July 12, 2024
Behavioral Control System

Behavioral Control System

Methods Used to Support a Behavioral Control System

  • Isolation of the person and manipulation of his or her environment.
  • Control of information going in and out of the group environment.
  • Separation and/or alienation from family and friends.
  • Induced dissociation and other altered states by putting person in mild form of trance (through speaking in tongues, chanting, repeating affirmations, extended periods of meditation or prayer, lengthy denunciation sessions, long hours of lectures or study, public trials or group humiliation, about seat criticisms focusing on one individual, sexual abuse, torture, etc.)
  • Control the person’s financial resources.
  • Debilitation through inadequate diet and fatigue; sleep and food deprivation.
  • Degradation of the person’s sense of self, through confession, self-reporting, rebuking, criticism and self-criticism, humiliation, and so on, in individual or group sessions.
  • Peer and leadership pressure, especially using powerful guilt mechanisms.
  • Induced anxiety, fear, and confusion, with joy and certainty being offered through surrender to the group; instilling the belief that the person’s survival physical, emotional, spiritual depends on remaining with the group; also induced crises, so that the person must submit to symbolic (or real) acts of submission to the group via betrayal and renunciation of self, family, and previously held values.
  • Control of personal life, and in many cases, the person’s sexual life.
  • Extensive indoctrination sessions (through Bible lessons, political training, sales training, self-awareness lessons, lectures by leaders).
  • Assignment of monotonous tasks or repetitive activities, such as chanting or meditating, or cleaning or copying written materials or rote administrative work.
  • Rigid security regulations and daily rules.
  • Alternation of harshness and leniency in a context of necessary discipline.

Note: Not all groups use all of these techniques. A particular group, for example, may be quite efficient using only several of the above, coupled with the charm, or persuasive powers, of a manipulative leader. Some groups may have no need to utilize isolation, inadequate diet, or fatigue to exert considerable control over their members. The point is that most leaders have at their command, and consciously use, a selection of influence techniques which they employ as needed to control their followers.

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Dr. Janja Lalich

Janja Lalich, Ph.D. is a researcher, author, and educator specializing in cults and extremist groups, with a particular focus on charismatic relationships, political and other social movements, ideology and social control, and issues of gender and sexuality.