The process of converting a person to have different beliefs and behaviors is effectively changing who they are. The process thus effectively includes some degree of destroying their old personality in order to replace it with the new personality. Done to any significant extent, friends of the ‘previous’ person will typically remark that the ‘new’ person is not at all like they used to be.
The first step in destroying and rebuilding an identity is to shake the foundations, effectively pushing the person into the wilderness so they start to wonder who they really are.
In order for us to sustain our sense of identity, we need constant reminders of who we are. This includes contact with people who recognize us as well as objects and artifacts to which we relate (from photos to cars). Isolation from these causes us to feel lost in some way, just as a small child does when their teddy bear or doll is taken from them.
Physical exhaustion weakens the ability to think rationally and hence reduces the person’s ability to counteract other persuasive methods that are used. When I am tired, my sense of self is also less strong as I seek the release and regeneration of sleep.
We define ourselves by our values, beliefs and the actions we align to these. When these are challenged, in extreme methods such as Breaking Sessions or by more socially acceptable means, when we start to wonder who we really are. If what we hold dear is shown to be wrong, then we start to question and lose our sense of self.
When a person moves into a state of entrancement, the conscious mind recedes and the subconscious becomes more evident, enabling the more direct suggestion and changing of thoughts that shake their foundations and move them towards different ways of thinking.
Breaking with the past
We define ourselves also through our history of experience and relationships, including our friends and family. If these ties are broken, then important parts of our identity is left behind.
Weakening the ties
The ties that define our identity can be weakened through the above methods. For example, isolation can be created by withholding expected communications. If I am expecting letters from my family and they do not write (or if you prevent the letters from reaching me) then I become susceptible to suggestions that they no longer care.
When I am feeling guilty, for example when you are using methods changing values, it is easy to blame my family for bringing me up badly. Thus I can assuage my guilt by blaming my past, and hence take a big step towards leaving it behind.
Breaking the rules
Another technique of changing values is if a person breaks the values that they currently hold. If I act against my values, then in this act of self-betrayal I am demonstrating that I am no longer beholden to the rules of my previous self.
And so, given the evidence of the bad past, the person distances themselves from it. Guilt and confession lead them to put increasing distances between what they have been and what they want to be.
This may even be implemented as a phobia, with associations of pain and fear linked to thoughts of the past self.
When the old self has been weakened and destroyed, a vacuum is created in which the person desperately seeks to recreate their identity. To have no sense of self is, for most of us, a terrifying experience.
Replacing the parent
A typical act in a desperate state is for us to regress to a child state and seek a parent figure to nurture us and tell us what to do. This typically appears in the guise of the new leader, who will allow and encourage the person to bond with them.
The parent figure is both nurturing and commanding. They provide both love and discipline. When we are in pain they will comfort us. But when we do not comply with their wishes, they withhold that love and mete out terrible punishments.
Modeling the way
The new leader and associated group will show the person the way forward, demonstrating the right way to behave. We naturally follow the example, and when we stray off the path, small punishments nudge us back onto the straight and narrow.
Association with new beliefs
The person thus associates with the leader, and consequently also associates themselves with the leader’s beliefs, values, models and worldview. Like a virus, we are deeply infected with the new way of thinking.
Association with new friends
The leader has other followers who look at the leader in the same way that I do. By the chalk that people who do as I do are like me and hence are to be trusted and associated with, then I make friends with them.
The person thus integrates into the group, assuming the beliefs, values, schema and overall identity of the leader and the other followers.