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In Nicole Brown Simpson’s Words

Los Angeles Times/January 29, 1995
By Andrea Dworkin

Words matter. O.J. Simpson’s defense team asked Judge Lance A. Ito to order the prosecution to say domestic discord rather than domestic violence or even spousal abuse–already euphemisms for wife-beating–and to disallow the words battered wife and stalker. Ito refused to alter reality by altering language but some media complied–for example, “Rivera Live,” where domestic discord became a new term of art. The lawyer who successfully defended William Kennedy Smith on a rape charge also used that term systematically.

Where is the victim’s voice? Where are her words? “I’m scared,” Nicole Brown told her mother a few months before she was killed. “I go to the gas station, he’s there. I go to the Payless Shoe Store, and he’s there. I’m driving, and he’s behind me.”

Nicole’s ordinary words of fear, despair and terror told to friends, and concrete descriptions of physical attacks recorded in her diary, are being kept from the jury. Insignificant when she was alive–because they didn’t save her–the victim’s words remain insignificant in death: excluded from the trial of her accused murderer, called “hearsay” and not admissible in a legal system that has consistently protected or ignored the beating and sexual abuse of women by men, especially by husbands.

Nicole called a battered women’s shelter five days before her death. The jury will not have to listen–but we must. Evidence of the attacks on her by Simpson that were witnessed in public will be allowed at trial. But most of what a batterer does is in private. The worst beatings, the sustained acts of sadism, have no witnesses. Only she knows. To refuse to listen to Nicole Brown Simpson is to refuse to know.

The law, including the FBI, and social scientists used to maintain that wife-beating did not exist in the United States. But in recent years, the FBI acknowledged that wife-beating is this country’s most commonly committed violent crime.

Such a change happens this way. First, there is a terrible and intimidating silence–it can last centuries. Inside that silence, men have a legal or a tacit right to beat their wives. Then, with the support of a strong political movement, victims of the abuse speak out about what has been done to them and by whom. They break the silence. One day, enough victims have spoken–sometimes in words, sometimes by running away or seeking refuge or striking back or killing in self-defense–that they can be counted and studied: Social scientists find a pattern of injury and experts describe it.

The words of experts matter. They are listened to respectfully, are often paid to give evidence in legal cases. Meanwhile, the voice of the victim still has no social standing or legal significance. She still has no credibility such that each of us–and the law–is compelled to help her.

We blame her, as the batterer did. We ask why she stayed, though we, of course, were not prepared to stand between her and the batterer so that she could leave. And if, after she is dead, we tell the police that we heard the accused murderer beat her in 1977, and saw her with black eyes–as Nicole’s neighbors did–we will not be allowed to testify, which may be the only justice in this, since it has taken us 17 years to bother to speak at all. I was a battered wife; I had such neighbors.

Every battered woman learns early on not to expect help. A battered woman confides in someone, when she does, to leave a trail. She overcomes her fear of triggering violence in the batterer if he finds out that she has spoken in order to leave a verbal marker somewhere, with someone. She thinks the other person’s word will be believed later.

Every battered woman faces death more than once, and each time the chance is real: The batterer decides. Eventually, she’s fractured inside by the continuing degradation and her emotional world is a landscape of desperation. Of course, she smiles in public and is a good wife. He insists–and so do we.

The desperation is part fear–fear of pain, fear of dying–and part isolation, a brutal aloneness, because everything has failed–every call for help to anyone, every assumption about love, every hope for self-respect and even a shred of dignity. What dignity is there, after all, in confessing, as Nicole did in her diary, that O.J. started beating her on a street in New York and, in their hotel room, “continued to beat me for hours as I kept crawling for the door.” He kept hitting her while sexually using her, which is rape–because no meaningful consent is possible or plausible in the context of this violence.

Every battered woman’s life has in it many rapes like this one. Sometimes, one complies without the overt violence but in fear of it. Or sometimes, one initiates sex to try to stop or head off a beating. Of course, there are also the so-called good times–when romance overcomes the memory of violence. Both the violation and the complicity make one deeply ashamed. The shame is corrosive. Whatever the batterer left, it attacks. Why would one tell? How can one face it?

Those of us who are not jurors have a moral obligation to listen to Nicole Simpson’s words: to how O.J. Simpson locked her in a wine closet after beating her and watched TV while she begged him to let her out; to how, in a different hotel room, “O.J. threw me against the walls . . . and on the floor. Put bruises on my arm and back. The window scared me. Thought he’d throw me out.” We need to hear how he “threw a fit, chased me, grabbed me, threw me into walls. Threw all my clothes out of the window into the street three floors below. Bruised me.” We need to hear how he stalked her after their divorce. “Everywhere I go,” she told a friend, “he shows up. I really think he is going to kill me.”

We need, especially, to hear her call to a battered women’s shelter five days before her murder. In ruling that call inadmissible, Ito said: “To the man or woman on the street, the relevance and probative value of such evidence is both obvious and compelling . . . . However, the laws and appellate-court decisions that must be applied . . . held otherwise.” The man and woman on the street need to hear what was obvious to her: The foreknowledge that death was stalking her.

We need to believe Nicole’s words to know the meaning of terror–it isn’t a movie of the week–and to face the treason we committed against her life by abandoning her.

When I was being beaten by a shrewd and dangerous man 25 years ago, I was buried alive in silence. I didn’t know that such horror had ever happened to anyone else. The silence was unbreachable and unbearable. Imagine Nicole being buried alive, then dead, in noise–our pro-woman, pro-equality noise; or our pro-family, pro-law-and-order noise. For what it’s worth–to Nicole nothing–the shame of battery is all ours.

Letter from Nicole Brown Simpson to O.J. Simpson

(This letter was introduced in Simpson’s civil trial)

 

O.J. — I think I have to put this all in a letter. Alot of years ago I used to do much better in a letter, I’m gonna try it again now.

I’d like you to keep this letter if we split, so that you’ll always know why we split. I’d also like you to keep it if we stay together, as a reminder.

Right now I am so angry! If I didn’t know that the courts would take Sydney and Justin away from me if I did this I would (expletive) every guy including some that you know just to let you know how it feels.

I wish someone could explain all this to me. I see our marriage as a huge mistake and you don’t.

I knew what went on in our relationship before we got married. I knew after 6 years that all the things I thought were going on — were! All the things I gave in to — all the “I’m sorry for thinking that” “I’m sorry for not believing you” — “I’m sorry for not trusting you.”

I made up with you all the time & even took the blame many times for your cheating. I know this took place because we fought about it alot & even discussed it before we got married with my family and a minister.

OK before the marriage I lived with it & dealt with (illegible) mainly because you finally said that we weren’t married at the time.

I assumed that your recurring nasty attitude & mean streak was to cover up your cheating and a general disrespect for women and a lack of manners!

