Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 1 Cognitive Dissonance
In many posts in the year and a half since I left the Scientology cult after twenty five years in I have explored in entries at this blog- hypnosis (Insidious Enslavement: Study Technology, Basic Introduction to Hypnosis in Scientology, The Secret of Scientology part 1 Control via Contradiction, Burning Down Hell - How commands are hidden , varied and repeated in Scientology to control you as hypnotic implants), the language Hubbard used to influence Scientologists (Propaganda by Reversal of Meaning in Scientology) and Hubbard's twisted mind as the foundation of Scientology even down to the current ideal org program
(Scientology's parallel in nature - malignant narcissism).
In exploring the subject of social psychology I read the books True Believer by Eric Hoffer, Social Psychology for Dummies, Age of Propaganda (Pulling Back The Curtain part 1-7), and Robert Cialdini's Influence.
But I knew eventually I would have to read certain books to seriously research aspects of Scientology. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger is one of those books. In social psychology you can't run with the big dogs without reading this book.
In social psychology the idea of cognitive dissonance is perhaps the most researched and influential idea in the entire field. It might honestly be a hypothesis that needs greater scientific research, but is well worth examining in my opinion.
So now I am reading that book and writing this very post and series of posts on that. I will quote from the book and try to interpret my experience through that information to see if it makes the Scientology experience more understandable.
I will start with some quotes from chapter one An Introduction to the Theory of Dissonance.
First I will replace the word"inconsistency" with a term which has less of a logical connotation, namely, dissonance. I will likewise replace the word "consistency" with a more neutral term, namely, consonance. (Page 2)
The basic hypothesis I wish to state are as follows:
1. The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance.
2. When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will likely avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance. (Page 3)
Festinger here explained that he considered inconsistencies ( dissonance ) in beliefs, behaviors or knowledge within a person to be a motivating factor in its own right.
He uses the term cognition to mean any knowledge, opinion, or belief about the environment, about oneself or one's behavior. The fact that Hubbard used the term is interesting and worth comparing to see if he stole it from Festinger or psychology in my opinion.
Festinger goes on to describe dissonance as being caused by experiencing new events or gaining new information that creates a particular phenomena.
He describes "dissonance" and "consonance" as being relations between pairs of "elements". His use of elements means just pieces of information or knowledge. He describes elements as irrelevant to each other if they don't affect each other. Like if you like ice cream and think Scooby Doo is cool. Neither supports or contradicts the other.
Now based on other ideas two ideas can be or become relevant. If you had the two irrelevant ideas I just listed and then discovered Scooby Doo fans aren't supposed to like ice cream, that could become a dissonance.
Relevant elements can support or contradict each other. If they are inconsistent or contradictory, or culture or group standards dictate they don't fit then dissonance occurs.
This is particularly relevant considering Scientology's value that Hubbard is both always to be taken literally and he is considered to be always correct. Any disagreement with that, no matter how slight, is seen as wrong, always wrapped in Scientology.
There is a quote that is very notable for its striking similarity to Hubbard's own choice of words.
The reality which impinges on a person will exert pressures in the direction of bringing the appropriate cognitive elements into correspondence with that reality. (Page 11)
Hubbard used "impinge" and "reality" in his methods and may have borrowed ideas from this book in forming his own regarding ARC.
Hubbard may have plagiarized ideas from this very book or earlier studies or papers on cognitive dissonance and altered them significantly to fit his intentions. The terms and some ideas are so similar it seems like it cannot be a coincidence. I now think he discouraged people going to psychs not because they were competition but instead because he plagiarized and warped their ideas. He didn't want his con exposed.
I am going to use a series of excerpts to show how dissonance can be created.
1. Dissonance could arise from logical inconsistency...because of cultural mores...because one specific opinion is sometimes included, by definition, in a more general opinion...because of past experience. (Page 14)
All these ideas bear extensive examination in Scientology.
