CHAPTER FOUR -- WHY DO THEY YIELD? -- THE PSYCHODYNAMICS OF FALSE CONFESSION
Is thre a bridge from the concept of Pavlovian conditioning to deeper psychological understanding? Only in those Pavlovian theoreticians who deny modern depth psychology does there exist a conflict between concepts. Pavlov himself acknowledged the presence of deeper, hidden motivations in man and the limitations of his study of animal behavior.
Our task is to go back to the brainwashee, asking ourselves: How can we better convey an understanding of what happened to him? What were the Pavlovian circumstances, and what were the inner motivations to yield to enforced political manipulation of the mind? Was it cowardice, was it a prison psychosis, was it the general loss of mental stamina in our world?
In the following observations and experiences I hope to make use of the clinical insight actually provided by modern depth psychology.
The Upset Philosopher
One day in 1672, the lonely philosopher of reason, Spinoza, had to be forcibly restrained by his friends and neighbors. He wanted to rush out into the streets and shout his indignation at the mob which had murdered his good friend Jan De Witt, noble statesman of the Dutch Republic, who had been falsely accused of treason. But presently he calmed down and retreated to his room where, as usual, he ground optical lenses according to a daily and hitherto unbroken routine.
As he worked, he thought back to his own behavior, which had been no more rational or sensible than the behavior of the rioting crowd which had killed De Witt. It was then that Spinoza realized the existence of the emotional beast hidden beneath human reason, which, when aroused, can act in a wanton and destructive fashion, and can conjure up thousands of justifications and excuses for its behavior.
For, as Spinoza sensed, and as was later discovered, people are not the rational creatures they think they are. In the unconscious, that vast storehouse of deeply buried memories, emotions, and strivings, lie many irrational yearnings, which constantly influence the conscious acts. All of us are governed to some degree by this hidden tyrant, and by the conflict between our reason and our emotions.
To the extent that we are the victims of unchecked unconscious drives, to that extent we may be vulnerable to mental manipulation. And although there is a horrifying fascination in the idea that our mental resistance is relatively weak, that the very quality which distinguishes one man from another -- the individual "I" -can be profoundly altered by psychological pressures, such transformations are merely extremes of a process we find operating in normal life.
Through systematized suggestion, subtle propaganda, and more overt mass hypnosis, the human mind in its expressions is changed daily in any society. Advertising seduces the democratic citizen into using quackeries or one special brand of soap instead of another. Our wish to buy things is continually stimulated. Campaigning politicians seek to influence us by their glamour as well as by their programs. Fashion experts hypnotize us into periodic changes of our standards of beauty and good taste.
In cases of menticide, however, this assault on the integrity of the human mind is more direct and premeditated. By playing on the irrational child lying hidden in the unconscious and by sharpening the internal conflict between reason and emotion, the inquisitor can bring his victims to abject surrender.
All of the victims of deliberate menticide -- the P.O.W.s in Korea, the imprisoned "traitors" to the dictatorial regimes of the Iron Curtain countries, the victims of the Nazi terror during the Second World War -- are people whose ways of life had been suddenly and dramatically altered. They had been torn from their homes, their families, their friends, and thrown into a frightening, abnormal atmosphere. The very strangeness of their surroundings made them more vulnerable to any attack on their values and attitudes. When the dictator exploits his victim's psychological needs in a threatening, hostile, and unfamiiar world, breakdown is almost sure to follow.
The Barbed-Wire Disease
Already during the First World War, peculiar mental reactions, mixtures of apathy and rage, could be discerned in prisoners of war as a defensive adjustment against the hardships of prison life, the boredom, the hunger, the lack of privacy, the continual insecurity. The Korean War added to this situation the greater cruelty of the enemy, the prolonged fear of death, malnutrition, diseases, systematic attacks on the prisoner's mind, the lack of sanitation, and the lack of all human dignity.
Often improvement could be secured through acceptance of the totalitarian ideology. The psychological pressure not only led to an involvement with the enemy but caused mutual suspicion among the prisoners.
