The ‘icebox effect’ is an idea adapted from the social psychologist Kurt Lewin‘s notion that psychosocial change involves an ‘unfreezing’ of set patterns and outdated worldviews.
The idea of the ‘icebox effect’ is used by cult deprogrammers to describe how cultic brainwashing arrests the resolution of normal developmental conflicts.
When a person joins a cult, it’s as if their personal conflicts become ‘frozen’ in the unconscious. The daily and aggressive ideological programming of an authoritarian cult leader and the cultic community make it next to impossible for cult members to deal with psychological issues.
As Father Kent Burtner suggests online at the Cult Information and Awareness Center, this dynamic could apply not only to cults but to any kind of group where daily measures – aggressive, subtle or covert – ensure that the personality conforms to a corporate or organizational whole while depriving “individuals of their ability to make a free choice.”
…whether they’re into a ‘socially acceptable’ form of spirituality of not – if they start using methods that deprive individuals of their ability to make a free choice, they’re acting in a tremendously destructive way towards the person,” he says. “And that, to me, is an objective evil.” (Source » http://www.culthelp.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1199&Itemid=5).
Critics of Catholicism point out that the Catholic Church conducted an internal study which suggested that many priests are psychologically arrested at a juvenile stage of development. If we momentarily accept this conclusion, we still cannot be sure if the current structure and practices of the Church attract, reinforce, or create emotionally underdeveloped individuals.
Priests allegedly fixated at a juvenile stage of development apparently have not lost their free will (Catholic teaching asserts that we can never entirely loose our freedom to choose). However, the critics say, the ability to make mature, adult judgments may in some instances be severely impaired.
Defenders of Catholicism point out that the internal study was inappropriate and misleading because it was based on the Freudian theories of Erik Erikson which do not account for the spirituality involved in, for instance, celibacy and solitude. Along these lines, Patrick Guinan, M.D. says
Freudian theory is incapable of acknowledging religious experience or integrating the concept of chastity or asceticism into its idea of healthy human development (Source » “Modern Psychology and Priest Sex Abuse” by Patrick Guinan, M.D. http://www.culturewars.com/2004/ModernPsych.html).
If this is true, the question remains: Why did the Church use a Freudian framework to assess its clergy in the first place? After all, Freud quite openly criticized religion and regarded the entire idea of God as an illusion.
- Is world harvest church a cult (wiki.answers.com)
- Small abuse cult uncovered in Tiberias (roshpinaproject.com)
- A Cult Leader (siamteva.wordpress.com)