Emotional And Intellectual Manipulation, Part 5

This is Part 5 in a multi-part set of “stories” about the underpinnings of emotional,intellectual, as well as ideological manipulation.


How language is used is in the milieu of a controlling environment is fascinating.  It is characterized by repetitive, all-encompassing jargon, relentlessly judging, and definitive sounding phrases.  These phrases are used to encompass problems into simple, definitive sounding phrases.  They are used to dismiss those outside concerns that would challenge thought or emotional control-such as individual expression, exploration of alternative ideas, and the search for perspective and balance in any matters.  Not only do these simple phrases serve to encapsulate and in effect stop individual expression and thought, but they also serve as “ ultimate terms” ( that terms is from Richard Weaver- an author who writes about intellectual, emotional, and religious manipulation and control).  Ultimate terms are interesting.  For example- “god terms” are representative of ultimate good (eg. higher self, Platonic ideals, etc.) or conversely “devil terms”.  Devil terms are obviously used to characterize any challenge to the controller or the controlling milieu  by demonizing any free thought, critical thought, or differing perspectives.  

Although language is fluid, and all organizations and intellectual disciplines have to some degree, their own language, it is the use of the language in a manipulating environment that distinguishes it from other environments.  It is the extremity of the loading of the jargon with the extremes of good vs evil, the confession for purity, for forgiveness, and the resulting implicit threat that non-compliance will carry the punishment of expulsion from the “chosen”, or from the “forgiven” and that approval and affection will be removed.  There is no limit to the manipulation of the language, or the use of the language when it comes to the usefulness to the “cause”.

The result of the “loaded” language upon the individual is that of constriction. There is constriction of thought, and of expression.  What follows is a quote from Dr. Lifton’s book:  “this loading of language may provide an initial sense of insight and security, eventually followed by uneasiness. This uneasiness may result in a retreat into a rigid orthodoxy in which an individual shouts the ideological jargon all the louder in order to demonstrate his conformity, hide his own dilemma and his despair, and protect himself from the fear and guilt he would feel should he attempt to use words and phrases other than the correct ones. Or else he may adapt a complex pattern of inner division, and dutifully produce the expected cliché's in public performances while in his private moments he searches for more meaningful avenues of expression. Either way, his imagination becomes increasingly dissociated from his actual life experiences ….”  In other words, there develops a discordance with reality, and with real life experiences, and in order to hide the discordance, the jargon in use is shouted all that more loudly.

Language and Doctrine Over the Person:

The use of doctrine, and the use of the loaded language as described above, is primarily to subordinate the actual human experience.  There is a continual shifting and interplay between the experiences and the extremely abstract interpretation of the experiences- this allows for the shifting between genuine feeling and false and manipulative cataloguing of feelings.  This again augments the aura of control and the “mystical science/dogma” aspect of the manipulation, as described earlier.

By mixing the doctrine, and stories/myths with the “mystical science/dogma” the “resulting "logic" can be so compelling and coercive that it simply replaces the realities of individual experience. Consequently, past historical events are retrospectively altered, wholly rewritten, or ignored, to make them consistent with the doctrinal logic. This alteration becomes especially malignant when its distortions are imposed upon individual memory .” ( R. J. Lifton, MD, as before)  In other words, memories are altered or ignored such that there is compliance with the Movement or with the person in control.

Again, from Lifton, MD- “The same doctrinal primacy prevails in the totalist approach to changing people: the demand that character and identity be reshaped, not in accordance with one's special nature or potentialities, but rather to fit the rigid contours of the doctrinal mold. The human is thus subjected to the ahuman. And in this manner, the totalists, as Camus phrases it, "put an abstract idea above human life, even if they call it history, to which they themselves have submitted in advance and to which they will decide arbitrarily, to submit everyone else as well."  And it should be noted, that those who do not submit, are subsequently demonized as they represent the threat of critical judgement to the Movement.

What is accepted and understood is that the doctrine, and it’s associated myths/dogma that  must be accepted as more valid, true, and real than any other aspect of human experience or actual human character.  As such, when there is any conflict with reality, or with other systems of belief, the new rationalizations and facades that are created by the individuals demonstrate the consistency of the doctrine and the “unfailing foresight which it provides”.  The doctrine, has built into it, arguments and rationalizations that require that an individual  demonstrate unerring consistency via the remodeling of their own rationalizations, not questioning the basis of the beliefs.  Therefore, the truth of the doctrine is always consistent, and it is the individual that must conform and rationalize discrepancies in order to dispel their own doubts, and to continue to be in compliance and receive approval and acceptance. It is in this way that the individual has relinquished their own ability to critically judge reality.  This results in strong polarized feelings of sincerity and insincerity.

In the setting of manipulation, absolute “sincerity” is demanded- and that is displayed by compliance.  Compliance not only in belief, but also as applied to personal change.

There is always the possibility that an individual will challenge the doctrine. The success of that challenge is dependent upon many factors, some internal to the individual, such as strength of previous identity , but there are external factors as well, such as the degree of encroachment into the controlled milieu by these “deviant” ideas.  The controlled milieu “counters such "deviant" tendencies with the accusation that they stem entirely from personal "problems" ("thought problems" or "ideological problems") derived from untoward earlier influences. The outcome will depend largely upon how much genuine relevance the doctrine has for the individual emotional predicament. And even for those to whom it seems totally appealing, the exuberant sense of well-being it temporarily affords may be more a "delusion of wholeness" than an expression of true and lasting inner harmony.” ( R. D. Lifton, MD)  

It is unfortunate that those most susceptible to this sort of manipulation are those who are undergoing stressful situations where they desire comfort and crave the “delusion of wholeness” to the extent that there is a willingness, if not an incredibly compelling desire, to submit themselves wholly and completely to controlling milieu.  Critical thought is lost, as is the sense of individuality.

I would again like to add that I have extensively drawn from and condensed material from multiple sources,  but for this “story”, primarily  R.J Lifton, MD and his book “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.”
RSCL RSCL 46-50 1 Response Mar 14, 2012

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This is a good description of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.