As I have already described, the barbed-wire disease begins with the initial apathy and despair of all prisoners. There is passive surrender to fate. In fact, people can die out of such despair; it is as if all resistance was gone. Being anything but aloof and apathetic was even dangerous in a camp where the enemy wanted to debate and argue with you in order to tear down your mental resistance. Consequently a vicious circle was built up of apathy, not thinking, letting things go -- a surrender to a complete zombie-like existence of mechanical dependency on the circumstances. Every sign of anger and alertness could be brutally punished by the enemy; that is why we do not find those sudden attacks of rage that were observed in the earlier prisoner-of-war camps during World Wars I and II.
Results of psychological testing of the liberated soldiers from the Korean P.O.W. camps could indicate that this defensive apathy and retreat into secluded dependency was likely to be found in nearly all of them. Yet, after being brought back into normal surroundings, alertness and activity returned rather soon, even in two or three days. Those few who remained anxious, apathetic, and zombielike belong to the long chapter of war and battle neuroses (Strassman).
What are some of the factors which can turn a man into a traitor to his own convictions, an informer, a confessor to heinous crimes, or an apparent collaborator?
The Moment of Sudden Surrender
Several victims of the Nazi inquisition have told me that the moment of surrender occurred suddenly and against their will. For days they had faced the fury of their interrogators, and then suddenly they fell apart. "All right, all right, you can have anything you want."
And then came hours of remorse, of resolution, of a desperate wish to return to their previous position of firm resistance. They wanted to cry out: "Don't ask me anything else. I won't answer." And yet something in them, that conforming, complying being hidden deep in all of us, was on the move.
This sudden surrender often happened after an unexpected accusation, a shock, a humiliation that particularly hurt, a punishment that burned, a surprising logic in the inquisitor's question that could not be counter-argued. I remember an experience of my own that illustrated the effect of such surprise.
After my escape from a Nazi prison in occupied Holland, I was able to reach neutral Switzerland via Vichy France. When I arrived, I was put in a jail where, at first, I was treated rather kindly. After three days, however, I was denied an officer's right to asylum and was told that I would be deported back to Vichy France. To this information, my jailers sneeringly added the comment that I should be happy I was not going to be deported back to the Germans.
When I left to be transported to the border, I was asked to sign a paper stating that all my possessions (which had been taken from me on my imprisonment) had been returned. I refused to sign because a few things -- unimportant in themselves, but of great emotional value to me -- were not included in the package my jailers handed me. One of the guards looked at me with contempt, the second tapped his foot impatiently and repeatedly demanded that I sign the paper, the third scolded and chattered in a French that was completely unintelligible to me. I continued firm in my refusal.
Suddenly one of my officers started to slap me around the face and to beat me. Overwhelmed by surprise that they should display such fury over a bagatelle, I surrendered and signed the paper. (From the Vichy prison to which I was sent, I was permitted to write a letter of protest to the Swiss government. I still carry the official apology I received.)
This sudden change of mood of defiant resistance to one of submission must be explained by the unconscious action of contrasting feelings. Consciously we tell ourselves to be strong, but from deep within us the desire to give in and to comply beings to disturb us and to affect our behavior. In psychology this is described as the innate ambivalence of all feelings.
The Need to Collapse
The vocabulary of psychopathology contains many sophisticated terms for the wish to succumb to mental pressure, such as "wish to regress," "dependency need," "mental masochism," "unconscious death wish," and many others. For our purposes, however, it is enough to state that every individual has two opposing needs which operate simultaneously: the need to be independent to be oneself; and the need NOT to be oneself, NOT to be anybody at all, NOT to resist mental pressure.
The need to be inconspicuous, to disappear, and to be swallowed up by society is a common one. In its simplest form we can see it all around us as a tendency to conform. Under ordinary circumstances the need for anonymity is balanced by the need for individuality, and the mentally healthy person is one who can walk the fine line between them. But in the frightening, lonely situaitons in which the victims of menticidal terror find themselves -- situations which have a nightmare quality, which are crammed with dangers so tremendous they cannot be grasped or understood because there is nobody to explain or reassure -- the wish to collapse, to let go, to be not there, becomes almost irresistable.
This experience was reported by many concentration-camp victims. They had come into camp with one unanswered question buring in their minds: "Why has all this happened to me?" Their need for a sense of direction, for a feeling of purpose and meaning was unsatisfied, and hence they could not maintain their personalities. They let themselves go in what psychopathology calls a depersonalization syndrome, a general feeing of having lost complete control of themselves and their own existence. What Pavlovian conditioning can do in applying artficial confusion, can be done too by one shocking experience. "For what?" they asked themselves. "What is the meaning of all this suffering?" And gradually they sank dully into that paralyzed state of semi-oblivion we call depression: the self-destructive needs take over.
