The term “seminal” is often tossed around too lightly, but Steven Hassan’s Combating Cult Mind Control is indeed that; back when it was originally published – in 1988 – it stood out in an all but empty field and soon became the benchmark for other volumes that followed.

Hassan’s fundamental gift to the collective base of knowledge on undue influence was a brilliant act of synthesis: as with many advances in human thought, the author’s insight comes from standing on the shoulders of those before him. The central “jewel” of this offering is, of course, the BITE model, first introduced in the original version and expanded to include such non-cult thought control as domestic violence and human trafficking.

The BITE model was created by combining the eight criteria of thought reform discovered by his friend and mentor Robert Jay Lifton, incorporating Margaret Singer’s six conditions of thought control, and then sorting the resulting set of manipulations through the lens of Festinger’s model of cognitive dissonance, which included Thought, Emotion, and Behaviour control, with Hassan adding the important factor of Information. An inspired re-arrangement of the four categories into the mnemonic acronym BITE gave the world an easier “handle” by which to recognize these patterns.

However, the book is not just the BITE model, but also story of Hassan’s recruitment into the Moonies and his deprogramming two years later, which leads organically into a collection of relevant case histories from former members of a wide number of groups. The reader will also find helpful and updated references, as well as good, solid, compassionate advice for concerned family members, mental (and other) health professionals, and those recovering from undue influence. Hassan has, with his new edition, updated not just his references but also the body of knowledge surrounding undue influence, adapting his BITE model to address specifically the issues inherent to human trafficking, and much, much more.

In 2015, Hassan updated the book, adding a significant amount of material, including new insight on those born into or raised in high-control groups and the evolution in thinking about how to help those entrapped. The new iteration includes a straightforward graphic representation of the interlocking aspects of the BITE model,.

Even if you, like so many of us, have a dog-eared copy of the old edition tucked away on a shelf, there is enough new material to make it well-worth adding the new edition to your library, as an essential part of any collection of literature on the subject.

You can buy a copy of Combating Cult Mind Control here, and be sure to check out Hassan’s other book, Freedom of Mind.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

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