Beware of the Alsana-Castlewood BITE

“BITE” stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control.

Steve Eichel, a recognized international cult expert, and president of the International Cultic Studies Association said, "most cults are extremely small and very deliberately try to stay under the radar. Unless they commit a crime, unless they do something that draws attention to the-negative attention and criticism to them-we generally don't know about them."

So what constitutes a cult? Eichel listed several factors:

  • "Beware of any kind of pressure. That's probably the single most important advice I can give anyone. Any kind of pressure to make a quick decision about becoming involved in any intensive kind of activity or organization."

  • "Be wary of any leader who proclaims him or herself as having special insight.

  • "The group is closed, so in other words, although there may be outside followers, there's usually an inner circle that follows the leader without question, and that maintains a tremendous amount of secrecy."

  • "The group uses deceptive means, typically will subject its members to an organized program of thought reform, or what most people refer to as brainwashing."

  • "Typically cults also exploit their members….mostly financially. Within the group, they'll exploit members financially, psychologically, and emotionally."

  • "A crucial aspect of cult is the idea that if you leave the cult, horrible things will happen to you." This is critical because we have heard the same quote from patient after patient; "Mark said, if I leave Castlewood I would die." Similar statements have been made by Alsana clients as well.

Consider this, the very people that are trying to convince you to believe your "recovered memories" of participating in a cult may, in fact, be a cult.

Steve Hassan, another Cult expert created the BITE Model to describe the specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people. Below are the criteria we regard as Alsana-Castlewood tactics based on our own experience and the reports of numerous former Alsana/Castlewood/Mark Schwartz patients. The full list is published here:

Behavior Control

  1. Regulate an individual’s physical reality

  2. Dictate where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates or isolates

  3. Regulate diet

  4. Financial exploitation, manipulation, or dependence

  5. Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time

  6. Major time spent with group indoctrination and rituals and/or self indoctrination

  7. Permission required for major decision

  8. Rewards are used to modify behaviors, both positive and negative.

  9. Discourage individualism, encourage group-think

  10. Impose rigid rules and regulations

  11. Instill dependency and obedience

  12. Separation from families

Thought Control

  1. Require members to internalize the group’s doctrine as truth a. Adopting the group’s ‘map of reality’ as reality b. Decide between good vs. evil c. Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs. outsiders)

  2. Change person’s identity

  3. Use of loaded language and clichés which constrict knowledge, stop critical thoughts, and reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words

  4. Hypnotic techniques are used to alter mental states, undermine critical thinking, and even to age regress the member

  5. Memories are manipulated, and false memories are created

  6. Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism

  7. Forbid critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy allowed

  8. Labeling alternative belief systems as illegitimate, evil, or not useful

  9. Instill a new “map of reality”

Information Control

  1. Deception: a. Deliberately withhold information b. Distort information to make it more acceptable c. Systematically lie to the cult member

  2. Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including: a. Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, media b. Critical information c. Former members d. Keep members busy, so they don’t have time to think and investigate e. Control through cell phone with texting, calls, internet tracking

  3. Compartmentalize information into Outsider vs. Insider doctrines a. Ensure that information is not freely accessible b. Control information at different levels and missions within group c. Allow only leadership to decide who needs to know what and when

  4. Encourage spying on other members a. Report deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership b. Ensure that the group monitors individual behavior

  5. Extensive use of cult-generated information and propaganda, including: a. Newsletters, magazines, journals, audiotapes, videotapes, YouTube, movies, and other media b. Misquoting statements or using them out of context from non-cult sources

  6. Unethical use of confession a. Information about sins used to disrupt and/or dissolve identity boundaries b. Manipulation of memory, possible false memories

Emotional Control

  1. Manipulate and narrow the range of feelings – some emotions and/or needs are deemed as evil

  2. Teach emotion-stopping techniques to block feelings of homesickness, anger, doubt

  3. Make the person feel that problems are always their own fault, never the leader’s or the group’s fault

  4. Promote feelings of guilt or unworthiness, such as: a. Identity guilt b. You are not living up to your potential c. Your family is deficient d. Your past is suspect e. Your affiliations are unwise f. Your thoughts, feelings, actions are irrelevant or selfish g. Social guilt f. Historical guilt

  5. Instill fear, such as fear of: a. Thinking independently b. The outside world c. Enemies d. Leaving or being shunned by the group e. Other’s disapproval f. Historical guilt

  6. Extremes of emotional highs and lows – love bombing and praise one moment and then declaring you are a horrible sinner

  7. Ritualistic and sometimes public confession of sins

  8. Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about leaving the group or questioning the leader’s authority a. No happiness or fulfillment possible outside of the group

Hassan writes: "Destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause; it is not necessary for every single item on the list to be present. Like many techniques, it is not inherently good or evil. If mind control techniques empower individuals to have more choice and authority for their life, the effects can be beneficial. For example, benevolent mind control may help people quit smoking without affecting any other behavior. Mind control becomes destructive when it undermines a person’s ability to think and act independently."

Yes, we know that not everyone has had a bad experience with Alsana/Castlewood/Schwartz. Again, we are happy they got the help they needed, however, that does not discredit nor diminish the encounters other former patients have come up against. You would never deny the accusations of "Me Too" accusers simply because you have never been raped, now would you?

Now, we are not accusing Alsana/Castlewood of being an outright cult. Instead, we are reframing the experiences of Alsana/Castlewood/Schwartz survivors and evaluating them in a new light. Think about it, that's all we are saying.

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