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One question that was frequently asked in my series involving Matt Taibbi's infiltration of John Hagee's church (and the chunderfest resulting)--how could Matt Taibbi start developing what is known in exit-counseling as a cultic personality in just three days?  

Well, one particular tool used in the "toolkit of coercion" of neopente dominionist groups in particular is the use of cell churches--and today, we go into depth into a study that shows the actual process of development of a "cultic personality".

Yes, cell-churches really can change your personality

One of the most damning stuies ever conducted of psychological harm resulting from coercive groups--and in particular those using the "cell church" or "discipling and shepherding" models--is a longterm study noted in the book "The Discipling Dilemma" which featured a study of seven coercive religious groups known to use some form of "cell church" or cell-church-like "discipling" (Scientology, the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas, the International Church of Christ, the Children of God, The Way International, and Maranatha) compared with a control group consisting of people in mainstream, non-coercive churches (Baptist (at this point the SBC had not yet been heavily steeplejacked, and the study primarily focused on "Northern" Baptists), Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches as well as Churches of Christ not making use of cell-groups).  

Of particular note in this study, no less than two of the groups making heavy use of cell-churches can be said to be "Assemblies descendants"--not entirely surprising, as the tactic seems to have been largely invented in the Assemblies (very shortly after its founding) to conduct steeplejacks and was adopted by "The Family" (of recent Jeff Sharlet book discussion) as a political control method shortly thereafter.

The study itself is quite amazingly damning:

The first result of this study to be discussed is the observation that a great majority of the members of the Boston Church of Christ changed psychological type scores in the past, present, and future versions of the MBTI. Among the 835 individuals who took all three forms of the MBTI, less than five percent showed no change at all and less than seven percent had the same past and future type. Among the rest, a comparison of past and future types showed that almost 20 percent changed on one MBTI scale, 35 percent changed on two, over 26 percent changed on three, and over 12 percent changed on all four scales, thus experiencing a total reversal of type. The mean number of scale changes was 2.18 among the 835 members of the Boston Church of Christ who took all three forms of the MBTI. The present distribution was significantly different from the past distribution. The difference between past and future type distributions was highly significant.

A second result of this study that must be noticed is that the observed changes in psychological type scores were not random since there was a clear convergence in a single type. Ten of the 16 types show a steady decline in the percentage who came out as that type in the past, present, and future versions of the MBTI. Three transitional types show an increase from past to present and then a sharp decline in the future outcomes. There were three popular types in this study: ESFJ, ESTJ, and ENFJ. There was a steady increase in the percentage who came out with these three type indications in the past, present, and future results Percentages are figured separately for males and females since male and female distributions differ on the thinking-feeling scale. In the past, present, and future results, the percentage of males who came out ESFJ went from 2.58 to 26.37 to
to 54.23 while the percentages for females went from 5.10 to 34.31 to 53.48. ESTJs differ from ESFJs only on the thinking-feeling scale. The percentage of males who scored as ESTJ went from 7.73 to 15.92 to 20.37 while the percentages for females went from 4.67 to 13.81 to 23.04. ENFJs differ from ESFJs only on the sensing-intuition scale. The percentages of males who came out ENFJ went from 1.29 to 4.73 to 14.81, while the percentages for females went from 0.64 to 3.97 to 12 17.

There was a clear pattern of changing from introversion to extraversion, from intuition to sensing, from thinking to feeling, and from perceiving to judging. In the past, present, and future results, the percentage of males with a preference for extraversion went from 33 to 60 to 94 while the percentages for females went from 38 to 64 to 95. The percentage of males who had a preference for sensing perception went from 66 to 78 to 80 while the percentage for females went from 66 to 85 and then to 82. The percentage of males' preference for feeling judgment went from 41 to 65 to 76 while percentages for females went from 53 to 73 and then to 71. The percentage of males with a preference for a judging orientation went from 37 to 80 to 96 while percentages for females went from 34 to 80 to 95.

Preferences for extraversion, sensing, feeling, and judging tended to remain stable while the opposite preferences for introversion, intuition, thinking, and perceiving tended to change. Among those who started as extraverts, 97 percent remained unchanged, but 95 percent of those who started as introverts changed into extraverts. Among those who started with a preference for sensing perception, 82 percent remain unchanged, but 78 percent of those who started with a preference for intuition changed. Among those who started with a preference for feeling judgment, 72 percent remained unchanged, but 74 percent of those who started with a preference for thinking changed. Among those who started with a preference for a judging orientation, 97 percent remained unchanged, but 95 percent of those who started with a preference for a perceiving orientation changed. There was a highly significant movement away from preferences for introversion, intuition, thinking, and perceiving and toward extraversion, sensing, feeling, and judging.

Those who were the least likely to change were those who already were ESFJs. They averaged only 0.32 changes on the four MBTI scales. Those who were the most likely to change were those who started as the opposite type, INTP. They averaged 3.55 changes on the four scales. There was a strong positive correlation between the number of differences between a type and the ESFJ model, on the one hand, and the mean number of changes on the four MBTI scales on the other hand. The more a person differed from the ESFJ model, the more likely that person was to change on more of the MBTI scales.

What all of this means is that the Boston Church of Christ is producing in its members the very same pattern of unhealthy personality change that is observed in studies of well-known manipulative sects. Whatever they are doing that produces this pattern needs to be changed.

(pp. 35-38, "The Discipling Dilemma")

An appendix to the book (unfortunately, the copy at does not include the tables, but the Wayback Archive comes to the rescue) which includes the study results in full is even more worrisome:

Table 1 shows the type distribution in the study of the Boston Church of Christ. Type tables are displayed with the introverts in the top two rows and the extraverts in the bottom two rows. The eight sensing types are shown in the two columns on the left with the eight intuitive types in the two columns on the right. The two outer columns contain the eight thinking types and the two inner columns contain the eight feeling types. The eight judging types are displayed in the top and bottom rows while the eight perceiving types are in the two middle rows. Results are shown separately for males and females because of differences on the thinking-feeling scale. Approximately 60% of males prefer thinking judgment and only 40% prefer feeling judgment, but 60% of females prefer feeling judgment and only 40% prefer thinking judgment. The three rows in each cell represent outcomes on the three different forms of the MBTI.

