This article addresses the subject of psychological abuse and why victims/targets can be manipulated and controlled mentally by narcissists and sociopaths (general psychopaths,) and what can be done when it happens. This occurs in families with narcissistic parents, and in cases of parental alienation, where one parent uses the child as a psychological weapon to abuse the other parent.
Mind control can occurs in any system involving people, such as in churches, the workplace, and families.
Ingredients required: human beings, narcissistic leader, scapegoat(s), lieutenants (“flying monkeys,”) and keeping secrets. What can’t be allowed in this type of system is free thinkers or free spirits. People with these qualities will be banished.
Mind control is similar to what happens when people join cults. Cult leaders manage to coerce strong-minded, intelligent people away from loving family and friends; all in exchange for a false promise.
Usually people are manipulated, but believe the decisions belong to themselves – not the manipulators.
Human social interaction dynamics are very powerful. Throughout time, people have been manipulated by propaganda and social pressure. Think about Hitler and how he was able to manipulate an entire country into hating certain people groups – and acting on it! The underlying reasons for this will be addressed in this article.
If you are struggling with trying to rescue someone from the mind control of another person, then this article is for you. I am going to address the “how” it happened, and also “what” to do once it’s happened in subsequent articles.
According to clinical psychologist Margaret Singer, there are six conditions under which a person must be subjected, where mind control happens. These are (Singer, 2003):
- Keep the target in the dark, unaware that he/she is being changed. Victims of this type of manipulation are psychologically led to change their behaviors in order to meet the agenda of the leader. The end goal is for the target to do the bidding of the leader. In the case of parental alienation, the end result is to hurt the targeted parent. In other cases, the end goal is to fulfill the leader’s personal needs for power and control and even to fulfill his/her ultimate fantasies.
- Control the person’s physical and social environment. Leaders of mind-control provide ample structure, rules, and assignments to keep targets constantly on task.
- Create a sense of powerlessness in the target. Leaders ensure that the target is away from his/her social support system and puts him/her in an environment with those already entrenched in the group. This helps targets of mind control lose personal autonomy, power, and confidence. This erodes the target’s intuition. As the target’s sense of powerlessness increases, his/her sense of good judgment and understanding of the world decreases (view of reality is destabilized.) As the other members of the group attack the victim’s worldview, cognitive dissonance results. No talking about this is allowed. In the case of parental alienation the empathic or “normal” parent is villianized.
- Incorporate a system of rewards and punishments in the person’s life; ones that promote the manipulator’s agenda, and undermine the target’s autonomy and individuality. Members get positive feedback for conforming to the leader’s beliefs and behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.
- Create a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group’s ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors. Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group’s beliefs, and compliance are rewarded, while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. If one expresses a question, he or she is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them doing so.
- The system is closed, with an authoritarian structure that allows no feedback and refuses input not approved of by leadership approval. The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leader never loses.
Remember this, targets of mind-control are not valued for their individuality; rather, they are mere objects (actors) in the leader’s personal production, where the leader is the director, producer, author, and playwright of his/her own saga.
Continued in “Understanding Manipulative Mind Control and What to do About It (Part 2.)”
If you would like a copy of my free newsletter entitled, the psychology of abuse, please email me at: [email protected] and I will add you to our list.
Hassan, S. (2013). Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs. Newton. MA: Freedom of Mind Press.
Singer, M. (2003). Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass