A NEWLY UNCOVERED
TECHNIQUE OF SYSTEMATIC MIND CONTROL
By John D. Lovern
The following paper was presented at The Sixth Western Clinical Conference on
Multiple Personality and Dissociation, Irvine, CA.
John D. Lovern, Ph.D. 2141-B West Orangewood Avenue Orange, California
REVISED. February 5, 1993
Information obtained clinically from
seven multiple personality patients with recalled histories of ritual abuse has
revealed a coercive technique previously unknown to psychotherapists. This
technique here labeled "spin programming," appears designed to spread effects
such as pain, painful emotions, and other feelings or urges globally throughout
a patient's personality system for purposes of either designing and building a
young victim's personality system, or harassing older victims and disrupting
psychotherapy. Spin programming appears to be based on a combination of physical
spinning, cognitive and imagery training, and repetition and practice aimed at
creating an internal multi-alter spinning "mechanism" that can transmit the pain
or affective components of numerous traumatic memories simultaneously to large
groups of targeted alters. This paper presents signs and symptoms commonly seen
in patients subjected to spin programs, training methods apparently used to
create spin programs, and an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of spin
Spin Programming: A Newly Uncovered
Technique of Systematic Mind Control
That old black magic has me in its
spell, that old black magic that you weave so well. Those icy fingers up an down
my spine, the same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine, that same old tingle
that I feel inside, and then that elevator starts its ride: Down and down I go.
'round and 'round l go, like a leaf that's caught in a tide (...) Darling, down
and down I go, 'round and 'round I go, in a spin, loving the spin I'm in, under
that old black magic called love.
Johnny Mercer, (c) 1942, 1969
Discussion of ritual abuse as a cause of
multiple personality disorder is a fairly recent phenomenon (Coons & Grier,
l99O; Ganasway, 1989; Hassan, 1990; Kluft, 1989; Los Angeles County Commission
for Women, 1989; Mayer, 1991; Neswald, Gould, & Graham-Costain, 1991; and Van
Benschoten, 1990). Use of the term "ritual abuse" here relies on the definition
developed by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women (1989):
Ritual abuse is a brutal form of abuse
of children, adolescents, and adults, consisting of physical, sexual, and
psychological abuse, and involving the use of rituals. Ritual does not
necessarily mean satanic. However, most survivors state that they were ritually
abused as part of satanic worship for the purpose of indoctrinating them into
satanic beliefs and practices. Ritual abuse rarely consists of a single episode.
It usually involves repeated abuse over an extended period of time. The physical
abuse is severe, sometimes including torture and killing. The sexual abuse is
usually painful, sadistic, and humiliating, intended as a means of gaining
dominance over the victim. The psychological abuse is devastating and involves
the use of ritual/indoctrination, which includes mind control techniques and
mind altering drugs, and ritual/intimidation which conveys to the victim a
profound terror of the cult members and of the evil spirits they believe cult
members can command. Both during and after the abuse, most victims are in a
state of terror, mind control, and dissociation in which disclosure is
exceedingly difficult. (p. 1)
The topic of ritual abuse is
controversial (Kluft, 1989), and several authors have either questioned the
credibility of reports of ritual abuse or have advised caution in interpreting
the usually unsubstantiated accounts (Coons & Grier, 1990; Ganaway, 1989; Noll,
1989; and Van Benschoten, 1990). This paper avoids taking a position on the
accuracy of clinically derived accounts of ritual abuse, and instead simply
presents information that has come to light consistently and repeatedly during
intensive psychotherapy with a number of different patients with recalled
histories of ritual abuse.
The information presented here is
offered in hopes of making available recently discovered and preliminary
findings that may be of value to some members of the psychotherapeutic community
and may stimulate additional investigation by some members of the scientific
community. The information is admittedly too new, derived from too small a
sample, and too unsubstantiated by other investigators to he presented as fact.
Nevertheless, the description of spin programming, if valid, shines a valuable
light on the techniques employed by ritual abuse perpetrators and provides
important insight into how problems frequently seen in multiple personality
patients with recalled ritual abuse histories might more successfully be
Therapists working with victims of
ritual abuse often discover (or encounter compelling evidence) that their
patients have been subjected to sophisticated mind control techniques, often
called "programming," designed to compel them to do various things, including
engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as suicide or self-mutilation;
allowing access to perpetrators so that abuse may continue; responding to
various cues, such as sounds, hand signals, lights, names or numbers, etc., by
carrying out specific behaviors or behavior chains; disrupting psychotherapy in
a number of ways, including thought-stealing or scrambling, outbursts of various
emotions (anger, depression, terror, jealousy, apathy, etc.) and distancing from
the therapist (by fearing the therapist, attempting to protect the therapist
from harm by others or by the patient herself or himself, etc.). Neswald, Gould,
and Graham-Costain (1991) provide a listing and descriptions of a number of
typical ritual abuse programs.
