BITE Model: Thought Control

This post is the third installment plugging my “school” days into Steve Hassan’s BITE model, as outlined in his anti-cult book, Freedom of Mind. Product Details
So far, my “school” tenure fits the Behavior control component of this model. “School’s” Information control is classic cult stuff (congratulations, Blog Monitor!).

Today’s installment: Loaded language + Thought Stopping = Thought Control

Hassan writes, “Cult language is totalistic and therefore condenses complex situations, labels them and reduces them to cult cliches …”

“School’s” loaded language/vocabulary sprout from the following topsecret-but-not-really concepts: (please insert booming & arrogant voice here) “as we are, we don’t know ourselves; “man is asleep“; “we are not unified beings, but multiplicities “we are here to REMEMBER OURSELVES“.

These ideas come from the studies of the neither-mysterious-nor-elusive-but-oddly-never-mentioned G.I. Gurdjieff, a 20th century Armenian philosopher, whose work was quite popular back the groovy 70s.

Self-Remembering! is where “school” kicks off. “We Are Here to REMEMBER OURSELVES!” Ah, so exclusive and magical! No one could define it. We needed to experiment! with “school” assignments in order to “… have our own experiences of self remembering!”. Approach THE WORK, “school” instructed us, with a “healthy skepticism and a nickel’s worth of trust.” (“school” neglected to mention its hidden interest rate).

The assignments appeared harmless enough. We began by recording “self observations” of our “3 centers”, a.k.a. “3 brains” — moving, intellectual, emotional. Throughout the day & night we were to write in little notebooks in this format: As a function of the [MOVING/INTELLECTUAL/EMOTIONAL CENTER] I observe [RECORD thought/feeling/action] when [DESCRIBE CONTEXT].

Funny thing … through “self observation”, I started feeling as though I could separate and free myself from my less-than-stellar thoughts and feelings … they could be seen as “functions”, not my identity. It was amazing! Sometimes my “observations” were very funny! Sometimes I felt as though I were writing a play, all the world’s a stage (ah, Shakespeare!) I enjoyed this experiment, at first. It was magic!

In my excitement, I kinda missed that these “experiments” parsed out, flattened, & categorized my essential identity. I accepted its deconstruction of my inner world — my thoughts, psychology and emotions as necessary soul manufacturing enlightenment tools. How could they possibly be destructive? My benevolent “school” of enlightenment would never intentionally hurt me … would it?

When one is in “school” long enough this parsing out –in particular the idea of Multiplicity — morphs into a convenient method of deflecting legitimate questions, shaming resistance to demands, and silencing criticism.

“Teachers” start responding to concerns such as, “Where does our tuition money go?” with the following convoluted and pat phrases: “which I is speaking”? Or broken down more, “which set of I(s) are speaking? Perhaps you are in a Lazy-set-of-I(s). I(s) that don’t want to do The Work. I(s) that are like JUDAS, trying to destroy the finer vibrations your are cultivating, by blindly following instruction. For If you want to construct a soul, you must do what  ‘it’ does not want to do.”

Note the answer-these-questions-with-non-answer strategy, because non-answers and character attacks slowly increase in prevalence in concert with the length of your tenure, as does the deconstruction and parsing out of one’s psychology. Please also note the dehumanizing application of the word “it”.

Hassan writes that totalistic cults pitch a doctrine that divides the world into either black or white, good or bad, us vs. them: “All that is good is embodied in the leader and the group. All that is bad is on the outside. The doctrine claims to answer all questions to all problems and situations. Members need not think for themselves because the doctrine does the thinking for them …” Cliches and exclusive vocabulary construct invisible walls between members and non-members.The language helps to make members feel special and separates them from the general public.”

“School” isolation tactics slowly heat to a boil, saturating “students” in illustrious indoctrination over time. For roughly two years, I “experimented” with the above-mentioned “secret” ideas, doing what “school” called “first line of work – work on the self”. We were scientist – observing human nature! I was rising above myself and my life, watching, listening and recording observations. A sense of superiority simmered, bubbling through “school”: we are men and women who are “working on ourselves!”, “awakening!”, doing “THE WORK!” – blah, blah, blah, unlike the “others”.

