The B.I.T.E Model – Characteristics of a Cult.

Here is Steven Hassan’s B.I.T.E. model, a checklist for the characteristics of a cult. As well as religious organization’s this behaviour can be present in many groups situations, families, working life and friendships.

The Evolution of the BITE Model – Steven Hassan

There are three components to Festinger’s theory – control of behaviour, thoughts, and emotions. Each can be affected by the other two. By manipulating three elements cults gain control over a person’s identity. Through working with former cult members, a fourth important component is identified – control of information. When that is controlled as the amount a person can receive limit capacity for independent thought. These four factors are easily remembered as BITE Behaviour, Information, Thoughts, Emotions.

The Bite Model

Behaviour Control

Regulation of individuals physical reality

Where, how and with who the member lives and associates.

What clothes, colours, hairstyles the person wears.

What food the person eats, drinks, adopts and rejects.

How much sleep the person is able to have.

Financial dependence.

Little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, and vacations.

 

Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals.

Ask permission for major decisions.

Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors.

Rewards and punishments (behaviour modification techniques, positive and negative)

Individualism discouraged ‘group think’ prevails.

Rigid rules and regulations.

 

Information Control

Use of deception.

Deliberately holding back information.

Distorting information to make it more acceptable.

Outright lying.

 

Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged.

Books, articles, magazines, TV, radio.

Critical Information.

Former members.

Keep members so busy they do not have time to think and check things out.

 

Compartmentalization of information – outsider vs insider doctrines.

Information is not freely accessible.

Information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid.

 

Spying on other members is encouraged.

Pairing up with ‘buddy’ system to monitor and control.

Reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership.

Individual behaviour monitored by whole group.

Leadership decides who needs to know what and when.

 

Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda.

Newsletters, magazines, journals, audio tapes, video tapes and other media.

Misquotations, statements taken out of context from non-cult sources.

 

Unethical use of confession.

Information about ‘sins’ used to abolish identity boundaries.

Past sins used to manipulate and control, no forgiveness or absolution.

 

Need for obedience and dependency.

Thought Control

Need to internalize the groups doctrine as ‘truth’,

Adopting the groups ‘map of reality’ as Reality.

Black and white thinking.

Good vs Evil.

Us vs Them.

 

Use of loaded language (thought terminating cliches) words are the tools we use to think with. Those special words constrict rather than expand understanding and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous ‘buzz words’.

Only good and proper thoughts are encouraged.

Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states.

Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories.

 

Use of thought stopping techniques which shut down ‘reality testing’ by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only good thoughts.

Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking.

Chanting.

Meditating.

Praying.

Speaking in tongues.

Singing or humming.

 

Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leaders, doctrine or policies seen as legitimate.

No alternative belief system viewed as legitimate, good or useful.

 

Emotional Control

Manipulate and narrow the range of a persons feelings.

Make the person feel that if there are any problems its always their fault, never the leaders or groups.

Excessive use of guilt.

Identity guilt.

Who you are (not living up to potential)

Your family

Your past

Your affiliations

Your thoughts, feelings, actions

Social guilt

Historical guilt

 

Excessive use of fear

Fear of thinking independently

Fear of the outside world

Fear of enemies

Fear of losing ones salvation

Fear of leaving the group or being shunned

Fear of disapproval

 

Extremes of emotional highs and lows

Ritual and often public confessions of sins

 

Phobia indoctrination inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or questioning leaders authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive fulfilled future without being in the group.

No happiness or fulfilment outside of the group.

Terrible consequences will take place if you leave, hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations etc.

Shunning of leave takers, fear of being rejected by peers, friends and family.

Never a legitimate reason to leave. From the groups perspective people who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or a counsellor, or seduced by money, sex or ‘rock and roll’.

It is important to understand that the Destructive Mind Control can be determined when the overall effect of the four components promote dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. It is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Mind control cult members can live in their own apartments, have nine to five jobs, married with children, and still be unable to think for themselves and act independently.

(This was taken from a book entitled: Releasing The Bonds – Empowering People to Think for Themselves by Steven Hassan).

Are You In A Cult?

Whether you are already in one, or considering joining any kind of group be it a religious group, place of work, performance group etc. the following article will enlighten you on what signs to look out for.

By Rick Ross – Expert Consultant and Intervention Therapist.

Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
  2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
  3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
  7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
  8. Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
  9. The group/leader is always right.
  10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

  1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
  2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower’s mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused–as that person’s involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
  3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as “persecution”.
  4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
  5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
  6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
  7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
  8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
  9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
  10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

Ten signs of a safe group/leader.

  1. A safe group/leader will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.
  2. A safe group/leader will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and expenses. Safe groups and leaders will tell you more than you want to know.
  3. A safe group/leader is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.
  4. A safe group/leader may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.
  5. A safe group/leader will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.
  6. A safe group/leader will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.
  7. A safe group/leader will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.
  8. A safe group/leader will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.
  9. A safe group/leader will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.
  10. A safe group/leader will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.

Don’t be naïve, develop a good BS Detector.

You can protect yourself from unsafe groups and leaders by developing a good BS detector. Check things out, know the facts and examine the evidence. A safe group will be patient with your decision making process. If a group or leader grows angry and anxious just because you want to make an informed and careful decision before joining; beware.

Cult Education