In the entire Building the Prison of the Mind series I will consult and quote the book A Theory Of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger. The entire series is an attempt to interpret Scientology and my twenty five years in the cult with the information Festinger presented in his book.
This post addresses cognitive dissonance as it relates to social support. That is interactions with groups by an individual for example among other social aspects.
On the other hand, one of the most effective ways of eliminating dissonance is to discard one set of cognitive elements in favor of another, something which can sometimes only be accomplished if one can find others who agree with the cognitions one wishes to retain and maintain. Processes of social communication and social influence are, hence, inextricably interwoven with processes of creation and reduction of dissonance. (Page 177)
This can be explained easily. A set of cognitive elements is an entire group of related ideas, behaviors and emotions that are in agreement with each other aka consonant. Dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling that accompanies conflicting ideas, behaviors and emotions. A set of cognitive elements can be an entire belief system, like Scientology. Scientology has lots of ideas, opinions, beliefs, behaviors and emotions. It is for many members nearly all encompassing.
That almost cannot be overstated. Scientology ultimately is designed to nearly completely control a cult member's decision making, even in Scientology including thoughts and emotions. And decision making is behavior. So it is intended to entirely control a person's identity, for what is left of a person if all their thoughts, feelings and actions are controlled ? Their memories and beliefs are thoughts, the meaning and values they hold are tied to emotions and everything they do is behavior, so they have nothing that is really their own left, to the degree they submit to or are influenced by Scientology.
It is worth noting that Scientology encourages a brand of isolation from dissonant elements both through outright rejection of groups and individuals that reject Scientology and quite often total immersion in the cult and intense, all consuming zealous devotion to Scientology, leaving no time for anything else. So as a Scientologist you both reject any disagreement with the cult and in behavior, and communication only embrace the cult approved elements.
Festinger goes on:
The existence of disagreement among group members of a group on some issue or some opinion, if perceived by the members, certainly produces cognitive dissonance. (Page 178)
This is something Ron Hubbard tried to tightly control. He wanted his ideas and authority to be paramount and for disagreement about him, his technology and his infallible perfection to be unacceptable and never tolerated. This has been complicated by David Miscavige taking Scientology in a different direction and significantly changing many aspects of Scientology.
After often spending decades in adherence to Hubbard's methods and doctrine, members can doubt or question Miscavige without betraying Hubbard, so tens of thousands of Scientologists have questioned Miscavige and ultimately left Scientology.
What factors affect the magnitude of the dissonance which is established by such open expression of disagreement ?(Page 178)
Plainly, what kinds of things decide how strong or weak the mental discomfort inspired by an opinion that disagrees with one's own is ?
Where the content of the opinion concerns "testable physical reality," there will be little dissonance created by social disagreement. (Page 179)
This simply means things you can check with your senses that others disagree on bother you far less than others, since you can see or feel, etc. that your opinion is true. You usually trust your own senses. USUALLY.
Very notably in Scientology Hubbard turns this against his victims, quite insidiously in fact. He redefines mental and emotional and physical phenomena as indicating very different things than they actually do to confuse, mislead and control people. He makes the symptoms of hypnotism in study technology into signs of "barriers to study" which are entirely fictional, and in auditing the very same phenomena are attributed to "gains" and other fraudulent misdirections. He does the same with language.
I covered many of these ideas in earlier blog posts such as Insidious Enslavement: Study Technology, Basic Introduction to Hypnosis in Scientology, Propaganda by Reversal of Meaning in Scientology, the Critical factor, and the Secret of Scientology part 1 Control via Contradiction.
The point of those examples is that Hubbard used the special trick of so thoroughly redefining direct physical evidence that what would normally increase dissonance actually acts to support his unproven claims.
Additionally he makes use of hypnotic techniques which use trance logic. Regarding trance logic here is a quote from Psychweb on trance logic: "Words, in trance logic, are interpreted much more literally, communication being conveyed by focusing on words themselves rather than ideas. There is also an associated decrease in critical judgement of language being processed, and an increased tolerance for incongruity."
Trance logic is a state in hypnosis in which a person has their attention absorbed or focused so strongly that they don't exercise critical and independent thinking, they lose judgment regarding the information they take in and do not CONSCIOUSLY notice contradictions. They experience age regression and like a young child submit to authority and are willing to engage in magical thinking.
This has tremendous importance in Scientology regarding cognitive dissonance as noticing contradiction is a way cognitive dissonance is created, but by making cognitive dissonance serve to create confusion which he uses to create hypnotic trances, Hubbard inspires dissonance then "solves" it by negating the contradiction inspired dissonance by knocking out the critical factor (the capacity for critical and independent thinking, including noticing contradiction) !!
By doing this he plays an especially effective trick. He conditions his victim to habitually submit to his authority and experience relief from confusion and seeming clarity, making Scientology provide certainty - as an unthinking slave ! Remember, in a trance one can enter a pleasant worry free euphoria. Contrast this with strong cognitive dissonance which has confusion, reelingness, overwhelm, anxiety, mental blankness and physiological stress reactions.
And he also has cognitive dissonance buried in the subconscious mind of his victim, which will grow over time. The importance of this is that as buried dissonance it affects the emotions and behavior and beliefs of a Scientologist in a hidden manner. It inspires intense discomfort, anxiety and a desire to avoid or escape the feeling and associated behaviors and ideas whenever possible. So when a person encounters information that contradicts Scientology this can trigger dissonance from subconscious unhandled experiences in the mind of the Scientologist, when these experiences were ones that had a trance state from Scientology's hypnotic mind control techniques and contradictory content. Hubbard often contradicted himself and common sense and well known facts or commonly held beliefs. So his hypnotic techniques that create trance logic protect his doctrine quite routinely in Scientology indoctrination, auditing and cult activities.
What does that mean ? It means cognitive dissonance is created, but used to create hypnotic states that hide but do not eliminate dissonance. So over time entering the trance becomes automatic and the inability to perceive contradictory statements in Scientology grows but the dissonance in the subconscious ALSO grows, often to nearly maddening proportions. And when triggered by people pointing out contradictions or problems with Scientology the Scientologist often engages in ruthless passionate projection against the person that stirs up the dissonance. The reaction is often directly proportional to the hidden dissonance. For many Scientologists this is quite strong and makes reasoning with them honestly and openly with criticisms of Scientology nigh impossible.