Topics: Psychological Kidnapping

Psychological Kidnapping: The act of denying one the free use of their personality. Psychological kidnapping is generally the expression used to describe the mind control of cults.

Brainwashing: Ways of making people think what you want them to think. that is different from what they think now.

The above definitions are generally applied to victims of kidnappings of one sort or another; can they also apply to victims of therapy abuse? Is there a subtle way in which a patient or client is lured, as the hunter scents its prey, with mind and sometimes body taken over?

It is a strange phenomenon that when troubled, confused, hurt, and in pain we take ourselves to a complete stranger and entrust them with our deepest thoughts and feelings, the most private parts of our lives. This stranger could be anybody, so why do we do it? Society, modern day culture, has told us psychotherapists are qualified for this task at various levels, so we take that on trust and along we go; and it can be helpful, a trained person giving support, understanding, kindness and providing a framework on which to try and re-build ourselves. But it may not always be so.

What leads to an abusive situation? How does it change into something personal, something that hijacks us instead of allowing us the space to become more ourselves, settled and complete? What alters in the mind of the therapist that they allow their own needs to take precedence in this professional setting? Do they devise a set route to psychological kidnapping, the taking over of another's personality, beliefs and set of ethics? Is it a game, the thrill of the chase, the cat circling its intended mouse? Perhaps it is about control, power, omnipotence, the need of therapists to feel good about themselves, desire and sex sometimes intermingling. More questions than answers in this 'therapeutic' environment, it would appear.

Where does that leave us, the psychologically kidnapped? Flirtation has no place in the therapeutic setting, seduction even less. Professional boundaries begin to blur; we become confused, uncertain. This is not what we seek, yet we become drawn in against our will, ask ourselves how can this happen, are we not adults?

'He seemed so kind, so understanding, he appeared to be able to see right into the heart of me and encouraged me to give him all my trust. I was drawn like a magnet, a moth to the flame, and began to emulate his views, his actions, his feelings until I couldn't recognise myself any more. I felt such love, such need for him. When he wanted to have sex with me, I didn't know how to refuse. I lost myself at that point, lost completely the person unhappy, damaged, insecure, but still with basic personal beliefs in the difference between right and wrong who was me, becoming a non-person, a puppet on pulled strings, a shadow.'

Psychological kidnapping begins with grooming. It may start without conscious thought, then become a means to an end. Predators often have more than one victim. The words 'special', 'soul mate', 'love', 'I've never felt like this before,' 'when you leave, you never look at me', come into play, and when consequently we feel something in response, they name it.

Vulnerable, we are drawn into a spider's web of feelings, into something the therapist wants it to be. We feel a pull towards the therapist, but don't know what or why. We become non-reactive, as we would not be in ordinary circumstances. Confusion reigns. While being psychologically kidnapped/brainwashed, the process is often so gradual that nothing can be noticed, any hint of questions will be squashed by abusers out for themselves; confusion of who is who takes place so that victims turn away from their own thoughts and toward the abusers as the ones with all the answers. Often victims feel they have fallen in love.

The power imbalance of such a relationship leaves it built on shifting sands and therefore never able to be an equal, respectful and loving partnership. The therapist has by this time virtually total control, and uses it relentlessly, without accepting any responsibility for his or her actions or the so often devastating effects on their client/patient. More and more the victim loses any sense of self, already shaky, and feels helpless, finding personal choice and control worn down with a tsunami of unexpected and confusing feelings. While in the glow of what feels like love, the victim gains a sense of specialness that is temporary, transient. The therapist has the power, the cat with its mouse, who can and does use it to great effect.

Kidnap is a crime of violence. To take over another for personal gain is wrong. To make use of power in a professional setting for personal pleasure or satisfaction is despicable. Brainwashing someone's mind for your own ends is despicable. Using such power to lure the victim into a sexual relationship is not only despicable but morally corrupt. The damage done is catastrophic, may take years to come to terms with, and may never truly leave.

This is not a love affair, not about the person we really are, and it certainly isn't therapy. This is psychological kidnapping.

Michèle Mauger

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