Consider the ISTJ cell in the upper left corner as an example. Here is what the figures mean. When answering the questions on the MBTI the way they think they would have answered them before their conversion (or five years ago for the few who had been members that long), 16.49% of the males and 11.68% of the females came out ISTJ, thus indicating preferences for introversion, sensing, thinking, and judging. However, when they answered the questions indicating present preferences, only 8.46% of the males and 6.69% of the females came out ISTJ. Furthermore, when they answered the questions on the MBTI the way they think they will answer them after five more years of discipling, even fewer came out ISTJ--only 1.32% of the males and 1.30% of the females.

If you examine all 16 cells in Table 1, you will find that 10 of the psychological types show a steady decline from past to present to future outcomes. Three of the types--ISFJs, INFJs, and male ENTJs--show the largest percentages in the present outcome. These appear to be transitional types. The changes people are making move them into these types on their way to becoming something else. Three typesESTJ, ESFJ, and ENFJ--show a steady increase from past to present to future outcomes. The most popular type is ESFJ with 54.23% of the males and 53.48% of the females indicating that type preference when answering the MBTI questions the way they think they will after five more years of discipling. The next most popular type is ESTJ with 20.37% of the males and 23.04% of the females indicating that as their future preference. The only other popular type is ENFJ with 14.81% of the males and 12.17% of the females indicating that future preference.

(pp. 192-194, "The Discipling Dilemma")

The study discovered cases of people who literally did complete reversals of personality type--and the study expresses concern for those persons:

Table 6 shows the past-to-future MBTI scale changes by type. The 16 types are listed in the left column following the usual type table order. The second column shows the number who indicated each type preference when they answered the questions the way they would have before conversion. The next columns show the percent and the actual number who had no past-future changes, then those who had one, two, three, or four changes. The column on the right shows the mean number of scale changes for each type. The figures across the bottom show the percent and the actual number who had no changes, one, two, three, or four changes, and the mean number of scale changes for the entire sample. What this shows is that the average member of the Boston Church of Christ changed on at least two of the MBTI scales. Only 6.83% had no past-future changes; 19.64% had one; 34.97% had two; 26.35% had three; and 12.22% had four and thus experienced a total reversal of type.
. . .
Keep in mind that these statistical tables do not prove that any individual is going to experience the psychological problems associated with falsification of psychological type. The focus of this research was not on any individual, but rather on the overall pattern observed in the group. This pattern, however, dearly indicates a potential danger for the individuals subjected to this kind of influence. Those who are already ESFJs when they come to the Boston Church of Christ are likely to fit in quite well and not feel much of the pressure toward conformity that others feel. The greater the difference between a person's true type and the ESFJ model, the more likely that person is to feel the pressure toward conformity. Those who come to the Boston church as INTPs are in the greatest danger.

(pp. 196, 198, "The Discipling Dilemma")

Of note, these results are not restricted to the Boston Church of Christ/ICOC; the author has noted nearly identical results with the "Bible-based" coercive groups evaluated, in particular Maranatha (whose practices are most similar to those in  the "Assemblies family" of neopente dominionist groups).

Now, what does all this mean in English?  We're about to explain.

A matter of personality

First, let's give some info on the MBTI.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is, to put it bluntly, a test of various personality traits--most folks can be grouped into one of sixteen categories on four axes: Extraversion/Introversion, Sensing/iNtuition, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perception.

Most people in the US taking the MBTI tend to trend around either ISTJ, ESFJ, or ISFJ.  (The percentages are around 11.6%, 12.3%, and 13.8% respectively.)  The three personality types listed as being predominant that people were trending to--ESFJ, ESTJ, and ENFJ--are only a little above that for ESFJ alone, total; only about 8.7% of the population trends naturally to ESTJ, and only 1.8% to ENTJ.

As noted in the study, percentages changed quite drastically.  There are very low numbers of one of the most common population types in the human population in general (ISTJ), the numbers of ESFJ are more than half the population in "cell church" groups, ESTJ (normally an uncommon personality type) is another quarter, and ENFJ (which is normally a rare personality type) is almost as common as ISFJ is in the population at large (as noted, ISFJ is the most common personality type in people not in cell-church groups).

It's also worth a look at the three MBTI personality types trended to.

Why these three types?

There actually are very real reasons why there are trends to specific personality types by people involved in "cell churches".

ESFJ's (the most common personality type trended to) are referred to as "Providers" in Kiersey's version of the MBTI.  ESFJs, in a sense, are pretty much the "den mothers" of the sixteen personality types--friendly, gregarious, always out to help others, upholders of tradition, and so on.

As it turns out, ESFJ also would turn out to be just about the perfect personality type for a coercive religious group:

ESFJs' primary mode of living is focused externally, where things are dealt with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit in with your personal value system. The secondary mode is internal, where things are taken in via the five senses in a more literal and concrete fashion.
The ESFJ's value system is defined externally. They usually have very well-formed ideas about the way things should be, and are not shy about expressing these opinions. However, they weigh their values and morals against the world around them, rather than against an internal value system. They may have a strong moral code, but it is defined by the community that they live in, rather than by any strongly felt internal values.

ESFJs who have had the benefit of being raised and surrounded by a strong value system that is ethical and centered around genuine goodness will most likely be the kindest, most generous souls who will gladly give you the shirt off of their back without a second thought. For these individuals, the selfless quality of their personality type is genuine and pure. ESFJs who have not had the advantage of developing their own values by weighing them against a good external value system may develop very questionable values. In such cases, the ESFJ most often genuinely believes in the integrity of their skewed value system. They have no internal understanding of values to set them straight. In weighing their values against our society, they find plenty of support for whatever moral transgression they wish to justify. This type of ESFJ is a dangerous person indeed. Extraverted Feeling drives them to control and manipulate, and their lack of Intuition prevents them from seeing the big picture. They're usually quite popular and good with people, and good at manipulating them. Unlike their ENFJ cousin, they don't have Intuition to help them understand the real consequences of their actions. They are driven to manipulate others to achieve their own ends, yet they believe that they are following a solid moral code of conduct.

All ESFJs have a natural tendency to want to control their environment. Their dominant function demands structure and organization, and seeks closure. ESFJs are most comfortable with structured environments. They're not likely to enjoy having to do things which involve abstract, theoretical concepts, or impersonal analysis. They do enjoy creating order and structure, and are very good at tasks which require these kinds of skills. ESFJs should be careful about controlling people in their lives who do not wish to be controlled.

ESFJs respect and believe in the laws and rules of authority, and believe that others should do so as well. They're traditional, and prefer to do things in the established way, rather than venturing into unchartered territory. Their need for security drives their ready acceptance and adherence to the policies of the established system. This tendency may cause them to sometimes blindly accept rules without questioning or understanding them.

