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Thought-terminating cliché

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A thought-terminating cliché is a saying, often a tautology, that is repeated in order to relieve the stress of cognitive dissonance by avoiding all further consideration of a matter. Everyday examples include "it is what it is," "it's just common sense," and "you gotta do what you gotta do."

Thought-terminating clichés are an important aspect of mind control as used by cults. For example, the Unification Church uses the cliché "you think too much," while Alcoholics Anonymous says "your best thinking got you here" and "utilize, don't analyze."[1] At the same time, they can also be used by more vanilla religions; for example credo quia absurdum est ("I believe because it is absurd").

These sorts of clichés are common in totalitarian societies; according to Hannah Arendt, Adolf Eichmann "was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliché," and he used these clichés as a mental defense mechanism to avoid thinking about what he was doing for the Nazi Party.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. Charles Bufe, Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?
  2. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil