Brainwashing...?

  • 37 Replies
  • 5240 Views
Brainwashing...?
« on: September 21, 2014, 07:53:25 AM »
There's a text somewhere out there saying that emotional abuse has an effect that's similar to brainwashing. I did some research on that, and found several websites of women who've survived hellish marriages, and they also say that emotional abuse brainwashes you. If this is true for emotional abuse you get as a grown-up, it has to be doubly true for the abuse you get as a kid. If a grown woman is eventually worn down, then what hope has a child?

I'm torn. On the one hand, it fits to what I know of myself. Even some of the stages of brainwashing applied - I remember one of them very vividly, and I remember how terrifying and painful it was, but it never made sense at the time and so I thought it was just me being overdramatic or thin-skinned or whatever. But then I read that text about stages of brainwashing and I went: "...sounds familiar... hm, a bit familiar... nope... yes, that there is familiar again... and what's this? AAAGH!" I closed the tab and sat there, utterly spooked, heart pounding. Finally, that one hellish time in my life made sense. Hooray. That's good. But it also means that it really happened, it really was just as bad as I felt it was, and that is scary. (I'm fine - I've got time enough to work through this, and dh is a very good listener nowadays.)

But can this really be true? It's not like I grew up in a cult! What do I have to complain about? It was just emotional abuse, it wasn't the GULAG.

On the other hand, to this day I've got trouble believing in my own opinions. I'm so used to thinking: "oh, but that can't be true - after all, it's me thinking it." Now THAT certainly isn't an attitude I was born with.

How about you? Anyone else feel that? Or is it just me? What are your experiences with this? If this truly is a part of CPTSD - being unused to validating one's own opinions and experiences - then that would be a major stumbling block on our way to recovery, right? How can I win if I haven't got myself on my side?
« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 07:56:58 AM by schrödinger's cat »

*

keepfighting

  • Member
  • 409
  • I'm not broken just bent
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2014, 09:36:32 AM »
I closed the tab and sat there, utterly spooked, heart pounding. Finally, that one hellish time in my life made sense. Hooray. That's good. But it also means that it really happened, it really was just as bad as I felt it was, and that is scary.

But can this really be true? It's not like I grew up in a cult! What do I have to complain about? It was just emotional abuse, it wasn't the GULAG.

That sounds pretty frightening. I am glad you've got your DH on your side to help you cope with the horrible memories.

The way I see it, we did grow up in a cult called the 'family system' that centered around one or more toxic person(s).

Are you familiar with Steven Hassan's BITE model? It's a good resource for the different levels on which mind control works (another term for 'brainwashing').

https://www.freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php

Somewhere at the beginning of Pete Walker's book on CPTSD, he mentions that his method can also help cult victims.

On the other hand, to this day I've got trouble believing in my own opinions. I'm so used to thinking: "oh, but that can't be true - after all, it's me thinking it." Now THAT certainly isn't an attitude I was born with.

How about you? Anyone else feel that? Or is it just me? What are your experiences with this? If this truly is a part of CPTSD - being unused to validating one's own opinions and experiences - then that would be a major stumbling block on our way to recovery, right? How can I win if I haven't got myself on my side?

You're definitely NOT alone in this - we were programmed to believe in the superiority of their judgment and our own inferiority. The ability to trust in my own judgment is a skill that I haven't mastered yet - and I'm in my forties and have been NC with both my parents for more than 13 years.

Like you said: Time to get ourselves on our side!

*

Kizzie

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • 7346
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2014, 09:44:28 AM »
Finally, that one hellish time in my life made sense. Hooray. That's good. But it also means that it really happened, it really was just as bad as I felt it was, and that is scary. (I'm fine - I've got time enough to work through this, and dh is a very good listener nowadays.)

But can this really be true? It's not like I grew up in a cult! What do I have to complain about? It was just emotional abuse, it wasn't the GULAG.

On the other hand, to this day I've got trouble believing in my own opinions. I'm so used to thinking: "oh, but that can't be true - after all, it's me thinking it." Now THAT certainly isn't an attitude I was born with.

How about you? Anyone else feel that? Or is it just me? What are your experiences with this? If this truly is a part of CPTSD - being unused to validating one's own opinions and experiences - then that would be a major stumbling block on our way to recovery, right? How can I win if I haven't got myself on my side?