This superiority became increasingly apparent as my tenure ticked past. At times I pitied those who “weren’t in ‘school'”. They didn’t have “the help” (cough) that I had. According to “school”, those of us in were attracted to the work by our “MAGNETIC CENTER”. Not everyone has MAGNETIC CENTER!

Conveniently, it also solidified “school’s” cultish hierarchy. “Teachers” have been “doing THE WORK! longer” and float above the rest of us. “Teachers” provided “second line of work  – work for others” through “help” for inferior beings. Robert was clearly the top dog and his “help” was the end all be all, not to be questioned! “Older students” &  “sustainers” were superior to the “younger class” (obviously) and the “youngest class” –the newbies– were almost hopeless.

The newbie “class” met separately for a time (for the 5-8 week experiment, depending), mainly with Robert (guess he had to suss them out, while he spun his magic). After dismissing newbies for the night, Robert would often come to the “older class” and complain about them. The poor dear, he would get so exhausted, trying to impart wisdom to those who were still so coarse in their vibrations. He would gaze at us adoringly and tell us what a relief it was to be around those who were “working on themselves”.  He would proudly remind us how far we’d come! Of course, even those almost-hopeless newbies were superior to the “unschooled”, the sleepwalking masses — those “NOT DOING THE WORK”. At least they had MAGNETIC CENTER!

It’s convenient for “school” –and all cults– to spin the “others” as inferior, coarse humans, because eventually “others” will  express concern about this weird group. Students begin to experience the coveted “school” “friction”, pitched by the group as “necessary for one’s arising”. When friends and family complain about the secret group that requires bi-weekly attendance, a “student’s” odd behavior, flat affect, change in personality, etc, and decreasing availability to (cough) “only life things”, “students” turn to the more highly evolved — “teachers” — for “Help”. Over time “help” morphs into pat phrases, that are applied to every single “student”, regardless of personality, or personal circumstance. Given enough time, personal won’t factor in to cult cog evolution. Perhaps the following pat phrases sound familiar to some of you:

“what do you wish for?”
“what is your AIM?”
“What does your husband/wife want? Find out and give it to him/her.”
“Your [husband/wife/friend/sibling/partner] is jealous that you are doing what you love!”
“Tell [him/her] that it’s none of [his/her] business.”

This “help” all leads to the heartwarming “When you’re working on yourself, any man or woman will do.” You can imagine what this “help” does to an  un-“schooled” marriage. Given a long enough tenure, “others” become obstacles to your “self remembering”. “Others” inconvenience the higher “aim”.  If they aren’t grateful for your non-presence and illustrious “efforts” and the accompanying neglect of family and friends, they are jealous and “don’t understand.” Oh, by the way, many  of the “older students” are secretly married to each other, or had been and are now divorced … read the School & Marriages post, for more info on that.

Cult vocabulary, Hassan writes,  ” …  also serves to confuse newcomers, who want to understand what members are talking about. The newbies think they merely have to study harder in order to understand the truth, which they believe is precisely expressed in this new language. In reality, though, loaded language helps them learn how to not think, or understand. They learn that ‘understanding’ means accepting and believing.” 

Loaded language, plus growing demands, plus increasing “friction” and growing conflict between the “student” and his/her “unschooled” friends and family, leads to a kind of “school”-propagated disorientation. “School” starts to pin the inevitable problems between the “schooled” and the “un-schooled” on the “student” – pat phrases like, “maybe you are putting out coarse vibrations”, “maybe you aren’t trying hard enough”, “are you sure that your perceptions are accurate?”, “which set of Is are speaking right now?” ring through the hallowed halls.

“Students”, of course, believing in the magic and the hierarchy, start thinking …” if only I tried harder, if my vibrations were fine enough”, “only-life” family & friends would be perfectly happy –elated even– about my soul-manufacturing efforts.”

If I got paid a dollar every time I heard an ex-cult members say “I thought I wasn’t trying hard enough. I believed I was failing”, I could probably earn back the $20,000 “school” bilked me out of when I was in my cult coma.

Cinching the deal, Hassan writes that “In order to be a good member, a person must learn to manipulate their own thought process … Thought stopping is the most direct way to short-circuit a person’s ability to test reality. Indeed if people are able to think only positive thoughts about their involvement with the group, they are most certainly stuck. Since the doctrine is perfect and the leader is perfect, any problem that crops up is assumed to be the fault of the individual member. They learn to blame themselves and simply work harder.”