Patients with histories of ritual abuse
often reveal that programming techniques have been applied to them for at least
two distinct purposes: (a) current or recent programming designed to harass or
disrupt psychotherapy, and (b) programming begun early in life (often at birth),
as the means by which programmers designed and built their victims' entire
personality systems in order to achieve and maintain control over them. One
technique has recently come to light that appears to have had utility both for
harassment/disruption and for system-building. The technique is based on
Sources of Information for This Paper
This paper is based on information that
came to light during psychotherapy sessions in which the author was the
therapist or, in some cases, co-therapist. The patients, of whom there were
seven, all carried diagnoses of complex multiple personality disorder and had
clearly defined and consistently expressed histories of ritual abuse by satanic
or similar cults. They had been in therapy intensively for at least a year
before disclosing any information about spin programming. They were all female
and ranged in age from their mid-twenties to their mid-forties. Their education
levels ranged from two years of college to masters degrees. They were all white,
the majority were married, and just over half were employed full-time. They
disclosed some of the information about spin programming during conversations in
which they and therapist were "brainstorming" about their programming histories,
and they revealed the rest either spontaneously (generally making their
discoveries between sessions) or in response to direct questioning carried out
with due regard to the dangers of leading them by directly or indirectly
suggesting desired responses. Before an item of information about spin
programming and related phenomena could appear in this paper, it had to be
verified by comparable experiences and reports from at least two patients. In
most cases, information was verified by all patients, with only minor
variations. Informal conversations with other therapists about their experiences
with similar patients have consistently verified the information presented here.
Description of Spin Programming
SPECIFIC VERSUS GLOBAL TARGETING OF
Programmers appear to rely on certain
criteria in deciding which mind control strategies they will select. One
meaningful criterion is specific versus global, that is, whether they intend to
target a single alter (or a small, defined group of alters) in a specific way,
or the entire system (or a large portion of it) in a global way. Spin-based
programming is a globally targeted programming technique. Programmers apparently
use it when they intend to disseminate an effect throughout either a large
portion of a victim's personality system, or the entire system.
Examples of the types of effects that
may be spread in this way are physical pain, confusion, depression,
self-destructive or suicidal urges, alienation, apathy, hopelessness, fear of
abandonment or rejection, panic, terror, urges to run away, jealousy, doubt,
suspicion, rage, violent urges, sexual arousal or urges, lethargy, immobility,
sleepiness, sleeplessness, hunger, loss of appetite, and urges to use drugs or
alcohol. Programmers may spread these effects throughout a personality system as
a method of disrupting the total functioning of the person, or they may use the
possibility of spreading them as a threat to enforce compliance with directives
or prohibitions they have issued.
Spin programs are also useful in
system-building, both because of their ability to quickly transmit information
within or throughout a personality system, and because of their ability to
establish power relationships between alters and groups of alters. How these
links and power relationships are established will be explained in the section
on training methods.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SPIN PROGRAMS
Patients who are suffering the immediate
effects of a currently activated spin program tend to present with a number of
typical features. These features include: global effects, symptoms occurring
like a "storm," pressure, dizziness, a sense of spinning inside, physical
movements related to the internal experience of spinning, and spinning-related
imagery and vocabulary.
Global Effects. When a patient is
affected by a specifically targeted program, she or he typically experiences one
or a small number of alters having emotions or urges or manifesting behaviors,
while most or all other alters remain unaffected. The patient might say, for
example, "Somebody inside wants to cut," or "Joey is feeling suicidal." When a
spin-based program is active, every alter with whom the therapist talks is
likely to be suffering from the same or similar symptoms. At such times, the-
patient might say, "Everybody in the system is depressed;~ "None of us has any
hope or any energy or any interest in anything;" or "We are all terrified that
you are going to abandon us.
Stormlike Symptoms. The experience of
dealing with a spin-programmed patient is, for patient and therapist alike,
somewhat like riding out a storm. The flurries of pain, affect, or impulse tend
to grow in intensity, build to a crescendo, maintain that peak for a time, and
then gradually diminish before finally subsiding. Nearly every alter in the
system is lashed by the "wind and rain" of the storm, often without
understanding why these effect are occurring, and doing their best to minimize
damages until the storm passes.
Pressure. As will be seen in a
subsequent section, spin training relies in part on conditioning the patient to
connect, through cognition and imagery, the experience of spinning with internal
buildups of centrifugal force. When spin programs are active, the affected
alters subjectively experience high levels of force or pressure, as if they were
sitting at the outside edge of a rapidly rotating disc. They feel overwhelmed by
this pressure, finding it impossible to resist, and they often complain of
symptoms that would be caused by mounting internal pressure, such as headaches
that feel like they are going to cause the head to explode from the inside,
disruption of speech, vision problems, and similar phenomena.
Dizziness. As the internal spinning
associated with spin programming increases in speed and force, patients
frequently complain of dizziness. At these times, they may be literally feeling
the sensations caused by the original spinning, because they are experiencing a
planned (i.e., produced by intervention of the abusers) revivification or
flashback of that event.
