By | May 28, 2018 12 Comments

Cognitive dissonance: Vicky Cilliers can’t accept that her husband tried to kill her by tampering with her parachute

Victoria and Emile Cilliers.

Emile Cilliers, a British army sergeant, was convicted last week of attempting to kill his wife, Vicky.

The two were avid skydivers, and in April 2015, he tampered with her parachute before a jump. She fell 4,000 feet, but miraculously survived.

Earlier in the week, Emile Cilliers damaged gas fittings in their home. If the gas had exploded, it would have killed Vicky and their two children.

But even though the court found him guilty, Vicky Cilliers can’t believe her husband was capable of murder. Read this story:

‘I still can’t believe he tried to murder me’: Tearful wife of Lothario army sergeant refuses to accept his conviction for cutting her parachute, says she has NO plans to divorce him and reveals she’s told their kids ‘he’s at work’, on

Emile Cilliers is clearly a sociopath. Here’s the evidence:

  • He tried to murder his wife, Vicky, twice in one week.
  • He wanted to be with his mistress and get out of debt — killing Vicky and collecting her life insurance money would enable him to do both.
  • He lied. A lot.
  • He had two children with his teenage sweetheart, and then abandoned them all.
  • He married his first wife without breaking up with his sweetheart.
  • He married his second wife — Vicky — but continued to sleep with his first wife.
  • He engaged in one-night stands and sex clubs.
  • He was an adrenaline junkie.
  • He proclaimed his innocence — despite substantial evidence of his guilt.

Vicky Cilliers admits that her husband lied, ran through money and cheated on her. So why doesn’t she believe he could kill her?

This looks like a massive case of cognitive dissonance, combined with addiction to the sociopath and trauma bonding.

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance theory says that human beings have a psychological desire for harmony between our beliefs and our actions. If our beliefs and actions are not in harmony, we experience dissonance, or conflict.

How does dissonance happen? If we believe something, and then hear new information that casts doubt on our beliefs, we experience dissonance. Or if we believe something, and then act in a way that is contrary to our beliefs, we experience dissonance.

When we experience dissonance, we resolve it in one of three ways:

  1. We change our belief or behavior.
  2. We acquire new information that outweighs the dissonant belief.
  3. We reduce the importance of the beliefs.

Here’s a good explanation of cognitive dissonance on SimplyPsychology.

Vicky’s psychological bonding

Here’s how Vicky described her marriage, according to the Daily Mail article:

Indeed, pictures taken on formal Army nights show Cilliers to be a dapper military man whose uniform fails to hide the gym-honed physique beneath. At his wedding on the South African cape, Cilliers, on his knees as he makes his vows to Vicky, is depicted as a true romantic. He adored adrenaline sports such as skiing and skydiving, was good around the house and a devoted, hands-on father. He was also kind and endlessly affectionate. He would put Vicky’s favourite wine in the fridge, cuddle her and frequently tell her: ‘I love you.’

They met when he came to her for physio after a skiing accident. By the time of their wedding, she was already five weeks pregnant. Their first three years together, building a home, their family and careers were happy, their marital harmony marred only by Cilliers’s free-spending ways. Vicky is very clear that the image of a toxic, troubled relationship which emerged from court was wrong. Their own sex life continued until the eve of the jump in which she should have died.

‘After I fell pregnant with our son, Emile went on a ski trip and came back a different person – my husband had simply disappeared,’ she says. She recognised he was having an affair but felt too vulnerable in pregnancy to fight it so she set a deadline of September 2015 for it to be over and her husband’s financial problems to be resolved.

This is a perfect example of how I always explain that people become addicted to sociopaths:

  1. Pleasure in the beginning of the relationship starts the psychological bond.

Vicky was love-bombed by a dashing and romantic army sergeant. She quickly became pregnant.

  1. Sociopath introduces fear and anxiety. This makes the psychological bond stronger.

Emile Cilliers was blowing through their money. Then Vicky becomes pregnant again and learns that her husband is having an affair.

  1. Target turns to the sociopath for relief from the fear and anxiety, which tightens the psychological bond again.

Vicky says she wanted the affair and the money problems solved by a certain date. The article isn’t clear, but I’m willing to bet that her husband agreed to this, and Vicky’s anxiety was reduced. They had sex. They had sex the night before Emile Cilliers cut the cords of her parachute, hoping Vicky would plunge to her death.

