Monday, September 10, 2012

Freedom of Mind by Steven Hassan

Freedom of Mind: (Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs), Steven Hassan.  Newton, Mass: Freedom of Mind Press, 2012.  approx. 266 pps. inc. extensive footnotes.

N.B.  Steven Hassan has a website at which is very much worth checking out.

At age 19, Steven Hassan was recruited into the Moonies.  After he got out, he began to help others to exit cults.  He has developed a system which does not involve kidnapping cult members and keeping them locked up in hotel rooms with one or more programmers.  He offers counseling which goes beyond "exit counseling" for former cult members who are endeavoring to live their lives free and apart from their cults.  Steven Hassan is a recognized authority regarding cults and their negative influences on their members and on the non-cult families of their members.  

I really learned a lot from this book.  I have a close friend who is currently heavily involved in a pseudo Hindu cult.  The biggest takeaway for me was to listen respectfully to her telling of her mystical experiences and to gently help her tap into her non-cult self memories when able.  Freedom of Mind taught me how to distinguish movements that rob folks of their free will from those that don't.  [N.B. Many religions are not cults].  Through the website, I was able to identify specifically which group she belongs to.

I myself in younger days narrowly avoided being sucked in by The Children of God a.k.a. The Family a.k.a. The Family International but I did spend a couple of years seesawing between drugs and fundie Jesus.  Several kids in the high school I attended were heavily involved in C.O.G.  One had taken me to a commune in a dark rambling warehouse somewhere in lower Manhattan.  She showed me some Mo letters and talked about flirty fishing.  Flirty fishing was too much for me.  I couldn't see how screwing horny businessmen for fundie Jesus was Biblical [It's not].  And I didn't buy the argument that once a businessman from a foreign country slept with a C.O.G., his soul would automatically become ripe for the picking.  Another classmate killed herself after her family had painted over the Psalm verses she had stenciled on her bedroom walls.  A third one learned Chinese in order to "disappear behind the Iron Curtain" and win souls for fundie Jesus.

In Freedom of Mind, Steven Hassan carefully reviewed the four major types of cults-- a religious cult is just one of the four types-- and the signs that a given group may have some cultish features.  He explained several varied approaches to the loved one who is involved in a cult.  Instead of "deprogramming", Hassan urged his readers to treat their family member or friend with respect and love.  Hassan suggested a series of mini-interventions which are far more casual than those popularized on television to get someone suffering from addictions to agree to go into treatment.  I was able to forgive his frequent mention of his own availability as a professional.  Folks who are worried about a loved one being under the control of a toxic leader need someone to say, "Hey there is help for this and I can help you."

sapphoq reviews says: Freedom of Mind has information and clear illustrations which make this book a valuable addition to the library of anyone who has a loved one in a cult.

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