Here is the final part of our blog series on hypnosis, taken from Chapter 4 of Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang. We hope you have enjoyed this taste of the book, and learned something about hypnosis and the role the REM state has in learning and conditioning.
Part 1: Why all learning is post-hypnotic
Part 2: How we internalise knowledge
Part 3: Hypnosis: psychotherapy’s most powerful tool
Part 4: Conditioning
PART FIVE: Learning versus indoctrination
While all learning is post-hypnotic, it happens at varying degrees of intensity. Brainwashing, for example, also known as mind control or thought reform, is a process in which a group or individual “systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated.”
The difference between brainwashing and genuine learning is stark.
In normal learning, the individual is given the opportunity to, at various points in the process, reset the learning in the larger context of their already acquired model of reality in order to evaluate it. In brainwashing, information is implanted by a learning process that requires the victims to be kept in a highly emotional state with no possibility allowed for relating the new knowledge to a bigger context. (Strong emotions narrow our focus of attention, inhibiting critical thought.) In cults, devotees are not given time to question what they are being encouraged to absorb. Objectivity is discouraged. This type of learning is therefore not subject to further modification because the victim’s volition is taken away, even though they don’t realise it.
This is why brainwashed people, however intelligent they are, are difficult to reason with when their beliefs are put under scrutiny. When the pattern of doctrine is summoned up in them, they auto- matically regress into the trance state that the cult leaders put them in and behave as they were instructed to do, which usually involves dogmatically expressing the beliefs they were programmed with. When you closely observe someone enthusiastically evangelising about what-ever he or she was programmed with, you can see that they are quite unaware that they have regressed to an unnatural trance state. Their pupils contract to the size of pinpricks, a strong visual indication that they have been brainwashed rather than that they are espousing real knowledge that they have subjected to evaluation. They are not in touch with outside reality or their own Observing Self.
The term ‘brainwashing’ was coined in 1950, but knowledge about how to brainwash arose around the world through primitive tribal initiation rites that are thousands of years old.25 Originally the objective was to bind people together in whatever belief system the tribe adhered to. Conditioning techniques were developed to ensure group members were submissive to certain rules, and obeyed the chiefs and elders. The process always involved: raising expectancy; a period of withdrawal from the community; generating high emotional arousal for long periods (often maintained by noise such as continual drumming, chanting or dancing); frightening or dangerous endurance tests; humiliation through harangues and threats; symbolic death and resurrection; and maybe a renaming ceremony. Post-hypnotic instructions for awakening the conditioned behaviour at a later date would be given in the form of signals, rituals or phrases.
Broadly speaking, this same methodology was maintained throughout prehistoric and historical times and is still in use today. There are highly profitable cults and ‘self-development’ courses using these techniques around the world. They succeed and become popular because they artificially manipulate people in a highly charged atmosphere to feel better about themselves. They remove people’s volition while claiming they are ‘freeing’ them. Currently the most common form of conditioning usually ends with implanting post-hypnotic suggestions to get others – family members, friends, and colleagues – to attend meetings, convert or ‘do the programme’.
If our attention capacity and its importance was appreciated more by educationalists and others, and this knowledge taught in schools, businesses and mental health services – including how, like other forms of energy, it must be nurtured and used wisely – the human race might become more flexible, intelligent and creative in the ways we respond to other people and react to stress-inducing circumstances.
And if the theory we lay out in this book was more widely understood – that the brain’s big bang in the Upper Palaeolithic period simultaneously released into the world creativity, mysticism, autism, mood disorders and schizophrenia – it could bring about huge improvements in education and the treatment and care of vulnerable people. This is because, up until now, the connection between the REM state, mood disorders, autism, Asperger’s and schizophrenia, coupled with the relevance to attention and learning, has not been sufficiently appreciated. Such understanding might also encourage more humane and intelligent forms of government than the world currently experiences. Good government requires a profound under- standing of complex relationships in human affairs, and it is to this topic – relationships – that we now turn.
For more, see Chapter 5 of Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang