Educating to help people stay safe & recover from sociopaths & psychopaths

Brainwashing is the Result of Psychological Abuse

Posted 4 years ago by Admin. Posted in: Brain Workings

In her book, Brainwashed, Kathleen Taylor describes her research on brainwashing and “discusses how the extreme social psychological pressures that people undergo in brainwashing programs change the neurology and physiology of the brain.” Taylor’s book Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control has given the concept of brainwashing a grounding in medical science that complements and extends the social scientific discussions about the processes. Regarding a wide range of research, she concludes, “the studies suggest that brainwashing, in its aspect as process, is best regarded as a collective noun for various, increasingly well-understood techniques of non-consensual mind change” (Taylor, 2004:23). Brainwashing attempts simply are well-understood social-psychological phenomena. Taylor reminds us, too, that the techniques also involve physiological alterations and reformulations within the brain.

Langone (1992) attempted to elaborate the concept of psychological abuse by contrasting it with its opposite, “respect.” He proposed that respect implies the honoring of four key aspects of the person, forming an acronym, “MAID”:

(1) Mind, the natural inclination to seek truth in order to make sound choices;
(2) Autonomy, the capacity to make choices with minimal pressure from without;
(3) Identity, “a sense of individuality, of belonging to a wider community and culture, and of internal integration” (p. 211); and
(4) Dignity, “the need to feel worthwhile in the eyes of others as well as themselves” (p. 211).

Psychological abuse, the opposite of respect, results when a person or group tries to influence others so as to:

1. control information in order to manipulate thinking and judgment
2. manipulate or coerce choice
3. fragment or alter personal identity to serve the influencer’s interests
4. systematically or intentionally undermine the influencee’s feelings of worth. (Langone, 1992, p. 212)

Memes of Brainwashing

You’ve heard the sensational stories repeated a million times.

[imageframe width=320 height=320 pattern=”1″ align=”right” alt=””][/imageframe]The public perception of someone brainwashed is loaded with negative connotations about that person. Kathleen Taylor and many other professionals would disagree, arguing that brainwashing could happen to even the most brilliant, strong-minded individuals if their psychological processes are manipulated in coercive ways. She argues that brainwashing is now understood down through the levels of physiology and biochemistry, and it is a normal brain response to severe psychological trauma.

According to people who have been subjected to the psychological manipulations of a “brainwasher,” after they have left their situation and had time to reflect critically upon them, in their brainwashed mind they were unable to think critically and they did not know it. Brainwashing is a real thing. Taylor’s physiology book on brainwashing has taken the debate about the concept to a new level of discourse, helping the public understand that this type of psychological manipulation is abusive and it could happen to anyone.

Many people have been manipulated so completely they do not even realize they were manipulated/brainwashed even long after they were out of their experience. Some take years after they’ve left to come to grips with it. One man said, “It took months of therapy before I could even begin to look at the possibility I had been manipulated” (Langone & Chambers, 1991, p. 145). Even victims of human trafficking are subject to brainwashing and consequently, they often do not even identify themselves as victims until much later.

Skilled psychological predators know that if they can manipulate circumstances so that victims falsely believe they have consented, that what happened to them was their choice and that because of their own choices they are responsible for their own financial losses or suffering, the predators will get off free. With each victim, these predators further refine their coercive manipulation skills, making the predators increasingly more difficult to prosecute even though they are free to walk the streets with an increased level of danger to society. The victims of psychological manipulation are left to shoulder the blame for their misfortune with little sympathy from the legal system or the public.

[imageframe width=600 height=800 pattern=”1″ align=”left” alt=”brainwashed”][/imageframe]

[box title=”Understanding That Brainwashing is Psychological Abuse Has treatment Implications”]This view of psychological abuse has important implications for treatment. Because the process of abuse is done to victims, however much their vulnerabilities may single them out as especially at risk, victims must come to understand the psychological techniques that enabled the victimizer(s) to abuse the victims’ mind, autonomy, identity, and dignity. In addition to protecting victims against future manipulations, such an understanding also enables victims to demystify victimizers and knock them off the phony thrones from which they played God. Leveling the playing field, so to speak, enhances victims’ capacity to restore their dignity..[/box]

“Victims also need to realize that what was done to them was wrong.