Obviously in Hubbard's doctrine logical inconsistency occurs, he defined terms at different times with contradictory definitions and contradicted his own methods numerous times. His cultural mores strongly contradict mainstream society quite often, particularly for staff and Sea Org members. Certainly the GO and OSA criminal wings qualify.
He included opinions in other statements constantly. He used phrases repetitively which within them have his terms. Those terms contain and link numerous ideas which can contradict mainstream beliefs and accepted science. They also contradict observable evidence quite often.
This particular reoccurring phenomena leads to increasing separation from mainstream beliefs. He intentionally did this to combine the habit of thinking in his ideas via the terms without critical examination and to by repetition have this thinking become conditioned to be habitual and routine. Then through his phrases only agreeing with his statements is left to his victims, with the simulation of free will and choice being provided by having many of his doctrine to "choose" from. But no matter which a victim chooses all demand obedience to Hubbard's unquestionable authority.
And past experience comes up as experiences from outside the cult environment often contradict the cult ideology while direct observations contradict cult doctrine. Opportunities abound for dissonance.
But quite relevant is another idea:
Remember also that two cognitive elements may be dissonant for a person living in one culture and not for a person living in another, or for a person with one set of experiences and not for a person with another.(Page 15)
That in plain English means two ideas, behaviors, opinions or beliefs can be in contradiction for a person in one group or having a set of life experiences but not for a different person.
That is crucial to examining Scientology. In Scientology a relationship with Hubbard wherein his authority and wisdom is seen as far superior to all other ideas is a core belief. It is quite similar to the mindset of a young child who unconditionally trusts their parents and knows that even if they don't understand what their parents reasons are for doing or asking for something, the important thing is to obey. Certainly the image of a confused little child endlessly asking "why" and being pleaded with to just listen comes to mind. The child is encouraged to brush aside confusion and dissonance and just obey authority. That is exactly the state of mind Hubbard desired.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 2 Magnitude, Reduction And Avoidance Of Dissonance.
In continuing from part one of this series I want to finish analyzing and quote from the first chapter of Leon Festinger's book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance entitled An Introduction to the Theory of Dissonance. This addresses the ideas of the magnitude, reduction and avoidance of dissonance. It may seem complex but is really a bunch of simple ideas, many of which you probably heard of in different terms, so bear with me. The establishment of the language Festinger uses pays off in being able to look at Scientology, and thought in general, in a new way.
If two elements are dissonant with one another, the magnitude of the dissonance will be a function of the importance of the elements. (Page 16)
This is a fancy way to say the effect or degree of strength of dissonance is established by how important the ideas, behavior, opinions or emotions the dissonance is connected to is. In other words if something of low importance is related to dissonance it makes the dissonance low. Say you don't care at all who won a baseball game and hear from one person the Cubs won and another that they lost. The dissonance will be low, as you don't care. But say you happen to place paramount importance on the Cubs winning. It is literally the most important thing in your life. You could be extremely subject to dissonance over what to even feel or believe, whether to panic and seek answers elsewhere or remain where you are and wait to find out.
Importance sets or limits magnitude of dissonance. In Scientology this is notable as Hubbard goes for broke with certain ideas on which to sell both himself and Scientology. Namely his own infallible authority, perfect character, and the miraculous workability he claimed for his technology. In Keeping Scientology Working, the 1965 policy which is the most studied and essential reference to understand Scientology, this is permanently established as the core belief in Scientology doctrine, and it is in virtually every major course in Scientology to be studied hundreds of times in a Scientology career.
So every idea in Scientology is labeled as from Hubbard and as equally important. And as all always being right. So immense importance is placed on the ideas being correct, proportional to the importance that the beliefs, behaviors and efforts committed to Scientology are in the mind of an individual Scientologist.
So this sets up Scientologists to suffer immense dissonance if any experience, information or reality contradicts the ideas of Hubbard's unique genius - really messianic status as Humanity's savior - and his workable - really God making - technology. This idea of being entirely all in for Scientology and Hubbard cannot be overstated. For many Scientologists going against these core beliefs is unthinkable.
