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Stockholm Syndrome & the Cult Dynamic

Discussion in 'Evaluating and Criticising Scientology' started by KnightVision, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. KnightVision

    KnightVision Gold Meritorious Patron

    Stockholm Syndrome & the Cult Dynamic
    by Morris A. Inch
    Morris Inch is a professor emeritus of biblical studies, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. He has served in a number of capacities, including president of the Institute of Holy Land Studies (subsequently renamed Jerusalem University College), Jerusalem, Israel. He is retired for the third time, writing for publication. He has authored over thirty books, co-edited three volumes, and written numerous articles.
    Persons are especially perplexed by the fact that intelligent and well-grounded individuals fall prey to cult initiatives. While there is probably no one explanation that will account for this phenomenon, the Stockholm Syndrome needs to be factored into the equation.

    The Stockholm Syndrome derives from an event in 1973, concerning four persons held in a bank vault for five and a half days during a robbery. While the robbery itself caused little stir in the international community, later interviews with the hostages provided cause for reflection. It seems that they had developed a bond with their captors, growing out of their efforts to survive the ordeal. This pattern was subsequently identified in a variety of abusive situations.

    In more specific terms, the victims begin to identify with their captors. This appears as a defense mechanism, based on the hope that they will not be hurt if they are cooperative. For the moment at least, there seems to be no credible alternative.

    The victims also realize that any initiative from their would-be rescuers may have adverse effects. If not harmed by those attempting their release, they may be exposed to the wrath of their captors–who have little to lose. Any hope for rectifying the situation must come from within, rather than from without.

    Long term captivity builds an increasingly strong attachment to the captors. This allows the victims time to become familiar with their grievances and aspirations. In the process, to recognize in them a common humanity. In some instances, to embrace their cause as just and their means born out of desperation.

    No opportunity is given for a reality check with the outside world. Former experience goes through a period of reconstruction. One that fashions an alternative reality short of data.

    This characteristically generates mixed feelings of gratitude and fear. Gratitude for what would seem under normal conditions of little importance. Such as something to eat or the opportunity to clean oneself. Fear that the captors may inflict their frustration on the helpless hostages. In depriving them of some indulgence, or even in terminating their lives.

    How might all the above apply to the cult dynamic? Initially, there is likely no threat to life itself, the Jonestown tragedy notwithstanding. However, some crisis already in place or initiated by the group is manipulated to cultivate a dependency relationship. Such as when a marriage is endangered, and the cult leader intervenes so as to make himself seemingly indispensable.

    Consequently, he or she takes on the role of deliverer. In this capacity, the person for all practical purposes covenants with the couple to facilitate their relationship--conditioned on their continued loyalty. Otherwise, the offending partner may be put on probation. This, in turn, may require that the couple not discuss the matter except in the presence of the self-appointed mediator.

    In any case, the cult goes to great lengths to isolate the convert from the influence of outsiders. Family is singled out for special attention. Contact is kept at a minimum, and this is carefully monitored.

    In particular, these limited contacts are allowed as a means to ensnaring family members in the cult web. Short of achieving this goal, they serve to intensify the pain associated with the loss of cherished relationships–not uncommonly interpreted as the cost of discipleship. From the cult perspective, it qualifies as a win/win situation.

    Meanwhile, the cult victim is shown token expressions of kindness. Such as a warm embrace when the individual complies with the wishes of the cult authority figure. This reenforces his or her identity with the group, as over against any and all alternatives. In a curious but well documented phenomenon, this may include generating false memories–intended to validate the cult’s teaching.

    What can be done to curtail the efforts of the cults? In popular idiom, prevention is the best cure. Learn to distinguish cult characteristics. An abbreviated list consists of the following:

    If the group isolates members from family and friends, it might be a cult.

    If it interferes with the ability of the individual to think matters through on his or her own, it might be a cult.

    If it is dominated by a leader said to have unique qualifications that sets the group apart from the rest, it might be a cult.

    If it requires that persons suppress their individuality to achieve group goals, it might be a cult.

    If it instills in its members a fear that leaving the group will have disastrous results, it might be a cult.

    If two or more of the above pertain, it is likely to be a cult.
    For a more precise characterization, see Robert Ellwood’s Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America, pp. 27-31. I found his discussion very helpful in a follow-up study comparing churches with cults.

