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Are Caregivers Brainwashed by Society, Culture, or Family
Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Denver, CO
Tuesday, August 8, 2023


Are Caregivers Brainwashed by Society, Culture, or Family

The Caring Generation® – Episode 173 August 9, 2023. Are caregivers brainwashed? Do caregivers focus on doing things for aging parents or spouses due to societal, cultural, family, or groupthink? In this episode, caregiving expert Pamela D Wilson shares insights into why caregivers feel powerless over situations that seem out of their control.
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This week’s podcast episode #173 and this article explore the question, are caregivers brainwashed by society and those they care for? We will look at three areas to answer this question that caregivers ask.
  • Social conditioning and groupthink—the process by which people in society, a culture, a group, or in friend or family relationships think, believe, feel, and interact agreeably—can exert pressure on caregivers to conform
  • How individuals experiencing difficult periods in life or changes that may not be in one’s control can be more vulnerable to brainwashing or undue influence
  • Questions to ask to avoid groupthink or social conditioning

Why Caregivers Should Question Their Beliefs

Watch Over 800 Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel

Social conditioning can result in brainwashing for individuals who are at vulnerable points in their lives. Examples include:
  • Persons who have lost a job and are worrying about paying bills or supporting a family
  • Individuals who divorce or lose a loved one to death
  • Anyone sick or suffering from a life-affecting illness
  • Caregivers who feel overwhelmed by responsibilities and duties or who feel isolated
  • Young adults who move away from home or attend college can be very impressionable.
All situations where a person is vulnerable at a particular point in life can make one very easily influenced by others—in good and bad ways. Caregivers can become obsessed with fixing or doing things for aging parents or spouses due to expectations, intimidation, guilt, or emotional dependence.
So with an understanding of social conditioning and situations that can result in becoming brainwashed or influenced, we will also discuss how to remove oneself from these effects or controls.
Let’s begin with examples of social conditioning to make the impact easier to understand. Social conditioning can be environmental.
People and groups have a significant degree of influence on individuals. This influence can be—but is not always—problematic.

What is the Basis of Beliefs?

Are your opinions based on what others tell you, or are your beliefs based on research, facts, and personal experience? What is the process you use to decide if you have a decision to make?
Mistakes can be more common when a person relies solely on personal experience, which can be biased in one way or another. Better decision-making can result from doing a little research that includes facts or statistics, combining this with personal experience, and then doing a little more research to determine how others making a similar decision fared.
What was the result, also called the outcome of the decision?
To relate this idea to life, let’s start with an experience we have all had: attending school: preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, or college. If you have children, they may still be in school. Every state in the United States is required to operate a school system.
State governments elect legislatures who appoint a board of education that then passes the authority to local school districts. So every state is different. School districts can decide what they teach.
If you follow the news, you know that there has been a lot of discussion in states about critical race theory and gender identity.
Gender identity has transferred to sports. Some women want to keep women’s sports female and say no to males competing as females.
I’m not here to say that what anyone believes is wrong or right. There is no wrong or right, there is only what you believe to be true.

Pros and Cons

are caregivers brainwashed by societyBut when society and the media say that it’s okay to do or be this and not okay to do or be that—why do people give them the power to make these decisions without examining the facts—the pros and cons?
Is it easier to follow along with others than make time to investigate, think and form your own opinion?
If state school systems teach critical race theory and school teachers are permitted to talk to children about gender identity issues without parental involvement, should there be a requirement to teach critical thinking, decision-making, and debate?
Why should school systems have the power to influence students, who may be young and impressionable, toward one way of thinking or another?

Cult Culture, Stress, and Suicide Rates

How many of you went to technical school or college? Depending on where you went, there may have been a little or a lot of peer pressure from college groups, sororities, fraternities, secret societies, or alums groups.
If you research “college cult culture,” you will learn that many top colleges participate in social conditioning. These are situations where students feel themselves becoming part of the school community as their past priorities, friends, and family drift away.
College cult culture can be positive or negative. The University of Michigan—with one of the top college cult cultures— confirms that suicide is the #2 leading cause of death for college students.
Approximately 1100 suicides happen on college campuses each year.
At the University of Michigan, 38% of students have thought about or considered suicide. Some reasons include:
  • Financial stress
  • Feeling isolated or alone
  • Having a disability
  • Being shunned by peers for reasons that include gender issues
  • Feeling pressure to maintain a high grade point average
The pressures that college students and family caregivers experience are similar—financial stress, isolation, disability, and the pressure to meet the expectations of others. It’s easy to see how these “environments” can contribute to whether caregivers are brainwashed.

