Love the truth, even if it is sometimes inconvenient or unpleasant. Respect the truth, cherish the truth, seek the truth above all.
People stay trapped in cults, or trapped in illusions, because they don't really want to know the truth:
- Sometimes, they are afraid to know the truth --
- They fear that their world will fall apart if they stop believing certain things, or admit the truth of other things. That is one of the beliefs with which they got programmed -- the idea that if they don't believe the right things, they will go to Hell, or they will lose their ticket to Heaven, or something else really bad will happen to them. One of the things that cults do is implant phobias about leaving the cult, or learning the truth about the cult.
- They are afraid of losing their status or membership in the group -- they are afraid that they will be shunned and ostracized if they don't believe the same things as the other people around them.
- They fear that they will have to leave the cult if they stop believing in it, and they will stop believing in it if they learn a bunch of negative things about it. ("Then what will I do with my life?!") So they plug their ears and close their eyes, and play "Hear no evil, see no evil..."
- Some people just don't want to see that they were fooled.
"I refuse to believe that I spent twelve years of my life in a cult. It isn't a cult. It can't be a cult. It's a wonderful movement."
As they say, "Denial isn't just a river in Egypt."
- Some people just don't want to give it up.
- "If I leave the group, I will be lonely because I won't have any friends. So shut up and quit telling me disturbing things about it."
- "I have lots of time invested here. I'm a respected elder. If I quit the organization, I'll be a nobody."
It's just like, if, while exploring the Wild West, you find that you have an arrow stuck in your back, pull it out.
- Don't wallow in self-contempt and guilt, condemning yourself for having stupidly gotten an arrow stuck in your back.
- Don't imagine that you are somehow all fucked up for having gotten stuck with an arrow.
- Don't imagine that finding an arrow stuck in your back proves that you are somehow inferior.
Now that doesn't mean that you shouldn't examine your behavior, and change it if you are doing something wrong. But be wary of excessive fault-finding and self-criticism. Cults will teach you to do that, and will even try to convince you that you will make yourself more holy by constantly condemning yourself and putting yourself down and feeling guilty about everything. All that really accomplishes is messing up your mind, destroying your self-confidence and self-respect, and making you unable to think clearly or act decisively.
People who want to control you will try to make you feel stupid, inferior, flawed, and mentally incompetent for disagreeing with them.
As mentioned above, self-condemnation and self-criticism are a big part of the brain-washing and indoctrination process, so those who would like to control you would also like to get you criticizing yourself and being down on yourself. And Margaret Thaler Singer added that inducing feelings of powerlessness, covert fear, guilt, and dependency in the victims was also a part of the brainwashing process.
So don't let them make you believe that you are flawed and inferior. When someone is reading your beads and listing your faults, it almost always means that they want to control you -- to change your behavior to something that they want.
For example, one of the commonest crippling stunts that cults or churches pull on people is demanding that they not feel their feelings. "You must only feel Eternal Bliss" or "You must only feel Serenity and Gratitude". Anger, especially anger at the evils of the cult and its leaders, is supposedly very bad.
Bill Wilson wrote:
It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about "justifiable" anger? If somebody cheats us, aren't we entitled to be mad? Can't we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us in A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William Wilson, page 90.
What rot. You are wrong to get mad when somebody hurts you or commits crimes against you? Such anger should be "left to those better qualified to handle it"? And just who is that?
All it means is, you can't feel your anger. You have to "stuff your feelings."
Pseudo-religious garbage like that will do a good job of crippling you, and keeping you from making trouble for your oppressors.
Likewise, some churches or cults will tell you that you shouldn't feel horny, or find the opposite sex attractive, or think about sex with them. Nonsense. You brain is hardwired to think about it and want it -- That's what keeps the human race going. We would be extinct if we could be logical and rational about sex and having children. "Too much bother; a big hassle; too expensive..." But logic has nothing to do with it, and that's why we are still here.
Another common crippling stunt that cults pull on their members is demanding that members stop thinking critically -- stop what they call "having doubts":
"If you are really holy, then you won't have any doubts."
