Other Let's talk about indoctrination and brainwashing.

The Double-Standard Effect (what I call the difference between how we process trauma as it happens to us vs how we see other victims of trauma that is similar to ours)
In my own head, I put that "double standard effect" into the bucket labeled "symptoms". Because when I really looked at the phenomenon, and thought about it, I couldn't find any rational reason why 5 year old me should be held to a different standard than 5 year old anyone else. Something that really had an impact was actually interacting with someone who was 5. (I'm kind of picking that age because it means something to me. I don't think it matters what age you pick.) In my head, I was never 5 like the 5 year old I meet in the world now. I don't ever remember thinking, or experiencing the world, any differently than I do now. Which makes me think that "5 year old me" should have reacted to stuff like I would now. On the other hand, I know that my recollections of how I saw the world THEN can't possibly be accurate. (Can they?) Because what little kid thinks to themselves "I wonder if this is how it feels to be marched to your own execution?" Memory is a tricky thing. Perhaps not to be trusted too far. To this day, talking to a little kid kind of freaks me out because they seem so YOUNG and my brain is really sure I never was.

I can safely say that I was nowhere near equipped to make adult decisions in that moment.
I don't think the people who recruited you actually WANTED any of you making adult decisions. They wanted you to react, not think. And they didn't actually care about playing by any kind of ethical rules, did they? They just wanted to "win". Full disclosure, I've never been in the military. I have friends who have and have spent a fair amount of time discussing this kind of stuff, but no personal experience so my qualifications here are pretty limited. Seems to me the the various military and pseudo-military organizations all pick what level of "civilized" ruling respecting they want to pay attention to. But, in the end, they want their people to do as they're told, not ask "silly" questions. In the end, I suspect that most people are fighting to stay alive and keep the people next to them alive too. Once the shooting starts, I'll bet those idealistic reasons you might have had for signing up go out the window.

Opps! I lost track of time. Got to get the dog to his vet appointment. Interesting topic! I'll be back :)
Once the shooting starts, I'll bet those idealistic reasons you might have had for signing up go out the window.

Weirdly enough, I'm not sure about this. Because I can't speak to what I was actively thinking in the moments where this was occurring with the exception of a single incident when I was 17, around the time I started to have my own actual human thoughts, and after I had received 6 months of forensic therapy and about 2 years of deprogramming therapy.

My thought was "this is wrong," and I made the decision to ... I don't know how to refer to this -> defect? I guess. Is the closest word. So I was making an actual idealistic decision, in the moment. I felt something happen in my mind where I seemed to suddenly understand that what we were doing was wrong. But as a kid, watching this violence and participating in it actually reinforced my sense of belonging and reinforced the belief that this was an "enemy" and it was my job to do as I was told to eradicate that threat.

For me, at the time, it was in my role as a trainer/trainee, but eventually that would have been in an active "combat" role. The one time I was in active "combat" (I don't know what it would be actually called, when civilians start shooting at each other -> that I remember, which I know is a huge caveat -> I witnessed it many times, but never had an active role other than some very limited encounters -> firebombs, "kitchen napalm," vandalism, arson, deliveries, etc) -> seemed to have the opposite effect, though, and I shot at A.

And it wasn't because "he's shooting at J and that's wrong," (because I blocked off the street and had a real, actual role in this) and it wasn't a real sense of "what we're doing is wrong/bad" but more that I saw what was happening (this specific moment, in this specific area, is wrong -> you don't shoot up a maternity ward across the street from a school filled with children). When Ukraine kicked off I remember the outrage at Mariupol and thinking "oh, cool, blah blah blah blah blah" which eventually landed me inpatient.
They wanted you to react, not think. And they didn't actually care about playing by any kind of ethical rules, did they? They just wanted to "win".

