Is a strong metaphor used by the journalist Edward Hunter in 1951 to describe what happened to American Prisoners of War during Korean War. In the late 1950’s psychologist Robert Jay Lifton studied former prisoners of war camps , he identified various techniques of brainwashing or thought reform .It is an invasive form of social influence that requires complete isolation, and dependency of the subject on the agent , by this process the agent systematically breaks down the target’s identity to the point that it does not work any more.
This is commonly seen when someone suddenly converts or changes their religion. They may be victims of fundamentalists of the new religion and were systematically coerced in to believing the alternative. However it could be a crisis and adopting the new religion may be a way to gather social support or certain other benefits.
It is seen even among teenagers who acquire a new set of friends and suddenly change their thinking , dressing, beliefs, songs, likes , dislikes, habits etc all coinciding with this dominant friend or friends.
It is also seen in marriage when one of the spouses distances him self or her self from their relatives , friends, profession, hobbies, gets isolated from their entire social circle. It is like dropping out of their universe.
Usually the victim claims to be happy,defends this abuse to be the best thing that happened , and is very fearful of changing or reverting to the original set of beliefs or identity. Like hypnosis that can not be done on everyone, there ought to be a trait of hypnotizability in the host to be able to get hypnotized , brainwashing or thought indoctrination best exemplified by terrorist groups , requires some predisposing qualities in the host
1) Open minded person , who accepts closed mindedness in another , accepting it to be another way of thinking.
2) Agreeable person , who rather goes along with the other person’s likes or dislikes , valuing harmony more than their subjective opinions or comfort. And is less assertive in situations where the other person causes unpleasantness or even displays aggression.
3) A person who is disillusioned with their social unit , family , friends, colleagues, others who share their common interest due to repeatedly being sabotaged ,bullied, envied, exploited ,betrayed by them ,hence reach a point when they no longer value them,a person who has experienced relational trauma by their own kind become vulnerable to a coercive thought control by an authoritative person who exploits this vulnerability.
4) A person who feels he has failed in his subjective evaluation of self , due to some misconduct.
Example 1)- A woman is raped by an acquaintance ,blames herself for making a wrong friend, being out of the house at a late hour, being in a party, not having effectively resisted the assault etc. Her family and friends doubt her , she doubts her self , how could she let it happen?
She meets a man who tells her freedom was wrong, her judgement is wrong, she is not intentionally wrong , she just behaved wrongly!
She is accepted though she is damaged goods for being raped ! And she marries him.
Example 2) – A boy discovers that his father has an extra-marital affair , realizes that mother is still in the marriage, suddenly feels his friend is the only right person,starts doing drugs,believes in a different God,stops coming home,parents feel helpless.
These individuals are brainwashed in a social civilized world , but they were traumatized ( Relational trauma , is not understood , diagnosed and treated easily as the victim needs to develop trust in those who have already betrayed him /her) and did not receive the right help and received brainwashing instead by an abuser who could exploit the situation.
Such persons/victims do show a tendency towards guilt , absolutism , faith in higher power, all or none thinking.
Techniques adopted by their abusers are
1)Assault on identity ( You are not who you think you are )
2)Guilt ( You are bad for having done that thing or for being born to them )
3)Self -betrayal ( Agree with me you are bad )
4)Breaking point ( Who am I , Where am I , and What I am supposed to do )
5)Possibility of salvation , Leniency ( I can help you )
6)Compulsion to confession ( Tell me every mistake of yours / I will find out , No one has helped you till now, no one cares about you , except me )
7)Channeling Guilt ( This is why you are in pain , you did a blunder, you are wrong, since no one helped you or cares)
8) Releasing guilt ( It is not you, it is your behavior, beliefs, you can change them)
9) Rebuilding a new self ( You can choose good, just do as I say, final confession and rebirth)
This reminds me of the song , if an abuser tried to go out of the way to change someone, manipulated their entire psycho social environment to tell them lies, or misrepresent a reality .
( I will be your father figure put your tiny hand in mine,
I will be your teacher preacher anything you have in mind,
When you remember the ones who said that they cared and lied , Don’t ever bother for I will be there till the end! By George Michael)
Strong paternalism , is similar to brainwashing.
It is important to teach assertiveness, to disagree with others respectfully, to recognize that it is all right to make mistakes , no one is perfect, if you err once, you will not always err, you will learn from your mistakes, if one person did not help , another person will , you can alter your beliefs if they are hurting you,
And to promote a sense of social cohesion.
A sense of belonging.
” I love you , irrespective of how many mistakes you may have made, let us examine the mistake may be somebody else’s mistake , not yours. Let us collaborate and solve it, I am not invincible either , I accept you unconditionally ”
Perhaps this has to be told by friends and relatives more often.
And never allow a brainwasher to socially isolate the victim.
This can break his game plan.
Many times a powerful person brainwashes several individuals in your psycho social environment against you , then it is harassment. You have to cope actively. By targeting his allies as those who are his beneficiaries , hence are supporting him.
Understand his ulterior motives also , sometimes offense is the best form of defense adopted by some one guilty of a crime.