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Home arrow Psychological Issues arrow Cult, Hypnosis & Thought Reform

Cult, Hypnosis & Thought Reform

Everyone experiences some form of altered state of consciousness at some time in their life. Whenever we become wrapped in a movie, focus on a new task or prayer, daydream, or even wandering back in our minds to times past etc we are experiencing an altered state of consciousness or a trance-state. These dissociated states of consciousness are not difficult to bring about and one does not need a hypnotist to go into this type of trance.

Contrary to popular belief, one does not empty one’s mind to enter the trance state. Rather one has to actually focus on something tangible such as a voice, prayer, an object, a movie, etc. In fact, the mind has to be actively concentrating on this object during a trance induction.

For example, guided imagery is an excellent method of induction. One can facilitate trance induction by saying “Imagine that x .....” or “Relax and picture yourself when you were 5 ....” etc. So receptive is the mind to imagery that if someone were to ask you for directions to a place you know well you would probably automatically picture the place they are asking for in your mind as you describe how to get there.

The point that must be remembered is that one does not have to use the word “hypnosis” to induce a hypnotic state. All one needs to do is have the person’s interest absorbed or focussed on something. Once the hypnotic trance has taken place any post-hypnotic suggestion can be implanted in the individual and from then on the individual will obey those suggestions and to the world will look quite normal. All that is required is that the suggestions be re-enforced on a regular basis. Hence the constant repetitive indoctrination in the cults.

In the cults this type of state will and often is induced to prepare and keep someone in the re-education process. Most people believe that hypnosis is sleep, or needs to follow a set pattern to induce someone into a trance, but this is not the case at all. The trance state can be induced in many ways and most people are not aware when they are being induced into the trance state.

In the thought reform environment the first encounter a person will have is with the cults sales pitch. This is the communication process that gets their attention in the first place. From there they individual will be introduced to the various forms of manipulation that will make them more and more suggestible as time goes on.

For example, some types of induction into altered states of consciousness include guided imagery, sensitivity training, reverie, meditation, disguised hypnosis techniques (relaxation training), behaviour modification, repetitive singing or continually repeated trigger phrases or words. Communication techniques similar to Neuro Linguistic Programming are also used. The cults have become very adept at stimulating and maintaining the suggestibility and thought distortion in their recruits.

Generally you will find one of the following combinations in the thought reform environment:

  1. Confinement (communal) + thought reform practices
  2. Self Hypnosis/Meditation + thought reform practices
  3. Deprivation + thought reform practices
  4. Prolonged sensitivity training + thought reform practices
  5. Intense repetition & physical/emotional exhaustion + though reform practices

Added to this environment is the peer pressure which manipulates the recruit into compliance. This is done through psychological and/or physical rewards for conforming to the group ideal and some form of punishment for not conforming.

It can be argued that these techniques are legally defined as UNDUE INFLUENCE. According to Black’s Law Dictionary;

Undue Influence: Persuasion, pressure, or influence short of actual force, but stronger than mere advice, that so overpowers the dominated party’s free will or judgment that he or she cannot act intelligently and voluntarily, but acts, instead, subject to the will or purposes of the dominating party. (page 1528)

Recommended reading on how you can detect when someone is using manipulative and/or deliberate language patterns to slip ideas past you are the books The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense by Susan Haden Elgin and Trance Formations - Neuro-Linquistic Programming and the Structure of Hypnosis by John Grinder and Richard Bandler.