Psychology   175207

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Aeon Essays -- [Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in Cults and Totalitarian Systems] by Alexandra Stein
'...For a totalist system to wield complete control, the leader must tap fear – this is the fourth element of totalism. The process of brainwashing that totalist systems engage in is one of psychological, coercive manipulation where the leader or group alternates terror with ‘love’. Bowlby said that when we are frightened, we don’t simply run away from the fear, but run to a safe haven, ‘to someone…’ – and that someone is usually a person to whom we feel attached. But when the supposed safe haven is also the source of the fear, then running to that person is a failing strategy, causing the frightened person to freeze, trapped between approach and avoidance. -- Mary Main, the renowned attachment researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, called this type of fear-based relationship ‘disorganised attachment’. This has a two-fold result: a confused emotional bonding to the source of fear in a failed attempt to seek comfort, and a cognitive dissociation, that is, the inability to think about one’s feelings. Fear or stress without escape – ‘fright without solution’, as attachment researchers refer to it – is a traumatic state that derails a person’s ability to think logically and clearly about the situation and therefore to take action to resolve it. Further, never achieving safety from the threat, they will keep returning to the relationship trying to gain that safety. Having disabled logical thinking about the traumatic relationship, the leader can then introduce even more of the fictitious ideology to explain away and redirect the follower’s terror. -- It’s a positive feedback loop with a biochemical element: physiologically, the victim is engaged in an effort to manage their cortisol or anxiety levels by seeking proximity to a safe haven, but never succeeding in attaining adequate comfort. It is for this reason that we can predict that cultic systems will attempt to interfere with and control any alternative attachment relationships a person might have. To fail to do so would allow the follower to find a safe haven elsewhere and potentially escape the emotional and cognitive control of the group. This is the same thing we see in controlling relationships such as in cases of domestic violence, of the Stockholm Syndrome or, frequently, with pimps and prostitutes, as well as in human trafficking. -- ... Every day in the media we can see the destructive power of this coercive psychological control put in place by pathological leaders. Whether it is parents who neglect or abuse children under a leader’s command, or terrorist fighters who blow themselves up for a fictional liberation, or parishioners impoverished by so-called ‘prosperity’ preachers, getting people to this point requires the conditions and processes I have outlined here. Once this fear-based control is in place, it is quite difficult to break: the follower’s dissociation and disorganised emotional attachment to the leader or group makes it extremely difficult to look clearly at what is happening. In fact, any attempt to do so only creates more fear, causing further disorganised bonding to the group to attempt to ease the stress.' -- It's hard to get enough of something that almost works. ~ Vincent Felitti
psychology  attachment  cults  totalitarianism  brainwashing  doublebind  stockholmsyndrome  addiction 
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