If one or both of your parents had a personality disorder (PD) then absolutely it can be true that most of what you went through was a form of brainwashing, not as clearly cult-like as some organizations, but nevertheless a closed system in which you are required to subscribe to the beliefs and edicts of those who hold power,  which suppresses individual thinking, and from which you don't feel you can leave. 

You might want to swing on over to our sister site "Out of the FOG" and have a read through the sections "Disorders" and "Traits" and see if any of that fits your parents. Also, if you check out our home page, you'll see some of the PD behaviours that if long term can lead to CPTSD. They can be described as brainwashing, esepcially when it's young children as you point out.


Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2014, 11:52:01 AM »
Thanks, both of you. I'll look at these links, they sound interesting.

I'd be surprised if my mother had a personality disorder, though. She had a crap childhood and basically had no one to help her deal with problems. She parented her younger siblings and did grown-up work from the time she was... four? And she and her siblings were never allowed to rest or play. They always had to work at something, even if it was simply just knitting stockings. She doesn't talk much about that time, but I get the impression that she was a functional adult by the time she was about eight, give or take a few years. My working theory is that her parentalization plus overwork explains her erratic parenting.

So when people get too close, she unconsciously sees this as "yet MORE work" and "yet ANOTHER person who wants to be taken care of". She uses Medium Chill to put distance between her and others. Once the relationship has cooled to a temperature she feels comfortable with, she takes it back up again. She is generous with her help, but only in places where she could pull back any time she wanted. To me, she's always been a fair-weather friend. But why shouldn't she be? After all, she was a functional adult by the time she was eight! She must've seen me as a functional adult by the time I, too, was eight, which explains most of the neglect. My father was critically ill for years, so that was her focus, everything else had to wait. The over-worrying and micro-managing - I've begun to wonder if she didn't simply project her childlike, vulnerable need for guidance entirely onto me, so in "protecting" and "guiding" me she assuaged her own inner pain.

*

Badmemories

  • Member
  • 337
  • Keep On Keeping On
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2014, 08:13:35 PM »
I have been reading a lot lately on gaslighting. They consider it a form of torture and brainwashing.

wrote by schrödinger's cat,

I'd be surprised if my mother had a personality disorder, though. She had a crap childhood and basically had no one to help her deal with problems. She parented her younger siblings and did grown-up work from the time she was... four? And she and her siblings were never allowed to rest or play. They always had to work at something, even if it was simply just knitting stockings. She doesn't talk much about that time, but I get the impression that she was a functional adult by the time she was about eight, give or take a few years. My working theory is that her parentalization plus overwork explains her erratic parenting.

That is like the childhood that My mother had, on top of that her st. Father was an alcoholic and abusive. I think she did so much better than she was treated.

@kizzy
You might want to swing on over to our sister site "Out of the FOG" and have a read through the sections "Disorders" and "Traits" and see if any of that fits your parents. Also, if you check out our home page you'll see some of the PD behaviours that if long term can lead to CPTSD. They can be described as brainwashing, especially when it's young children as you point out.,

I just want to know how YOU do that... shorten a web address and write a small explanation and it goes to the link! Is it easy?  You can see I underlined it from Your post and I know it will not go to the website but it would be so much easier!!

*

Kizzie

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • 7346
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2014, 08:37:36 PM »
BadMemories - whatever the link is you want to insert - copy it, highlight where you want it to go in your post (in this case you would highlight "Out of the FOG"), and click on the little globe icon above this text box second row, second from the left.  Easy peasy  ;)

Katz - what about Avoidant PD re your M? She sounded a bit like that to me but you of course would know best.  And perhaps if she doesn't have a clear PD, but her parenting was erratic, that's where your sense that part of what happened to you was brainwashing rises from. E.g., she may have had "rules" about how she was to be treated that she didn't articulate but that you knew all too well. There were probably unspoken rules about your F as well because he was so ill for so long and the family's attention was on him.  I think using "medium chill' on loved ones who have a PD is healthy, but when it's used on non-PDs it's more of a negative control behaviour (i.e., pushes people away).

The other thing that popped into my mind was that you may feel less than confident in your decisions, your choices, in your "self" because what 8 year old takes on an adult role and would not feel like they were "winging it?"

Just some random thoughts to chew on  8)

*

Badmemories

  • Member
  • 337
  • Keep On Keeping On
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2014, 08:46:04 PM »
@ Kizzie,
I copied and pasted this so I can try it!  :)

*

bee

  • Member
  • 127
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2014, 03:48:08 AM »
I know I was brainwashed. The only valid opinions were my uPDM's.

