Processes commonly termed 'brainwashing' and 'thought reform' very often include interventions that target subject's body.
We have learned to recognize the importance of social interaction and belief systems, but often ignore how people's bodies are treated.
The good news is that this component--the body/mechanical portion of the undue influence recipe --can be readily identified once we understand its importance and know what to look for.
This is useful both in designing research protocols--and applying rules of evidence in law.
As a result a very important part of the recipe for undue influence escapes scrutiny--a component which can be readily identified once we understand its importance and know what to look for.
We may never understand why we changed our beliefs in a certain situation, fear we were foolish or weak. But if we can identify some simple but important ways that our bodies were thrown off-balance and caused us to regress and become more suggestible, then that situation may become less mysterious and we may understand that something was done to us--and be able to prevent this from happening again.
But the secret is to become aware of our bodies and that the condition of our bodies will either strengthen or hamper our capacity to identify undue influence.
We live in a culture that tends to emphasize mind and devalues the body, so unless we develop special interests, we do not usually pay attention to our bodies, and are more likely to focus on belief systems and social interactions.
Mind and body are intimately linked. Doing certain things to bodies will have a powerful effect on people's minds.
Keeping people up past bedtime, room arrangements that are very uncomfortable, limiting bathroom breaks -- all of this may escape notice, not seem significant, but can throw people's bodies off balance and make them more suggestible.
Highly educated intelligent people may be especially vulnerable because years of higher education often lead us to focus on verbal material and to ignore our bodies and physical environment.
Persons who have studied techniques of undue influence have already identified some components which target the body. These may include but not be limited to:
1) Social isolation and secrecy (identified in Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment), which Robert J. Lifton termed 'milieu control'--that is control of the physical and social environment in which people are being influenced. In such a situation--subjects either are denied access to the full range of information and viewpoints about a group and are given only what the group wants them to know. This makes informed consent impossible.
2) Some groups use sleep deprivation and confrontation. Stress and sleep deprivation directly affect both body and mind and make it much more difficult to access and apply critical thinking skills--much the way an overheated computer tends to shut down and 'crash'.
Sleep deprivation is very important. The January 26, 2004 issue of Business Week had a cover story on the prevalence of insominia and sleep disorders. A lot of people are not getting sufficient sleep.
Many people are unaware that they have conditions such as ADD/ADHD or bipolar disorder. They be especially vulnerable if they run short on sleep--which can be an issue if they are persuaded to attend some types of Large Group Awareness Trainings or marathon encounter groups. This article is from the mother of a child with ADD:
Though the articles do not mention the role of sleep deprivation and undue influence, all this suggests if in which they're further deprived of sleep, persons already short on sleep (ask most parents you know!) are likely to become especially vulnerable to indoctrination and undue influence.
Educating people to protect themselves from undue influence will reach a new level of sophistication when we can teach people to pay attention to how their bodies are being treated, as well what patterns of social interactions are taking place.
When we have been unduly influenced by an intervention that has placed our bodies off balance, we cannot 'think our way out of it'--the recovery process has to include attention to physical healing as well. When we are sleep deprived, critical thinking is disabled. As long as we are sleep deprived we cannot apply critical thinking.
Drug addiction is a condition that affects body as well as mind. Recovering drug addicts have told me that when they were in the grip of their habits, their critical thinking supported the habit.
In a condition of undue influence, where the body is placed under sufficient stress, critical thinking can be co-opted by a group that uses undue influence. Critical thinking is like a tree--with enough skilled effort, that entire tree can be uprooted, then transported, roots and all, to another location and replanted.
The point of cult awareness is to make sure our own capacity for critical thinking remains in our own soil and isnt transported elsewhere.
There was a big discussion about this on another thread