An ESFJ who has developed in a less than ideal way may be prone to being quite insecure, and focus all of their attention on pleasing others. He or she might also be very controlling, or overly sensitive, imagining bad intentions when there weren't any.

(Emphasis mine.)
ESTJ, the second most common personality type represented, have been described as Supervisors--and, again, would be ideal as the "front lines" of a coercive group...or most political dominionist groups, for that matter:

ESTJs live in a world of facts and concrete needs. They live in the present, with their eye constantly scanning their personal environment to make sure that everything is running smoothly and systematically. They honor traditions and laws, and have a clear set of standards and beliefs. They expect the same of others, and have no patience or understanding of individuals who do not value these systems. They value competence and efficiency, and like to see quick results for their efforts.

ESTJs are take-charge people. They have such a clear vision of the way that things should be, that they naturally step into leadership roles. They are self-confident and aggressive. They are extremely talented at devising systems and plans for action, and at being able to see what steps need to be taken to complete a specific task. They can sometimes be very demanding and critical, because they have such strongly held beliefs, and are likely to express themselves without reserve if they feel someone isn't meeting their standards. But at least their expressions can be taken at face-value, because the ESTJ is extremely straight-forward and honest.
. . .
The ESTJ needs to watch out for the tendency to be too rigid, and to become overly detail-oriented. Since they put a lot of weight in their own beliefs, it's important that they remember to value other people's input and opinions. If they neglect their Feeling side, they may have a problem with fulfilling other's needs for intimacy, and may unknowingly hurt people's feelings by applying logic and reason to situations which demand more emotional sensitivity.
. . .
ESTJs value security and social order above all else, and feel obligated to do all that they can to enhance and promote these goals. They will mow the lawn, vote, join the PTA, attend home owners association meetings, and generally do anything that they can to promote personal and social security.

ESTJ is also overrepresented among managers in comparison to its likelihood in the population as a whole.  Almost everything I've seen in regards to ESTJs online also essentially points to a "strict" trending to "fundamentalist" personality in general.

The third most common personality type in coercive religious groups, ENFJs, have been described as Teachers (complete with every mental image you have associated with teachers)--and the personality type would also be perfect for cell leaders and deacons:

Because ENFJ's people skills are so extraordinary, they have the ability to make people do exactly what they want them to do. They get under people's skins and get the reactions that they are seeking. ENFJ's motives are usually unselfish, but ENFJs who have developed less than ideally have been known to use their power over people to manipulate them.

ENFJ's are so externally focused that it's especially important for them to spend time alone. This can be difficult for some ENFJs, because they have the tendency to be hard on themselves and turn to dark thoughts when alone. Consequently, ENFJs might avoid being alone, and fill their lives with activities involving other people. ENFJs tend to define their life's direction and priorities according to other people's needs, and may not be aware of their own needs. It's natural to their personality type that they will tend to place other people's needs above their own, but they need to stay aware of their own needs so that they don't sacrifice themselves in their drive to help others.

ENFJ's tend to be more reserved about exposing themselves than other extraverted types. Although they may have strongly-felt beliefs, they're likely to refrain from expressing them if doing so would interfere with bringing out the best in others. Because their strongest interest lies in being a catalyst of change in other people, they're likely to interact with others on their own level, in a chameleon-like manner, rather than as individuals.
. . .
An ENFJ who has not developed their Feeling side may have difficulty making good decisions, and may rely heavily on other people in decision-making processes. If they have not developed their Intuition, they may not be able to see possibilities, and will judge things too quickly based on established value systems or social rules, without really understanding the current situation. An ENFJ who has not found their place in the world is likely to be extremely sensitive to criticism, and to have the tendency to worry excessively and feel guilty. They are also likely to be very manipulative and controling with others.

(Emphasis mine.)

Why this is a Bad Thing

Of note, every one of the preferred personality types in "cell church" groups are extroverted and judging; needless to say, as the old Japanese proverb goes, the nail sticking up is very likely to be hammered down.  (The complete reversal of personality type from INTP to ESFJ documented in this group--a total conversion from an "Architect" or "Thinker" (or put more blutntly) "scientist" or "geek" to "Provider" or "Caregiver" or (put more bluntly) "Housewife"--is very damning evidence of this in practice.)

This is also why I'm very worried in regards to groups that use this particular tactic.  The intense coercion that goes on in these groups is pretty much dangerous to one's mental health--from Taibbi expressing concern for his sanity to the stories of coercion by survivors of Teen Challenge to the reported use of "cell churches" within "The Family" and known promoters of neopente dominionist-associated coercive tactics within these cells.  Yes, this is why I worry for Hillary--my worry is not so much an "OMG SHE'S PARTNERING WITH DOMINIONISTS!", but much more of an "Oh gods, she may have gotten into something horrid and not even realised it".

One reason I'm especially worried re Hillary's involvement with "The Family"--some earlier tests have had her as INTJ (and has publically admitted as much) but she has apparently trended from this to ESTJ--exactly the personality type changes documented in coercive "cell-church" groups over long periods of time.  (In comparison, Bill Clinton has pretty consistently been typed as ESFP.)

And it's very easy to see how Matt Taibbi described how a "mechanical Christian skin starts to grow all over your real self" and feared for his sanity--literally, it does happen in these groups, as the study above damningly proves.

Originally posted to dogemperor on Thu May 15, 2008 at 12:58 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar for slightly early diary. (50+ / 0-)

    Diary is being posted a wee bit earlier than usual today--largely because I have an appointment and won't be around at 5pm to do the usual post. :D

    Anyways, hopefully this explains something for why I tend to freak out re the mention of cell-churches and why I consider it a major danger sign.

    •  Fantastic series, it's now rec on sight (10+ / 0-)

      and has been for a while.

      Keep up the great work, even if it doesn't always get the attention it deserves. This is serious need to know info.

      We have an Assemblies minister challenging Grijalva here in AZ this Nov. He doesn't stand a chance thank Ghu but still scary to see them actually working their way into the political world.

      " Every Thanksgiving, Bill Clinton stuffs a kitten inside a puppy inside a chimp inside a dolphin. It's like a turducken, only more evil. " balancedscales

      by buddabelly on Thu May 15, 2008 at 01:26:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great diary, as always. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Stick to this length.  It works.

      BTW, your link to Hillary's admission of her MBTI is not very precise.  Here is the link to the exact blog entry, which contains the following passage.

      Ironically, Hillary Clinton has disclosed that she previously took the MBTI® and she is an INTJ.