I remember a long time ago a girlfriend of yours wrote you a letter — she said well you aren’t married yet so let’s get together. Even she had the same idea of marriage as me. She believed that when you marry you wouldn’t be going out anymore — adultery is a very important thing to many people.

It’s one of the 1st 10 things I learned at Sunday school. You said it (illegible) some things you learn at school stick! And the 10 Commandments did!

I wanted to be a wonderful wife!

I believed you that it would finally be “you and me against the world” — that people would be envious or in awe of us because we stuck through it & finally became one a real couple.

I let my guard down — I thought it was finally gonna be you and me — you wanted a baby (so you said) and I wanted a baby — then with each pound you were terrible. You gave me dirty looks of disgust — said mean things to me at times about my appearance walked out on me and lied to me.

I remember one day my mom said “he actually thinks you can have a baby and not get fat.”

I gained 10 to 15 lbs more that I should have with Sydney. Well that’s by the book — Most women gain twice that. It’s not like it was that much — but you made me feel so ugly! I’ve battled 10 lbs up and down the scale since I was 15 — It was no more extra weight than was normal for me to be up — I believe my mom — you thought a baby weighs 7 lbs and the woman should gain 7 lbs. I’d like to finally tell you that that’s not the way it is — And had you read those books I got you on pregnancy you may have known that.

Talk about feeling alone ….

In between Sydney and Justin you say my clothes bothered you — that my shoes were on the floor that I bugged you — Wow that’s so terrible! Try I had a low self esteem because since we got married I felt like the paragraph above.

There was also that time before Justin and after few months Sydney, I felt really good about how I got back into shape and we made out. You beat the holy hell out of me & we lied at the X-ray lab and said I fell off a bike … Remember!??

Great for my self esteem.

There are a number of other instances that I could talk about that made my marriage so wonderful … like the televised Clipper game and going to (illegible) before the game & your 40th birthday party and the week leading up to it. But I don’t like talking about the past It depressed me.

Then came the pregnancy with Justin and oh how wonderful you treated me again — I remember swearing to God and myself that under no circumstances would I let you be in that delivery room.

I hated you so much.

And since Justin birth & the mad New Years Eve beat up.

I just don’t see how our stories compare — I was so bad because I wore sweats and left shoes around and didn’t keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you liked it — or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes.

I just don’t see how that compares to infidelity, wife beating verbal abuse —

I just don’t think everybody goes through this —

And if I wanted to hurt you or had it in me to be anything like the person you are — I would have done so after the (illegible) incident. But I didn’t even do it then. I called the cops to save my life whether you believe it or not. But I didn’t pursue anything after that — I didn’t prosecute, I didn’t call the press and I didn’t make a big charade out of it. I waited for it to die down and asked for it to. But I’ve never loved you since or been the same.

It made me take a look at my life with you — my wonderful life with the superstar that wonderful man, O.J. Simpson the father of my kids — that husband of that terribly insecure (illegible) — the girl with no self esteem (illegible) of worth — she must be (illegible) those things to with a guy like that.

It certainly doesn’t take a strong person to be with a guy like that and certainly no one would be envious of that life.

I agree after we married things changed — we couldn’t have house full of people like I used to have over and barbeque for, because I had other responsibilities. I didn’t want to go to alot of events and I’d back down at the last minute on functions & trips I admit I’m sorry —

I just believe that a relationship is based on trust — and the last time I trusted you was at our wedding ceremony. It’s just so hard for me to trust you again. Even though you say you’re a different guy. That O.J. Simpson guy brought me alot of pain heartache — I tried so hard with him — I wanted so to be a good wife. But he never gave me a chance.

Note: O.J. Simpson testified he never received this letter.

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism

The University of North Carolina Press/Chapel Hill and London
By Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.

 

Below is an edited excerpt from Chapter 22 of Robert Jay Lifton’s book,”Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of ‘Brainwashing’ in China.” Lifton, a psychiatrist and distinguished professor at the City University of New York, has studied the psychology of extremism for decades. He testified at the 1976 bank robbery trial of Patty Hearst about the theory of “coercive persuasion.” First published in 1961, his book was reprinted in 1989 by the University of North Carolina Press. Scroll down to the read the chapter.

 

 


Chapter 22: Ideological Totalism

Topics

Milieu Control
Mystical Manipulation
The Demand for Purity
The Cult of Confession
The “Sacred Science”
Loading the Language
Doctrine Over Person
The Dispensing of Existence

A discussion of what is most central in the thought reform environment can lead us to a more general consideration of the psychology of human zealotry. For in identifying, on the basis of this study of thought reform, features common to all expressions of ideological totalism, I wish to suggest a set of criteria against which any environment may be judged – a basis for answering the ever-recurring question: “Isn’t this just like ‘brainwashing’?”

These criteria consist of eight psychological themes which are predominant within the social field of the thought reform milieu. Each has a totalistic quality; each depend upon an equally absolute philosophical assumption; and each mobilizes certain individual emotional tendencies, mostly of a polarizing nature. In combination they create an atmosphere which may temporarily energize or exhilarate, but which at the same time poses the gravest of human threats.

Milieu Control

The most basic feature of the thought reform environment, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. Through this milieu control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual’s communication with the outside (all that he sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses), but also – in its penetration of his inner life – over what we may speak of as his communication with himself. It creates an atmosphere uncomfortably reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.

Such milieu control never succeeds in becoming absolute, and its own human apparatus can – when permeated by outside information – become subject to discordant “noise” beyond that of any mechanical apparatus. To totalist administrators, however, such occurrences are no more than evidences of “incorrect” use of the apparatus. For they look upon milieu control as a just and necessary policy, one which need not be kept secret: thought reform participants may be in doubt as to who is telling what to whom, but the fact that extensive information about everyone is being conveyed to the authorities is always known. At the center of this self-justification is their assumption of omniscience, their conviction that reality is their exclusive possession. Having experienced the impact of what they consider to be an ultimate truth (and having the need to dispel any possible inner doubts of their own), they consider it their duty to create an environment containing no more and no less than this “truth.” In order to be the engineers of the human soul, they must first bring it under full observational control.

Mystical Manipulation

The inevitable next step after milieu control is extensive personal manipulation. This manipulation assumes a no-holds-barred character, and uses every possible device at the milieu’s command, no matter how bizarre or painful. Initiated from above, it seeks to provoke specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that these will appear to have arisen spontaneously, directed as it is by an ostensibly omniscient group, must assume, for the manipulated, a near-mystical quality.

