One sure sign that you’re in a cult, or any type of overly controlling, abusive, unhealthy relationship, is when you’re told what to think, or what to feel. In a personal relationship, one partner might tell the other, “But you like my family!” when insisting that the couple spend all their free time with their side of the family. A person might also use subtle, critical phrases, such as, “Don’t you think you should be spending that money on the kids?” as a way to control what is done with the couple’s finances.
A cult or church might say things such as, “We know that all signs point to…” and then finish the phrase with something that supports their teachings and doctrines.
Pick apart these phrases carefully; these sayings tell someone how to think, what to believe, what to feel. A person who says, “But you like my family!” isn’t asking their partner how they really feel about the family, but is telling them what to feel. The phrase, “Don’t you think…” doesn’t really ask someone what they think, taking in new information and learning about what is going on in that person’s head, but is telling the other person what to think.
Simply telling congregants or adherents what to think is part of the mind control, brainwashing, or indoctrination that is common with cults and high-control religions. The religion will make an assertion, and then keep repeating it as being true, often with little to no backing. Church leaders might cherry-pick scripture and apply it to this doctrine, or find other supposed “proof” that may, or may not, back up their claim. In the end, the congregant or follower hasn’t really been allowed to reason on a matter, and hasn’t been taught any true critical thinking skills, but has simply been told what is true, what to think, or what to feel.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Thought Control
I noticed this technique used recently in a short discourse in the online TV channel of Jehovah’s Witnesses, tv.jw.org, titled “Following Direction Saves Lives.” The speaker starts out with the illustration of a railroad crossing warning sign, which tells drivers to “stop, look, and listen.” He then notes that followers of the bible similarly need to use their “perceptive powers,” and that Jehovah and Jesus tell followers to “discern the times that we’re living in.”
It’s interesting that the speaker would say that, as he then shuts down any chance at using discernment or “perceptive powers” during the rest of his presentation! He goes on to say, very boldly, “The faithful and discreet slave [referring to the governing body of Jehovah’s Witness], they’re guided by the head of the congregation, Jesus Christ.” He also says that Jesus is giving congregation members assistance in using discernment through the pages of the Watchtower, their meetings, assemblies, and conventions, and then says outright that explanations for what is found in the bible is provided through that “faithful and discreet slave.”
To which I might respond, Says who? What proof is there that the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is getting direction from god or Jesus or anyone? To use “discernment,” a person would need more proof than just someone’s else’s word and assertion.
Not only is there a distinct lack of proof for this claim, but the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses have failed repeatedly in their predictions about the end of the world, have had to flip-flop or change many doctrines over the past decades, and are being exposed throughout the world for their obscene failings when it comes to protecting children from sexual abuse in the religion. “Discernment” and “perception” should tell anyone that this claim of theirs, that they’re somehow guided by god or Jesus, is negligible at best.
What’s Your Point?
This may seem like a minor, unimportant point, but it’s vital for people in any religion, church, or self-help group, who follow a self-help leader or use the services of a coach or counselor, or even for those in a relationship of any sort, to understand this type of thought-control technique. Making an assertion or outright statement is fine, if you have reliable, credible, valid proof, or some type of substantial information, to support your argument.
However, even in that case, followers or adherents, or someone in a relationship, should have room to ask questions, do further research, disagree, state their own findings or feelings, and come to their own conclusions. If not, this is called thought control, or brainwashing. It’s very disrespectful, overly controlling, unhealthy, and even outright abusive. It’s also a sign of a damaging cult.
While those words sound very blunt and very scary, this technique, of controlling another person’s thinking and feelings, can be very subtle, as this example alone illustrates. Jehovah’s Witnesses are just told that their governing body is god’s mouthpiece, in the same message that tells them that Armageddon is soon to be here, so if they don’t act in a certain way, they may lose their lives. An active Witness may not realize that they’ve been given no proof of this claim, and may not consider that they should demand that proof before doing what the governing body asks of them. If they don’t, they are then blindly following a group of men who have simply indoctrinated them into obedience.
View the entire 10-minute video of the JW presentation above at this page.
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