AA is a Cult, part 53

Alcoholics Anonymous employs slogans, hundreds of them. These serve as group identifiers. AA members outside meetings can recognize each other by saying things like “one day at a time” and “keep it simple, stupid.” Many, many slogans insult members and question or deride their intelligence. “Your best thinking got you here”, ” your stinkin’ thinkin'”, and “you have a thinking problem, not a drinking problem” all teach newcomers to doubt their own thoughts. Thoughts like “Gee this sure seems like a cult!” 

These slogans are part of a mind control sysytem. Short phrases providing pat answers to discourage reflection are called “thought stoppers”. Politicians favor them; “Drill baby drill” is an example. Advertisers use such slogans, urging consumers to “Just do it” and buy a pair of Nike’s. Some cognitive behavioral therapists have even used thought stopping techniques with patients troubled by automatic negative thoughts, with mixed outcomes. 

Thought stopping is a tactic which serves a goal. In Alcoholics Anonymous, slogans discourage contemplation and insight, create fear of leaving AA, indoctrinate newcomers into the oldtimers belief system, pass on loaded language with secretive in-group meaning, and provide scripts for member interactions. Every AA meeting ends with the slogan, “Keep coming back. It works if you work it” as well as the dire prediction that “jails, institutions, or death” await any who leave the fold. 

Slogans in AA fall into several general categories: prohibited emotions, insults to members (negging), silencing, calls for obedience, demonizing life outside AA, loaded language, alcoholism as spiritual, and AA the program. There is no definitive list of official slogans so I pulled these from pro AA websites and member forums. These are all things AA members agreed with and identified as AA slogans, and I remember several from my own time in Al-Anon. 

Banning certain emotions or labeling them as sins is a common, highly effective way for cults to exploit members and keep them defensive and off balance. In AA fear, anger, and resentment are all sins: resentments must be confessed to your sponsor in fact. In Al-Anon I was told by my sponsor that holding my alcoholic husband to his word was a shortcoming in myself, that “Expectations are just planned resentments.” Having expectations wasn’t allowed, resentments doubly forbidden. More slogans in the next post. 

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