Shared Experiences of Influence and Control

Both situations—attending college or being a family caregiver—have the shared experience of influence and control. Parents may be funding for college. Student loans or grants may be growing year by year.
Did you know that graduating medical students who want to become doctors compete in a Match Day process on the third Friday in March? The result is to learn where they will receive an invitation to commit to a three-to-seven-year contract to train for residency.
Not all students match. Attending college can be attached to high pressure to perform, meet expectations, graduate, and pay off student loans.
Caregivers who choose to care for aging parents face similar pressures depending on their life situation. A young caregiver who has never moved out of the home to live independently and who cares for a parent may lack the financial ability to support him or herself.
Maybe you are a caregiver who moved aging parents into your home because it seemed like a good idea then. Today you regret the decision.
The stress of being a caregiver also relates to high suicide rates. A study by the American Psychological Association performed in June of 2020 during COVID confirmed that.
  • 6% of unpaid family caregivers for older adults reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom in the 30 days before taking the survey
  • 9% reported anxiety, depression, or substance abuse in the same time period
  • 7% thought seriously about suicide
On this topic, visitors to my website can find a link to my YouTube Channel with over 800 videos for caregivers. Several caregivers contacted me and confirmed they were considering suicide before finding one of my videos.
Caregivers seeking support and organizations interested in speaking events can contact me by completing the online caregiver survey form on this website.
The responses come directly to me. Your information remains confidential.

No Choice

Many caregivers feel like they have no choice but to become a caregiver. This lack of choice can result from social conditioning within cultures, religious beliefs, family expectations, and spillover from education and workplace culture.
There are many types of social conditioning. There is a saying that our thoughts and beliefs reflect the collective ideas of the five people we spend the most time with.
  • What thoughts, beliefs, or needs have resulted from your social conditioning?
  • Do you seek out retail therapy—shopping—when you are stressed to make you feel better? But you receive the credit card bill, and you feel worse.
  • How do you cope with stressful or frustrating situations?
Caregivers ask about caring for parents who have substance abuse issues. Any habit can become addictive or obsessive if one takes the activity to an extreme.
Excessive drug use is one of these habits. But drugs in themselves are not all bad.
Most people don’t realize that persons with addictive habits usually have underlying emotional issues or are experiencing high levels of stress that fuel the habit. Family caregivers who want to be helpful can be frustrated with loved ones who suffer from addiction. While providing support can be helpful, the person with the addiction must want to change.

The History of Brainwashing

Let’s take a step back and look at the history of brainwashing, a word that has a foundation from the 1950s related to the treatment of American soldiers in prison camps during the Korean War.
Cult leaders, secret societies, dictators, the media, including social media today, abusive spouses, and parents have used brainwashing for centuries.
If you are interested in research about brainwashing, you may find insights in an article in the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) reading room. A paper, Brainwashing from a Psychological Viewpoint, written in 1956 and released in 1999, opens with this quote:
“We know now that men can be made to do exactly anything. . . It’s all a question of finding the right means. If only we take enough trouble and go sufficiently slowly, we can make him kill his aged parents and eat them in a stew.” (Jules Romains, VERDUN. A.A. Knopf, 139, p 156.)
If you are a caregiver feeling influenced by others what you do, how do you get out of under this powerful influence?
The first step is to realize that people or situations may overly influence your life. But to do this, you must have other experiences to see or know that your life can be different.
If you are isolated within a culture or a family, this may be difficult if you cannot gain exposure to people in different situations. Limited life experiences can result in limited belief systems.


Thinking of how relationships with others can influence mindset, let’s look at how groupthink shows up in the workplace so that you can relate this to caregiving and other situations in your life.
Are you ever in a situation where you think about speaking up in a meeting? You might be in a meeting with one person or ten people. Instead of speaking up, you don’t because you don’t want to appear unsupportive of the group or express an opinion that might be different from others.
Other people in the group or the company may feel the same way. Ask these questions:
  • Are team members reluctant to express opinions
  • Is there a strong leader who criticizes or discourages new ideas
  • Does the team rationalize events instead of considering that there may be other alternatives or choices
  • Is there a sense of outsiders being different or wrong
Family members or friends can be part of a group that holds influence over caregivers. The way to avoid groupthink and brainwashing about how others want you to think or what others want you to do is to explore alternatives.
Look at the pros and cons of the choices in front of you. Investigate options so that you have choices. Look at options that you might have previously considered but decided against. Be objective about the situation. Always have a backup or a contingency plan.

The Story of the Elephant and the Blind Men

How many of you have heard the parable of the blind men and the elephant? The men describe an elephant by their individual experiences.
  • One man feels the tusk and says the elephant is smooth and pointed like a spear.
  • Another touches the trunk and says an elephant is like a thick snake.
  • The next touches the elephant’s leg and reports that the elephant is like a tree.
  • Another person feels the skin on the elephant’s side and says that the elephant is made of rough leather.
None of them can see, so they don’t know that the elephant has many parts.
The theme of this story is that truth or beliefs are relevant to one’s perspective and the importance of respecting the opinions and experiences of others who may be very different.