The Nazis were clever and unscrupulous in taking advantage of this need to collapse. The humiliation of concentration-camp life, the repeated suggestion that the Allies wre as good as beaten -- they conspired to convince the inmates that there would be no end to this pointless suffering, no victorious conclusion to the war, no future to their lives. The desire to break down, to give in, becomes almost insurmountable when a man feels that this horrible marginal existence is something permanent, that he cannot look toward a more personal goal, that he has to adjust to this dulling, degrading life forever.
At the moment faith and hope disappear, man breaks down. There are tragic stories of concentration-camp victims who fixed all their expectations on the idea that liberation would come on Christmas, 1944, and aimed their entire existence toward that date. When it passed and they were still incarcerated, many of them simply collapsed and died.
This tendency to collapse also serves as a protective device against danger. The victim seems to think, "If my torturer doesn't notice me, he will leave me alone." And yet this very feeling of anonymity, this sense of losing one's personality, of being useless, unnoticed and unwanted, also results in depression and apathy. Man's need to be an individual can never be completely killed.
The Need for Companionship
Not enough attention has been given to the psychlogy of loneliness, especially to the implications of enforced isolation of prisoners. When the sensory stimuli of everyday life are removed, man's entire personality may change. Social intercourse, our continual contact with our colleagues, our work, the newspapers, voices, traffic, our loved ones and even those we don't like -- all are daily nourishment for our senses and minds. We select what we find interesting, reject what we do not want to absorb. Every day, every citizen lives in many small worlds of exchange of gratifications, little hatreds, pleasant experiences, irritations, delights. And he needs these stimuli to keep him on the alert. Hour by hour, reality, in cooperation with our memory, integrates the millions of facts in our lives by repeating them over and over.
As soon as man is alone, closed off from the world and from the news of what is going on, his mental activity is replaced by quite different processes. Longforgotten anxieties come to the surface, long-repressed memories knock on his mind from inside. His fantasy life begins to develop and assume gigantic proportions. He cannot evaluate or check his fantasies against the events of his ordinary days, and very soon they may take possession of them.
I remember very clearly my own fantasies during the time I was in a Nazi prison. It was almost impossible for me to control my depressive thoughts of hopelessness. I had to tell myself over and over again: "Think, think. Keep your senses alert; don't give in." I tried to use all my psychiatric knowledge to keep my mind in a state of relaxed mobilization, and on many days I felt it was a losing battle.
Some experiments have shown that people who are deprived, for even a very short time, of ALL sensory stimuli (no touch, no hearing, no smell, no sight) quickly fall into a kind of hallucinatory hypnotic state. Isolation from the multitude of impressions that normally bombard us from the outside world creates strange and frightening symptoms. According to Heron, who performed experiments on a group of students at McGill University by placing each student in his own pitchblack, soundproof room, ventilated with filtered air, and encasing his hands in heavy leather mittins and his feet in heavy boots, "little by little their brains go dead or slip out of control." Even in twenty-four hours of such extreme sensual isolation, all the horror phantoms of childhood are awakened, and various pathological symptoms appear. Our instinct of curiosity demands continual feeding; if it is not satisfied, the internal hounds of hell are aroused.
The prisoner kept in isolation, although his isolation is by no means as extreme as in the laboratory test, also undergoes a severe mental change. His guards and inquisitors become more and more his only source of contact with reality, with those stimuli he needs even more than bread. No wonder that he gradually develops a peculiar submissive relationship to them. He is affected not only by his isolation from social contacts, but by sexual starvation as well. The latent dependency needs that lie deep in all men make him willing to accept his guard as a substitute father figure. The inquisitor may be cruel and bestial, but the very fact that he acknowledges his victim's existence gives the prisoner a feeling that he has received some little bit of affection. What a conflict may thus arise between a man's traditional loyalties and these new ones! There are only a few personalities which are so completely self-sufficient that they can resist the need to yield, to find some human compansionship, to overcome the unbearable loneliness.
