An Apologetics Index research resource
In 1976, Steve Hassan nodded off at the wheel of a fundraising van and crashed into the back of an eighteen-wheeler. The accident created the opportunity for his parents to intervene and hire ex-members to counsel him, helping him to begin thinking for himself again after two and a half years as a totally devoted Moonie leader bent on saving the world from Armageddon. Hassan's pioneering work in the field of cult mind control grew out of his own need to recover his pre-cult identity and re-integrate the shards of his own shattered personality. A licensed professional, and creator of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center and the newly established non-profit Freedom of Mind Institute, Steven Hassan has saved the lives of both cult members and their anguished friends and families, offering insight into the dark dealings of secret groups while developing life-saving strategies to help loved ones recover their former identities and "be themselves" again. Hassan's revolutionary Strategic Interaction Approach replaces crude deprogramming and kidnapping rescue attempts with an in-depth process of:Excerpt
Few people understand that cult indoctrination superimposes a new cult identity that suppresses and controls the individual's authentic identity. Relatives and friends think they are having a conversation with the person they have always known when, in fact, they are probably addressing the cult identity. In most traditional exit-counseling and deprogramming cases, the cult identity is submerged by left intact. The pre-cult identity assumes control, but the cult identity is not fully absorbed and integrated into the new post-cult self. Specialized knowledge and training are required to effectively promote healing. The Strategic Interaction Approach differs from the approach described in Combatting Cult Mind Control in several important ways, the most critical of which is the introduction of the three-part phobia intervention. In Chapter 10, you will learn how to use this step-by-step approach to help your loved one understand and overcome cult-implanted phobias. Until this is done, I have learned, interactions with a cult member are especially difficult and sometimes even counterproductive. The SIA also differs from exit counseling in its emphasis on the process of change, rather than pure content or information. The exit-counseling model was premised on the fact that the exit-counselor would have information that was difficult to obtain. All that has changed because, today, cult critics and former members of various cults are publishing information about cults and mind control on the World Wide Web. With the advent of the Internet, anyone with a computer and a modem can network with other families, obtain assistance from experts and former members, and locate information in a way that was not possible before. Because information about cults has become so accessible, we can spend more time developing a thorough understanding of the cult member, the group he belongs to, and the friends and family who care about him. Additionally, in the Strategic Interaction Approach we learn how to identify factors that make people more vulnerable to mind control, such as learning disorders, unresolved sexual issue, or pre-existing phobias that cults can take advantage of. We create a model of the parts of our loved one's authentic self that were cultivated for recruitment into the cult identity. Understanding these subpersonalities helps us relate to the cult identity and also helps us identify, and encourage, aspects of the cult self that are worthy of keeping. The focus of the SIA is on the growth of the entire family and support network, as well as on the cult member. Family members and friends work together as the Strategic Interaction Team.Advance Praise for Releasing The Bonds
- Releasing The Bonds, pp. 70-71.
Hassan's new book lays out with clarity, precision, vast personal illustrations, and no hysteria, the best analysis of the mind control used by every destructive religious group. He follows with a clear prescription for families and professionals showing how they can get help and deal with these human tragedies. An absolutely necessary tool for student personnel workers, clergy, and others who have faced destructive cults.
Robert Watts Thornburg, Dean, Marsh Chapel, Boston University
The essence of Steve Hassan's work is the liberation of the human potential in all of us. Can anyone of us be really free when others are enslaved? Steve's emphatic "no" to this agonizing question makes Releasing the Bonds a vibrant tool for so many of us in the helping professions. As a rabbi and teacher, I am always inspired by Steve Hassan's integrity and determination. Let it continue for many years.
Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, Ph.d., Author of The Big Book of Jewish Humour
With Releasing the Bonds, Steve Hassan has provided a reasoned, principled, and highly readable approach to attacking aserious social problem. We need this book!
Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D., Arizona State University, Author of Influence
When Steve Hassan was still a high ranking member in the Unification Church, I participated in an unsuccessful voluntary deprogramming of my daughter, Barbara. For two days the team leader pounded at the cult member and her group. Deliberately, he insulted them using bathroom language on the theory that the cult member would "snap". We failed. As she returned to her group the cultist remarked, "Where was the love?" If the team leader and the cult member had had the opportunity to read Hassan's "Releasing the Bonds," the results might have been quite different. Hassan has skillfully condensed his 25 years of experience in liberating members of destructive groups into a valuable workbook for counselors, cult members and their families, and mental health professionals. His formula, the Strategic Interaction Approach, stresses love, respect, freedom of choice, customized planned action fitted to the individual with the family as key participants, psychotherapy, and applied social psychology.
Arthur A. Dole, Ph.D, ABPP, Editorial Advisory Board for the Cultic Studies Journal, American Family Foundation
For sixteen hours a day and a paycheck averaging $40 a week I gave more than a decade of my youth to a cult. Although it is eighteen years since I have left the cult, Steve Hassan's book Releasing the Bonds has provided me with new insights and additional healing. His book offers fresh perspectives and tools that can lead to letting go of the shame, recognizing one's personal goodness, and appreciating one's strength and integrity. I urge every former cult member to read Releasing the Bonds, Hassan's book will also be a reassuring message for families and friends who have suffered the loss of a loved one to a cult as well as offering a basic introduction to cult issues.
Ginger Ross Breggin, Executive Director of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology
Releasing the Bonds is a compassionate and intelligent guide for anyone who has ever been caught up in a cult or cult-like organization. Hassan offers perceptive and non-coercive guidance to family and friends of those whose idealism or vulnerability has led them to become cult members. Further, the book provides valuable insights into the control and manipulation that can occur in abusive personal relationships such as those experienced by battered women. It is a vital tool for professionals and laypersons alike.
Peter R. Breggin, M.D., Author of Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Drugs
'Steve Hassan is one of the very few people to understand the mechanics of manipulation. He sheds a rare light on the mysterious processes used to overwhelm independent thought and behaviour in totalist groups. Steve is a truly insightful commentator whose work always stimulates. His experience is vast and his prose is lucid. Steve's work is a must read for anyone who wants to comprehend indoctrination and understand how to undo it.'
Jon Atack, Author of A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed
At the time I left the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in New York, after having worked for $14 a month for 6 years, I was able through much inner soul-searching to extricate myself on my own. Had I possessed the information in Releasing the Bonds more than likely it would have greatly shortened the amount of time spent still searching for answers. When you are the one being manipulated by controlling leadership, you are least likely to understand the motives behind that leadership, as it is carefully cloaked behind doctrine, fear and guilt. Now one can shortcut the process significantly and recover without fear of returning to the group, or of being caught up in another high-control group.
Randall Watters, Author of Thus Saith the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
Congratulations, Steve! You have a unique handbook/guidebook here which, if followed carefully, should result in freeing many cult members from the bondage of mind control. It will give hope and motivation to their many relatives and friends who feel helpless and hopeless and are desperate to discover some means of reaching their loved ones. I remember the dark depressive cloud of despair which settled on me when I first heard of my son Peter's involvement in Scientology. What a tremendous relief it was when his wife Mary Jo reassured us that he had responded positively to your counseling and had reentered the real world. It is good that you affirm consistently the importance of an individual's faith -- you make it clear that no Christian should fear that your methods or techniques would impact the cult member's religious faith negatively. You are unselfishly sharing what you know with others, and encouraging them to try it. The Moonies would have undoubtedly left you alone, had they any idea what your indoctrination would eventually lead to! God works in mysterious ways.
Steven Hassan has called upon his twenty-three years of expertise in the cult field to write this excellent, highly readable and extremely practical manual. Reading this book and implementing Hassan's advice will hopefully help everyone affected by a mind control situation to understand and reevaluate an unhealthy involvement.
Marcia R. Rudin, Founding Director, International Cult Education Program of the American Family FoundationAbout The Author
Steven Hassan has been involved in educating the public about mind control and destructive cults for over twenty three years. He is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and holds a Master's degree in counseling psychology from Cambridge College. He is the author of newly released Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (Freedom of Mind press, 2000). In 1988, he authored the critically acclaimed book Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults (Park Street Press). [...more...]See Also
» Apologetics Index statement regarding the issues of mind control and exit-counseling
» Additional ex-cult support resources