Regarding magnitude Festinger goes on to say:
The total amount of dissonance between this element and the remainder of the person's cognition will depend on the proportion of relevant elements that are dissonant with the one in question. (Page 17)
Relax, that translates easily. It means the element which is one idea, belief, opinion, emotion or behavior has how much dissonance it can inspire existing in a person in a relationship with the number of other ideas, opinions etc. within the person that are relevant, meaning agreeing or disagreeing with the idea in question.
That can mean a behavior, for example, can have dissonance to the degree other ideas, behaviors, etc. disagree as a portion of the other ideas, etc. a person holds that either agree or disagree happen to disagree.
So the more your idea on a subject, for example, will generate dissonance is to the degree it contradicts your beliefs, ideas etc. that can support or contradict it in your mind.
The magnitude is set by if an idea has many ideas agreeing in your mind and few disagreeing, then dissonance is low. If an idea disagrees with many elements in your mind it creates immense dissonance.
This has tremendous relevance to Scientology as despite Hubbard often contradicting his own statements and even definitions the need for consonance, or agreement, within his doctrine and the perception of reality is overwhelming.
Hubbard sets many, many elements within a Scientologist's mind. Scientology isn't a few ideas. It has thousands and thousands of terms and hundreds of phrases and behaviors to learn. Even public Scientologists are expected to learn thousands of definitions, dozens of phrases, and hundreds of behaviors.
This is meant to create so thoroughly a set of consonant elements that they strengthen one another enough to be impenetrable and indestructible, truly a new identity: a mental pseudo clone of Hubbard blindly loyal to him as a fanatical zealot until death.
The above statement can of course be easily generalized to deal with the magnitude of dissonance which exists between two clusters of cognitive elements. This magnitude would depend on the proportion of the relevant relations between elements in the two clusters that were dissonant and, of course, on the importance of the elements. (Page 17)
These clusters are just groups of ideas that are connected in a person's mind. You can have for example a group of ideas, opinions, etc. that support the subject of human rights then run into a bunch of ideas that you could call Scientology policies and practices that are relevant to human rights.
If you saw many elements as being inconsistent that could create dissonance but if you saw little or no contradiction dissonance would be low.
For many Scientologists when they look at the detailed, convincing and extensive evidence of violating human rights in Scientology their personal beliefs on human rights come into tremendous conflict with the new, previously hidden information.
That is just one example of clusters having low then high dissonance.
To summarize his ideas on the magnitude of dissonance:
1. If two cognitive elements are relevant, the relation between them is either dissonant or consonant.
2. The magnitude of the dissonance ( or consonance ) increases as the importance or value of the elements increases.
3. The total amount of dissonance that exists between two clusters of cognitive elements is a function of the weighted proportion of all relevant relations between the two clusters that are dissonant. The term "weighted proportion" is used because each relevant relation would be weighted according to the importance of the elements involved in that relation. (Page 18)
That's just saying that if two ideas, behaviors, opinions or knowledges ( all of which are called "elements" ) can affect each other within a person's mind it is either as agreeing and being "consonant" or in disagreement or contradiction and being "dissonant". The size or strength of the resulting agreement as consonance or disagreement as dissonance is determined by how important the elements are to the person. More important elements can have accompanying higher dissonance or consonance.
Regarding the reduction of dissonance Festinger has definite ideas.
The presence of dissonance gives rise to pressures to reduce or eliminate the dissonance. The strength of the pressures to reduce the dissonance is a function of the magnitude of the dissonance. (Page 18)
Also, similar to the action of a drive, the greater the dissonance, the greater will be the intensity of the action to reduce the dissonance and the greater the avoidance of situations that would increase the dissonance. (Page 18)
So that just means stronger or more serious conflict of ideas, behaviors, etc. within a person leads to stronger desire to reduce the disagreement aka dissonance. And with a stronger desire to reduce dissonance comes two crucial ideas. Stronger dissonance brings stronger action to reduce it and accompanying greater efforts to avoid the sources of dissonance.
