NOTE: This article is taken from the Cypriot newspaper Phileleftheros (“Ο Φιλελευθερος”), December 24th, 2010. It is a response to an article published the week before in the same newspaper written by Monk Christodoulos. The former monk of Grigoriou claimed in that article that the monastery employed methods of controlling the monastics by compulsory use of psychiatric drugs or being referred to psychiatric asylums. In the following article, Grigoriou Monastery: The Sludge War is set in Motion, the Monastery attempts to rebut these accusations.http://anavaseis.blogspot.ca/2010/12/blog-post_6672.html
Dear Director of the Newspaper,
It is with amazement and wonder that we were informed of the newspaper article you published, “Cuckoo’s Nest”: Grigoriou Monastery on the Holy Mountain (18/12/2010), which consists of an interview given by the monk Christodoulos.
We do not expect that either you personally nor your partners have specialized knowledge of psychiatry to properly assess the content of his interview and to decide whether it is publishable. On the other hand, one would be expected to ask, to explore beforehand, if the maneuvers of the responsible were liable before lawmen, officers of Public Health, based on real events and mental states. It would take perhaps rudimentary care on your part to preserve the prestige of your newspaper since it is likely that your publication consists of slandering many honest people.
Regarding the contents of Monk Christodoulos’ interview, we want to you and the readers of your newspaper to know that you insulted our monastery with this publication by offensively describing it as a “Cuckoo’s Nest”. Also, you primarily and decisively insulted Monk Christodoulos himself by publicizing sensitive personal information, something he would not have wanted in a calm phase of his life. Our monastery has handled the issue if this afflicted brother with great caution and delicacy, whether he realizes it or not. Such matters are not treated in the way your partner journalist has chosen. Besides, our Monastery cannot speak publicly, out of courtesy and respect for the persons involved. This is due to our obligation to observe the Holy Canons requiring confidentiality of confession, but also because there is the Personal Data Protection Authority. For this reason, we do not now refute his accusations contained in your publications. We only disclose to your readers that issues relating to the Monk Christodoulos, are pending before the Greek Courts.
However, the most significant thing about your publication is that you created, or perhaps reinforced, the impression that the monasteries implement a control method by forcing monks to use psychiatric drugs or by referral to a mental hospital. This is a completely false impression. Only someone deliberately ill-natured or perverse could accept these things as true.
Perhaps without realizing it, you insult both Orthodox Monasticism and the Church with your publication. But this does not suit the traditional pious and philo-monastic people of Cyprus. In Cyprus, there are exceptional hierarchs, pious clergymen and laity spiritual brothers who can prove that the exercise of evangelical love governs contemporary Orthodox Monasticism.
As for the Holy Mountain, it suffices to quote from a letter-response by the eminent psychiatrist Dr. Panagiotis Grigoriou (Hospital Polygyros Chalkidiki) in the Athenian newspaper “Eleftherotypia”, in connection with a similar publication in 2001:
“The reason I thought of myself to be a “substantive qualifier” is that I’ve practised psychiatry for 20 years. For the past 12 years, I’ve been the Director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital in whose jurisdiction Mount Athos falls in terms of health coverage. With my position, I know very well the question under dispute (the use of psychiatric drugs on Mount Athos).”
“Contrary to what one not acquainted with such things might imagine, the way of life on the Holy Mountain is not disease producing but rather psychotherapeutic.”
“The Athonite State, Panagia’s Garden, is an open space, social and genuinely human; a struggling society journeying towards God. The sick have their place and even honour in such a community! Where else would the remaining healthy monks show their love, patience and ministry if not to those who are beside them even if they happen to be sick?”
“The monastic family surround the suffering brother with much care, love and tolerance and spare neither expense nor labor to ensure the best possible treatment and aid.9 He is provided a treatment rarely seen in today’s society, with respect to mental illness, the suffering monk’s soul and his dignity—a treatment that preserves the patient’s self-esteem.”
Dr. Panagiotis Grigoriou, Neurologist-Psychiatrist and director of the Psychiatric Department of the Halkidiki General Hospital.Polygyros May 26, 2001.
We hope that you understand how detrimental Vassos Vassiliou’s article is to both the monk Christodoulos and your local community. Because we believe you are motivated by feelings of truthfulness and impartiality, we ask that you please observe journalistic ethics and in compliance with the law, to publish this article in the same place of your newspaper and with the same elements as those of the controversial publication.
MONASTERY OF ST GREGORY THE HOLY MOUNTAIN: LETTER OF REGRET TO A BROTHER OF THE MONASTERY, FR. CHRISTODOULOS GRIGORIATIS
Meeting and taking council, the following signatories to this document, the prior of the Monastery of Saint Gregory Fr. George Kapsanis, Hieromonk Fr. Demetrios and Hieromonk Fr. Luke, fathers and brothers of the Monastery and the other members of elderly congregation of the monastery, the current chairman of the Abbot of the Holy Monastery, Fr. Christoforou, jointly decided and sign the things agreed below.
We renounce with abhorrence, aversion and regret our decision in 2003 to seek by Attorney the confinement (supposedly for “treatment”) of the monk and brother of our Monastery, Fr. Christodoulos Grigoriatis (according to the following despicable annexed document), at the Public Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki. We accept with humility and contrition of heart that our decision was a product of medical error, with potential deception!!!
We recognize and accept unreservedly the diagnoses of two medical psychiatrists attached below (confirming the full mental health of Fr. Christodoulou, who does not need “treatment”). We accept these as the only valid diagnoses which cancel out every other misleading medical placement, or “diagnosis” on matters of the aforementioned brother, Fr. Christodoulos’ mental health.
After agreement and consensus, we recall and accept as invalid the decisions (Θ’-8.4.2010) made during the session of elderly congregation of the monastery, as well as the forced “Apolytirio” (Απολυτήριο) signed by the hieromonk Fr. Panaretos (as one not having such a responsibility), and the second issued “certificate” signed by the then Abbot of the monastery Fr. George Kapsanis. We recognize this second certificate as a product of backstage coercion and extortion (for the signature) by a particular monk and head of the monastery, who ministering then (as gerokomos) the constant attendance of the Abbot and Elder of the monastery Fr. George Kapsanis, thus situated in this detailed condition due to serious health problems!!!
We accept the following agreement and συνεναίσεως the following request of the monk and brother of our monastery, Fr. Christodoulos Grigoriatis, through the moral satisfaction and economical compensate accordingly, on the injury suffered by his unjust expulsion from the Holy Monastery of his repentance, with the symbolic sum of 100,000 Euros, deposited in his bank account within three hours of the signing of this, our repentance.
APPLICATION OF MONK CHRISTODOULOS, BROTHER OF THE HOLY MONASTERY OF ST. GREGORY, MT. ATHOS
I would like to request from the monastery of my repentance, as a small token of moral satisfaction and compensation of the damage I have suffered from my wrongful expulsion from the monastery, the symbolic sum of one hundred thousand 100,000 Euros—for my unpaid ministry of more than 20 years within the monastery, for my personal library that I handed over to the monastery upon my arrival in order to dedicate myself as a monk for the rest of my life there and for depositing money in a bank account of the Monastery from the sale of my property.
Given that my expulsion from the monastery was completely unfair, since there had not been and there is no final judgment against me—no conviction of ecclesiastical or civil court that implicate me in crimes in order to justify the decision (Θ’-8.4.2010) at the Session of elderly synaxis of the monastery on the issue against my mandatory apolytirion.
KATAΘΕΣΗ ΣΤΟΝ ΛΟΓΑΡΙΑΣΜΟ:
NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE
ΟΙ ΥΠΟΓΡΑΦΟΝΤΕΣ ΤΗΝ ΑΝΩΤΕΡΩ ΜΕΤΑΜΕΛΕΙΑΝ
Ο ΠΡΟΗΓΟΥΜΕΝΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ ΟΣΙΟΥ ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΥ ΑΓ ΟΡΟΥΣ Π. ΓΕΩΡΓΙΟΣ ΚΑΨΑΝΗΣ
Ο ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΙΑΤΡΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ Π. ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΣ
Ο ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΙΑΤΡΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ Π. ΛΟΥΚΑΣ
ΚΑΘΩΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΑ ΛΟΙΠΑ ΜΕΛΗ ΤΗΣ ΓΕΡΟΝΤΙΚΗΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΕΩΣ ΤΗΣ ΑΥΤΗΣ ΜΟΝΗΣ
NOTE: The following article was written by Maria Popova and was taken from https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/01/12/the-confidence-game-maria-konnikova/
“It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief — of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it.”
“Reality is what we take to be true,” physicist David Bohm observed in a 1977 lecture. “What we take to be true is what we believe… What we believe determines what we take to be true.” That’s why nothing is more reality-warping than the shock of having come to believe something untrue — an experience so disorienting yet so universal that it doesn’t spare even the most intelligent and self-aware of us, for it springs from the most elemental tendencies of human psychology. “The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence,” Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman asserted in examining how our minds mislead us, “but of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct.”