What was done TO THEM was wrong.

Michael Langone, the founder of the International Cultic Studies Association, says, “The ethical dimension of psychological abuse must be placed in bold relief and its victims must be allowed — encouraged even — to express appropriate moral outrage. The outrage will not magically eliminate the abuse and its effects. Nor will it necessarily bring the victimizer to justice.

But it will enable victims to assert their inherent worth and their sense of right and wrong by condemning the evil done to them.” (Langone)

brainwashing effects, sadness

Moral outrage fortifies good against formidable evil.

[quote-float]Even implicitly denying victims’ need to express moral outrage shifts blame from victimizers to victims. [/quote-float]

Perhaps that is why so many victims are disturbed by “detached” therapists, or “objective” scientific researchers. They interpret the detachment or “objectivity” as implicit blaming of themselves. (Langone, 1992, p. 213)

[boxparagraph]Current brainwashing is invasive beyond anything conceived by the founding fathers when they ratified the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Worse, such direct invasion of a subject’s mind with probable modification of subject’s synapse connections and neural tracts periodically goes beyond simple confusion and results in such major crimes as assault, battery, manslaughter, provoked suicide, murder, and other violent horrors. Edward Lottick, Foundation for Human Rights [/boxparagraph]

What Happens in the Brain

[imageframe width=300 height=290 pattern=”1″ align=”left” alt=””][/imageframe]Adverse cults often create peculiarly distorted, un-reflected-upon, short-cut, sometimes concrete thought in their recruits undergoing processing. It appears to the observer that they have lost their higher powers of empathy, insight, and judgment. A percentage of cult followers develop symptoms partly as a result of this distortion or derangement and the concomitant short-cutting of their prior-to-cult, former richer and more reflective thought patterns (neural connections.) Current research strongly suggests that persons who have been subjected to brainwashing have developed short-cut, less circuitous neuron pathways for processing thought in their brains. (See Taylor, 2004.) Some recovery or rejuvenation apparently involves reconnecting or re-establishing the former richer neural network. From:

How Cults Control People

Destructive cults are “groups which violate the rights of their members, harm them through abusive techniques of mind control, and distinguishes themselves from normal social or religious groups by subjecting their members to physical, mental, or financial deprivation or deception to keep them in the group.” Margaret Singer and John Clark suggested that harm, consisting of physical and psychological constraint and manipulation, refusal to let adherents leave, depletion of adherent’s funds and assets, denial of competent treatment for illness and even plain and simple wasting of adherents’ time, had been widely noted as a consequence of destructive cult involvement.

Brainwashing Laws

The two questions on a law against brainwashing were inspired by Marci Hamilton, a constitutional law and first amendment scholar, who popped up (Hamilton, 2003) on the internet during a search for information about the newly proposed Italian law against brainwashing. Hamilton wrote about the possibility of a law against brainwashing itself in the case of Elizabeth Smart, a 14-year-old girl from Utah. Her abuser was being prosecuted for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and aggravated burglary, but not brainwashing. In the survey, participants were asked if they would support or oppose such a law in Pennsylvania. There was overwhelming support for such a law in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the preponderance of participants, when given options, favored making the law protective of all citizens.

[boxparagraph]A person who was ‘brainwashed’ is a victim of severe psychological abuse. Aside from having to deal with the pain, emotional suffering, losses and legal consequences that resulted from this abuse, they are expected to take responsibility for agreeing to participate. And they do. This not only shifts the blame onto the victim, as in the case of Patty Hearst, but it also sends the misguided message that these ‘poor decisions’ were made after clear thinking individuals were provided all the facts necessary to give informed consent. The identities of those who are subjected to coercive psychological manipulation, or “coercive thought reform,” are systematically broken until they associate enormous pain with their true values and their former identities. The new identity and ideology become acceptable because it is cloaked in a lofty mission to save the world. They are manipulated to think they freely chose a new set of values and beliefs, and therefore carry lifelong guilt for any consequences. What they often do not realize is that they are victims of skilled psychopaths, and that the facts and circumstances were manipulated so these victims perceived there was only one real choice for them to make. [/boxparagraph]

Survivors must understand that they did not do this to themselves, and they did not consent to have their brains traumatized in such a way that they would make such out-of-character decisions that resulted in harm to themselves or others. Victims of traumatic psychological abuse and coercion are no more blameworthy for these decisions than a survivor of clergy abuse or incest. This much the public is starting to grasp.

