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What You Need To Know About Psychological Warfare

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: October 13, 2019
What You Need To Know About Psychological Warfare

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I recently was in an environment where there was a class on psychological warfare.

I also saw those same concepts being applied by others. Not that I was surprised. In a crowd that size, it is going to happen on some level.

My Dad taught me a little bit about psychological warfare when I was very young so the concepts have been part of me for a long time. It may sound weird for a father to teach that type of thing to a girl that age but he did it to protect me from some of the people and events that were going on around me. It was a way to not feel powerless against a lot of negativity and at least a small degree of cruelty from those that one would expect to be quite the opposite.

During an SHTF situation, there will be people that use psychology to gain power and control over others.

The Concept Of The Honey Pot

What makes someone tick? What motivates them?

A trick commonly used is to offer people what they want to get what you want. For example, if someone has a weakness for power then you give them that or at least give them the impression that they have it.

The honey pot is shown in a low of spy films. James Bond is a classic series that illustrates this. James has a weakness for the ladies, so the other side always sends in a beautiful woman. The honey pot certainly doesn’t have to be a person though. The honey pot is just a term for waving something in someone’s face that they find irresistible.


If anyone ever shows up offering you exactly what you want then you should have every guard you have within you raising the alarm.

Using psychological warfare to your advantage during an SHTF situation starts with the question asked previously. “What motivates a person and what do they want?”

The next question you should ask is how motivated are they to get it? There is a big difference in someone that really wants something and will work hard to achieve it and someone that will cause harm and do violence to achieve it.

During SHTF, people can and will change how far they will go to achieve some goals. This can lead to hideous levels of violence and despicable acts. Even people that seem kind and good during regular times can become warped if they face enough hardship and violence. Start believing that now and you will be much better prepared for a real honest to goodness SHTF.

How can you protect yourself from these people? What resources do they really have at their disposal?

A single person can be hard enough to deal with if they are determined and intelligent. Being charismatic is a bonus. If they have followers then they can increase their influence rapidly. In fact, their followers may believe that they are doing things that are good. They may be completely unaware that they are being used to achieve certain goals of the person in charge. It may appear to them that the goal is one thing when the real ultimate goal is something more sinister.

During good times people will do things to get things they need however during a long emergency or SHTF scenario, people will do far more for less. If someone has any or all of the following to offer, they can gain power and support from others.

  • Currency
  • Food
  • Access to clean water
  • Tobacco, drugs, and alcohol
  • Firearms
  • Sense of security and protection of those you care about
  • Sexual partners
  • Shelter
  • A place and a group to practice faith and core beliefs
  • Promises of power and prestige
  • Medical supplies and care
  • Negotiation skills (What if someone had it in their power to “call in a favor” for you? How about getting something back that belongs to you?)

Patience is your friend

If you seem too eager to get something or impatient, manipulators can pick up on this and use it against you. Eagerness and lack of patience also go against when bartering or trading. Remember that psychological warfare is part of dealing with business transactions during an SHTF scenario.

Being patient can also cause someone to give up on trying to get you to do what they want. There is a thin line between patience and stubbornness. Both can be good and bad depending on how they are utilized.

The last person that I knew of that I know was attempting to use psychological warfare on me in order to get what they wanted gave up and just told others “that they didn’t know how to talk to me”. This was after many months of attempts at contact, me responding, and then one face to face interaction that proved some gut feelings I had.

My thoughts were “No, you don’t know how to talk to me and manipulate me to get what you want for nothing. There is a difference. Talking is as simple as asking how someone is doing and going from there.”

People that do not need as much from others and society, in general, are the hardest to manipulate and use psychological warfare tactics on.

The class I sat in on divided people into personality types. The hardest to read or manipulate were hermits because you couldn’t offer them a lot of the things that motivate other people. I remember he asked the audience how many of them were hermits. About 3 people raised their hands. I think at least a few would not admit to it.

The people that are easiest to manipulate are those that are the most desperate to gain basic things or that crave a certain level of interaction with others. Someone that has an easy to spot weakness that can be exploited is an excellent target.

Protecting Yourself From Manipulators and Charismatic Leaders

It is incredibly easy to give away a lot of information about yourself. Sometimes you don’t even have to say anything. The writing is literally on the wall with some people. Here are a few tips for making it harder for people to know a lot ahead of time.

