In order to stop mind control the first thing you have to consider is what stage the process is at.
Is the person at the stage where the new ideas are being introduced or have they already made some kind of commitment and changed some ideas and beliefs?
This is an important distinction because once the person has changed their beliefs (and it can occur very early in the process) it's much more difficult to stop mind control and undo the effects.
Let's have a look at the first situation, where a person is meeting the manipulator for the first time, or even the third or fourth time. The manipulator can be a con man, super-salesman or a cult leader or other compliance professional.
In 1979 Anderson and Zimbardo wrote a paper on how to stop mind control called 'On resisting social influence'.
They point out that when information is deliberately hidden or distorted, it is impossible to make unbiased decisions. People can be led to believe they are making their own decisions and freely choosing. Therein lies the danger, because these kinds of decisions have a profound and lasting effect on our thinking and behavior, simply because of the fact that we think we have used our own reasoning and justifications to make up our own mind.
We are most influence-able in situations that seem normal where we don't think we need to be skeptical. But we need to remember that in sectarian relationships the aggressor is aiming that his victim "suspends his rational judgments and surrenders emotionally to the relationship".
They suggest that mind control "exists not in exotic gimmicks, but rather in the most mundane aspects of human existence: the inner pressure to be bonded to other people, the power of group norms to influence behavior, the force of social rewards (such as smiles, praise, a gentle touch). We influence one another, intentionally or unintentionally, using the most basic principles of social psychology, motivation and social learning. It is people in convincing social situations and not gadgets or gimmicks that control the minds of the people. The more worried we are about being seen as ignorant, uncultured, untalented or boring, and the more ambiguous the events are that are to be evaluated, the more likely we are to take on the beliefs of those around us to avoid being rejected by them."
As humans, we don't like rejection. We are social creatures and want to be part of a community. But there is a difference between maintaining your integrity and sense of self within the group, and being totally taken over by the group as occurs in a destructive sect or cultic relationship.
So where do we draw the line? Is it possible to tell the difference between benign social influences and destructive mind control?
The answer is yes, and we need to be vigilant and to use the following strategies in various situations in order to be able to stop mind control from happening.
Be on the lookout for discontinuities between somebody's ideals and their actual behaviors. If what they say does not match what they do, beware! (If older members of the group are justifying the leader's incongruencies, this should be even more alarming.)
Observe communications, checking for any hidden agendas behind the obvious content.
Be prepared to disobey simple situational rules or polite social customs if you think it's necessary.
Be on the lookout for situational and group pressures in your physical and social surroundings.
Never do anything unusual or anything you don't want to do just to please others.
Recognize conditions in which you are vulnerable. (Major life events, loss, grief, depression, after failing exams, losing a job and so on.)
Don't be pushed into making a decision. Reserve the right to defer a decision or say no.
If you think you need to get more information, do so. Or look for other sources of information.
Effective persuaders appear to be just like us. Be very wary of excessive emphasis on topics of mutual interest in order to stop mind control before it's too late.
Be wary of requests for a small commitment now… And an open-ended contract for later.
Practice "seeing through" your programmed responses to authority.
Notice who is controlling whom in social situations, and why.
If there is disagreement, state your arguments with conviction. If necessary practice creative arguments why listening to persuasive messages to avoid automatically accepting them.
Learn to keep your sense of self-worth even in intimidating circumstances.
As far as possible, do not accept the initial premise that someone is better or more competent than you.
Don't accept generalizations or inadequate explanations to your questions or challenges. Complex communication does not make conclusions acceptable. Be careful too, of false analogies, semantic distortion, euphemisms and jargon.
Be wary of "You won't understand it now but you will in the future". A real expert can explain his field so that even a 10-year-old understands.
Always look for other information and criticisms before joining a group and investing your time and money.
Train yourself and your children to notice the influence "tricks" in the language used in, for example, advertisements.
Avoid negative dialogue about yourself, especially if it is generated by somebody else.
Think of being different as being 'important' rather than inferior.
When our attention is forced on to ourselves by being made to feel bad or wrong or different, we become self-conscious and we begin to wonder what other people will think of us. This makes us more susceptible to mind control.
Effective manipulators control our emotions. Beware of people who create emotion-laden conflicts, especially if they are offering a solution as well!
Avoid situations where someone makes you feel guilty, stupid or awkward.
Do not confess to anything or give information that can be later used against you.
Do not make decisions when you are stressed, especially in the presence of the person causing the stress.
When you're feeling very strong emotions, your ability to think critically is reduced. Do what you need to do to relax, even if it means leaving the situation.
Be very aware of those creating fear and guilt. These are very powerful emotions for influencing beliefs and attitudes.
If somebody claims to be making sacrifices on your behalf, thank them with words. Don't be drawn into a repayment in kind.
You should hear warning bells and see flashing lights when someone emphasizes your freedom of choice of the alternatives they have offered.
And also when they point out that you have lost some freedom, but with them you can get it back again. Especially if you feel very strongly that you actually want it.
Revise any commitments and decisions you made in the past if they are no longer beneficial.
Be very careful if you seem to be making a lot of very good friends very quickly in a new group. If everybody makes you feel special, intelligent and repeatedly tells you that you will do well with them, you need to reassess what's actually happening if you are to stop mind control early in the process.
If you are being offered simple, complete answers to complex problems it should be treated as a warning sign. "Just do this thing and your life will be different!"
If you're told that you need to get out of your mind, or that your problems are based on your thinking, be careful that it is not simply a way of creating a state of passive acceptance.
The authors recognize that mind control works by manipulating people's programmed responses in social interactions.
Since then Robert Cialdini has written about what he calls the six weapons of the influence. You can read more about his principles here.
This might seem like an incredibly long list of things to have to look out for to stop mind control, but just ask any ex-cult member who has received professional treatment about it, and not only will they be able to add to this list, but they will also tell you that this kind of thing should be taught in schools to children so that they not only recognize it but can stop mind control.
But what if somebody is already 'manipulated'? They have already changed their beliefs and behaviors and are committed in a group or they are in a relationship with a sociopath. In this case the steps needed to stop mind control are somewhat more complicated.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
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If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.