Field Guide “Essentials” — A Series of Three-Frame Tutorials on Dealing with Systemic Abuse

Introduction to “Threetorials” and Art Image Usage

Each Field Guide has between 150 and 200 art illustrations and graphics. These are not incidental images, but were specifically chosen as part of my efforts to “show, not just tell.” I find these “gold guy” images from Fotolia artist Scott Maxwell provide metaphors that demonstrate what abstract concepts look in concrete action. And for some of us, we may remember the art image or graphic as the doorway to the content, while others may find the words a more graspable gateway. In team situations, we should expect to have both of those kinds of learners, along with participants who need other elements to optimize their processes of learning and applying – thought questions, discussion guides, case studies, etc.

This “Essentials” post has a series of three-frame tutorials, or “Threetorials,” as I have sometimes called them. These are drawn from a larger set I’ve been working on that refine 10 complex concepts into sets of 10 slides for each. In the larger sets of 10, the first 3 slides typically introduce a concept framework, and the next 7 give details. I plan to make the full sets of 10 available at some later date, but have not yet determined in what format(s).

In the Threetorials here, the first slide usually gives a definition of the concept framework, or a summary quote about it. The second slide usually gives some kind of visual image, chart, or graphic, plus a few details. (Note my Fotolia licensing information at the bottom of such slides.) The third slide expands on some of the most important points in the first two slides. [Click on the thumbnail image to see a full-screen-size version.]

Some of the Threetorials are clustered together in a mini-series because they are so closely related.

Much of my “Field Guide” series comes out of personal experiences in different kinds of organizations: businesses, non-profit agencies, educational institutions, churches, and ministries. But, as I spent time processing what happened, I discovered that all of them had people who perpetrated similar abuses of power using very similar tactics. When I’ve already posted related articles or case studies that relate to the Essentials topics, I’ll add links to that background material.

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Systemic Abuse and Residual Toxic Structures

Some thoughts on residual toxicity in a system when those who craft it are gone. I based this on observations of different churches, one run by control-via-chaos where nothing ever got nailed down, and one run by compliance, where everything was dictated by the leader.

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Essentials #0 – Introducing Terms:

Systems, Systemic Abuse, and Societal Oppression

More background: System basics.

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Essentials #1 – Three Core Individual Freedoms

Essentials #2 – Reversing Freedoms via Restrictions

All hearts long for wings. I developed a list of what I see as “human universals” in seeking freedom, from statements drawn from worldwide sources on democracy, human rights, and freedom.

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Related reading: What do “safe” versus “abusive” environments for personal and social transformation include? This post constructs the concept framework in a different way, and covers personal, relational, operational, and theoretical elements of systems.

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Essentials #3 – Taxonomy of Toxic Tactics

In my training as a linguist, we practiced skills for writing dictionaries (distinctive words) and grammars (patterns). We’d create grids of features, to compare/contrast word meanings. This developed my categorization skills.

The idea behind finding patterns for how elements were used together shifted the focus from words to sentences, and from sentences to paragraphs, and paragraphs to discourses. I learned that the glue that holds the elements together is crucial to figuring out meaning.

Similarly, identifying distinct tactics that abusers use helps us figure out how they glue us into a system they’ve hijacked for their own benefit. Learning to discern patterns is a way we can get unstuck from them.

Here are tactics of abuse I’ve seen.

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Essentials #4 – Individual Conditioning

Essentials #5 – Institutional Control

Essentials #6 – Ideological Conformity

This series of Threetorials sets up pathways of three intertwining kinds of manipulation that lead toward a group, organization, or society that is run by “totalist psychology” – cult-level demands. More background on what constitutes a “cult.” Taken together, this set lays out broad categories of tactics used to constrict people’s freedom at increasing levels of demand for loyalty and conformity, in ever-larger types of organizational systems. The more each of the kinds of manipulation gets used – individual, institutional, ideological – the stronger the resulting organizational form and more difficult to dismantle its pervasive damage.

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More background on #4 Individual Conditioning.

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#5 is Institutional Control. More background on #5 Institutional Control.

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More background on #6, Ideological Conformity.

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I believe the above series helps explain where systemic abuse comes from and how societal oppression is even more insidious because ideology drives it.

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Essentials #7 – “Totalist Psychology” Systems

Essentials #8 – Four Forms of Social Control

This set looks at defining characteristics of “sociological cults,” and some of the different types of resulting organizational forms.

For extensive development of Dr. Lifton’s concepts, and applications to the movie series that deals with PTSD, see my series on Lessons from The Hunger Games Part 5 – Dystopian Dynamics, Totalitarian Tactics, and Lifton’s Criteria for Identifying “Cults.” It deals with the question, “How do we discern dystopian dynamics and totalitarian tactics?” SUMMARY: This series introduces and overviews Robert Jay Lifton’s eight criteria for totalitarian thought reform (“brainwashing”) systems. It also gives some learning exercises for two groups: survivors of spiritual abuse and their personal network, and organizational designers/leaders who want to develop healthy and sustainable ministries. Note: I have split this material into three parts so readers can receive the best benefit from it, by processing it in smaller “chunks.”

Part 5A prepares our thinking with a review of previous points in the series for discerning an abusive/dystopian system, thoughts on totalitarian tactics from The Hunger Games trilogy, and the “before” part of the learning exercise.

Part 5B summarizes Dr. Lifton’s system for identifying “cults” and how the various elements work together. It then explores the first four of his eight criteria, dealing with: communications, motivations, absolutism, and confession.

Part 5C explores the final four of Dr. Lifton’s eight criteria: ultimate vision, language, ideological conformity, and ostracism. It also gives the “after” part of the learning exercise, and draws out three key issues for putting “brainwashing” into perspective.

The Hunger Games series, both books and movies, offers one of the most comprehensive case studies in considering the intertwined impact on individuals and institutions of control by a totalist psychology system. It is one of my key “proof of concept” case studies, and I will be posting additional materials on it at a later date. An initial visual bibliography for The Hunger Games is in Chapter 05.

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At this time, I do not have additional material on this topic posted.

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Essentials #9 – Six “S” Indicators of “Success”

This final set of Essentials gives a set of six indicators necessary for qualitative measuring of institutional health or toxicity. An older version of this indicator system used four measures. This post overviews those four, and then gives more treatment to survivability and sustainability. Ministry Models and Measuring “Successful Impact” – Present Validity Doesn’t Ensure Future Value. For additional insights into “measuring what matters,” see the article on The Transformational Index.

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3 thoughts on “Field Guide “Essentials” — A Series of Three-Frame Tutorials on Dealing with Systemic Abuse

  1. Pingback: Futuristguy’s Field Guides — Essentials Tutorials #1 and #2 | futuristguy

  2. Pingback: Futuristguy’s Field Guides — Essentials Tutorial #3 | futuristguy

  3. Pingback: Annotated Reader’s Guide to Futuristguy on Abuse Recovery, Advocacy, and Activism | futuristguy

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