I just recently talked to a Scientologist whose son had just disconnected from her. She told him how bad the church and Miscavige were in their initial meeting. He closed down, and told her he could not communicate to her anymore. Naturally, she was very upset. She had put her whole life into this relationship and now was broken hearted. It is very important to know when to discuss the group and when to start sharing information.
To review the main points:
- Be loving and create warmth.
- Do not attack their beliefs or the leader.
- Keep in regular communication.
- Understand mind control.
- Realize true believers are victims and it is not their fault.
- Be alert for a personal betrayal.
- Then and only then begin to share information and stories.
There are two types of situations in Scientology families where disconnections are occurring; there used to only one. In my era the son or daughter disconnected from their parents or friends who appeared to be antagonistic to Scientology. Scientology was fairly new in the 1960s and my age group was young adults whose parents found Scientology to be distasteful and were dead set against it. In the late 1960s there were anti-Scientology articles circulating, one was in the highly influential Life Magazine.(http://www.lermanet.com/scientologynews/scientology-cult-life-magazine.htm) Scientology was banned in Australia and students were not allowed into England. The thought of their sons or daughter dropping out of college to join this controversial and seemingly bizarre movement was abhorrent to traditionally minded parents. So fights and antagonisms resulted. Instead of teaching understanding disconnection was the rule of the day.
A Note on Children: Scientology is now generational. Children and grandchildren raised by Scientologists are now disconnecting from their parents and grandparents who have left the corporate church. Children, who were raised in Scientology, especially in the sea org, are indoctrinated into certain beliefs from birth and therefore represent a far more difficult challenge to unwind mind control. First of all they know nothing else and have no comparisons to draw upon. Also, most of the people in the church nowadays have never met Hubbard and tend to deify him. Deifying him is both unfair to him and his followers. Anyone who has done any research whatsoever about LRH has realized he was a man and not a god. In my opinion, part of the stress and pressure causing his volatility were self imposed by taking on the role of savior. Today’s leaders use his name for behavioral control purposes; policies and bulletins are excerpted, changed, or taken out of context for various and sundry purposes. But, worse than that, children under the age 30 only know Miscavige as their leader. All groups are to a greater or lesser degree imbued with the leader’s spirit. The cold compassionless spirit that permeates Scientology predisposes a true believer to easily shun anyone.
If you haven’t done it yet begin reading about mind control in my blog (“Return to Freedom” and “Freedom of Thought”), Jeff Hawkins’ Leaving Scientology blog or do an internet search starting with Robert J. Lifton’s lectures on destructive groups and cults (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yDoPD5GeCE). It is important to educate yourself in the key components of mind control if you are considering leaving. It is equally important to start teaching your children to be loving, compassionate and to be socially aware if it wasn’t part of your household or has been eliminated by being in the sea org. Both elements are important before you tell your children about your plans to leave and risk losing them. They need to understand love and mind control factors, particularly built in phobias about leaving the church and “squirrels*.” They are programmed to believe that if anyone leaves their eternity is at stake; they may die, get cancer, and that no help is available as all independent counselors are committing crimes akin to the devil.
*(A squirrel is a very derogatory label for an independent Scientology practitioner who is believed to alter Scientology techniques.)
Fundamental morays and kindness are one of the elements of recovery such as given in the Bible or the Bible based booklet, “The Way to Happiness.” I confess that I treated my children harshly with a militaristic edge when I first left the sea org. I did not take into account child developmental factors nor have a compassionate heart. I got into Scientology at a very young age and I had to relearn patience and compassion. I hope that didn’t happen to you; I had become cold; love and empathy were drilled out of me.
1. Selfless. Love is not the object of your own desires but the needs and wants of the other person. It is thinking about the other person first, not yourself.
2. Understanding. What’s behind the way the other person feels? Love is not blind, love sees who the other person is and loves them just the way they are. It is understanding better and worse.
3. Forgiving. Love is forgiving no matter how many times and no matter what they do. If it is true a being can do anything forever, then forgiveness is unlimited.
4. Sacrificial. One definition of power is the ability to have or not have. True power can be reached by giving, with little or no concern about receiving. That isn’t a very popular thought in today’s world where power usually means domination or wealth. “The power of love” is through giving.
5. Unconditional. A lot has been said about unconditional love, but what is it? Doing 1-4 above over and over again.
(Some referencing from InTouch.Org, Dr. Charles Stanley)
Information Sharing: Information sharing is done with consent. Keeping the person’s sense of dignity intact is essential. It is not done by force, in a state of anger, or done covertly. As a member of a destructive group he or she has been a victim of sophisticated manipulation. You do not want to repeat that in any way. Education by consent helps them become aware of these manipulations and gives them a sense of volition.
In a destructive group there comes a time when a member’s basic integrity will not allow him or her to remain a part of a group that victimizes others no matter how lofty the group’s goals seem to be. Such factors as the leader’s greed or brutality come into play. Integrity along with the group’s betrayals will make it possible for them to listen to you at some point. Information sharing is not deprogramming or a dramatic intervention. Deprogramming is dangerous, against the law and is reverse mind control. An educational model is safe and consult’s the member’s understanding. Dignity and respect counter the group’s tendency to nullify and dominate the member’s life.
It is important to review the information with sensitivity to emotional trauma that can come up when reading the material. The information should be at a pace which allows understanding and time to deal with any upsets and away from the group headquarters or other members. A loving warm place is essential, perhaps on a family outing or vacation where there is enough time to go over the initial material you want to cover.