The machinery of that construction is what New Yorker columnist and science writer extraordinaire Maria Konnikova explores in The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time (public library) — a thrilling psychological detective story investigating how con artists, the supreme masterminds of malevolent reality-manipulation, prey on our propensity for believing what we wish were true and how this illuminates the inner workings of trust and deception in our everyday lives.
“Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours,” Carl Sagan urged in his excellent Baloney Detection Kit — and yet our tendency is to do just that, becoming increasingly attached to what we’ve come to believe because the belief has sprung from our own glorious, brilliant, fool-proof minds. Through a tapestry of riveting real-life con artist profiles interwoven with decades of psychology experiments, Konnikova demonstrates that a con artist simply takes advantage of this hubris by finding the beliefs in which we are most confident — those we’re least likely to question — and enlisting them in advancing his or her agenda.
To be sure, we all perform micro-cons on a daily basis. White lies are the ink of the social contract — the insincere compliment to a friend who needs a confidence boost, the unaddressed email that “somehow went to spam,” the affinity fib that gives you common ground with a stranger at a party even though you aren’t really a “huge Leonard Cohen fan too.”
We even con ourselves. Every act of falling in love requires a necessary self-con — as Adam Phillips has written in his terrific piece on the paradox of romance, “the person you fall in love with really is the man or woman of your dreams”; we dream the lover up, we construct a fantasy of who she is based on the paltry morsels of information seeded by early impressions, we fall for that fantasy and then, as we immerse ourselves in a real relationship with a real person, we must convince ourselves that the reality corresponds to enough of the fantasy to feel satisfying.
But what sets the con artist apart from the mundane white-liar is the nefarious intent and the deliberate deftness with which he or she goes about executing that reality-manipulation.
Konnikova begins with the story of a lifelong impostor named Ferdinand Waldo Demara, who successfully passed himself off as a psychologist, a professor, a monk, a surgeon, a prison warden, the founder of a religious college, and even his own biographer.
“How was he so effective? Was it that he preyed on particularly soft, credulous targets? I’m not sure the Texas prison system, one of the toughest in the United States, could be described as such. Was it that he presented an especially compelling, trustworthy figure? Not likely, at six foot one and over 250 pounds, square linebacker’s jaw framed by small eyes that seemed to sit on the border between amusement and chicanery, an expression that made [his] four-year-old daughter Sarah cry and shrink in fear the first time she ever saw it. Or was it something else, something deeper and more fundamental — something that says more about ourselves and how we see the world?
It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief — of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it… For our minds are built for stories. We crave them, and, when there aren’t ready ones available, we create them. Stories about our origins. Our purpose. The reasons the world is the way it is. Human beings don’t like to exist in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity. When something doesn’t make sense, we want to supply the missing link. When we don’t understand what or why or how something happened, we want to find the explanation. A confidence artist is only too happy to comply — and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte.”
Konnikova describes the basic elements of the con and the psychological susceptibility into which each of them plays:
“The confidence game starts with basic human psychology. From the artist’s perspective, it’s a question of identifying the victim (the put-up): who is he, what does he want, and how can I play on that desire to achieve what I want? It requires the creation of empathy and rapport (the play): an emotional foundation must be laid before any scheme is proposed, any game set in motion. Only then does it move to logic and persuasion (the rope): the scheme (the tale), the evidence and the way it will work to your benefit (the convincer), the show of actual profits. And like a fly caught in a spider’s web, the more we struggle, the less able to extricate ourselves we become (the breakdown). By the time things begin to look dicey, we tend to be so invested, emotionally and often physically, that we do most of the persuasion ourselves. We may even choose to up our involvement ourselves, even as things turn south (the send), so that by the time we’re completely fleeced (the touch), we don’t quite know what hit us. The con artist may not even need to convince us to stay quiet (the blow-off and fix); we are more likely than not to do so ourselves. We are, after all, the best deceivers of our own minds. At each step of the game, con artists draw from a seemingly endless toolbox of ways to manipulate our belief. And as we become more committed, with every step we give them more psychological material to work with.”
What makes the book especially pleasurable is that Konnikova’s intellectual rigor comes with a side of warm wit. She writes:
“Religion,” Voltaire is said to have remarked, “began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.” It certainly sounds like something he would have said. Voltaire was no fan of the religious establishment. But versions of the exact same words have been attributed to Mark Twain, to Carl Sagan, to Geoffrey Chaucer. It seems so accurate that someone, somewhere, sometime, must certainly have said it.
The invocation of Mark Twain is especially apt — one of America’s first great national celebrities, he was the recipient of some outrageous con attempts. That, in fact, is one of Konnikova’s most disquieting yet strangely assuring points — that although our technologies of deception have changed, the technologies of thought undergirding the art of the con are perennially bound to our basic humanity. She writes:
“The con is the oldest game there is. But it’s also one that is remarkably well suited to the modern age. If anything, the whirlwind advance of technology heralds a new golden age of the grift. Cons thrive in times of transition and fast change, when new things are happening and old ways of looking at the world no longer suffice. That’s why they flourished during the gold rush and spread with manic fury in the days of westward expansion. That’s why they thrive during revolutions, wars, and political upheavals. Transition is the confidence game’s great ally, because transition breeds uncertainty. There’s nothing a con artist likes better than exploiting the sense of unease we feel when it appears that the world as we know it is about to change. We may cling cautiously to the past, but we also find ourselves open to things that are new and not quite expected.
No amount of technological sophistication or growing scientific knowledge or other markers we like to point to as signs of societal progress will — or can — make cons any less likely. The same schemes that were playing out in the big stores of the Wild West are now being run via your in-box; the same demands that were being made over the wire are hitting your cell phone. A text from a family member. A frantic call from the hospital. A Facebook message from a cousin who seems to have been stranded in a foreign country.
Technology doesn’t make us more worldly or knowledgeable. It doesn’t protect us. It’s just a change of venue for the same old principles of confidence. What are you confident in? The con artist will find those things where your belief is unshakeable and will build on that foundation to subtly change the world around you. But you will be so confident in the starting point that you won’t even notice what’s happened.”
In a sense, the con is a more extreme and elaborate version of the principles of persuasion that Blaise Pascal outlined half a millennium ago — it is ultimately an art not of coercion but of complicity. Konnikova writes:
“The confidence game — the con — is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, persuasion. The true con artist doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing. He doesn’t steal. We give. He doesn’t have to threaten us. We supply the story ourselves. We believe because we want to, not because anyone made us. And so we offer up whatever they want — money, reputation, trust, fame, legitimacy, support — and we don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. Our need to believe, to embrace things that explain our world, is as pervasive as it is strong. Given the right cues, we’re willing to go along with just about anything and put our confidence in just about anyone.”
So what makes you more susceptible to the confidence game? Not necessarily what you might expect:
“When it comes to predicting who will fall, personality generalities tend to go out the window. Instead, one of the factors that emerges is circumstance: it’s not who you are, but where you happen to be at this particular moment in your life.”
People whose willpower and emotional resilience resources are strained — the lonely, the financially downtrodden, those dealing with the trauma of divorce, injury, or job loss, those undergoing major life changes — are particularly vulnerable. But these, Konnikova reminds us, are states rather than character qualities, circumstances that might and likely will befall each one of us at different points in life for reasons largely outside our control. (One is reminded of philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s excellent work on agency and victimhood: “The victim shows us something about our own lives: we see that we too are vulnerable to misfortune, that we are not any different from the people whose fate we are watching…”) Konnikova writes:
“The more you look, the more you realize that, even with certain markers, like life changes, and certain tendencies in tow, a reliably stable overarching victim profile is simply not there. Marks vary as much as, and perhaps even more than, the grifters who fool them.”
Therein lies the book’s most sobering point — Konnikova demonstrates over and over again, through historical anecdotes and decades of studies, that no one is immune to the art of the con. And yet there is something wonderfully optimistic in this. Konnikova writes:
“The simple truth is that most people aren’t out to get you. We are so bad at spotting deception because it’s better for us to be more trusting. Trust, and not adeptness at spotting deception, is the more evolutionarily beneficial path. People are trusting by nature. We have to be. As infants, we need to trust that the big person holding us will take care of our needs and desires until we’re old enough to do it ourselves. And we never quite let go of that expectation.”
Trust, it turns out, is advantageous in the grand scheme of things. Konnikova cites a number of studies indicating that people who score higher on generalized trust tend to be healthier physically, more psychoemotionally content, likelier to be entrepreneurs, and likelier to volunteer. (The most generous woman I know, who is also a tremendously successful self-made entrepreneur, once reflected: “I’ve never once regretted being generous, I’ve only ever regretted holding back generosity.”) But the greater risk-tolerance necessary for reaping greater rewards also comes with the inevitable downside of greater potential for exploitation — the most trusting among us are also the perfect marks for the player of the confidence game.
