According to Wikipedia (which is not reliable source in itself, but is an ok conversation starter here), isolation “reduces the opportunity of the abused to be rescued or escape from the abuse. It also helps disorientate the abused and makes the abused more dependent on the abuser. The degree of power and control over the abused is contingent upon the degree of their physical or emotional isolation.”
An important element of psychological control is the isolation of the victim from the outside world. Isolation includes controlling a person’s social activity: whom they see, whom they talk to, where they go and any other method to limit their access to others. It may also include limiting what material is read. It can include insisting on knowing where they are and requiring permission for medical care. The abuser exhibits hypersensitive and reactive jealousy.”
Isolation can be aided by:
- economic abuse thus limiting the victim’s actions as they may then lack the necessary resources to resist or escape from the abuse
- smearing or discrediting the abused amongst their community so the abused does not get help or support from others
- divide and conquer
- gaslighting and mind control.
Isolation is mentioned by BigThink as one of the four main methods of recruitment for cults:
“Once they’ve enticed a recruit with approval or the promise of some fulfilling understanding of the universe, cultists then work to isolate the recruit. Often, this takes the form of a weekend retreat, where the recruit is immersed in the cult’s ideology over the course of a few days. Not only are recruits physically isolated from friends and family members who might otherwise provide a reality check, but cults often isolate recruits from outside information. Newspapers, books, TV, and web access are all censured, ensuring that the only reality the recruit gets to experience is the one presented by the cult.”
“A psychiatric overview of cult-related phenomena” (PDF here) by LOUIS JOLYON WEST, M.D., published in 1993, has a lot to say about isolation and cultism:
According to LJ West, “successful indoctrination of a cult member often includes many elements similar to political indoctrination as described by Schein (1961). The following is a list of stressors known to increase the captive’s or the recruit’s vulnerability and
could apply to either circumstance:
- isolation of the subject and manipulation of subject’s environment;
- control over channels of communication and information;
- debilitation through sleep loss, fatigue, or inadequate diet;
- degradation or diminution of the self;
- induction of uncertainty, fear, and confusion, with joy and certainty through surrender to the group as the goal;
- alternation of harshness and leniency in a context of discipline;
- peer pressure, often applied through ritualized struggle sessions, generating guilt and requiring confessions;
- insistence by seemingly all-powerful hosts that the recruit’s survival — physical, mental, or spiritual — depends on identifying with the group;
- assignment of monotonous tasks or repetitive activities, such as chanting, staring while immobilized, long chains of simple responses to simple commands, endless copying of written materials, and so on;
- acts of symbolic betrayal or renunciation of self, family, and previously held values, designed to increase the psychological distance between the recruit and his/her previous way of life”
Same source above provides that “young and elderly alike who are at loose ends are easy prey to those techniques and methods, which are often a combination of affection and deception (cf., the love-bom bing, the personality test, or the surrender).
These techniques proceed from a positive approach but gradually achieve a type of mind control through the use of abusive behavior modification techniques.
The following elements are to be listed:
• subtle process of introduction of the convert and his gradual discovery of the real hosts;
• overpowering techniques: love-bombing, offering a free meal at an international center for friends, flirting-fishing technique (prostitution as a method of recruitment);
• ready-made answers and decisions are being almost forced upon the recruits;
• distribution of money, medicine;
• requirement of unconditional surrender to the initiator, leader;
• isolation: control of rational thinking process, elimination of outside information and influence (family, friends, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, medical treatment, etc.) which might break the spell of involvement and the process of absorption of feelings and attitudes and patterns of behavior;
• processing recruits away from their past lives; focusing on past deviant behavior such as drug use, sexual misdeeds; playing upon psychological hang-ups, poor social relationships, and so on;
• consciousness-altering methods leading to cognitive disturbances (intellectual bombardment); use o f thought-stopping clichés, closed system of logic; restriction of reflective thinking;
• keeping the recruits constantly busy and never alone; continual exhortation and training in order to arrive-at an exalted spiritual status, altered consciousness, automatic submission to directives; stifling resistance and negativity; response to fear in a way that greater fear is aroused;
• strong focus on the leader; some groups may even downgrade the role of Christ in favor of the founder (in the case of some Christian sects). (Sects or New Religious Movements, 1986, pp. 10-11)”
A study from Cultic Studies Journal shows that cult members who fail to project the requisite facade (because, for example, they admit, usually with much guilt, to harboring doubts about the group) are attacked and punished, sometimes viciously. Those who persist in “failing through honesty” are, by one means or another, driven out of or ejected from the group. Those who succeed, whether without punishment or after punishment, do so because they learn to deceive themselves and others. They learn, much like hypnotic subjects exhibiting trance logic, how to convince themselves that the group is always right, even if it contradicts itself. Increasing isolation from the world outside the group, exhausting attention to activities serving the group, and hours practicing exercises that induce dissociative states (e.g., meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues) facilitate this splitting process, which in certain instances resembles what Lifton (1987) calls “doubling.” Psychological splitting enables members to adapt to the group’s double agenda, i.e., its contradictory sets of social rules. Members find themselves in a “loyalty/betrayal funnel” (MacDonald, 1988): if they remain loyal to their own perceptions about self and world, they betray the group on which they have become inordinately dependent; if they remain loyal to the group, they betray their own perception of what is real, good, and true. Dissent thus places members in a “funnel” from which there is no escape and which leads inevitably to betrayal either of themselves or the group. Hence, second-generation thought reform programs “attack the core sense of being — the central self-image, the very sense of realness and existence of the self. In contrast, the attack of first-generation programs is on a peripheral property of self, one’s political and social views” (Ofshe & Singer, 1986, p. 18). If second-generation programs, which operate in free, open societies, did not attack central elements of members’ selves, they would not survive. Information from outside the group would neutralize peripheral political and social indoctrination, much as it did to thought reform victims when they were released from captivity in Korea, China, and elsewhere.”
Temerlin and Temerlin’s early work involving trained therapists functioning as cult leaders identified the major features of the psychotherapy cults reported on here. They wrote:
charismatic psychotherapists can so manipulate the therapeutic relationship that they produce groups which function much like destructive religious cults. . .The techniques used by cult therapists. . .a) increase dependence, b) increase isolation, c) reduce critical thinking capacity, and d) discourage termination of therapy.Temerlin, J.W., & Temerlin, M.K. (1986). Some hazards of the therapeutic relationship. Cultic Studies Journal, 3, 234-242.
Isolation is a common element of workplace bullying. It includes preventing access to opportunities, physical or social isolation, withholding necessary information, keeping the target out of the loop, ignoring or excluding.
Workplace isolation is a defined category in Dr. Deb Duthie’s “workplace power and control wheel” (PDF here)
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