Domination Psychology

The term domination psychology refers to the influence technique used to bring one or more people under the control of an individual or small group of individuals. It is the kind of mind games that are played in the following scenarios:

  • A destructive organization, between the leadership and its members (a dominated group); for example, Jonestown or the Branch Davidians
  • A one-on-one relationship, between the dominator and the dominated individual; for example, an abusive husband and his wife

This site focuses on dominated groups.

Characteristics of a Dominated Group

According to Tobias & Lalich (1994, p.13) the following characteristics are often present in these environments:

  1. Members are expected to be excessively zealous and unquestioning in their commitment to the identity and leadership of the group. Personal beliefs and values must be replaced with those of the group.
  2. Members are manipulated and exploited and may give up their education, careers, and families to work excessively long hours at group-directed tasks such as selling a quota of candy or books, fund-raising, recruiting, and proselytizing.
  3. Harm or threat of harm may come to members, their families and/or society due to inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, criminal activities, etc.

Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich (1995), who have done vast amounts of work in the cult field, state that such groups have the following characteristics:

  • Authoritarian power structure
  • Totalitarian control of members’ behavior
  • Double sets of ethics (one for the leader, another for members; one for those inside the group, another for outsiders)
  • Leaders that are self-appointed and claim to have a special mission in life
  • Leaders who tend to be charismatic, determined and domineering
  • Leaders who center the veneration of members upon themselves

Robert Jay Lifton (1961), a psychiatrist and pioneering researcher in the thought reform (mind control) field, has proposed that the following eight features create environments of “ideological totalism”:

  1. Milieu control — the control of communication within an environment; this creates unhealthy boundaries.
  2. Mystical manipulation or “planned spontaneity” — experiences which appear to be spontaneous are actually orchestrated in order to demonstrate “divine authority,” which enables the leader(s) to use any means toward a “higher end” or goal.
  3. The demand for purity — absolute separation of good and evil within self and environment.
  4. The cult of confession — one-on-one or group confession of past and present “sins” or behaviors, which are often used to humiliate the confessor and create dependency upon the leader.
  5. Sacred science — the group’s teaching is portrayed as Ultimate Truth that cannot be questioned.
  6. Loading of the language — use of terms or jargon that have group-specific meaning, phrases that will keep one in or bring one back into the cult mindset.
  7. Doctrine over person — denial of self and self-perception.
  8. Dispensing of existence — anyone not in the group or not embracing the “truth” is insignificant, not “saved” or “unconscious”; the outside world and members who leave the group are rejected.