Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mind Control and Spiritual Abuse

Mind control, coercive persuasion, and thought reform are psychological terms used to describe the same phenomenon that takes place in cults and abusive churches. There are different definitions of mind control. According to Margaret Singer, thought reform is a set of techniques for changing people's behaviors and attitudes. This is probably, the most clear and simple definition. Thought reform (or mind control) changes not only people's behaviors, but also their attitudes. It is much easier to force people to do something than to change their attitudes. However, thought reform changes both behaviors and attitudes. Thought reform is practiced by authoritarian cult leaders. So, mind control implies authoritarianism of the cult leaders.

Spiritual abuse is a term used mainly by Christians. This term, mainly, emphasizes the authoritarianism of some church leaders. However, this term also includes undue influence on the members of their churches. This undue influence is mind control.

In The Discipling Dilemma, Flavil Yeakley described his study of changing of personality types of members of the International Church of Christ. Yeakley wrote that this change is the effect of undue influence. He did not call it mind control. Psychologists consider the result of Yeakley's study as the proof of mind control in ICC. Christian theologians and apologists consider his study as the proof of spiritual abuse in ICC. According to psychologists, ICC is mind controlling. According to Christian theologians, ICC is abusive. The same things in ICC are considered to be the result of mind control by psychologists and of spiritual abuse by Christian theologians.

So, mind control and spiritual abuse have almost the same meaning. The main difference between them is that these terms are used by different people. Mind control is a psychological term while spiritual abuse is a religious term.


Wendy J. Duncan said...

Hi Lema,

As one who was the victim of mind control and spiritual abuse, I appreciate your post on this issue. Thanks for mentioning Discipling Dilemna. I had forgotten that I wanted to read it.

Hang in there. I think there is a way to have a healthy relationship with God. Don't let the control freaks take that away from you.

Wendy J. Duncan
Author: I Can't Hear God Anymore: Life in a Dallas Cult

Lema Nal said...

Hi Wendy,

Thank you. Actually, I am still in the process of spiritual search. My cult involvement with mind control and spiritual abuse completely killed my faith. I am still struggling to fully recover it.

However, I also hope that my experience and considerations might help other ex-members of Bible-based cults and abusive churches.

Lema Nal