Post-Scientology Behavioral Patterns
By Kim Baker
This paper focuses specifically on behavioral patterns that can persist after a person has left Scientology. There is a wealth of literature on Scientology, covering many aspects, and it is assumed that the reader has some education on the subject of Scientology. There is, however, a shortage of literature dealing with recovery from Scientology, specifically, and the points outlined here are intended to be a step towards filling that gap. The observations are based on my personal experiences, and are therefore not intended to be prescriptive, but rather to stimulate thought around the subject of recovery, by ex-members.
When people leave Scientology, it is usually a voluntary decision, based on disillusion with the promises made, or, involuntary, where the person is thrown out for some or other violation of Scientology's ethics code. Given that the Scientology world view is very rigidl defined, in both cases, the departure is traumatic to the individual. The degree of trauma varies according to the intensity of the circumstances surrounding the departure, how long the person was in, and how deeply involved they were, and the personality of the individual. As with any trauma, the individual experiences depression, dislocation with the world they suddenly find themselves in, rage, anger, sometimes a desire for revenge. This paper is not intended to be an "exit counselling", since there are experts who specialise in this, and the literature listed at the conclusion adequately identifies these aspects, and suggests strategies for dealing with them.
Rather, what is being highlighted here is the often undetected behavioral patterns, learned while in Scientology, that manifest in an individual long after they have left, even when they feel that they have fully recovered from Scientology. These behavioral patterns can be traced back to specific aspects of Scientology teaching, and what will be outlined is intended as a starting point, and guide, which can be modified, or added to, depending on the reader's own experience and perception.
1. POLARISED THINKING:
By polarised thinking, I am referring to extremist thought patterns, which could even be compared to totalitarian rigidity. Things are either ALL good, or ALL bad, a person is either TOTALLY evil, or TOTALLY good. The individual can unconsciously re-act to life, people and information with this rigid and uncompromising approach. They either love a person, or hate them. A piece of information is either perfectly true, or all lies.
This style of thinking can be traced directly back to Scientology, although, as with all the points I outline here, it is not exclusive to Scientology - there are many ideologies and societies which manifest these traits, and that perspective should be kept at all times. Indeed, Scientology is not the root of ALL the unsatisfactory circumstances in a person's life.
In Scientology, as any former Scientologist will immediately recognise, a person is either "Up-stat", or "down-stat". The Ethic conditions define that any person in a condition of "Normal" or up, is "up-stat", and therefore acceptable within the Scientology community. Anyone below the condition of "Normal", is down-stat, and therefore unacceptable to the Scientology community. They are either "in-ethics", or "out-ethics". One or the other. People are viewed either as "Social", or "Anti-social" (Suppressive), according to the Scientology definition of what these are. A "Social" person can become temporarily "potentially anti-social" (PTS), but this is a condition to be "handled" - the person is not allowed to remain in this state. If it is not "handled" according to Scientology's satisfaction, then the person is classified as "Anti-social".
In addition, according to the Tone Scale, Hubbard's list of the emotional "vibrations" of humans, one is either "up-tone", or "down- tone". If one was a staff-member, or a Sea Org member, one was either "On-purpose", or "Off-purpose". In applying Scientology doctrine, one was either "On-policy", or "Off-policy". Further on up in the so- called OT Levels, and NOTS, processes of polarities are actually run on the person, such as "have - not-have; create - uncreate", etc. Hubbard described the world as a "two terminal universe". For him, there was no in between, no middle ground, no shades of grey - only black and white.
My personal view is that people who already have tendencies towards polarised thinking, will enter Scientology at the "lower" levels, find their own thought patterns reflected around them, and fit right in. Persons who do not have this tendency will eventually acquire it from simply being in contact with the group, and the condition will be created in them. Hubbard offered the OT levels, in part, as a solution to "opposites", in essence, he designed the OT levels to attempt to resolve his own bi-polar disorder, among other things. The danger with this, in my opinion, is that severe damage can be caused to a person's mental health by applying this view of reality to a problem they might not have. This is rather like prescribing a drug to someone who is not ill - they then *become* ill, just from the application of the drug.
All of these examples represent a definition of reality into two polarised extremes, which in essence reduce down to ALL good, or ALL bad. This view of reality tends to encourage and bring out fanatical and extreme responses in an individual. When in Scientology, the world- view is re-inforced by the fact that all group members share the same polarised thinking. But when a person finds themself back in society, where the security of having everyone else around them think the same way disappears, they can unconsciously continue the *behavioral* pattern, even though they may have rejected the thought- structure that led to it.