      You might also want to check out this series on Personality Zone.  It gives the MBTI of all of the major candidates in both parties and has Hillary listed as ENTJ.  It seems that her time in "The Family" has worked first on her Extraversion and then on her Sensing.

      "Iraq: the bravest 1% fighting for the richest 1%." ~ An Unknown Kossack.

      by Neon Vincent on Fri May 16, 2008 at 05:02:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The amount of information you include in your (18+ / 0-)

    posts is always impressive.

    Thanks for taking the time to do this.

    IGTNT: Remembering our fallen soldiers

    by a girl in MI on Thu May 15, 2008 at 01:05:47 PM PDT

  •  Doggie. Thanks lifting up this rock for us. (13+ / 0-)

    A "religion", like any other hierarchical organization that dangles "benefits", can certainly be subject to abuse.  Most people don't see that.  Hey, it's all about "God", with a capital G.   What could go wrong there?    

    Sadly, as you well know, the same type of people that  fall victim to entreaties to come to Amway meetings or Mary Kay Cosmetics hen parties, etc, will always fall for the cell chuch come ons.  The cell church scammers give the truly faithful fits.  

    Eternal salvation.  Unconditional love. A purpose for your life?  You can't even compare those to money or a pink Cadillac.  

    Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Thu May 15, 2008 at 01:27:43 PM PDT

  •  The huge shift to (12+ / 0-)

    extraversion and judging to 95%+ is amazing. Of course those are necessary to fit in such a group, to want to be a part...but I'd have assumed those were the people who would be drawn in the first place, not that they'd come and then change to fit.

    I have to puzzle that out.


  •  I'm of two minds here (5+ / 0-)

    Much of the language reminds me of the standard "anti-cult" rhetoric that fundamentalists turn against other new religious movements, and fundamentalists can be expected to turn against everyone else.

    At the same time, their personality norms are very disturbing. It probably takes a mix of personalities to create a healthy community. An ESFJ-heavy community will have a very different discourse from an INTP-heavy community. An ESFJ-heavy community may be more prone to "bootleggers & baptists" dynamics than an INTP-heavy community. (Basically, they are more prone to support prohibition of anything they consider wrong, and prone to oppose legalization, regardless of the nature or effect of the prohibition).

    I generally worry more about "social dominance orientation" than any other personality differences. And parenting styles have the largest effect on it.

    Liberty - Mother, not daughter, of Order

    by Mike Erwin on Thu May 15, 2008 at 01:36:09 PM PDT

  •  I Can't Imagine Changing My Type (17+ / 0-)

    I'm an INFJ, which isn't even mentioned in your diary. We're the the ones who see the picture clearly and leap forward in an intuitive ... well, leap, while the other types are wondering where we are and getting angry because we aren't going step by step with them. They hate it when we're right, especially when it takes them two days to catch up with us.

    When we're wrong we never hear the end of it.  8-J

    People who are the right MBTI type for the society they live in often blame and dislike those of us who don't fit. We then blame ourselves for our "character flaws." An organization that promises to change a person into someone who fits in can be tempting.

    It's truly vile to change another human being that much by nefarious means and then take advantage of the weakened state that comes from being transformed in such a fundamental way.

  •  I wonder (5+ / 0-)

    If my staunch opposition to such religious practices, and my flight from my local UU church (long story) has anything to do with my INFP nature.  (I almost always test out near 100% I, and the NFP while not that strong are >50%).

    Thanks for the excellent diary, as always.

    Agnostic Neo-Shamanic Semi-Pagan Unitarian Universalist Moral Thealogian

    by Sister Coyote on Thu May 15, 2008 at 04:01:52 PM PDT

    •  Yes. The core values of an NF (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      are integrity and authenticity - being true
      to yourself, as you seek out the purpose of
      your life.

      NFs will tolerate a lot, but will not tolerate
      anything that challenges those values, whether
      it be a person, a job, an institution, or a
      belief system - that person/job/institution/
      system has to go.

  •  Hello, my friend. (7+ / 0-)

    I am running out of words to express my appreciation for you hard work.  You should be a front pager here, not a person needing rescue.  Warmest regards, Doc.

    Sometimes I feel like Robert Louis Stevenson created me. -6.25, -6.05

    by Translator on Thu May 15, 2008 at 08:40:45 PM PDT

  •  thoughts in regard to a relative... (7+ / 0-)

    The ESFJ's value system is defined externally. They usually have very well-formed ideas about the way things should be, and are not shy about expressing these opinions. However, they weigh their values and morals against the world around them, rather than against an internal value system. They may have a strong moral code, but it is defined by the community that they live in, rather than by any strongly felt internal values.

    This person is a moral believing Christian.  Began as Roman Catholic (as did I) then got saved (as did I) but is part of large major TV evangelist church.  One curious thing, since going to movies is frowned upon at this church, this person doesnt neccisarily(?) see that as wrong, so along with others who feel the same...they travel to a town 50 miles away to see the movie.  And not be seen.
    I dont know if/how I would fit into any of these types....I base my salvation, beliefs and practices upon 'Jesus plus nothing'.  I have been in many Bible studies and compare it to the 'legalistic-works' type of theology from my past.  So I pretty much can separate the 'wheat' from the 'chafe'.  Being trained to believe or profess something 'enmasse' while being linked to some self-made ego-whatever preacher is not scriptural to me.  I dont like memorized or group sounds phoney...I wouldnt speak to my husband like seems weird to speak to God like that.
    I'm not judging this persons values or faith...but I do worry that even so-called mainstream churches can become 'cultish'.  (sorry for's late)   Interesting post.                          

    Where people fear the government there is tyrany: "Where the government fears the people, you have liberty." Thomas Jefferson

    by ROADRUNNER DEM on Thu May 15, 2008 at 09:26:53 PM PDT

  •  Just found this, thanks to the rescue. (5+ / 0-)

    And now I'm wondering if anyone has done anything similar with DISC scores, since I happen to have a set lying around that accompanied a Spiritual Gifts thing I did through my church a few years back.

    They'd somehow gotten a 'what you really are' and 'what you display to others' set of scores out of it, and in my case the differences between the two were rather, well, disturbing, particularly in light of the gifts/personality traits revealed in the Spiritual Gifts thing itself.

    Another disturbing thing, at least to me: the analysis with it included how the spiritual gifts were supposed to interact with the displayed personality rather than the real hidden one, even when they differed as extremely as mine did.

    •  And around that same time, I did an online (6+ / 0-)

      freebie test for MBTI-style personality identification. INFP after nearly two decades in a Southern Baptist church's youth department.

      No wonder I never fit in quite right...

