What does it mean when someone beats up his staff?
I was asked the other day by a former Apollo shipmate, “Why are you back in the game?” My answer was simple, “To help.” Abused members of destructive groups and cults need help and it takes someone who has been through it to truly understand them.
I was managing apartments in Tampa, Florida when the St. Pete Times articles about the Church of Scientology revealed that the leader, David Miscavige allegedly beat up his juniors and ordered subordinates to do the same. I learned about other atrocities; the “hole” prison, the endless RPF (Rehabilitation Project Force), people working in toxic waste, alleged deaths on the ship Freewinds, etc, etc. Shortly after that I decided to resume counseling.
One of the most poignant stories I read was a former chief executive’s account of being strangled and beaten by Miscavige as others stood by and watched. Now, I knew this person from the time he was about 13 years old from the Flagship. He was a tough kid who grew up to be a tough, but fair minded adult. I read the article and was astonished and grieved to not only find out that he let the diminutive Miscavige choke him but that he thought the beatings were somehow his own fault! He blamed himself, not “COB.” (Chairman of the Board) How could a tough guy like that let someone do this to him and then blame himself?
Here is how:
Someone who beats up his juniors has a psyche that has become perverted and is destructive. Simply saying, “Oh he’s a suppressive with evil purposes” or “he is an R/Ser” is just superficial name calling and leads to no real understanding. At some point the hitter’s psyche arrested and took a 180 degree turn into a destructive persona and then embraced it.
There is lost tech from a series of talks from case folders given in Daytona, Florida in 1976 by LRH (L. Ron Hubbard) called the “Special Rundown.” (Remarketed as the New Vitality Rundown) A barbell is used in the key illustration. Imagine a barbell with two heavy weights on each end, weight A and weight B. If you turn the barbell around it looks virtually the same. But in fact, when you turn it around you are looking at different objects. Even though they may look the same, weight A is not weight B. In extreme mental and physical abuse the overwhelmed person’s psychic barbell slowly and irrevocably swings around where weight A becomes weight B. Extreme misidentification takes place. Say the abused person is weight A and the evil doer is weight B. Through pain and beatings, a complete shift occurs where the evil doer, weight B, is seen by the abused individual, weight A, as himself. He becomes weight B, the evil one. It is more insidious than the “winning valence” written about in Dianetics. The victim does act like and become the abuser, but here’s the twist, he now thinks the abuser is good and he is the evil one. This happens because the victimized person who has shifted into being the evil doer, will not ultimately deem himself as evil. The evil doer then has to be considered good. From the point the shift occurs the victim thinks that whatever the evil person does is good. Conversely, whatever he thinks what he does is bad. It is very twisted, but explains how someone beaten up by Miscavige can think it was his own fault. It is a serious condition; it has elements of misidentification and delusion. (Secular information on this condition can be found; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm syndrome, and the famous case of hostage Patty Hearst who ended up helping her captors in a bank robbery.)
One of the main facets of the “barbell” phenomenon is that the victim is dependent upon the abuser for survival. In the hostage scenario the captor aides the hostage with sustenance, such as food and shelter and there might even be some acts of kindness. A peculiar intimacy occurs.
The Sea Org can produce a hostage mentality; with the RPF, the hole, the beatings, threatening environment, displacement, mind control, and induced phobias about leaving. Yet, the group led by an “inerrant” abusive leader provides room and board, money, purpose, inspiration, control, and perhaps occasional acts of kindness. Whereas a hostage knows he is imminent danger, a destructive group member does not necessarily know they are in peril, it is not so obvious. In some ways it can be more abusive and damaging. The hostage does not do anything willingly or wholeheartedly, whereas the group member does. It is a deeper betrayal and actually creates more psychic harm. The staff member has his own noble purpose which makes him want to stay. It is, as I said, a peculiar intimacy.
The barbell illustration above refers to both the hitter and victim. But there is difference with the hitter. It is true that at one point the cruel leader who beats up his staff has no doubt been beaten too, but the main difference is that a beater is predisposed to being an abuser and embraces the evil identity. Whereas a victim fights the evil within by putting himself down, blames himself, and uses constraint. A person who regularly beats up people is predisposed to being an abuser because of his own nature.
At some point the hitter has decided to be evil, he has embraced it, separate from environmental overwhelm. It is his own decision and becomes part and parcel of his own being, he clings to the idea. He and the evil persona and intentions are nearly one and the same. If that person is never called to task by anyone or anything forceful enough to get through to him he does not need to change. (That in a nutshell is why a true anti-social makes no case gain.)
In a destructive church group, the leader is protected by freedom of religion laws and by his abusers. The true believers and the abused protect and rationalize the leader’s behavior. As the barbell illustration shows the abused person thinks the leader is good, so the victim protects the leader and inadvertently or deliberately lies about cruel acts. The hitter who beats his staff ultimately perverts anyone in his vicinity. This is especially true in a church leader who is accountable to no one.