was extreme, as “absuers”.

It is with that background that I dove into Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs by Steven Hassan, Freedom of Mind Press, Newton, Mass., 2012. (244 pages, paperback)

The author has provided the reader with a well-organized book by first identifying the common threads that run through cults while at the same time making no bones about some of the reasons why now more than ever more people are susceptible to cults.  He proceeds to describe various approaches to ‘rescuing’ people from cults that have been employed in the past, pointing out their strengths as well as their shortcomings, and he zeroes in on the approach he has developed over the years known as the ‘Strategic Interactive Approach’ (SIA).

What struck me here, and I am so glad that he keeps repeating it throughout the book is the need for understanding that success (having your loved one leave the control of a cult or individual) depends most critically on you (his/her loved one) and your team being patient, very patient, and taking ‘baby steps’ towards the outcome.  That is a very hard pill to swallow for some, but there is no circumventing it.

Once we can accept that, he then takes us very thoroughly through the steps of properly evaluating the situation, building the right team, examining our own lives, and understanding the beliefs and tactics used by the controllers and the person being controlled.  Chapters of the book are devoted to recognizing and interacting with the victim’s (your loved one) “dual identities” – his/her real self and the self they have adopted as a member of the cult they are now part of.  He shows us how to recognize each, how to communicate appropriately, and how to help unlock the phobias that the victim may be operating under.  Finally, Hassan goes into great detail in how to plan and hold an actual intervention should it become necessary.

Steven Hassan is not only America’s leading cult expert, but he speaks and writes from the personal experience of having been a former all sold-out cult member for some time.  He is a licensed Mental Health Counselor with a Master’s degree in counseling psychology from Cambridge College and he has appeared on numerous well-known television and radio shows.  He currently leads Freedom of Mind Resources Center Inc. in Newton, Mass.  This must read for every person who either knows or believes someone they love is being controlled by others can be obtained at bookstores or through www.freedomofmind.com .

Freedom of Mind, while generally secular in nature, is for the most part, friendly to true and valid religions, even defining what makes them so compared to cults.  As a Christian, the book provided me with the understanding of how loved ones of victims can prepare themselves for what needs to be done while still depending totally on the grace and will of God for the final outcome.

-- Ken B. Godevenos, President, www.accordconsulting.com , Toronto, ON.

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