I remember learning about the difference between fact and opinion one day in school. It was the first time I understood that opinions can't be wrong. Unfortunately I was still naive enough to think that M just didn't have that little piece of information. I went home so excited to explain the difference to her. I explained that I could have a diffferent opinion than her. She said, "not when your opinion is wrong you can't". Then she ranted about about how stupid educators were.

When I was growing up my term for brainwashing/gas lighting/manipulation done to me by M was 'mind f**king'. I didn't know at the time how spot on that descriptor was.

I haven't been brave enough to read anything about brainwashing.

Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2014, 07:43:02 AM »
Oh goodness, yes, it's been a huge shock to read it, very chilling. Back then, I knew precisely what was happening, with clear and calm clarity, but I had no words for it and no way of ever getting even the SLIGHTEST and TINIEST bit of help. So yes, those texts pack a bit of a punch, in my opinon.

Sorry to hear you had to go through all that. You never deserved to be treated that way. Seriously, some families are like totalitarian regimes.

*

selfcompassion

  • Guest
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2014, 02:45:22 PM »
"After all, she was a functional adult by the time she was eight!"

No, she was a damaged and disfunctional child. Forcing her to replace the adults in her family did not make her an adult, it made her an abused child. There is nothing "adult creating" in that system. And far from "a functional adult", she was a child being forced into an adult caretaker role. That creates damaged and suffering adults. Your mother needs your compassion, as she never got to be a child. She missed it all. How sad for her.

Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2014, 03:57:51 PM »
I was too vague, then. Sorry - English isn't my native language. What I meant was this: seen from her point of view, it wasn't abusive to expect an eight-year old to function the same way a grown-up would. So she expected me to not need guidance, to not need much of her company, to not need comfort or expressions of affection (hugs, time spent together,...). When I told her I was bullied at school, she expected me to deal with it by myself, without one word of guidance or comfort. This was how she herself had to live when she was that age. She knows her case wasn't the norm, but she thinks of it as simply just a hardship she's overcome. I fully agree that she was most certainly overworked, overburdened with too much responsibility, and damaged.

Understanding that has made it easier to accept what's happened to me. She only handed down what was given her. It's very possible that no generation of my family has EVER been properly parented. They were always very poor, living in an area where people had to work hard, and in the 19th century, many of them had to leave their families as children to earn money working on other farms. No wonder they were crap at parenting. It makes me wonder if some forms of emotional abuse aren't, at the end of the day, caused or at least made worse by social injustice.

*

Kizzie

  • Administrator
  • Member
  • 7346
    • View Profile
Anger and Compassion
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2014, 07:34:23 PM »
I just wanted to note here that depending on our stage of recovery we may not be able to feel any compassion for those who abused/neglected us and that is perfectly OK and very natural.  The anger we feel helps to engage our self-protective capacities which are important in recovery if you agree with Pete Walker (CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving).  It's when we get stuck there in the anger that it's not healthy. 

And I agree with Walker when he suggests we do not have to be angry with our present day parents (unless they are still alive and behaving in an abusive manner), it's the ghost parents we carry around inside of us we need to wrestle with:

"In most cases survivors do not have to directly anger at and blame their living parents. They key place to direct it is at your internalized parents - the parents of your past. The most common exception to this occurs when a parent is still abusive" (p. 223)

In my case it took a whole lot of anger and grief to move into acceptance that my FOO was never going to be what I wanted and deserved and I let go of that wish before I began to feel any compassion and understanding. And even with that I still protect myself through low contact with my present day FOO because I do not want to be drawn back into the daily chaos (abuse) that PD behaviour fosters and which can still trigger me.   

I am able though to look at my present day M (she has NPD) and see now how she became that way and my F an alcoholic. Both my M and F were forced to act like adults very early on because of the depression, war, and poverty in which they grew up.  Both of my GM's died early on, and both my GF's were alcoholics so neither of my parents had a childhood. It's no wonder the cycle was handed down! Someone has to interrupt it and for whatever reason I escaped a PD and think/hope I have managed to do so.  My NPDB has not unfortunately so the cycle continues in his FOC. 

Self-compassion - It would be helpful if you could share with us how you moved into feeling compassion for the person(s) in your life who contributed to you developing CPTSD.  I know I always take heart/guidance from people who are further along in their recovery and I'm sure there are other members here who do as well.
   