But the paradox of trust, Konnikova argues, is only part of our susceptibility to being conned. Another major factor is our sheer human solipsism. She explains:
“We are our own prototype of being, of motivation, of behavior. People, however, are far from being a homogeneous mass. And so, when we depart from our own perspective, as we inevitably must, we often make errors, sometimes significant ones. [Psychologists call this] “egocentric anchoring”: we are our own point of departure. We assume that others know what we know, believe what we believe, and like what we like.”
She cites an extensive study, the results of which were published in a paper cleverly titled “How to Seem Telepathic.” (One ought to appreciate the scientists’ wry sarcasm in poking fun at our clickbait culture.) Konnikova writes:
“Many of our errors, the researchers found, stem from a basic mismatch between how we analyze ourselves and how we analyze others. When it comes to ourselves, we employ a fine-grained, highly contextualized level of detail. When we think about others, however, we operate at a much higher, more generalized and abstract level. For instance, when answering the same question about ourselves or others — how attractive are you? — we use very different cues. For our own appearance, we think about how our hair is looking that morning, whether we got enough sleep, how well that shirt matches our complexion. For that of others, we form a surface judgment based on overall gist. So, there are two mismatches: we aren’t quite sure how others are seeing us, and we are incorrectly judging how they see themselves.”
The skilled con artist, Konnikova points out, mediates for this mismatch by making an active effort to discern which cues the other person is using to form judgments and which don’t register at all. The result is a practical, non-paranormal exercise in mind-reading, which creates an illusion of greater affinity, which in turn becomes the foundation of greater trust — we tend to trust those similar to us more than the dissimilar, for we intuit that the habits and preferences we have in common stem from shared values.
And yet, once again, we are reminded that the tricks of the con artist’s exploitive game are different only by degree rather than kind from the everyday micro-deceptions of which our social fabric is woven. Konnikova writes:
“Both similarity and familiarity can be faked, as the con artist can easily tell you — and the more you can fake it, the more real information will be forthcoming. Similarity is easy enough. When we like someone or feel an affinity for them, we tend to mimic their behavior, facial expressions, and gestures, a phenomenon known as the chameleon effect. But the effect works the other way, too. If we mimic someone else, they will feel closer and more similar to us; we can fake the natural liking process quite well. We perpetuate minor cons every day, often without realizing it, and sometimes knowing what we do all too well, when we mirror back someone’s words or interests, feign a shared affinity for a sports team or a mutual hatred of a brand. The signs that usually serve us reliably can easily be massaged, especially in the short term — all a good con artist needs.”
NOTE: This article is taken from the PsychCentral Blog. The 2007 study referenced is included at the end of the article.
In a 2007 study, researchers found that often people who feel guilty will self-punish by depriving themselves of pleasure or inflicting harm on themselves. They call this The Dobby Effect. For those who have never read the Harry Potter series, Dobby is a magical creature, a house-elf, that is bound by magic to obey his master’s every command. If a house-elf does not obey, they are forced to punish themselves. For example, at various points through the books, Dobby is known to do everything from hit himself in the face to ironing his hands or shutting his ears in the oven door [NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, if the house-elves (i.e. monastic disciples) disobey a command, they are forced to punish themselves with various forms of hardship. Once, a nun would not stop talking and Geronda Ephraim told her to go sew her mouth shut. She went to her cell, took her sewing kit and sewed her mouth shut. It is unknown if she sterilized the needle first. She came back, showed Geronda Ephraim her mouth sewn shut and he marveled at her precision in obedience. Interestingly, sewing one’s mouth shut is popular among the BDSM community, much like Fr. George Passias’ foot and cake crush fetish].
At first glance, these actions seem comical. It seems ridiculous that someone would go to such extreme measures as self-mutilation simply because they disobeyed a command. Well, about 1 in 6 people purposefully injure themselves every year, and for reasons much less than disobeying an enchantment. For most, the reason is exaggerated, if there is a reason at all. [NOTE: The Orthodox Church has various saints that have performed extreme measures of self-harm in an attempt to hinder themselves from falling into sin. These acts are lauded as heroic feats pleasing to God. In their hagiographies it is usually noted that after performing such acts of self harm or self-mutilation, God’s grace alleviated the warfare they were experiencing, or removed it altogether. Examples of such extreme measures are (1) St. Benedict, who cast himself into a thorn bush while naked to escape the wily temptation of a woman; (2) St. Martinian of Caesaria who placed his hand in fire in order not to fornicate with a woman. It is interesting to note that many of the holy acts of self-harm found in the Synaxarion are also prevalent in BDSM, and body modification communities].
That’s the problem with depression and guilt. It goes too far. When you feel trapped in your guilt, self-punishment may feel like the only way out. If you can deprive yourself of something for longer, or if you can cause yourself enough pain, then maybe the feeling will go away. [NOTE: In the monasteries, sometimes one’s misdemeanors become like a caste mark on their forehead. Though one is absolved of their misdemeanors, they become their defining characteristic. These disobediences often become the topic of conversation among monastics (this especially occurs when monastics visit other monasteries and gossip/idle talk about such incidents). Like an invisible mark of Cain, a monastic’s misdemeanors can follow them for the rest of their monastic life. This happens via gossip, mockery, forced public confession in front of the group, private shaming, public shaming and/or repeated rebukes incorporating these things. That is of course, if they aren’t driven from the monastery].
Many people scoff at self-mutilators, saying they are only seeking attention. I’ve even heard this from physicians. The truth is, physical pain can dissuade feelings of guilt. This is not a new idea. The Catholic church has been condoning the practice of self-flagellation for over 1,000 years. Pope John Paul II was even known to practice it in order to absolve his sins. So if the Pope can do it and be praised for his devotion, why can a teenage girl not be pitied for doing the same for guilt that shouldn’t exist? Even if it is a call for attention, that person needs attention, and your attention could end up saving a life. [NOTE: The practice of self-flagellation seems to have been unknown in Europe until it was adopted by the hermits in the monastic communities of Camoaldoli and Fonte Avellana early in the 11th century. Once invented, the new form of penance spread rapidly until it had become not only a normal feature of monastic life throughout Latin Christendom but the commonest of all penitential techniques. In the 20th century, Elder Joseph the Hesychast incorporated it as a necessary part of daily monastic life in his synodia and claimed, “The cane is the remedy for every passion.” Flagellation was incorporated as a disciplinary measure in the earliest monastic communities, but later fell out of use. Both flagellation and self-flagellation are quite popular in the BDSM community–sadists love to hit and masochists love to be hit]
If you or someone you know is suffering from self-punishment due to extreme or unnecessary guilt, this is a serious sign of depression, and you should get help. Now is the time to make changes and begin to free yourself from the nagging in your head. [NOTE: In Orthodox Monasticism–also called voluntary imprisonment and slavery by the Church Fathers–the only help offered to a disciple, is frequent frank confession (which in many of the busier monasteries does not happen too often. Confession is supplemented with writing sins/thoughts down on paper, then slipping it under the superior’s door, or placing it in a common box. This box is accessible to other monastics, some who have the private pleasure of reading other peoples’–i.e. lay people or monastics‘–confessions). Confession to a priest, battling one’s thoughts, and the frequent, rapid yelling of the Jesus Prayer in an attempt not to allow any thoughts or images to form in one’s mind, are considered the only true psychotherapy. The belief is that “Orthodox Psychotherapy” is the only practice capable of healing one from guilt, depression and any other mental illness in existence. In some severe cases of mental illness, exorcism prayers will be read over the individual].
The Dobby effect
The authors suggest that people subconsciously seek out pain to relieve their guilt. Rob Nelissen at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, who wasn’t involved in the study, has previously described a guilt-induced tendency to seek punishment as the “Dobby effect” – named after Harry Potter’s self-punishing house-elf.
He says that self-punishment might relieve guilt by functioning as “a signal by which a transgressor shows remorse to his or her victim when there are no other less painful means available, such as giving a bunch of flowers”.
“In line with this view, excessive forms of self-punishment could be perceived as a consequence of unresolved guilt,” Nelissen adds.
NOTE:This is a woman’s account of growing up in the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. For those unfamiliar with the background of this organization, Fr. Jonah Paffhausen wrote an article about the “Journey of the Holy Order of MANS / Christ the Saviour Brotherhood and the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood into the Canonical Orthodox Church”:
Welcome. Please take a few moments to read a personal account of one family’s life after entering an Eastern Orthodox cult in America. This is a brief memoir about the serious consequences of blindly following a “spiritual father”, and what happened to a loving, normal family because of this. I also relate how it feels to be disowned by one’s own family for not being part of the cult. My hope is that this site will be of help to at least one other person coping with similar circumstances. I also hope it will serve as a warning to families: NEVER disown, abandon, or shun a person simply for believing differently.