    •  Interesting (11+ / 0-)

      When I went through USAF basic training, I did it with someone who had already been through Army Basic.  He remarked that although Army Basic had been far more physically demanding, Air Force Basic was actually harder for him.  Where the Army had trained him to stop thinking and just do what his orders or training demanded, the Air Force forced him to think flexibly, and to speak as an individual rather than as a soldier.

      At the time, I just commented that the USAF was mostly training people that would go on to technical fields that would require judgement and initiative, while the Army wanted identical parts for a combat machine.

      But I remember that to get through Basic, I had to put on a false persona that would automatically repeat the right answers on certain subjects, make the right decisions in certain areas.  And I remember leaving Basic and having to force myself to set that persona aside and be myself again.

      According to 41 Questions, I'm an ISTP with the second axis almost equally balanced, very close to INTP.  And I remember being more intuitive when I was younger, which makes me wonder if I was ever able to fully shake off that "false persona".

      It seems to me that the "Cell Churches" are ESFJ "mind viruses", taking in ordinary people at one end and forcing them into a mold, where they then become parts of the conversion machine.  And I have to wonder if this is not normal with new churches of all kinds, and it's only drift as new generations are born after the conversion machine has run out of raw material that allows "normal" society to exist.

      And it certainly means that these kinds of churches are the very opposite of "liberal", inherently antithetical to any kind of society that would allow "self-determination".

      •  Just took that version. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dogemperor, Ice Blue, Neon Vincent

        I at 90% over or so, completely and totally N, and both F and P about 2/3rds over.

        I think my difference in the two DISC scores was in part because of the constrained social role women are expected to have in the SBC, plus me having to hide everything. My I score, which is supposed to do with being an influence on or inspiration for others, went from an actual score of dang near as high as it could go to absolutely nothing, no trace of it, in the displayed score. Not a good thing for someone who the same assessment package claimed has the spiritual gift of teaching, and I personally would assume that teaching capacity would be rather antithetical to a no-I DISC score.

      •  There's evidence to suggest it's not normal. (10+ / 0-)

        As noted, there were a large number of mainstream Christian churches--including, of particularly damning note IMHO, a number of Churches of Christ which have eschewed the cell-church movement.

        None of the churches that do not use cell-church groups showed any longterm personality changes in their members; this included groups that only have had a theological history about as long as the "cell church" using groups (including some of the Baptist and Churches of Christ groups).

        It's pretty safe to state that the personality changes are the direct result of coercive practices inherent to cell-church style groups and coercive religious groups in general (especially interestingly, all of the non-Christian coercive religious groups trended exactly the same; at the time the survey was conducted, both Scientology and Hare Krishnas used similar setups to "cell churches", and this does still definitely occur within Scientology).  Further research conducted after this initial study does tend to back this up.

        The definition of coercive religious groups essentially breeding "ESFJ memetic viruses" is actually somewhat accurate; the process of thought reform is largely designed to mold people to a specific standard, and (as noted above) ESFJs would be particularly susceptible to manipulation in coercive religious groups.

      •  I once read an article in the Army War College's (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        quarterly, Parameters, which said while a couple of personality types were naturally attracted to the officer corps (because they're always told what to do, I suppose), the Army has a disproportionate number of ENTPs in the very top ranks.  That was flattering, because I'm an ENTP myself, and I'm always getting in trouble for doing my own thing.  At least one organization is after my type.  

        ENTPs are the born entrepreneurs.   (We're attracted to politics, too.)

        People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election. --Otto von Bismarck

        by Ice Blue on Fri May 16, 2008 at 07:16:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  INFJ/P here-- (4+ / 0-)

    yes, I sit right on the middle in the judger/perceiver axis--and when as a high-schooler I saw just how indoctrinated the kids were in Up With People, I cringed away from them when they approached. As an Introvert I am not likely to ever get involved with culty types and as an iNtuitive I can see right through them. Hmmm, maybe being introverted has its good points after all.

    "Oh, intercourse the penguin!" Graham Chapman

    by crose on Thu May 15, 2008 at 10:01:07 PM PDT

    •  I had a similar experience with (7+ / 0-)

      re-evaluation counseling people, which some people here may defend.
      I was uncomfortable with the instant love, ideological thrust and loosey-goosey boundaries; I've always had trouble understanding why people didn't see into these things right away.  Is this an introverted intuitive thing?
      Finally, I remember being in a summer bible study class as a kid and the teachers criticizing introverts, and I didn't see why just having a more introspective nature was a bad thing.  

      "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a great battle." -Plato

      by emidesu on Fri May 16, 2008 at 01:20:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Strong IN and weak TP preferences here ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dogemperor, crose

      In school (all levels) it seemed to me
      that religious instructors were unhappy
      rigid people.

      That's what I remember most. This atmosphere
      of "shut up, do what I tell you, and don't
      ever ever think for yourself".

      Later, in high school and after, it
      seemed to me that converts had something
      missing: often it was sexuality, but
      it was more than that (even though that's
      pretty big).

      There was some void, some lack, like a
      hole in their very being. I still don't
      know how to describe it, but it was
      and still is unnerving.

  •  That was freaking interesting. Thanks n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  I find this whole series fascinating (7+ / 0-)

    I'm the son of a UCC Minister whose expertise was intellect, leadership and especially counseling.  He was an active liberal Democrat, and he was in the Army air corps in WWII.  He was a national champion debater in college.  I was taught at a very early age to be skeptical of anyone who said they knew what God  demanded. I was taught to  understand that tent revivals and the various faith healers that roamed Texas when I grew up there were fakes.

    Now I am a lapsed Christian, basically an agnostic. I took the shapes test quickly tonight and was surprised to find that it was very far off. It said I had poor analytical skills and poor verbal skills (but I'm a professional writer an musician, and have been asked to join all sorts of organizations, and then asked to lead. I'm intellectually advanced, and I excel at persuasion.

    The emptional parts were mostly wrong, too. I have a very hard time in social situations, and I let relationships slide (although I've been married for 34 years).

    I believe this whole series about coercive groups is excellent, but the methodology of testing strikes me as very flawed. I had this opinion before I took the test, but decided to test it myself.

    After reading numerous posts on the subject of Domionion Theology and the other topics, I believe that what you describe is real, and it is dangerous. But I believe you need to look and a lot more outside opinions from experts who have not personally been caught in this terrible vise of thought control.

    Believe me, I'm not a troll on this series. I admire and believe you. I just believe the next step is to quantify your findings using totally outside methodology.

