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Coping with Triggers & PTSD Symptoms

Carol Giambalvo


St. Malo�s Recovery Workshop, 2000


Rosanne Henry is going to conduct the majority of this workshop.First, I am going to take about a half hour to give you some background on how high-demand groups teach us and encourage a lot of practice in dissociation � or trance states.


This is how your group taught you to dissociate.


First, what is dissociation?Dissociation is a disturbance in the normally integrative functions of identity, memory or consciousness.


It is also known as a trance state.It is a very normal defense mechanism.You�ve all probably heard of how a child being abused dissociates � or persons in the midst of traumatic experiences.Those are natural occurrences to an unnatural event.


What are some of the events in the life of a cult member that may bring on dissociation?


         Stress of maintaining beliefs

         Stress of constant activities

         Diet/sleep deprivation

         Discordant noises conflicts

         Never knowing what�s next


There are many, many ways to produce a dissociative or trance state:




         Physical stress (long distance running)


         Rhythmic voice patterns or noises (drumming)


         Empty-minded meditation

         Speaking in tongues

         Long prayers

         Guided visualizations


         confrontational sessions (hot seat, auditing, struggle sessions)


         hypnotism or �processes�

         hyper arousal usually into a negative state so the leaders can rescue you (ICC confessions)

         Ericksonian hypnosis (Milton Erickson) hypnotic trance without a formal trance induction


Before I describe how Ericksonian hypnosis works, why are we so concerned about trance states?


         Individuals don�t process information normally in trance states

         Critical thinking the arguing self is turned off

         Also turned off are reflection, independent judgment, decision-making

         In trance you are dealing with the subconscious mind which has no way to tell the difference between something imagined or reality it becomes a real experience which is interpreted for you by the group ideology.

         Once in a trance, people have visions or may �hear� sounds that are later interpreted for you in the context of the cult mindset the �magic� while in reality they are PURPOSELY MANUFACTURED PHYSIOLOGICAL REACTIONS TO THE TRANCE STATE.

         While in trance you are more suggestible not just during trance but for a period of time up to 2 hours after.

         When a person dissociates it becomes easier and easier to enter into a dissociative state it can become a habit and it can become uncontrollable.


You may have heard it said that not everyone can be hypnotized � that you need to be able to trust the hypnotist�s authority.While it�s true that there are degrees of hypnotizability � what if not you�re told that �now we�re going to hypnotize you?�What if the leaders just say �let�s do a fun process � close your eyes and imagine �� Are you told to trust your leaders?Do they have your best interest at heart?And what if they are using Ericksonian hypnosis where there is no formal trance induction?


What is Ericksonian Hypnosis?


It�s an interchange between two people in which the hypnotist must

         Gain cooperation

         Deal with resistant behavior

         Receive acknowledgement that something is happening







         using information about where we are psychologically what �buzz word� concepts we would resonate to(�peace�, �happiness�, �make a difference�, �live our lives according to God�s will�etc.)


         Anyone who presses these buttons expresses concepts that are universally held concepts.The new recruit resonates to the articulation of his �own� ideal goals, which only require his �proper� behavior to be actualized.


Pacing and Leading


         Moving into sync with the subjects

         Figure out how they process information (use visual descriptions, auditory descriptions, emotional descriptions)I see that�.I say that�.I feel that

         Breathing patters pace the voice to the in and out breathing of a listener

         Repetition and boredom

         When recruiting model the recruit�s behavior and interests �into music� �into skiing� to establish �we are alike�Then move into the group�s reality slowly don�t give too much information too soon


Positive Transference


         Establish a positive emotional bond with member

         Create a situation in which subject will act appropriately to a benevolent �parent� figure someone who knows more than you do, someone with the secrets to life, someone who has your best interests at heart and wants to share those secrets with you

         Urge members to have feeling of specialness

         At first show uncritical acceptance

         Continue pacing with both verbal and non-verbal suggestions used to further mold the recruit�s attitudes and behavior so they conform to the group�s norm


Indirect Suggestion


         Erickson found that adults were unable to accept direct suggestions about their behavior because it was too great a threat to their sense of autonomy.

         Indirect suggestion gives an adult a greater sense of control over his choice and they �feel� as though they�ve made their own decision.

