This is how brainwashing works.
There’s one aspect of indoctrination that people commonly understand, and one aspect that they mostly miss. The first aspect is repetition and relentlessness. The person or institution doing the brainwashing makes sure that you hear their central messages over and over and over again, every day or even every hour (repetition), while also working hard to keep you from ever hearing alternate viewpoints (relentlessness), especially ones that might support or confirm your independent thinking, your sense of what’s real.
But the second aspect, just as central to how brainwashing works, is mistreatment. When someone is being indoctrinated, they’re not just subjected to constant lies, they also get traumatized, typically through tactics such as deprivation of food, water, sleep, and movement, brutal verbal abuse, scary threats to self or loved ones, and physical or sexual assault. This trauma tears down our defenses and makes us much more vulnerable to the lies; without the trauma, we would mostly see through the lies and reject them.
Survivors of abuse sometimes get criticized for having believed the lies told by a cruel parent or partner; judgmental people may say, for example, “Why would you believe someone who was so abusive to you?” At times this is also a voice inside the abuse survivor’s own head.
But it’s precisely because of the abuse that the lies get so powerful and so successful. If the abusive person weren’t messing so badly with your emotions, you’d notice that they were messing with your mind, and you’d be able to keep your clarity. Try to stop blaming yourself for having believed.
Thank you Lundy. When I read this it brings back memories of how long and slow the brainwashing process is and then the misunderstanding of friends and relatives who unknowingly continue to revictimize the person who has left their abuser by asking questions like “why didn’t you leave?” The journey to healing after abuse can be more difficult, lonely and confusing than the actual abuse.
Thank you. For the permission to give myself grace. For clarifying why I could have stayed so long (being traumatized calculatedly). The mistreatment. Every. Day. I’ve been divorced for almost 5 years and his mistreatment is limited, yet he uses the children. His indoctrination seeps through my kids, especially when they return from their 30 day visitation with him. This helps remind me that I can do this.
Liz, we all need to hear over and over again, “you can do this.” Winston Churchill once said, “if you are going through hell, keep going.” God speed!