&& I think this would ultimately be very much the difference between my experiences and actual military experiences because we didn't have any "rules of engagement." There was no, like, pocket manual of war crimes we weren't "allowed" to do. You in fact cut people's heads off after they died and f*cked around with them to send an even greater message, that you f*cked with the wrong people and no one was coming to help you. && I distinctly remember having a measure of pride in that, that no one could f*ck with me.
i get the idea that it is posiible to think that you were aware at 5 like no 5 year old you see today is. thats one of my big hurdles i had to get over. expounded just a little, my memories of being 5 and the things i accepted as true at 5 get even more credibility every time i think those thoughts or open those files, if you will bear with me a bit. When we remember those early truths, we open those files much like we open a file on a pc. when we close the files, they get a date stamp- last saved 12/22. Someday down the road, we look at that file again and it has the date stamp of a time when we were adults, frontal lobes all developed. the memory gets the values we place on a recent belief, when it should get opened with the same skepticism we would view any file saved by a 5 year old 50 years ago. thats the lesson i needed to learn, but it applied more to the time when i was being BRAINWASHED than when i was 5.
I think the element of inescapability is important when defining torture and brainwashing. I was the victim of parents that believed i would burn eternally in the lake of fire if they couldnt make me believe i was a doomed sinner that needed to be shown my failings and saved by their beliefs. They werent that smart, they were barely capable of hatching a plan I think, but the methods they employed to try to break me and melt me down to a puddle they could form into their ideal offspring are in parallel with some of the most time proven methods employed by successful brain washers throughout history. I blame the course of my brainwashing and torture fully on the steps of their cult like church, if you need a larger example of where it came from and the methods they employed you can look into the early days and the techniques employed by the branch dividians and david karesh. my parents didnt fall into that group, but they were the prey he sought and members of the flock he gathered his sheep from. I escaped at 14, they lived their whole lives believing they were flawed and grateful to be brainwashed I guess.
thanks anyway, if there is a hell it waits for them, not me.
best way i found to rid myself if that shit was to start putting “ read me” files in all of those folders in my brain, as in”just because you thought this recently doesn’t mean it is anything more than a file placed here when you were being tortured and fed misinformation, disregard the value of this file even though it may have a recent date stamp.”
my brainwashing stopped the day i got my work permit and escaped it. getting that crap out of my head has taken a lifetime.
Good timing Weemie lol. This is the exact thing that I've been having so much trouble with right now.

People say that all of these horrible things I believe about myself were put into my head by my abusers to make me easier to abuse and ultimately traffic, but to me, they just seem like the truth (that happened to be revealed to me by these people). I have no idea how to make them go away. There's no logic behind it, so they can't be explained away rationally. I feel like it's just true because it's true. Because they told me, they showed me. If it's the truth, there's no need to make it go away, but these things I believe about myself seem to be false and disturbing to other people.

"You're a worthless whore. Your only purpose is to serve this man sexually. You want this. You can't tell anyone about this because they will know how disgusting you are" etc

I feel bad because this didn't go on for too long, so my experience is different (at least this particular experience). Although, I don't think it would take long to fundamentally alter a child's beliefs, especially when the "forcible and repeated" aspects are very much there. Especially, when the child had previous experiences that told them similar things about themselves

Not much else to say right now, but I appreciate this post
prynne, phew, I empathize, and have agreed with that horrible inner critic, as well, owning every negative label thrown my way. My mother did everything she could to program me the way she believed was best, for her benefit, of course. She invalidated every thought, opinion, or idea I had, and still does if given the opportunity. I lost who I truly was a long time ago and it's taken me painstaking years and therapy to begin to see glimpses of who I truly am and always was. It's such a loss when we are consistently bombarded with invalidation, negative labels, cruel words, and mean-spirited slurs, especially as children. That's when those labels and words do the most damage, when they can get imprinted in our brains, and creates that inner critic that makes us believe all of it is true, that we're no good, worthless, and invaluable. It can be undone but takes a lot of work and patience to overcome. Good luck on your journey. Remember, you are valuable and you matter, right where you sit, right this very moment. :)
I hope it isn't too presumptuous to contribute to this thread as a newcomer. I admit I haven't been able to get too far into the thread because it's a very triggering subject for me. But I do want to say I have a deep respect for the thought that went into this and the manner in which it's being discussed.