How to Identify Social Conditioning, Influence, and Brainwashing Effects

For this discussion, let’s say you are here because you recognize that your life can be different. Maybe you had a fulfilling life before you became a caregiver and are looking back at your life and wanting it back.
Or you have always lived with a parent, but you have friends who are going to college, working in careers they love, getting married, or having children. You feel as if life is passing you by.
Or maybe you retired, caring for a spouse, and want more out of life. Are you noticing one or more of these circumstances repeat in your life:
  • A loved one has become overly dependent on you for their car
  • You feel manipulated to do things that you no longer want to do
  • You are obsessed with the need to “fix” things, but the person you are trying to “fix” is not participating, or their health problems have gone too far and are irreparable
  • You feel powerless because you have given up control of your life to other people
  • You feel that you must make life perfect for other people even if your life and health suffer
  • You feel driven by guilt and emotional dependence, and the only way you feel good about yourself is to remain in this relationship that is bad for you
  • You are addicted to solving the problems of other people and have ignored or put your life on indefinite hold
  • You’re worried that if you stop being the caregiver, another person cannot survive without you or that you will be committing the crime of abandonment
  • What if you leave and the person you care for all of a sudden appreciates your efforts
  • You feel that you have to share the pain, suffering, and problems of other people
You may be socially conditioned to think there are no options if these situations occur.
Many caregivers are brainwashed to think they cannot change the care situation. Some caregivers remain in emotional and physical relationships because of the brainwashing efforts by the person they care for.

Beliefs About Duty and Responsibility

the effects of brainwashing on caregiversMany caregivers believe that the duty and responsibility to care for others is more important than their needs or wants.
Some religious beliefs say that suffering is necessary. If these are your beliefs and the consequence are acceptable, then a change in belief systems may not make sense to you.
On the other hand, if you are in a situation of influence and want to consider a change in beliefs or values, below is a list of questions to help you get started
  • Where does your belief about caregiving responsibilities or any topic come from? Is it your culture, family, social group, religious group, personal experience, or work?
  • Are you living your life based on the expectations of others rather than doing what you want to do?
  • Why do others have different beliefs?
  • If others have different beliefs, do you ask why?
  • Are your beliefs adding to your life or causing distress?
  • Do you want to change?
  • What are you willing to do?
Then examine the caregiving situation and ask more questions.
  • Do you need to fix, change, or rescue another person? Why?
  • Are you frustrated by trying to help another person only to have them not want to change or refuse to participate in helping themselves?
  • Can you own your feelings and actions without blaming others for the situation in which you find yourself?
Let’s return to the social conditioning examples I shared for the college student under a lot of pressure and the caregiver who moved a parent into their home.
Both are challenging situations because individuals feel committed to a project or action. Reversing this commitment may feel impossible, uncomfortable, or embarrassing.
Why do caregivers become brainwashed? Is it easier to remain in an uncomfortable position? Do caregivers not know how to rescue themselves?
Prisoners who were in camps during the war faced similar situations. Many gave up and died.

Mentally Detaching from Faulty Beliefs

Those who survived learned to mentally detach from the horrific conditions of the prison camps.
Anyone can learn to mentally detach in a positive manner that does not include self-harming habits.
Simple activities like daily meditation or walking can be enough to work through the beliefs spinning around in your head.
Write down your beliefs. Some examples could be:
  • I am a terrible person if I leave this relationship
  • People will judge me
  • My parent or the person I care for will never appreciate or approve of me if I leave
  • This person can’t live without me
  • I have a duty and a responsibility to care for an aging parent or a spouse regardless of what this activity does to me or my health
  • My wants and needs are unimportant
  • I can’t live without this person, even if the relationship is abusive
  • I will never be able to take care of myself and live on my own
Do you believe you deserve a better life? You can only change what you believe.

Care About But Not Care For Others

So depending on the situation, you may have to work to change your belief system before making concrete changes.
You have to choose not to give a person, place, or belief the power to make you feel less than the unique person you are.
Be proud of your contributions. Let go of your need to change or influence other people. Become the change agent in your life. Be the problem solver in your own life. Begin taking action to become the person that you want to be.
Put the social conditioning and expectations of others into perspective as important to them but irrelevant to the new path you choose in life.
If you are a brainwashed caregiver, making significant changes can feel scary. So write down the changes you want to make. Do your research on the best way to proceed. Then do one thing every day that moves you closer to the life you want.
To detach or remove yourself from caregiving doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you have given up the need to control or change another person’s life.
You give them back the responsibilities that are theirs. You take responsibility for creating your own life and creating your destiny. Instead of judging or criticizing others, you become the best person you can be. You can care about and not care for others.

Looking For Help Caring for Elderly Parents? Find the Information, Including Step-by-Step Processes, in Pamela’s Online Program.

©2023 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved
The post Are Caregivers Brainwashed by Society, Culture, or Family appeared first on Pamela D Wilson | The Caring Generation.

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Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA, is an international caregiver subject matter expert, advocate, speaker, and consultant. With more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, fiduciary, and care manager in the fields of caregiving, health, and aging, she delivers one-of-a-kind support for family caregivers and aging adults.

Pamela may be reached at +1 303-810-1816 or through her website.


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