Leave the stickers off your car.

This means no political stickers, no nice messages, no honor student or school stickers, and absolutely no stick figures that show how many people and pets are in your household.

Be suspicious if someone seems too good to be true.

Does someone always seem to have the answers? Do they seem too accomplished? Have they lived in the area long?

People like to brag and plenty of people lie to make themselves seem more accomplished or they at least exaggerate a bit where they can, but if this behavior is extreme then they may be hiding something or trying to manipulate you.

Realize there is a price that must be paid for anything you get even if it is not apparent at the time.

I will never forget my Environmental Studies professor and advisor. He grew up gay in the part of eastern Kentucky where a lot of my family comes from too and went on to a very successful career at the CDC. Back then people were not as accepting. He really had to fight to get where he was and work hard. He knew I was having a rough time being thrown into a wealthy college environment with my background because he had been there himself. He was the only professor that would just see me and pat me on the back and say “Sam, you got this.”

The reason I am telling you this story though is that he would often say in his classes”There is no free lunch”. I think this is a lesson that we all need to remember when something good comes along or if something sounds good. He emphasized that there are costs and benefits to any action.

There is always a cost.

Rarely is someone going to give you an opportunity without you putting something into it or paying for it down the road. I thank him for reminding me of that lesson in his classes and I hope others paid attention to his life lessons.

Teach your kids to not talk so freely with strangers or online.

I grew up in a time where I did not have unlimited access to the internet. Kids now have phones that allow them to speak online or to others basically whenever they want. While it would be great if we lived in a really safe world, that is not the reality and considering the entire history of mankind, it is not likely to happen anytime soon and kid’s and teens need to learn to not talk too much in order to get a positive reaction from strangers or even those they are already friends with.

If your kid is telling anyone about your gun collection, preps, when you are all going to be out of town, etc, then they are giving away too much. They need to realize that even if the person they tell is harmless if that person tells someone else information, it could get to the wrong person and cause harm in the future.

Consider that computer algorithms are a form of psychological warfare.

Companies freely admit to manipulating the emotional response of people via social media. Facebook does this by controlling what you do see and what you do not see on your newsfeed.

Propaganda is a form of psychological warfare we see every day.

The internet is full of propaganda. Both mainstream and alternative media are full of it. It is important to consider when you read any news story or advice, what the agenda may be. A lot of the media is very one-sided. I have noticed that more people are getting news and current events from alternative sources.

I will say that while I think that it is generally better to pick and choose from among less mainstream sources, you still have to be careful and sort the information for yourself. You don’t have to agree with everything a single source or news agency says. No one is right all the time even if they act like they are.

Propaganda in the educational system and how to avoid it.

The public education system is far different than it was when I was in grade school. Even back in the 80s and 90s we were still exposed to a lot of propaganda. From 7th grade until graduation I was homeschooled and then I went to a private liberal arts college that was full of propaganda. There were a ton of very wealthy young adults and a few poorer kids that were there for diversity’s sake.

The only way to avoid a propaganda filled education is to choose a private school or charter school that suits your personal beliefs and ideals or homeschool.

Don’t get me wrong, my homeschool materials had an agenda too. The difference is being free to pick and choose the agenda your kid’s are exposed to during their formative years. It is very important.

The way the college system is today, I would say just be careful and get as much info as you can before settling on a university. I was the first person in my family to go to college. For me, it was my way to better myself and get a start in life but college is not the best route for everyone. Just for the record, my education is still not paid off.

Unless you have so much wealth that money doesn’t really matter to you, don’t get set on a prestigious sounding school.

There are a lot of professions that require far less than a four-year degree and pay well. I was in the generation where college was stressed as the only way to go to be successful and that is not true. What is good for some is not good for all.

Psych-Ops In Prepper or MAG (Mutual Assistance) Groups

If you think there are not people in prepper groups and at gatherings that are actively using psychological warfare to gain support or information, you are mistaken. This is why it is so important to be careful who you trust with what information and how much faith you have in them to do their part during an SHTF scenario.

Remember if they seem to have too much money to throw at things or always have a convenient solution or promise, there is a reason to look into them a little further before making any decisions to add them to your group or join their Mutual Assistance Group.

Extreme Psychological Warfare

These tactics are deployed during situations such as civil uprisings, war, interrogation, terrorism, etc. They are used to dehumanize and break a person until they give the information needed or break down into the person the other sides wants them to be.