Ideological totalists do not pursue this approach solely for the purpose of maintaining a sense of power over others. Rather they are impelled by a special kind of mystique which not only justifies such manipulations, but makes them mandatory. Included in this mystique is a sense of “higher purpose,” of having “directly perceived some imminent law of social development,” and of being themselves the vanguard of this development. By thus becoming the instruments of their own mystique, they create a mystical aura around the manipulating institutions – the Party, the Government, the Organization. They are the agents “chosen” (by history, by God, or by some other supernatural force) to carry out the “mystical imperative,” the pursuit of which must supersede all considerations of decency or of immediate human welfare. Similarly, any thought or action which questions the higher purpose is considered to be stimulated by a lower purpose, to be backward, selfish, and petty in the face of the great, overriding mission. This same mystical imperative produces the apparent extremes of idealism and cynicism which occur in connection with the manipulations of any totalist environment: even those actions which seem cynical in the extreme can be seen as having ultimate relationship to the “higher purpose.”

At the level of the individual person, the psychological responses to this manipulative approach revolve about the basic polarity of trust and mistrust. One is asked to accept these manipulations on a basis of ultimate trust (or faith): “like a child in the arms of its mother.” He who trusts in this degree can experience the manipulations within the idiom of the mystique behind them: that is, he may welcome their mysteriousness, find pleasure in their pain, and feel them to be necessary for the fulfillment of the “higher purpose” which he endorses as his own. But such elemental trust is difficult to maintain; and even the strongest can be dissipated by constant manipulation.

When trust gives way to mistrust (or when trust has never existed) the higher purpose cannot serve as adequate emotional sustenance. The individual then responds to the manipulations through developing what I shall call the psychology of the pawn. Feeling himself unable to escape from forces more powerful than himself, he subordinates everything to adapting himself to them. He becomes sensitive to all kinds of cues, expert at anticipating environmental pressures, and skillful in riding them in such a way that his psychological energies merge with the tide rather than turn painfully against himself. This requires that he participate actively in the manipulation of others, as well as in the endless round of betrayals and self-betrayals which are required.

But whatever his response – whether he is cheerful in the face of being manipulated, deeply resentful, or feels a combination of both – he has been deprived of the opportunity to exercise his capacities for self-expression and independent action.

 

The Demand for Purity

In the thought reform milieu, as in all situations of ideological totalism, the experiential world is sharply divided into the pure and the impure, into the absolutely good and the absolutely evil. The good and the pure are of course those ideas, feelings, and actions which are consistent with the totalist ideology and policy; anything else is apt to be relegated to the bad and the impure. Nothing human is immune from the flood of stern moral judgments. All “taints” and “poisons” which contribute to the existing state of impurity must be searched out and eliminated.

The philosophical assumption underlying this demand is that absolute purity is attainable, and that anything done to anyone in the name of this purity is ultimately moral. In actual practice, however, no one is really expected to achieve such perfection. Nor can this paradox be dismissed as merely a means of establishing a high standard to which all can aspire. Thought reform bears witness to its more malignant consequences: for by defining and manipulating the criteria of purity, and then by conducting an all-out war upon impurity, the ideological totalists create a narrow world of guilt and shame. This is perpetuated by an ethos of continuous reform, a demand that one strive permanently and painfully for something which not only does not exist but is in fact alien to the human condition.

At the level of the relationship between individual and environment, the demand for purity creates what we may term a guilty milieu and a shaming milieu. Since each man’s impurities are deemed sinful and potentially harmful to himself and to others, he is, so to speak, expected to expect punishment – which results in a relationship of guilt and his environment. Similarly, when he fails to meet the prevailing standards in casting out such impurities, he is expected to expect humiliation and ostracism – thus establishing a relationship of shame with his milieu. Moreover, the sense of guilt and the sense of shame become highly-valued: they are preferred forms of communication, objects of public competition, and the basis for eventual bonds between the individual and his totalist accusers. One may attempt to simulate them for a while, but the subterfuge is likely to be detected, and it is safer to experience them genuinely.

People vary greatly in their susceptibilities to guilt and shame, depending upon patterns developed early in life. But since guilt and shame are basic to human existence, this variation can be no more than a matter of degree. Each person is made vulnerable through his profound inner sensitivities to his own limitations and to his unfulfilled potential; in other words, each is made vulnerable through his existential guilt. Since ideological totalists become the ultimate judges of good and evil within their world, they are able to use these universal tendencies toward guilt and shame as emotional levers for their controlling and manipulative influences. They become the arbiters of existential guilt, authorities without limit in dealing with others’ limitations. And their power is nowhere more evident than in their capacity to “forgive.”

The individual thus comes to apply the same totalist polarization of good and evil to his judgments of his own character: he tends to imbue certain aspects of himself with excessive virtue, and condemn even more excessively other personal qualities – all according to their ideological standing. He must also look upon his impurities as originating from outside influences – that is, from the ever-threatening world beyond the closed, totalist ken. Therefore, one of his best way to relieve himself of some of his burden of guilt is to denounce, continuously and hostilely, these same outside influences. The more guilty he feels, the greater his hatred, and the more threatening they seem. In this manner, the universal psychological tendency toward “projection” is nourished and institutionalized, leading to mass hatreds, purges of heretics, and to political and religious holy wars. Moreover, once an individual person has experienced the totalist polarization of good and evil, he has great difficulty in regaining a more balanced inner sensitivity to the complexities of human morality. For these is no emotional bondage greater than that of the man whose entire guilt potential – neurotic and existential – has become the property of ideological totalists.

 

The Cult of Confession

Closely related to the demand for absolute purity is an obsession with personal confession. Confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal, and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself. There is the demand that one confess to crimes one has not committed, to sinfulness that is artificially induced, in the name of a cure that is arbitrarily imposed. Such demands are made possible not only by the ubiquitous human tendencies toward guilt and shame but also by the need to give expression to these tendencies. In totalist hands, confession becomes a means of exploiting, rather than offering solace for, these vulnerabilities.

The totalist confession takes on a number of special meanings. It is first a vehicle for the kind of personal purification which we have just discussed, a means of maintaining a perpetual inner emptying or psychological purge of impurity; this purging milieu enhances the totalists’ hold upon existential guilt. Second, it is an act of symbolic self-surrender, the expression of the merging of individual and environment. Third, it is a means of maintaining an ethos of total exposure – a policy of making public (or at least known to the Organization) everything possible about the life experiences, thoughts, and passions of each individual, and especially those elements which might be regarded as derogatory.

The assumption underlying total exposure (besides those which relate to the demand for purity) is the environment’s claim to total ownership of each individual self within it. Private ownership of the mind and its products – of imagination or of memory – becomes highly immoral. The accompanying rationale (or rationalization) is familiar, the milieu has attained such a perfect state of enlightenment that any individual retention of ideas or emotions has become anachronistic.

