Brainwashed at TLC?

Posted on May 5th, 2021 by

Sometime in the last year, I was telling TLC co-founder, Barb Wilkinson, about a tennis mom who said she would never send her child to TLC because “they brainwash them there about sportsmanship, and I don’t want my child to be taken advantage of in tournaments.”  My tendency, upon hearing things like that, is to get defensive.


Barb, however, took a startlingly different approach.  She agreed with the mom.


She said, “We do brainwash people.”


I must have looked taken aback, and she noticed and continued.


“Everybody is brainwashed in this world.  It’s just a matter of how you want your brain washed.”It is one of the most powerful lessons I have learned in my life.


I went back and thought more.  We can wash our brains with fear, or hatred, or bitterness.  We can wash them with jealousy or refusal to be “taken advantage of”.  We can wash them with an eye for an eye.  We can wash them with terror or cut throat tactics.  We can wash them with justification of ill-gotten gains, or little lies that ball up into big lies and come crashing down the mountain destroying everyone in its wake.  We can wash them with an attitude of entitlement and bringing our children along with us so they learn the same lesson.


We can wash them the way Nazis washed the brains of millions of otherwise good people to buy into a genocide of the Jewish people.  Or the way all of us good people have defended our actions when it comes to turning a blind eye to injustice done to those who look, love, or believe differently than we do.  Or the way we all have turned away from those with less than us.


Or, as Barb suggested, we can wash them with compassion for our enemy, fair play for our opponent, making amends for our mistakes, becoming aware of our blind spots on and off the court, starting over with a renewed commitment to kindness, standing up to injustice, admitting the injustice within ourselves even as we stand up to that injustice, listening, listening, listening before we act.  We can wash our brains with the commitment to take a positive step when adversity hits, to give our all in the face of certain defeat, to treat others the way they would like to be treated.


Brainwashing is a constant battle in all our lives.  None of us are fully one or the other of the above-mentioned actions.


But once we become aware of the negative brainwashing we have been taught, which has become an unconscious part of us, we can act to rewash our brain.


The choice, always, is ours.  How we decide to wash our brains will determine what our relationships look like, what our families look like, our schools, our country, our world.


Thank you for a lesson I think about so often now, Barb.  And please pass me the Three Crowns soap.  I need it more than ever.

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  1. Yasmine Moideen says:

    This is so powerful. Thanks for writing this. Barb (and Steve may his memory be a blessing) is so wise. Love all of you at TLC.

  2. Christopher Foley MD says:

    I could not agree more with you and Barb re “washing the brain with the right things”. Wilk did exactly that with 2 of my sons who played in his tourneys and one who was a Gustie (the other a Norse!). But we also must be very careful to avoid washing the brain wrongly in the belief that we are promoting “social justice” at the expense of isolating groups of people with hatred and violence. That never works either.

  3. Kathy Oriel (brainwashee) says:

    Barb, Neal (and so grateful that I knew/know him–Steve):
    I came a defensive, self-righteous, lesbian, atheist, mom.
    I left a hopefully less defensive, minimally less self-righteous, definitely still lesbian, definitely still atheist and still a mom.

    If its love it ain’t brainwashing
    If its consensual it ain’t brainwashing
    Actually–whatever Barb says is okay with me

  4. Kate Shaughnessy says:

    Always a wonderful reminder that joy can come from washing away the negativity. . .Barb is a gem!

  5. Jim Turner says:

    My mom, who was a very good tennis player and golfer used to tell me when I was learning to golf, to just take a little off my swing, not try to kill it, and just put up with the extra yardage. Please brainwash me with he three crowns and I will gladly put up with being a better player and more competitive.

  6. Karen Mann says:

    Can’t wait to be “washed” twice this summer!

  7. Anne C Miller says:

    Let, Love Serve. 💕 Changed my life personally and professionally. Beautiful reflection Neal.

  8. Jeff Stafford says:

    Thank you Barb & Neal.

    We definitely can make better choices with how and what we wash our minds with. But what we really need is a cleansing of our hearts, to have genuine belief. I have found TLC to be full of people seeking this genuineness, which does not come from the mind but comes from the heart.

  9. Peter Whitis says:

    Well, not to be contrary, but my experience at TLC along with family members was more akin to a pleasant shower of love. The lessons in the “wash” were life lessons.

  10. Aileen Williams says:

    Happy to submit to the TLC Brainwashing School of Kindness

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Aileen! Me, too. It has helped me redefine my life over the years.

  11. Bev Lesiuk says:

    Barb is a wise woman!!
    Thanks for this Neal. Very appropriate for this chaotic time.

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Isn’t that the truth? So good to hear from the neighbors up North!