All of this leads to my fav! “School’s” thought stopping and emotional constipation practice: “The Non-Expression of Negative Emotions”! Hurray, now I’m really evolving —  at the right time “school” requires its doobies to “non-express” both externally & internally. We few were, we proud (cough) were to refrain from voicing “complaints”, “criticisms”, “anger”, etc and we were to monitor our facial expressions and keep them from taking on a dark shadow, and our body language to ensure we weren’t communicating hostility, or taking on protective postures. “School” said that “non-expression” was “not suppression”. But none of the “highly-evolved” could, in fact, tell us what it was (if not suppression), or how to “not express” without suppressing.  I’m lucky that my inner rebels never let my starry-eyed believers completely buy into this exercise of self-induced insanity.

“School” needs cogs to distrust themselves; for certain illustrious abusive tactics start to surface when “school” has boiled you in doctrine oil for the correct amount of time. When top dogs deem “younger students” as ready, they graduate into the “older class”. At that point, a good cult cog justifies the group’s increasing dismissal of outside family, friends, interests, passions, job, insignificant “only-life things”. For all things “un-schooled” do not contribute to your inner development! Only with “school’s” “help” will you cultivate a soul cult-ivate being the operative word. 

Once you’re in that psychological state, the group has taken your psyche hostage. Hassan writes that cults members “… become quite mechanical, because the person becomes programmed … when thought is controlled, feelings and behaviors are usually controlled, as well.”

In “school” you are thus prepared for: “third line of work”  … one must contribute to the group’s elusive higher purpose, if one really wants a soul! We are climbing a ladder to heaven together; each soldier must continue the journey, rung by rung … when one stops climbing all are affected/effected. Those who fall off the ladder endanger the group! hurt essence friends and leadership, let down God!

“School” positions third line of work such that the cogs feel eventually we will be contributing to world peace, ending hunger and poverty, stopping climate change. In reality, its only task, or AIM as “school” likes to call it, is recruitment, recruitment, recruitment! Go out and Make New Friends! Making New Friends conveniently devours time and energy from piddly “only life things”. Thus “school” cogs divorce un-schooled spouses, lose jobs, stop pursuing passions and interests, neglect children …

… They no longer have time for such trivial pursuits now.

Next week, Emotional control.



Combating Cult Mind Control – The BITE Model

After leaving “school”, I started reading everything I could on cults, mind control & undue influence. The more I read, the more descriptions of “school” I saw – it was quite the wake-up call. The more the experts cast “school” under the cult light, the more my wracking cognitive dissonance disappeared: cults deceive and justify deception for the “higher cause”; cults deliberately confuse, obfuscate, demand secrecy, exactly like “school”.

My latest anti-cult read is the updated version of Combating Cult Mind Control. Author Steve Hassan’s BITE Model outlines four components of control: behavior, information, thought & emotion. In the next four posts, I will plug my tenure into his model and see if it fits. Today’s installment … BEHAVIOR!

Hassan writes“Behavior control is the regulation of an individual’s physical reality …  control of where they live, what clothes they wear, what they eat, how much sleep they get, what jobs, rituals and other actions they perform …”

On first blush, “school” does not fit this model. I lived at home, with my husband and stepson. My “classmates” also lived with their families. They had normal jobs, friends, interests. “School” was not overtly telling me what to wear, or eat, when to sleep, when to wake. It looked benign, at first, benevolent even.

That is what is tricky & confusing about “school” — this cult has perfected the art of slow-growth indoctrination. It planted seeds in recruitment, when I was sharing my trials with my “new friend”, Lisa. When invited me to “try a … free five-week experiment!” the roots sprouted. They started crawling out with this requirement: “It’s very important that you don’t tell anyone about this … it’s private, just for you!”  The roots started extending and coiling with my bi-weekly attendance — every Tuesday and Thursday — in the “casual discussion group”. “Casual” morphed into rigid when specific rules of engagement, or non-engagement, dictating & shaping interactions and behaviors came into play. “School RULES” included …

  • Observe ten minutes of meditative silence before “class” – no casual conversation with classmates.
  • “No unnecessary talking” – “unnecessary” meaning anything beyond discussion of the “secret” (cough, but not really) “ideas”, or asking for “help” from “teachers” with “only life things.” Over time normal conversations were deemed “gossip.” (horrors)
  • “No fraternization outside the hallowed halls” – do not engage with “essence friends” out “in life”. Pretend to be strangers to “protect the invisible world.”
  • No Internet Research! You have all had your own experiences of “school”. Don’t poison them!
  • Do not discuss “school” with only-life friends & family – again, protect the invisible world!