During the World Wars, prisoners at first suffered from a peculiar, burning homesickness already called barbed-wire disease. Memories of mother, home, and family made the soldiers identify with babyhood again, but as they became more used to prison-camp life, thoughts of home and family also created positive values and helped make the prison-camp life less harrowing.
Even the prisoner who is not kept in isolation can feel lonely in the unorganized mass of prisoners. His fellow prisoners can become his enemies as easily as they can become his friends. His hatred of his guards can be displaced and turned against those imprisoned with him. Instead of suspecting the enemy, the victim may become suspicious of his companions in misery.
In the Nazi concentration camps and the Korean P.O.W. camps, a kind of mass paranoia often developed. Loneliness was increased because the prisoners cut themselves off from one another through suspicion and hatred. This distrust was encouraged by the guards. They constantly suggested to their victims that nobody cared for them and nobody was concerned about what was happening to them. "You are alone. Your friends on the outside don't know whether you're alive or dead. Your fellow prisoners don't even care." Thus all expectation of a future was killed, and the resulting uncertainty and hopelessness became unbearable. Then the guards sowed suspicion and spread terrifying rumors: "You are here because those people you call your friends betrayed you." "Your buddies here have squealed on you." "Your friends on the outside have deserted you." Playing on a man's old loyalties, making him feel deserted and alone, force him into submission and collapse.
The times that I myself wavered and entertained thoughts about joining the opposite forces always occurred after periods of extreme loneliness and deepseated yearnings for companionship. At such moments the jailer or enemy may become a substitute friend.
Blackmailing Through Overburdening Guilt Feelings
Deep within all of us lie hidden feelings of guilt, unconscious guilt, which can be brought to the surface under extreme stress. The strategy of arousing guilt is the mother's oldest tool for gaining dominance over her children's souls. Her warning and accusing finger give her a magic power over them and help to create deepseated guilt feelings which may continue all through their adult lives. When we are children, we depend on our parents and resent them for just this reason. We may harbor hidden destructive wishes against those closest to us, and feelings of guilt about these wishes. Buried deep in man's unconscious is the knowledge that he has had hostile fantasies, and that in his hostile fantasies he has felt himself capable of coommitting many crimes. Theodore Reik has drawn our attention to the unknown primitive murderer believed to be in all of us, whose compulsion to confess and to be punished may be easily provoked under circumstances of terror and depression.
This concept of concealed hostility and destructiveness is often difficult for the layman to accept. But consider for a moment the popularity of the detective story. We may tell ourselves that we enjoy reading these tales because we identify with the keen and clever sleuth, but, as is clear from psychoanalytic experience, the repressed criminal in all of us is also at work and we also identify with the conscienceless killer. As a matter of fact, our repressed hostilities make the reading of hostile acts attractive to us.
In the political sphere, the systematic exploitation of unconscious guilt to create submission is a utilization of the unconscious confession compulsion and the need for punishment. Continual purges and confessions, as we encounter them in the totalitarian countries, arouse deeply hidden guilt feelings. The lesser sin of rebellion or subversion has to be admitted to cover personal thoughts of crime which are more deeply imbedded. The personal reactions of those who are continually interrogated and investigated give us a clue as to what happens.
The very fact of prolonged interrogation can re-arouse the hiden and unconscious guilt in the victim. At a time of extreme emotion, after constant accusation and day-long interrogation, when he has been deprived of sleep and reduced to a state of utter despair, the victim may lose the capacity to distinguish between the real criinal act of which he is accused and his own fantasied unconscious guilt. If his upbringing burdened him with an almost pathological sense of guilt under normal circumstances, he will be completely unable to resist the menticidal attack.
Even normal people may be brought to surrender under such miserable conditions, and not ony through the action of the inquisition, but also because of all the other weakening factors. Lack of sleep, hunger, and illness can create utter confusion and make any man vulnerable to hypnotic influence. All of us have experienced the mental fuzziness which comes with being overtired. Concentration-camp victims know how hunger, especially, induces a loss of mental control. In the fantatic world of the totalitarian prison or camp, these effects are heightened and exaggerated.
[NOTE: The conversation in concentration camps usualy revolved around food and memories of glorious gluttony. The mind could not work: it was fixed on eating and fantasies about food. A word grew up to express that constant possession by the idea of eating well again: stomach masterbation ("Magenonanie"). This kind of talk often took the place of all intellectual exchange.]