I am a former “Russian Orthodox Abroad” member; my “identity” was Xenia of St. Petersburg, a woman whose life I was told mine own should resemble, according to God’s will. A frightening thought, if you know how this woman lived. I was forced into the church by my parents, kept in complete control throughout my teenage and young adult years, and finally escaped: first, in my mind and soul, and then physically. I still suffer some PTSD symptoms, common with cult withdrawal; however, I am finding the faith of my childhood, something simple and bright, which is the first light I have seen in a long, long time. My wish is that this blog will help ONE person, somewhere, to have the courage to speak out and perhaps even say all alone, “The Emperor has no clothes!” (Hans Christian Andersen). View my complete profile
Below are ten techniques of unethical thought reform and mind control (I quote), with some examples of how these were used by the Orthodox cult. 1) Focus on felt needs & defects, with exaggerated promises of fulfillment.
It was drilled into us over and over that we were spiritually “sick”, that our whole “mind-set” and way of life were evil, and that we were damned if we didn’t accept the new baptism and join the church. We were promised unending love from the church, help in any crisis, and spiritual fathers who would get us past the “toll-houses” and save our souls after we died. We were promised to always be the “right believers” who were the “elite and the elect of God”, and who would play a large role in the conversion of others before the final Tribulation.
[NOTE: The general teaching of the Orthodox Church is that all humans are spiritually sick. The Church or Monastery is the hospital where the sick faithful go to be treated. The sacraments are the medicines that the Physician uses to cure the souls of the sick. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the general consensus is, “You can be saved in the world, but it’s better to go to confession in the monasteries and have Geronda Ephraim–or one of his priest(monk)s as a confessor. In the last days, all the orthodox churches in the world will have apostasized and joined the ecumenist World Church/Religion. True orthodoxy will only be found in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries.
Some spiritual children of Elder Ephraim have read Elizabeth Ann’s story and callously stated that these things only happened because she didn’t have a holy elder nor was she part of the canonical church (In monastery double speak, this is code for “you’re hopelesswithout Geronda Ephraim or one of his priest-monks”). With an air of self satisfaction, they would state with all certainty that such things could never and would never happen in Elder Ephraim’s monasteries or parishes.
It is an odd phenomena but laymen who visit the Elder’s monasteries and decide to become dedicated disciples, often become Geronda Ephraim experts almost overnight. After a handful of visits and hours of absorbing stories concerning “miracles”, “visions”, and “prophecies”(minus the multitude that never came to pass), this lay person is now an “expert” and can tell you everything that doesn’t happen in the monasteries despite never having been invited into the monks’ quarters, nor a monks’ only homily, etc. It’s amazing.
2) Rigid Control of Time and Activities
Required to attend more and more services; demanded to read lengthy prayer books at home throughout the day; pushed to do the “Hours”; taught by book “Way of the Pilgrim” to constantly chant the “Jesus Prayer” at all times, even in school.
[NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, monastics are required to recite the Jesus Prayer ceaselessly; either mentally or out loud. This is expected no matter what they are doing: listening to someone speak to them, eating, going to sleep, working, attending church services, etc. In theory, his monastics aren’t suppose to idle talk or be too chit chatty with other monks or laymen. Everyday of the monastic’s life is ruled by someone else, and their time and activities are rigidly filled controlled.
3) Information Control
Not allowed to read newspapers, magazines, or non-religious books, especially during the time as “catechumens.” Told that all new movies and T.V. programs and T.V. news were “of the devil.” Given more and more Orthodox “patrisitic” ( holy fathers’) writings to read and re-read. Told to cut off family, which my mother did by way of letters.
Those who control the information control the person. In a mind control cult any information from outside the cult is considered evil, especially if it is opposing the cult. Members are told not to read it or believe it. Only information supplied by the cult is true.
[NOTE: In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the monastics aren’t allowed to read worldy publications (many do though when they’re afforded the opportunity), let alone information critical of Geronda Ephraim or his monasteries. If they are allowed, this will be curated by the Superior and many times it will turn into a mocking fest of the writer or commentator (many times, the monastics don’t actually get to see the article or news clip to make an informed decision. The Superior gives them only the “necessary” details and makes the informed decision of interpretation for the disciple. With big events like 9/11, some monastics were allowed to watch the news clips and footage of the planes. In some monasteries, Greece winning the World Cup in soccer is also a big enough event, so big that many of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics had a blessing to watch the highlights and in one case, the entire game (nationalist and patriotic sentiment for Greece is very high in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries)].
4) Language Manipulation
Besides being taught to laugh at certain words such as “the Latins” or “the West”, we were taught an exclusive new vocabulary for “insiders”, some of which is put in bold print in the posts at right. Our new names were to replace our real names, forever. The lovely name “JESUS” was seldom used.
[NOTE: The monasteries also have their own vocabulary and special knocks which many laymen also adopt for their everyday use at home and among like-minded Christians–“Na Einai Evlogemeno” (“Let it be blessed”), response to be asked to do something. “Evlogeson” (“Bless”), asking forgiveness, usually a response to making an error or offending someone.
One of Geronda’s elders once observed, “Sorry lost all meaning when the word ‘Evlogeson’ was invented.” He was referring to the fact that no matter how greatly a monastic errs or offends, they have a reflex response to say ‘Evlogeson’ without thinking, with no heartfelt meaning.
Though “Latins” and “the West” are words and concepts looked down upon and sometimes laughed at in the monasteries, this is also the same spirit of almost all the Orthodox patristic writings and encyclicals since the Great Schism of 1054. Other words that receive similar attention are: “Oi Ebraioi” “The Jews” (lit. “The Hebrews”); “Oi Zionistes” (“The Zionists”); “Ta Protokolla” (“The Protocols of Zion”); “Tektonismos” (“Freemasonry”); “O Patriarches” (“The Patriarch”)].
5) Discouraging Critical, Rational Thought and Questions
Obvious contradictions and questions were greeted with either long, convoluted, and evasive explanations, or we were told that “you will understand later when you have become an adult in the faith. Just become like little children.” I was laughed at when I pointed out specific verses in the Bible, which I knew very well. I was even called “that Baptist girl” in a derogatory way. We were told during the second liturgy that clergy and priests must ALWAYS be obeyed, EVEN IF THEIR PERSONAL LIVES WERE NOT HOLY (i.e. they had murdered a person!) I quote Br. B. Now I add (“even if they have sodomized your child.”)
[NOTE: In orthodoxy there is an “answer” for every question, even those with no answers. Most things that are in conflict with orthodoxy or don’t fit in with the vague and contradictory theology around creation and the fall are usually dismissed as “unimportant” or “unnecessary”… “Dinosaurs aren’t important to salvation, don’t waste your time with those things” (common monastery advice to youth)… “Don’t read the Old Testament, the New Testament is what’s important. Anything of real worth in the Old Testament can be found in our church services, it’s better to read those” (advice to those who start getting ‘demonic warfare’–monastic code word for critical thinking and rational thought–after reading about God commanding His people, the Hebrews, to commit infanticide, genocide, and other atrocities)…”God allowed it in His mercy to rescue the children being abused and to punish the sinners; i.e. human traffickers, pedophiles, polytheists, etc. See, you judge God as merciless and cruel but He has a wisdom and reason we can’t always see right away” (a Hieromonk’s explanation for the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami)… to the question of “Why does God allow some children to get raped and others not?” this hieromonk replied with the who can know the Lord’s mind response that is supposed to stop the questions there.
6) Instruction in Trance Induction Techniques
One of the first things taught to us: how to stand completely still, stare at the icons, and say “Lord Have Mercy” in five different languages, sometimes amounting to 120 phrases at a time. Again, “The Way of a Pilgrim” was to be memorized and internalized, to learn how to breathe properly and chant simultaneously. Continuous repetitions during Complines, Matins, and then Liturgy, while staring at the icons, made me go into a kind of half-sleep–still able to listen intently and remember things.
[NOTE: When the monasteries first started, Geronda Ephraim only allowed the Jesus Prayer to be said in Greek. This did result in a bit of protestations from non-Greek monastics (mainly converts) who wanted to say the Prayer in their native language. One novice spoke to Geronda Ephraim personally, who responded, “The Prayer is better in and more powerful in the Greek language. It’s the language of the Holy Spirit, it’s the language the New Testament was written. Also, we’re a Greek monastery mainly for the Greeks so it’s better if they hear the Greek language.” In some monasteries, as years went by, some individuals were blessed to say the Prayer in their native tongues (English or Russian or Romanian, etc.).
Geronda Ephraim’s monastics are also required to focus mainly on the Jesus Prayer during all the church services, in order not to be distracted by the words of the services.].
7) Confession Sessions (a powerful tool to manipulate, blackmail, and emotionally bond you to the priest; a depersonalization or stripping of yourself–submission to the group.)
As explained at left. Confessions would be labeled “good” or “bad”, depending on how much we could come up with and whether we started “weeping”. The priests put each person under an intense “grilling” session, delving into EVERY thought and action.