Sense of Spinning Internally. Along with
the dizziness, patients experiencing active spin programs often notice a sense
of spinning internally, or comment that "everything seems to be spinning." If
they do not mention this feeling spontaneously, they will often admit it when
questioned, for example, by answering in the affirmative when asked, "Do you
feel as if someone inside is spinning a mile a minute?"
Physical Movements. When the internal
spinning is at its most intense, patients often move in ways that a person might
move while being physically spun. These movements tend to be rhythmic and
repetitive, they may involve any part of the body, and they are subtle and may
escape the therapist's attention unless the therapist is looking for them. For
example, a patient may stare blankly or appear to be wincing from pain or
closing her eyes tightly, then move her head or upper body very slightly and
rhythmically from side to side, forward and back, or in a circular motion. Feet
or hands and arms are also often involved in these movement. The movements tend
to be slower, smoother, more fluid, more subtle, and more regular and rhythmic
than typical "nervous" movements.
Spinning-Related Imagery and Vocabulary.
When describing their subjective sensations during an active spin program,
patients often utilize imagery or words that are related to the experience of
spinning, possibly because these images and words are literal descriptions of
their experiences, and possibly because they were taught these images during the
original spin training. Patients may use this kind of imagery spontaneously
during sessions or in writings or drawings produced outside of sessions, or they
may only describe them in response to questioning. Typical words used include:
vortex, whirlpool, whirlwind, tornado, cyclone, abyss, falling, drowning,
sinking, being pulled or sucked down, being blown or shot or exploded out,
tumbling, hurling, whirling, swirling, and twirling. Typical visual images
include drawings depicting the ideas listed above and various doodles that will
be described later in the section on training. Some alters have
programmer-assigned names related to spinning (e.g., Spinner,) which is a name
that was independently assigned to alters in the personality systems of several
Pain Contests. Pain as Power. and
Multiples within Multiples. A patient disclosed during a psychotherapy session
some time ago that the most powerful alters in her system were those who had
endured the most pain. Subsequent exploration of this notion, combined with
abreactions of memories of "pain contests" eventually led to the discovery of
Many patients with cult abuse histories
have had to endure contests in which they and another person received steadily
mounting pain until one of them (the loser) could not stand it anymore.
Generally,only one alter was allowed to remain out during the contest, or else
worse abuse would follow. The requirement that only one alter remain out had
some profound ramifications, leading to the conjecture that this condition (only
one alter staying out), not the outcome of the contest, was the primary purpose
of the competitions.
In order to stay out continuously
instead of leaving the body to a rapidly switching succession of alters (the
more typical pattern of dissociation during trauma), the single alter had to
create a group of internal alters to whom she or he could send the pain. The
typical result of this type of experience appears to be the creation of an
internal analogue of multiple personality disorder, or a "multiple within a
In other words, just as traumatic
experiences in general can lead to the creation of a number of alters in one
"outside" body to produce multiple personality disorder, this specific type of
experience can create a similar phenomenon one level in, consisting of a number
of alters "within" the alter undergoing the contest. However, since the alter
has no physical body, the newly created alters do not necessarily exist "inside"
that alter, but more likely coexist with or near the original alter in internal
space--the "inside world")
One source of internal power arising
from this arrangement stems from the ability of the original alter to send pain
to her or his next level of alters inside the multiple within a multiple
subsystem, allowing her or him to intimidate them by threatening to activate a
flashback of the original training, thus forcing them to re-experience the pain.
The multiple within a multiple subsystem taken as a unit is more powerful than
other, simple alters, because, as a system, it possesses or is capable of
possessing greater and more varied capabilities than a lone alter might be able
Graphic Depiction. Another patient,
after looking at a drawing of a tree structure that was my rough attempt to
depict the connection between pain transmission and power (Figure la), suggested
that the drawing ought to be circular instead of tree shaped (Figure lb). The
original alter, according to this new view, was located at the center of a
circle of alters, and the ring or rings) of alters surrounding this alter
comprised the multiple within a multiple" system. Secondary alters could
dissociate further by creating alters of their own, resulting in branches of
tertiary and beyond) alters. She indicated further that her entire personality
system, not just individual multiple within multiple systems, was arranged in
this kind of circular array consisting of concentric rings, with the most
powerful alters located at the center.
Tree and Circular Diagrams Depicting
Pain Distribution Among Alters During Pain Contests
This patient then became visibly
frightened, stating that some internal alters felt that I may not be a safe
person because I knew too much. Subsequent discussions with other patients about
this topic and other topics related to spin programming have elicited similar
reactions from them; it appears that information about spin programming is
highly secret and not for "outsiders" to know.
However, in spite of her fears, this
patient disclosed more information at the next session, revealing that her
system contained a number of alters who have been trained to create internal
multiple personality systems, and that alters of these systems often received
additional training that made them into a coordinated, self-monitoring and
self-correcting mechanism designed to employ internal spinning to send pain (and
other experiences) to large groups of alters outside their system. Discussions
with all of the patients (the two mentioned above, plus the five others)
provided the rest of the details comprising this paper.