Note how all policies pointed to don’t speak, don’t think, keep secrets, don’t question, don’t freely converse. Note how all of them restrict interactions between “students”. “School” deemed these requirements “experiments” – indeed “school” “taught” that our lives were “experiments”. BUT all things “school” were beyond the beyond! You could not compare it to, or experience anything like it, anywhere else! Therefore our “essence friendships” needed to be “finer” than our not-so-evolved only-life relationships. They fell under a different and more refined set of rules.

When “students” questioned the secrecy and rigidity, “school” responded by saying, we are “experimenting” and to “…extend a nickels worth of trust, while maintaining a healthy skepticism”. That positioning made the required silence easier to swallow because it gave the illusion of choice and free will; we were “experimenting” in the spirit of “refining our vibrations”.  Oh, and by the way, our silence “protected the sanctity of THE WORK against those who would destroy it” — thus inducing the necessary “us vs. them” ideology typical of cults.

The longer my tenure, the more rules popped up. The weeds, lengthened, thickened & tangled. I accepted them and behaved accordingly. The more I followed “school rules”, the more they informed my psychology, vines  twisted around, snaking through my belief system like wisteria. By the time I “graduated” from the “free 5-week experiment”, a.k.a. “the youngest class”, into the “older class” –and tuition kicked in at $350/month — I’d accepted the following dictates as “necessary for my evolution”:

  1. Arrive ten minutes early. Sit in meditative silence until a “teacher” announces “It’s time for tai chi” or “it’s time for body work”
  2. Practice “tai chi”, or the flalling free-for-all known as “body work”, for 30 minutes.
  3. Silently march to our seats to silently wait for “teachers” to arrive (“teachers” often delayed grand entrances  — thus increasing our anticipation as we observed “meditative silence” & “non-fraternized”).
  4. “Discuss” “secret ideas” in “teacher”-orchestrated “conversations” —  i.e. “students” standing up & silently waiting to be called on, sorta like grade school.
  5. “Observe 1 hour of silence” after “class” — to “seal yourself off“; “don’t leak!

Any sharing of last names, occupations, phone numbers, email addresses, normal family stuff constituted “leaking!” — except when shared in the context of “class discussion” with proper “teacher” monitoring. In my cult coma, I didn’t notice how much “school” control had started leaking out of the hallowed halls and into my “only life things”

The sustainer — invisible meetings and phone calls between “classes” with this assigned “mentor”, allegedly put in place to support the “younger student”. Really “sustainers” are minders, responsible for “retainment”. “Sustainers” must do “whatever it takes” to insure that their mentees don’t notice that they are in a cult and decide to leave. More on this in the information control post.

 Assignments — “Teachers” dole out specific assignments, like any other school. The longer your tenure, the more evolutionary readings & tasks  to complete. At a certain point, I realized that there was never enough time to complete all the required assignments. 

The 5-week aim — “School’s” holy grail! Every 5 weeks, we “stated” “aims”, or goals, and we held each other to them. Over time, the phrase, “your AIM is your God” started echoing down the halls. “Students” who “didn’t make their AIMs” disappointed the group. And God. They endangered humanity! The longer my tenure, the more the “aims” served the higher cause (cough), “school” being the far more critical “soul-manufacturing” process than insignificant marriages, children, jobs, oh, and you can forget about piddly personal passions, dreams, ideas, etc. All must be shoved aside for “school”. 

Self sensing — every morning, as “school” cogs drift from sleep to wake, we were required to scan ourselves from head to toe, then sense the bed, the room, home,  lawn, neighborhood, town, state, country, continent, etc. etc. etc … all the way up to sensing the planet, as we rose above the earth, in spirit, and looked down from “the starry world”.

Morning prayer  — in coordination with self sensing, good doobies repeated this prayer: “Good morning, God – How can I serve you today?” Then we waited for the answer.