It is interesting to note that manic depression, or bi-polar disorder as it is now known, is considered to be a mental *illness*, and yet behavior of a very similar nature is cultivated by adopting a polarised view of reality. While bi-polar disorder is an inherent illness, forms of this illness can be cultivated in people simply by adopting this view of reality, and, having this view re-inforced by a group. This can occur *outside* Scientology, as well, when ex- Scientologists link up with each other, and unconsciously stimulate the behavioral pattern in each other. This will be dealt with in more depth, later.
The most interesting aspect of polarised thinking, is that it is highly contagious. People who are not aware that ideas and information are being processed through this filter, can unconsiously start adopting the same patterns themselves, regardless of whether they have been in Scientology or not. Ironically, even Hubbard noted this: he called it "the contagion of aberration". I will not attempt to explain why this is so, but merely note the observation that polarised thinking, if one is constantly subjected to it by the people around you, *is* highly contagious. The "aberration" will, however, disappear in time if one removes oneself from such an environment, assuming that the condition is not inherent in the personality.
2. DEAD AGENTING:
Dead Agenting, as it is termed in Scientology, is not exclusive to Scientology, but it is specifically and deliberately used as a technique to dispel criticism of Scientology. It remains the single most effective measure to distract attention away from issues. In politics, the equivalent would be "Negative Campaigning", where the politician chooses to focus on the weaknesses and failings of his or her opponent, rather than campaign issues - George Bush used this technique very effectively to win an election in the USA, for example.
In Scientology, one is taught how to "Dead Agent" any critic in a course called the "PTS/SP" course. Anyone who is "attacking Scientology is assumed to be an evil person, anti-social, and therefore to be treated as such. The focus is on the *personality* rather than what the person is saying. Unfortunately, because humans in general have such an appetite for gossip, scandal and intrigue, the majority of people are very easily taken in and manipulated by this tactic, to the extent that it not only successfully moves their focus off the topic, but then fixates their attention on hatred/revulsion for the person being Dead Agented. The issue which the person had raised in the first place is then completely forgotten.
Adolf Hitler noted in "Mein Kampf", when discussing the subject of propaganda, that the only successful way to manipulate masses was to appeal to emotion, rather than reason. His cultivation of hatred of Jews united his people very successfully, and could be said to be an example of the ultimate form of "Dead Agenting" - the successful demonisation of not just one person, but a whole race. Dead Agenting was the pre-requisite for the genocides to occur.
The demonisation of an enemy is therefore an essential component in stirring up emotional response, and fixating attention onto the personality of the enemy, rather than the issues being raised. It is also a means of avoiding personal self-reflection, since the demonised "other" is a convenient scape-goat for *all* evils.
Many ex-Scientologists carry this obssession with love or hatred of personalities with them into the rest of their lives. Their response to anything that they perceive to threaten them is extreme aggression, followed by total rejection of the threat. Outright cruelty, sarcasm, jeering, taunting, and mockery are all behavioral patterns that manifest, and can be triggered at any time. Some ex-Scientologists have managed to recognise this aspect as unhealthy, and in recognising it, have been able to recover, behaviorally, from it, but this is still quite rare. The reason for this is that in the society outside of Scientology, there are many groups and people who subscribe to this kind of behavior, and these types of personalities will tend to gravitate towards one another. There are groups that consider aggression, waging "war", tearing people to pieces, as a perfectly acceptable mode of behavior. However, there are also many, many groups that are peace-loving, and believe that humanity is capable of more advanced and civilised responses to difficulties or disagreements. It is a question of choice, and very few ex- Scientologists choose the latter option.
3. INABILITY TO FORGIVE:
Arising from the above two behavioral patterns, is a harsh and unforgiving attitude. Ex-Scientologists can be extremely judgemental of others, and any error or hurt received is magnified and immortalised. Once crossed, there can be no forgiveness, or reconciliation. This can be traced to an extreme re-action *against* Scientology's mechanisms for dealing with "sin", or wrongful acts.
The Scientology justice system is based on the premise that if one commits an "overt", one then needs to do a series of actions to "make up the damage". After a certain condition is reached, the person is then "forgiven", and accepted back into the fold. Forgiveness is dependant on following a series of actions. Frequent use is made of "confessionals", or "sec checks", and the sequence of pouring out one's heart to one's auditor, leads to a sense of relief and return to a feeling of well-being. However, the confidentiality of these deeply personal sessions is questionable, for anything confessed that is considered to be a threat to Scientology is noted as something for inclusion in the Ethics Folder, which is not confidential. Abuses of this have occurred, and often, if an ex-member criticises Scientology publically, information from these folders will be used against the person - this is material for Dead Agenting, or, for emotional manipulation and "button-pushing".