[imageframe width=290 height=218 pattern=”1″ align=”right” alt=””][/imageframe]When actress Mackenzie Phillips published a book confessing that she had an adult consensual sexual relationship with her famous father, she thought she was taking responsibility. But the public was knew better. Soon thereafter, she told HLN’s Joy Behar that she learned there’s no such thing as consensual incest.

[quoteicon author=”MSNBC”]I think I was very naïve,” Phillips told Vieira. “I expected, certainly, people to go, ‘Oh, that is so crazy.’ What I didn’t expect was the deeply cruel things that were said … ‘Mackenzie Phillips banged her dad,’ or the blogs that I read.”

“I was sort of groomed to believe it was consensual, that I was complicit in some way, that because I didn’t scream and fight and I participated, that made me at fault,” Phillips told Vieira. “And, of course, that is the huge thing that all of us survivors suffer from, is taking a portion of the blame and guilt onto their own backs.[/quoteicon]

“I’ve been schooled by thousands of incest survivors all across the world that there really is no such thing as consensual incest due to the inherent power a parent has over a child,” she said.

Such an imbalance of power is also present in the clergy-parishioner relationship, which includes the spiritual advisor or cult leader – the most prevalent forces behind the psychological abuse also known as brainwashing. According to Professor Diana Garland, Dean of the Baylor University School of Social Work, who recently conducted a research study on adult exploitation by clergy, identified that 90% of all clergy abuse happens not to young boys, but to adult females:

“Many people, including the victims themselves, often label incidences of Clergy Sexual Misconduct with adults as ‘affairs’. In reality, they are an abuse of spiritual power by the religious leader.”

[quoteicon author=””]The most damaging myth is the belief that the sexual relationship between clergy and parishioner is a consensual affair. The reality is the sexual relationship is a sexual assault. No matter if it happened once or if the sexual relationship lasts for 30 years. A sexual relationship between clergy and parishioner can never be consensual. The power differential is too great.



Patty Hearst – on the Humiliation of Being Brainwashed

HEARST: You know, when I first was arrested and first going through the therapy with the psychiatrist because I did feel really horrible. And I — it was the kind of guilt that was —

[imageframe width=300 height=250 pattern=”1″ align=”right” alt=””][/imageframe]A lot of it stemmed from feeling so horrible that my mind could be controlled by anybody, that I was so fragile that this could happen to me.

And because really we all think we’re pretty strong and that nobody can make us do something if we don’t want to do it. That’s true until somebody locks you up in a closet and tortures you and finally makes you so weak that you completely break and will do anything they say.

And there was the feeling of guilt and self-loathing and despair and pain that was just overwhelming.

~ Pattie Hearst


Langone (2001) notes that psychological manipulation can pose a danger and lead to changes in people’s thinking and behavior. Awareness of these processes can help people approached by members of cultic groups to maintain their independent thinking and minimize the risk of being deceived.

[quote author=”Michael Lagone”]Persuasion in the context of psychological manipulation, brainwashing, and propaganda can violate human freedom and by presenting information that is not always true, or by using means that distort the recipients’ thinking.[/quote]
Persuasive strategies can be presented in the form of manipulation as a means of social influence directed at changing individuals’ thoughts, emotions, and behaviors without their awareness.

The reason for this is that our cognitive and emotional processes happen on two levels: conscious and unconscious. Cialdini and Sagarin (2005) point out that many influence strategies capitalize on our tendency to respond automatically to certain cues in a persuasive message or influence situation. Although our attitudes can be changed when we are processing in a deliberately thoughtful manner, we are particularly vulnerable to strategies that are based on simple cues and shortcuts that elicit automatic responses.

The latter pose a danger because they happen beyond our conscious thinking.



Kathleen Taylor: Brainwashing is “a very extreme coercive application of tried and tested techniques of psychology”.

One Comment

  1. Henley Hornbrook says:

    Anyway, I have also read Ms. Taylor’s book on brainwashing and noted her use of the term “influence technicians”. I believe many of these techniques are used today in major applications by those trying to influence the overall direction of the global economy. Very troubling.

Leave a Reply