*(CCHOB)Classical Conditioning Hypothesis Of Brainwashing
Friends, someone posted a link to a research paper on methods used by Large Group Awareness Trainings.
IMO some of this material applies to commercial gurus who generate harm reports.
YOu can find the paper here.
Brainwashing in a Large Group Awareness Training?
The Classical Conditioning Hypothesis of Brainwashing
John Hunter - 213569345
The author of this paper used Robert J. Lifton's findings on how prisoners were converted to believe in their own guilt, confess their worthlessness and find relief by believing in their captor's doctrines.
Here is a capsule summary of the components Lifton identified as key to the throught control/re-education process, aka brainwashing
Note: Corboy's opinion is that yoga, tantra, crazy wisdom, meditation, neo advaita, spiritual seeker scene tends to encourage devaluation of of logic and reason....even before you encounter predators only too happy to exploit this.
I spent years at an ethical and honorable Zen center and did retreats at a place influenced by theravedan buddhism. Am sorry to report many loveable wise persons at both places were dabbling in material that devalued reason and fact checking. As I came to value friendships at these places, I learned that verbally expressing doubts, pointing out inconsistencies and past histories of abuse by certain teachers met with frowns and was a mood spoiler. All the bowing
Crucial to the CCHOB are a number of steps. The first steps render reason defunct as a
mechanism for challenging the philosophy being indoctrinated; the next set of steps
promote general trust and elevate emotional experience as the sole mechanism for making
decisions and forming beliefs. Once this has been achieved the participant is vulnerable -
susceptible to ignoring rational defenses and uncritical of emotional experience as a source
of knowledge. The final step of the process involves triggering a powerful “experience”,
which participants associate with the principles/doctrine of the LGAT.
? Step 1 – Destroy the participant’s ability to reason. This is achieved through
philosophical undermining of reason as a source of knowledge, as well as through
intimidation, sleep deprivation, and attacks on the participants’ identities.
Inaccessible content and processes, like reframing and thought-terminating clichés,
which make questioning very difficult, are also used.
? Step 2 - Elevate blind trust (particularly in the trainer) to a virtue. Convince
participants that unconditional trust, in the context of the training environment,
rather than being foolish/naive/gullible, is a positive human trait.
? Step 3 – Elevate emotional experiences as evidence of the validity of a
process/doctrine. By spending a considerable period of time denigrating traditional
evidence, using selective examples to criticize science (E.g. “At one time all of the
best scientists in the world were certain that the earth was flat…”), and arguing that
one’s feelings are completely reliable, LGATs convince participants that only
experience can be trusted in their forming of new beliefs.
? Step 4 – Trigger an emotional experience paired with group’s doctrine. According to
the CCHOB LGAT participants will associate the experience with the principles of the
LGAT without processing these principles rationally.
(8) Re-education: Logical Dishonoring. Re-education begins formally with emphasis on group
study, and takes prisoners from artificially knowing the Communist doctrine, to being able
to use it and its reasoning to extend their self-abuse. Prisoners had to look at what they had
done prior to imprisonment and to find fault with it. They were convinced that their actions
were not only against Communism, but also in conflict with their own principles. Lifton
speaks about the negative identity (parts of a person of which he is not proud), and the
positive identity (parts that he likes and draws esteem from). Logical dishonouring aimed to
maximise the negative identity, and minimise the positive identity, creating a sense of
worthlessness. This stage is “the most dangerous part of thought reform” (Lifton, 1961, p.
78). Relative to the more superficial guilt previously experienced, here the prisoner
experiences deep, internalised guilt. The very essence of his being is threatened.
“… some observers have raised concerns about the authoritarian
nature of certain trainings and the potential for manipulation and harm” (Langone, 1998;
Pressman, 1993; Singer, 2003). The guilt experienced by most participants does not lead to
recognisable pathology in most participants, but this does not mean that some are not
Importantly, a certain number of participants will be seriously harmed as these stresses
precipitate a handful of psychological conditions, such as brief psychotic episodes,
posttraumatic stress disorder syndrome, a variety of dissociative disorders, relaxationinduced anxiety, and other miscellaneous reactions including phobias, cognitive
difficulties, and stress-related illnesses (Singer, 2003, p. 208).