Psychological warfare and torture go hand in hand during true SHTF situations where there is no law but the law of whoever can wield the power to enforce their desires.

Consider why waterboarding is such a terrifying thing. It is a form of torture designed to make someone think they are truly drowning. Fear of drowning is a base human instinct.

To understand primal human fears is to understand some of the core principals of psychological warfare.

The Core Human Fears

Have you ever wondered how even babies seem fearful of things that they don’t even really have real-life experience with? The reason for this is that many fears are instinctual. As humans, we are born with a level of awareness that some things have a high potential for harm.

[checkbox check=”empty”]Falling and Fear of Heights[/checkbox]

Everyone has at least some instinct that warns them that heights are hazardous. That doesn’t mean a lot of people do not overcome this so that they can do things like construction work or even decide that the adrenaline rush that skydiving offers is worth more than succumbing to their natural instincts and fears.

Falling used to be a lot more problematic than it is now. We have nice pavement and sidewalks and don’t have to go hunting and traveling through hazardous and unknown terrain unless we choose to do so. Even if we do make this choice, we have topographical maps and other tools that allow us to be prepared for the heights we will encounter.

[checkbox check=”empty”]Drowning[/checkbox]

We don’t come into the world knowing how to swim and water can be of unknown depth. Fear of drowning is a smart fear to have, especially in a baby or child. In a parent, this fear makes them more on guard when it comes to protecting their child from water hazards.

When we lived more in the wild, water could also mean other dangers such as alligators or even big fish. Just look at the giant catfish in some of the rivers in India if you want to see evidence of a fish that can actually kill and eat a person.

[checkbox check=”empty”]Snakes and Spiders[/checkbox]

Before the days of anti-venom and the understanding of basic human body functions, a snake or spider bite could prove deadly. Even in modern times if bites are not handled properly, they can result in permanent damage or death. Anyone that claims to have no aversion to snakes or spiders is lying. I don’t care who you are, you are going to at least be slightly startled if you see a snake or spider even if you don’t have the extreme reaction of some that are extremely fearful of such creatures.

[checkbox check=”empty”]Being Alone[/checkbox]

It is actually very rare to find someone that is actually okay being alone most of the time. Human interaction is something most of us are used to. Solitary confinement is a classic example of psychological warfare using the instinctual fear of being left alone combined with being at the mercy of outside forces to meet basic needs.

[checkbox check=”empty”]Harm of someone we love and care about[/checkbox]

Protecting those that we love is instinctual. This is why sometimes the threat of harm of a loved one is such a strong motivator. Consider the classic kidnap and ransom scenario. This tactic has been successful because people are willing to do almost anything to protect someone they really care about from harm or get them the help that they need to survive.

[checkbox check=”empty”]Fear of death and the afterlife[/checkbox]

Faith is a powerful thing. The will to live is immense and the fear of the unknown of what comes after is perhaps one of mankind’s deepest fears. This fear will sometimes draw people into religions or even cults that have been largely agnostic or unsure. Have you ever seen someone that got sick or had something terrible happen to them suddenly decide they need to make amends with those around them and come to terms with a power greater than them? It is very common and often gives that person an inner peace that they did not have.

The problem is that like any group, not everyone is genuine or there for the right reasons. Plenty of people use religion and faith to justify their personal actions. Different interpretations of the same passage in any text can lead to some taking things in a far more dire direction. At the same time, faith can be a wonderful thing that allows people to get through some very tough times in a better mental state. You just need to make sure that you stay true to your beliefs and be aware of people that will take your faith and use it against you, especially when you are going through a hard time.

Drugs are part of psychological warfare.

Drugs, both prescribed, and illegal, are part of controlling the mind and the population at large. People will go along with a lot of things if they are assured that they have access to their medications.

Don’t get me wrong, there are millions of people that truly need medications to stay healthy and lead as normal a life as possible.

At the same time, it is in the interest of some to make people rely on drugs that do not need them. Various drugs are used to control basic human fears and emotions. Before they were available, people either had to suffer or find other methods to deal with being human. When people are drugged up, they are much easy to make comply because you have added something that they want and feel they have to have.

General fear is how we are controlled as a nation by various people and groups.