An abuse like this makes a mockery of the whole concept of forgiveness. Anyone who has ever confessed in good faith, and then had that used against them will understand how the whole idea of healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness becomes perverted. It is almost impossible to overcome the sheer cynicism that is created by this violation, and hence, an unforgiving attitude tends to prevail.
Several ex-Scientologists may have left, but never experienced this particular aspect, it is usually reserved for those perceived to be a major threat, or potentially major threat to Scientology. For those who have left without being put through this, the unforgiving attitude still tends to prevail, because they grew dependant on the Scientology view of justice, and having had the one framework (ethics, penalties, amends), removed, they have been unable to replace it with any other. They therefore have no means to deal with perceived wrong done to them, and so it remains "fixed" at perceived wrong, forever more.
The inability to forgive causes immense suffering to the person, as they then collect a whole list of things done to them, which they cannot let go of, and which eat away at them. It is always useful to remember this if one becomes a target of such a person, or group of persons - one is dealing with something that cannot be healed or resolved, and attempting to, is futile, and destructive to oneself. It is best left alone. The only way out of this trap for the sufferer is to learn, somehow, how to forgive.
4. INABILITY TO SELF-REFLECT:
The inability to forgive is also directly linked to the inability to self-reflect. One is never wrong, one is always right, and it is the demonised "other" that is ALL bad. This type of behavior is also highly infectious, since self-reflection can be painful, and people would generally prefer to focus on what they have defined as bad in *others*, rather than genuinely examine themselves.
For an ex-Scientologist, this natural human tendancy to avoid looking at what may be painful to face in oneself is very pronounced. This may sound strange, given the description of "confessionals" used in Scientology, but there is a subtle trap installed in a person who participates in Scientology auditing. When an auditor takes a person "in session", the assumption is that the person is having their "reactive mind" processed. A reactive mind is considered to be something irrational, and so statements are never evaluated. A person can say what they like in session, they could babble anything about purple cats in the sky, and the auditor will acknowledge them. Equally, rational statements are acknowledged in the same way. it makes no difference whether the personal is rational, or irrational - in fact, it is expected that they will be irrational, since it is the "re-active mind" that is being addressed.
So, they subconsiously learn that in session, no matter what they say, they are always right. They also learn that they are forbidden to "self-audit", that any self-reflection should be placed in the hands of the auditor, and the auditor only. Self-reflection should therefore only take place in session, under the auditor's control and direction.
In this way, the person is robbed of their basic right to self- reflect, and then, even in a session, where so-called "self- reflection" is supposed to occur, they learn that they can say anything, and be right. When out of session, their status of acceptability within the group is measured in statistics, by what they produce, and other's evaluation thereof. This is more noticable in the Sea Org, and among staff members, although members of the public will be evaluated by the amount of money they give to the organisation, their "celebrity" status in the outside world, or, the amount of new people they can bring in.
Therefore, in a very subtle way, the person is gradually relieved of their ability to self-reflect - in session, they are pampered and pandered to, and always right, and they feel very good as a result. The session is always meant to run until the person feels very good, euphoric, even.
Out of session, they depend on *others* evaluation of them, according to what they produce, and according to Hubbards' definition of Ethics and statistics. A person who produces a lot can get away with a lot, since they are "up-stat" - ethics is therefore reduced to a quantifiable thing, measured by others.
The effects of this abnormal system of behavior are extremely insiduous, and are often carried off by the ex-Scientologist, undetected, for the rest of their lives.
5. SELF-IMAGE DEPENDANT ON OTHERS
While feedback is a necessary and normal part of human interaction, the ex-Scientologist will often be very dependant on what others think of them. To the point that they have a very poor self-image, and a complete inability to assess themselves, by their own standards. This may be very surprising to know, since ex-Scientologists are often annoyingly arrogant in their insistance that they are right about something. It is a strange contradiction which is tracable to the mechanisms outlined above. It can be expanded on, here.
When the person leaves Scientology, they leave behind any chance to have an auditor direct their self-reflecting for them. Many of them are so dependant on this that they seek out auditing from the field of independants - people who have left the organisation, but still practice modified forms of Scientology. They still need someone else to do for them what should be a normal adult function. In a sense, they have become like children, needing a "parent" to lean on, someone who will listen to everything they say, and tell them it's "all right". Someone who will allow them to get away with continued child-like behavior.
Many do not seek it out, or do not have access to an independant auditor, and so suffer "withdrawal" from it, or try to deny that they ever needed it by rejecting it completely. However, in many cases, these people will tend to gravitate towards another "Cause", where they can be totally right, where they can be on a crusade, and where they can find others to pour their hearts out to. They either tend to be almost embarressingly open and frank with people, or they close out other people completely. The removal of the ability to self- reflect from them, as adults; the inability to self-criticise and evaluate; and the dependance on others for approval (you haven't really made it in Scientology until you've done the OT levels) are all factors explaining the strange and contradictory behavioral patterns that occur.