[NOTE: Confession is a very powerful tool in the monasteries, especially to keep the monastics in line. If one is sinning in a specific way, the Superior many times exposes this action in front of all the other monastics in an attempt to humble and crush the disciple’s ego. Other times, a monastic can be put in the Lity, near the entrance of the Church, where they go on their knees and repeatedly beg everyone for forgiveness, stating their sin or passion, until the last person exits the church. Often, a lay person’s confession will be revealed to the monastics for their spiritual “edification” and also to see how “it’s hell” in the outside world. Though the superior or senior monastic revealing these private, personal stories usually don’t reveal the name, most monastics can figure out who they are talking about. Some monastics will then take this information and speak cryptically to this lay person trying to pass themselves off as some kind of clairvoyant. They won’t say anything outright and feign humility about this “gift” but in the process, this awestruck layperson will also reveal more personal information about his friends and family. This cycle continues until the superior finally catches on, one way or another. It’s embarrassing to witness.
8) Guilt and Fear (Weapons used to maintain group/church loyalty, suppress questions and defections.)
As I have already said, FEAR was the most powerful tool which made us listen to and believe every lie we were told. The Antichrist was ALIVE and about to begin his prophesied ministry; “it was later than we thought”, and unseen demons were constantly around us. The realization of our immense sinfulness (which was never relieved) caused terrible guilt. Some of us were made to feel guilty about going to the bathroom, because our pure guardian angels would have to watch this. Thoughts of going to another church, or none at all, caused immense spontaneous guilt.
[NOTE: Geronda Ephraim would never confirm if the Antichrist was born but he would talk cryptically in ways that would make people think that he was or was soon to be born. He often gives homilies to his monks telling them they’re the monastics of the last days, the last generation, and will be martyred under the Antichrist. When Geronda use to visit Saxonburg in the early 90s, he’d point to children and say, “They’re going to see the Antichrist.”
A monastic, and layperson if possible, is instructed to always find some reason to reproach themselves. In Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries, the monastics constantly listen to and read homilies by their Elder. In all his talks, Geronda Ephraim criticizes, insults and reproaches himself. All his monastics believe he is the holiest man in the world, the last great saint of the Orthodox Church. Geronda Ephraim says he sees himself as nothing more than an useless, pathetic, beast not worthy of anything in this world. The monastics are constantly trying to acquire this mindset; not to believe only in lip service but rather to the depths of their entire being.
The Orthodox Patristic texts, as well as Geronda Ephraim, encourage their followers to cultivate an anxiety and fear that they call “Holy”.]
9) Control of Sexuality and Intimacy
In this cult, all sexual desires, normal sex in marriage, and physical love in marriage was “impure” and part of the “fallen flesh.” So it was severely restricted to only certain times during the week and the year. All was to be confessed.
[NOTE: Geronda Ephraim and his priests generally teach their spiritual children to abstain from carnal relations the night before Holy Communion, on Feast Days of the Virgin Mary, during the fasts ordained by the Church (Wednesdays, Fridays, Great Lent, Dormition, Christmas, etc). Essentially, there are over 200 days of the 365 day year where an Orthodox Christian couple must abstain from sex. These numbers don’t factor in the abstinence days when a woman is on her menstrual cycle or pregnant.
On days where sex is allowed, Geronda’s spiritual children are encouraged only to do basic missionary sex, try not to enjoy the carnal passion too much so it doesn’t lead to dirtier things, and avoid contraceptives or the pull-out method. Any act related to oral (felatio, cunnilingus, etc.) or anal (penetration, analingus, etc.) is to be avoided as they are sins that carry heavy penances (i.e. years without communion, etc.). These admonitions are only for married spiritual children as any sexual act outside of marriage (including solo acts such as masturbation) are considered serious sins and punishable under the canons.
Abstaining from sex when a couple stops having children is also encouraged. The monasteries call it “Living like brother and sister.”
10) Excessive Financial Obligations (a form of complete submission to God.)
The only place for tithes and donations was cultic Orthodox churches or monasteries (the one in Dog Canyon never was built.) Later on, in a Russian Abroad Church in Sunnyvale, CA, I was pushed to give my monthly wages to dubious causes, such as the “compound” which was to be built, with greenhouses and all.
[NOTE: Most of Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries don’t pass around collection plates during the Liturgy, nor do they have fixed prices for Sacraments (i.e. baptism, marriage, etc.). Everything is run on donations and there are various things each monastery does to raise funds on top of whatever art, craft, food, they sell.
Rich benefactors, or potential benefactors, can sometimes be groomed and cultivated into a lifetime helper. It helps if the individual has a sick husband or wife and is desperate for a cure or miracle. If the individual goes into remission or the medication treats whatever (though more emphasis is placed on the blessing with relics than western medicine) one could be looking at a lifetime benefactor who will also bring other rich people to the monasteries. This kind of cultivation isn’t viewed as unethical because the monastery is repaying these individuals spiritually with prayer and offering them the means of salvation which “is worth more than all the money in the world combined.”
RECRUITMENT AND MIND CONTROL (Steve Hassan)
“…’mind control’ may be understood as a SYSTEM of influences that disrupts an individual’s identity (beliefs, behavior, thinking, and emotions) and replaces it with a new identity.” (p. 7, Combatting…)
“If deception, hypnosis, and other mind control techniques are used to recruit and control followers, then people’s rights are being infringed upon.” (p.37.)
Note: Steve Hassan’s FOUR COMPONENTS OF MIND CONTROL are best described and connected with the Orthodox cults in the PSEUDO-PROPHET.org webpage. Personal family experiences are briefly recounted below:
1) BEHAVIOR CONTROL (includes control of environment: location, clothing, diet, sleep patterns, jobs, rituals..)
We learned to act like Br. B. and the other cult members. We learned how to fast, to celebrate feasts (on the proper old-Calendar days), how to cut off the outside world and even American holidays. (I LOVE AMERICA!!!–Elizabeth Ann.) We learned how to do all the prayer services; how to cross ourselves with three fingers, properly, at specific times during the day; how to venerate icons. We learned how to speak, dress, etc.
2) THOUGHT CONTROL
Besides the new language, we learned “stop” wicked thoughts, or “blocking” techniques like chanting “Lord Have Mercy,” or the “Jesus Prayer” over and over, louder and louder. My parents and brothers still start to chant and talk “over a conversation”, which is VERY RUDE, if the person they are talking with questions their beliefs. We learned to feel the “unseen battle” and consider ourselves the “Church Militant”, as opposed to the “fallen outside world.”
3) EMOTIONAL CONTROL
Fear reigned supreme. Fear of other people not in the cult (almost the whole world! ), fear of imminent death, fear of the Apocalypse, fear of the living Antichrist, fear of PERSECUTION, fear of demons, fear of the consequences of leaving the cult–or questioning things like the “Holy Fire”. Oh, did I mention that ALL psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists were trained in satanic methods? Fear of the world conspiracies. At one point, my parents were certain that our phones were always “bugged” by the government, because of our foreign friends!!
GUILT. About supposed “bad thoughts” and made-up sins. Confessions.
4) INFORMATION CONTROL
As I describe at right: no worldly newspapers, TV news, non-religious books or magazines; even old friends and family were shunned in case they would “draw us away from the faith.” We never again saw a movie in a theater together as a family (except for ‘Pinocchio’, once). The “Orthodox America” paper gave modern movie reviews, which almost always were negative and demonic. All questions had to be through the “spiritual fathers” or clergy. Rational, critical thinking was abandoned.
THREE STEPS TO GAIN MIND CONTROL
(These are explained on pp. 67 -72 of Steve Hassan’s book, Combatting Mind Control. Here I briefly connect them with my own experience.)
As my family “died” to our “old selves” and old lives, we were broken down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Fasting, sleep deprivation, rigorous prayer schedules, confessions, lectures, and lack of contact with old friends and family did this. We believed our former lives had been ALL evil, wrong, and deluded. We were the most pitiable creatures on earth–spiritually fallen.
We were given our new baptisms, new names, and new identities, with life instructions. More reading material, more lectures, and complete compliance with the behaviors of the cult members were required. We were “re-taught”.
After being completely divested of our old selves and old lives, then “taught” how to live the “truth”, we BECAME the new people. We were now part of the family! Immediately, we were told to form a “mission” church, to bring in more converts (and their checkbooks.)
Well, that is a brief overview of the initial cult experience as it related to our involvement with the Russian Orthodox/St. Herman of Alaska/Old Calendar church. It didn’t end there.
Giving people guilt trips is a common method of persuasion, and parents and friends often use it. You may have done so yourself. Some individuals and groups, however, take this method to new levels.
Escalate the group
Loyalty to the group is typically escalated to high level, and framed as being a good and right thing to do. This is often couched within talk about obviously good things such helping customers, supporting colleagues and creating world peace. By associating themselves with unchallengeable values, the group and its leader also become unchallengEably ‘good’.
This escalation to ‘godhood’ makes the leader and higher members of the group unchallengeable and able to pronounce on what is good and what is bad. It also, by implication, puts the person lower down the order of ‘goodness’.
Accuse the person
Once the group, its leaders and ideals are established as being above the person, they can then, without fear of challenge, accuse the person of breaking important values and putting themselves ahead of the group and its (very reasonable) values.