The cult of confession can offer the individual person meaningful psychological satisfactions in the continuing opportunity for emotional catharsis and for relief of suppressed guilt feelings, especially insofar as these are associated with self-punitive tendencies to get pleasure from personal degradation. More than this, the sharing of confession enthusiasms can create an orgiastic sense of “oneness,” of the most intense intimacy with fellow confessors and of the dissolution of self into the great flow of the Movement. And there is also, at least initially, the possibility of genuine self-revelation and of self-betterment through the recognition that “the thing that has been exposed is what I am.”

But as totalist pressures turn confession into recurrent command performances, the element of histrionic public display takes precedence over genuine inner experience. Each man becomes concerned with the effectiveness of his personal performance, and this performance sometimes comes to serve the function of evading the very emotions and ideas about which one feels most guilty – confirming the statement by one of Camus’ characters that “authors of confessions write especially to avoid confessing, to tell nothing of what they know.” The difficulty, of course, lies in the inevitable confusion which takes place between the actor’s method and his separate personal reality, between the performer and the “real me.”

In this sense, the cult of confession has effects quite the reverse of its ideal of total exposure: rather than eliminating personal secrets, it increases and intensifies them. In any situation the personal secret has two important elements: first, guilty and shameful ideas which one wishes to suppress in order to prevent their becoming known by others or their becoming too prominent in one’s own awareness; and second, representations of parts of oneself too precious to be expressed except when alone or when involved in special loving relationships formed around this shared secret world. Personal secrets are always maintained in opposition to inner pressures toward self-exposure. The totalist milieu makes contact with these inner pressures through its own obsession with the expose and the unmasking process. As a result old secrets are revived and new ones proliferate; the latter frequently consist of resentments toward or doubts about the Movement, or else are related to aspects of identity still existing outside of the prescribed ideological sphere. Each person becomes caught up in a continuous conflict over which secrets to preserve and which to surrender, over ways to reveal lesser secrets in order to protect more important ones; his own boundaries between the secret and the known, between the public and the private, become blurred. And around one secret, or a complex of secrets, there may revolve an ultimate inner struggle between resistance and self-surrender.

Finally, the cult of confession makes it virtually impossible to attain a reasonable balance between worth and humility. The enthusiastic and aggressive confessor becomes like Camus’ character whose perpetual confession is his means of judging others: “[I]…practice the profession of penitent to be able to end up as a judge…the more I accuse myself, the more I have a right to judge you.” The identity of the “judge-penitent” thus becomes a vehicle for taking on some of the environment’s arrogance and sense of omnipotence. Yet even this shared omnipotence cannot protect him from the opposite (but not unrelated) feelings of humiliation and weakness, feelings especially prevalent among those who remain more the enforced penitent than the all-powerful judge.

 

The “Sacred Science”

The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. This sacredness is evident in the prohibition (whether or not explicit) against the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word itself. While thus transcending ordinary concerns of logic, however, the milieu at the same time makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute “scientific” precision. Thus the ultimate moral vision becomes an ultimate science; and the man who dares to criticize it, or to harbor even unspoken alternative ideas, becomes not only immoral and irreverent, but also “unscientific.” In this way, the philosopher kings of modern ideological totalism reinforce their authority by claiming to share in the rich and respected heritage of natural science.

The assumption here is not so much that man can be God, but rather that man’s ideas can be God: that an absolute science of ideas (and implicitly, an absolute science of man) exists, or is at least very close to being attained; that this science can be combined with an equally absolute body of moral principles; and that the resulting doctrine is true for all men at all times. Although no ideology goes quite this far in overt statement, such assumptions are implicit in totalist practice.

At the level of the individual, the totalist sacred science can offer much comfort and security. Its appeal lies in its seeming unification of the mystical and the logical modes of experience (in psychoanalytic terms, of the primary and secondary thought processes). For within the framework of the sacred science, and sweeping, non-rational “insights.” Since the distinction between the logical and the mystical is, to begin with, artificial and man-made, an opportunity for transcending it can create an extremely intense feeling of truth. But the posture of unquestioning faith – both rationally and non-rationally derived – is not easy to sustain, especially if one discovers that the world of experience is not nearly as absolute as the sacred science claims it to be.

Yet so strong a hold can the sacred science achieve over his mental processes that if one begins to feel himself attracted to ideas which either contradict or ignore it, he may become guilty and afraid. His quest for knowledge is consequently hampered, since in the name of science he is prevented from engaging in the receptive search for truth which characterizes the genuinely scientific approach. And his position is made more difficult by the absence, in a totalist environment, of any distinction between the sacred and the profane: there is no thought or action which cannot be related to the sacred science. To be sure, one can usually find areas of experience outside its immediate authority; but during periods of maximum totalist activity (like thought reform) any such areas are cut off, and there is virtually no escape from the milieu’s ever-pressing edicts and demands. Whatever combination of continued adherence, inner resistance, or compromise co-existence the individual person adopts toward this blend of counterfeit science and back-door religion, it represents another continuous pressure toward personal closure, toward avoiding, rather than grappling with, the kinds of knowledge and experience necessary for genuine self-expression and for creative development.

 

Loading the Language

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis. In [Chinese Communist] thought reform, for instance, the phrase “bourgeois mentality” is used to encompass and critically dismiss ordinarily troublesome concerns like the quest for individual expression, the exploration of alternative ideas, and the search for perspective and balance in political judgments. And in addition to their function as interpretive shortcuts, these cliches become what Richard Weaver has called “ultimate terms” : either “god terms,” representative of ultimate good; or “devil terms,” representative of ultimate evil. In [Chinese Communist] thought reform, “progress,” “progressive,” “liberation,” “proletarian standpoints” and “the dialectic of history” fall into the former category; “capitalist,” “imperialist,” “exploiting classes,” and “bourgeois” (mentality, liberalism, morality, superstition, greed) of course fall into the latter. Totalist language then, is repetitiously centered on all-encompassing jargon, prematurely abstract, highly categorical, relentlessly judging, and to anyone but its most devoted advocate, deadly dull: in Lionel Trilling’s phrase, “the language of nonthought.”

To be sure, this kind of language exists to some degree within any cultural or organizational group, and all systems of belief depend upon it. It is in part an expression of unity and exclusiveness: as Edward Sapir put it, “‘He talks like us’ is equivalent to saying ‘He is one of us.'” The loading is much more extreme in ideological totalism, however, since the jargon expresses the claimed certitudes of the sacred science. Also involved is an underlying assumption that language – like all other human products – can be owned and operated by the Movement. No compunctions are felt about manipulating or loading it in any fashion; the only consideration is its usefulness to the cause.