Overall Training Strategy.
According to patients' disclosures, spin
training begins at an early age, perhaps age three or four, or even younger.
Training appears to utilize a combination of three basic elements: (a) the
creation of internal multiple personality systems (by pain contests and similar
experiences) whose alters are separated and given specialized training to make
the internal systems into self-regulating mechanisms; (b) actual spinning both
to teach senders the sensations of spinning so that they can re-create it
internally and to force them to spin internally in order to avoid the extremely
painful sensations of "real" external spinning; and (c) cognitive and imagery
training to build and reinforce connections between internal re-creations of the
experience of spinning and the sending out of pain as a means of escaping it.
Along with this, connections are also established and reinforced between
velocity, centrifugal force, and the intensity of the pain and other feelings
that are spun. In addition, some programming is necessary to convince the
spinning alters that they are not connected to the other alters in the system,
so that they do not feel guilty about hurting someone about whom they care
Material must be available to "feed" into the spin mechanism, and this material
consists of large numbers of dissociated memories that contain pain and other
feelings capable of acting as punishments or sources of disruption. Finally,
there may be additional programming to create controls over such things as which
material is to be spun, when or under what conditions it is to be spun, to which
alters or groups it is to be targeted, which groups of alters will be exempt
from the spin, etc.
All patients reported having had many
experiences of being physically spun by ritual abusers throughout their lives.
While being spun, they were invariably drugged, usually with sedative or
hypnotic drugs as well as anti-nausea agents, often shown or forced to look at
white or colored lights or to listen to music or rhythms, often given verbal
instructions, and sometimes given other kinds of pain (in addition to the
extreme pain of spinning). The spinning was of various types, including
horizontal spinning on a table, similar to a record player; horizontal spinning
about an axis, similar to being turned on a spit; vertical, "wheel-of-fortune"
type spinning; and vertical spinning about an axis, on a pole, hanging upside
down by the feet, or inside of a cylinder.
Patients who have experienced a great
deal of spinning have a number of sensitivities that they usually do not
understand until they are consciously aware of having been spun. For example,
many patients become very disturbed by flashing lights, because they are similar
to the lights they had to watch while belong spun. For similar reasons, they are
also often disturbed by watching rapidly changing colors or circular, swirling
motions of any kind, as well as by certain types of music.
Programmers apparently take advantage of
these sensitivities by simulating spinning when it would be impractical (due to
unavailability of equipment, etc.) to actually spin a victim, or when they want
to intimidate a reluctant alter by threatening her or him with spinning as a
punishment. Rapidly changing lights moving across the victim's visual field, for
example, can very effectively bring back the full experience of a past actual
spin. Exposure to other stimuli that accompanied spinning, such as spoken words
or music, can also trigger experiences of spinning.
Abusers trigger the re-experiencing of
traumatic events by taking advantage of their victims' means of coping with
trauma. When a victim experiences a painfully traumatic or terrifying event,
including administration of drugs to enhance state-dependent learning, the
victim dissociates the experience, breaking it into component parts (as in the
BASK Model: Braun, 1988a, 1988b). Abusers apparently record the contents of
these dissociated experiences and know which aspects of them to remind victims
of in order to bring about a vivid replay of a component or portion of them. By
simply introducing such a cue to the victim, the abusers can initiate the
experience of spinning.
Dissociated components of any traumatic
memory appear capable of being moved from one alter to another, making it
possible to "collect" the pain or affective component of dozens of experiences
that contain similar elements (e.g., physical pain, terror, abandonment, grief,
etc.), feed these into the spinner, and thereby spread massive amounts of these
feelings throughout the personality system or to targeted groups of alters.
Visual Aids, Demonstrations, and
All patients reported having observed as
children (or when spin training was done, if later than childhood) a wide range
of demonstrations apparently intended to teach them to think about and perform
spinning in ways that are advantageous to the programmers. For example, several
patients report having watched mechanical devices, such as centrifuges or
devices similar to those sometimes seen at fairs that make pictures by spreading
paint with centrifugal force; people, such as "whirling dervish" dancers who are
made (presumably by drugs and special effects) to seem as if they are able to
spin so fast that they become a blur; and object lessons, such as people who are
tortured or killed for failing to spin properly.
Patients also report having spent a
great deal of time as children (again, only those programmed as children)
practicing spinning at a conscious level. For example, they may have spun around
furiously at play time, but the spinning was done in grim earnestness, not for
fun. They may also have been involved in organized activities that involved
spinning, such as ballet or figure skating lessons.
Drawings and Doodles.
All patients reported having filled or
decorated many pages over periods of years from early childhood (again, only
those whose training commenced in childhood) through adulthood with doodles that
are strikingly similar across individuals They describe themselves as having
produced the doodles in an almost obsessive manner, drawing them over and over
for no apparent reason. Certain themes connect these doodles. Many of them
obviously depict spinning, such as the drawings of spinning tornadoes (Figure
2a). Others only suggest spinning, such as spirals that may be round (Figure
2b), rectangular (Figure 2c), or triangular (Figure 2d), but they also depict
movement or transmission outward from the center. Finally, other doodles depict
movement or transmission from one linked unit to another, without spinning, as
in the interconnected boxes or interconnected loops (Figure- 2e and f).
