Three Books with the Mind in Mind: Brainwashing, Gestalt Therapy and Daoist Meditation

Image                  “I distrust the incommunicable; it is the source of all violence”

 -Jean Paul Sartre

“These ideologies, Nazi, Soviet, Chinese, and Cambodian Communist, were lethal at least in part because their ideas were ethereal, not because those ideas were ‘atheist’ or ‘religious’. The same argument applies to politics. Those ideologies (groups, individuals) which rely on ethereal ideas, and hence facilitate totalitarian thinking, are more dangerous than those which do not.”

“In contrast, Bourke notes that love for one’s comrades was an excellent motivation, ‘widely regarded as the strongest incentive for murderous aggression against a foe identified as threatening that relationship’. Analogies of fraternal, paternal, or even sexual love were used to describe the ‘buddy system’ between soldiers.”

“Part of the fear inherent in the word brainwashing, alongside the terrors of losing control and losing one’s very identity, is that the processes, whatever they may be, are overwhelming; that no one is safe. As far as individual influence attempts go, we are all vulnerable to the persuasion of advertising, but that power is by no means irresistible”

“Both the amygdala and the hypothalamus are connected with the picturesquely named periaqueductal grey (PAG). This area sends direct signals to circuitry in the brainstem which controls many body functions: it is the output station for neural information going to the body. Stimulation of the PAG in human patients undergoing brain surgery (which is often done on conscious patients) results in feelings of intense fear and distress and the dread of imminent death, emotions which are not simply due to the experience of undergoing brain surgery.” Yikes.

“(This may be one reason why Pratkanis and Aronson’s list of eight sales-boosting words includes ‘quick’ and ‘easy’.) Scarce = valuable; likeable = trustworthy; said-by-expert = true; these and many other heuristics keep us from drowning in the complexities of today’s information-rich world. However, they are also exploited every day by retailers, politicians, and other influence technicians who would prefer us not to think carefully about their claims.”

“Life in black and white can look so easy to an observer overwhelmed by shades of grey. Why not just take up the creed and give your long-suffering cortex a well-deserved rest? ‘Because you are not terminally brain-lazy, grossly self-indulgent, or nauseously stupid’ is part of why not, but only part. Some people are driven to simplicity not just by laziness, selfishness, or idiocy, but by fear, fury, or frustration, negative emotions provoked by a threatening world. Natural, or social, disasters can be good for church attendance; weak government can leave space for a popular uprising; economic problems bolster support for extremists. When the environment is unstable, whether politically, economically, or physically, the lure of simplicity.”

“These features of emotions—their tendency to linger, their ambiguity, and the pressure they exert—are what give them their manipulative power. Certainly no competent brainwasher would want to be without them. Linked to ethereal ideas, whose abstract and ambiguous nature cushions them against discomfiting contradiction from the world beyond the brain, emotions can be devastating, overriding all contrary ideas, ignoring or suppressing any evidence which does not fit, distorting reality to match the contours of cogwebs massively strengthened by the energies flowing through them.”

“Successful brainwashing leaves victims unaware of their new-found slavery; they still regard themselves as free, responsible agents.”


“Whereas other therapies and philosophies see self as a separate structure or existence, there is no such split in gestalt’s view of self. In gestalt we do not believe that there is a self that resides exclusively inside me, only a self that is created in the process of me making contact with the environment…Our selves emerge in the act of reaching out to our world at our respective contact boundaries in the present in an on-going, ever-changing dynamic process.”

“People who habitually introject lack a sense of self and consequently are often on the lookout as to how they ‘ should ’ be and what they ‘ ought ’ to be doing.”

“Through her research she discovered that unfinished business resulted in tension that in turn tends to motivate us towards completion. Her research showed that incomplete tasks take up more psychological space than completed tasks. She discovered that waiters with incomplete orders would readily recall those orders whereas as soon as the orders were completed they were forgotten.”

“A hiker has been on a challenging walk acutely aware of his empty water bottle, a constant reminder of his thirst. He happens upon a rushing freshwater river and with relief gulps down some of the fast flowing water. On the opposite bank a fisherman is casting his fly and watching the river intently for the possible bite of a salmon. An ecologist is measuring the depth and flow of the river to assess whether the water level has dropped and the feasibility of harnessing its energy, whilst a canoeist rushes by on those same currents. Two young children splash playfully in the shallows of the riverbank, watched by their mother grateful for a few minutes respite from their energetic demands. The same river perceived in radically different ways according to the person’s needs.”

“Through experimentation we can vividly bring alive past experience to re-assess the usefulness of behaviours in the current field.In essence we re-evaluate our narrative self , the story we tell our-selves about who we are in the world made up from the creative adjustments made to this point in our life.”


“There is an old Chinese proverb, ‘ Fish don’t know that they are wet ’ illustrating that contrast is needed. Light needs dark to exist just as shadow qualities are needed for their polar opposites to exist.”




“Meditation can be defined as the inward focus of attention in a state of mind where ego-related concerns and critical evaluations are suspended in favor of perceiving a deeper, subtler, and possibly divine flow of consciousness. A method of communicating with deeper layers of the mind, it allows the sub-conscious to surface in memories, images  and thoughts while influencing it with quietude, openness, and suggestions.”

“Zuowang  is to sit and forget. What we forget is the thing we hold most dearly: self, with all its opinions, beliefs, and ideals. We can be so caughtup in the concept of self that we only see the world as a place to fulfill personal ambition and desire.” (2006, 11; see also Rinaldini 2009, 187)

“Attaining Dao means getting lighter and brighter; the higher one ascends, the purer the spirit becomes, the more light one will radiate. The world view that underlies this model is one of “becoming:” the universe is in a constant flux,and nothing stands ever still or stops for a moment.”

“Rather,concentrate spirit to a state of deep luminosity [like standing water] and wide radiance, making it vague and vacuous, and let it merge with the state before thoughts arise. Wisdom unfolds only after all knowledge is forgotten. Once one has seen this barrier, there is no more [perception of] good and bad fortune.”



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