    Frankly, I think Amway, Hagee, The Family, Assembly of God, and many of the individuals you write about are what you suspect they are. I don't think you will get much beyond survivors in organizing your  defense against them without some better tests.



    The best reason to support Barack Obama is not his ideas, his oratory nor his background. It's his genius for leadership.

    by DHinIA on Thu May 15, 2008 at 10:27:31 PM PDT

    •  I think you are correct that more studies (8+ / 0-)

      are needed. However, this is a very difficult project, given the mentality of the groups. It is very hard to do objective research covertly (there are also some ethical questions dealing with informed consent that most University Human Subjects panels would flag). But these folks range from paranoid to proselyting and they have no respect for education or objective research. These are difficult studies to design and nearly impossible to get funding to execute.

      That leaves a researcher with survivors, which are by definition a biased sample, or a weak study design. However, even with these limitations it should be possible to obtain some useful information from a well-designed study.

      "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke

      by carolita on Thu May 15, 2008 at 10:50:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's research beginning on this. (8+ / 0-)

      Part of why much of my writing has been from walkaways and folks "not personally having been caught in this" because, well, up until literally five to ten years ago there was nothing written formally on this save from walkaways and the like.  Even now, the entire subject of second-generation and multigenerational walkaways is a new enough field of formal research that a lot of the initial research is still being done.

      (And yes, this is the case even with exit counselors; many exit counselors are in fact survivors of coercive religious groups or have had relatives who were survivors.)

      For the record, one of the things I am trying to do is bring more awareness in the hope there WILL be more formalised research on this by people outside of the survivor or even exit-counseling communities.  (Heck, we're doing good now that exit-counselors do acknowledge the whole subject of large "Bible-based" groups going coercive, much less multigenerational walkaways having unique issues compared to the walkaway community at large.  And yes, this is something even an exit counselor has admitted to me; an exit counselor, of note, who has worked with Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer in some of the initial research on "Bible-based" coercive religious groups at that.  She's now doing a study on multigen walkaways who began the process of escape as teens without benefit of formal exit counseling.)

      Psychological tests do have some flaws, I'll agree.  The thing is, up until very recently, we didn't even have that.  Most of the "checklists of coerciveness" (that have led to the realisation that coercive religious groups do in fact tend to use a "core of coercion" with window-dressing) have come about in maybe the past ten to fifteen years of research.  Most of the serious psychological studies have been done primarily within the past ten to fifteen years (this is actually one of the earliest studies of its type, and followup research by International Cultic Studies Association--one of the professional groups doing peer-reviewed research on coercive religious groups--has in fact confirmed this using other metrics).

      And no, I don't see you as a troll--I'm just noting that in this case, it's literally only within the past ten to twenty years we've had formalised study of coercive groups as a whole rather than studies of very specific groups (like coercion within the Moonies or Scientology).  It's been literally only since about 1988 or so that it's even been recognised these groups use all the same bad habits, and we can measure where harm occurs.

      Better tests are being developed--we're getting there.  (As it is, I'm working to help get folks in an ongoing research project of just this sort--the study of multigen walkaways and psychological issues; this will be probably the first peer-reviewed paper of its kind, and I will keep you all up to date when it's published.)

  •  Now I'm curious about us (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, Neon Vincent

    true INTJ that I am, I dream of another study...

    "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a great battle." -Plato

    by emidesu on Fri May 16, 2008 at 01:15:04 AM PDT

  •  Tangentially related. Huckabee was typed... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, Ice Blue the experts at (essentially the Keirsey Institute) and found to be an ESFJ.  Given the results of the study you cited, that should come as absolutely no surprise.

    "Iraq: the bravest 1% fighting for the richest 1%." ~ An Unknown Kossack.

    by Neon Vincent on Fri May 16, 2008 at 04:44:20 AM PDT

  •  Hey, I'm a multi-generational walkaway! (9+ / 0-)

    I didn't even know that!

    I read posts like this with great relief.  People not raised in this have no idea what kind of damage it can do, especially if you are lucky enough to be born with an active, curious, independent mind.  It's such a weird, horrible world.  I can't even talk about it in posts because it's all personal.  I get so angry when I think about how much of my adult life was caught up in trying to learn how to think, how to train my mind so that I didn't automatically label certain thoughts from the devil and others from god.  Can you imagine being raised in a belief system where you are taught to believe that the devil can sort of broadcast thoughts into your own head?  It's brutal.  I had hell described to me in graphic detail when I was five years old.  Worms crawling in, flesh regenerating so that the worms could keep on eating.  And this was represented to me as absolute truth.

    Anyway, don't mean to sound whiny.  And I have no desire to be labeled as a "survivor" of religious abuse.  It seems limiting.  But on the other hand, it's important for people to know what a damaging, vicious system this is, and it's not just nice people going to church on Sunday.

  •  Definitely food for thought (3+ / 0-)

    My parents were members of the Assemblies until I was a toddler, until they left to become conservative members of a mainline denomination. So I read a lot of your diaries and hear about what goes on in these types of churches and my thought process is very much, "There but for the grace of God go I..."
    This diary itself struck me particularly, as I am absolutely certain that my mother is ESFJ and my father (like me) is INTP. I asked my parents once why they left and they cited a few specific examples of bad stuff that they saw and did not want to be associated with. They also mentioned that my mother was told  (she was the one who was more involved) that my father was having trouble "fitting" in with the church and that she, as his wife, should help him to "find himself." Sounds okay, until the point was that he apparently thought for himself too much and was not as exuberant (i.e. extroverted) as he should be.
    This diary is chilling - I wonder what my father's personality would be now if they had stayed. Hell, I wonder what my personality would be! Surely a stubborn, inquisitive (and female!) INTP is anathema to neopentene churches. Very probably I would not be where I am now (pursuing a graduate degree in biology! the horror!) or who I am now (liberal and queer) if they had stayed.
    Truly, this diary scared me more than any of your others. Please, keep up the good work. I've read all your diaries and find them all very intellectually stimulating.

  •  Great to see a MBTI-themed diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, ibonewits, Neon Vincent

    As an INTP, I was always suspicious of
    organized religions.

    Their intolerance, their hostility to
    honest intellectual enquiry, their simple-minded
    (almost feeble-minded) explanations for the
    nature of reality, their obsessive quest
    for social control instead of spiritual
    enlightenment ...

