Mind Control 5

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Singer’s Six Conditions for Thought Control (Cults in our Midst, 1995)

5. Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group’s ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors. Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group’s beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. If one expresses a question, he or she is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to be questioning.

One of the things I remember so well from the legalistic organization we were in was the system of rewards and punishments. Those who were chosen to lead, even in small groups, were considered superior. It was an achievement to be noticed for compliance and conformity. Things like initiative and energy were only rewarded if they served the system. Leaders were chosen, not on actual leadership abilities (that might present a threat someday) but for their willingness to submit to even higher authorities. Special families were given administrative chores, even brought to headquarters to serve.

Don’t underestimate the attraction of this kind of reward! I knew men who quit their jobs to work for the organization at minimal pay. I knew young people who gave up vocations and education to serve. Some of them even paid for the privilege to work long hours at sometimes trivial tasks. To serve at headquarters, even to serve in the local organization, was an honor.

The other side was almost as strong. Certain people were discouraged from applying, joining the group, because their families wouldn’t measure up. Too much television. Divorce and step kids. Even young people in college. These were enough to keep families out. Not good enough.

And, if you got in, the old process of shunning took new forms. Yes, certain families and certain people were in the group, barely. Everyone knew they didn’t fit. No one looked at them when opportunities arose. If one of the young people at HQ broke even a minor rule, he or she could be sent home to a reception of failure and shame.

Doubt was allowed. People spoke against some of the teachings. But those people were not rewarded. They were noticed and remembered. To ask a question was to reveal your spiritual immaturity. I marveled at those who said things like: “I really don’t agree with that teaching, but I know it’s because I haven’t arrived at that point yet.” Or: “Every time I disagree with something the teacher says, I find him to be right later.” You just had to wait and the teacher would be affirmed, no matter what kind of off-the-wall thing he taught.

The power of a legalist/narcissist organization to indoctrinate, to force conformity, seems unbelievable to those who have never experienced it. By subtly presenting a feedback system that always loops back into the teachings and control of the organization, the victims are moved slowly to acceptance. Rewards always led back to more involvement, more recognition, within the system. Punishments always circled back to the idea that conformity was best.

Now, does an individual narcissist do this? Of course. In fact, in much the same way. “If you do it my way, we will go out someplace together.” Always together. “If you don’t do it my way, you will be further separated from the things and people who build you up.” Always away from what is good for the victim and toward the narcissist. To question the narcissist is to attack him/her. Your question will be met with either a pat on the head (”You just don’t understand”) or a slap in the face (”How dare you?”).

In fact, one of the things that should cause you to suspect a narcissistic relationship is a system of rewards and punishments. What happens when you do what you are told? What happens when you do not? Loving relationships may have consequences, but they won’t make you feel controlled or manipulated. Narcissists don’t see you as a person with values and ideas like themselves. You are a tool to be used to serve the image. Any nonconformity must be brought under control.


Walk with Me: A Grace Devotional by [Orrison, David]


Filed under Legalism, Narcissism, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Mind Control 5

  1. This is fascinating and enlightening. Thank you for this series, Pastor Dave.

  2. Wow! I’ve lived with a very narcissistic spouse, and it can be so subtle because an individual will have their own way of expressing/manipulating these things that may not seem, at first, to fit the pattern. But it does, and I eventually learned that by the results.

    The thing that strikes me reading this today, though, is how much these mind control tactics are being employed by the progressive left against the right. Is anyone else seeing this?

  3. Singing Eagle

    Interestingly, as I was reading this and comparing my personal life situation when my spouse was full blown Narc before the stroke, I experienced a severe asthma attack. The remembering of the feelings of emotional imprisonment and suffocating control, triggered something I didn’t know was still hiding in my subconscious. Of course I had to stop reading for a while but the details of the research to gather this information is so on point. Still living with this person requires me to remember to keep my boundaries up even though his personality changed and the aggression is gone, there is still that underlying root of narc thinking that supports the superior mindset that the world is still here to serve his purposes. Thank you Margaret Singer for this insightful work and to you Dave Orrisson for sharing!!!

  4. rodney

    my name is Rodney and I live in New Zealand. These blogs I find so helpful.. I never realised the pain I was going through was Narcissm..Now I see it everywhere BUT i dont worry as i have the tools to keep clear..THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR INFORMATION..GOD BLESS YOU!

  5. Maya

    My ex had a tattoo on his upper arm reading, “Follow Me”. Whenever I questioned him he said, “just follow me”.
    He lied about almost everything, and what were not outright lies, were manipulating tactics. I recognized this to a point and kept my distance. I also kept quiet most of the time. What a terribly dysfunctional way to live!
    I drew very near to God, practiced spiritual warfare constantly (he criticized and ridiculed me for my faith), and after several years, God removed him from my life.
    I’m sure he used his misogynist/narc tactics on the new woman he left me for. He used to tell me frequently how Eve ruined the world for everyone, saying that women are inferior and Eve is proof of that. He is no longer with his girlfriend; is penniless and in deep financial trouble; and has moved back to our hometown area, living in a rundown house where he lived 25 years ago. I try to not get satisfaction from hearing these things. However, it proves that God will not be mocked; we reap what we sow…every time.
    I praise our Almighty Father God daily for restoring peace to my home, my life, and for healing me from horrible narcissistic abuse. This blog has been extremely helpful. Thank you, Pastor Dave.

  6. You write about the major pharmaceutical company I worked for; don’t question, live the life they expect, “work-life balance” is only for the compliant, compliant employees get (& got) promoted above their capabilities, and believing the corporation was untouchable with regards to workplace laws.
    Some of the other employers I have experienced followed the same strategies. Toss in a narcissistic partner, and I wonder why I am diagnosed with High Anxiety and showing signs of PTS.
    Thank you for another great post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s