The creepiness of this “school” infiltration into my bed didn’t put a dent in my cult coma; I accepted these exercises as necessary for “refining my vibrations”. But, the truth is that I “failed” at “self sensing” & “the morning prayer” almost every morning & eventually I gave up. Both exercises felt contrived and I’ve never done contrived very well. Every morning, while attempting to “self-sense”, I fell back to sleep. God never answered my “morning prayer” — well, that is until the morning I asked God whether I should graduate myself. After leaving, I learned that many “essence friends” lied about their self-sensing/morning prayer efforts. One could curry favor easily by reporting “amazing” self sensing and morning prayer results.

Once you’re in the psychological state of currying favor, the group has taken your psyche hostage, and you are nicely positioned for the next step in behavior control.

Hassan writes that cults always have authoritarian chains of command.

“School” positioned its “teachers” as those who have been “doing the work longer”; they “know better”! Their “help” is “above” the “level of life”. They have refined their vibrations and are floating above the coarse, sleepwalking sea of humanity. I have come to see that humans are wired socially to strive for approval and acceptance. You can see this in children who — for the most part — live to please their parents. That child like need for acceptance works on us as adults, in all kinds of social situations. More on this in the emotional control post. Over time, my wish to please my teachers started to drive and shape my behaviors.

Meanwhile, “school’s” Boston-branch hierarchy lined up: in the bottom tier, “school” coddles its “youngest students” giving them a honeymoon period of roughly two years. On the next level, “younger students” answer to “older students”, who are slightly more “evolved” but answer to “sustainers” & “teachers”; next step up, both “sustainers” & “older students” answer to “teachers”; ultimately, in Boston, “teachers” and everyone else, first and foremost, answer to Robert. The phrase “You need to ask Robert” echoes down the hallowed halls. After leaving I learned that Boston is merely the inferior satellite branch; the real power lies with Sharon at corporate headquarters in NYC. More on this in the information control post.

The longer my tenure, the more “school” coddling was replaced by humiliation and admonishment; “teachers” increasingly employed this brand of “help” through the enlightened secret “ideas” — “you are in a lazy set of I’s“, or “you are in self will”, or “you are in internal considering”, “you need to do what *it* doesn’t want to do” blah, blah, blah. (Note the special loading of language). They were doing us favors, exposing our “chief weaknesses”, holding us to “higher standards” than those who are “sleepwalking” through “only life” without the “help” (cough). Those who weren’t “working on themselves”. Humans — I have learned — will avoid humiliation like this at all costs. It is a very powerful social engineering tool. Humiliation is an effective way to demand obedience. More on this in the emotional control post.

Hassan writes, “Obedience … is the most important lesson to learn” . Once the cult has established dependence obedience follows naturally.

The longer my tenure, the more the requirements stacked up. The vines tightened and wired around my “only-life-things” and shaping my behaviors — “private” phone calls between myself and my “sustainer”, or “teachers”, or other “essence friends” increased with each illustrious task, as well as “invisible” meetings, “help” and demands. My innocuous lies increased exponentially in concert with each new demand, wedging between myself and family and friendships, etc. Secrets devoured and chocked out more and more of my life.

Once sufficiently indoctrinated and deemed “ready” by the powers-that-be, soul manufacturing requirements increasingly included “making new friends” and inviting them to try the “free 5-week experiment”. “School’s” “invisible” agenda started dogging my life. I filtered every interaction through these questions: does the person standing behind me at the CVS, or in the bank, or in my yoga class (etc.) have a “magnetic center”? Is he, or she, a fellow “essence  friend” seeking “THE WORK”? Would he or she benefit from “school”? Should I be constantly engaging with lost souls to see if they want to try a “free 5-week experiment”? Should I be inviting all of my “only-life” friends to “refine their vibrations” and manufacture souls?

My behavior followed those dictates, my belief system followed the behavior. Cognitive dissonance rattled my psyche, tearing it apart. A battle started raging inside between, starry-eyed believers and inner rebels who simply didn’t want to recruit newbies, hated the whole process, especially the hidden agenda. More on this in emotional control.