Doodles Frequently Drawn by Patients
With Histories of Spin Programming.
The doodling appears to be intended to
reinforce by repetition and visualization the lessons learned through cognitive
and imagery training. Doodles may be produced by alters trained as spinners, or
they may be produced by others to be seen by the spinners, as reminders to the
spinner to maintain their skills and alertness.
Cognitive and Imagery Training.
Programmers apparently combine pain
transmission training, actual spinning, visual demonstrations, and doodles with
detailed verbal instructions that contain a great deal of vivid visual imagery.
This training takes place over a period of many years, with countless
repetitions and variations, so that the overall effect is very potent. The
thrust of all this training appears to be to convey several key ideas to the
spinners and other alters, so that they accept these ideas without question as
their actual reality.
First, the spinners must learn to spin
inside, just as they did while out in the body during actual spinning. Often,
they learn to become a spinning object, such as a tornado or a spinning top.
That is, their internal representation of self (or internal body), as viewed by
both themselves and other alters, is a spinning object (at least while spinning
or during rapidly accelerated spinning). Then, they must link the experience of
internal spinning with the sending out of pain, emotions, and other feelings to
other alters, so that two experiences are inseparable and indistinguishable.
Finally, they must link the velocity of their spins with centrifugal force, so
that the more rapidly they spin, the stronger and more irresistible is the force
with which they send out the pain or other feelings.
An additional set of ideas is important
to impart to the spinners for spin programs to be effective. The first of these
has to do with spinners feeling good (or not feeling bad) about spinning. In
order to feel good about spinning, spinners must think themselves separate from
other alters, and view the other alters as deserving the painful feelings that
they receive as the result of the spinning. It is clear from patients' reports
that programmers teach and reinforce these ideas. It is also useful for the
spinners to derive feelings of competence and pride about their spinning.
Therefore programmers apparently reward proper spinning with praise and other
reinforcements. Next, spinners need to be convinced that they have only two
choices once a spin program is activate: Either they must spin, or they will
experience all the pain themselves; but, if they do spin, they will experience
no pain at all. Programmers apparently teach these lessons too. Finally, it is
advantageous to protect spinners from contact with otter alters or outsiders,
who might impart information to them that could potentially allow them to think
for themselves. Therefore, programmers apparently often set up a ring of
guardians around the spinners or impose other security measures.
When patients first began to describe
pain contests, it was thought that the purpose of these ordeals was to establish
transmission routes for the spinning of pain. Soon it became clear that,
instead, they were designed to create multiple within multiple systems which
would be trained to become spinning mechanisms. This conclusion left open the
question of how transmission routes are established. Additional inquiry of
patients about this question has not provided conclusive answers, but the one
hypothesis that "feels right" to most of them is that pain is sent along the
lines of lineage, that is, the connections between alters who split off of
earlier alters, who split off of yet earlier alters, etc., going all the way
back to the core or near-core personalities. If this is true, then either
spinners learn how locate and to send pain to near-core alters, or they
themselves are near-core alters who were selected for spin training because of
their position in the internal genealogy. The second alternative appears to be
the more likely one.
Self-Regulating Spin Systems.
One would think that it would be very
difficult for a programmer to control a multiple within a multiple system. More
than the desired number of alters may be created during the initial abuse,
leaving the programmer with a problem of disposition. Alters may be created who
are never discovered by the programmer, and are in positions potentially to
resist or disrupt the programmer's plans. The number of alters and complexity of
their interrelationships would make it difficult for a programmer to keep track
of the behavior of both individual alters and interactions among them.
Programmers apparently respond to all of these problems by imposing rigid
structure and strict discipline. They control alters' personality traits and
other attributes, where and with whom they live in the internal world, who may
communicate with whom, who watches whom, and who punishes whom.
The outcome of programmers' control
efforts appears to be a complex, self-regulating systems of alters, each of whom
is assigned specific roles and duties, which is governed by a carefully designed
scheme of checks and balances. Certain functions are essential for spinning to
take place, and there seems to be some uniformity across patients in terms of
which functions are carried out by which alters, and how the alters are allowed
or forced to interact.
The first step in creating a spin system
appears to be to split up the group of alters comprising the system, keeping
them only dimly aware, if aware at all, of the existence of the others. They
appear to be placed in specific locations in the internal world, determined by
the roles they occupy. Those who occupy the same or corresponding role are often
similar to one another in other ways, such as all being children of a given age,
all being of the same gender, or all being animal alters. They may also have
similar skills or other attributes such as having been taught a performing art,
having been trained in psychic abilities, or belonging to a specific cult figure
who "loves" them. As additional spin systems are created, alters from other spin
systems who occupy the same roles are placed in the same locations. These
role-based groups may then be taught to be suspicious of or hate the other
role-based groups, thereby keeping them from "comparing notes," cooperating
together, or organizing any kind of resistance.
