How to Endure Torture



Joshua Day writes at Daily Kos:

(note: This diary refers to innocents, but the “non-innocents” referred to are also not guilty, only more experienced.)

The first thing a person who has been taken captive and faces torture must understand:  all hope is gone.  The perpetrators may seem deliverers, after days, months or years of torture.  The victim of torture must, beyond all other things, keep in their mind that the people responsible will not, ultimately, help them in any way.  The victim must discard all religious hope.  The victim must discard all hope of rescue.  Justice will not open her eyes.  The victim must realize hope is fiction.  After that, the pain can be dealt with in a number of ways.

Discarding hope renders the procedure pointless.  If there is no hope, then escaping the pain no longer matters.  The victim must embrace the pain, because pain will be his (or even her) closest friend.  Many torture techniques involve prolonged sessions of close, extremely painful, confinement with no human interaction.  There will be nobody to talk to, unless the perpetrators want information.  The best way to cope is to speak with your pain.  Make pain your friend in an environment in which you have no friends.  Use the pain to remind you of who you are.


Sleep deprivation poses the most difficult obstacle to overcoming torture.   Unless the torturers use hallucinogens with rigged environments (that is discussed later), sleep deprivation potentially breaks down all barriers… in theory, but not in practice.  If faced with sleep deprivation, the best course of action is to dive into the disorientation the technique causes.  The idea: throw resistance out the window if they won’t let you sleep.  Become a creature of insanity.  You will, by every estimate, spew nonsense at your captors in such an event.  The downside is that this resistance technique may leave you insane.  The upside is that strong minds will recover readily, and weak, innocent minds will be better off without their reasoning skills.  Faced with an insane approach to intelligence gathering, you can become insane temporarily, or permanently… and both are better than what your captors have planned for you.  It should be noted that with therapy and caring, even the most innocent victim of torture can once again become semi-whole, provided caring and therapy ever arrives.  Again, hope does not exist in these situations, and given that, temporary or permanent insanity provides a shelter.

Approaches to resist waterboarding abound.  The first, and most dangerous approach, relies on you to drown yourself.  This approach demands that you allow yourself to be drowned.  This approach creates a dilemma for your torturers as to whether they should save you or not.  Logic dictates that if they won’t save you, then you have spared yourself a much longer and more painful death.  You must, beyond everything, believe in the sanctity of your being to take such an approach.  You must be willing to lay your life on the line, from whatever shattered sense of identity you still retain.  This approach is not for beginners or innocent victims.  This diarist would never ask innocent human beings to drown themselves.  Nevertheless, this is Resisting Torture 101.  No, it isn’t impossible to allow them to drown you.  Yes, you can.

The second approach, and most promulgated, expects the victim to attempt to breathe when possible. Theories about the mental state required to militarily and passively resist waterboarding vary.  There is the “happy thoughts” approach, which includes reasonable, thought-based resistance.  This theory, espoused by SERE training, dictates that the victim use his reasoning skills to remain aloof to the torture.  In practice the idea has worked, with seasoned veterans.  In case you aren’t a SERE trained commando, proactive thinking won’t work.  Your torturers will not stop, and, without formal training, you will flop like a fish out of water.  You will confess to anything and everything you never did to make it stop.

The third approach commands you to abandon all reasoning.  Reduce yourself to the animal level, and try to stay alive.  Think nothing.  Focus on the next breath.  If you must have thoughts, remember you have done nothing wrong and you are a victim.  Breathe, when you can, but vacate your mind.  Do not look to a future.  Concentrate only on obtaining oxygen.  You will either succumb, or they will deem the operation too high a risk to continue.  Again, if they deem you an asset they will not force your death.  If they execute you in such a fashion, your execution merely happened early.

Read part two here.

8 Comments on "How to Endure Torture"

  1. Echar Lailoken | Apr 9, 2014 at 6:16 pm |

    The recovery after the fact is the tough part.

  2. Anarchy Pony | Apr 9, 2014 at 6:53 pm |

    Confess bullshit.

  3. kowalityjesus | Apr 9, 2014 at 8:32 pm |

    Profound article… some serious shit when listening to arvo part’s magnificat.

  4. The smartest thing I ever learned was when to play dumb.

  5. doodahman | Apr 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm |

    so a dude reads some books on torture and becomes an expert on how to deal with it eh? Whatever you say, man.
    Sounds like a lot of crap to me. If you want to deal with torture, the books I read (because I too, am not a victim of torture, though I was married for eleven years) say suffer for a reason– resistance, to protect others, to say EFF YOU to people who are pigs. If you attach a meaning, or create a meaning for your suffering, it fundamentally transforms into something different than suffering, or what we call “sacrifice.” Sacrifice can be endured where hopeless, pointless torture cannot.
    But hey, if the author ever does get tortured and learns different, I’m all ears.

    • The books the dude read were by experts, and frankly I trust them on the subject more than I do some dude who tosses off a joke equating torture with marriage.

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