         In groups new behaviors all ostensibly to advance the wonderful goals of the group are in fact chosen by the leaders more $ � more recruits

         Indirect suggestions are paced in lectures and indoctrination sessions both verbal and non-verbal messages are given about �proper� behavior

         Use members as models of behavior for new recruits


Example:from a newspaper reporter that infiltrated a Unification Church indoctrination camp:He described his 3 a.m. arrival and the separation of men and women into sleeping groups.At 6:30 a.m., the leaders roused the recruits for calisthenics, a reasonable exercise.The group formed a circle with members and recruits alternating.A member in the center led the exercises.First, the whole group was asked to complete twenty jumping jacks and exercise familiar to all. They were then instructed to do twenty �free-style� jumping jacks.The recruits stood around for a moment quite bewildered.What in the world is a �free-style� jumping jack?The only way for them to proceed was to observe the members and do what they did.Within moments of waking up, the demand to do �free-style� jumping jacks developed a conformity mind set among the recruits.


A group can be absorbed in some activity and a leader will say �this seems to be going so well, let�s skip lunch today and finish it� � members experience that request as �no big thing� but little by little their changed behavior becomes more and more strictly enforced by the group�s total control over validating feedback � pats on the back, smiles, hugs, praise for �good behavior� � withdrawal of affection, silence or bad behavior.As one former member expressed:�Each thing they do to control your behavior is seen as a sacrifice to give you greater power to be a better member.�


The process of pacing and leading is not only part of the initial indoctrination but is also � along with elaborate reinforcement schedules and manipulation of guilt and shame and humiliation � an ongoing feature of membership.


There are several techniques popularly thought to be �hypnotic� that leaders use masterfully during long lectures -


�Yes� Set(�Amen� set) and Confusion Techniques


Yes Set - a series of statements are made and questions asked to which the speaker is certain to gain agreement and affirmation.After a number of these, the subjects have gained a �yes� set.This ensures that subsequent statements and questions are agreed with and affirmed even if such acceptance would not have been gained if they were made at the beginning.�� Example: (lecture)


God is the origin of us all. (yes)Everything comes from God (yes), and without God there cannot be anything (yes).Nothing can exist without God (yes).This is the most essential understanding of God (yes).Nevertheless, we came to be unable to understand God (yes); therefore, we lost everything. (Here the transition from pacing to leading begins with a non sequitur.There is nothing in the statements previously agreed to which suggests that we lose everything without an understanding of God.All religious speak of the incomprehensibility of God)We became unable to understand anything (This again is a logical non sequitur. �We cannot understand God does not mean that we cannot understand anything.However, placed in the sequence, it seems to make sense.) We came to not understand anything at all because we lost God (This ties the entire passage together with a statement of total ignorance).




         We as humans have the need for the world to make sense and have meaning. When one is confused for any length of time, the first sensible, straightforward statement is accepted Example (continued from prior lecture)


�Everything came from God and we lost God.Therefore, there cannot be anything that has nothing to do with God.Nevertheless, we lost God, therefore we don�t know anything in this universe.We lost the beauty of nature, beauty of creation, beauty of birds, beauty of trees, beauty of the world.Just imagine (an invitation into one�s inner mind).Man was created as the lord over God�s creation.


         The lecturer invites the recruit to see himself in a special way:�Just imagine�. He then describes the path to actualizing man�s proper role as lord of the earth.The lecturer, thereby, touches the �special person� needs of the recruits, who are presented as �world savers.�Needless to say, proper cult behavior is the means to this end.


Metaphor and Interspersal




         The embedding of messages within other messages, which make them hard to resist




         Stories or parables in which actions are �suggested� by implied comparison rather than directly (lecturers telling �stories� on themselves how they learned from their mistakes �killer shares� )


Examples from UC indoctrination camp:


God created this tiny flower in which I am living, in which we are now.Then for what purpose, for what purpose did he create this flower without resting even at nighttime?He worked to make this flower from morning to night without rest.Even though no one could understand how precious and beautiful it was, still Heavenly Father created this flower from morning to night without sleep.For what purpose?For what purpose?To give joy to whom?To man. In order to give this present to me, Heavenly Father worked hard every day, every day, even overnight without sleeping.He created this flower when I didn�t know anything.Have you ever cried to see one tiny flower? You have understood God�s love for you.Is that right?��


That many cult members work incredibly long hours is a well-known fact.Suggestions about long, hard, work, even overnight, are established in the equation of God�s work and the work of the cult.The group is actually working for the good of Man, even if members do not understand how, and even if no one else can appreciate how precious and beautiful our work is.The metaphor is then appropriately tied off with an emotional pull and the subject is quickly changed to prevent any critical internal comment.Have you cried over beauty? (yes)Then you understand God�s love for you.Is that right?�Is that right� required the answer yes, which seals the previous metaphor in place.



