Message Mind Control - Destruction of the Authentic Self:
Of the many people that I've worked with on their journey out of the "Message" cult, the most interesting are those who came into the group later in life. Having been born and raised in this mind control cult, with very little choice in life, I find every aspect of their testimony very intriguing. Why did they join? What were they like before? How has it affected their lives?
Those of us who were born into the cult had very little chance to fully develop our authentic self. Some of us were under much more frequent sessions of programming -- especially those of us who attended "tape churches." While we were feeding our cult identities, our authentic personalities did not mature at the same rate.
One person I recently worked with as they left the cult said it best, "I feel like I never grew up." Working with this person for several months, I came to realize that they were fully matured as a cult personality, but very immature in normal conversation and social situations. Their responses to specific doctrines or teachings in the cult was very advanced, but it often felt like I was speaking with a much younger person on the phone.
But those who came into the "Message" later in life did mature. They were given a choice, however they were asked to make a decision when only given partial fact. Their authentic identity, trusting that they were being given truthful accounts of the life and times of William Branham, made what it felt to be a conscious decision based on "undeniable fact."
It is this process that I find to be interesting, because in every example I have seen, the person who exited the cult was not the same person who joined. Through the indoctrinated fear, combined with the social pressure of the group, and guarded by the control of information, the authentic self began to change into something completely different. Many would say they changed into something less desirable.
Given the same characteristics of a healthy, Christian church, would would be the outcome? What if new members were told that they would gradually change without their knowledge? What if signs were posted on the billboards in the foyer that outlined the characteristics of the cult leader, and fully detailed how those characteristics would be imprinted into their personality slowly over time? Would such a church ever gain a single member?
In his book, "Combating Cult Mind Control," Steven Hassan describes this issue in great detail. First, he deals with those who came into the cult later in life:
Perhaps the biggest problem faced by people who have left destructive cults is the disruption of their own authentic identity. There is a very good reason: they have lived for years inside an "artificial" identity given to them by the cult. While cult mind control can be talked about and defined in many different ways, I believe it is best understood as a system that disrupts an individual's healthy identity development. An identity is made up of elements such as beliefs, behavior, thought processes and emotions that constitute a definite pattern. Under the influence of mind control, a person's authentic identity given at birth, and as later formed by family, education, friendships, and most importantly that person's own free choices, becomes replaced with another identity, often one that they would not have chosen for themself without tremendous social pressure.
- Steven Hassan. Combating Cult Mind Control
Next, he describes those who were born and raised in a mind control cult:
The process can be initiated quickly, but usually requires days or weeks to solidify. Those unfortunate enough to be born to members of a destructive cult are deprived of a healthy psychological environment in which to mature optimally. That said, children are remarkably resilient and I have met many who described never completely "buying in" to the crazy beliefs and practices. Most ran away or found a way to escape before they became adult. Yet, for others, it took decades to find the strength and the courage to be "true to themselves." Family ties can enforce silence on disbelieving second-generation members. It is easier to go along with the cult that to express their true opinions.
- Steven Hassan. Combating Cult Mind Control
Stay tuned for more!
Combating Cult Mind Control (Second Edition): http://amzn.to/1NCnN45
Profile of "The Message" on Freedom Of Mind Resource Center: https://freedomofmind.com/Info/infoDet.php?id=883&title=The_Message