THE MIND TRAP|
an opinion piece
Getting Started in the Snare - Getting Stuck in the Snare - Getting Sprung From the Snare
Getting Started in the Snare
It is common for certain groups to use ritualistic practices such as chanting, meditation, breathing techniques or something similar. This is not to say that these things are bad in and of themselves. It is to acknowledge their use as part of a group ritual, inducing an altered state of mind and possibly bringing about a personal mystical-type of experience. A person typically accepts such an experience as a validation of the group and teachings they are receiving, and they then consider themselves to fit; to be "in" the group. However, such experiences can be induced in general, and have been used for many, many years; not necessarily being a function of one group's dogma or ability to empower a person with their special techniques. This phase of cult participation may happen in one day, or over a period of time, but it usually doesn't take long. People are searching for a spiritual connection in life, and then they believe they've found it.
Getting Stuck in the Snare
This is the insidious phase. For many people, this phase is sneaky. You learn bits of information, and it all seems to start out so well ! Then, over time, with additional information, one's paradigm of reality is shifted. Upon reflection, it appears to have been a seamless change, which is part of what makes it so insidious. Typically, one adopts a mode of belief that calls for suspending one's rational, thinking mind. This affects the level of one's doubt about the new information heard and learned, and even experienced.
What happens is a student/devotee will shut down any unacceptable thoughts, and simply stop, experience, and go forward without thinking about why something may or may not actually be true, or in one's best interest. Distancing oneself from family and/or friends who just don't understand the new reality one has accepted, is common practice. They are seen as suppressive to the new way of being, so they must be kept at bay. At this point, student/devotees have become narcisisstic in their view of reality. It's all about them, all about what they think and feel. Yet, just because someone has a mystical experience, and done so without thinking about it - accepting it as fact does not make it true.
Another aspect of becoming psychologically enmeshed in such a group is to perform rituals that are aimed at getting rid of one's past. It becomes the goal of a student/devotee, to gain mindful purity and clarity so they can be a vessel for enlightenment. Unfortunately, a student/devotee may go on for years and years in an attempt to reach this goal. They continue the work, but never fully experience the goal of ever elusive enlightenment. Emotionally, a student/devotee will feel like a failure because they don't measure up to the task, while remaining loyal to playing the role of God.
It may be a note of interest that Axis II psychological disorders (DSM-IV-TR Axis II: underlying pervasive or personality conditions), include narcissism. While everyone has some small degree of narcisissm, which is needed and healthy, we're talking about abnormal levels. Psychoses and mania of psychoses patients sounds similar to the dialogue of some new age spiritual leaders. Exit counselor Joseph Szimhart has presented two papers on this topic to the American Academy of Religion. Welcome to the website of the American Academy of Religion. Founded in 1909, the AAR is the world's largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion. www.aarweb.org/
A healthy dose of doubt is the link to being free from the mind control of a such a group. One may even be told that doubt will sabotage any spiritual awakening from unfolding. To a sincere student, that is frightening. So, the student self-monitors their thoughts, and keeps them in control, within the boundaries of the accepted groupthink that is prevalent. This becomes of paramount importance to a group member, as they view this abolishment of doubt as a gauge to their attainment of enlightenment.
Furthermore, while in the midst of the group consensus mindset, a student is in a highly suggestible state. Wikipedia describes this well.
"A person is deemed to be suggestible if they accept and act on suggestions by others. Clearly, everyone acts at some point in their lives by the suggestions given by someone else, but some individuals can be more suggestible than others. Television is one example of this as some individuals see dangerous acts on television and try to perform the acts themselves. This is an example of technological determinism.
A person experiencing intense emotions tends to be more receptive to ideas and therefore more suggestible. Young children are generally more suggestible than older children who are more suggestible than adults.
However, psychologists have found that individual levels of self-esteem, assertiveness, and other qualities can make some people more suggestible than others - i.e. they act on others' suggestions more of the time than other people. This has resulted in this being seen as a spectrum of suggestibility.
This has ramifications in the scientific research of hypnosis. The person under hypnosis may not actually be entering a different psychological state, but rather just acting on social pressure. It is easier for them to comply than to disobey. However, hypnosis has also helped people to deal with difficult issues, such as quitting smoking, with effects that endure even when the hypnotist is no longer present.
