WOFF Members are NOT Brainwashed- Really? (2)

   During a review of recent posts, I found the first post in this series had been inadvertently moved to the trash. I have no idea how that happened. But, the original post was rescued and restored to its place on this blog. Now we will continue with the review of the resource material found in Steven Hassan’s book, “Combatting Cult Mind Control” (Copyright©1988, 1990- by Steven Hassan, Park Street Press, ISBN-0-89281-311-3). We were reviewing material found in Chapter 4 titled:  Understanding Mind Control.

   Hassan writes, “When I lecture in colleges, I usually challenge my audience with the question, “How would you know if you were under mind control?” After some reflection, most people will realize that if one were under mind control, it would be impossible to determine it without some help from others. In addition, one would need to understand very clearly what mind control is.” (page 53) From the previous posts I wrote, “WOFF members do not believe for one second that they are under either brainwashing or mind control! I know since I did not have any idea that the “gift” that Jane operated in was full of mind control techniques.” In light of this acquired disbelief, it does little good to tell WOFF members they have been brainwashed or are under mind control. Hassan writes, “Whenever people yelled at me and called me a “brainwashed robot”, I just took it was expected persecution. It made me feel more committed to the group.” (page 53)  

   We also reviewed the basic difference between brainwashing and mind control:Brainwashing is typically coercive. The person knows from the outset that he is in the hands of the enemy. It begins with a clear demarcation of the respective roles—who is the prisoner and who is the jailer—and the prisoner experiences the absolute minimum of choice…” (page 55).

   “Mind control, also called “thought reform,” is much more subtle and sophisticated. Its perpetrators are regarded as friends or peers, so the person (being influenced) is much less defensive… Mind control has little to no overt physical abuse… The individual is deceived and manipulated – not directly threatened – into making prescribed choices. On the whole, he responds positively to what is done to him.” (page 56)


     In my opinion, what happens at WOFF is a fluid mix of mind control techniques with massive amounts of fear indoctrination and on occasion, physical restraint used to hinder free exit from the group. There is also unashamed confiscation of personal property to enforce the strict communication control and information control. Does this technically meet the textbook definition of brainwashing? Probably not, since while inside WOFF the administrators of these control measures are labeled “ministers” and not “jailers” or outright enemies. It is said that the techniques are for the good of the member to get them to serve God…Really? After reading about life inside of WOFF, do you want to live under these mind control techniques?

   Hassan shares some moral questions he had to wrestle with before he could leave his cult- the Moonies. “Does the God I believe in need to use mind control and deception? Do the ends truly justify the means? I had to ask myself whether the means determine to ends. How could the world become a paradise if people’s free wills were subverted? What would the world truly look like if Moon assumed total power? Through asking myself these questions, I decided I could no longer participate in an organization that used mind control practices. I left behind the fantasy world I had lived in for years.” (page 54)   

      As I was leaving WOFF in 2008, my thoughts were not on mind control techniques, for at the time, I had not yet read Robert Lifton’s work and did not understand the control techniques being used on me. As best as I can remember, my questions were different. Why do the people in leadership act as if the methods used by Jane Whaley of screaming and intimidations are acceptable and normal and expected and “Christian”? Has she used these same techniques on them and afterwards they felt “uplifted and edified and loved”? If so, why did it affect me differently? Why did the “blessing” from being screamed at by Jane not just run over me and give me that loved, cared for and secure feeling? How could Jane think that screaming at folks was God’s way to help them? Why did living at WOFF require giving up so many seemingly innocuous activities? Why did I have to live in a household where there was SOOO much turmoil? Were loud prayer, blasting and deliverance really required to make it to heaven? Why am I being shunned by the very people I love and have been with for so many years? Was shunning truly a way to make me submit to Jane? Were submitted WOFF members really the only ones who will make it with God, fulfill their call and go to heaven? How do we stop this nightmare being played out around me and get back to some sane life where we are able as a family to love and care for each other? Where did my wife go and when will she get back? Why did she send the children off to places and not tell me where they were going? Who told her she should/could do that and it was acceptable or necessary?

    Steven Hassan did not have immediate family members inside his cult. I did. That changed the dynamics of leaving. After leaving and beginning to reflect on my WOFF-life, I could agree that what I had been living was a fantasy- similar to Hassan. Though it would be denied, WOFF was/is built on fantasy and lies. We have gone over them in previous posts. The pivotal lie includes the idea that is it okay to treat Jane as a spiritual guru – all seeing, all knowing and as having all authority to dictate the direction of the lives of WOFF members. The fantasy atmosphere is no more evident than when Jane walks into the sanctuary to begin a service and all heads turn to look at her and see how she is dressed and to discern what kind of mood she is in on that day. Why? At WOFF, members realize that as goes Jane, so goes their life and their spiritual fortunes with God. If you doubt, just watch the congregation. Their identity is wrapped up in Jane.

   Hassan writes, “Perhaps the biggest problem faced by people who have left destructive cults is the disruption of their own identity. There is a very good reason: they have lived for years inside an “artificial” identity given to them by the cult. While cult mind control can be talked about and defined in many different ways, I believe it is best understood as a system which disrupts an individual’s identity.” (page 54)  I can relate to this as being true at WOFF. We were always encouraged to “find your place in God”. We were also told we would never find that place, until we helped someone else get their deliverance and find their place. What did this translate to in WOFF-life? As regular members, we were always seeking the next “place to submit”, the next sin to deal with or devil to get out of us. It was a constant state of flux pushed forward by new rules, “revelations” from Jane, edicts and turbo-charged legalism. You would not, could not stay at WOFF for very long until you came under this constant state of searching for something to change to find “who you were to be in God”! What did this result in? So many talked the same language, wore the same type clothes, had the same type haircuts, drove the same type cars, frequented the same places of business. Many even had the same décor in their house as Jane was also in charge of that for most everyone. If you take a step back, you would see the regular member’s identity was submerged into the group identity which was totally dictated by Jane and “what she heard from God”. Does this sound likea system which disrupts an individual’s identity”?

  We move on with more from Hassan, “The identity is made up of elements such as beliefs, behavior, thought processes, and emotions that constitute a definite pattern. Under the influence of mind control, a person’s original identity, as formed by family, education, friendships, and most importantly that person’s own free choices, becomes replaced with another identity, often one that he would not have chosen for himself without tremendous social pressure… Mind control practiced by destructive cults is a social process, often involving large groups of people to reinforce it. It is achieved by immersing a person in a social environment where, in order to function, he must shed his old identity and adhere to the new identity desired by the group. Any reality that might remind him of his previous identity—anything that might confirm his old sense of self—is pushed away and replaced by the group’s reality.” (page 54- emphasis added)

   This social process to conform members goes on at WOFF. Do other survivors agree? But, John, what about the spiritual principle and promise that in Christ all things are made new, old things are passed away? I will agree that this “new beginning” is a part of the Christian walk and those who walk with Christ will change. But, do we all change into the same thing? As we walk with God, are we all to wear the same clothes, drive the same cars, live in the same neighborhoods, have the same haircuts, work for companies owned by church members and have marital relationships with only those already in our local church? When we begin a relationship with God are we required to only do what the leader of our local group allows us to do in order to “know God? What does that sound like? Is that freedom in Christ or bondage?

I am reminded of this Scripture:

17If the whole body were an eye, where [would be the sense of] hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where [would be the sense of] smell?  18But as it is, God has placed and arranged the limbs and organs in the body, each [particular one] of them, just as He wished and saw fit and with the best adaptation. 19But if [the whole] were all a single organ, where would the body be?  20And now there are [certainly] many limbs and organs, but a single body. (1 Cor. 12 17-20 Amplified Bible)

As I see this, all Christians are different parts of one body with their own identity as shaped by God’s grace – not by Jane Whaley’s “gift”. Does this make sense?

   Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.

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       Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, for posts written by John Huddle, any information about WOFF is from his memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be.  Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 354.

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