Psychic Driving

Psychic driving was a psychiatric procedure in which patients were subjected to a continuously repeated audio message on a looped tape to alter their behaviour. In psychic driving, patients were often exposed to hundreds of thousands of repetitions of a single statement over the course of their treatment. They were also concurrently administered muscular paralytic drugs such as curare to subdue them for the purposes of exposure to the looped message(s). The procedure was pioneered by Dr. D. Ewen Cameron, and used and funded by the U.S. CIA's MKULTRA program in Canada. Similar techniques are alleged to have been used in the kidnapping and death of CIA operative William Francis Buckley by Aziz al-Abub, a medical doctor from Beirut who was seen as epitomizing medical torture. Aziz al-Abub, also known as Ibrahim al-Nadhir, was known for using his medical training to refine torture techniques. His techniques were shown to be closely connected to the CIA-developed torture techniques. As with the CIA, he used drugs to make it easier to handle those he tortured, carefully determined how long to keep a prisoner hooded and when to isolate them and other techniques seen as medical torture.

The topic of psychic driving is dealt with in some detail in the docudrama entitled The Sleep Room (1998) directed by Anne Wheeler. It is also dramatized in the spy film The Ipcress File where it is shown being used on Michael Caine. The psychic driving procedure was a chronological precursor to Cameron's depatterning, the latter involving massive doses of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) combined with similarly large doses of psychedelic drugs (such as LSD). The intent was to break down the subject's personality — theoretically psychic driving could then be used with some efficacy in establishing a new personality. In Cameron's depatterning, the ECT would often continue to be administered despite the manifestation of convulsive fits, which were consensually considered to be contraindications to normal and safe ECT procedure. Such biologically and psychologically devastating procedures, adopted internationally by the psychiatric establishment, were largely abolished by the time the CIA was brought before a Senate Hearing (1977) for its involvement and funding of Cameron's experimental activities — as part of the MKULTRA program.

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