Hassan writes that cults discourage individualism. This is where his initial assessment starts becoming more apparent: the regulation of an individual’s physical reality …  control of where they live, what clothes they wear, what they eat, how much sleep they get, what jobs, rituals and other actions they perform …

“School” was patient. It waited until indoctrination had set in before overtly demanding certain things. I was roughly 2 to 3 years into my tenure when teachers started saying that “school” doobies should distinguish themselves as superior creatures, in a variety of behaviors. For example, “school” started instructing us that society had become “too casual and coarse”. As “evolving men and women” we needed to refine our vibrations and dress well. They didn’t provide specifics — only that we should “put some effort into our wardrobes.”

Also, “school’s” started proclaiming that its illustrious schedule should supersede all else. God forbid a “school” doobie should interrupt his/her evolution with a family vacation, or miss a “class” to attend his/her child’s high school graduation. etc. During the holiday season, “school’s” Christmas Party was to trump all things “only life”, including sleep and other only-life things that one might need for good health and optimal functioning.

Predictably “un-schooled” family & friends became concerned, upset & justifiably angry. What is this weird group that you are in and why does it trump our life and relationship? Are you in some kind of a cult? Thus we all turned to “teachers” for “help”. “Teacher’s” doled out prepackaged, predictable and pat behavioral prescriptions, such as …

  • Find out what your [NAME RELATIONSHIP HERE] wants and give it to him/her.
  • Plan a special event, or dinner, for your unhappy [NAME RELATIONSHIP HERE].

Eventually, “school” brings out this lovely bit of “help”…

  • Your [NAME RELATIONSHIP HERE] is jealous that you are doing what you love! Tell him/her that it is none of his/her business!

… because, of course, the un-schooled, only-life, person is unfairly persecuting “school”. (Sounds kinda like a certain Republican presidential candidate, does it not?)

Thus we scrambled around trying to patch up the “school”-inflicted damage by practicing “school”-prescribed remedies; they were, at best, superficial and, at worst, intentionally damaging. The longer my tenure, the more “help” I requested and the more damaging the “help” became. The more I allowed “school” to dictate my behaviors, the faster the cult wheel spun, spewing out its seeds, weeds proliferating exponentially, choking the life out of my lowly “only life”.

Hassan writes, “Each particular group has its own distinctive set of ritual behaviors that help bind it together. These typically include mannerisms of speech, specific posture and facial expressions … Doing these little things helped make us feel we were special and superior. Psychologists call this ‘social proof’.”

Once I left the ranks, I started to recognize the correlation between uttering “school” vocabulary – a.k.a. loaded language — and taking on accompanying inflections, attitudes, tones, postures & facial expressions. I wasn’t familiar with the term social proof, but the extent to which “school rules” had been shaping my behaviors became excruciatingly clear. Trust me, stay in long enough, follow all “the rules”,  your “only life friendships” will end and your “only life family” will be baffled and hurt by your “evolutionary” cold, uncaring and contradictory behavior. You will be both sufficiently indoctrinated & isolated from “the others”.

I have spoken with a number of ex-members from various cults; they all practice a version of behavioral control. Most have to grapple with the embarrassment and shame of allowing some nefarious group to dictate behavior that, when in their right minds, they would never condone. But, when you’re in a cult, you are not in your right mind. When you’re in a cult, you are increasingly under the command of some narcissistic sociopath, and you may not even know it. More on this in thought control.

Lastly,  Hassan writes, “A cult’s leaders cannot command someone’s inner thoughts, but they know that if they command behavior, hearts and minds will follow.”

In my never-ending pursuit to understand how I allowed “school” to shape my behavior, thus sculpting me into a cult cog, I am pulling “school” weeds out of my psyche. I see how behavioral dictates snaked through my emotional and psychological state — a state that justified “the rules”, a belief system that I was lucky to be a member of an exclusive group of superior humans, who pretended to be humble, but were really “operating on a higher level” than other inferior creatures. I was “evolving”. I was “protecting the invisible world” and its “secret & sacred ideas”.  We were “refining our vibrations” and rising above “only life things.” Thus, we needed to behave in a “finer” (gag) manner. All of this was contributing to the betterment of society and humanity!

So … does “school” fit the behavior component of Hassan’s BITE mold? In my opinion, absolutely. But, you have all “had your own experiences of ‘school’ and can draw your own conclusions.”

We’ll explore information control next week.