    Thank God for the separation of Church and State

  •  I'm just a little uncomfortable (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Mama, dogemperor, Sister Coyote

    that there seems to be a very negative attitude towards ESFJ here. I left  the Assemblies and Nazarene traditions fifteen years ago, but I've felt that I've only become who I really am in the past 5. And yes, I test out as ESFJ/ Basically, I'm Molly Weasley- fiercely protective of friends and family, unwavering in my moral absolutes, the life of the party (and organizer!) and a social force. These are not necessarily bad traits. So where do we put those who are ESFJ outside or a coercive religious frame?

    "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Albus Dumbledore ~~~~~~~~~

    by Lainie on Fri May 16, 2008 at 08:26:47 AM PDT

    •  Hogwarts? (3+ / 0-)

      Teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts?

      Seriously, ESFJ types can be valuable as activists for all sorts of worthy causes. The major problems come along when they become a majority of a population, because that's when those "moral absolutes" become tools of tyranny.

      First, oversight; second, investigations; third, impeachments; fourth, war crimes trials!

      by ibonewits on Fri May 16, 2008 at 08:39:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's not only that the groups have so many, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dogemperor, Sister Coyote

      but that those of other personality types are shifting to ESFJ.

      I think there's supposed to be a sort of overall balance between the different types. Not a precise numerical balance, but a covering for the weaknesses and natural overreactions sort of balance.

      It looks like there are some personality types that just plain don't fit in these groups, and rather than ask why the people of these types are leaving, getting thrown out, or having extreme personality shifts to become someone who can fit in.

      To go with your Harry Potter analogy, Molly Weasley may be a wonderful mother and strong defender of her world, but that doesn't mean Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom should have to act like that or be judged somehow deficient for not being quite like her.

      •  Exactly. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lefty Mama, Cassandra Waites

        Generally, in the main (non-coercive-group) population, no one personality type in the MBTI has more than about thirteen percent or so representation--which, of note, is pretty much the max of what we'd expect as a whole (seeing as one-sixteenth of the population--MBTI has sixteen possible personality types--is around 6 1/4%, and some extremes like INTP and ENTJ are quite unusual in the population at large).

        In this study, three separate personality types amounted for nearly ninety percent total, with the most common personality type being over 53% of the total--and tests expected this to skew even further.  This is not only VERY far from the statistical norms, but is so significant as to be proof something is causing apparent self-reported personality changes in members.

    •  Negative imagery wasn't entirely meant. (0+ / 0-)

      The reason I did point out both positive and negative traits re ESFJ is because--as personality test writers have noted--there's a real risk that an ESFJ who gets into a bad group may well be not only taken advantage of but may end up doing horrible things completely convinced they are in the right--and, by basis of personality, it is (sadly) easier to manipulate ESFJs into such things.

      The world does need all (personality) types, and ESFJs do have many a wonderful thing they can contribute to society at large (as long as they aren't caught up in harmful groups).  My emphasis was more on writing about how specific personality types--and identified personality traits according to persons certified to conduct the MBTI personality test--could be potentially useful in a cultic setting and how coercive groups would tend to use such groups.

      My apologies if I wasn't all that clear on that. (This, of course, coming from a resident INTJ/INTP here :D)

    •  Nothing wrong with ESFJ (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There's nothing wrong with ESFJ's, or any other personality type.  We're talking about complex personalities being reduced to a simple scoring metric.  It's descriptive, not prescriptive.

      The problem is that the simple scoring metric shows how people inside these organizations have their personalities changed, in a way that is intended to serve the organization, not the people.

  •  Want a large pool of multi-gen walkers? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, Neon Vincent

    Try reaching out to the Neopagan movement. 80% of our people are what the UUs call "comer-outers," having been raised in another faith. But I would guess that around an eighth of those were raised in coercive groups and escaped.

    With over a million Neopagans in the USA, that's probably around 100,000+ survivors who walked away from a coercive religious group.

    Of course, there's a broad and fuzzy line between overt coercion, as seen in these groups, and covert coercion, as seen in most "mainstream" monotheistic faiths (including Scientism).

    First, oversight; second, investigations; third, impeachments; fourth, war crimes trials!

    by ibonewits on Fri May 16, 2008 at 08:35:00 AM PDT

    •  One of the Sunday School teachers at the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Mama, dogemperor, ibonewits

      Disciples of Christ church I'm in the process of migrating to told me that a bunch of the people in that congregation are walkaways. I'm not sure how much of that is first-gen or multi-gen, though.

      It would be interesting to have statistics on not just which churches are suffering from youth-leak, but information on where those kids are leaking to, with the denominations identified on both ends.

      It might be interesting to see where the ones who stayed within Christian groups went, and if there's a pattern of leaving to places that followed what the first church claimed to on the surface. It would also be interesting to see if there are some groups that mainly produce walkaways who leave Christianity at a higher rate.

      And on top of all that, I'm now wondering if the groups that do oil-annointing, cursing in the name of Jesus, and so forth tend to have more walkaways that go to religions that include the concept of magic than do groups that do not include those practices.

      •  Those are all great research ideas (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dogemperor, Cassandra Waites

        Too bad I don't have a research budget. :)

        Informally, we Neopagans have always noted a large proportion of our members coming from Catholicism and various fundamentalist Christian groups, all of whom use magic while denouncing the word.

        First, oversight; second, investigations; third, impeachments; fourth, war crimes trials!

        by ibonewits on Fri May 16, 2008 at 11:15:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  interesting points! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dogemperor, Cassandra Waites

        (by the way, I'm a Disciple as well!)
        The problem with mainlines is they got so comfortable with serving up exactly what feels comfortable for a particular generation (ending with WWII). They don't do much to "make it fun" for younger people. They don't say, "Let's redesign the whole concept of church so it is accessible to skateboarders." If they did, then the Assemblies would not have such a stronghold.

        Part of this is being lay-led. It is BECAUSE we have a lot of different personalities and we seek to listen to all of them. At least, this describes my church.

        If you are a young person and you want to explore spirituality, how do you do it "on your own"? It's fine to leave organized religion once you know the basic principles, but so many "spiritual but not organized religion" parents don't give their kids enough background to be spiritual in the first place! That means kids are vulnerable to hard-liners that love-bomb them. AND they don't have progressive alternatives - other than directly going into the food bank as a volunteer. But most people need to be aclimatized to the notion of working for free on noble causes.

        In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

        by Lefty Mama on Fri May 16, 2008 at 11:33:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm leaving SBC for Disciples. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lefty Mama, dogemperor

          My big thing is Priesthood of the Believer. I'm ticked that the SBC has excised that doctrine to the point they have, and I'm amazed at how the local Disciples church seems to cling to it.