6. ABSENCE OF COMPASSION
In line with the harsh and rigid judgementalism, follows a complete absence of compassion, and inability to empathise with others. This also manifests in people suffering from bi-polar disorder, and again, rests on polarised thinking. In Scientology, this can be traced back to the ALL-good/ALL-bad polarity.
A person who is suffering or grieving, or manifesting signs of distress is considered to be "down-tone", and "down-stat". In Scientology, nothing short of sheer revulsion for the sufferer is cultivated. One NEVER gives sympathy to such a person, they are considered to be evil creatures "playing the victim" in order to gain sympathy from people. This revulsion is carried over by many ex- Scientologists, who while often fixated on their own post-Scientology trauma, will viciously attack another person who may be suffering as well. Several others have managed to get past this, however, and this is usually a tribute to the strength of their characters to overcome this particular form of behavior.
Many ex-Scientologists display extreme forms of paranoia. Paranoia is based on fear, essentially, and can lead to magnification of aggression as a defence against it.
When in Scientology, Scientologists learn to report on each other, in the system known as "Knowledge reports". Any perceived misdemeanor, or behavior that is not in conformity to the Scientology definition of acceptable behavior, *has* to be reported to the Ethics Section. Failure to report is an ethics offence. Thus, they learn not to be open with each other, and they learn that at any time, even their closest friends or family can and will report on them.
When out of Scientology, they may find out about the real role of the Intelligence Branch of Scientology, the Office of Special Affairs, which is to "remove counter-intention from the environment". Counter- intention is anything that Scientology perceives to be a threat, and when they say remove, they mean it. The history of litigation, stories of harassment, and many other controversies in themselves speak volumes.
Recovery from Scientology
By Kim Baker
The above patterns of behavior that have been identified can manifest in different combinations and degrees of intensity in individuals who have left Scientology. They are not always visible, but can surface at unexpected moments, or they can manifest chronically. For a person to recover, they first need to recognise if they are manifesting any of these patterns of behavior. This is a very, very difficult thing for them to do, since they often do not have the ability to self- reflect. If they do manage to recognise that they manifest any of the behavioral patterns outlined above, then it requires a conscious decision on their part to attempt to deal with it. If they recognise it, but do not decide to actively do anything about it, there is very little chance of recovery.
Assuming that they have both recognised the behavioral patterns, and decided that they want to change their ways, they can either seek out professional help, if it is extreme, and uncontrollable, or they can attempt to modify their behavior themselves. If they choose to do it themselves, then there are a few guidelines that can be suggested for facilitation of the process:
- Avoid judgemental people and groups:
About the worst thing that a recovering Scientologist can do, is to be in the company of people who will mock them, sneer and jeer, condemn them, and "keel-haul" them. Many people are completely ignorant of the damage that an individual may be carrying, and quite callously will try and completely break the person down. This is simply not going to achieve anything constructive, and will severely impede recovery and healing. People like this cannot be educated, or reasoned with, and it is better simply to avoid them, once it has been determined that they are hostile and judgemental. Some ex- Scientologists link up with people like this, and turn into executioners themselves, with the same fanatical devotion as they displayed when they were in Scientology. These people are all best given an immediate and wide berth.
- Seek out rational, mature and empathetic adults
Fortunately, there are many, many groups and individuals that will be empathetic, understanding and rational in their everyday behavior. Rational and mature adults who are concerned with the well-being of others, who care about people, who contribute to society in order to improve it, are the best kind of people to seek out. Simply being in their presence, and inter-acting continually with people like this can be enormously healing. If possible, re-connect with old friends and go out and have fun.
One of the aspects of polarised thinking is an absence of humour, and very definitely, an inability to laugh at oneself. Watch cartoons, try and see the funny side of everyday situations, laugh at yourself, lighten up, generally. Laughter can be a very, very powerful weapon against the fanatical seriousness that polarised thinking creates.
- Look for the goodness in people
To counter the dead agenting impulse, watch people, and start looking for the goodness in them, instead of focusing on their negatives. If it is not evident, then keep looking to see if you can find just one thing about them that you like. Focus on that for some while, do it as a daily excersize. Realise that people have faults, as well as strengths, learn to accept them with both. However, while doing this, remain on the watch for destructive and hostile people who are intent on "bringing you down", and avoid them immediately. You still need to protect yourself against this, for a long while.