The Nazis, through clever exploitation of their victims' unconscious guilt after poking into the back corners of their minds, were often able to convert courageous resistance fighters into meek collaborators. That they were not uniformly successful can be explained by two factors. The first is that MOST OF THE MEMBERS OF THE UNDERGROUND WERE INWARDLY PREPARED FOR THE BRUTALITY WITH WHICH THEY WERE TREATED. The second is that, clever as the Nazi techniques were, they were not as irresistable as the methodical tricks of the Communist brainwashers are.
When the victims of Nazi brutality did break down, it was not torture but often the threat of reprisal against family which made them give in. Sudden acute confrontation with a long-buried childhood problem creates confusion and doubt. All of a sudden the enemy puts before you a clash of loyalties: your father or your friends, your brother or your fatherland, your wife or your honor. This is a brutal choice to have to make, and when the inquisitor makes use of your additional inner conflicts, he can easily force you into surrender.
A clash between loyalties makes either choice a betrayal, and this arouses paralyzing doubt. This calculated but subtle attack on the weakest spots in man's mind, on a man's conscience, and on the moral system he has learned from the Judaeo-Christian ethics, paralyzes the reason and leads the victim more easily into betrayal. The inquisitor subtly tests his victim's archaic guilt feelings toward paternal figures, his friends, his children. He cleverly exploits the victim's early ambivalent ties with his parents. The sudden outbreak of hidden moral flaws and guilt can bring a man to tears and complete breakdown. He regresses to the dependency and submissiveness of the baby.
A very husky former hero of the Dutch resistance, known as King Kong because of his size and strength, became the treacherous instrument of the Nazis soon after his brother had been taken with him and the Nazis threatened to kill the youth. King Kong's final surrender to the enemy and his becoming their treacherous tool was psychiatrically recognizable as a defense mechanism against his deep guilt, arising from hidden feelings of aggression against his brother (Boeree).
Another example of breakdown is seen in the story of one young resistance fighter who, after the Nazis had threatened to torture his father, who was impriosned with him, finally broke into childish tears and promised to tell them everything they wanted to know. After that he was taken back to his cell in order to be softened up after the following day. This was the routine of his interrogator. The inquisitors understood only too well the effectiveness of patient pursuit at repeated moments while intruding into a man's guilt feelings. Although both prisoners were liberated that night as a consequence of the Allied sweep through Belgium and the southwest part of Holland, the boy remained in his depression for a long time, tortured by his knowledge that he had nearly betrayed his best friends in the underground in order to save his father -- in spite of knowing, at the same time, that the promises of the enemy would not have protected his father.
The Law of Survival Versus the Law of Loyalty
The prisoners of war in Korea who gradually gave in to the systematic mental pressure of the enemy and collaborated in the production of materials that could be used for Communist propaganda -- albeit tentatively and for only as long as they were in the orbit of the enemy -- followed a peculiar psychological law of passive inner defense and inner deceit that when one cannot fight and defeat the enemy, one must join him. Later, a few of them were so taken in by totalitarian propaganda that they elected to remain in China and the totalitarian orbit. Some did it to escape punishment for having betrayed their comrades.
Man cannot become a turncoat without justifying his actions to himself. When Holland surrendered to the German army in 1940, I saw this general mechanism of mental surrender operating in several people who had been staunch anti-Nazis. "Maybe there is something good in Nazism," they told themselves as they saw the tremendous show of German strength. Those who were the victims of their own initial mental surrender and need to justify things, who could not stop and say to themselves "Hold on here; think this out," became the traitors and collaborators. They were completely taken in by the enemy's show of strength. The same process of self-justification and justifying the enemy started in the P.O.W. camps. Experiences from the concentration camps give us some indication of how far this passive submission to the enemy can go. Because of the deep-seated human need for affection, many prisoners lived only for one thing: a friendly word from their guards. Each time it came, it fortified the delusion of grace and acceptance. Once these prisoners, mostly those who had been in the camps a long time, were accepted by the guards, they easily became the trusted tools of the Nazis. They started to behave like their cruel jailers and became torturers of their fellow campers. These collaborating prisoners, called "Kapos," were even more cruel and vengeful than the official overseers. Because of misunderstood inner needs, the brainwasher and sadistic camp leader are direly in need of collaborators. They serve not only for the propaganda machine but also to exonerate their jailers from guilt.