This feels like a bold thought, but it seems like this may come down to a need to not only forgive the "inner child(ren)" but also to forgive oneself for the perceived "sin" of being conceived. I almost wonder if it isn't a peculiar trauma associated with c-section babies or other extremely traumatic births.
Ugh... sigh... I don't know if it's the right place to ask about this.... I understand that as with other things like abuse, violence, torture... indoctrination and brainwashing also occur on a continuum and range from mild to extreme... I assume my experience of brainwashing is probably on the smallest end of that continuum, but it's causing me serious trouble.

As I've described in my "understanding a narcissist" thread, there is often a grooming phase to narcissistic abuse, which is deeply manipulative and it ends as soon as the narcissist can "tell" that you've swallowed the bait and are trapped. As soon as that's happened, the abuse starts (which is diametrically opposed to the grooming phase and seems to come out of nowhere and hence deeply confusing).

I've had the hardest time recovering from this... It's been so difficult to find anyone who specialises in this kind of abuse or who is at least well-enough versed in it to offer any useful help. I'm seeing a female cousellor at the local women's shelter who's relatively good with this stuff. (The actual trauma therapist (male) I'm doing therapy with is useless with this particular stuff tho, it seems.)

There are elements of the psychological abuse that feel basically like brainwashing to me - my brain no longer responds to things in a way that makes sense to me. There are really deep convictions from the abuse that I logically know are non-sensical, but my subconscious refuses to let go of them, no matter what I do.

I'm unable to see the different parts of the narcissistic perp (I should really call him that instead of calling him my ex - calling him my ex makes it sound like we had some sort of consensual relationship)... and to combine them into the one picture of him. I can see the grooming phase version of him (all positive attributes) and I can see the abusive version of him but my mind cannot compute that it's both the same human being. The latter has caused the worst trauma of my life (worse than childhood trauma) and yet the former remains in my mind as "the person I loved more than anyone or anything else in the entire universe".

I have no idea how to undo this whole mess in my brain... The grooming was definitely programming - on a subconscious level - and it feels like the marks it has left are so deep that they're indelible and that I have no chance of ever undoing it.

How on earth do you start undoing brainwashing? I have absolutely no idea where to find a therapist to help with this. I live rurally and there's no one around here that can help. At best, there are therapists who are specialised in this kind of trauma 200 km from here and my chances of seeing them are close to zero presently.

Edit to add: I was like hypnotised by him... If he'd said "jump off a cliff", I would have done it... It was like the dominant/ submissive roles in BDSM, except that it wasn't a sexual thing or a fetish at all. I would have done anything he wanted, willingly. Also, not all of my brain was affected by this... I did end up breaking up with him because I could tell what he was doing was abusive, once the abuse became obvious. So a part of my brain stayed fully functional and was able to leave and say no. However, some other part of my brain was fully affected by it and it seems to be the subconscious part of my brain, as opposed to the concious, rational part of my brain. Consciously, rationally I can see it was abuse. Subconsciously, I want him back like I'm addicted to heroin.
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How on earth do you start undoing brainwashing?
You just keep telling yourself that he’s dangerous and it’s good you left him. Especially when parts of you say they want him back or that you love him more than the universe. Remind those parts that he was lying and it wasn’t true.

Also rituals can be good for undoing the threads of attachment. A cutting ritual is a ceremony where you cut ties to someone in all directions and you have your protector spirits or real friends witness it. And you do it more than once.
I do keep telling myself that, but it seems to make very little, if any difference.

I like the idea of a cutting ritual, but if I'm honest, my instinct is to do the opposite - some kind of ritual to make it all come back...

That's what I mean about the brainwashing... My brain is really convinced of it...

It's the first time this has ever happened to me.

In dealing with childhood trauma, I was always good at identifying irrational fears and feelings and working to counter them rationally.

However, in this current case, that doesn't seem to be working at all.
I have felt like there's a curse on me throughout this whole narcissistic abuse thing.

(I know there's no such thing as a curse, but it *feels* like it).

I guess that's a good thing, objectively speaking, that I can identify something that feels negative/ bad about it.

I could imagine doing a ritual in which I ask for the curse to be lifted off me/ off my life.