Breaking sessions are one of the methods used by extreme groups as a way of identity destruction .
Bombard them with accusations
The basic scenario is to isolate the person and to start accusing them of various transgressions. It may start with small things that is easy for them to admit and then steadily escalate with admonishments of breaking important values and even being fundamentally bad and shameful.
This process may well be done by a number of people. The more people and the higher up in the group they are, the more effective this method becomes. Few people can ignore accusations flying at them from all angles and especially from people they have grown to love and respect.
Keep going until they crack
The point of this session is to push them past a cracking point, similar to when a person has a nervous breakdown and the session may continue well past the point where the person is huddled in a fetal position, rocking back and forth and weeping uncontrollably.
In doing this, the group wears down their sense of identity, in order to effectively destroy their personality and makes them flee from who they are. Thus this method is literally a way of character assassination.
When the person has cracked, the next step is to approach them with kindness, to show that they are now forgiven and accepted again. They may be hugged and patted. This is done by a senior member of the group. This casts the group back into the kind and loving frame and offers a lifeline to the broken person, who of course grasps at this straw. Very gratefully, they now listen to and accept what this person has to say.
In this way, they are now remade in the shape of a conforming member of the group who is totally obedient to senior group members.
When a group is converting a person, one of the key things they often do, no matter where they started from, is to move into the realm of ideas and values. This includes anything that is not tangibly physical, and can include social and political ideas as well as religious and quasi-religious ideas. In this way they take the person out of the real world and into the ideological world of the group.
Align with their values
A conversation that may start with ideas will eventually turn to thoughts about what is right and wrong, good and bad, important and less important. In other words, it focuses on values. If you can change these rules in a person’s head, then you have no need to police them – the values will do that for you.
An effective start is to seek out the values of the target person and play to these. If the person puts themselves first, then be admiring of them. If the person considers human rights as a key issue, then talk about social justice.
A further values platform is generic human values, which are very difficult to deny. Love, peace, helping one another. On the surface at least, the group may appear as a near-perfect embodiment of social concern.
Values can also be negative, by the way. Selfishness and hedonism can be elevated as worthwhile reasons. Racism and elitism may be accepted as true. For more peaceful groups, these will later be shown to be wrong. There are, however, groups that preach intolerance and play directly to their target members’ baser natures.
Align them with group values
When you are showing alignment towards them, then the exchange principle dictates that they should align towards you. When you show appreciation of them, they will show appreciation with you, will bond with you and connect their sense of identity with you.
Thus a group will gain control of a person’s sense of identity, of how they view themselves. When I am aligned with a group, I will also adopt their values.
If the real group values are different from those of the target person, then the transition process may well be a progression, rather than a sudden conversion. This is effectively conversion by stealth.
The first stage of this is to shake the person’s values, for example by questioning whether they are right in all circumstances. The group values may then be exposed, perhaps as a hypothetical question that asks if they may be wrong under all circumstances.
Other steps may then be used to cement changes, for example by getting the person to enact their shifted values. The consistency principle will then lead them to adopt the values more strongly.
Conversion as revelation
Conversion may also take place suddenly as a revelation, for example when a higher purpose is realized and all values that are associated with that are adopted. This is more likely to happen with people who have a strong need for certainty and who hence tend to adopt extreme views.
Leaders take charge of values
A fuller control of the person happens when the group leader (or leaders) are able to take full control of the values. When you can dictate what is right and wrong, then you have the basis for total control and dictatorship.
Embodiment of values
One way this happens is for the leader to appear as an ultimate embodiment of the values. If the group espouses concern for one’s fellow humans, then the leader will be all love and light. If the group is racist, then the leader will be first to attack the target people.
The leader is thus raised to a state of near or actual godhood. They may not claim it themselves, but through their manipulation of values they effectively reach this very powerful position.
Control of values
Another, more direct approach, is for the leader of the group to be defined as the person who sets the group values. This is particularly made possible by having one of the basic values of the group that the leader must be obeyed without question. When the leader is showing wisdom and concern, this may seem logical. However, if the power goes to the leader’s head (or they are playing a devious game) then they may later define values and rules that people may want to question, but dare not.