The key functions that need to be
accomplished for spinning to work effectively are as follows: Of course, there
should be an alter who spins. There should also be an alter who locates,
obtains, and moves the dissociated memory components so that they can be spun by
the spinner. There should be a controller or coordinator of the overall process.
There should be informers who report to programmers about whether other alters
are performing their duties, including other informers. There should be
punishers who discipline misbehaving alters, including other punishers, and one
who can punish even the spinner (who is otherwise impervious to pain). There
should be a "key" or access alter who makes it possible for programmers to enter
the system, obtain information, and make adjustments. And all these functions
should be designed to interact in such a way that the system can regulate itself
and operate independently.
The roles and lines of communication and
influence within such a system can be depicted graphically in some cases, with
lines representing the communication pathways and points of intersection
representing the alters who occupy the essential roles. The result is a three
dimensional geometric figure resembling a crystal.
Utility of Spin programming
Spin programming has some obvious uses
to programmers for designing and building personality systems. The power of the
spinners or alters who control them, and the threat of pain that they convey,
establish them internally as authorities who must be obeyed The networks
(apparently of descent) along which spinners send pain and other experiences
represent natural divisions within the overall system that programmers may
program separately and use for specific purposes, such as spying/informing,
enforcing internal discipline, sexual behaviors, ceremonial behaviors, etc. Spin
programming can contribute both to unifying a system and to separating groups
from one another. There are doubtless many other ways in which spin programming
can facilitate system building.
Harassment and disruption of therapy are
easy to achieve with spin programming. For example, only one brief programming
session is capable of setting up a spinner to react each time she or he notices
the therapist engaging in a predictable behavior by setting in motion a furious
spin of the emotions contained in dozens of dissociated traumatic experiences of
childhood rejection and abandonment. The patient is then likely to perceive the
therapist as behaving in an abandoning and rejecting manner, and as a result the
therapy may be dominated by endless sidetracking from other issues in order to
deal with the more subjectively pressing issue (to the patient) of the fear and
hurt that the patient feels the therapist is causing. And the spinning may
continue for days, weeks, or months. Numerous variations of this kind of
approach are possible, providing many opportunities for keeping therapy
ineffective for years.
Importance of Spin Programming
Spin programming must be of immense
importance, judging from the sheer amount of time and energy that programmers
appear to have devoted to creating and maintaining these programs throughout
their victims' lives. Another indication of the central importance of this kind
of programming is the wariness shown by many patients when the subject is
initially broached. It is obviously "classified material." These factors, plus
the obvious power of spin programming as both a system-building and
harassment/disruption technique, indicate that this kind of programming is a
fundamental mind control method used on victims of ritual abuse. Therefore, it
must be addressed in psychotherapy with victims of ritualistic abuse. In fact,
spin programming is apparently so fundamental a technique that our patients may
not be unable to heal unless it is addressed in therapy.
Strengths of Spin Programming
Spin-based programs present a number of
strengths from the point of view of programmers. They have been difficult to
detect, because therapists have been unaware of globally targeted spin programs
as a separate type of programming strategy. The reactions created by spin
programs, if not identified as such, are likely to be mislabeled as borderline
traits or "transference issues," providing little or no benefit to the patient.
Containment strategies (utilizing hypnosis or visualization) that may work well
at stopping or preventing flashbacks of specifically targeted programs are often
useless with spin programs, because of both the sheer volume of memories that
are activated by a spin program and the force of the spin. Working with the
affected alters is difficult because of the lengthy, intensive attitude training
against communicating with outsiders that they have received; due to the fact
that they are guarded to prevent contact; because they fear that they will
experience pain if they do not spin it out, combined with the immediacy of pain
relief if they do; and due to the power, or perceived power, of the spin.
In general, when therapists attempt to
deal with a spin program, they are likely to feel as if they are grappling with
a complicated, powerful machine. In fact, that is essentially what they are
doing. Spin programs "feel" quite different from specifically targeted programs.
Many more alters are involved in spin programs, they are much more highly
trained and more automatic and smoothly coordinated in their functioning, and
the operations of the programs are much better safeguarded against attempts to
tamper with or undermine them. As such, they present a formidable challenge to
therapists and patients.
Weaknesses of Spin Programming
In spite of the power and complexity of
spin programs, they are nevertheless amenable to therapeutic intervention. with
patience, commitment, and compassion, an astute therapist working closely with a
creative, motivated patient can gradually make a dent in this kind of
programming and eventually overcome it by exploiting its inherent weaknesses.
