Why we want to believe change is possible--and what happens when it's not
September 29th, 2009
Part I, “Pseudo-psychology and selling hope for unrealistic change” can be found here.
A direct comparison
When I first began reading the stories of former Scientologists I was captivated by the similarities to those of ex-gay survivors. Both groups of people made huge investments seeking to change their lives and both groups of people must eventually confront the fact that the sort of changes they were promised are not possible.
Ex-gays and Scientologists:
Before we move on to the next section filled with anecdotal quotes let’s have a look at some statistics regarding how many people buy into Scientology’s promises and for how long. TruthAboutScientology.com analyzes data published by the Church of Scientology about which members pass various classes and levels. TruthAboutScientology.com reports 65% of Scientologists become inactive within one year of achieving Clear. For those who continue on to the Operating Thetan levels 35% become inactive after completing their first OT level with an additional 5% becoming inactive with each subsequent year.
Dare I say it’s because they realize they’ve been had? That despite the church’s own definition people who achieve the level of Clear are forced to confront the fact they still experience “fears, anxieties and irrational thoughts” like all human beings. And for the OT’s they realize they’re not gaining the supernatural abilities they were expecting?
Former Scientologist and actor Jason Beghe gave an exhaustive two hour interview to anti-Scientology website Xenu TV and provided some amazing quotes that could just as easily be about what keeps someone in an ex-gay program and brilliantly illustrate the above bullet points. All of the following quotes from Beghe are from that Xenu TV interview.
About achieving the most success at the beginning of a program and then just hoping for more later on:
The biggest win I ever had in Scientology was on that first day.
About not wanting to admit your huge investment of time and money has been for a fraud:
The best traps, you get a guy to just keep himself in jail, right… and that’s what Scientology does, you just keep yourself in jail and that’s it, it’s a perfect theta trap, because you believe it, you’re investing your time and your money, so you can’t be a fool, that’s too much to confront.
The ex-gay movement has had it’s fair share of high profile falls from John Paulk getting caught in a gay bar to two of Exodus’ founders leaving their wives for each other. Jason Beghe experienced the same sort of disillusion at seeing high level Scientologists whos’ behavior failed to match their prestigious position in the church:
All these f*cking OT’s that aren’t OT. [I’m like] that’s a f*cking OT?
[interviewer:] And what’s an OT supposed to be?
Someone who’s at least able, someone who can at least walk and chew gum. I mean there’s people who are OT that are some of the most incompetent stupid people, my definition of stupid doesn’t have anything to do with data or education, it has to do with being able to say… I mean I’m talking about people putting their hand on the stove and saying “hey hey hey my hand is hot!”
I know people that are trouble to death and they just finished OT 8 and they have migraines. Migraines?!?! A f*cking Clear [mid level Scientologist] doesn’t have migraines, this is an OT 8 for God’s sake. Migraines?!?! Migraines is an engram that you can handle in… [trails off mockingly]
The OT Panel
In the year 2000, Xenu TV assembled a panel of four former Scientologists who all achieved level OT 7, the church’s second highest level. These people provided amazing insight as to why they chose to continue to believe in Scientology even when they started having doubts. All of the following quotes are from Xenu TV’s OT Panel video.
About keeping your mouth shut when you’re not experiencing success:
[Debra:] I never really told anybody at flag [Scientology headquarters] that I wasn’t doing well on that level because then I’d have to write another check. And I kind of learned early on in the level there were certain things that one never said because one got hassled if one did, or it cost one money, or cost one time, and there was never any resolution to it anyways.
About thinking you’re “just not doing it right” while being bombarded with others’ expectations and stories of success:
[Tory:] I just kept thinking, “well maybe it’s something that I’m not doing right.” And I kept trying and you’ve got all this agreement, “this is a fabulous level,” and people are telling you, “yeah you’re on OT 7 this is really gunna do it.”
