Common Programs Observed in Survivors of Satanic Ritualistic Abuse
The following article is archived with permission of the authors. It
may be reproduced and distributed as long as it is not abridged.
David W. Neswald, M.A. M.F.C.C. in collaboration with Catherine
Gould, Ph.D. and Vicki Graham-Costain, Ph.D. The California Therapist,
Sept./Oct. 1991, 47-50 Introduction
Increasingly, cases of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and Satanic Ritualistic
Abuse (SRA) are being reported in the psychotherapeutic community. Though
controversy concerning authenticity remains, such cases are slowly gaining
in acceptability as a genuine social and psychopathological phenomenon.
Concurrently, the etiological underpinnings and treatment demands of these
special patients are being unraveled and understood as never before. As
a result, it is becoming increasingly clear that perhaps the most demanding
treatment aspects of such cases concern the problems posed by what is known
as “cult programming.”
So called cult “programs” are really no more than conditioned stimulus-response
sequences consistent with basic learning theory. Such conditioning is achieved
through a large variety of sophisticated and sadistic mind control strategies
involving the combined application of physical pain, double-bind coercion,
psychological terror, and split brain stimulation. All programs are stimulus-sensate
triggered. Thus, programs may be enacted (triggered) via auditory, visual,
tactile, olfactory and/or gustatory modalities. Classical, operant, and
observational/modeling paradigms all are utilized by the cults and their
“programmers.” Finally, it is important to note that virtually all cult
programs will possess a variety of secondary and tertiary back-ups — perhaps
several layers of each.
The following is a preliminary and evolving listing of the different types
of cult programming observed in my own brave patients, as well as in those
of my colleagues and consultees. All such patients are survivors of Satanic
Ritualistic Abuse with a diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder.
The purpose of this compilation is to educate the therapist treating MPD
and SRA about commonly observed programs in similar survivors. It is hoped
that the following will aid in the identification of cult mind control programming
in therapists’ patients, as well as to generically disseminate important
information hitherto known to but a relatively few SRA specialists. The
more we know about cult techniques and methodologies, the easier it becomes
to effectively treat these courageous patients.
1). Cutting Programs
As children, patients have been “taught” by the cult when and how to
cut. These programs tend to be triggered as a means of punishment, as
well as to reinforce earlier “compliance” or “shutdown” injunctions (e.g.,
“Don’t betray the coven.”)
I recommend that the therapist pay specific attention to the pattern,
location and implement of the cutting — each may serve as a signature
of the original program, involved alter (alternate personality), and/or
cult programmer. I further recommend photographing and or diagramming
the wounds from each of the cutting episodes for later comparisons.
The cutting implements themselves may be special “gifts” of the programmer
(used during the original programming session), which the patient may
keep secretly hidden for years and use only when the urge to cut is specifically
triggered. Finally, many cutting programs have been conditioned in such
a way as to “progress” to suicide programs as “needed.”
2). Burning Programs
As is the case with cutting programs, the location and modality of the
burn injuries are significant. The therapist may also wish to map the
burn wounds. Common modes of burning include: cigarettes, lighters, hot
metal implements (i.e., knives, rods, wands), and/or a variety of scalding
(or flammable) liquids and caustic chemicals.
3). Miscellaneous Self-Injury Programs
Types of specific self-injury programs are as numerous as there are ways
to injure oneself. Besides being conditioned to cut and burn, we have
also routinely seen programs designed to create within the survivor:
(1) “accident” proneness, (2) failure to eat, (3) ingestion of injurious
materials and poisons, (4) failure to sleep, (5) failure to take needed
medication, and (6) the intentional breaking of one’s own bones — particularly
hands, fingers, arms and legs.
1). Suicide Programs
SRA survivors are routinely conditioned to attempt to kill themselves
when they and/or the therapist, are deemed to be getting too close to
material damaging to the cult, or when the cult feels it has lost all
other forms of control over the patient.
Expect these to be present in virtually all SRA survivors. Recent clinical
experience has raised serious questions concerning the once widely held
“one true suicide program” concept. Indeed, while many patients do have
but one or two such programs, many more often exist. Additionally, there
may be more than one suicide program per alter, and more than one trigger
Identified suicide methodologies have included: shooting, hanging, cutting,
stabbing, poisoning, overdosing, auto “accidents,” leaping from buildings,
It has been my experience that the original cult suicide programming
sessions will often NOT involve the use of dissociation enhancing medication,
apparently so as to keep the memory as clear and distinct as possible.
2). Assassination Programs
When someone in the survivor’s environment is deemed by the cult to have
become too much of a liability, the patient may in some cases by triggered
to attempt to kill that person. Most likely such programming will be
set in against a supportive significant-other (e.g., husband, boyfriend),
or against the therapist.
As is the case in self-injury programs, the special means/implements
(e.g., guns, knives, poison, etc.) of the assassination program are often
“given” to the patient by the cult.
The primary intent of the cult may not be the actual death of the assassination
target, so much as the discrediting of the patient as a “murderer” or
Cult Control Programming
1). Reporting Programs
Patients are conditioned to routinely contact and report back to the
cult. These programs may be time-triggered (every month, full moon, etc.),
date-triggered (i.e., corresponding to cult “holidays”, etc.), or situationally
triggered (i.e., host personality enters therapy, reveals cult “secrets,”
etc.). Such programs keep the cult updated on the patient’s daily life,
as well as with the ongoing work in therapy. Further, specific intelligence
information may be gathered about the therapist and treatment facility,
and reported back to the cult.