Vicky’s trauma

Vicky was a very experienced jumper — she was a veteran of more than 2,600 jumps. On the day of the fateful jump, her instincts were screaming at her not to go. “I felt a catatonic fear as the aircraft doors were closing, like nothing I’d ever known before,” she says.

Despite the overwhelming fear, Vicky jumped out of the plane. Her main parachute didn’t open. Then her reserve parachute didn’t open. Can you imagine her terror as she plunged to earth?

Upon regaining consciousness, she had to deal with recovering from her massive injuries, the prosecution of her husband, and being a mother to two young children who were asking for their daddy.

Psychological overload

Vicky was trauma-bonded before the accident. I think that, given everything she’s been through, she’s in psychological overload. She can’t take in one more shock — the shock that her husband was evil, and everything he told her was a lie.

She believed her husband loved her. I’m sure she also believes that a man who loves her would not attempt to kill her. Since Emile Cilliers was found guilty of attempted murder, Vicky is experiencing cognitive dissonance. Something has to give. Her solution is to not believe her husband is capable of killing her.

For Vicky, the denial may actually be a protective measure. Perhaps if she also accepted that her husband is a sociopath who tried to kill her, she would just fall apart.

My guess is that in time, Vicky will be able to absorb the truth. But she’s not ready to do it yet.


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This poor woman needs intense therapy to begin to accept and recover. Oh, how I remember thinking each time my ex did something outrageous and hurtful, but we just had sex last night – everything is fine…or, we had sex after he did that hurtful thing – everything is fine. He had CONDITIONED me to think that if we had sex, everything was fine. Now I know that having sex with you before/after they do something horrible (up to and including trying to kill you) makes the power and control more thrilling to them, while you are clueless and just trying to normalize things. Monsters. I am just about 7 years out from the final discard and even after several years of therapy and getting my life back together, I still have thought patterns that I realize he carefully trained and conditioned in to my brain and I have to consciously fight them. I can go months without any and then all of a sudden get mired in them. It can’t be said enough that therapy will save your life and sanity.


I became aware of the psychopath from information on lovefraud and an interview of sandra brown.


when she does accept will be crushing to her mind and spirit. and, she WILL need professional therapy, for a LONG time. It took me YEARS to realize just how much my mind and spirit had been messed with; I probably kept my life only by God’s grace.


This sounds like my daughter. Although her husband hasn’t tried to kill her yet, he shoved her and broke her nose. All the lying and affairs, a son with a mistress, threats, all the signs of a sociopath, and she leaves and then comes back when he makes promises that he never intends to keep. How can I get through to her that he’s dangerous? Several times I thought I had convinced her, but he creeps back in with his crying and lies and promises to give her the world. He justifies everything he does with more lies and more promises and gains her sympathy. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been told that the victim has to see for herself what is going on before they accept any help. I’m afraid for her and her children. She also wants me to forgive him for everything he’s done, but I never will. She desperately needs help, but she doesn’t know it. How can I help her?


Hi Reeenie47, I just moved an article up to the top on Steven Hassan by Donna Anderson (LF site creator). for you to read under “Recent Blog Comments”. This article will help you to open your daughters mind up from her abusers brain washing & Mind control. His book is a must purchase for you & your family to help your daughter out of this extremely abusive relationship. Keep posting here & asking questions!!

Do a search on LF for the following:

Sociopath no contact rule
Sociopath triangulation
Sociopath smear campaign

If they have children have her look up the term “Low contact rule”.

Sending you HUGE hugs!! 💜 Your doing an amazing thing for you daughter by searching for answers & having the courage to post on LF.


Hi Reenie47, google: Steven Hassan Bite Model (this article comes up). This is what your daughters husband is doing to her to control her brain and more importantly control her from leaving him. But you can help her out with the right tools. See Steven Hassan’s book.

Auricle written by Steven Hassan

“Originally published in his 1988 international best-seller, Combating Cult Mind Control, the BITE model has alerted hundreds of thousands of people to the systematic use of undue influence in totalist cult groups. The BITE model has also been adopted by many scholars – ed.