(8) Re-education: Logical Dishonoring
Lifton (1961) states that reeducation begins informally right at the start of the process, but
that the real reeducation starts when group-study is emphasised. During the process
prisoners are made to consider everything they have done prior to imprisonment and to
find fault with every aspect of it. This process, while present in the 2010 LGAT, did not take
place to the extent that is inferred by Lifton. The general assault on identity incorporates a
great deal of abuse and blame for thinking patterns and behavior patterns of participants
before entering the training
Lifton explains that the aim of the process of re-education and logical dishonoring was to
maximise the negative identity and minimise the positive identity, with the end goal being
the greatest sense of worthlessness. Of course, a great deal of what has already been
mentioned in the sections on “Abuse” and “Assault Upon Identity” have the effect of
maximizing the negative identity. In addition to the group examples provided above,
individuals were singled out and their “stories” were re-interpreted by the guru. In my own
case the guru mocked depression. People who had experienced depression, according to
him, had the added guilt that they were just attention seekers (and that they could just
“snap out of it” if they really wanted to). Referring to prisoners during the Korean War,
Lifton describes them as feeling a deep, internalized guilt and states that the very essence of
their being was being threatened. There was, without question, an attempt by the LGAT
trainer to achieve in participants a “deep, internalized guilt” and it appeared that he was
largely successful in this endeavor. The trainer during the 2010 LGAT openly admitted that
he wanted to destroy the positive self-image participants have of themselves, and
attempted throughout the training to do exactly this.
(9) Progress and Harmony
To feel a sense of harmony the prisoner must adapt to the new environment to a greater or
lesser degree. As the prisoner adapts he starts to receive better treatment. This was seen
before the end of the first day in the 2010 LGAT. A number of participants initially
challenged the trainer, but soon learned that this led to abuse. They also learned that
providing the desired feedback, regardless of whether it made sense or not, was met with
praise from the trainer and applause from the group.
“As mentioned in the rules any questions required your hand to be raised and if anyone
shared anything then everyone had to applaud. The facilitator repeated this gravely:
‘Everyone is to applaud’” (Field Notes, 136-138).
Corboy: In Moo's case, everyone is to laugh.
What followed was a new understanding of the word “trust”. The trainer asked us when
we should trust someone, so one of the participants replied “When you’ve known them
for a while?” He explained condescendingly that this was wrong because you could never
know just how long you’d have to know someone before they were trustworthy. I
suggested that you trust someone when they’d demonstrated that they were trustworthy – that you should use your judgment. This, I was told, was equally wrong because
– according to the facilitator- you would never trust someone based on this. You would
always want them to jump through higher and higher “trust hoops” in order to satisfy
you. I told him – quite correctly – that what he’d said made no sense, but he angrily cut
me off, told me he didn’t care what I thought and asked if there were any other
questions. As you might be able to imagine, real questions became scarce. Questions that
sought to understand what he wanted us to understand remained, however. He went on
to explain that trust is something that comes from within – YOU make the decision to
trust. I put up my hand – “Surely that trust has to be based on something…” He cut me
off… (Field Notes, 185-198).
A similar exchange took place in the Lifespring training, as explained by Haaken and Adams
An example of this type of interaction occurred on the first evening after the "Trust"
exercise. Instructions for this exercise were as follows: Participants were to mingle, and
when eye contact was made with other participants, one of four comments was allowed:
"I trust you ", "I don't trust you," "I don't know if I trust you,"" or "I don't care to say if I
trust you." The participants were then to move on to the next person without further
comment. After regrouping following the exercise, one participant challenged the implicit
reasoning behind the exercise; as the exchange below indicates, his reaction was
dismissed without legitimizing the rationality of the question that he raised.
JAMES: I'm not sure what this had to do with real trust. I mean, it's not an all or nothing
thing-like "I trust you" or "I don't trust you." I would trust someone with my car before I
would trust them with my child, depending on how well I knew the person.
TRAINER: Are you willing to consider the possibility that you don't know what trust really
JAMES: (Appearing confused and hesitating) Yes.
TRAINER: Thank you. You may sit down. (Audience applause).
The trainer used a variety of techniques to neutralize comments which challenged or
qualified the point being made and maintained sufficient control over audience
responses to assure that defiance and critical thinking were not publicly rewarded
(Haaken & Adams, 1983).
This specific elevation of blind trust to a virtue is fundamental to the CCHOB. In fact, Step 2
of the CCHOB is “Elevate blind trust in the trainer to a virtue. Convince participants that
unconditional trust in the context of the training environment, rather than being
foolish/naive/gullible, is a positive human trait”. In summary Haaken and Adams explain
that participants must adapt to the “logic” of the environment to fit in and avoid
Participants who offered critical comments or who suggested a different way of
conceptualizing a problem had their statements dismissed, were subjected to ridicule or
were confused with paradoxical logic. The "dissenter" was generally maneuvered into
some form of compliance before being permitted to sit down and receive the applause
(Haaken & Adams, 1983
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/18/2020 11:14PM by corboy.