Torture – An Exposé

Torture is used by humans on humans to achieve two main outcomes. Dominance and manipulation. These are frequently related to each other.
Dominance is about the perpetrator demonstrating that they are in charge, that the perpetrator has choice and that the victim is not in charge and does not have choice. The perpetrator needs to do this because they do not feel that the victim is powerless or lesser and therefore must prove it on them by the application of various torture techniques. This torture repositions the power dynamic between the two to demonstrate the perpetrators power over the victim.
Manipulation is where the perpetrator wants the victim to change. That is, the perpetrator wants the victim to do something different to what they were going to do, behave in a way that is different to how they were going to behave and think in a different way to how they were going to think.
Both of these tell us a great deal about the perpetrator. A perpetrator doesn’t need to dominate a person that they already overpower or manipulate a person into doing what they were already going to do. All it proves is that the perpetrator feels inadequate or out of control, whether they are or not is irrelevant.
There are some fairly common techniques used in torture. The fundamental underlying aspect of torture is to change the core value of the victim from strength to compliance. If you are a victim, always remember you had to be seen as strong by the perpetrator for them to want to torture you. Mainly because they feel weak.
Physical punishment has two key elements, using pain to illicit fear as motivators. The first element is to weaken the will. This pain and fear fills part of our attention making it harder to think clearly. Consider when you have stubbed your toe, hit your thumb with a hammer, or slammed your hand in the door. I am pretty sure that most of your attention was on the pain and choice of swear words rather than considering the implications of astrophysics or any of your fields of interest. Your attention is on the pain, or fear of pain. It is not on thinking logically.
The second key element is fear avoidance. Ivan Pavlov is considered the first published scientists to discuss classical conditioning. His thought experiment regarding dogs, food and bells created an association in the dog’s reflexes between the ringing of the bell and the expectation of food via reward. Punishment is another form of conditioning. We don’t want to get hurt, so we do the thing (or don’t do the thing), in order to avoid the predicted pain. The torturer will ensure that you know what it is you are avoiding. The torturer will also use rewards as relief from the pain and fear to increase certain behaviours.
The perpetrator can inflict pain on the victim at will, thus demonstrating their physical dominance. The more sadistic perpetrator will want to leave marks to prove their power and ongoing dominance in a more permanent way. However it is rarely physical dominance that the perpetrator is after, they are just using it as a tool for what they really want. Psychological dominance.
Psychological manipulation uses similar techniques to the above. Overloading the mind and conditioning reflexes. This can be done via a host of techniques such as sleep deprivation, food deprivation, deprivation of liberty, creating an environment of fear, bombarding the victim with information, social isolation, financial deprivation and manipulating their emotions.
There is another aspect that is really important to all of these techniques. Convincing the victim that what they thought they were doing, thinking or feeling was wrong. This can be done via gas lighting (undermining core beliefs), emotional manipulation, invalidating the person’s integrity, changing goal posts (you can never be right) and making it not worth arguing. There are many more techniques than these, of course. The common underlying principle is to make the victim doubt the fact or value they knew and trusted, and replace it with the fact or value the perpetrator wants the victim to take on board.
Overloading the victims mind means that the victim can’t evaluate the information before storing it. Think of it like putting groceries away. When you realise you are about to put some rotten food in the cupboard, you stop, put it aside and throw it out. If I give you several tons of food to store in big boxes with a tight time limit, you won’t check all the food, you’ll just put it in the cupboard. By overloading the thinking mind, the victim can’t analyse and judge the information coming in and will just store the rotten idea without critical analysis.
Isolating the victim from safety, other trusted people and time is all about giving the person no good reference point to compare the new information to. If you are in a boat on the ocean on a cloudy night, you don’t know which way you are going. If you have a compass, you might have a clue, but if the perpetrator discredits the compass then you are lost again. The perpetrator needs to make the victim distrust all their means of finding themselves. This means discrediting friends, authorities and repositories of knowledge. By undermining the idea of right and wrong, the victim finds it hard to judge the idea for whether it is good or rotten.
When we feel stressed we pull back from life a little to help manage the important situations better. This is prioritising and on a short term basis makes sense. We deal with what we can and shrug off what we can’t. When the problem isn’t solved, we pull back more, and then more and so on as the problem persists. We isolate ourselves from friends because we just can’t deal with that distraction, from going out because it seems too hard and frequently find ourselves under resourced in many ways. We begin to doubt ourselves and avoid those who can help us. We frequently find our sleep pattern and food pattern become broken, messing with our bodies sense of rhythm. Sometimes we subconsciously do this to push us into crisis, where we are willing to take on new solutions to problems that aren’t being solved using our usual methods. Sometimes these are great solutions, sometimes they are bad. Sometimes we don’t find a solution and just crash and burn.
In effect, we torture ourselves when we are stressed. Those who perpetrate torture on others have hijacked this normal self-change process in humans for their own purposes. Torturers come in three major categories. Professionals are rare, hobbyists are also rare (that is, they know what they are doing and have tried to get good at it, also quite rare) and then there is the unwitting torturer who is just automatically compensating for their low self-image by harming others (very common). This last category have evolved their techniques out of a need to survive their own mind.
Once we know the process of torture and the reasons why people do it, we can recognise it in the wild. This gives victims the ability to interfere with the process, either by defending themselves from the tools used against them, avoiding the perpetrator or getting help from counsellors, police etc. It also gives the unwitting perpetrator the ability to recognise what they are doing and look go through a similar method to undo their methods. I highly recommend that unwitting perpetrators to get some good counselling to help change their behaviours and, very importantly, address the underlying reason why they are doing this.