Our thoughts are the one thing that we can always control. Our limbs may be restrained and our speech may be silenced, but what we think will always be ours, right? The idea that our minds might be shaped by the will of another is a terrifying one, but I’m sure you’ve all come across it before. From subtle suggestion to mental tampering, all the way up to complete neurological dominance, how would you deal with the revelation that your own mind has worked against you? While every series uses their own definitions for all of this stuff, I thought I would share some of my thoughts about how it all works.
Mental suggestion involves feeding your will into the target’s subconscious until their entire self has been influenced and they begin to do exactly what you wish of them while thinking that what they are feeling and the decisions they are making are all their own. The truly scary thing about this one is that often the victim doesn’t even want to change back even after finding out what has been done to them, because the person they are now likes what they have become. The silver lining here is that you probably wouldn’t care about what had been done to you, though i’m sure your friends and family would have a tough time of it.
Suggestion takes time that you may not have, so perhaps a more straightforward approach would work better. Directly tampering with an individual’s personality risks damage to their entire psyche – minds simply aren’t meant to change that quickly – but smaller modifications have a higher chance of success. Examples I’ve seen include removing or rewriting memories, causing a person to avoid certain trains of thought, or even making them take certain actions that they never realize they are taking. When I started writing this article I did so with the intention of ranking each of these different examples in terms of how horrifying it would be to discover that you had been affected by them…but as I write more I realize that each of them deserves their own little pedestal in the Hall of Things I Really Really Hope Don’t Happen To Me.
The last of the fictional techniques I’m going to talk about is the good old staple of full mind control. There’s not need to worry about damage because you don’t need the original personality anyway, and it’s a hell of a lot quicker than suggestion, so why do people even bother with the other types? Full mind control is hard and devilishly so. Can you imagine the kind of power it would require to completely subvert the will of another living, breathing, thinking being? If you can manage to pull it off though…well, you’ve got a ridiculously effective weapon on your side.
That’s it for definitions, so now I think it would be worth talking about the reactions people have to this stuff when it’s used in a GSN (game, series or novel). One of the most common things I hear people say is “if I were in that situation there’s no way I would do that, mind control or not”, which for me is a bit of a tricky statement. For one, the number of GSNs where characters do break free of whatever is affecting them (ie. in response to being ordered to harm a friend) isn’t exactly small. On the other hand, though, how can we assume that throwing off that kind of power is even possible? Mind control simply doesn’t exist, and so we have absolutely no idea what it feels like, therefore making the notion that we could definitely break free of it absurd. There’s only one comparable phenomenon that occurs in real life, and people don’t recover from it.
The brain, the part of the body that (arguably) makes us who we are, can’t regenerate. You can grow back half of your liver if you need to, but damage your brain and your body actively walls off the affected area and forgets about it. Though you can repurpose other parts to fill in the gaps, you cannot get away without losing something. People who have suffered from serious strokes, even if they are still able to take care of themselves, change – and they don’t even know what’s happened; there’s no way to restore them to who they were. It’s inescapable, so why should mind control be any different?
I could write on about the theory of mind control and the like for much longer, but the point of a blog is to promote discussion, so what do you guys think? Have I missed anything out? How does it all work? Do you think you could resist?