Nonsense. Normal, sane, healthy people have lots of doubts when con-men and phony holy men try to foist a stupid illogical hoax on them. Those doubts are your remaining sanity warning you that something sounds fishy.
Similarly, cults and other mind-manipulators will tell you that you cannot trust your own mind and your own thinking (so you should let them do your thinking for you). If you buy into that idea, it will really cripple you. You won't be able to think anything without also thinking that it must be wrong, because you thought it. (But then the thought that your thinking is wrong should also be wrong... So your thinking must be right...)
On the TV show "The X-Files", Mulder had a poster on the wall of his office that said, "I Want To Believe". That's okay for the X-Files and stories about flying saucers, but it leads to disaster in real life.
Instead of wanting to believe, want to know the truth.
Wanting to believe is perhaps the most powerful dynamic initiating and sustaining cult-like behavior.
The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., page 137.
Billy Graham says that everyone really wants to believe in a dogmatic, fascist religion:
"The world longs for authority, finality, and conclusiveness. It is weary of theological floundering and uncertainty. Belief exhilarates the human spirit; doubt depresses."
quoted in Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America's Freedoms in Religion, Politics, and Our Private Lives, Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, page 144.
Also see: The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., page 143.
Certainty (as Billy Graham testified) is one of the great benefits of [dogmatic] religious belief.
The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., page 144.
For example, in some cults or religions, they will flatter you and tell you that you are very important, and involved in very important work, doing the Will of the Lord, ushering in the Millenium, saving the world, if you believe what they say and do what they say. But if you buy into their game, it is you who is allowing yourself to be deceived, and it's you who is enjoying the big ego game.
Part of the attraction of believing the leader's views and actions to be of paramount importance is that the follower's own sense of importance is heightened.
The Wrong Way Home: Uncovering the Patterns of Cult Behavior in American Society, Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., page 67.
"If the leader and his religion are saving the world, and I follow the leader, then I am saving the world, which makes me very good and very important."
Conversely, if someone criticizes the cult, its leader, or its teachings, then that reflects badly on the member. If the cult member believes the criticisms to be true, then he will go from being a noble savior of the world to being just a foolish follower of an evil charlatan. So the member has a vested interest in rejecting any criticism of the group or its leader -- all based on his own egotism. Thus he will resist learning the truth, out of purely selfish interests.
Beware of equating things that are not equal.
For example, many people say that they really like the A.A. program because it is such a wonderful social club with such brotherhood and fellowship. Excuse me, but it is supposed to be an alcoholism treatment program. They seem to forget that it doesn't actually work to cure alcoholism, and just proclaim that it's great because they like the social life, the brotherhood and the "spirituality". That's mixing apples and oranges. When I go to the doctor to get some medical care, I don't expect a big party in the waiting room. I just go get the pills, and go home. If I want a party, I go someplace else.
Watch your thoughts, attitudes, and slogans.
Also watch your desires and fears.
This is the heart of the deprogramming program. This is a constant, never-ending task. Watch your mind all day long, or as much as you can remember to.
You have to not only watch what people are telling you, but watch how you react to it, and what it makes happen inside your head. Watch what you are thinking, and if you can, understand why you are thinking that.
Notice your desires, and how certain statements can arouse them. I'm not knocking desires, or asking you to. Just look at them and make a note of what it is you actually want: love, approval, status, power, sex, wealth, possessions, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, virtue, goodness, whatever. Then notice how certain ideas or statements can arouse certain desires. And then notice how some people (especially politicians) are skilled in tossing out buzz-words, phrases, and slogans that will arouse certain desires in you. They are messing with your mind by manipulating your feelings.
Likewise, watch your fears, and see how politicians and preachers are good at arousing them to manipulate your thinking.
"If you don't suspend the Bill of Rights and let the Homeland Security Force violate everybody's privacy and spy on everybody, then the nasty Arabs will get you."
"If you don't give the oil billionaires a big tax cut, and let them drill for oil in every wilderness and wildlife preserve in the world, then they will go broke and run out of oil and you will freeze in the dark."
"If you don't believe all this stuff, and give your money to the preacher man, then God will get mad at you and you will go to Hell."
