Brainwashing

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

At the beginning of a meeting, the coordinator conducted a survey to find out which superpowers they would love to possess. They were invisibility, the ability to read and control minds, and superintelligence. Most of the participants chose the ability to read and control their minds. It indicates how powerful this skill is. Surprisingly, quite a number of people claim to have had their mind-controlled, a phenomenon is known as brainwashing. Journey with us as we uncover this mysterious process.

Brainwashed

Brainwashing is popularly known as mind control or thought reform. The Oxford Dictionary defines brainwashing as the process of pressurizing someone into adopting radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible means. Brainwashing can be derived from social influence. Social influence happens daily in schools, workplaces, and religious environments.

Social influence is when individuals change their behaviors to meet the standards in society. It may be an intentional or unintentional process that eventually changes an individual’s perspective, beliefs, or behavior. The main approaches under the social influence are as follows:

· Compliance- this approach is a forceful approach. It aims to induce a change in the behavior of a person and is not concerned with the individual’s personal attitudes or beliefs. It is the “Just do it” without questions asked.

· Persuasion- this approach seeks to induce a change not only in the individual’s behavior but his beliefs and attitudes as well. It provides a tangible reason-happiness, morally upright, success, joy for the said behavior.

· Education/Conversion- this approach suddenly changes a person’s view and beliefs after informing them about a new idea and insisting it is the right thing to do. The individual is then convinced that is the right thing to do and acts accordingly.

· Conditioning- this happens when something happens in a person’s life and the individual learns to adjust to such a situation. Humans are conditioned to think and feel in certain ways by parents, friends, teachers, and so on.

Brainwashing combines all of these approaches to change a person’s way of thinking and actions usually without the consent of the individual. It is a severe form of social influence.

In the 1950s, some American soldiers were taken by the Chinese. They were allegedly brainwashed such that when the Americans had the opportunity to be free and go home, 21 of them chose to stay. There have been other instances in the news, where individuals killed themselves because their leader or pastor asked them to. Some psychologists suggest that they were also brainwashed. Many individuals commit crimes and plead not guilty because their lawyers claim their masters had brainwashed them and they wouldn’t have acted the way they did if they had the minds of their own.

Is mind control really possible? Even if it is possible, how long does it last?

Lifton, a renowned psychologist grouped the process of brainwashing into three stages.

1. Breaking down self

· “You are not who you think you are”– it questions and attacks the identity of the individual. It creates confusion after constantly blasting them for their profession or identity. For instance, you are not a real doctor, you are not a good person for being a lawyer, you are not defending freedom by being a soldier, and you are causing harm for being on this side. After consistent bombarding of such words, the individual begins to doubt his or her identity. The individual questions everything he or she has done. It weakens their beliefs and everything they know about themselves.

To achieve this level of confusion and self-doubt, the individual must be in constant contact with the perpetrator and isolated from others.

. “You are guilty of believing and doing what you have been doing”-the individual is forced to feel guilty for being or doing what he has been doing. This is easier because the individual is already in doubt about his or her identity.

. “Do you agree that you are at bad”-while the individual is facing an overwhelming sense of guilt, the perpetrator makes him believe that he is at fault and evil for belonging to a certain group. The victim then denounces his beliefs and all relationships associated with such beliefs.

· Breaking point- at this point, the individual is completely at sea as to what to do. He or she wants some rescue.

It must be noted that this stage is harsh and isolates individuals from their friends and loved ones either through kidnapping, imprisonment, or other mild forms.

2. The possibility of salvation

· Display of kindness- the perpetrator after manipulating the situation shows some level of kindness to the victim. It could be affection or provision of physical needs such as food and water. Sometimes, he may ask you what you’ve missed at home so that he provides for you. The victim after experiencing the first stage now feels thankful and indebted to the perpetrator.

· Confession and dependence- the victim then opens up to his perpetrator about his guilt. The victim begins to see his perpetrator as his rescuer and savior who is helping him relieve the stress and guilt.

· Release of guilt- the victim is made to believe that he is not directly evil. It is the system that is taking advantage of him. The victim is given an out which he is eager to grab.

3.  Building of a new self

· Presentation of a new path- the perpetrator introduces a new path to the victim which is allegedly the right way that leads to progress. The victim chooses the perpetrator’s path and worships it.

· Rebirth- the victim makes a commitment to stick by this new path.

References

  1. GoodTherapy. Brainwashing. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/brainwashing
  2. How stuff works. How brainwashing works. Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/brainwashing.htm
Psychology

JESSICA MAWU-KOENYA BANSAH

A young lady who is excited to influence the society and world with the knowledge she has acquired.