Excerpts from �The Utilization of Hypnotic Techniques in Religious Cult Conversion� by Jesse S. Miller, Ph. D., Center for Psychological Studies, (Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1986)




+ AFF News, 01.02: Giambalvo, Carol: "Post-Cult Problems: An Exit Counselor's Perspective"
+ AFF News, 02.01: Martin, Paul, Ph.D.: "Pitfalls To Recovery"
+ AFF News, 02.02: Ford, Wendy: "The Role of the Family"
+ AFF News, 02.05: Lifton, Robert J., M.D.: "Cult Formation"
+ AFF News, 02.06: Rosedale, Herb: "Annual Report From the President"
+ AFF News, 03.01: Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "Crazy" Therapies: What are They? Do They Work? - The Therapeutic Relationship
+ AFF News, 03.03: Lalich, Janja Ph.D.: "We Own Her Now"
+ AFF News, 03.05: Rosedale, Herb: "Conference Report"
+ AFF News, 03.06: Rosedale, Herb: "Annual Report: Letter From the President"
+ AFF News, 04.02: Stein, Alexandra: "Recovering From a Political Cult"
+ AFF News, 04.03: Henry, Roseanne: "Why We Need To Become Spiritual Consumers"
Andron, Sandy, Ed.D.: "Problem Solving An Approach for the Cult-Impacted Family"
Bardin, David, Esq.: "Meditation, Delusion and Deception"
Chambers, Robert, Ph.D. et al.: "The Group Psychological Abuse Scale" - abs
Enroth, Ronald, Ph.D.: Dysfunctional Churches
Furnari, Leona: "Born or Raised in Closed, High-Demand Groups or Cults: Developmental Issues"
Garden, Mary: "The Potential for Abuse in the Guru-Disciple Relationship"
Giambalvo, Carol: "Coping with Triggers and PTSD Symptoms"
Giambalvo, Carol: "Coping with Triggers"
Giambalvo, Carol: "Post-Cult Problems"
Griffo, Maureen: "How Could Anyone Join a Cult"
Groenveld, Jan: "It Hurts"
Henry, Rosanne: "Anxiety and Decision-Making"
Lalich, Janja, Ph.D.: "Individual Differences Affecting Recovery"
Langone, Michael D., Ph.D.: "Letter to a Former Member of a Meditation Group"
Langone, Michael Ph.D.: "Cults and Violence"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Cults: Questions and Answers"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Definitional Ambiguity"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Mind-Manipulating Groups: Are You or a Family Member a Victim?
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "On Using the Term "Cult"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "Reflections on Post-Cult Recovery
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "We weren't Crazy; We were Fooled"
Langone, Michael, Ph.D.: "What You Might Want To Know About ICC
Lifton, Robert, J. M.D.: "Cult Formation"
Litfin, Duane: "The Perils of Persuasive Preaching"
Lottick, Edward, M.D.: "Survey Reveals Physicians' Experience with Cults"
Mansfield, Hal: "Identity Movement Called Cultic"
Martin, Paul, Ph.D.: "Pitfalls To Recovery"
Miller, Ross: "How to Talk to People Who Are Trying to Save You"
Miquelon, Nancy: "Moments of Grace"
Muster, Nori J.: "Myth and Themes of Ex-Membership"
Ryan, Patrick: "Coping With Trance States" - TM-EX News
Singer, Margaret Thaler, Ph.D.: "Post-Cult After Effects"
Singer, Margaret: "Coming Out of the Cults"
Tobias, Madeleine: "The Role of Cognitive Distortion"
√ Child Abuse in Cultic Groups - IP03
√ Giambalvo, Carol: "Boston Movement: Critical Perspectives on the ICC"
√ Giambalvo, Carol: "Exit Counseling: A Family Intervention"
√ Langone, Michael: "Recovery From Cults"
√ Recovery From Abusive Groups
√ Singer, Margaret: "Cults In Our Midst: Hidden Menace in Our Lives
√ Tobias, Madeline: "Captive Hearts Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships"
≈ Betrayal of the Spirit Information - link
≈ FactNet - link
≈ InfoCult - link
≈ ISKCON.NET- link
≈ Krishna Today - link
≈ Spiritual Abuse resources
≈ Testimonies of Jews who returned - link

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