Brainwashing: What It Is, How It Works and How to Guard Against It

A Veteran Western Dafa Practit

PureInsight | December 8, 2003

[] Brainwashing techniques and their applications have been around for centuries. Brainwashing can be defined as involuntary re-education of beliefs and values. In that sense, we are all continually being re-educated. In brainwashing, the first thing being attacked is clarity of thought. Varying methods are applied in different countries.

In the United States, in particular, brainwashing is not as obvious as it is in a totalitarian nation. In the USA, consumers of news and goods and services are exposed to daily attempts of brainwashing, albeit in a less obvious manner than the way Falun Dafa practitioners in China are manipulated in detention centers, labor camps, prisons and mental hospitals.

In the United States, this subtle, hidden, insidious form of brainwashing comes from advertising messages aimed at our subliminal consciousness. It works and is highly effective on many people because our brains receive and accept certain incoming stimuli in specific ways. Most of us are not conscious of such suggestive manipulation. Only an individual who holds his values lightly can become easy prey to others' attempts to change those values. In other words, someone whose mind is not focused enough, who does not question assumptions and suggestions and follows them blindly will be successfully swayed. This even extends to the way we vote, the way we shop, the way we perceive how we should live and interact with others. But, the choice how to think is yours!

We in the U.S. are subjected daily to indoctrination, programming and manipulation of our thought processes. Those influences are for the most part hidden – we are not aware of them. They come from the print media, television, from public opinion polls, from all manner of advertising as well as from the radio. The messages, sometimes overt, other times covert, prey on our fears, our self-esteem, our inner hopes and dreams. Those influences try to program and indoctrinate our innermost thoughts and aspirations, creating confusion or guilt, conjure greed and desires.

All those messages hidden in myriads of communications - be they verbal, by illustration or written – can affect our states of mind in a sinister way. We could call it psychological manipulation, or even the herd mentality, because hidden persuasion affects scores of people who follow a powerful role model's patterns of spending habits, the way that individual dresses, lives, shops, and other attributes in that persona.

So, what can you do to get away from those influences? CHOOSE NOT TO BE PERSUADED and question whether what these people do is logical, makes sense and does not unduly influence the way you perceive the world. Do NOT become a victim of manufacturers, fundraisers, public personae and politicians who are trying their best to sway you to their way of thinking, to turn your mind into a lump of catatonic dough that will make you buy, donate, vote at their command they way they want, or believe what they suggest. Some subliminal suggestions are disturbing, other funny, but all affect your state of mind. MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND AND FOLLOW YOUR CONSCIENCE.

The mainstream media in the United States wants you to perceive our country as a beacon of progress. Is that really true? We as Falun Gong practitioners are disturbed by news emerging from China that the ill-guided governmental persecutors of practitioners there are frequently subject to surveillance of all sorts. But it is the U.S. that is selling surveillance technology to countries with the worst human rights records in history, directly affecting our kind Falun Gong practitioners. Furthermore, the U.S. along with Iran has defied a 1986 International Court ruling over Nicaragua; that 133 nations, including virtually all U.S. allies, have signed a treaty banning landmines, while the U.S. insists on continued production; that the U.S. right now has the highest number of death row inmates of any country on earth, 3,300 of them.

The above examples are cited are to show that even democracy has its thorny side and we as practitioners must no blindly assume that what we do here in our attempts help our Falun Gong brothers in sisters in China will always meet with success. There is a hidden agenda – profit! Why else would the U.S. sell surveillance technology to countries that spurn human rights and scoff at the value of human dignity?

Now, brainwashing in China takes a different form. Chinese brainwashing techniques are more blatant, out in the open and much crueler. They are patterned after Soviet Communist methods. The goals for influencing people's thought processes are the same as in the American examples cited above, but the way the victims are treated differ markedly.

Research tells us that most people experience inner conflict when new information is not consistent with prior beliefs or assumptions, although a straight-thinking individual is not afraid of mere information, because that individual is able to discern whether or not this new input makes sense or fits in with that person's value system.

In a concerted brainwashing environment, in a Chinese detention center, for instance, new information is forced onto the detainees under controlled conditions, AFTER their abilities for critical judgment have been largely removed. To do that, captors employ a variety of methods. One of these techniques aims at deliberately destroying an individual's personality through persistent confusion, disorientation, vacillating between kindness and verbal and physical abuse, and other methods, such as sleep deprivation and withholding food and water. The latter are powerful motivators, tempting one to give in to the captors, as I have experienced in Germany during the Nazi regime. The broken down minds of detainees are then ready to accept new information. But, not everyone subjected to such mind control will give in to it.

Different people react to mind control in different ways, and those who give in to mind control usually experience several commonly observed traits:

1. The individual initially becomes aware of his/her own behavioral changes

2. The individual becomes aware that he/she is completely dependant on this new system.

3. This awareness of dependence and control begins to cause internal conflict and one undergoes profound emotional changes, but this does not happen in all subjects.

4. The victim discovers that there is a solution to this profound emotional torment - to give in to the captors is the only way to escape this emotional torment. (Victims of brainwashing have reported that they were overwhelmingly relieved at this stage, were pleased to get away from this horror and were ready to accept new information. They had lost their critical ability to discern the real from the fake.

5. It is this final stage of integrating into this new, controlling system of thought processes that will from then on rule the person's thinking. For all purposes, the individual has a new perception of organizing and giving meaning to events that is completely opposite his former value system. At this point, s/he is no longer capable of thinking or speaking in concepts other than those his captors made him adopt. Some individuals have even expressed gratitude to their captors for "making them see the light."

To see how this works, we must expose two commonly used communist control techniques. One of these is interrogation. The other is physical torture and threats of physical torture. As stated above, mind control preys on our fears.

Interrogation is used in at least two ways, one of which is elicitation. This initial process is designed to get the victim to surrender protected information, such as revealing Falun Gong practitioners' names, addresses, and locations of and sources for Dafa materials production sites. Although the purpose is to achieve brainwashing during this method of elicitation, the informant must be kept rational at this initial stage so the elicited information can be deemed reliable.

The second stage of interrogation, this time for the outright purpose of brainwashing, consists of questioning, argumentation, indoctrination, threats, cajoling, alternate praise and hostility and a variety of other pressures, such as threats to harm family members, dismissals from jobs, canceling of group memberships, and other dire predictions.

Physical torture and threats of torture distinguish themselves more by their psychological effects than by the nevertheless cruel degree of pain inflicted on the victims. This puts the victim into a unique conflict, making him/her endure agonizing mental torment.

During a beating, where the victim has a passive role – others beat and s/he endures – the conflict arises from the dilemma of whether to give in to the captors and reveal the sought-after information to avoid further pain, or to resist and endure more. People who have thoroughly studied this type of abuse have found that mere brutality of this kind did not achieve the desired results; what worked much better were threats of torture, because fear of pain causes the individual greater mental conflict than the actual pain.

A more sinister type of torture requires individuals to stand or sit in one spot for several hours or assume some other pain-causing posture, such as the Tiger Bench, although that method was not developed in Soviet Russia. It is a Chinese invention. Such methods at first make the victim resolute "to see this through," to "stick it out," and not give in. This mental act of resistance at first provides the individual a feeling of moral superiority over his captors, but as the pain mounts over time, in the victims broken down mind arises the feeling that it is his own, initial determination to "stick it out" that causes such continued pain. That leads to further moral conflict – his initial determination to not give in to the demands versus the desire to end the pain. The captors are acutely aware of the victim's thought processes and know that this torture method is quite effective in breaking down the victim's resolve.

Other methods used to make a detained person easily malleable to brainwashing are isolation - because lack of stimulation creates psychosis in some people; acute exposure to filth, stench and vermin; creating a climate of helplessness and despair by controlling and withholding communication. Some researchers consider this method the cornerstone of a system of control in brainwashing, realizing that the need to communicate is a basic human need. The present Chinese persecution campaign does this effectively by strict regulation of the news media, printed materials, propaganda, and curtailing certain social contact, such as forbidding associations between Falun Gong practitioners.

Inducing fatigue is another sinister way of breaking someone's willpower and critical powers of judgment. The most blatant example is sleep deprivation. Other methods include but are not limited to non-stop interrogation, set of by a few hours of sleep and then renewed interrogation while the victim is extremely vulnerable; administering mind-altering drugs to muddle the victims thought processes and create fear as well as diminishing the will to resist indoctrination; self-criticism sessions.

Petty demands, for instance curtailing toilet use, insisting to recite prison rules or standing in military postures are also employed to further weaken a person's resolve to resist the tormentors.

All those methods and intents mentioned above that the captors subject their victims to sound as if there is no possible defense, not hope, no way out. But is this really true? The first line of defense is correct information available to the potential victim, such as the methods the perpetrators use, outlined above. The more we know about their methods, the better we are able to counteract them.

So, for Falun Gong practitioners already in brainwashing classes,

1. The first decision to be made has to be to recognize realistic goals of delaying any cooperation with the captors/enforcers/perpetrators as long as possible.

2. Ideally, practitioners in China who face possible brainwashing ought to get together and role-play brainwashing situations among themselves, before they might be taken to a brainwashing center, to familiarize themselves with what to expect and be mentally prepared for it. Practice being a victim! You have a better chance of surviving an interrogation. Statistics have shown that those who survived an initial interrogation cannot be swayed at all.

3. Each practitioner ought to assess his/her strengths and weaknesses and act on them.

4. Rest in the assurance that even those interrogators/leaders or facilitators of those brainwashing sessions do not act out of their own volition, but have been ordered by others to carry out these sinister tasks; that these perpetrators also have weaknesses the victims can exploit; find those weaknesses!

5. Keep clarity of mind to the greatest extent and be comforted by the fact that all practitioners around the world who know of the plight of those who are being subjected to attempted brainwashing are sending their most powerful noble thoughts your way, supported by the knowledge that the Fa will resolve everything for the best outcome. Fortify yourselves with Fa study to the best extent possible and you will escape from those demon dens with your mind intact.

Any feedback or comments are appreciated. Thank you.


"The Hidden Persuaders," by Vance Packard
"Brainwashing," by Lorenzo St. Dubois
"Derailing Democracy," by David McGowan
"20th Century Brainwashing and what's hidden in the Microsoft Logo," by Dr. Lechnar
"Subliminal Advertising," by Dr. Wilson Bryan Keys
Various Internet sources, i.e. U.S. Governmental Report on Brainwashing During the Cold War Years.

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