If the person is sent out to collect money, for example, if they do not bring back enough cash they are admonished for not being sufficiently dedicated and for putting their own selfish concerns ahead of the good of the group or the causes they promote.
The group may dangles the prospect of elevation into higher positions within it, where guilt is left behind as ultimate goodness is approached. Of course the only way to reach this higher station is to do whatever these great people tell them to do.
Emotional Manipulation is Also “Covert Aggression.” See: “Psychopaths: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” Here is a list adapted from an article by Fiona McColl:
1.There is no use in trying to be honest with an emotional manipulator. You make a statement and it will be turned around. Example: I am really angry that you forgot my birthday. Response – “It makes me feel sad that you would think I would forget your birthday, I should have told you of the great personal stress I am facing at the moment – but you see I didn’t want to trouble you. You are right I should have put all this pain (don’t be surprised to see real tears at this point) aside and focused on your birthday. Sorry.” Even as you are hearing the words you get the creeped out sensation that they really do NOT mean they are sorry at all – but since they’ve said the words you’re pretty much left with nothing more to say. Either that or you suddenly find yourself babysitting their angst!! Under all circumstances if you feel this angle is being played – don’t capitulate! Do not care take – do not accept an apology that feels like bullshit. If it feels like bullshit – it probably is. Rule number one – if dealing with an emotional blackmailer TRUST your gut. TRUST your senses. Once an emotional manipulator finds a successful maneuver – it’s added to their hit list and you’ll be fed a steady diet of this shit.
2.An emotional manipulator is the picture of a willing helper. If you ask them to do something they will almost always agree – that is IF they didn’t volunteer to do it first. Then when you say, “ok thanks” – they make a bunch of heavy sighs, or other non verbal signs that let you know they don’t really want to do whatever said thing happens to be. When you tell them it doesn’t seem like they want to do whatever – they will turn it around and try to make it seem like OF COURSE they wanted to and how unreasonable you are. This is a form of crazy making – which is something emotional manipulators are very good at. Rule number two – If an emotional manipulator said YES – make them accountable for it. Do NOT buy into the sighs and subtleties – if they don’t want to do it – make them tell you it up front – or just put on the walk-man headphones and run a bath and leave them to their theater.
3.Crazy making – saying one thing and later assuring you they did not say it.If you find yourself in a relationship where you figure you should start keeping a log of what’s been said because you are beginning to question your own sanity –You are experiencing emotional manipulation. An emotional manipulator is an expert in turning things around, rationalizing, justifying and explaining things away. They can lie so smoothly that you can sit looking at black and they’ll call it white – and argue so persuasively that you begin to doubt your very senses. Over a period of time this is so insidious and eroding it can literally alter your sense of reality. WARNING: Emotional Manipulation is VERY Dangerous! It is very disconcerting for an emotional manipulator if you begin carrying a pad of paper and a pen and making notations during conversations. Feel free to let them know you just are feeling so “forgetful” these days that you want to record their words for posterity’s sake. The damndest thing about this is that having to do such a thing is a clear example for why you should be seriously thinking about removing yourself from range in the first place. If you’re toting a notebook to safeguard yourself – that ol’ bullshit meter should be flashing steady by now!
4.Guilt. Emotional manipulators are excellent guilt mongers. They can make you feel guilty for speaking up or not speaking up, for being emotional or not being emotional enough, for giving and caring, or for not giving and caring enough. Any thing is fair game and open to guilt with an emotional manipulator. Emotional manipulators seldom express their needs or desires openly – they get what they want through emotional manipulation. Guilt is not the only form of this but it is a potent one. Most of us are pretty conditioned to do whatever is necessary to reduce our feelings of guilt. Another powerful emotion that is used is sympathy. An emotional manipulator is a great victim. They inspire a profound sense of needing to support, care for and nurture. Emotional Manipulators seldom fight their own fights or do their own dirty work. The crazy thing is that when you do it for them (which they will never ask directly for), they may just turn around and say they certainly didn’t want or expect you to do anything! Try to make a point of not fighting other people’s battles, or doing their dirty work for them. A great line is “I have every confidence in your ability to work this out on your own” – check out the response and note the bullshit meter once again.
5.Emotional manipulators fight dirty. They don’t deal with things directly. They will talk around behind your back and eventually put others in the position of telling you what they would not say themselves. They are passive aggressive, meaning they find subtle ways of letting you know they are not happy little campers. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear and then do a bunch of jerk off shit to undermine it. Example: “Of course I want you to go back to school honey and you know I’ll support you.” Then exam night you are sitting at the table and poker buddies show up, the kids are crying the t.v. blasting and the dog needs walking – all the while “Sweetie” is sitting on their ass looking at you blankly. Dare you call them on such behavior you are likely to hear, “well you can’t expect life to just stop because you have an exam can you honey?” Cry, scream or choke ‘em – only the last will have any long-term benefits and it’ll probably wind your butt in jail.
6.If you have a headache an emotional manipulator will have a brain tumor! No matter what your situation is the emotional manipulator has probably been there or is there now – but only ten times worse. It’s hard after a period of time to feel emotionally connected to an emotional manipulator because they have a way of de-railing conversations and putting the spotlight back on themselves. If you call them on this behavior they will likely become deeply wounded or very petulant and call you selfish – or claim that it is you who are always in the spotlight. The thing is that even tho you know this is not the case you are left with the impossible task of proving it. Don’t bother – TRUST your gut and walk away!
7.Emotional manipulators somehow have the ability to impact the emotional climate of those around them. When an emotional manipulator is sad or angry the very room thrums with it – it brings a deep instinctual response to find someway to equalize the emotional climate and the quickest route is by making the emotional manipulator feel better – fixing whatever is broken for them. Stick with this type of loser for too long and you will be so enmeshed and co-dependent you will forget you even have needs – let alone that you have just as much right to have your needs met.
8.Emotional manipulators have no sense of accountability. They take no responsibility for themselves or their behavior – it is always about what everyone else has “done to them”. One of the easiest ways to spot an emotional manipulator is that they often attempt to establish intimacy through the early sharing of deeply personal information that is generally of the “hook-you-in-and-make-you-sorry-for-me” variety. Initially you may perceive this type of person as very sensitive, emotionally open and maybe a little vulnerable. Believe me when I say that an emotional manipulator is about as vulnerable as a rabid pit bull, and there will always be a problem or a crisis to overcome.
An Excerpt from the book: In Sheep’s Clothing by George K. Simon
Two Basic Types of Aggression
There are two basic types of aggression: overt-aggression and covert-aggression. When you’re determined to have something and you’re open, direct and obvious in your manner of fighting, your behavior is best labeled overtly aggressive. When you’re out to “win,” dominate or control, but are subtle, underhanded or deceptive enough to hide your true intentions, your behavior is most appropriately labeled covertly aggressive. Now, avoiding any overt display of aggression while simultaneously intimidating others into giving you what you want is a powerfully manipulative maneuver. That’s why covert-aggression is most often the vehicle for interpersonal manipulation.
Acts of Covert-Aggression vs. Covert-Aggressive Personalities
Most of us have engaged in some sort of covertly aggressive behavior from time to time. Periodically trying to manipulate a person or a situation doesn’t make someone a covert-aggressive personality. Personality can be defined by the way a person habitually perceives, relates to and interacts with others and the world at large.
The tactics of deceit, manipulation and control are a steady diet for covert-aggressive personality. It’s the way they prefer to deal with others and to get the things they want in life.
The Process of Victimization
For a long time, I wondered why manipulation victims have a hard time seeing what really goes on in manipulative interactions. At first, I was tempted to fault them. But I’ve learned that they get hoodwinked for some very good reasons:
1. A manipulator’s aggression is not obvious. Our gut may tell us that they’re fighting for something, struggling to overcome us, gain power, or have their way, and we find ourselves unconsciously on the defensive. But because we can’t point to clear, objective evidence they’re aggressing against us, we can’t readily validate our feelings.
2. The tactics manipulators use can make it seem like they’re hurting, caring, defending, …, almost anything but fighting. These tactics are hard to recognize as merely clever ploys. They always make just enough sense to make a person doubt their gut hunch that they’re being taken advantage of or abused. Besides, the tactics not only make it hard for you to consciously and objectively tell that a manipulator is fighting, but they also simultaneously keep you or consciously on the defensive. These features make them highly effective psychological weapons to which anyone can be vulnerable. It’s hard to think clearly when someone has you emotionally on the run.
3. All of us have weaknesses and insecurities that a clever manipulator might exploit. Sometimes, we’re aware of these weaknesses and how someone might use them to take advantage of us. For example, I hear parents say things like: “Yeah, I know I have a big guilt button.” – But at the time their manipulative child is busily pushing that button, they can easily forget what’s really going on. Besides, sometimes we’re unaware of our biggest vulnerabilities. Manipulators often know us better than we know ourselves. They know what buttons to push, when and how hard. Our lack of self-knowledge sets us up to be exploited.