When a man has to choose either hunger, death marches, and torture or a temporary yelding to the illusions of the enemy, his self-preservation mechanisms act in many ways like reflexes. They help him to find a thousand justifications and exculpations for giving in to the psychological pressure.
One of the officers court-martialed for collaborating with the enemy in a Korean P.O.W. camp justified his conduct by saying that he followed this course of action in order to keep himself and his men alive. Is that not a perfectly valid, though not necessarily true, argument?
The use of it serves to point up the fact that self-protective mechanisms are usually much stronger than ideological loyalty. No one who has not faced this same bitter problem can have an objective opinion as to what he himself would do under the circumstances. As a psychiatrist, I suggest that "most" people would yield and compromise when threat and mental pressure became strong enough.
Among the anti-Nazi undergrounds in the Second World War were physically strong boys who thought they could resist all pressure and would never betray their comrades. However, they could not even begin to imagine the perfidious technique of menticide. Repeated pestering, itself, is more destructive than physical torture. The pain of physical torture, as we have said, brings temporary unconsciousness and, consequently, forgetfulness, but when the victim wakes up, the play of anticipation begins. "Will it happen again? Can I stand it any more?" Anticipation paralyzes the will. Suicidal thoughts and identifications with death do not help. The foe doesn't let you die but drags you back from the very edge of oblivion. The anticipation of renewed torture increses internal anxieties. "Who am I to stand all this?" "Why must I be a hero?" Gradually resistance breaks down.
The surrender of the mind to its new master does not take place immediately under the impact of duress and exhaustion. The inquisitor knows that in the period of temporary relaxation of pressure, during which the victim will rehearse and repeat the torture experience in himself, the final surrender is prepared. During that tension of rumination and anticipation, the deeply hidden wish to give in grows. The action of continual repetition of stupid questions, reiterated for days and days, exhausts the mind till it gives the answers the inquisitor wants to have.
In addition to the weapon of mental exhaustion, he plays on the physical exhaustion of the senses. He may use penetrating, excruciating noises or a constant strong flashlight that blinds the eyes. The need to close the eyes or to get away from the noises confuses the mental orientation of the victim. He loses his balance and feelings of self-confidence. He yearns for sleep and can do nothing else but surrender. The infantile desire to become part of the threatening giant machine, to become one with the forces that are so much stronger than the prisoner has won.
It is an unequivocal surrender: "Do with me what you want. From now on I am you."
That only deprivation from sleep is able to produce various abnormal reactions of the mind was confirmed by Tyler in an experiment with 350 male volunteers. He deprived them of sleep for 102 hours. Forty-four men dropped out almost at once because they felt too anxious and irritated. After forty hours without sleep, 70 percent of all subjects had already had illusions, delusions, hallucinations, and similar experiences. Those who had true hallucinations were dropped from the experiment. After the second night, sporadic disturbances of thinking were common to all subjects. The participants were embarrassed when they were informed later of their behavior.
The changes in emotional response had been noticeable -- euphoria followed by depression; dejection and restlessness; indifference to unusual behavior shown by other subjects. The experiment gave the impression that prolonged wakefulness causes some toxic substance to affect brain and mind.
Only the few strong, independent, and self-sufficient personalities, who have conquered their dependency needs, can stand such pressure or are willing to die under it.
Continuation of Section: The Law of Survival Versus the Law of Loyalty
The ritual of self-accusation and breast-beating and unconditional surrender to the rules of the elders is part of age-old religious rites. It was based on a more or less unconscious belief in a supreme and omnipotent power. This power may be the monolithic party state or a mysterious deity. It follows the old inner device of "Credo quia absurdum" ("I believe because it is absurd"), of faithful submission to a super-world stronger than the reality which confronts our senses.
Why the totalitarian and orthodox dogmatic ideology sticks to such a rigid attitude, with prohibition of investigation of basic premises, is a complicated psychological question. Somewhere the reason is related to the fear of change, the fear of the risk of change of habits, the fear of freedom, which may be psychologically related to the fear of the finality of death.
The denial of human freedom and equality lifts the authoritarian man beyond his mortal fellows. His temporary power and omnipotence give him the illusion of eternity. In his totalitarianism he denies death and ephemeral existence and borrows power from the future. He has to invent and formulate a final Truth and protective dogma to justify his battle against mortality and temporariness. From then on, the new fundamental certainty must be hammered into the minds of adepts and slaves.