On May 11th 1976, as a result of five days of deprogramming, I allowed the first truly critical thought about Sun Myung Moon to enter my consciousness; after some 27 months of fanatical devotion to his Unification Movement, I realized that he was a liar and not to be trusted.

While I was a junior at Queens College, recruiters had approached me, pretending to be fellow students, and flirted with me, making me think they were interested in possibly dating me. I had no idea that I was about to be exposed to the Moon cult: an incremental, systematic social influence system. However, I did experience a radical personality change and came to believe the “Messiah” was on Earth, Armageddon was imminent, World War Three was months away and I was being summoned by God to help save the planet and create a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Aside from being away from the cult, sleeping well, spending time with “evil” ex-members (who were actually nice people), about the most helpful thing was seeing Robert Jay Lifton’s book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China (Norton, 1961), and going through his famous Chapter 22 and his Eight criteria of how to evaluate whether a group was using brainwashing or “thought reform”- his preferred term. The model fit my experience of the entire system of the Moon cult, including the 3, 7, 21, 40, 120 day training workshops and the dynamics of membership.

I had the great good fortune to meet Dr. Lifton, who inspired me and encouraged me to study psychology, telling me that he had only studied the phenomenon second hand, while I had lived it: it was done to me and I did it to others, and that what I had described to him was a virulent mutation of what he had studied, far more sophisticated and dangerous. I went back to college and graduate school, read a slew of books and papers on social psychology, hypnosis, persuasion, and attitude-change. I met with many respected experts, and studied the works of many more: Philip Zimbardo, Edgar Schein, Joost Meerloo, William Sargent, Louis Jolyon West, and Margaret Singer (whose 6 condition model was later published in Cults in Our Midst), and dozens of other insightful people in this fledgling field.

The work of Leon Festinger and his Cognitive Dissonance Model (detailed in his book When Prophecy Fails) made so much sense to me and dovetailed with a model I had been taught as a Moonie recruiter. Festinger talked about Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors, and how there is a natural tendency for these to shift in reaction to changes in any one of them to reduce the internal conflict, or dissonance. In the Moon cult, I was taught to identify people as Thinkers, Feelers, Doers, or Believers, and alter the way I approached someone to fit their particular orientation. Thinking, Feeling and Behaving seemed to me to be key. But I realized that there was one more major aspect: information. This is the actual fuel that people use to respond, to digest, and to maintain their “reality”- including the “cult pseudo-identity” which is created as a result of the processes of undue influence.

I first laid out this model of “mind control” in the original edition of Combating Cult Mind Control in 1988. Years later, I changed the sequence to the “BITE model” at the suggestion of my friend Buddy Martin – who told me to consider rearranging the order of the four components into an acronym so they would be more easily remembered.

The four components: Behavior Control, Information Control, Thought Control, and Emotional Control, and all of their specific sub-variables, name specific techniques and methods of influence, which can be used to analyze the healthiness or destructiveness of any relationship or group. Domestic violence victims, cult members – including terrorist cult members – and even victims of human trafficking are all controlled through these four overlapping criteria. The model has proven effective in determining whether or not a person has fallen prey to undue influence. People report BITE is simpler and easier to understand and use than previous models of Undue Influence.

I. Behavior Control

1. Regulate individual’s physical reality

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

3. When, how and with whom the member has sex

4. Control types of clothing and hairstyles

5. Regulate diet – food and drink, hunger and/or fasting

6. Manipulation and deprivation of sleep

7. Financial exploitation, manipulation or dependence

8. Restrict leisure, entertainment, vacation time

9. Major time spent with group indoctrination and rituals and/or self indoctrination including the Internet

10. Permission required for major decisions

11. Thoughts, feelings, and activities (of self and others) reported to superiors

12. Rewards and punishments used to modify

behaviors, both positive and negative

13. Discourage individualism, encourage group-think

14. Impose rigid rules and regulations

15. Punish disobedience by beating, torture, burning,cutting, rape, or tattooing/branding

16. Threaten harm to family and friends

17. Force individual to rape or be raped

18. Instill dependency and obedience

II. Information Control

a. Deliberately withhold information
b. Distort information to make it more acceptable
c. Systematically lie to the cult member
Minimize or discourage access to non-cult sources of information, including:
a. Internet, TV, radio, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, other 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
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
Encourage spying on other members
a. Impose a buddy system to monitor and control member
b. Report deviant thoughts, feelings and actions to leadership
c. Ensure that individual behavior is monitored by group
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. Withholding forgiveness or absolution

c. Manipulation of memory, possible false memories.