Regardless of what political leanings you have or what groups you belong to you need to realize that people withing your group and outside of your group will use fear and hope to control you.

Fear and hope of a better future alike will cause people to act out in ways that they normally would not. These actions are rationalized by being for the greater good or “the lesser of two evils”.

Let’s be honest, how many politicians or public figures never make promises they don’t keep and how often are these promises based on hope and fear?

If you want to be successful at propaganda, pinpoint the main fears and hopes of those you want to influence and then decide what to use as your honey pot.

Identity politics is a form of psychological warfare.

Identity politics addresses the hopes and fears of one group and pits them against another group or multiple groups rather than highlighting common fears and hopes. This prevents people from creating a dialogue where they can come to peaceful compromises based on the constitutional right to peace, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness. If you want to control people, divide and conquer methods work pretty well at keeping everyone in their place.

People working together are strong but divided they are not.

I remember one time when there was some tough stuff going on and my smart mother in law picked up a pencil and explained that a single pencil was easy to snap in two and then she picked up about a dozen in a bundle and said: “but all these together, you can’t do it”.

I’ll end on that bit of wisdom.

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2 Responses to “What You Need To Know About Psychological Warfare”

  1. Well-said.
    From a real-life scenario: My wife and I were car shopping for a used low-mileage Suburban about twenty five years ago and we went to the dealership with our little kids in tow. I told my wife that I would do all the negotiating. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. and looked the car over and I was satisfied that it would meet our needs. We were in the ‘negotiating’ area with a couple of chairs for us and the kids while the car folks were either behind the desk or standing in the doorway.

    I asked, “How much do you want for the car?”
    The guy behind the desk said, “It’s advertised for $16K.”
    “Too much,” I replied, “How about $10K?” I knew the car was worth at least between 12 and 13 thousand.”
    “Can’t do it for that,” was all he said.
    I didn’t say another work for at least five minutes.
    My wife then piped in, “Well, maybe…” and I immediately cut her off. “Honey, let me handle this, okay?”
    Another several minute passed in silence. Meanwhile my kids started to ‘explore’ the office and I held my youngest boy on my lap. He wasn’t speaking clearly, yet, so I entertained him and ignored the dealership folks and just sat there.
    The dealer finally said, “Well, it’s getting close to closing time, can we make a deal?”
    I repeated my offer.
    He countered, dropping $2K from the initial $16K.
    I said, “Nah, still too much.”
    After telling me all about the automobile’s virtues and how it was perfect for my family, he asked, “What’ll you offer?”
    I told him, “I’ll go as high as ten thousand five hundred (paused for effect and added) if that isn’t enough, I think we’ll have to look elsewhere.”
    After a l-o-n-g silence, with a sigh, the dealer then said, “How about 12K?”
    We’d been there almost two hours by this time when I countered, “How about eleven five?”
    The dealer then admitted that had we arrived earlier in the evening the bargaining would have gone on for MUCH longer…(essentially admitting he was trying to wring every dollar he could out of the deal).
    Driving our new-to-us vehicle, my wife told me she was tickled that we’d gotten such a bargain. I pointed out that the dealer probably only paid half of what he was initially asking on someone’s trade-in. She let that sink in. But I was satisfied.
    Demonstrates your message about Patience.
    I’ve since gone with my kids to dealerships and tell them the exact same things I did and how to negotiate. Sometimes, we have to walk out, but usually the dealer comes around…it all depends on how much he’s willing to take on a sale…if he can get $5K instead of $1K, he’ll spend the extra time. Kelley’s Blue Book is a good reference tool to consult so you don’t overpay.
    I had one dealer tell me that if we overpaid, we could “insure the car for the price we paid, so that if you get into an accident and total the vehicle, you wouldn’t ‘lose’.” To that I retorted, “Oh! You want us to pay MORE in insurance so you can make MORE money than this vehicle is actually worth? Kind of like double jeopardy, eh?”

    Any more, I don’t care what people think. If I’m right, I’ll stick by my guns.

    BTW, my wife home-schooled all five of our kids until high school age (they attended a private Christian high school).
    The four oldest then attended the same private Christian college. When it was his turn, my youngest opted to do running start and completed his high school AND trade school at the same time with the state picking up the tab for his education. He got into the union as an apprentice immediately. The youngest also makes the most money because he’s now a journeyman tradesman.

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