The first weakness is the fact that all
programmed alters, including spinners, guards, controllers, and all those who
are part of the spin mechanism, are personalities who were "cut from the same
cloth" as the rest of the system and are therefore capable of both reason and
emotion. Alters comprising the spin mechanism can actively observe incoming
information and react to it by commencing the spin, making decisions about when
to block outside contact or punish those who fail to cooperate with the program;
therefore, they can reason. Spinners often take pride in being good at spinning,
and they are proficient at spinning painful emotions in order to avoid them;
therefore, they are capable of feeling emotion. If a therapist or an internal
helper can establish communication with these alters, the way is open for them
to correct their present, limited cognitive grasp of their situations and
options by learning new facts, and to want to change what they do by becoming
aware of their feelings about it. They are also capable of positive emotions,
and they are likely to be deprived of and hungry for them. Therefore, they are
likely, once contacted, to respond favorably to care and concern.
The second weakness is the fact that
much of the training that makes up spin programming is conditioned as opposed to
unconditioned, that is, based on paired associate or cognitive learning.
Therefore, cognitive changes such as consciousness of how the conditioning was
done can facilitate breaking the connections rapidly. The connections and
beliefs that can be broken in this way include the link between external
spinning and internal spinning; the link between internal spinning and the
sending out of pain and other feelings; the link between velocity of internal
spinning, centrifugal force, and the irresistibility of the pain and other
feelings being spun out; the illusion that the spinners are separate from the
rest of the system; the pride .of being good at spinning; and the belief that
they have only a limited number of options. The third weakness is the fact that
spin programming is built on an accumulation of individual dissociated
experiences that can be abreacted, one after the other, until the foundation of
the spin mechanism has been completely undermined. Three groups of dissociated
memories may be addressed: the original training experiences of the spinners and
others involved in spinning; the traumatic experiences from which pain or
affective components are collected and fed into the spin mechanism; and the
programs instructing the spinners what to spin and under what conditions to
The fourth, and greatest, weakness of
spin programming is also its greatest strength: the complexity of the system of
alters and the checks and balances that control them. An astute therapist can
eventually gain access to individuals who occupy the different roles, either
directly or indirectly, and then educate them about their betrayal by their
programmers, about the compassion they could be feeling toward the suffering of
other alters in their system (instead of the hate or mistrust they have been
taught to feel), about their ultimate unity with the others (instead of the
separation that has been forced on them), and about how to join forces to
This paper has described spin
programming, a type of abuse that until recently was unknown to
psychotherapists, but has obviously been in use by ritual abusers for many years
-- at least four decades, and probably much longer. It is possible that most or
perhaps all patients with histories of ritual abuse have been subjected to spin
programming. Patients who were born into cults that practice ritual abuse (as
opposed to having been recruited later in life) are probably more likely to have
experienced spin programming, and their spin programming is likely to be both
more intensive and more sophisticated.
Spin programming presents some
formidable obstacles for psychotherapy. It is apparent that, in the past, lack
of awareness and understanding of spin programming by the therapeutic community
has contributed to many problems in therapy, and that complete healing has
probably been impossible without facing and dealing effectively with this type
of mind control technique.
It is hoped that this paper will provide
a valuable service by making information available to therapists that may
contribute to significant breakthroughs for their patients and ultimately allow
for their complete healing, while also providing testable hypotheses to
researchers interested in ritual abuse.
Braun, B.G. (1988a). The BASK (behavior
affect, sensation, knowledge) model of dissociation. Dissociation, 1, 4-23.
Braun, B.G. (1988b). The BASK model of
dissociation: Clinical applications. Dissociation, 1, 16-23.
Coons, P.M., & Grier, F. (1990).
Factitious disorder (Munchausen type) involving allegations of ritual satanic
abuse: A case report. Dissociation, 3, 177-178.
Ganaway, G.K. (1989). Historical truth
versus narrative truth: Clarifying the role of exogenous trauma in the etiology
of multiple personality disorder and its variants. Dissociation, 2, 205-220.
Hassan, A. (1990). Combating cult mind
control. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.
Hill, S., & Goodwin, J. (1989).
Satanism: Similarities between patient accounts and pre-Inquisition historical
sources. Dissociation, 2, 39-44.
Kluft, R.P. (1989). Editorial:
Reflections on allegations of ritual abuse. Dissociation, 2, 191-193.
Los Angeles County Commission for Women.
(1989, September). Report of the ritual abuse task force: Ritual abuse,
definition, glossary, the use of mind control. Los Angeles, CA: Author.
Mayer, R.S. (1991). Satan's children:
Case studios in multiple personality. NY: G.P. Putnam s& Sons.
Neswald, D.W., Gould, C., & Graham-Costain,
V. (1991, September/October). Common "programs" observed in survivors of satanic
ritual abuse. California Therapist, pp. 47-50.
Noll, R. (1989). Satanism, UFO
abductions, historians, and clinicians: Those who do not remember the past...
(Letter to the Editor). Dissociation, 2, 251-253.
Van Bensehoten, S.C. (1990). Multiple
personality disorder and satanic ritual abuse: The issue of credibility.
Dissociation, 3, 22-30.
Revised April 20, 1995
John D. Lovern, Ph.D. Clinical
Psychologist PSY5064 2141-B West Orangewood Avenue Orange, California 92668-1941
Telephone: (714) 978-3152 Fax: (714)
June 14, 1995
Thank-you for requesting my article on
"spin programming." At the time that I wrote the article, I was thinking and
perceiving things quite differently from how I am now. In the space of a letter,
I can't tell you all the theories I've been considering or all the conclusions
I've reached (for the time being), but I want you to know that I no longer
consider the paper to be accurate.
For a critique of the original paper
(I've sent to you a revised version), please take a look at Richard Kluft's
rejection letter for the journal _Dissociation_, which I've enclosed.
My own criticism of the paper stems from
a few years of experience, including being burned a few times after believing
patients' accounts that turned out to be false, thinking through a number of
issues that I hadn't at the time resolved as well I have now, and general
seasoning. Right now, I attribute much less power to programming than I once
did, and I don't see victims of ritual abuse as robots or computers who are
powerless against cults' efforts to force them to do cult bidding. Two areas of
thinking have led me away from the point of view I held when I wrote the paper:
an anthropological view of ritual abuse, and a better understanding of hypnosis
and deep trance phenomena.
I began to view the "cult loyal alters"
in personality systems of ritually abused DID patients less as pawns of a cult
and more as members of a separate culture. From this point of view, many
instances of so-called programs being triggered or of patients being abducted
can be seen in a completely different and less spooky light. For example, when
someone makes a hand signal at a person driving on the highway, the so-called
perpetrators didn't necessarily just trigger a pull-over-and-go-to-a-ceremony
program, they may have just signaled hello to someone they know inside and asked
them come out and talk or do something together. According to this
anthropological view, therapists can do a lot of harm by trying to rescue
patients from cults or doing lots of memory work to "deprogram" their patients.
They may actually be threatening or making enemies among the inside members of
the other culture, who may then try to fight back in a number of ways, some of
which could bring abuse (internal or external in origin) on the mainstream
culture member alters (the ones who are most likely to have initiated therapy
and expressed a desire to be rescued from the cult--which may consist of an
internal or an external group of perpetrators). An escalating polarization can
result that does little more than cause the patient to be hurt badly, both as
the result of increased abuse and as the result of painful memory work and being
left with less adequate dissociative defenses.
The other thinking I've done that makes
me view my paper in a different light has to do with hypnosis and deep trance
phenomena. My reading of Eugene Bliss's most recent book, and a re-reading of
much by Milton Erickson have suggested that many of the phenomena therapists see
in ritually abused DID patients may be the same kinds of phenomena that one
commonly sees in excellent hypnotic subjects. These influences have led me to
ask questions such as: How much of what patients like these describe to me as
real experiences was an objectively real external experience, and how much was a
mixture of real, fantasy, hallucination, etc.? What role do spontaneous
self-hypnosis, implied suggestion that took place during trauma or trance, and
post-hypnotic trance phenomena play in flashbacks, programming, and reports of
ritual abuse? How many reports are the result of internal alters being perceived
convincingly as external people? And I'm continuing to ask more questions.
Finally, the fact that my paper has been
available to the public after being mentioned in Oksana's _Safe Passage to
Healing_ and being in put on the World Wide Web has led a number of people to
contact me and try to talk about ritual abuse. Unfortunately, many of those who
have contacted me are members of the "lunatic fringe"--that is, conspiracy
theorists with paranoid leanings who are really too delusional to have any
business trying to help ritual abuse victims.
Anyway, I won't go further. But please
do regard the paper more as a historical document than as an up-to-date
scientific study. I hope that both the paper and this letter are useful to you.
John Lovern, Ph.D.
Richard P. Kluft, M.D., F.A.P.A.
Director, Dissociative Disorders Program The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital
111 North Forty-Ninth Street Philadelphia, PA 19139
215 471-2484 / 215 664-1883
June 25, 1993
John Lovern, Ph.D. 265 South Anita
drive, Suite 116 Orange, California 92668-3310
Dear Dr. Lovern:
I am writing in connection with your
submission of "Spin Programming: A Newly Discovered Technique of Systematic Mind
Control" to _DISSOCIATION_. In all candor, our reviewers were deeply divided in
their responses to this manuscript. Those who deeply believe in the reality of
ritual abuse advocated acceptance; those who did not advocated rejection. The
crucial issue to me is that all agreed that the paper does not contain material
that allows the reader to assess to adequately. It is uncertain whether these
patients have any connection with one another. It is unclear as to whether the
patients have memories of spin experiences, because spinning, dizzying, and
vertigo-inducing sensations are not uncommon from a variety of experiences. It
is unclear whether the symptoms and images are specific to spin programming or
have some more general significance. Also, the literal acceptance of some
patient materials without a review of relevant literature to validate the
acceptance of such an approach to not "up to snuff." I think the main problem is
that this account has not risen to the level at which it will constitute
credible data to your scientific and clinical peers. Consequently, its
publication in a scientific journal is not indicated at this time.
Very truly yours,
Richard P. Kluft, M.D. Editor-in Chief