What happens inside the human psyche under severe circumstances of mental and physical attack is clarified for us in the studies of the general mental defenses available to man; earlier, I myself tried in several publications to analyze the various ways people defend themselves against fear and pressure.
In the last phases of brainwashing and menticide, the self-humiliating submission of the victims serves as an inner defensive device annihilating the prosecuting inquisitor in a magic way. The more they accuse themselves, the less logical reason there is for HIS existence. Giving in and being even more cruel toward oneself makes the inquisitor and judge, as it were, impotent and shows the futility of the accusing regime.
We may say that brainwashing and menticide provoke the same inner defensive mechanism that we observe in melancholic patients. Through their mental selfbeatings, they try to get rid of fear and to avoid a more deeply seated guilt. They punish themselves in advance in order to overcome the idea of final punishment for some hidden, unknown, and worse crime. The victim of menticide conquers his tormentor by becoming even more cruel toward himself than the inquisitor. In this passive way, he annihilates his enemy.
The Mysterious Masochistic Pact
In Arthur Koestler's masterpiece, DARKNESS AT NOON, he describes all the subtle intricacies, reasonings, and dialectics between the inquisitor and his victim. The old Bolshevik, Rubashov, preconditioned by his former party adherence, confesses to plotting against the party and the party line. He is partly motivated by the wish to render a last service: his confession is a final sacrifice to the party. I would explain the confession rather as part of that mysterious masochistic pact between the inquisitor and his victim which we encounter, too, in other processes of brainwashing.
[NOTE: The term "masochism" originally referred to sexual gratification received from pain and punishment, and later became every gratification acquired through pain and abjection.]
It is the last gift and trick the tortured gives to his torturer. It is as if he were to call out: "Be good to me. I confess. I submit. Be good to me and love me." After having suffered all manner of brutality, hypnotism, despair, and panic, there is a final quest for human companionship, but it is ambivalent, mixed with deep despising, hatred, and bitterness.
Tortured and torturer graudally form a peculiar community in which the one influences the other. Just as in therapeutic sessions where the patient identifies with the psychiatrist, the daily sessions of interrogation and conversation create an unconscious transfer of feelings in which the prisoner identifies with his inquisitors, and his inquisitors with him. The prisoner, encaptured in a strange, harsh, and unfamiliar world, identifies much more with the enemy than does the enemy with him. Unwittingly he may take over all the enemy's norms, evaluations, and attitudes toward life. Such passive surrender to the enemy's ideology is determined by unconscious processes. The danger of communion of this kind is that at the end all moral evaluations disappear. We saw it happen in Germany. The very victims of Nazism came to accept the idea of concentration camps.
In menticide we are faced with a ritual like that found in witch hunting during the Middle Ages, except that today the ritual has taken a more refined form. Accuser and accused -- each affords the other assistance, and both belong together as collaborating members of a ritual of confession and self-denigration. Through their cooperation, they attack the minds of bystanders who identify with them and who consequently feal guilty, weak, and submissive. The Moscow purge trials made many Russians feel guilty; listening to the confessions, they must have said to themselves, "I could have done the same thing. I could have been in that man's place." When their heroes become traitors, their own hidden treasonable wishes made them feel weak and frightened.
This explanation may seem overly complicated and involved and perhaps even self-contradictory, but, in fact, it helps us to understand what hapens in cases of menticide. Both torturer and tortured are the victims of their own unconscious guilt. The torturer projects his guilt onto some outside scapegoat and tries to expiate it by attacking his victim. The victim, too, has a sense of guilt which arises from deeply repressed hostilities. Under normal circumstances, this sense is kept under control, but in the menticidal atmosphere of relentless interrogation and inquisition, his repressed hostilities are aroused and loom up as frightening phantasmagorias from a forgotten past, which the victim senses but cannot grasp or understand. It is easier to confess to the accusation of treason and sabotage than to accept the frightening sense of criminality with which his long-forgotten agressive impulses now burden him. The victim's overt self-accusation serves as a trick to annihilate the inner accuser and the persecuting inquisitor. The more I accuse myself, the less reason there is for the inquisitor's existence. The victim's going to the gallows kills, as it were, the inquisitor too, because there existed a mutual identification: the accuser is made impotent the moment the victim begins to accuse himself and tomorrow the accuser himself may be accused and brought to the gallows.
