Defence against Manipulation

Posted on October 8, 2010 by


This very important article was first posted by Arnie Lerma on OCMB, 18 August 2006.

What can be done to safeguard against covert manipulations, and how does one resist covert, unethical forms of hypnosis? The literature suggests that three factors may be important in developing resistance:

– self-knowledge,
– a fund of general information, and
– specific knowledge about the psychology of manipulation.

First, becoming acquainted with the social psychology of manipulation and attitude change will be an asset to understanding mind control. A brief summary of selected research findings in this area suggests the following:

1 Manipulators often start with making minor requests. Getting people to perform small and relatively unrisky acts now will make it more likely that they will perform larger, more difficult and riskier tasks later. Corollary: giving in now to “minor” requests that are mildly uncomfortable makes it difficult to refuse more difficult and unsettling requests in the future (Freedman, Carlsmith, & Sears, 1974, 395-397).

2 Manipulators often seem unusually friendly, concerned and sincere. When people perceive that someone likes them or cares about them, they listen less critically to what is told to them and are also less apt to think negatively about the communicator (Zajonc, 1968). Corollary: “love bombing” (being made the center of attention and the target of an unusual amount of praise, affection, etc.) makes it hard to disagree or resist.

3 Manipulators do not immediately ask for agreement, they ask people to “try it” with an “open mind.” Getting people to behave in a manner that is somewhat contrary to their current belief system will often result in changed attitudes (Deutsch & Krauss, 1965; Festinger & Carlsmith, 1968). That is, acting on requests to “try it before you reject it” and assurances that “you can disagree with what you are doing even as you do it” often leads to changes in belief systems, especially if the subject is not overtly rewarded (e.g., by being paid) for performing the new behavior.

4 Manipulators use group pressure. It is difficult, especially over long periods of time, to be the only one in a group to disagree (Jones & Gerard, 1967, pp. 331-386). It can be painful to feel rejected or different, and sometimes even more painful to think of oneself as someone who has trouble tolerating rejection. Hence, people conform but are not always willing to admit to themselves that they are conforming (i.e., responding to group pressure). People rationalize instead, and claim it was their “free choice” to change.

5 Manipulators do not make things easy. People actually place more value on their actions if the task to be performed is somewhat unpleasant or difficult, even if it did not need to be unpleasant or difficult (Festinger, 1957). Corollary: making a task artificially “tough” typically makes it appear more meaningful and important than it may in fact be.

Knowledge

Having a specific knowledge of experimental/theoretical as well as practical hypnosis is also imporant to resistance. What are the implications of role taking in hypnosis, for example? This theory suggests that, by “pretending” to be in hypnosis, people can in fact become more suggestible and open to influence. Research on classical and “nonclassical” (e.g., Ericksonian) forms of hypnosis suggests the following:

1 It is possible to be hypnotized without being aware of the induction process. Most hypnotic phenomena, including carrying out posthypnotic suggestions, have been produced in subjects who were not aware of being in hypnosis (Erickson, Rossi, & Rossi, 1976).

2 Hypnosis begins with a shift in attention (Hilgard, 1968). Attention is normally motile, that is, it is dynamic and is relatively freely focused on a variety of events within a large perceptual field; it moves back and forth between the external (e.g., actions and events “outside” the self) and the internal (e.g., thoughts and feelings). Trance is a state that involves relatively focused, fixed or immotile attention. Corollary: anyone or anything that results in decreased motility of attention is highly likely to induce an altered state of consciousness (“trance”) whether or not it is labeled “hypnosis.”

3 The language of hypnosis is marked by vagueness, overgeneralizations, metaphors and abstractions. Classical inductions are not the only way to “talk hypnosis” (although they can be found in many “meditation” techniques not overtly labeled as hypnosis). Nonclassical inductions use “normal” conversation and storytelling, often directed at more than one representational system (e.g., sight, sound and touch) to shift attention, in part by activating the subject’s tendency to search within him— or herself in order to find ways of relating what is being said now to experiences in the past (Bandler & Grinder, 1975). Corollary: words that sound “deep” or meaningful but feel confusing (and/or strangely calming) can induce trance outside the subject’s awareness.