This is a tough one, especially if you have been subjected to the most extreme forms of abuse in this area. Take your time, as long as you need. Start by thinking of something you may have done to upset someone, that they haven't forgiven you for. Imagine that they do, imagine them forgiving you, and how that feels. When you realise how healing it is to *be* forgiven, then look at forgiving those who have hurt you. You don't necessarily have to approach them personally, if that is not appropriate, but you need to get to the point where you can think about it without anger, hatred and bitterness welling up inside of you. This can take a very long time, but a determination to get past it will eventually yield results.
- Reclaim your right to self-reflect
This is a long one, and can actually be great fun. You need to review what your *own* values are, explore your opinions, likes and dislikes. You need to re-compile your own set of standards. Then, measure yourself up against them, find where you like yourself, and where you dislike yourself. Re-claim the power to do something about it YOURSELF, without having to run to someone for advice. This is not to say that you cannot ever seek out advice, but it is to say that you can try and resolve it yourself, first. Learn to criticise yourself gently, and constructively. Vigorous self-blame and self-disgust does not achieve anything, although it *is* a phase that one needs to naturally progress through. Dwelling on this phase for too long, however, is very destructive, both to yourself, and others. Being in an environment that re-inforces this self-disgust is deadly, and an immediate and complete withdrawal from such an environment is essential. Rather, spend time with people, and environments that are creative, constructive, and fun. Explore the infinite opportunities that are available, be they in art, music, hang-gliding, chess, dancing in clubs - whatever your particular interests are.
- Get involved in projects and tasks
While it is important to re-gain the ability to self-reflect, it is essential not to spend too much time thinking. Keep busy with enjoyable, interesting and exciting projects and tasks, set yourself goals, and spend time in activity achieving them. Make sure that they are not too demanding, because the rush-rush-pressure of life in Scientology, where everything has to be done before Thursday, 2.00 pm, is another habit-forming pattern of behavior that is hard to shake. Set yourself tasks that take time to complete, where there is no deadline, only the satisfaction of completing it well, and the enjoyment of the process of getting there.
Actually, many people in society, not only ex-Scientologists, could benefit from this. To overcome the repulsion of "victims", you need to see if you can experience compassion for anything in distress. If you find people too revolting, try an injured animal, or child, and work up from there. If you cannot experience any compassion at all, even for these, then you need professional help. If you can, then try it out, finally, on adults. Start with people you really like - learn to listen to them, really place yourself in their situation, imagine how it feels, and give them love and support. You may not be able to relieve their suffering, but a warm and friendly ear can go a long way towards making a difference for the person.
- Linking up with other ex-Scientologists and support groups
The natural impulse for a person is to want to find other people who have had similar experiences, or will understand what they are going through. Most books on cult recovery recommend making contact with former members, and this can indeed be an enormously helpful step. However, in the case of Scientology, specifically, it is recommended that *extreme* caution be excersized. In many cases, Scientologists do not support each other, they attack each other. Which is obviously counter-productive to healing and recovery. Other factors such as geographical location and socio-cultural differences can intensify the problem.
The guide to finding a constructive route in this mine-field is to carefully study the *behavior* of an ex-Scientologist, or support group, over a period of time. If they manifest the behavioral patterns outlined above, then about the worst thing you can do is link up with them. It will stimulate the same characteristics within yourself, and literally bring out the worst in you, as well as greatly impede your own recovery. If you cannot find any other groups/people to link up with who are sufficiently rational and compassionate, then that is unfortunate, but not the end of the world. It is far better to remain in contact with normal, healthy, mature adults who are genuine friends, even though they may know nothing of your expriences, and you may not be able to talk to them about them, than to link up with a group of damaged people displaying the behavior outlined above. Rather than risk further damage to yourself, trust information, not people. There are excellent sources on cults, cult phenomena, and recovery, that can help enormously in understanding and integrating your experiences in a way that will allow you to go on and lead a useful, productive, happy and fulfilling life.
Atack, Jon - A piece of blue sky : Scientology, Dianetics & L. Ron Hubbard exposed. New York : Lyle Stuart, 1990
Cialdini, Robert B. - Influence : the psychology of persuasion. New York : Quill, 1993
Goleman, Daniel - Emotional intelligence : why it can matter more than IQ. New York : Bantam Books, 1995
Hassan, Steven - Combatting cult mind control. Vermont: Park Street Press, 1990
Sagan, Carl - The demon-haunted world : science as a candle in the dark. London : Headline, 1996
Singer, Margaret Thaler - Cults in our midst. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass Publishers, c1995
Storr, Anthony - Feet of clay : a study of gurus. London : HarperCollins, 1996