    Assuming that the Stockholm Syndrome provides a valuable clue to the cult dynamic, recovery is calculated to be difficult. The success rate is considerably higher when appropriate action is taken early on. Contact of any sort should be accompanied by concerted prayer. It is preferable that it proceed in keeping with common sense guidelines. For instance, persons should consider matters deliberately, rather than skipping from one thing to another. Moreover, without recourse to or interference from the cult leader. Anything less will likely not prove successful. For a more extended discussion, see Ronald Enroth’s ,Recovering From Churches That Abuse, a sequel to his Churches That Abuse.

    In any case, we should not write off the cult member. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, only God knows when more time will serve no good purpose. We ought always be ready and happy to welcome the prodigal home.

  2. klidov

    klidov Silver Meritorious Patron

    Excellent article.

    One example that comes to mind almost at once is the case of Patty Hearst. After being kidnapped by SLA members, and subjected to sensory deprivation (blindfolded, and kept in a closet), sexual abuse, (repeated rape), and coming to the point of believing her captors (her source of food, and other needs), were her "friends" and protectors. She even took the name "Tanya" and helped the group in armed bank robberies.

    Why did she not take the gun, and turn it on her former tormentors?

    We might as well ask how someone could watch a small child locked up in chains (for punishment), or how members can watch a friend/fellow believer made to walk the plank off of a ship. Or even children, as it was reported.

    Why did 900-plus people drink grape kool-aid laced with strychnine? And even inject it into their babies mouths?

    We already know that LRH was not an asshole all the time. Because if he had been, no one would have followed him (by choice).

    Anton Lavey's daughter, Zena, talks about how people found her Father "charming", "talented", and "a really nice guy".

    He also almost beat her German Shepard puppy to death for pee'ing on the floor.

    Sorry, I didn't mean to hijack this post with such a long reply. I guess my point is anyone under the right conditions can be brainwashed into believing outrageous things.
  3. KnightVision

    KnightVision Gold Meritorious Patron

    Not at all, you make some very good points.

    Seems that the mind, under fear of it's survival and with adequate invalidation can be lead into following, obeying and praising it's oppressor in exchange for the suppressor's protection against the very threat created by the suppressor. This is a phenomena that LRH was obviously aware of, it's used starting with Personality Test and is a constant piece of tech covertly applied.

    Anybody else with thoughts on how this phenomena is interwoven into the "Tech"? I'd like to know your thoughts...
  4. klidov

    klidov Silver Meritorious Patron

    I was just reading last night in THE BOOK OF LIES (by the DISINFORMATION/YOU ARE BEING LIED TO people), a story, about how Jack Parsons, and his "magickal scribe" L.Ron Hubbard while working on the "Babylon Rising" spell sent out a great number of people to find Marjore Cameron under the threat of "terrible things" happening to them, should they return without her.

    Even though LRH himself (despite his bullshit claims) never met Alister Crowley, it is obvious that during the time he spent with Jack Parsons (who was brilliant, as well as an Occultist) he picked-up a few Occult intimidation techniques.

    (ie: getting into someone's personal space in a threatening manner, staring into someone's eyes, like you are looking past them, giving breadcrumbs of sacred information with the promise of more, convincing someone that they are "chosen", or "special" while at the same time tearing them down...).

    LRH actually became so bold as to steal $$$ & a boat from Jack Parson's, as well as one of Jack Parson's lovers

    LRH must have felt like quite the big Man to have fooled such a well-known & respected Rocket Scientist. As well as a personal friend of Crowleys.
  5. klidov

    klidov Silver Meritorious Patron

    Crowley demanded unquestioning obedience from his Neophytes. I would imagine Jack Parson's, whom Crowley sent to the United States to open a new O.T.O. branch, would have demanded the same as his Master.

    I am certain that Parson's taught his skill (whether deliberate, or by observation) to his magickal scribe/tenant.

    And we already know that LRH cribbed (stole) ideas openly from other people. Sometimes to the point of plagiarism.
  6. klidov

    klidov Silver Meritorious Patron

    I have never been "in", so I can only speculate based on what I know, how the "Tech" from LRH compares.....

    *Isolation & Intimidation

    *Destruction of absolutes, and the reintroduction of "new" ideas.

    *Using broad generalizations to allow for misunderstandings so a person may be either rewarded/punished

    *Unquestioning obedience

    *Fear of separation/dislocation

    *Promise of absolute rewards for success, absolute destruction for failure.