III. Thought Control

1.Require members to internalize the group’s doctrine as truth
a. Adopting the group’s ‘map of reality’ as reality

b. Instill black and white thinking

c. Decide between good vs. evil

d. Organize people into us vs. them (insiders vs. outsiders)

2.Change person’s name and identity

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

4.Encourage only ‘good and proper’ thoughts

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

6.Memories are manipulated and false memories are created

7.Teaching thought-stopping techniques which shut down reality testing by stopping negative thoughts and allowing only positive thoughts, including:

a.Denial, rationalization, justification, wishful thinking




e.Speaking in tongues

f.Singing or humming

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

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

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

IV. Emotional Control

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

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

h.Historical guilt

5.Instill fear, such as fear of:

a.Thinking independently

b.The outside world


d.Losing one’s salvation

e.Leaving or being shunned by the group

f.Other’s disapproval

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

b.Terrible consequences if you leave: hell, demon possession, incurable diseases, accidents, suicide, insanity, 10,000 reincarnations, etc.

c.Shunning of those who leave; fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family

d.Never a legitimate reason to leave; those who leave are weak, undisciplined, unspiritual, worldly, brainwashed by family or counselor, or seduced by money, sex, or rock and roll

e.Threats of harm to ex-member and family

In the new, updated edition of Combating Cult Mind Control I have a graphic of the Influence Continuum that helps bring together the BITE model variables.

The BITE Model of Influence

Using his considerable legal expertise and an understanding of cult tactics, emeritus Santa Clara law school professor Alan W. Scheflin has formulated what he calls “The Social Influence Model (SIM).” This model, which is for use in courts, provides an effective way of measuring the different factors that contribute to undue influence by addressing six specific categories:

The Social Influence Model

INFLUENCER (Identity and Status)



CIRCUMSTANCES (Timing and Setting)



Any judge can use this straightforward model to determine if a person is being unduly influenced and whether or not they need intervention, or should be held fully accountable for criminal acts. It is the hope of many in the psychological community that this model will gain recognition and be relied upon to help victims and their families during everything from custody battles to criminal and civil legal trials. If a person can be proven to be unduly influenced, they may be able to receive the care they need to regain full control of their minds and become contributing members of society.

The BITE model is a practical tool for assessing situations where undue influence may be occurring. It can be applied by anyone to any group they may have questions about. It is a way to promote critical thinking and the application of real criteria to relationships, whether with individuals or groups. It is a way of becoming an informed consumer, better able to evaluate a new group or enterprise.

It is my hope that the study of social psychology continues to evolve and that models like these make a real difference in the way we approach undue influence. Applying what we know now and moving forward we can make a lasting changes to the future of the human race. Those of us studying undue influence are dedicated to learning more and reporting our findings to anyone who may be able to use them. Perhaps one day, its warning signs will become commonplace and help for its victims will be more easily accessible.”


this is exactly what the cults do, to brainwash you into joining and staying in them. Psychopaths do the same things.


Reenie47, if the chance to discuss any of this with your daughter comes up, you could point out that actions, not words are what to watch and believe. I too bought all the promises for change, but they never fully came. Turned out later he wasn’t really trying. Also if a relationship is confusing and harmful, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is. It is time to get out and find a better one.


A lot of great points here. It really boils down to LISTENING TO YOUR GUT, NEVER IGNORING YOUR GUT, and having boundaries, such as not tolerating infidelity EVEN ONCE. When you find yourself saying, “I can’t believe they . . . ” you need to get out NOW, and figure it out later! Please don’t wait until they hit bottom . . . because there is no bottom to hit!!


to add some more of my opinion on this: in the beginning, when you’re being ‘lovebombed’ have little or NO idea what’s in store for you. If someone had fast-forwarded the next 30 years; I wouldn’t have believed it.


So true! After I was divorced my sister told me she always knew my ex was a sociopath. I asked her why she never told me and she replied, “Because you never would have believed me.” And she was right. He was perfect in my eyes.

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