In Scientology a cult member routinely doesn't use their best judgement, independent and critical thinking skills and own good common sense. An otherwise intelligent and skeptical person will often forego all that and behave quite differently.
There are definite reasons for that. It's not a fluke or due to being more stupid, gullible or insane than other people. It has reasons that are due to human nature and psychological and societal issues. Ones that are often unknown and unexamined.
A cult member could be said to forge the prison of their own mind in a very specific way and bit by bit not know the full extent of what they are doing or its long term consequences.
Part of this has to do with how the mind deals with information and trauma. A person's own psychological defense mechanisms and the nature of conscious and subconscious thought both play key roles.
In understanding information and how a mind deals with it a few things should be started with. If a person gets information with no upset or anxiety and simply accepts it and passes it along to other people and recalls it with no alteration we call it honesty.
We say honesty is the best policy and with good reason. Aside from moral arguments there are psychological benefits to honesty with others and yourself.
If a person receives or thinks up information and accepts it themself but is less than truthful with others we call that lying, in other words knowingly lying when a person knows on a conscious level they are delivering untrue information on purpose.
When a person has for some reason got information and won't or can't face it on a conscious level but on a subconscious level is at least somewhat aware but not facing the information we call it denial.
We say a person is in denial. Now to be accurate a person is in denial on certain information or topics or whatever they can't or won't face and just telling them usually prompts them being annoyed and defensive. Whether they are in denial or not.
If they are it's a natural reaction and if they are not then they are annoyed that their mind has been sort of invaded and inspected and diagnosed incorrectly.
So just telling a person is often not productive. It the same with terms like brainwashing.
Brainwashing is a state that is similar to denial In that if someone is successfully brainwashed they have reasons to not consider it or face or look at evidence and if they are not then they get annoyed. Because brainwashing has denial as a component.
That's the important point. That's why irony seems high. The brainwashed person refuses to face it and projects traits they dare not consider in themself onto others, particularly others that remind them of those traits or say they may have them.
And that is the psychological defense mechanism of projection being used along with denial and even reversals of truth are used too. A reversal can be for example seeing the trait one denies in others quite strongly, not based on its actual presence but on the condition of being reminded of the denied information. And if a person reminds one of the information in oneself in particular.
In Scientology lots of things get denied by members. There is a lack of individual results and a lack of group results. The reality one can easily observe with their own senses is habitually denied. This sets up conflict between the conscious mind of a cult member that doesn't dare see, think or know certain things and the subconscious.
The subconscious holds buried ideas, emotions and even behavior that one dare not express. As this rift grows mental discomfort over the contradictions escalates. This is called cognitive dissonance. It's a subject worth learning about in depth for anyone who studies cults.
As the dissonance grows anxiety, confusion and a feeling of being overwhelmed all can become extreme and persistent. Then a Scientologist often becomes more negative toward people that remind them of Scientology's failures. Those people are acceptable targets in Scientology with its SP doctrine, disconnection and fair game practices.
Those practices actually preserve the cult by giving an exterior target for what should be conscious criticism aimed inward toward the cult and the cult member.
This doesn't mean the cult member should be condemned or judged harshly. It means they should face the truth about their group and self. But dare not.
Now that is a part of the issue but there is still more that is very relevant. In addition to conscious honesty, lying and denial of information there is also dissociation.
That is a mental splitting off of a portion of the mind that is considered more severe than lying or denial. Like denial it is considered a response to trauma.
Dissociation is a subject that is worth serious in depth study for all cult members and ex members without exception.
Dissociation has several forms and greatly varying degrees. In a traumatic event like a rape for example a victim may experience severe trauma. As a sort of automatic defense mechanism they might feel it is unreal or not happening or that they are outside their body watching it and not really experiencing it.
They may never recall it and have the memory and deep trauma separated so strongly they don't ever recall it even subconsciously and demonstrate a far stronger separation than denial would create.
Dissociation can manifest in emotional flatness or indifference regarding issues and subjects a person obviously should care about. It can be shown it totally not caring about behaviors that seem quite important.
It has several aspects and manifestations. Dissociation from oneself or life in general can have the not there feeling, the floating feeling, the disconnection from reality feeling.
Dissociation from a behavior or person can have an emotional flatness toward a person or behavior. The ideas that "I know I should care, but somehow I don't".
In cults and definitely in Scientology in particular long term hard core members develop extreme denial and extreme dissociation routinely.
They can experience floating and in the cult it is called exteriorization which Hubbard knew was a consequence from hypnosis and falsely claimed was a spiritual experience.