It is claimed that sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder are particularly suggestible. While it is true that DID sufferers tend to score to the higher end of the hypnotizability scale, there have not been enough studies done to support the claim of increased suggestibility."en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suggestibility
How many times have group members complied when something inside of them nagged at them, that what they were doing was wrong, or at least wrong for them ? Suggestibility has been studied and it is a reaction in the neo-cortex of the brain. The article at this website www.trowbridgefoundation.org/docs/suggestibility.htm details the process of suggestibity in a person and the outcome of what they recall, say, or respond to after being pressured from an external source. Suggestibility is not gullibility. It is the measure of intensity with which the brain and nervous system accept and respond to incoming ideas. In hypnosis both body and mind are more suggestible.
Perhaps you, the reader, can see where mind control, brainwashing, suggestibility, all fit together to gain a sincere spiritual seeker-student into the Mind Trap of such a group. It has nothing to do with intelligence, naivete, or anything of that sort.
Q. What is Mind Control?
(excerpted from www.csj.org/infoserv_articles/langone_michael_cultsqa.htm)
Mind control (also referred to as "brainwashing," "coercive persuasion," "thought reform," and the "systematic manipulation of psychological and social influence") refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated.
Such methods include:
extensive control of information in order to limit alternatives from which members may make "choices";
intense indoctrination into a belief system that denigrates independent critical thinking and considers the world outside the group to be threatening, evil, or gravely in error;
an insistence that members' distress-much of which may consist of anxiety and guilt subtly induced by the group-can be relieved only by conforming to the group;
physical and/or psychological debilitation through inadequate diet or fatigue;
the induction of dissociative (trance-like) states (via the misuse of meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, and other exercises) in which attention is narrowed, suggestibility heightened, and independent critical thinking weakened;
alternation of harshness/threats and leniency/love, in order to effect compliance with the leadership's wishes;
isolation from social supports;
and pressured public confessions.
Although the process by which cults come to exercise mind control over members is complex and varies a great deal, there appear to be three overlapping stages:
Recruits are duped into believing that the group is benevolent and will enrich their lives by, for example, advancing their spirituality or increasing their self-esteem and security. As a result of this deception and the systematic use of highly manipulative techniques of influence, recruits come to commit themselves to the group's prescribed ways of thinking, feeling, and acting; in other words, they become members or converts.
By gradually isolating members from outside influences, establishing unrealistically high and guilt-inducing expectations, punishing any expressions of "negativity," and denigrating independent, critical thinking, the group causes members to become extremely dependent on the group's compliance-oriented expressions of love and support.
Once a state of dependency is firmly established, the group's control over members' thoughts, feelings, and behavior is strengthened by the members' growing dread of losing the group's psychological support (physical threats also occur in some groups), however much it may aim at ensuring their compliance with leadership's often debilitating demands.
Getting Sprung from the Snare
Leaving a group such as this is usually not easy. Why? Because there are "costs" associated with leaving. One can look at themselves and evaluate the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual costs of leaving. They face issues such as these and before actual leaving, a person may cling to the group and play mind games with themselves (defense mechanisms) to keep themselves from having to deal with the effects of leaving. One may justify behaviors to themselves to stay in the group, though they know they need to get out. It's necessary to face the emotional cost of exiting such a group, such as leaving friends, who will probably abandon you. Facing the psychological and emotional issues of leaving; shame, depression, isolation, sadness, guilt, anger, abandonment, betrayal, confusion, lost self-esteem. Physically, it's not unheard of for people to delay leaving a group even when they know it's over, because of the emotional impact of moving on.
* "People leave cults for a variety of reasons. After becoming aware of hypocrisy and/or corruption within the group, converts who have maintained an element of independence and some connection with their old values may simply walk out disillusioned. Other members may leave because they have become weary of a routine of proselytizing and fund-raising. Sometimes even the most dedicated members may feel so inadequate in the face of the cult's demands that they walk away, not because they have stopped believing, but because they feel like abject failures. Still others may renounce the cult after reconnecting to old values, goals, interests, or relationships, resulting from visits with parents, talks with ex-members, or counseling.
Persons who consider leaving a group such as this, are usually pressured to stay. Some ex-members say that they spent months, even years, trying to garner the strength to walk out. Some felt so intimidated that they departed secretly.
Although most group members eventually walk out on their own, parental alarm should not be discounted. First, many, if not most, who leave cults on their own are psychologically harmed, often in ways which they do not understand. Second, some cultists never leave, and some of these are severely harmed. And third, there is no way to predict who will leave, who won't leave, or who will be harmed."
* Excerpted from www.rickross.com/reference/singer/singer7.html It is suggested that you just take the time to read the entire article.