For example, it is commonly accepted that alcoholics can't or won't quit drinking until they "bottom out" or "hit bottom". That is completely untrue. People quit at all stages of alcoholism; some even quit before they could even be called alcoholics, because they see a nasty problem starting to develop.
So how did the idea that alcoholics must hit bottom come to be such a universally-accepted piece of folklore? Well, what happened is Bill Wilson found that ordinary, relatively-sane people wouldn't join his cult religion or believe in his grandiose, bombastic sermons, or accept his brain-damaged superstitious nonsense. Only the really sick, frightened, dying people who were desperately grabbing at anything that might save their lives would swallow Wilson's bullshit. So Wilson made up a story about how alcoholics can't really quit drinking and start to recover until they hit bottom and "the lash of alcoholism drives them to A.A." (see: Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 24). A.A. members have been spreading that little piece of misinformation for the last 60 years, and now, everybody who thinks he knows something about alcoholism repeats it. But it is still untrue.
You can find plenty of similar examples, everywhere. The common wisdom often isn't.
Charlotte Kasl "Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps",
Carl Sagan "The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark".
What those two books have in common is that they both push common sense and logic, and leave me with a sort of positive, upbeat feeling. They will help to clear things up and put some good ideas in your head.
For instance, there is the phenomenon called "cognitive dissonance". What it means is: People want to keep all of their beliefs, actions, thoughts, and feelings in harmony with each other. People want to do what they believe is right and good, and if they do otherwise, they feel bad -- they feel "dissonance". The "dissonance" is just like musical dissonance -- it feels jarring and discordant and wrong.
Brainwashers have discovered that they can use cognitive dissonance to change people's behavior, beliefs, feelings, and thoughts -- force a change in one, and the others will follow. If you force people to perform certain actions, they will eventually come to believe that it's okay -- it must be okay, because they wouldn't want to be doing bad things all of the time. If you force people to say something out loud to a group over and over again, the speakers will eventually come to believe that it is true, because they don't want to feel like they are habitual liars. The subconscious mind's solution to the problem is: believe that it is all true, so now there is no conflict. (That's why A.A. instructs newcomers to "Fake It Until You Make It.")
Since we normally only reveal our innermost, most embarrassing and damaging secrets to our closest and most trusted friends, if we confess everything to a room full of strangers, then cognitive dissonance kicks in, and our subconscious minds will start to assume that those people must really be our closest, most-trusted, friends. That eliminates the conflict over having told embarrassing personal secrets to a bunch of complete strangers. Our feelings will actually change so that we feel much closer to those people. Organizations like Werner Erhard's "est" scam, Alcoholics Anonymous, and various cult churches use this technique to create feelings of instant closeness, "brotherhood", and "fellowship" among the members of a group.
Likewise, if you force people to perform horrible acts, like kill Jews in a concentration camp, then the killers will change their beliefs about the victims to make their actions okay, and will eventually come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong after all. "It isn't really murder because they aren't really people. They are enemies of the state, and need to be eliminated. They have it coming for what the Jews did to us. They are a threat to us, and must be eliminated." That stunt usually (but not always) works even if the killers had originally thought that Jews were okay people. (A small, seldom-mentioned detail of history is that not all German soldiers could stomach killing the Jews. Some soldiers had to be transferred out of the concentration camps because they were going nuts just from seeing all of the Jews killed.)
A recent movie showed how the Nazis would pick out some Jews to act as workers in the concentration camps, forcing them to manage the other Jews who were being herded into the gas chambers. Those worker Jews would of course experience horrible conflicts over their job of helping to kill their fellow Jews, but cognitive dissonance would kick in, and they would end up seeing everything in terms of proper order, proper behavior, and proper functioning: "A Jew who makes a fuss and disrupts the efficient workings of the gas chambers is a trouble-maker and a bad Jew. Good Jews should just go along with the procedure and not make any trouble."
Avoid getting all of your information from just one group or one source. (Any one source. Don't trust anybody that much.) Examine both (or all) sides of an issue. Don't let anyone dictate what you may read, see, or hear. One of the most powerful tools that cults or Communists use to brainwash people is information control -- preventing the victims from getting any information contrary to the brainwashing.