« Last Edit: September 25, 2014, 07:41:44 PM by Kizzie »

*

Badmemories

  • Member
  • 337
  • Keep On Keeping On
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2014, 10:20:06 PM »
Right now I am  :stars:  :stars:
Floored...  :aaauuugh: :aaauuugh:

I was reading this link... Human trafficking bite model

OK, here what I have to confess is that My uNPDH was a pimp about 7 years before I met him. I think/thought nothing about it... I mean he is not a pimp now... I have never had sex in any unusual way in my marriage of 17 years. Who would know that someone with a past would use the experience as a PIMP to brainwash ME!

One time early in my marriage I saw a poster in OUR local country Social services office about counseling for former prostitutes...I honestly was going to get the toll free number and call it. The poster disappeared. I did try googling things about relationships with pimps but I did not get any notable hits.

I always wondered what charm or control he had over me. normally when I was being abused by anyone I was out the door, and fast. With HIM I just couldn't seem to move! I felt trapped. I felt frozen.  I guess for now this has me in a state of shock! I went over the list line by line. almost every brainwashing technique has been used on me! I guess this is an ???  ??? moment for me.

No wonder I have such a little bit of will power, to actually leave and move on with MY life. I guess to get over this I really am going to need a therapist!! I don't know how this leaves me. the bite model does not say anything about therapy for the victim of a pimp...

@kizzie... that was easy! TY for information.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2014, 10:22:25 PM by Kizzie »

Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2014, 09:54:14 AM »
Badmemories, what about websites for victims of domestic abuse?

I googled a bit and found this: http://lifemadesimple.typepad.com/abusednomore/2010/10/brainwashed-by-the-misery-trilogy.html . I've no idea who writes this blog, and what it's like, but this one text sounds sensible and kind, like this person knows what she's talking about.

On this website, a survivor of domestic abuse writes about what the process was like step by step: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/06/brainwashing-abusive-relationships/. As I said before, this was difficult to read, so make sure you're safe. Another website with information about brainwashing is this, and it's written in a more matter-of-fact and dry-as-bones tone, so it's not tinged with personal experience and might be easier to stomach: http://abusesanctuary.blogspot.de/2008/10/inside-mind-of-abuser.html.

There's something on Stockholm Syndrome on Out of the Fog: http://outofthefog.net/CommonNonBehaviors/StockholmSyndrome.html.... not that I'm suggesting you have it, but maybe some of the advice given there also applies to brainwashing (it's at the end of the text).

All in all, it's probably good that you found this out. But what a situation to be in! And you've got such a lot of other things going on in your life right now, too. I'll be thinking of you. Stay safe and take good care of yourself.

*

keepfighting

  • Member
  • 409
  • I'm not broken just bent
    • View Profile
Re: Brainwashing...?
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2014, 11:49:51 AM »
No wonder I have such a little bit of will power, to actually leave and move on with MY life. I guess to get over this I really am going to need a therapist!! I don't know how this leaves me. the bite model does not say anything about therapy for the victim of a pimp...

I've read Hassan's book 'Freedom of Mind' (http://www.amazon.com/Freedom-Mind-Helping-Controlling-Beliefs/dp/0967068819). His approach is centered on getting everyone involved in trying to free the mind of a cult victim and bring back his/her authentic self. It's very loving and a very powerful approach.

In our case, the 'loved ones' more often than not are the (emotional) abusers, so we have to be creative about whose help it is wise to enlist and whose 'help' would only get us deeper into the FOG. But anyone fighting our corner - professionals, friends, people you meet in a forum ... -  is just as fine.

It is a very good roadmap back to our 'authentic selves' and the skills you learn are the same ones you need in order to pick up your life after a toxic childhood/relationship. (I was raised in a cult and escaped together with DH about a decade ago)

I once asked my T if she thought there was anything 'me', anything truly 'authentic' left to be found at all - what with being raised in a NPD-ed family and in a cult. She said: "Yes, there is. It's like a little gem that was so precious to you that you protected it with all the strength that was in you and you let no one touch it or destroy it."

I believe we all have some part of ourselves that was so precious to us that we protected it no matter what - and that's what we're fighting to (re)gain now: A sense of authenticity, a sense of self and of self worth.

Caron Zlotnick has done research on helping women that were (forced) into prostitution, I think???

Kudos to you, BM!