Anyone’s spirit can be shattered if mental pressure is applied skillfully enough

October 7, 2010

Franchising is like being in a war zone.

My experience and training suggests that running a franchise provides the same type of mental conditioning that happens in total institutions (ie. patient in a mental health hospital, recruit in military basic training, life on a naval vessel) without any form of appeal.

Many former franchisees see their time as a franchisee as they would imaging doing time in prison would be like. Most will confidentially talk openly of being mentally tortured. Many require significant mental health intervention to recover some degree of normalcy. Even years after their experience, the mere mention of their experiences triggers the strongest emotional response possible, many of which revolve around shame.

clinical depression :: affective disorders :: violence (self & others) :: divorce :: hospitalizations :: estranged children :: broken extended families :: suicide

Dr. Meerloo’s insights ring very true to me as a former franchisee and provide tremendous hope because they use a quantifiable and scientific approach rather than a one-dimensional, ad hominem attack- and shame-based legal view.

The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide and Brainwashing (free online), Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D., 1956

In Book: It is Dr. Meerloo’s position that through pressure on the weak points in men’s makeup, totalitarian methods can turn anyone into a “traitor.” And in The Rape of the Mind he goes far beyond the direct military implications of mental torture to describing how our own culture unobtrusively shows symptoms of pressurizing people’s minds. He presents a systematic analysis of the methods of brainwashing and mental torture and coercion, and shows how totalitarian strategy, with its use of mass psychology, leads to systematized “rape of the mind.” He describes the new age of cold war with its mental terror, verbocracy, and semantic fog, the use of fear as a tool of mass submission and the problem of treason and loyalty, so loaded with dangerous confusion…

The first two and on-half years of World War II, Dr. Meerloo spend under the pressure of Nazi-occupied Holland, witnessing at firsthand the Nazi methods of mental torture on more than one occasion. During this time he was able to use his psychiatric and psychoanalytical knowledge to treat some of the victims. Then, after personal experience with enforced interrogation, he escaped from a Nazi prison and certain death to England, where he was able, as Chief of the Psychological Department of the Netherlands Forces, to observe and study coercive methods officially.

In this capacity he had to investigate not only traitors and collaborators, but also those members of the Resistance who had gone through the utmost of mental pressure. Later, as High Commissioner for Welfare, he came in closer contact with those who had gone through physical and mental torture. After the war, he came to the United States, where his war experiences would not permit him to concentrate solely on his psychiatric practice, but compelled him to go beyond purely medical aspects of the problem.

As more and more cases of thought control, brainwashing, and mental coercion were disclosed…his interest grew. It was Dr. Meerloo who coined the term menticide, the killing of the spirit, for this peculiar crime.


Franchising as a Total institution

November 27, 2008

goffmanasylumsThere are different types of social arrangements or establishments.

Social establishments – institutions in the everyday sense of that term – are places such as rooms, suites of rooms, buildings, or plants in which activity of a particular kind regularly goes on. In sociology, we do not have a very apt way of classifying them. Some establishments, like Grand Central Station, are open to anyone who is decently behaved; others, like the Union League Club of New York or the laboratories at Los Alamos, are felt to be somewhat snippy about who it let in.

Goffman is interested in a specific type in this book:

…we find some that are encompassing to a degree discontinuously greater than the ones next in line. Thier encompassing or total character is symbolized by the barrier to social intercouse with the outside and to departure that is often built right into the physcial plant, such as locked doors, high walls, barbed wire, cliffs, water, forests, or moors. These establishments I am calling total institutions, and it is their general characterisitics I want to explore.

Total Institution definition:

…a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life. Prisons serve as a clear example, providing we appreciate that what is prison-like about prisons is found in institutions whose members have broken no laws.

There are 5 classifications of a total institution. They are designed to take care of people who:

  1. are harmless but unable to care for themselves (nursing homes, retirement home),
  2. can harm self and others (mental wards. psychiatric hospitals),
  3. are a threat to others (jails, concentration camps),
  4. are doing a specialized job (military, boarding school, work camps), and
  5. are retreating or training (monasteries, convents, cloisters).

Please note that some establishments are entered into voluntarily (monastery) while some are not. Goffman defines, roughly, a total institution environment as one in which you sleep, play and work in the same place.

Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates, Erving Goffman, 1961.

  • It is my experience, franchise trademark systems have many similar characeristics of total institutions.

Franchising exchanges $ for passivity and distrust

October 6, 2008

As someone who has been a franchisee, worked with franchisees for 10 years and also worked in a provincial psychiatric hospital, the following Erving Goffman quote has always intrigued me:

  • Society is an insane asylum run by the inmates.

Goffman is arguably the most famous sociologist of the 20th century and his 1961 book Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates promises to be fascinating.

I am just starting into it but by scanning Wikipedia and the book itself, these are the themes I will be looking for as I read it:

  • a mental-hospital patient is formed more by the institution (not the illness),
  • patient’s reactions and adjustments are similar to those of inmates in other types of institutions,
  • two classes are created and maintained within every institution (guard and captor),
  • the features of the structure is primarily to create predictable of behavior of both classes, and
  • Goffman defines a new term “total institution”.

Total Institutions are closed worlds such as prisons, army training camps, naval vessels, boarding schools, monasteries, and nursing homes where:

  • the inmates are regimented,
  • surrounded by other inmates, and
  • unable to leave the premises.

I think franchise systems have many of these prison-like characteristics and that being a franchisee is a life altering event. One franchisee described it as undergoing 3 divorces at one time.

I have noted the similarity between a franchisee and being a member of a cloistered religious order or cult.

You enter into a totally new faith-based world, a re-birth actually (foreign language, working 60-70 hours per week, long-term relationships put on hold, charismatic leadership, etc.)

Franchising powerfully changes the investor’s personality and personal identity as does every closed world. (But, dangerously, without any emotional safeguards for the initiate nor any models/myths/maps to return from their adventure.)

For me, modern franchising primarily produces two “products”:

  1. an investor who is both cognitively and emotionally incapable of defending himself (so institutionalized, so passive as to be unable to help himself, even if they had the individual economic resources to do so) and
  2. an investor who is also impossibly distrustful of everyone else (many times the most suspicious of those most able to help them); although together as a group, they could solve their collective problem.

Franchising has the power to create and then imprint learned helplessness (a psychological condition in which a human being or an animal has learned to act or behave helpless in a particular situation, even when it has the power to change its unpleasant or even harmful circumstance.).

All authorities can “brand” this helplessness because humans tend to:

  1. underestimate the influence of the situation and
  2. overestimate our individual defenses.

I’ll report back.

Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping from them: they love their servitude. Jean-Jacques Rousseau


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