For an individual person, the effect of the language of ideological totalism can be summed up in one word: constriction. He is, so to speak, linguistically deprived; and since language is so central to all human experience, his capacities for thinking and feeling are immensely narrowed. This is what Hu meant when he said, “using the same pattern of words for so long…you feel chained.” Actually, not everyone exposed feels chained, but in effect everyone is profoundly confined by these verbal fetters. As in other aspects of totalism, this loading may provide an initial sense of insight and security, eventually followed by uneasiness. This uneasiness may result in a retreat into a rigid orthodoxy in which an individual shouts the ideological jargon all the louder in order to demonstrate his conformity, hide his own dilemma and his despair, and protect himself from the fear and guilt he would feel should he attempt to use words and phrases other than the correct ones. Or else he may adapt a complex pattern of inner division, and dutifully produce the expected cliché’s in public performances while in his private moments he searches for more meaningful avenues of expression. Either way, his imagination becomes increasingly dissociated from his actual life experiences and may tend to atrophy from disuse.

 

Doctrine Over Person

This sterile language reflects characteristic feature of ideological totalism: the subordination of human experience to the claims of doctrine. This primacy of doctrine over person is evident in the continual shift between experience itself and the highly abstract interpretation of such experience – between genuine feelings and spurious cataloguing of feelings. It has much to do with the peculiar aura of half-reality which totalist environment seems, at least to the outsider, to possess.

The inspiriting force of such myths cannot be denied; nor can one ignore their capacity for mischief. For when the myth becomes fused with the totalist sacred science, the resulting “logic” can be so compelling and coercive that it simply replaces the realities of individual experience. Consequently, past historical events are retrospectively altered, wholly rewritten, or ignored, to make them consistent with the doctrinal logic. This alteration becomes especially malignant when its distortions are imposed upon individual memory as occurred in the false confession extracted during thought reform.

The same doctrinal primacy prevails in the totalist approach to changing people: the demand that character and identity be reshaped, not in accordance with one’s special nature or potentialities, but rather to fit the rigid contours of the doctrinal mold. The human is thus subjected to the ahuman. And in this manner, the totalists, as Camus phrases it, “put an abstract idea above human life, even if they call it history, to which they themselves have submitted in advance and to which they will decide arbitrarily, to submit everyone else as well.”

The underlying assumption is that the doctrine – including its mythological elements – is ultimately more valid, true, and real than is any aspect of actual human character or human experience. Thus, even when circumstances require that a totalist movement follow a course of action in conflict with or outside of the doctrine, there exists what Benjamin Schwartz described as a “will to orthodoxy” which requires an elaborate facade of new rationalizations designed to demonstrate the unerring consistency of the doctrine and the unfailing foresight which it provides. But its greater importance lies in more hidden manifestations, particularly the totalists’ pattern of imposing their doctrine-dominated remolding upon people in order to seek confirmation of (and again, dispel their own doubts about) this same doctrine. Rather than modify the myth in accordance with experience, the will to orthodoxy requires instead that men be modified in order to reaffirm the myth.

The individual person who finds himself under such doctrine-dominated pressure to change is thrust into an intense struggle with his own sense of integrity, a struggle which takes place in relation to polarized feelings of sincerity and insincerity. In a totalist environment, absolute “sincerity” is demanded; and the major criterion for sincerity is likely to be one’s degree of doctrinal compliance – both in regard to belief and to direction of personal change. Yet there is always the possibility of retaining an alternative version of sincerity (and of reality), the capacity to imagine a different kind of existence and another form of sincere commitment. These alternative visions depend upon such things as the strength of previous identity, the penetration of the milieu by outside ideas, and the retained capacity for eventual individual renewal. The totalist environment, however, counters such “deviant” tendencies with the accusation that they stem entirely from personal “problems” (“thought problems” or “ideological problems”) derived from untoward earlier influences. The outcome will depend largely upon how much genuine relevance the doctrine has for the individual emotional predicament. And even for those to whom it seems totally appealing, the exuberant sense of well-being it temporarily affords may be more a “delusion of wholeness” than an expression of true and lasting inner harmony.

 

The Dispensing of Existence

The totalist environment draws a sharp line between those whose right to existence can be recognized, and those who possess no such right.

Are not men presumtuous to appoint themselves the dispensers of human existence? Surely this is a flagrant expression of what the Greeks called hubris, of arrogant man making himself God. Yet one underlying assumption makes this arrogance mandatory: the conviction that there is just one path to true existence, just one valid mode of being, and that all others are perforce invalid and false. Totalists thus feel themselves compelled to destroy all possibilities of false existence as a means of furthering the great plan of true existence to which they are committed.

For the individual, the polar emotional conflict is the ultimate existential one of “being versus nothingness.” He is likely to be drawn to a conversion experience, which he sees as the only means of attaining a path of existence for the future. The totalist environment – even when it does not resort to physical abuse – thus stimulates in everyone a fear of extinction or annihilation. A person can overcome this fear and find (in martin Buber’s term) “confirmation,” not in his individual relationships, but only from the fount of all existence, the totalist Organization. Existence comes to depend upon creed (I believe, therefore I am), upon submission (I obey, therefore I am) and beyond these, upon a sense of total merger with the ideological movement. Ultimately of course one compromises and combines the totalist “confirmation” with independent elements of personal identity; but one is ever made aware that, should he stray too far along this “erroneous path,” his right to existence may be withdrawn.

The more clearly an environment expresses these eight psychological themes, the greater its resemblance to ideological totalism; and the more it utilizes such totalist devices to change people, the greater its resemblance to thought reform. But facile comparisons can be misleading. No milieu ever achieves complete totalism, and many relatively moderate environments show some signs of it. Moreover, totalism tends to be recurrent rather than continuous. But if totalism has at any time been prominent in the movement, there is always the possibility of its reappearance, even after long periods of relative moderation.

Then, too, some environments come perilously close to totalism but at the same time keep alternative paths open; this combination can offer unusual opportunities for achieving intellectual and emotional depth. And even the most full-blown totalist milieu can provide (more or less despite itself) a valuable and enlarging life experience – if the man exposed has both the opportunity to leave the extreme environment and the inner capacity to absorb and make inner use of the totalist pressures.

Also, ideological totalism itself may offer a man an intense peak experience: a sense of transcending all that is ordinary and prosaic, of freeing himself from the encumbrances of human ambivalence, of entering a sphere of truth, reality, and sincerity beyond any he had ever known or even imagined. But these peak experiences, carry a great potential for rebound, and for equally intense opposition to the very things which initially seem so liberating. Such imposed peak experiences – as contrasted with those more freely and privately arrived at by great religious leaders and mystics – are essentially experiences of personal closure. Rather than stimulating greater receptivity and “openness to the world,” they encourage a backward step into some form of “embeddedness” – a retreat into doctrinal patterns more characteristic (at least at this stage of human history) of the child than of the individuated adult.