          One thing I noticed for me: my church had such a push for 'quiet time with God' and yet no one seemed to really get into scripture for any real understanding unless it was specifically being read for a Bible study, Sunday School, or for the worship service. Meanwhile, I the bookworm was somehow deficient for not having a set one and never being able to claim reading the Bible from cover to cover (I topic drift and open to random places, so I've probably read the vast majority but don't have a Read Through The Bible checklist to prove it and don't try to fake that either) even though I tried to really look at everything I read in scripture from as many angles as I could think of and even though I tend to let non-religious reading time slip into religious thoughts.

          But I didn't have an established 15-minutes of 'quiet time with God' and I'm rather horrid at memorizing verses word-for-word with chapter and verse location (even if I can still find it in two minutes flat given a good concordance), so I was somehow deficient.

          Reading through the Bible in a year doesn't give it half as much time as it needs to be really understood, and yet that seems to be the standard in some places for proving that you understand scripture. And there was always a stress at starting the day that way rather than taking time at midday or at night; how many people really remember anything that happens in the first hour of their day well enough for spiritual introspection to occur?

          •  that's nuts - early morning Bible reading? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dogemperor, ibonewits

            Sounds like good riddance to me... It seems so strange to have any concern for the time of day you read the Bible, or whether you read all the nooks and crannies.

            Who needs competitive holiness?

            In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

            by Lefty Mama on Fri May 16, 2008 at 04:34:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  about those personality tests.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I end up being about 50% in everything - probably because I'm overanalyzing the test questions or something... for instance, something like:

    "Do you feel better
    a) having purchased or
    b) having the option to buy"

    well.... what are we buying? A cup of coffee? prefer to have bought it! a house? yes! I prefer to be all moved in!
    But how about clothes? Well since I don't really NEED clothes right now, I'm better off not spending that money and saving it instead.
    Or revisiting the house-purchase: it's a lot of fun to look at houses and I definitely miss going to open houses and obsessively querying the MLS listings.

    So, I do not know how to answer this question. "feel"? what if it was phrased as "do you think it's better..." But really I want to know if this is a major purchase or a minor act of consumerism.

    I want to shake the survey-designer and say, "STOP BEING SO VAGUE, DAMMIT!!!"

    Another thing, if the question had "compassion" as a choice, I felt I had to "vote" for it, because... well, just because there's not enough compassion in the world.

    It seems like the "mechanical skin" effect would change the public persona but not the private one. Which is a huge problem for me (part of my religious principles are to be honest with myself and not hide who I am - actually harder than it seems). It seems like one could expect it with politicians, for example... but it's downright evil (in my worldview) to use religion as a cover for personality manipulation.

    what do you know about the effect of groups like AA on personality? That's a group of people who are trying to change - and most of us WANT them to change!! There's the drunk personality and the sober personality - how are they different? (is the "do you stay late at parties" personality question going to differentiate between coffee klatches and coctail parties?)

    There's always lots to think about.

    In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

    by Lefty Mama on Fri May 16, 2008 at 11:12:53 AM PDT

    •  Re AA, etc. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Mama, Cassandra Waites

      In regards to Alcoholics Anonymous (which is a group I'm a bit leery of, in part because of its known connections to early cell-group and proto-dominionist orgs--though it has reformed somewhat) there is some evidence of personality changes, though not to the extreme that are seen in cell-church groups (and this is probably due to different levels of coercion).  That said, there has been enough noted as far as worrisome tactics within AA that I generally recommend people use other forms of addiction recovery support.

      One thing that has not been studied yet AFAIK, but is probably worth studying very much, is whether other recovery groups (like cognitive-therapy based addiction recovery meant as secular alternatives to AA) do show the same things as AA or not.  (I'd be inclined to say "no", but again, this is an area needing study.)  Generally most non-"faith-based" recovery groups have been found to be non-coercive, and some groups (notably Teen Challenge, Narconon/Synanon, etc.) associated with known coercive religious groups are known to be abusive, but the rest is rather a grey area that needs more in-depth study.

      One good example I've seen on how even most recovery orgs (and even orgs such as the US Marine Corps) differ from coercive groups is Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer's comparison of tactics in USMC boot camps and coercive groups.  Similar arguments could be made for many recovery groups.

      As far as whether personality changes as detected in this study are signs of genuine change or of (as Taibbi puts it) a "mechanical (dominionist) skin"...there's a lot of stuff that influences this that is very much the subject of study right now.  In the case of persons joining coercive religious groups as adults, the "cult skin effect" could have much to do with it, but this could change over time (and even then, is not a good thing; essentially having to hide one's true self underneath a "cult personality" can cause a form of DID).

      For people raised in coercive groups...things get much, much trickier.  One of the issues that is coming up in exit counseling of multigenerational walkaways is that most exit counseling is designed for folks who join as adults and much of the therapy is to disentangle the "metallic skin" from the "real you"; in the case of multigen walkaways, people are actively socialised to a specific personality type, so that there is no real "pre-cult personality" to go by--so there is not only initial self-discovery but massive amounts of unlearning and essentially "from-the-cradle" resocialisation.  Even with this pressure, some folks do manage to hold on to enough of themselves to walk out without exit counseling, and this subset is now the subject of ongoing research (including a new study by Dr. Janja Lalich of multigen walkaways who escaped coercive groups as teens).

  •  Interesting study. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Mama, dogemperor

    MBTI isn't the world's best personality test but it is common and this kind of malliability is stunning

    There does have to be real questions about where there is a genuine change in personality, or merely a change in how one thinks one ought to respond when asked.  Similarly, when people are asked questions about issues upon which there is a canonical religious answer in a survey, people will often answer accordingly, even when they would answer differently or act in a manner that shows different assumptions, when push comes to shove.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

    by ohwilleke on Fri May 16, 2008 at 03:38:19 PM PDT

  •  INFJ (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Happily for me, we INFJs are such utter freakazoids that no cult could ever change us.  :-P

    Brutally honest description of INFJ

    •  Seen that one before :D (0+ / 0-)

      Whilst I didn't pull it (as it is, I was getting a little negative attention for pointing out negative personality traits listed in the official MBTI stuff!), that particular personality test does have a brutally honest description of the negative personality traits of different MBTI types.  (This is, of note, probably the most politically incorrect version of the MBTI test I've seen yet. :D)

      ESFJs are referred to as Saps  (essentially overly emotional), ESTJs as Do-Gooders  (aka YOU WILL FOLLOW THE RULES) and ENFJs as Busy-Bodies (aka Backseat Drivers and Manipulators).

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