4. What our gut tells us a manipulator is like, challenges everything we’ve been taught to believe about human nature. We’ve been inundated with a psychology that has us seeing everybody, at least to some degree, as afraid, insecure or “hung-up.” So, while our gut tells us we’re dealing with a ruthless conniver, our head tells us they must be really frightened or wounded “underneath.” What’s more, most of us generally hate to think of ourselves as callous and insensitive people. We hesitate to make harsh or seemingly negative judgments about others. We want to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t really harbor the malevolent intentions we suspect. We’re more apt to doubt and blame ourselves for daring to believe what our gut tells us about our manipulator’s character.
Recognizing Aggressive Agendas
Accepting how fundamental it is for people to fight for the things they want and becoming more aware of the subtle, underhanded ways people can and do fight in their daily endeavors and relationships can be very consciousness expanding. Learning to recognize an aggressive move when somebody makes one and learning how to handle oneself in any of life’s many battles, has turned out to be the most empowering experience for the manipulation victims with whom I’ve worked. It’s how they eventually freed themselves from their manipulator’s dominance and control and gained a much needed boost to their own sense of self esteem. Recognizing the inherent aggression in manipulative behavior and becoming more aware of the slick, surreptitious ways that manipulative people prefer to aggress against us is extremely important. Not recognizing and accurately labeling their subtly aggressive moves causes most people to misinterpret the behavior of manipulators and, therefore, fail to respond to them in an appropriate fashion. Recognizing when and how manipulators are fighting with covertly aggressive tactics is essential.
Defense Mechanisms and Offensive Tactics
Almost everyone is familiar with the term defense mechanism. Defense mechanisms are the “automatic” (i.e. unconscious) mental behaviors all of us employ to protect or defend ourselves from the “threat” of some emotional pain. More specifically, ego defense mechanisms are mental behaviors we use to “defend” our self-images from “invitations” to feel ashamed or guilty about something. There are many different kinds of ego defenses and the more traditional (psychodynamic) theories of personality have always tended to distinguish the various personality types, at least in part, by the types of ego defenses they prefer to use. One of the problems with psychodynamic approaches to understanding human behavior is that they tend to depict people as most always afraid of something and defending or protecting themselves in some way; even when they’re in the act of aggressing. Covert-aggressive personalities (indeed all aggressive personalities) use a variety of mental behaviors and interpersonal maneuvers to help ensure they get what they want. Some of these behaviors have been traditionally thought of as defense mechanisms.
While, from a certain perspective we might say someone engaging in these behaviors is defending their ego from any sense of shame or guilt, it’s important to realize that at the time the aggressor is exhibiting these behaviors, he is not primarily defending (i.e. attempting to prevent some internally painful event from occurring), but rather fighting to maintain position, gain power and to remove any obstacles (both internal and external) in the way of getting what he wants. Seeing the aggressor as on the defensive in any sense is a set-up for victimization. Recognizing that they’re primarily on the offensive, mentally prepares a person for the decisive action they need to take in order to avoid being run over. Therefore, I think it’s best to conceptualize many of the mental behaviors (no matter how “automatic” or “unconscious” they may appear) we often think of as defense mechanisms, as offensive power tactics, because aggressive personalities employ them primarily to manipulate, control and achieve dominance over others. Rather than trying to prevent something emotionally painful or dreadful from happening, anyone using these tactics is primarily trying to ensure that something they want to happen does indeed happen. Using the vignettes presented in the previous chapters for illustration, let’s take a look at the principal tactics covert-aggressive personalities use to ensure they get their way and maintain a position of power over their victims:
Denial – This is when the aggressor refuses to admit that they’ve done something harmful or hurtful when they clearly have. It’s a way they lie (to themselves as well as to others) about their aggressive intentions. This “Who… Me?” tactic is a way of “playing innocent,” and invites the victim to feel unjustified in confronting the aggressor about the inappropriateness of a behavior. It’s also the way the aggressor gives him/herself permission to keep right on doing what they want to do. This denial is not the same kind of denial that a person who has just lost a loved one and can’t quite bear to accept the pain and reality of the loss engages in. That type of denial really is mostly a “defense” against unbearable hurt and anxiety. Rather, this type of denial is not primarily a “defense” but a maneuver the aggressor uses to get others to back off, back down or maybe even feel guilty themselves for insinuating he’s doing something wrong.
In the story of James the minister, James’ denial of his ruthless ambition is massive. He denied he was hurting and neglecting his family. He especially denied he was aggressively pursuing any personal agenda. On the contrary, he cast himself as the humble servant to a honorable cause. He managed to convince several people (and maybe even himself) of the nobility and purity of his intentions. But underneath it all, James knew he was being dishonest: This fact is borne out in his reaction to the threat of not getting a seat on the Elders’ Council if his marital problems worsened. When James learned he might not get what he was so aggressively pursuing after all, he had an interesting “conversion” experience. All of a sudden, he decided he could put aside the Lord’s bidding for a weekend and he might really need to devote more time to his marriage and family. James’ eyes weren’t opened by the pastor’s words. He always kept his awareness high about what might hinder or advance his cause. He knew if he didn’t tend to his marriage he might lose what he really wanted. So, he chose (at least temporarily) to alter course.
In the story of Joe and Mary, Mary confronted Joe several times about what she felt was insensitivity and ruthlessness on his part in his treatment of Lisa. Joe denied his aggressiveness. He also successfully convinced Mary that what she felt in her gut was his aggressiveness was really conscientiousness, loyalty, and passionate fatherly concern. Joe wanted a daughter who got all A’s. Mary stood in the way. Joe’s denial was the tactic he used to remove Mary as an obstacle to what he wanted.
Selective Inattention – This tactic is similar to and sometimes mistaken for denial It’s when the aggressor “plays dumb,” or acts oblivious. When engaging in this tactic, the aggressor actively ignores the warnings, pleas or wishes of others, and in general, refuses to pay attention to everything and anything that might distract them from pursuing their own agenda. Often, the aggressor knows full well what you want from him when he starts to exhibit this “I don’t want to hear it!” behavior. By using this tactic, the aggressor actively resists submitting himself to the tasks of paying attention to or refraining from the behavior you want him to change. In the story of Jenny and Amanda, Jenny tried to tell Amanda she was losing privileges because she was behaving irresponsibly. But Amanda wouldn’t listen. Her teachers tried to tell her what she needed to do to improve her grade: but she didn’t listen to them either. Actively listening to and heeding the suggestions of someone else are, among other things, acts of submission. And, as you may remember from the story, Amanda is not a girl who submits easily. Determined to let nothing stand in her way and convinced she could eventually “win” most of her power struggles with authority figures through manipulation, Amanda closed her ears. She didn’t see any need to listen. From her point of view, she would only have lost some power and control if she submitted herself to the guidance and direction offered by those whom she views as less powerful, clever and capable as herself.
Rationalization – A rationalization is the excuse an aggressor tries to offer for engaging in an inappropriate or harmful behavior. It can be an effective tactic, especially when the explanation or justification the aggressor offers makes just enough sense that any reasonably conscientious person is likely to fall for it. It’s a powerful tactic because it not only serves to remove any internal resistance the aggressor might have about doing what he wants to do (quieting any qualms of conscience he might have) but also to keep others off his back. If the aggressor can convince you he’s justified in whatever he’s doing, then he’s freer to pursue his goals without interference.
In the story of little Lisa, Mary felt uneasy about the relentlessness with which Joe pursued his quest to make his daughter an obedient, all-A student once again. And, she was aware of Lisa’s expressed desire to pursue counseling as a means of addressing and perhaps solving some of her problems. Although Mary felt uneasy about Joe’s forcefulness and sensed the impact on her daughter, she allowed herself to become persuaded by his rationalizations that any concerned parent ought to know his daughter better than some relatively dispassionate outsider and that he was only doing his duty by doing as much as he possibly could to “help” his “little girl.” When a manipulator really wants to make headway with their rationalizations they’ll be sure their excuses are combined with other effective tactics. For example, when Joe was “selling” Mary on the justification for shoving his agenda down everyone’s throat he was also sending out subtle invitations for her to feel ashamed (shaming her for not being as “concerned” a parent as he was) as well as making her feel guilty (guilt-tripping her) for not being as conscientious as he was pretending to be.
Diversion – A moving target is hard to hit. When we try to pin a manipulator down or try to keep a discussion focused on a single issue or behavior we don’t like, he’s expert at knowing how to change the subject, dodge the issue or in some way throw us a curve. Manipulators use distraction and diversion techniques to keep the focus off their behavior, move us off-track, and keep themselves free to promote their self-serving hidden agendas.
Rather than respond directly to the issue being addressed, Amanda diverted attention to her teacher’s and classmates’ treatment of her. Jenny allowed Amanda to steer her off track. She never got a straight answer to the question.
Another example of a diversion tactic can be found in the story of Don and Al. Al changed the subject when Don asked him if he had any plans to replace him. He focused on whether he was unhappy or not with Don’s sales performance – as if that’s what Don had asked him about in the first place. He never gave Don a straight answer to a straight question (manipulators are notorious for this). He told him what he thought would make Don feel less anxious and would steer him away from pursuing the matter any further. Al left feeling like he’d gotten an answer but all he really got was the “runaround.”