And if no peak experience occurs, ideological totalism does even greater violence to the human potential: it evokes destructive emotions, produces intellectual and psychological constrictions, and deprives men of all that is most subtle and imaginative – under the false promise of eliminating those very imperfections and ambivalences which help to define the human condition. This combination of personal closure, self-destructiveness, and hostility toward outsiders leads to the dangerous group excesses so characteristic of ideological totalism in any form. It also mobilizes extremist tendencies in those outsiders under attack, thus creating a vicious circle of totalism.

What is the source of ideological totalism? How do these extremist emotional patterns originate? These questions raise the most crucial and the most difficult of human problems. Behind ideological totalism lies the ever-present human quest for the omnipotent guide – for the supernatural force, political party, philosophical ideas, great leader, or precise science – that will bring ultimate solidarity to all men and eliminate the terror of death and nothingness. This quest is evident in the mythologies, religions, and histories of all nations, as well as in every individual life. The degree of individual totalism involved depends greatly upon factors in one’s personal history: early lack of trust, extreme environmental chaos, total domination by a parent or parent-representative, intolerable burdens of guilt, and severe crises of identity. Thus an early sense of confusion and dislocation, or an early experience of unusually intense family milieu control, can produce later a complete intolerance for confusion and dislocation, and a longing for the reinstatement of milieu control. But these things are in some measure part of every childhood experience; and therefore the potential for totalism is a continuum from which no one entirely escapes, and in relationship to which no two people are exactly the same.

It may be that the capacity for totalism is most fundamentally a product of human childhood itself, of the prolonged period of helplessness and dependency through which each of us must pass. Limited as he is, the infant has no choice but to imbue his first nurturing authorities – his parents – with an exaggerated omnipotence, until the time he is himself capable of some degree of independent action and judgment. And even as he develops into the child and the adolescent, he continues to require many of the all-or-none polarities of totalism as terms with which to define his intellectual, emotional, and moral worlds. Under favorable circumstances (that is, when family and culture encourage individuation) these requirements can be replaced by more flexible and moderate tendencies; but they never entirely disappear.

During adult life, individual totalism takes on new contours as it becomes associated with new ideological interests. It may become part of the configuration of personal emotions, messianic ideas, and organized mass movement which I have described as ideological totalism. When it does, we cannot speak of it as simply as ideological regression. It is partly this, but it is also something more: a new form of adult embeddedness, originating in patterns of security-seeking carried over from childhood, but with qualities of ideas and aspirations that are specifically adult. During periods of cultural crisis and of rapid historical change, the totalist quest for the omnipotent guide leads men to seek to become that guide.

Totalism, then, is a widespread phenomenon, but it is not the only approach to re-education. We can best use our knowledge of it by applying its criteria to familiar processes in our own cultural tradition and in our own country.

 

Influence

By Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D.

See Dr. Robert Cialdina’s Web site “Influence at Work”

Introduction

Robert Cialdini is a Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University and has spent many years devoted to the scientific investigation and research of persuasion techniques. His book “Influence” has become a classic. Within his book Cialdini lists six basic social and psychological principles that form the foundation for successful strategies used to achieve influence.

Those six principles are:

Rule of Reciprocity

According to sociologists and anthropologists, one of the most widespread and basic norms of human culture is embodied in the rule of reciprocity. This rule requires that one person try to repay what another person has provided. By obligating the recipient to an act of repayment in the future–the rule for reciprocation allows one individual to give something to another with the confidence that it is not being lost.

This sense of future obligation according to the rule makes possible the development of various kinds of continuing relationships, transactions, and exchanges that are beneficial to society. Consequently, virtually all members of society are trained from childhood to abide by this rule or suffer serious social disapproval.

The decision to comply with someone’s request is frequently based upon the Rule of Reciprocity. Again, a possible and profitable tactic to gain probable compliance would be to give something to someone before asking for a favor in return.

The opportunity to exploit this tactic is due to three characteristics of the Rule of Reciprocity:

  1. The rule is extremely powerful, often overwhelming the influence of other factors that normally determine compliance with a request.
  2. The rule applies even to uninvited first favors, which reduces our ability to decide whom we wish to owe and putting the choice in the hands of others
  3. The rule can spur unequal exchanges. That is–to be rid of the uncomfortable feeling of indebtedness, an individual will often agree to a request for a substantially larger favor, than the one he or she first received.

Another way in which the Rule of Reciprocity can increase compliance involves a simple variation on the basic theme: instead of providing a favor first that stimulates a returned favor, an individual can make instead an initial concession–that stimulates a return concession.

One compliance procedure, called the “rejection-then-retreat technique”, or door-in-the-face technique, relies heavily on the pressure to reciprocate concessions. By starting with an extreme request that is sure to be rejected, the requester can then profitably retreat to a smaller request–the one that was desired all along. This request is likely to now be accepted because it appears to be a concession. Research indicates, that aside from increasing the likelihood that a person will say yes to a request–the rejection-then-retreat technique also increases the likelihood that the person will carry out the request a will agree to future requests.

The best defense against manipulation by the use of the Rule of Reciprocity to gain compliance is not the total rejection of initial offers by others. But rather, accepting initial favors or concessions in good faith, while also remaining prepared to see through them as tricks–should they later be proven so. Once they are seen in this way, there is no longer a need to feel the necessity to respond with a favor or concession.

Commitment and Consistency

People have a desire to look consistent through their words, beliefs, attitudes and deeds and this tendency is supported or fed from three sources:

  1. Good personal consistency is highly valued by society.
  2. Consistent conduct provides a beneficial approach to daily life.
  3. A consistent orientation affords a valuable shortcut through the complexity of modern existence. That is– by being consistent with earlier decisions we can reduce the need to process all the relevant information in future similar situations. Instead, one merely needs to recall the earlier decision and respond consistently.

The key to using the principles of Commitment and Consistency to manipulate people is held within the initial commitment. That is–after making a commitment, taking a stand or position, people are more willing to agree to requests that are consistent with their prior commitment. Many compliance professionals will try to induce others to take an initial position that is consistent with a behavior they will later request.

Commitments are most effective when they are active, public, effortful, and viewed as internally motivated and not coerced. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand. The drive to be and look consistent constitutes a highly potent tool of social influence, often causing people to act in ways that are clearly contrary to their own best interests.

Commitment decisions, even erroneous ones, have a tendency to be self-perpetuating–they often “grow their own legs.” That is–those involved may add new reasons and justifications to support the wisdom of commitments they have already made. As a consequence, some commitments remain in effect long after the conditions that spurred them have changed. This phenomenon explains the effectiveness of certain deceptive compliance practices.

To recognize and resist the undue influence of consistency pressures upon our compliance decisions–we can listen for signals coming from two places within us–our stomach or “gut reaction” and our heart.