Your goal is to help them reevaluate the group and his or her commitment to it. Although you or the family may hope they may choose to leave the group that is not your goal. Informed choice is. (See: Carol Giambalvo 1992, pg. 164-5 “Recovery from Cults” Ch. 8, “Exit Counseling a practical overview”)
Before the first meeting you may want to consult with an exit counselor or an ex-member who has had experience in information sharing. It is important to have a plan, to work out what you want to say and have the information you wish to share ready. Go slowly and plan on more than one meeting. It may take quite a while to assimilate contrary information especially in the idealized mind of a child or young adult believer. If it is a young person you may want to tell stories about other cult like groups before talking about Scientology. (Search the internet for articles on Dahn Yoga, Unification Church, TM, Est, and other destructive groups)
When you meet talk about being concerned about the group. You believe things aren’t right and you don’t like the direction the group is going. Tell him or her that you want to share important information and facts. The perspective is that he or she doesn’t have complete information on the group or its leader. The information speaks for itself. Get agreement to talk to you or with you and an ex-member. You can ask for doubts about the groups, odd things he/she has seen, injustice, experiences that went against core tenants of the group’s and/or his or her beliefs. He or she may have been lied to and been betrayed. Encourage and validate his perception of and suspicions about what is said and what has been seen. The opposite occurs in the group. Group members are often convinced that their perceptions, if different than the group, have no value. Encourage and value his or her opinion.
It is important when information is shared and as education is continued to ensure that your loved one understands mind control techniques. They need tools to sort out things they have seen and their own specific issues. It is extremely vital that a young person is encouraged to think for themselves, to make their own conclusions and appraisals of what has occurred. You do not want them to parrot your ideas and convictions. As he or she becomes less stressed a sense or rationality, integrity and self worth will begin to occur.
Once the person leaves the group don’t be surprised if they still hold onto certain beliefs or tenets and have doubts. You are dealing with a mind that has been victimized and is confused. Destructive groups create black and white scenarios; you have now entered into gray. It can take years to sort of what the lies are versus the truth. It is very hard at first, there is delusion as stanchions of former realities begin to fall. In a session a counselor works from a program or plan similarly, it is important that you do the same and do not talk randomly or off the cuff. Continue to share information until they start seeking it out on their own. There should be no unplanned visits or comments. Most of all be patient and loving.
Information Sharing and counsel does not end when the person leaves the group: All destructive groups and cults depend on lies and deception. Members are taught the end justifies the means and to do things for the “greatest good.” One of the first things to accomplish is to get them to admit that lying occurs. They may only admit to being lied to at first. But then it is important to get them to admit that they too had told lies at some point. It is common for all staff members to lie about money. If you don’t feel qualified to do this, then you may want to send your loved one to an independent counselor. It is important to get the member to acknowledge one lie, no matter how small it is. That can set the stage for reasoning that one lie begets another and so on. Admitting the small lie can be the beginning of the end of denial and can open up the door for them to see the bigger lies and the bigger picture. It will help get them up to the point where they can see the leader’s lie. This can lead to fully examining the group’s fundamental beliefs and he or she can start to work out what is true and what is not true in the group’s philosophy or dogma.
Uncovering the myriad of deceptions often can create a shock and a severe emotional reaction. You or the counselor will need to be prepared to give comfort due to the resulting impact. At this point it is common for the shattered believer to begin self-questioning and self-doubt; “How could I have been so stupid?” or “Why did I ever walk in there in the first place?” “How could I have believed all that stuff and the leader?” It is important that the person does not get into self blame or self loathing. They need to understand that they were the victim of manipulation and it was not their fault. It is important to talk and listen with compassion and make no incriminating comments.
The phases of information sharing can require a long and involved give and take. The speed and progress has a lot to do with the comfort level of the individual and what degree the believer has recognized the lies, deception and manipulation in the cult environment. During the talks the genuine good points about the member’s involvement should be acknowledged. For instance, that he or she desired to help to make the world a better place or that he got off drugs. Your loved one may have learned some valuable work skills, the group dynamic, and hopefully a semblance of ethics despite the lies. They need to know you feel there is dignity is what they have done, it is just the vehicle chosen that needs to be contended with.
Some of this information is the domain of the counselor, but it is information that you need to have in order to understand what you are up against during your efforts to help. There will be resistance so be prepared for it. It is human nature to insist on one’s own rightness so you can expect some fights. When the cultist no longer feels threatened by the information and stops believing in the implanted phobias about leaving the group the fighting will stop. It is a cyclical process.
When your loved one begins to explore information on his or her own you may notice the quality of your relationship has improved; less hostility and more warmth and some appreciation for you and efforts occur. There will be concern for others still left in the group, voicing things that the group did that harmed him and how he harmed others, other betrayals and disagreements. This is all good and well. At this point a search for truth is going on, not simply responding to information. This shows that a return of critical thinking and reflection has begun instead of deflection. Black and white think is decreasing therefore alternate points of view start becoming available. This change is very significant. It is important for the person to work the “muscles” of their mind and enjoy looking at pros and cons. It takes time, perhaps many years, to sift through the positives and negatives of the cult experience. It is a vital that the person begins to reacquaint himself with his own point of view, get a feel for his own perspective and realize there is a self who has is capable of thinking independently.
Once these independent insights begin a progressive departure from mind control ensues. Further appreciation for your efforts and concerns about what you and the family went through will take place. Self-conviction will occur along with apologies, branching out to other interests, and a desire to rejoin life. Love begins anew.