    Those are just a few things that come to mind....
  7. cinamingrl

    cinamingrl Patron Meritorious


    I learned about the Stockholm syndrome at a women's shelter. It happens when a person is being seriously threatened or abused. It's upsetting to even think about. I'd heard it was because of a trauma that happened where some people were being held in a bank in a kind of robbery where the criminals were barricaded inside and the criminals told a woman that he isn't going to kill her, but that he will cut off her leg to show the police that he means business. And so the woman was so traumatized over the possibility of being killed, that she thanked the criminal for not killing her, but only cutting off her leg. IT really happened that way. I was at a lecture about this exact thing.
  8. KnightVision

    KnightVision Gold Meritorious Patron

    Hey these are really good. You know it seems to me that this subject should be researched more. On the web, when you look it up there are some references to it's connection to cults but nothing specifically related to it. Have you read about transference? That's another aspect tactic Hubbard used to hook his victims. This I suspect is another "real" reason why he didn't want anyone to talk about their case to anybody except the auditor. It causes a heavy dependance upon the auditor, as the "only one" and can rob a person of their self determinism and indepenence.

    here's the article:
  9. KnightVision

    KnightVision Gold Meritorious Patron

    Hi Cin,

    Yeah I read about that too- but not the leg thing! EUUU! It's such a bizarre phenomena, isn't it? I have to say that whenever I'd get the feeling of being pulled into that trap, when I was in... I'd get a repulsive feeling even though I had no clue why. It took years, after leaving to break free. Although I'd left I was still praising it!:omg:

    Hey- If you don't mind me asking... how'd you end up at the shelter? I ventured onto your diary site... cat lover, Huh? Me too. :)
  10. SchwimmelPuckel

    SchwimmelPuckel Genuine Meatball

    I get to think of the movie 'Bridge over River Qwai'.. Stockholm Syndrome.. Scientolgy..

    Story is about some prisoners of war being held by the Japanese. They build the bridge for the japanese under threath of death and constant degradations. Yet they are so proud of their work. Making the bridge a good product.. To keep on the good side of the japanese and stay alive. Illustrates the Stocholm Syndrome as well as the cult experience exellently.

    Movie ends with reality 'intruding'. The prisoners are freed and the US Airforce bomb the bridge to smithereens as it should be.

    In addition to the Stockholm Syndrome, there are two experiments that illustrates what goes on:

    The Stanford prison Experiment - Zimbardo
    Stanford Prison Experiment

    And: The Milgram Experiment
    Milgram Experiment (Derren Brown)

    Side note: I intended to repost an old post of mine from OCMB with links to the Stanford and Milgram experiments. As I recall the links I had was the real original ones. The Stanford experiment was 3 youtube vids. Milgram was likewise 3 vids of the actual experiment.

    All these videos have been taken down from YouTube due to copyright claims!

    This freaks me out to say the least. These experiments are incribly important information. I view it as bordering on the criminal to withhold the information. It is not the custom that scientific experiments and results be withheld in our society.

    The Stanford videos taken down by: "Penn State Media Sales" according to YouTube. (Have to research if there's a Scientology connection with that company. YouTube only informs that the Milgram videos were taken down due to 'third party copyright claims'.

    Well, I found some replacements. Derren Brown recreates the Milgram experiment very well, and the video is better actually.

  11. Lucretia

    Lucretia Patron with Honors

    I am probably stating the bleeding obvious, but all those points apply to our little cult.

    It seems to me though that there has to be some carrot that attracts the person so irresistibly initially, that he will joyfully embrace the prison of his involvement.

    I have been trying to work out why I was willing to be a cultie for so long.

    I think the Idenics bloke has an interesting idea, viz. that a person can get stuck on a win. I had a big, big win on the old Comm course - the first thing I did in $cn and truly, that win sustained me for 29 years. Nothing I ever did (up to OT4 and mostly everything in between) came close to the win I got from 2 hours of bullbaiting as raw meat. I spent $100+K trying to achieve another win of equal magnitude! But that win was the moment of enslavement and the justification for the atrocities that I allowed to be perpetrated on myself and others. I can't tell you how nauseated I feel that I allowed myself to be so sucked it - but its a bloody clever scam, and contained all the right ingredients - self sacrifice, saving the human race, superman status, the promise of more and better, etc etc - for a person who needed a purpose.