4 In trance, memories, fantasies, feelings and thoughts are often experienced more vividly and intensely than they are in the normal “waking” state (Hilgard, 1981). If a person is unaware of being in trance, or is unfamiliar or unconvinced of the phenomenon of hypnotic enhancement of perception, fantasy and suggestibility, then that person is likely to attribute the vividness and intensity of the trance experience to some special characteristic of the message and/or communicator. That is, the person links his/her feelings of intensity with what has been said or who has said it, not with how (i.e., hypnotically) it was said. The message is therefore experienced as “more real” or “more true” than other messages, and the communicator of the message is endowed with extraordinary (or even supernatural) characteristics or skills.

5 Hypnosis involves powerful transference. The induction process involves establishing and utilizing rapport, and hypnosis is perhaps first and foremost an interpersonal process (Fromm, 1979). Most subjects, after being hypnotized, feel closer, more trusting, and more positively about their operator than before. It is always more difficult to objectively assess someone (or what that someone says) after a powerful transference relationship has developed.

6 Hypnosis involves the suspension of “normal” logic. Trance logic is characterized by, among other things, lack of criticalness and the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs as true without one canceling out the other (Orne, 1959). Thus, in trance one can have the sensation of cold and still be aware of being seated in a warm, heated room. Corollary: in trance, people can accept notions or ideas that they would otherwise reject because they contradict other beliefs known to be based in reality. For example, the members of one Hindu-based cult believe that the space program is a hoax and yet may listen to and accept weather reports based on satellite pictures.

General information

One’s fund of general information (e.g., philosophy, comparative religion and history) can be vital in resisting manipulation. Perhaps more important, however, is an awareness of the limits of one’s knowledge base, and a willingness to add knowledge when one is unsure of the validity of what is being said. For example, a new form of so-called psychotherapy might claim to be “the modern science of mental health.” What makes a discipline a “science?” In part, it is the acceptance and utilization of a very specific method of inquiry that has uniform steps for positing hypotheses and validating them.

What are these steps? When these steps are not followed, what risks to validity are usually encountered? What is the “scientific method?” If uncertain, one should seek the answers to these questions before accepting any claim as being “scientific.” Similarly, groups or individuals may claim that their beliefs and/or practices are based on scriptural passages, history, research or other literature with which one is unfamiliar; before accepting anything else said, it is wise to check these references for their accuracy. In addition, the following steps might be helpful:

1 Paraphrase other peoples’ thoughts both aloud and to yourself to see if you’re understanding clearly. Dr. Zimbardo and his associate, Susan Andersen, recommend that if a message, book or lecture is difficult to understand, repeating the central points in one’s own words might help (Andersen & Zimbardo, 1980). Ask questions. If the answer is equally or more puzzling, a mental “beware” alarm should sound. The same alarm should go off if the answer is something like “well, you will understand more later” or “of course you can’t understand now, you’re too [nonspiritual, unenlightened, intellectual, ignorant, materialistic, rigid, unaware, unconnected with your feelings, etc.].”

2 Do not relate personal experiences, thoughts or feelings, or make any kind of confession that may be harmful should the information be released, Anderson and Zimbardo (1980) warn. Confidentiality is not automatic: nonlicensed/noncredentialed therapists and their clients may not come under the protection of state doctor-patient confidentiality laws. Groups or individuals that pressure people to reveal personal information may be acting unethically.

3 Put off any and all decisions until after the group experience is over, and then decide only after obtaining other information or consulting with trusted confidants.

4 Outside interests and social contacts are vital, state Zimbardo and Anderson (1980), and any group that makes an overt or subtle appeal to sever these bonds should be rejected. These outside sources are usually instrumental in providing reality-oriented feedback, and in helping to maintain a sense of personal continuity (i.e., a sense of knowing “where I came from”).

5 Any group or individual that arouses guilt to an uncomfortable level should be carefully checked out and probably avoided.

6 Have at least one good friend who is a “natural born” skeptic or critic. Or, if in a possible mind control situation already, seek out known “doubters” within that group. Put off feeling guilty about doubts for a day or two; discuss doubts now.

http://ocmb.xenu.net/ocmb/viewtopic.php?highlight=wilkes+hypnosis&t=20255

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A doomsday cult got going in a residential college for women. The End of the World was scheduled for 31 December and only members of the cult would survive. On 20 December half the students went home for Christmas and the other half stayed on in college. As 31 December approached, they prepared for their doom with vigils, fasting and prayers. On 1 January they were told their supplication had been successful, and Doom had been postponed. The students who had gone home and were isolated from the other members of the cult within their families were not surprised to find all their families and friends still alive on 1 January and went back to college as non-believers.

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