Early in the current school year, I found it necessary to address my son’s irresponsibility about doing his homework by making a rule that he bring his books home every night. One time I asked: “Did you bring your books home today?” His response was: “Guess what, Dad. Instead of tomorrow, we’re not going to have our test – until Friday.” My question was simple and direct. His answer was deliberately evasive and diversionary. He knew that if he answered the question directly and honestly, he would have received a consequence for failing to bring his books home. By using diversion (and also offering a rationalization) he was already fighting with me to avoid that consequence. Whenever someone is not responding directly to an issue, you can safely assume that for some reason, they’re trying to give you the slip.
Lying – It’s often hard to tell when a person is lying at the time he’s doing it. Fortunately, there are times when the truth will out because circumstances don’t bear out somebody’s story. But there are also times when you don’t know you’ve been deceived until it’s too late. One way to minimize the chances that someone will put one over on you is to remember that because aggressive personalities of all types will generally stop at nothing to get what they want, you can expect them to lie and cheat. Another thing to remember is that manipulators – covert-aggressive personalities that they are – are prone to lie in subtle, covert ways. Courts are well aware of the many ways that people lie, as they require that court oaths charge that testifiers tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Manipulators often lie by withholding a significant amount of the truth from you or by distorting the truth. They are adept at being vague when you ask them direct questions. This is an especially slick way of lying’ omission. Keep this in mind when dealing with a suspected wolf in sheep’s clothing. Always seek and obtain specific, confirmable information.
Covert Intimidation – Aggressors frequently threaten their victims to keep them anxious, apprehensive and in a one-down position. Covert-aggressives intimidate their victims by making veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats. Guilt-tripping and shaming are two of the covert-aggressive’s favourite weapons. Both are special intimidation tactics.
Guilt-tripping – One thing that aggressive personalities know well is that other types of persons have very different consciences than they do. Manipulators are often skilled at using what they know to be the greater conscientiousness of their victims as a means of keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious, and submissive position. The more conscientious the potential victim, the more effective guilt is as a weapon. Aggressive personalities of all types use guilt-tripping so frequently and effectively as a manipulative tactic, that I believe it illustrates how fundamentally different in character they are compared to other (especially neurotic) personalities. All a manipulator has to do is suggest to the conscientious person that they don’t care enough, are too selfish, etc., and that person immediately starts to feel bad. On the contrary, a conscientious person might try until they’re blue in the face to get a manipulator (or any other aggressive personality) to feel badly about a hurtful behavior, acknowledge responsibility, or admit wrongdoing, to absolutely no avail.
Shaming – This is the technique of using subtle sarcasm and put-downs as a means of increasing fear and self-doubt in others. Covert-aggressives use this tactic to make others feel inadequate or unworthy, and therefore, defer to them. It’s an effective way to foster a continued sense of personal inadequacy in the weaker party, thereby allowing an aggressor to maintain a position of dominance.
When Joe loudly proclaimed any “good” parent would do just as he was doing to help Lisa, he subtly implied Mary would be a “bad” parent if she didn’t attempt to do the same. He “invited” her to feel ashamed of herself. The tactic was effective. Mary eventually felt ashamed for taking a position that made it appear she didn’t care enough about her own daughter. Even more doubtful of her worth as a person and a parent, Mary deferred to Joe, thus enabling him to rein a position of dominance over her. Covert-aggressives are expert at using shaming tactics in the most subtle ways. Sometimes it can just be in the glances they give or the tone of voice they use. Using rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm and other techniques, they can invite you to feel ashamed of yourself for even daring to challenge them. Joe tried to shame Mary when I considered accepting the educational assessment performed by Lisa’s school. He said something like: “I’m not sure what kind of doctor you are or just what kind of credentials you have, but I’m sure you’d agree that a youngster’s grades wouldn’t slip as much as Lisa’s for no reason. You couldn’t be entirely certain she didn’t have a learning disability unless you did some testing, could you?’ With those words, he “invited” Mary to feel ashamed of herself for not at least considering doing just as he asked. If Mary didn’t have a suspicion about what he was up to, she might have accepted this invitation without a second thought.
Playing the Victim Role – This tactic involves portraying oneself as an innocent victim of circumstances or someone else’s behavior in order to gain sympathy, evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. One thing that covert-aggressive personalities count on is the fact that less calloused and less hostile personalities usually can’t stand to see anyone suffering. Therefore, the tactic is simple. Convince your victim you’re suffering in some way, and they’ll try to relieve your distress.
In the story of Amanda and Jenny, Amanda was good at playing the victim role too. She had her mother believing that she (Amanda) was the victim of extremely unfair treatment and the target of unwarranted hostility. I remember Jenny telling me: “Sometimes I think Amanda’s wrong when she says her teacher hates her and I hate her. But what if that’s what she really believes? Can I afford to be so firm with her if she believes in her heart that I hate her?” I remember telling Jenny: “Whether Amanda has come to believe her own distortions is almost irrelevant. She manipulates you because you believe that she believes it and allow that supposed belief to serve as an excuse for her undisciplined aggression.”
Vilifying the Victim – This tactic is frequently used in conjunction with the tactic of playing the victim role. The aggressor uses this tactic to make it appear he is only responding (i.e. defending himself against) aggression on the part of the victim. It enables the aggressor to better put the victim on the defensive.
Returning again to the story of Jenny and Amanda, when Amanda accuses her mother of “hating” her and “always saying mean things” to her, she not only invites Jenny to feel the “bully,” but simultaneously succeeds in “bullying” Jenny into backing off. More than any other, the tactic of vilifying the victim is a powerful means of putting someone unconsciously on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intent and behavior of the person using the tactic.
Playing the Servant Role – Covert-aggressives use this tactic to cloak their self-serving agendas in the guise of service to a more noble cause. It’s a common tactic but difficult to recognize. By pretending to be working hard on someone else’s behalf, covert-aggressives conceal their own ambition, desire for power, and quest for a position of dominance over others. In the story of James (the minister) and Sean, James appeared to many to be the tireless servant. He attended more activities than he needed to attend and did so eagerly. But if devoted service to those who needed him was his aim, how does one explain the degree to which James habitually neglected his family? As an aggressive personality, James submits himself to no one. The only master he serves is his own ambition. Not only was playing the servant role an effective tactic for James, but also it’s the cornerstone upon which corrupt ministerial empires of all types are built. A good example comes to mind in the recent true story of a well-known tele-evangelist who locked himself up in a room in a purported display of “obedience” and “service” to God. He even portrayed himself’ a willing sacrificial lamb who was prepared to be “taken by God” if he didn’t do the Almighty’s bidding and raise eight million dollars. He claimed he was a humble servant, merely heeding the Lord’s will. He was really fighting to save his substantial material empire.
Another recent scandal involving a tele-evangelist resulted in his church’s governance body censuring him for one year. But he told his congregation he couldn’t stop his ministry because he had to be faithful to the Lord’s will (God supposedly talked to him and told him not to quit). This minister was clearly being defiant of his church’s established authority. Yet, he presented himself as a person being humbly submissive to the “highest” authority. One hallmark characteristic of covert-aggressive personalities is loudly professing subservience while fighting for dominance.
Seduction – Covert-aggressive personalities are adept at charming, praising, flattering or overtly supporting others in order to get them to lower their defenses and surrender their trust and loyalty. Covert-aggressives are also particularly aware that people who are to some extent emotionally needy and dependent (and that includes most people who aren’t character-disordered) want approval, reassurance, and a sense of being valued and needed more than anything. Appearing to be attentive to these needs can be a manipulator’s ticket to incredible power over others. Shady “gurus” like Jim Jones and David Koresh seemed to have refined this tactic to an art. In the story of Al and Don, Al is the consummate seducer. He melts any resistance you might have to giving him your loyalty and confidence. He does this by giving you what he knows you need most. He knows you want to feel valued and important. So, he often tells you that you are. You don’t find out how unimportant you really are to him until you turn out to be in his way.
Projecting the blame (blaming others) – Aggressive personalities are always looking for a way to shift the blame for their aggressive behavior. Covert-aggressives are not only skilled at finding scapegoats, they’re expert at doing so in subtle, hard to detect ways.
Minimization – This tactic is a unique kind of denial coupled with rationalization. When using this maneuver, the aggressor is attempting to assert that his abusive behavior isn’t really as harmful or irresponsible as someone else may be claiming. It’s the aggressor’s attempt to make a molehill out of a mountain.
I’ve presented the principal tactics that covert-aggressives use to manipulate and control others. They are not always easy to recognize. Although all aggressive personalities tend to use these tactics, covert-aggressives generally use them slickly, subtly and adeptly. Anyone dealing with a covertly aggressive person will need to heighten gut-level sensitivity to the use of these tactics if they’re to avoid being taken in by them.