Out of our understanding of this strange masochistic pact between accuser and accused comes a rather simple answer to the questions, WHY DO PEOPLE WANT TO CONTROL THE MINDS OF OTHERS, AND WHY DO THE OTHERS CONFESS AND YIELD? It is because there is no essential difference between the victim and the inquisitor. They are alike. Neither, under these circumstances, has any control over his deeply hidden criminal and hostile thoughts and feelings.
It is obviously easier to be the inquisitor than the victim, not only because the inquisitor may be temporarily safe from mental and physical destruction, but also because it is simpler to punish others for what we feel as criminal in ourselves than it is to face up to our own hidden sense of guilt. Committing menticide is the lesser crime of aggression, which covers up the deeper crime of unresolved hidden hatred and destruction.
A Survey of Psychological Processes Involved in Brainwashing and Menticide
At the end of this chapter describing the various influences that lead to yielding and surrender to the enemy's strategy, it is useful to give a short survey of the psychological processes involved.
PHASE I. ARTIFICIAL BREAKDOWN AND DECONDITIONING
The inquisitor tries to weaken the ego of his prisoner. Though originally physical torture was used -- hunger and cold are still very effective -- physical torture may often increase a person's stubbornness. Torture is intended to a much greater extent to act as a threat to the bystanders' (the people's) imagination. Their wild anticipation of torture leads more easily to THEIR breakdown when the enemy has need of their weakness. (Of course, occasionally a sadistic enemy may find individual pleasure in torture.)
The many devices the enemy makes use of include: intimidating suggestion, dramatic persuasion, mass suggestion, humiliation, embarrassment, loneliness and isolation, continued interrogation, over-burdening the unsteady mind, arousing more and more self-pity. Patience and time help the inquisitor to soften a stubborn soul.
Just as in many old religions the victims were humbled and humiliated in order to prepare for the new religion, so, in this case, they are prepared to accept the totalitarian ideology. In this phase, out of mere intellectual opportunism, the victim may consciously give in.
PHASE II. SUBMISSION TO AND POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION WITH THE ENEMY
As has already been mentioned, the moment of surrender may often arrive suddenly. It is as if the stubborn negative suggestibility changed critically into a surrender and affirmation. What the inquisitor calls the sudden inner illumination and conversion is a total reversal of inner strategy in the victim. From this time on, in psychoanalytic terms, a parasitic superego lives in man's conscience, and he will speak his new master's voice. In my experience such sudden surrender often occurred together with hysterical outbursts into crying and laughing, like a baby surrendering after obstinate temper tantrums. The inquisitor can attain this phase more easily by assuming a paternal attitude. As a matter of fact, many a P.O.W. was courted by a form of paternal kindness -- gifts, sweets at birthdays, and the promise of more cheerful things to come.
Maloney compares this sudden yielding with the theophany or kenosis (internal conversion) as described by some theological rites. For our understanding, it is important to stress that yielding is an unconscious and purely emotional process, no longer under the conscious intellectual control of the brainwashee. We may also call this phase the phase of autohypnosis.
PHASE III. THE RECONDITIONING TO THE NEW ORDER
Through both continual training and taming, the new phonograph record has to be grooved. We may compare this process with an active hypnosis into conversion. Incidental relapses to the old form of thinking have to be corrected as in Phase I. The victim is daily helped to rationalize and justify his new ideology. The inquisitor delivers to him the new arguments and reasonings.
This systematic indoctrination of those who long avoided intensive indoctrination constitutes the actual political aspect of brainwashing and symbolizes the ideological cold war going on at this very moment.
PHASE IV. LIBERATION FROM THE TOTALITARIAN SPELL
As soon as the brainwashee returns to a free atmosphere, the hypnotic spell is broken. Temporary nervous repercussions take place, like crying spells, feelings of guilt and depression. The expectation of a hostile homeland, in view of his having yielded to enemy indoctrination, may fortify this reaction. The period of brainwashing becomes a nightmare. Only those who were staunch members of the resistance before may stick to it. But here, too, I have seen the enemy impose its mental pressure too well and convert their former prisoners into eternal haters of freedom.
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