Are You Really in Control of Your Thoughts as Much as You Think You Are?

Illustration by Airi Tachino

By Chandni Sacheti
Published on January 3rd, 2021

Mind control. Brain-washing. Coercion. Are these mystical concepts still reserved merely for sci-fi movies and witchcraft - an improbable figment of our imaginations, or are we unknowingly victims of this transpiring scheme?

As the years pass on, the control we have of our lives is gradually being snatched away from us, leaving only our minds- our last bastion of privacy. However, is the control of the human mind, supposedly our only zone of complete freedom, a place that is ours and ours alone, still in our hands? An increasing amount of research is revealing that the areas of our life we place the most trust in, including our education systems, the mass media and most importantly, the government, military and corporate complex are molding our brains, and in some cases manipulating our thoughts. Whilst this process has multiple names such as hypnosis, persuasion, brainwashing, mental manipulation and coercion, the aim is consistent: to remove individuality, to replace a person’s thoughts with someone else’s, to alter their behavior, information, thoughts, emotion and personality. However, although the general public believes these concepts primarily exist in extreme forms, our modern lifestyle has evolved to the point where our daily activities leave us exposed to control from external forces. Unknowingly, we are all experiencing it...

Firstly, the limitless desire for power and advancement from our leaders or groups with the highest authority, success and money have driven them to do anything that brings them closer to this insatiable vision. To give an example out of many, “Project MKultra”, a top-secret CIA - government proposed project, which took place approximately between 1953-1973, ushered individuals - including children - to unwillingly partake in a series of abusive, behavior modification experiments. The aim of this immoral experiment was to control and create human weapons; a Manchurian candidate trained to kill. To program humans by destroying their personality, mind and any sense of identity they had to the point where humans are trained to carry out dangerous missions, not remembering a single detail after the deed. A widely known example is the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, committed by a hypnotised Sirhan Sirhan. From the use of mental and physical abuse to hypnosis, chemical exposure and sensory deprivation, the CIA attempted to chillingly explore the extent to which the human mind can be influenced, corrupted and destroyed without a second thought to the implication such experiments have on the well-being of the coerced participants. Now, the question lies, although this project may have ended, has it opened up an era of experiments exploring the realms of mind control?

Furthermore, an even more befuddling aspect of everyday mind control is the fact that we are cleverly shielded from the disturbing reality that a system we are brought up to value, to believe we are benefiting from, is actually narrow-minded and doctrinaire. In fact, schools have been identified as a place where “intense prolonged psychological training” takes place. Additionally, our current education system is modelled after the ‘Prussian indoctrination system’ of which designers openly admitted their aim is to produce a population of easily controlled subjects who would blindly accept inculcated values.

Our current education system is suited to the industrial revolution which took place two centuries ago - but haven’t we evolved in all aspects of our living drastically since then? Don’t the students of this day and age deserve to attend a school where we aren’t simply indoctrinated with a set of dogma but are rather, encouraged to explore our own skills, strengths and beliefs? Millions of students spend the majority of their time at schools, first beginning their education journey at a very young, impressionable age, highly susceptible to accepting any ideology or system they are presented with. How do memorizing formulas and rote learning textbooks provide an accurate measure of one’s true perception, creativity and intelligence? Why isn’t there a heavier emphasis on relevant mindsets and skills needed in this day and age - entrepreneurial skills, interpersonal communication skills, active learning, a growth mindset, as opposed to the Pythagoras theorem? Who says age represents one’s academic ability - why are we segregated and classified by our age group?

Moreover, schools essentially manipulate us through the use of positive and negative reinforcement; high test scores result in praise and an increase in ‘self-worth’ whilst low academic performance generally result in feelings of dissatisfaction towards the student. As Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. Why are we often led to believe our IQ (intelligence quotient) levels define who we are, instead of using alternative indicators such as our EQ (emotional quotient)? Whilst, of course, the school curriculum provides an indication of the progress of a student and in many circumstances, can convey the hard work put into studying, but there is so much more in a student’s potential that simply cannot be measured by the conventional examination system. Therefore, the processes and practices used in our educational systems are essentially actively shaping our thoughts, beliefs and mindset.

However, although external forces can have a substantial amount of control over our minds, they hold trivial importance against the mighty power in our own hands to control our thoughts, mind and mental state. As the great Philosopher, Aristotle once said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. Despite the daily bombarding of historical beliefs, mindsets and thoughts upon us, ultimately it is in our hands to separate ourselves from such indoctrinated beliefs and awaken our true selves. In fact, self-help is a multi-million dollar industry introducing methods of internal mind control including self-hypnosis, self visualisation, mental training exercises, hypnotherapy, etc. Whilst there are hundreds of theories about external mind control, thousands of new theories and research about methodically controlling your own mind continue to gain much more relevance and contemplation. Therefore, it is in your hands to escape society’s indoctrinated values, thoughts and perception and to build your own identity.

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