And it wasn’t doing it for me, it was in fact getting worse and worse and worse, so it’s a major reason why I left.
People sit on the level just like we did for 7 years or longer and go “it might be right because everyone is having so many wins.”
This one stands on it’s own:
[Greg:] We don’t have to justify the things that don’t make sense anymore.
About losing the life you’ve built around being a Scientologist:
[Greg:] You’ve spent all this time and money, are you now going to go look in the mirror and go…
[Tory:] [interrupts and says sarcastically] It isn’t working?!?!
[Greg:] I mean you’re mentally trapped. All your friends are Scientologists, your family are Scientologists, your kids are Scientologists… and if you go “this is bunk!” then they disconnect from you and you’re declared [to be a “suppressive person” by the chruch] and you’ve lost everything. I didn’t think of it from that perspective but it’s like there was this thing going “this has gotta be true… this has gotta be true…”
I’ll periodically receive emails from other former patients of my ex-gay therapist asking if I can put them in contact with other various former patients. Even after attending conventions for ex-gay survivors I’m still blown away by how many former ex-gays there are. It turns out Scientologists experience the same surprise after getting out:
[Tory:] When someone leaves the Church of Scientology they dispose of them “quietly and without sorrow,” and that’s actually in writing by [L. Ron] Hubbard, you’re just, you’re gone…
[Tory:] And it is really weird, when I went to leave I literally only thought I was going to know three people when I left the church. Well of course I came over on the other side and here’s thousands. Most of my friends are here. I was amazed, oh here’s all the people I’ve been looking for for years. I didn’t know it but you never hear about it in the church.
Ex-gay survivors, myself included, who dare to speak publicly about the ineffectiveness of programs are often told by critics that we weren’t “doing the programs right” and that’s why we failed. Big surprise, former Scientologists hear the same thing:
[Greg:] I’m surprised at how many people can stand by and watch Debra and I, go through what we went through, right and go “well you must have pulled it in.”
[Panel facilitator laughs]
[Greg:] Right, yet I’m amazed at how many other people…
[Debra:] [interrupts] No the other one they like to say is “you didn’t handle it right.”
[Whole panel laughs]
[Tory:] Yeah, and like someone told me the other day “well you didn’t really get it.” [Tory looks into the camera and raises eyebrow] Thirty years?…
Writing this two part series has made me realize the mechanisms that keep people believing in promises made by Scientology and ex-gay programs are not unique to just those two types of programs. Rather, the bullet-point list at the very top of this post list seems to be the universal recipe for how to fool human beings into devoting huge portions of their lives and fortunes to chasing false promises.
For simplicity I have limited my post to utilizing quotes from Jason Beghe and the OT 7 Panel videos – There are far more accounts by former Scientologists available on the net for those who seek them out.
Having read/watched many more stories I am struck by how much more life shattering the accounts of former Scientologists are compared to ex-gay survivors. In my opinion, Scientology consumes more peoples’ time and money, destroyed more families and even claims more human lives than ex-gay programs. For those trapped living and working in the church’s most elite and cult-like division, a hotline has even been setup for those who want help getting out.
Based on the previous paragraph mentioning destroyed families, deaths, and a cult rescue hotline, there are many more alarming things about Scientology than what I can cover in this post. If your interest in Scientology has been piqued and you want to research more I’d suggest these sites:
http://www.xenutv.com/blog/ My favorite Scientology “watch” site and source for current news is Xenu TV’s blog. Xenu TV also has an extensive library of video interviews with former Scientologists.
http://www.xenu.net/ (don’t confuse the URL with XenuTV) The nearest thing to a Scientology encyclopedia is this site called Operation Clambake.
http://www.exscientologykids.com/ Ex-Scientology Kids.
http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/ This is the home page for a huge multi-part series by St. Petersburg Times on abuse at Scientology’s HQ in nearby Clearwater FL.
Part I, “Pseudo-psychology and selling hope for unrealistic change” can be found here.
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