Recognize that three different people who all say the same thing is not necessarily three different sources of information. For example, the evening news programs of NBC, ABC, and CBS may all tell you exactly the same story, just parroting the information that was just released by the White House. Also, the corporate owners of the networks often keep Jennings, Brokaw, and Rather from telling the ugly truths or asking the hard questions. (They similarly muzzled the New York Times, and kept it from reporting how Gov. Jeb Bush rigged the election in Florida in 2000, so such problems are everywhere.) Sometimes, National Public Radio or Public Television will tell you something else, but sometimes you may have to go on the Internet and check out BBC or the London Times to get the other side of the story. (And also check out Canada and Sydney, Australia, and New Delhi, India while you are at it. They speak English, too.)
People often get programmed to program themselves:
- Think about the guy who is always playing "motivational" tapes that will supposedly teach you how to get rich quick or build up your self-esteem or something... Now lots of cults are into it too, and they have a set of tapes for you.
- And then there are the people who are always reading the same book or small set of books over and over again, as if those books held all of the wisdom in the world.
- Then there are people who just constantly repeat slogans, which effectively stops them from actually thinking.
- And there are some people who practice meditation or chanting constantly, reprogramming themselves and stopping rational thought, all day, every day. (Note that meditation and chanting can be good things, but phony gurus teach people to use them excessively, as mind-control tools.)
- And then there are meetings, services, and get-togethers. Churches and cults have church services and "Bible study" and socials, and A.A. and Amway have a meeting for every occasion. Note that this is a matter of frequency, and of how much time they take out of your life. One church service a week is normal for all churches, but when someone tells you to do "90 meetings in 90 days", or to come to chanting or meditation or prayer or Bible study sessions every single day, then the warning bells should be going off in your head. And you should be hearing klaxon horns and air raid sirens when people brag about doing three meetings per day.
- And then there is denial and rationalization. Some people will endlessly deny or rationalize every negative thing they hear about their leader or their church or cult (or their corporation or their political party, or whatever). They will never actually let a contrary idea get into their heads.
- -- Which leads to self-censorship. Some people censor their own minds, and will not even allow themselves to think one forbidden thought. So of course they stay programmed.
"You want to buy these clothes, and style your hair like this, and wear these glasses, and lose weight, and make your waist narrower and your boobs bigger, if you are a female. And if you are a male, you will want to flash the cash and drive this kind of a car, and buy this kind of a house so that you can move in a trophy wife..."
They are selling you images of "the beautiful people". After a while, you will start to feel like there must be something wrong with you if you don't look and act like the people on TV. And you will start to think you must be a weirdo if you don't believe and say what the people on TV believe and say. But the beautiful people on TV are paid to only say non-disturbing things, to not rock the boat. They won't tell you about their sponsors -- corporate polluters -- poisoning your children, not a word. They won't tell you that the sponsor's car is a deathtrap, likely to roll over or explode in flames. They won't tell you that their sponsor cheats its own employees out of their retirement funds and health insurance. They won't say anything about their sponsors feeding your children pesticide- or herbicide-contaminated or genetically-altered food, not a word. That would be making trouble.
So just how beautiful are those beautiful people, really? Are you sure you want to be like them?
Nevertheless, those images are still extremely attractive, aren't they?
Years ago, there was a rather iconoclastic Commissioner of the FCC named Nicholas Johnson who said that there was a lot more on TV than met the eye. He observed that furniture polish commercials actually sell expensive hardwood furniture as well as the polish. They imply that your life will somehow be happier, more elegant, genteel, and cultured, if you have a beautiful house full of the kind of furniture that requires furniture polish.
So, as you watch TV, watch how they are trying to program your mind. Watch what they are really selling. Notice what they are selling, besides what they seem to be selling.
As a defense, don't watch so much TV. And even if you are an addicted media junkie, you can still watch video tapes instead of channels with commercials. That way you, not they, control your information input. Oh, and Public Television isn't so bad, either.