    So, I think the Stockholm scenario consists of trauma and idolatry of the captors who are confused with saviours, and the $cn scenario consists of bliss and the idolatry of saviours who turn out to be captors. Does trauma = bliss in emotional intensity? Is this the glue? For me it was. Then the rest just followed.
  12. FinallyMe

    FinallyMe Silver Meritorious Patron

    I am working on the concept that either the person already has a personality tendency toward being vulnerable to the Stockholm Syndrome, or something in his/her life creates that vulnerability. My reason stems from about 50 years worth of worshipping and idolizing my older sister, who, from the day I came home from the hospital, could never stand me, didn't want me in the family, etc, etc. I didn't know that at the time, but later recognized that I was always trying to win her approval -- always failed, but never quit trying. When I would think of her, it would be "MY SISTER" in bold, colorful, flashing lights. When I finally did wake up to the real scene, my world fell completely apart for a while, and the adjustment to basically not having a sister is up to the point of being lonely.

    I pulled this same sort of "crush" while on staff -- stats were in trouble so the Dept head was really upset with us -- so I developed a crush on him.

    Knowing I'm susceptible to that is scary, because I don't see it as it is happening.
  13. Tanstaafl

    Tanstaafl Crusader

    That's a good spot. Many people could go a lifetime without seeing that mechanism at work. Give yourself a pat on the back for your degree of self-awareness.
  14. KnightVision

    KnightVision Gold Meritorious Patron

    Hi SP,

    Thank you very, much for these vids and your imput!! Really great stuff! It's just mind boggling how this process works... this phenomena is super important data for ex-members as well as to enlighten the uniniated. If you come across any more info on this subject... please post it on this thread. Your help is greatly appreciated!!!:thumbsup: :clap: :clap: :thumbsup: :)
  15. KnightVision

    KnightVision Gold Meritorious Patron

    I totally comprendo! This issue is such a mindf**ck!! You're not alone- were all here in the same boat, comming to realize how it all happened...:ohmy:
    Obviously this fallacy is inherent to just about any type of relationship. This entrapping pitfall really should be taught in educational systems!!

    Thank you for sharing your experience AND even more... Since you figured out what was going on- your freedom and independence is protected. Excellent!:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :winner:
  16. KnightVision

    KnightVision Gold Meritorious Patron

    Oh Yes! As did I... "I had a big, big win on the old Comm course" and then chase it endlessly... Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessuuuus! And at that-- I came to realize that "that big win" was nothing but the high of being in a semi-hypnotic state... where everything around takes on an intensity and immensity and yet I'm sort of floating in it. Since the "exteriorization" concept was already planted... wow I was out--- and then- wow! I'm immortal!!

    AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!:omg: :omg: :omg: :omg: :omg: :omg:

    "I can't tell you how nauseated I feel" and DON'T I KNOW IT!

    But... I'm convinced that it's not out of stupidy that it happened- I just (and I believe we- all of us) happened to be curious and intelligent enough to look- and learn. With that comes a certain degree of vulnerability which can be taken advantage of BY EVIL PEOPLE WHO HAVE A COMPULSIVE NEED TO DO SO CAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT THEY DON'T AMOUNT TO SH*T. THEY ARE THE INSIGNIFICANT IDIOTS!:yes:

    An SP DECLARE should be drafted on LRH and DM (if not others) Really- someone should do this and post it up on you tube!:D
  17. cinamingrl

    cinamingrl Patron Meritorious


    It's a bit of a long story. It seems that after my scient. experience that I was never quite the same after losing my home. I'm not sure yet what actually occured with me, but I had post-traumatic stress disorder. I was in college full-time and I lost a very good job, after I got back on my feet when I left staff. After losing that job, I went back to college fulltime. Then I could not pay rent and my roommate pretty much threw me out. I went somewhere temporarily and then found this women's shelter. I really did like it there too. so I left school and got a job. They allowed me to stay there for 8 months till I found another place. I am now in my own apartment, but it's hard still. While I was at the shelter we were required to go to counseling and meetings. Had I recently been in scient. I couldn't have done that, as I hated psychologists due to the black pr that the c of s taught me about psychologists. But it seems that my experience in the c of s took away my need for a nice place to live and for my own needs and self respect. And that I was sort of "punishing" myself for some reason after I left the cult. And the whole homelessness thing happened. Luckily there was that shelter, or I think I may have died. Sometimes I go back there while I am not working and work on the intake desk. It's a really cool place. They also have Christmas day there for any of the women who have lived there, or are currently living there. It's supported by donations from philanthropic organizations or "charities". I live right close by to it now. I actually go back there to chat with the staff as often as I can. I also lived in a convent. Both places were serene and safe. And I was able to save save save money.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2008
  18. Lucretia

    Lucretia Patron with Honors

    Yes.. I don't think any of us are stupid. Just look at the guys on this board - some of the deep discussions are way over my head, and most posters are sensitive and articulate (the ex$cns anyway). Curious - yes, vulnerable definitely, and a strong desire to help/make a difference - yes. We were just conned, and probably accepted the con because we didn't believe anything could be quite so evil!