In psychoanalysis dissociation is known as hypnotic phenomena from trauma. Or hypnosis is defined as a state of dissociation.
The symptoms of hypnosis and dissociation certainly overlap.
Margaret Singer described how an ex cult members may continue with emotional flatness on subjects in an interview. She advocated for families to listen to ex cult members and eventually the feelings would return over time. It's a process of gradual progressives change.
She interviewed over four thousand ex cult members and was a top expert on cults.
In hypnosis one can enter a state called trance logic in which deep attention fixation occurs. It is marked by the conscious mind ignoring contradictions from the hypnotist as an authority, the person being hypnotized actually is in denial about the contradictions and their conscious mind ignores them and any cognitive dissonance they create, but the subconscious doesn't. It holds buried both the awareness of contradictions and the accompanying cognitive dissonance and negative emotions it carries as well.
The state of hypnosis has several traits for how a subject's mind are affected. One is the phenomena known as trance logic. It's quite often used in Scientology in auditing and indoctrination.
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) !!
I will include an excerpt from an abstract (scholarly paper) that is available on this blog.
Research on classical and "nonclassical" (e.g., Ericksonian) forms of hypnosis suggests the following: It is possible to be hypnotized without being aware of the induction process. Most hypnotic phenomena, including carrying out posthypnotic suggestions, have been produced in subjects who were not aware of being in hypnosis (Erickson, Rossi, & Rossi, 1976).
Hypnosis begins with a shift in attention (Hilgard, 1968). Attention is normally motile. That is, it is dynamic and is relatively freely focused on a variety of events within a large perceptual field; it moves back and forth between the external (e.g., actions and events "outside" the self) and the internal (e.g., thoughts and feelings). Trance is a state that involves relatively focused, fixed or immotile attention.
Corollary: anyone or anything that results in decreased motility of attention is highly likely to induce an altered state of consciousness ("trance") whether or not it is labeled "hypnosis."
The language of hypnosis is marked by vagueness, overgeneralizations, metaphors and abstractions. Classical inductions are not the only way to "talk hypnosis" (although they can be found in many "meditation" techniques not overtly labeled as hypnosis).
Nonclassical inductions use "normal" conversation and storytelling, often directed at more than one representational system (e.g., sight, sound and touch) to shift attention, in part by activating the subject's tendency to search within him— or herself in order to find ways of relating what is being said now to experiences in the past (Bandler & Grinder, 1975). Corollary: words that sound "deep" or meaningful but feel confusing (and/or strangely calming) can induce trance outside the subject's awareness.
In trance, memories, fantasies, feelings and thoughts are often experienced more vividly and intensely than they are in the normal "waking" state (Hilgard, 1981). If a person is unaware of being in trance, or is unfamiliar or unconvinced of the phenomenon of hypnotic enhancement of perception, fantasy and suggestibility, then that person is likely to attribute the vividness and intensity of the trance experience to some special characteristic of the message and/or communicator. That is, the person links his/her feelings of intensity with what has been said or who has said it, not with how (i.e., hypnotically) it was said. The message is therefore experienced as "more real" or "more true" than other messages, and the communicator of the message is endowed with extraordinary (or even supernatural) characteristics or skills.
Hypnosis involves powerful transference. The induction process involves establishing and utilizing rapport, and hypnosis is perhaps first and foremost an interpersonal process (Fromm, 1979). Most subjects, after being hypnotized, feel closer, more trusting, and more positively about their operator than before. It is always more difficult to objectively assess someone (or what that someone says) after a powerful transference relationship has developed.
Hypnosis involves the suspension of "normal" logic. Trance logic is characterized by, among other things, lack of criticalness and the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs as true without one canceling out the other (Orne, 1959). Thus, in trance one can have the sensation of cold and still be aware of being seated in a warm, heated room. Corollary: in trance, people can accept notions or ideas that they would otherwise reject because they contradict other beliefs known to be based in reality. For example, the members of one Hindu-based cult believe that the space program is a hoax and yet may listen to and accept weather reports based on satellite pictures.
Building Resistance: Tactics for Counteracting Manipulation and Unethical Hypnosis in Totalistic Groups
Steve K. D. Eichel, Ph.D.
In addition to the heightened suggestibility hypnotic techniques create in victims they also create dissociation as a consequence and can make entering such states habitual for cult members, particularly Scientologists as Scientology has hundreds of methods intended to induce hypnosis and heightened dependence to authority within it. They use anxiety, confusion (often via contradictions or paradox), and other means to overwhelm the victim that often result in trauma severe enough to induce dissociation repeatedly. This sets up patterns of repeated dissociation.
Below is an excerpt from a blog entry on this.