Particularly prevalent with such conditioning are several layers of back-up
reporting programs. Of course, along with back-up programs will come
a large contingent of back-up reporting alters. Never assume you’ve found
all the reporting alters in the patient’s system. Always assume that
2). Access Programs
This refers to cult access into the survivors’ personality system. These
programs allow the cults to access the patient’s personality system through
specific (usually cult-created) alters. This access is achieved through
a large variety of triggers, including whistles, electronic tones, spoken
phrases, touch, etc. Once accessed, a myriad of other programs may be
triggered and/or reinforced by the cult.
3). Return Programs (Call Backs)
Such programs are designed to manipulate patients to return to the cult
for rituals and/or further programming or to “escape” from therapy. The
patient may be conditioned to respond to phone cues, to follow a specific
contact cult member upon sight, and/or to meet a cult “contact” at a
predetermined location (i.e., “safe house”).
4). Reminder-Reinforcement Programs
May be used as a “reminder” of the patient’s “vows” to the larger cult
or subordinate coven. These are programs often enacted via phone or touch
triggers (e.g., three series of three taps on shoulder or knee, a rapid
series of six electronic tones, spoken phrases, etc.). Program triggers
frequently include “gifts” from the cult given during childhood (e.g.,
stuffed animals, music boxes, etc.). Visually, certain colors may also
serve the same purpose. Cult-related colors (particularly red, purple
and black) are commonly presented to the survivor in the form(s) of a
cult-contact’s apparel, a letter or envelope, etc. These programs appear
to be primarily designed to re-install fear and cult compliance.
Not uncommonly, a survivor may be triggered to compulsively engage in
degrading or self-injurious activities so as to reinforce a variety of
other “in place” cult conditioned responses.
Therapy Interference Programming
1). Scrambling Programs
These are programs intended to confuse, disorganize and/or block the
patient’s alter system, emerging memories, thought processes, and/or
incoming information. Often, there are specific alters designated by
the cult programmer to perform this function (e.g., “The Scrambler”).
Reduced ability to “switch,” speak, write, draw, read, and/or remember
previous sessions/work are potential tip-offs to the enactment of a scrambling
Such programs may specifically target the therapist. For example, the
incoming words and/or visual images of the therapist may be scrambled
or garbled. The effect will often be that the survivor experiences the
therapist as looking and/or sounding threatening, abandoning, or incompetent.
2). Flooding Programs
Such programs are enacted by the cult in order to interfere with therapeutic
progress/process by overwhelming the patient. This is achieved by triggering
the patient to have a flood of painful and frightening cognitive and/or
somatic memories enter consciousness simultaneously, thereby significantly
increasing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomatology and suppressing
the functionality of the patient. A wide variety of triggers may be utilized.
3). Recycle Programs — (Ray & Reagor, 1991)
These are programs which act to quickly re-dissociate memories which
the therapist has worked to abreact and re-associate. The therapist may
return the next day to find he/she must redo the work from the previous
therapy session. Such programs must be neutralized before the re-dissociated
material may be effectively re-associated.
4). Cover Programs — (Ray & Reagor, 1991)
Similar to “screen memories;” these are programmed memories laid in by
the cult to distract from, or distort, the true ritual abuse memory.
A secondary purpose of these programs is to discredit the survivor’s
memories with “unbelievable” content. For example, a ritual involving
pain and “medical” paraphernalia might be “covered” with a memory of
UFO abduction and experimentation.
5). Verbal Response Programs
These are programs designed to provide “acceptable” answers to cult-related,
system-related or alter-related inquiries which may be posed by the therapist
or other non-cult supportive persons. Such responses will have been extensively
(and painfully) “rehearsed” by the patient and cult programmer.
6). Silence-Shutdown Programs
When enacted, such programs will cause the patient to “stop talking”
— to cease revealing information to the therapist or non-cult supportive
other. Though such programs may be triggered through a wide variety of
modalities, enactment via self-touch triggers are particularly common.
Some shutdown programs will be directed toward specific alters, while
others are meant for the system in general.
7). Nightmare-Night Terror Programs
Similar to flooding programs, patients are conditioned to become overwhelmed
with terrifying images/memories while asleep. Such programs are deeply
ingrained and appear to be primarily used for punishment. They serve
to keep the patient run-down and fatigued. Often, nightmare programs
are triggered or tripped automatically when processing “forbidden” material
8). Isolation Programs
Isolation programs may have intra-system or extra-system applications.
Within the system, alters may be walled-off (via amnesic barriers) from
cooperative alters by cult-loyal alters. Beyond the system, patients
may be conditioned to withdraw socially, isolating themselves from helpful
9). Pain Programs
As the name implies, patients may be conditioned to reexperience the
physical pain portion of their abuse memories. Generally used as punishment,
pain programs may also be enacted to “motivate” the survivor to carry
out other programmed injunctions. Such conditioning may be specifically/intentionally
triggered by cult, or automatically tripped when processing “forbidden”
material in therapy. Electroshock pain appears to be a favorite of the
cult-programmers for this particular conditioning paradigm.
10). Rapid Switching Programs
Once enacted, a patient may not be able to finish a sentence without
switching three to four times between alters. The problems this creates
for the patient’s optimal functionality are obvious. This type of conditioning
appears to have been programmed via the rapid presentation of preconditioned
alter-triggers during the original programming session. The entire original
programming experience is then paired with a neutral trigger.
11). Miscellaneous Therapy Interference Programs
Other types of programs observed in SRA survivors designed to interfere
with the therapeutic process include those which condition the patient
to: (1) not see, (2) not think for self, (3) stay distracted, and (4)
become resistant, mistrustful, and/or obnoxious toward the therapist.
I am not a health care professional. I am an abuse survivor. The resources on
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