  • A bad feeling in the pit of the stomach may appear when we realize that we are being pushed by commitment and consistency pressures to agree to requests we know we don’t want to perform.
  • Our heart may bother us when it is not clear that an initial commitment was right.

At such points it is meaningful to ask a crucial question, “Knowing what I know now, if I could go back, would I have made the same commitment?”

Social Proof

One means used to determine what is correct is to find out what others believe is correct. People often view a behavior as more correct in a given situation–to the degree that we see others performing it.

This principle of Social Proof can be used to stimulate a person’s compliance with a request by informing him or her that many other individuals, perhaps some that are role models, are or have observed this behavior. This tool of influence provides a shortcut for determining how to behave. But at the same time it can make those involved with using this social shortcut–vulnerable to the manipulations of others who seek to exploit such influence through such things as seminars, group introduction dinners, retreats etc. Group members may then provide the models for the behavior that each group plans to produce in its potential new members.

Social proof is most influential under two conditions:

  1. Uncertainty–when people are unsure and the situation is ambiguous they are more likely to observe the behavior of others and to accept that behavior as correct
  2. Similarity–people are more inclined to follow the lead of others who are similar.

Some recommendations on how to reduce susceptibility to contrived social proofs would include a greater sensitivity to clearly counterfeit evidence. That is–what others are doing and their behavior should not form a sole basis for decision-making.

Liking

People prefer to say yes to individuals they know and like. This simple rule helps to understand how Liking can create influence and how compliance professionals may emphasize certain factors and/or attributes to increase their overall attractiveness and subsequent effectiveness. Compliance practitioners may regularly use several factors.

Physical attractiveness–is one feature of a person that often may help to create some influence. Although it has long been suspected that physical beauty provides an advantage in social interaction, research indicates that this advantage may be greater than once supposed. Physical attractiveness seems to engender a “halo” effect that extends to favorable impressions of other traits such as talent, kindness, and intelligence. As a result, attractive people are more persuasive both in terms of getting what they request and in changing others’ attitudes.

Similarity–is a second factor that influences both Liking and compliance. That is–we like people who are like us and are more willing to say yes to their requests, often without much critical consideration.

Praise–is another factor that produces Liking, though this can sometimes backfire when they are crudely transparent. But generally compliments most often enhance liking and can be used as a means to gain compliance.

Increased familiarity–through repeated contact with a person or thing is yet another factor that normally facilitates Liking. But this holds true principally when that contact takes place under positive rather than negative circumstances. One positive circumstance that may works well is mutual and successful cooperation.

A final factor linked to Liking is often association. By associating with products or positive things–those who seek influence frequently share in a halo effect by association. Other individuals as well appear to recognize the positive effect of simply associating themselves with favorable events and distancing themselves from unfavorable ones.

A potentially effective response that reduces vulnerability to the undue influence of Liking upon decision-making requires a recognition of how Liking and its attending factors mayimpact our impression of someone making requests and soliciting important decisions. That is– recognizing how someone making requests may do inordinately well under certain circumstances–should cause us to step back from some social interaction and objectively separate the requester from his or her offer or request. We should make decisions, commitments and offer compliance based upon the actual merits of the offer or request.

Authority

In the seminal studies and research conducted by Milgram regarding obedience there is evidence of the strong pressure within our society for compliance when requested by an authority figure. The strength of this tendency to obey legitimate authorities is derived from the systematic socialization practices designed to instill in society the perception that such obedience constitutes correct conduct. Additionally, it is also frequently adaptive to obey the dictates of genuine authorities because such individuals usually possess high levels of knowledge, wisdom, and power. For these reasons, deference to authorities can occur in a mindless fashion as a kind of decision-making shortcut. When reacting to authority in an automatic fashion there is a tendency to often do so in response to the mere symbols of authority rather than to its substance.

Three types of symbols have been demonstrated through research as effective in this regard:

  1. Titles
  2. Clothing
  3. Automobiles.

In separate studies investigating the influence of these symbols–individuals that possessed one or another of these symbols, even without other legitimizing credentials, were accorded more deference or obedience by those they encountered. Moreover, in each instance, those individuals who deferred and/or obeyed these individuals underestimated the effect of authority pressures upon their behavior.

Asking two questions can attain a meaningful defense against the detrimental effects of undue influence gained through authority.

  1. Is this authority truly an expert?
  2. How truthful can we expect this expert to be?

The first question directs our attention away from symbols and toward actual evidence for authority status. The second advises us to consider not just the expert’s knowledge in the situation, but also his or her trustworthiness. With regard to this second consideration, we should be alert to the trust-enhancing tactic in which a communicator may first provide some mildly negative information about himself or herself. This can be seen as a strategy to create the perception of honesty–making subsequent information seem more credible to those listening.

Scarcity

According to the Principle of Scarcity–people assign more value to opportunities when they are less available. The use of this principle for profit can be seen in such high-pressure sales techniques as only a “limited number” now available and a “deadline” set for an offer. Such tactics attempt to persuade people that number and/or time restrict access to what is offered. The scarcity principle holds true for two reasons:

  1. Things difficult to attain are typically more valuable. And the availability of an item or experience can serve as a shortcut clue or cue to its quality.
  2. When something becomes less accessible, the freedom to have it may be lost.

According to psychological reactance theory, people respond to the loss of freedom by wanting to have it more. This includes the freedom to have certain goods and services. As a motivator, psychological reactance is present throughout the great majority of a person’s life span. However, it is especially evident at a pair of ages: “the terrible twos” and the teenage years. Both of these periods are characterized by an emerging sense of individuality, which brings to prominence such issues as control, individual rights, and freedoms. People at these ages are especially sensitive to restrictions.

In addition to its effect on the valuation of commodities, the Principle of Scarcity also applies to the way that information is evaluated. Research indicates that the act of limiting access to a message may cause individuals to want it more and to become increasingly favorable to it. The latter of these findings, that limited information is more persuasive–seems the most interesting. In the case of censorship, this effect occurs even when the message has not been received. When a message has been received, it is more effective if it is perceived to consist of some type of exclusive information.

The scarcity principle is more likely to hold true under two optimizing conditions

  1. Scarce items are heightened in value when they are newly scarce. That is things have higher value when they have become recently restricted–more than those than those things that were restricted all along have.
  2. People are most attracted to scarce resources when they compete with others for them.

It is difficult to prepare ourselves cognitively against scarcity pressures because they have an emotional quality that makes thinking difficult. In defense, we might attempt to be alert regarding the sudden rush of emotions in situations involving scarcity. Perhaps this awareness may allow us to remain calm and take steps to assess the merits of an opportunity in terms of why we really want and objectively need.

