Can brainwashed people recover? Yes. Once you know you’ve experienced brainwashing, you can undo it. First, learn how your abuser used brainwashing techniques. Then learn self mind-control to undo the brainwashing. It will take less time to recover than it took to become brainwashed. The brainwashing process took some time to take effect because the process was outside your realm of consciousness – you didn’t know it was happening and you couldn’t have guessed. Your abuser may not have known they were doing it either, but whether they knew or not doesn’t matter. They did it, and now you must undo it.
If you’re reading this because you know you’ve experienced brainwashing, then you’ve already conquered the first and hardest step: the awakening.1 If you’re reading this post because you think your loved one is brainwashed, then you cannot do too much to help them until they experience their awakening and experience “A-HA!” moments of discovery, happiness, and hope (How To Help A Domestic Abuse Victim).
How Brainwashed People Can Recover
Dr. Michelle Toomey describes the awakening as complete alignment between thought and emotion. When I think of my awakening, I remember feeling that I was on a true path for the first time in years; I clearly heard my inner voice cheering as my brain and emotions worked together to put together the jigsaw puzzle I’d anguished over for two decades. I finally had all the pieces, and boy was I excited. But then, after I completed the jigsaw and the evil nature of my abuser appeared with picture perfect clarity, I couldn’t help but feel afraid. My thoughts (implanted during the brainwashing) that he was all-knowing and all-powerful flooded over me. I thought, How am I going to get out of this mess?!
1. Break Your Isolation
The quickest way to overcome any fear you feel is to open up to a therapist, social network, online group, club, friends, or family members about anything. It would be best if you could start by talking about your abuse! But I know not everyone is ready for their first words to anyone to be, “Guess what?! My honey abuses me every fucking day! Want some coffee?” I get it. You can gain some confidence in yourself and your ideas merely by talking about the weather or last night’s game. But don’t put off telling a therapist, domestic violence support group or someone who you trust and can help you for long.
If you put it off, you will come to feel worse and worse from withholding your pain. You may even convince yourself that you don’t need to tell anyone that your partner abuses you at all because talking about the weather makes you feel so much better than you did before. If you start backing down, remind yourself that brainwashing causes you to doubt yourself and your ability to find help. Brainwashing requires isolation just as abuse requires silence. Removing yourself from isolation does not end the brainwashing by itself. You must gather around you people who know you are being abused and who serve as voices of reason in your brainwashed, surreal world. You won’t easily end the abuse if you don’t tell someone else what you’re facing (Attended Domestic Violence Support Groups).
If you would like some practice talking about your abuse before revealing it to your (soon-to-be) support network, you could share your abuse anonymously to a NDVH volunteer over the phone or as a story of abuse on this site or many others across the web. Even better, you could request a mentor from Verbal Abuse Journals and have someone who is on your side to encourage and support you.
2. Educate Yourself About All Types of Abuse
Knowledge is power you can use to rebuff your abuser’s attempts to degrade and humiliate you. You are less likely to feel bad about your abuser’s words and actions when you know that your abuser hurts you to maintain control over you – NOT because the insults are true.
Learn and understand as much about domestic violence and abuse as you can. You will soon be able to identify the types of verbal abuse your partner uses against you as they happen. This will enable you to somewhat detach from hurtful words and behaviors because you will know exactly when your abuser tries to hurt you. Learning about abuse enables you to combat brainwashed thoughts like, “This is normal” and “I did something wrong”.2
Learn what types of abuse are out there, what they look and sound like, and pay attention to how they make you feel. I started by learning about verbal abuse (which includes body language, too!). I feel that abuse of any other kind is nearly impossible without using verbal abuse. Crazy making activities like hiding your keys would be an exception to my rule. Find answers to questions like:
- What is verbal abuse?
- What are personal boundaries?
- Do I need a safety plan even if s/he doesn’t hit me?
- How do other people describe their abuse?
A common question is “Why does s/he abuse me?!” Don’t spend too much time researching answers to this question. Your natural empathy may convince you that your abuser deserves sympathy and that you can love them into mental health. Not so. Remind yourself that brainwashing and abuse distorts the meaning of love. Right now (but not for long), you cannot trust “love” because brainwashing warped your perception of it – specifically when it comes to your mate.
3. Accept Painful Thoughts and Anxieties
You will feel unpleasant emotions at times as you deprogram your mind and exit your abuser’s world (Wilson). The truth hurts, especially after the trauma you’ve experienced during your abuse. You will prove false some of your coping thoughts (i.e. “She doesn’t mean to hurt me” and “He is sweet deep inside”).
As you come to accept that your abuser does intend to hurt you and their sweet face is their mask, you will experience fear – deep, agonizing fear of the person you love(d). If you have not found a therapist at this point, there is no better time than now.
Fear can be one of our most rational and irrational emotions. The fear felt by someone afraid of heights (falling can kill you) and someone afraid of a moth (moths cannot kill you) may be of exactly the same intensity and realness. However, one is more rational than the other. Did your abuser mean it when they said they would kill you? It’s a rational thought to protect yourself in case they did. It’s an irrational thought to plan how to hurt them before they can hurt you. A therapist or good domestic violence advocate can help you to deal with your fears in healthy, productive ways.
The one best stress reliever EVER for victims of abuse is to leave their abuser. You will find more peace than you can imagine without that idiot breathing down your neck. However, I know some of you aren’t ready to leave. Maybe you’ve already decided to stay forever. So, other ways to deal with stress and anxiety include as many possibilities as there are people in the world. Explore deep breathing techniques, proper medical care, good nutrition, meditation, walking, good music/movies, and other methods to find what works for you. That last sentence sounds like every other sentence ever written about managing stress, but that’s because it is true.
This post gives you a lot of information on how to control your mind and recover from brainwashing. However, this isn’t the end of the story and we’ll explore it further as time goes on.
Sources for How to Control Your Mind:
1 Toomey, Michelle, PhD. “Breaking Free of Emotional Bondage.” Liberation Psychology, n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.
2 Wilson, Lawrence, MD. “Hypnosis.” Dr. Lawrence Wilson, MD. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.