    Yes, yes, yes, declare the bastard! Expose hubbard for all to see - for the whole world to see - everything about him. It should settle the cult for all time. Fuck him over with the same crap he used on all of us. DM is not worth the paper to write the declare on - he's a robot - but hey, a declare would still be good.

    And the comm course - I hadn't thought of it being a hypnotic experience, but it could well be. There is a fair amount of sensory deprivation in the drills. For me, I had a long standing problem with a significant person in my life and the bull bait just cleared it up. I got to see that his point of view and my point of view were both valid, and we could coexist and we really did love each other and, and, and...... I was totally blown away!!!! I was so blown away I went down the pub for a few beers to celebrate! That went down well with the course sup! But that win was not worth the rest of it, and does not justify the cults existence. Especially if my feel good experience comes at the cost of other peoples freedom and right to a decent life etc etc.

    Oh.....ain't it grand to be out?
  19. degraded being

    degraded being Sponsor

    "I came to realize that "that big win" was nothing but the high of being in a semi-hypnotic state... where everything around takes on an intensity and immensity and yet I'm sort of floating in it. Since the "exteriorization" concept was already planted... wow I was out--- and then- wow! I'm immortal!! "

    This is the simple truth that can be so hard for us to see.
    It traps us because we think that the experience of feeling exterior
    and larger, more expansive than we have felt before means all sorts of things such as immortality, or independence from, or conflict with our flesh and bones existence. Maybe it does. But maybe it just means we feel expansive
    and we feel some euphoria. I feel euphoria after drinking strong coffee. Nobody calls coffee "spiritual" just because it makes you feel good. But the feel-good release of endorphins (or whatever) that comes from the strongly controlled interactive procedures of scio - the tightly controlled question- answer-acknowlegement is packaged with suggestions about what it all means. We learn to interpret it all according to the scio "spiritual" story line.
    Why is it so hard to let it go? Because it is the truth? No, because it feels so damn good and we desparately WANT to make it a lasting truth to replace the mundane reality of life as we perceive it to be.
    We take the intensity of the euphoria as "proof" of the truthfulness of the idea that these experiences are what life really is about. So scios go on for years banging their heads against the wall of the OT levels.
    In some spiritual practices adherents are told not to be dazzled by intense good-feeling experiences any more than they are turned off by bad feelings.
    To have them is one thing but to be stuck on trying to make that a full time
    experince of life is courting disappointment.
  20. Lucretia

    Lucretia Patron with Honors

    Yes, I agree. We've all had wins, but because they were obtained in the framework of a cult, the cult got us. If we'd had similar feelings from yoga, TM, transactional analysis, cups of coffee, a good heart to heart with a mate, then that would have been good, but it would have been the end of it. Because $cn promises more and better, and it seems to have the framework to deliver, we get stuck chasing mental butterflies. The danger is KSW and the indoctrination that everything outside is bad and dangerous and run by SPs. There is bad in the world - that's a no brainer, but there is a lot of good and a lot of good people trying hard to make it better. That is never, ever acknowledged by the cult - all non-$cns are meat bodies who are not even trying (how unutterably disgusting - I fell for this - I am ashamed). Those points defining a cult isolate us from the rest of the world, and $cn takes over by making it a suppressive act to look at anything outside the dogma. It is diabolically clever and supremely dangerous.

    I don't think we have a personality defect which makes us susceptible to cults and charismatic figures. I think we probably have some mental agility which allows us to look beyond what is generally accepted, and then we just got conned.

    Post script: In Florence circa 15th century, there was a monk called Savonarola who was responsible for the Bonfire of the Vanities - burning books, art works (Boticelli burned some of his paintings - he was conned too!) clothes etc. that did not conform with his view of penitent christianity. They eventually burned him at the stake, then they buried him, then they dug him up and violated his body all over again. Guess what I'd like to do - I'd need a gas mask though,.....I know......crazy!