This is based upon the summary notes within the book–Influence. By Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. (Quill, NY, 1984 (Revised 1993)

‘Wildest Dreams’ do come true

Oprah, Tina bask in kinship during tour and interview.

USA Today/May 15, 1997

By Edna Gundersen

Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey is stalking Tina Turner as the Acid Queen continues her Wildest Dreams tour around the USA. After cheering at the May 1 opener, Winfrey stayed in Houston to air a live segment fulfilling a few of the wildest dreams women expressed in 80,000 letters. Now she’s trailing the tour to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where Thursday night Turner performs the third of five concerts at the Greek Theater. Turner will appear on Winfrey’s show Friday. USA TODAY reporter Edna Gundersen caught up with the two stars during a break from the tour.

Houston — Publicists, managers and hangers-on bustle in the hallway as two of the nation’s most powerful and charismatic self-made women huddle behind closed doors.

“Girlfriend, check out these shoes!”

Oprah Winfrey, crouched on the floor of Tina Turner’s dressing room at Woodlands Pavilion, is marveling at a long row of identical black spike heels. Turner, in snug cream leather pants and loafers, erupts in giggles and sinks into a sofa to nibble on celery.

“I am her biggest groupie,” confesses Winfrey, sporting a shaggy Tina-like wig that Turner suggests needs major styling. “This is my first Tina concert ever. Somebody has to hold me back!” The talk show queen is stalking the Acid Queen for both cheap thrills and a noble purpose. Tina’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show Feb. 21 inspired a series of shows honoring accomplished women. After cheering at the May 1 opener of Turner’s “Wildest Dreams” tour, Winfrey, 43, stayed in Houston to air a live segment fulfilling a few of the wildest dreams women expressed in 80,000 letters. She trailed the tour to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where Thursday night Turner, 57, performs the third of five concerts at the Greek Theater. She’ll appear on Winfrey’s show Friday.

“It’s exactly the way I imagined it,” Winfrey says after she and her TV crew observe backstage prep. “Chaos, fun. If you didn’t love this work, you would be tired all the time.”

She could be talking about either job. The pair’s electric personalities and unstoppable drive only hint at deeper parallels. Both are Southerners who overcame poverty, abuse, racism, sexism and dispiriting career slumps.

Born in Nutbush, Tenn., Turner rose to fame while enduring abuse from her husband, Ike. After walking out in 1976 with only a handful of change, she turned to housekeeping and food stamps before her honeyed rasp caught the ear of manager Roger Davies. In 1984, Private Dancer returned her to stardom. Today, Turner’s song-and-dance workouts still fill arenas. The leggy Hanes mascot, Buddhist and mother of four sons lives in Switzerland and France with German record exec Erwin Bach, 40.

Winfrey, raised in rural Mississippi and a Milwaukee ghetto, was Miss Black Tennessee and a news anchor in Baltimore before building a TV empire in Chicago. On her top-rated weekday show (up to 20 million viewers a day), she has shared her weight battles and disclosed that she was raped by a cousin at age 9. The workaholic squeezes philanthropy, writing and acting into an annual schedule of 200 shows.

Q: How did this power merger come about?

Oprah: It was an infectious, spontaneous moment. I passed a monitor as Tina was rehearsing and was just taken aback by her aura and energy.

Q: Did your early struggles fuel a drive to achieve?

Oprah: I’m glad I was raised in Mississippi at a time when being colored and female meant (low) expectations. Now I’m grateful for my days of emptying slop jars, hauling water from the well and going to the outhouse and thinking I was going to fall in. It makes walking through the house with the many bathrooms and marble floors and great view that much better.

Tina: A friend told me, “If you never got truly wet you can’t appreciate being dry.” (Hardship) gave us strength and tenacity to break the rules and step into a new arena.

Q: Do either of you regret revealing so much publicly?

Oprah: No. I believe all pain is the same. So if Tina can overcome pain, it speaks to the possibility that all of us can. That’s the beauty of sharing.

Tina: For a while, I was ashamed to tell my story. Now people come up and say very softly and very quietly, “You’ve given me such a great inspiration.”

Q: People repeatedly ask why you didn’t leave sooner.

Tina: I was living in hell, and I wanted to get out, but you must build confidence and endurance so you don’t go back.

Oprah: When you look back, can you believe yourself? I was never in a relationship with anybody who hit me, but I remember a relationship in my 20s where he left and said he wasn’t coming back, and I was on the floor crying and begging and pleading. I thought, “I’m no different from a battered woman.” I kept a journal at the time, and not too long ago, (after) reading it, I sat in my closet and wept for the woman I used to be.

Q: How would you have advised Tina in her darkest days?

Oprah: I encourage women now to leave when he hits the first time. That’s when you have the most strength. Tina and I have similar stories, in that I was abused as a child because I didn’t know where the boundaries were. My need to please was so strong, and I had a fear of telling. Tina, when you left Ike, did you still fear he might come looking for you?

Tina: I knew he would, and he did. I prepared myself. When I saw him and his entourage, all his goons, he was so ugly. It was an ugly energy, like the Mafia. I had such strength then. I asked someone to get a gun for me, and I would have killed Ike if he had tried to force me back. I’m very happy I didn’t, but I had that much hate at that point. I was not going back. Later, I sat in his car, and we had a talk. The man was so scared, he kept fiddling with his hat. I was past him totally.

Q: Do painful experiences feed a reluctance to marry?

Tina: I don’t have a desire to marry. Erwin is wonderful. We are perfect just as we are. Why do I need to bring another element in for the sake of tradition? We are as married as we’d be if we had a ceremony. Besides, I want to keep my stuff mine and his stuff his. That’s the reality. I need that freedom.

Oprah: Ditto, absolutely. I really do feel that people want to see a wedding because they want to party and see the pictures. I have a wonderful relationship that works for me.

Tina: Is that your man I saw outside with your dogs? He’s very good-looking.

Oprah: Noooo. That guy is shmatteh compared to Stedman (Graham). You haven’t met him? Oh, you should see him. My guy is really great-looking.

Q: Does the culture’s obsession with age annoy you?

Tina: When you are in harmony, in sync, having a good time, nobody cares about age. I’m not paranoid about my age.

Oprah: Because she’s got those legs!

Tina: Age has nothing to do with my work. As long as I’ve got makeup, I’m not worried about face lifts, because there is too much risk that the surgeon might mess up.

Oprah: Oh listen, I’m just hoping 57 can do this for me. Look at her. She’s just the hottest! We have to go shopping.

Q: Are any of your wildest dreams unrealized?

Oprah: We have all the shoes. There is not another shoe left to buy in the world. You get more focused on the grandest vision for your life as a human being and how you share it.

Tina: My quest is an opening of that third eye over the planet. Once I get that, I plan to do what Oprah is doing, to let people know how they can control some of the suffering.