When I was a young school girl first learning the horrid history of the Holocaust, I wondered how so many people could fall for the wretched rhetoric of Adolf Hitler. How could a man with dark hair convince so many people that blonde Germans were of a superior race? Why didn’t more people resist Hitler and his notions, even if they may not have realized that Jewish people were being led like sheep to the slaughter into horrible places like Auschwitz? Later, I would learn about the sing-songy speech that Hitler used as one of his tactics in literally hypnotizing massive crowds of folks — the same manner of speaking that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used for good, but Hitler used for evil.
I’d soak up knowledge of Hitler’s scary nightmares of Satan, dreams that left Hitler shaking and sweating and cowering in the corner. As noted in Facing the Fiend: Satan as a Literary Character, a book by Eva Marta Baille, Hitler’s personal servant, Ullrich Falk, spoke of seeing Hitler once awakened by a nightmare and shaken with horror.
“I tore the door open and saw him standing bewildered in the middle of the room in his nightshirt, pouring with sweat; he looked at me with blue lips, his hair disheveled, his face contorted with fear. I shall never forget what he said: ‘He…he…he…was here.’
“It might have been the devil Hitler saw in that nightmare, it might also have been his personal shadow, the awareness of the horror that he was responsible for.”
I’d go on to study how hand motions and patterns of speech can literally hypnotize some people, and the rise and fall and inflection and cadence of certain voices can be used to manipulate crowds. When President Donald Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, said he kept a book of Hitler’s speeches on his nightstand and studied them, I believed her. When Dilbert creator Scott Adams said he noticed Trump using tactics of the same hypnosis lessons that Adams studied, I believed him. Heck, I almost fell for them for a millisecond. Once, I turned on the TV and heard a comforting male voice — before my rational mind could kick in. I realized it was Trump speaking, and something about his voice hit my emotions prior to my logic kicking in and remembering to employ the battle to constantly renew my mind so as not to conform to the world’s pattern of thinking, which can include non-rational human thinking.
So while Trump was promising coal miners some kind of resurgence in obviously dying careers, I’d pay attention to the tales of contractors who say they were stiffed and sued by Trump, as reported by Fortune. Therefore, it was easy not to fall for the promises of Trump to take care of the working man, when so many testimonies from hard-working people said the opposite in their experiences with Trump. I’d pay attention to his hand movements and stay alert against hypnosis tactics.
I’d recognize signs of gaslighting, which is a psychological tactic that slicksters try and use to manipulate those whom they hope are weak-minded enough into questioning their own sanity. It’s like when Eddie Murphy riffed in a comedy routine about a girlfriend catching him cheating, but he continued to repeat the refrain, “It wasn’t me.” When she said she looked right in his face, he repeated that it wasn’t him. Her own facts in her logical mind dissolved, until she relented, “Maybe it wasn’t you.”
I’ve seen it in operation when a woman I know saw her own boyfriend somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. When he convinced her it wasn’t him — even though we all knew it was — I was shocked at how she changed her mind into agreeing it wasn’t him. She wanted to believe he was faithful, so she changed her mind. The truth was too painful. I see it when Trump supporters try and pass off 1.3 million people in Cleveland as a crowd from a rally for Trump in Phoenix. It might be too painful to face the reality that certain jobs in the technology sector will replace old blue-collar jobs, and instead of making a change to new industries, it could seem easier to fall for an Archie Bunker type promising 1950s-like visions of making America great again.
Recognizing the signs of gaslighting, as reported by Psychology Today, are especially helpful — particularly the one about a person’s words not lining up with their actions or going on the attack and trying to align people against you. Gaslighting was a term mentioned in the most recent episode of Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath, wherein people who claim they suffered horrible abuse via Scientology were told that their experiences flat out didn’t happen. It is reminiscent of Nazi groups who claim the Holocaust never happened, even as Holocaust survivors still live with their numbers tattooed on their wrists.
I’m appreciative of folks bold enough to express their regret in voting for President Trump, because not only is admitting you were wrong or misled a hard thing, but realizing you’ve been conned is sometimes the harder thing. (“How could that person lie to me when I went to bat for them?”) I’m experiencing my own sort of regret in a different way — not because I voted for Trump, believe me, I didn’t — but in relation to a beauty tool that is now the subject of much debate on Facebook. With promises to help all sorts of ailments, the pricey tool’s effectiveness is now being questioned. It was something I purchased, and liked, and recommended to all of my friends. Lo and behold, the before-and-after photos used in some of the testimonies may have been stolen from a plastic surgery website. I’m not sure — the verdict is still out on that one because the beauty product’s seller is claiming that the before-and-after photos were stolen from her website by the plastic surgery website.
And therein lies the rub of trying to figure out when you’ve been had or hypnotized. The stages of realization can move from being a staunch supporter defending your team from the “haters” to being open to listening to both sides, perhaps to ending up on the opposing side, or somewhere in the middle. The important part is keeping your eyes and ears open and being smart enough to admit when we’ve had the wool pulled over our eyes. Wherefore it can be hard to admit that a person who seemed so nice and talked about God blessing them with their status is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing, we can still pray and have grace for them, since we may realize there are times when we acted the same way and have been forgiven. And thank the Lord that the scales of confusion fall off our own eyes.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]