After watching a documentary recently I began to do some deep thinking. I wondered if a person’s susceptibility to being manipulated or brainwashed into believing in a person or an idea is linked with trust. I pondered about it when I was out walking and came up with this.
Brainwashing is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain techniques. It is said to reduce a subjects’ ability to think critically or independently. And allows the introduction of new thoughts and ideas into their minds, as well as change to their attitudes, values and beliefs.Online Definition
The lockdown greatly hindered my personal growth. Although, I didn’t binge watch movies or stay in bed all day I did allow my mental health to decline by not considering the situation was temporary. I saw the door was closed now and to me it seemed it was going to be closed forever. This is not rational thought but never the less it is part of my makeup. I do tend to live in the present.
One positive thing I did was – I thought a lot. Very deeply. However, I am not sure how productive the topics were that I delved into. But I think the process has helped me understand more about myself and the world in general.
In this post I am going to tell you a little about what was going on in my head. To do that I will be recounting two truly horrific true tales. If you are of a sensitive disposition or triggered by anything to do around the topic of child abuse please DO NOT read any further.
As I said I didn’t binge watch movies but I did continue watching a series – Anne with an E – on Netflix and a documentary about a child who was kidnapped twice by an apparent close friend of her family in the 1970’s.
A Trusting Family Manipulated
The mere trailer had me fascinated. How could that have happened? Why was the kidnapper allowed any where near the child for it to occur more than once?
I watched with intrigue as a man used his charm and powers of manipulation to wheedle his way into a faith community and then went about creating a situation where his family and the family of the victim became best friends. He had his perverted sights set on ten year old Jan and went to extreme lengths to get her. I followed the tale in disbelief as it unfolded.
The abuser – Bob – not only wooed the child, to make sure his plans would work, he also seduced both her parents. There was no end to his wickedness.
The first time he kidnapped Jan her parents didn’t want to call the police immediately because they saw him as a friend. I wondered if it was also that they didn’t want the police to become privy to the sexual dealings they both had with Bob? I thought deeply about this. Would I let my child remain in danger to save my pride? Absolutely not. Which led me to think further what mind games were actually going on here.
Meanwhile, Bob took Jan away and led her to believe that they had been abducted by aliens. The the only future left was that they have a baby together. She was now twelve and believed him. In the 1970’s the media was full of alien movies and such like, so I can see why she did. Also, the set up he subjected her to was designed to brainwash her into thinking they were in it together. With this in mind she let him sexually abuse her thinking it would save them both. To her the comradeship seemed like it was just the two of them against the world and this cemented her love for him too. Remember she was a child.
If you want to find out what happened and if the parents ever came to their senses then you can check how to watch the documentary here. One thing I will say is Jan did survive but it was not until she was 16 that she realised she had been manipulated and the alien story was simply a lie. Bob had sowed the seed so deeply she could not entertain changing her view for quite a few years.
A Village in Kent
While watching I immediately saw the similarities in Jan’s story and something I was witness to when my children were young and my family unit were living in a large village in Kent.
Darling Near Miss had been friends with Pam since they were four years old. They were at the same primary school together until Pam’s mum, Debbie, moved her when she was nine due to bullying. Pam liked me – she seemed to feel an affinity between us, a connection. Debbie had adopted Pam and her sister when they were two and three years old. We both felt Pam leaned towards me as I was adopted too. Then, I found out we had a little more in common.
One afternoon, when Pam was nearly 16, Debbie called me round. The family were in an awful state. The police were there. Pam had just disclosed that she had been sexually abused by a man from our village since the age of nine. If that wasn’t a shock in itself the next bit had my head swimming. Pam had chosen me to talk to me about it. This is a little hazy now as it was quite a few years ago but I remember her statement needed to be verified.
So Pam and then Debbie both told me the abhorrent details.
Debbie’s family were involved in the church and this is where they met (let’s call him) Bob. He first became friends with Pam’s dad who was a very quiet man. However, Bob really managed to bring him out of his shell. It turned out they shared a hobby. Soon he was invited to dinner. He easily wowed Debbie was his charm and intelligence. She started telling everyone, including me, how great he was. He was invited to the social club with them and for extended family outings. Then, he started baby sitting.
Pam’s younger sister was a feisty miss. She was not so easily taken in by Bob. So he would look after Pam alone and kindly help her with homework after school at his own house. Meanwhile, Debbie took her other daughter to piano lessons and such like. But as Pam told me very directly what Bob was really dong was raping her in all manner of ways from the age of nine until she had finally realised it was wrong and told her Mum.
But similar to Jan from the documentary, Pam loved Bob. He bought her things. Told her they would be married and lavished attention and lies on her. Bob was the centre of Pam’s world and she thought that he buggered her because he loved her.
When Darling Near Miss was eleven we had a massive argument. She wanted to go on a bike ride to the woods with Pam and Bob. I said no. I didn’t know this man and she was not to be alone with him if their were no other adults around. To me it didn’t matter that Debbie and her husband approved of him. I have learned by experience not to follow the crowd or be pressurised by majority consensus.
Of course, what Pam didn’t know when she asked to tell her nightmare to me was that I’d been abused as a child too. But I never had to systemically endure such dreadful things as this poor girl did for over five years.
This Bob went to prison. And they all attempted to get on with their lives. But Pam missed Bob dreadfully – she had loved him. Remember a brainwashed mind is a controlled one. Bob was still pulling her strings even behind bars.
About six months later the younger child ran away and ended up on my doorstep and stayed for three days. Can a family really move on after such a horrific man has defiled their very existence?
With these two stories swirling around my mind I set about some deep thinking. I would not have been taken in by someone like Bob. No matter how charming. This has got to be because my trust was broken by the very person who should have been protecting me. So, it is understandable why I have always found it difficult to trust .
In the past I thought my general mistrust was a bad trait. But when I noticed how easily people get taken in and manipulated and how easily their brains get swayed by group views – often caused by the need to conform – I suddenly see that a little bit of caution has stood me in good stead.
Those who have not had their confidence broken don’t have a template like mine to navigate. After all – if you have never been betrayed before and – if you trust and like someone why wouldn’t you accept a way of life or an idea that they put forward? Why wouldn’t you conform? And once a person has taken on another belief system it becomes part of their world view. It is then increasingly hard to change these views. Nobody likes to admit they are wrong. Cognitive dissonance makes sure of that. Control becomes easy.
Cognitive Dissonance ~ a person’s belief clashing with new information causes them discomfort. Wherein they try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.
Concluding ~ being manipulated linked to trust?
Reflecting back on the two tales of Bob it becomes clear how and why the parents continually let their child interact with a paedophile. Bob was nice at the start. They all agreed he was nice. Bob was trusted and helped the family. What could go wrong. The parents believed in Bob. He was one of them. The child reiterated that belief. To suddenly change their mind would be admitting their thought process was wrong.
It does seem possible that trusting helps people conform and they are more easily manipulated and controlled by a person or regime. Wanting to be part of the crowd – such as a religious group or a community – also helps conformity.
And why would you not go on trusting and believing if trust had served you well in the past?
An individual is likely to perceive their world view as correct until the thing they value the most is harmed, changed or destroyed. And of course then the damage has been done.
Images from Pixabay.com
Another positive thing I did, with a few other bloggers, was write a weeks journal of my lockdown. And nobody was man manipulated or controlled in the process 😉