These two ideas are so important in Scientology they warrant close examination. Hubbard's doctrine is presented as the most consistent, scientific and important information and methodology in a Scientologist's life. That carries a corresponding high dissonance with contradictory elements.
Hubbard handled this by claiming elements contrary to Scientology individually for different reasons are to be avoided. He has family members who won't comply disconnected from, behaviors that don't comply are labeled out ethics and discouraged by Scientology's extensive "ethics" thought reform "technology", Scientologists are required to entirely avoid media or information of any kind that disagrees with Scientology doctrine.
The methods are so extreme because Hubbard's doctrine is so controlling over nearly every decision a cult member makes. And routinely a Scientologist is indoctrinated with hundreds of hours of Hubbard's doctrine . Though Hubbard reportedly released thirty five million words of doctrine, most Scientologists receive the same core doctrine dozens and dozens of times.
That creates an immense body of ideas, emotions, and behaviors within a Scientologist's mind that are stressed as crucially important, constantly in mind due to Scientology's totalistic nature- meaning inescapable since they are always intended to be controlling and influencing the Scientologist by design - and progressively require more extreme deviation from the socially acceptable standards of the outer society regarding beliefs, behaviors, and accompanying emotions.
This serves to extremely polarize a Scientologist's mind: Scientology must be all right and dissonant elements - including direct evidence - must be all wrong. The actions taken to reduce dissonance can be all encompassing, families destroyed, trusted and beloved spouses and children are estranged and classed as "suppressive persons" to be denied any human rights or consideration or love as unpersons, literally less than human and denied any voice or human rights, including the right to live. Rarely are they literally murdered, but they are routinely cast aside as worthless. Quite extreme action to be sure.
The actions to avoid the immense dissonance contradictory evidence brings routinely includes the tool of denial. Scientology has extreme magical thinking and in the face of direct evidence demands denying the evidence. Hubbard's claims of perfect sanity, perfect memory, perfect character, and extreme intelligence for veteran Scientologists he calls "clears" are easily observable as entirely false, so the Scientologist must deny direct observations regarding their own life and others around them.
This escalates at the "Operating Thetan" levels. These in the doctrine claim mystical powers such as healing, telekinesis, telepathy, traveling as a spirit, creating effects by decision, and require constant denial of the lack of these abilities in reality. This only escalates as the Scientologist progresses through the indoctrination. By the level of clear to OT III many Scientologists are living largely in delusion, an artificially created and removable delusion but delusion all the same.
Festinger lays out a list of factors relevant to the resistance to change of behavioral cognitive elements. He describes how reality may can influence change, assuming a person keeps contact with reality which Scientology requires them to circumvent as I described earlier. He describes how much behavior doesn't resist change, in Scientology this persists for things considered irrelevant. Even formerly important behaviors become emotionally flat for Scientologists if they are neither consonant or dissonant.
This is the result of an overwhelming conflict between the clash of the precult identity and the cult identity. The precult identity has similar information but it has elements that are consonant for itself and elements that are dissonant. It has its own values, emotions, likes and dislikes. The cult identity has reset the elements so some that in Hubbard's methods are approved become consonant while those he disapproves of are dissonant in the cult identity.
This conflict is created usually very gradually and with denial and trance logic an important aspect of the conflict emerges. Denial is above lying, in lying one knows consciously they are saying a falsehood. In denial one hides this from their conscious mind. Trance logic is the state achieved in hypnosis in which critical and independent thinking are reduced or eliminated that bears distinct relevant features. Scientology heavily uses trances in auditing, study technology indoctrination and other cult activities, by changing the phrases victims use and sabotaging the entire language the victims use Hubbard sets them up to have series of trances activated, which inspire behavior and emotions which in turn trigger more trances.
I have explored these issues in Insidious Enslavement: Study Technology, Basic Introduction to Hypnosis in Scientology and Propaganda by Reversal of Meaning in Scientology. Trance logic has the important feature of contradiction being invisible to the conscious mind but buried in the subconscious aka unconscious. That translates to avoidance of dissonance by entering a trance state. To enter a trance one merely needs to submit one's will to another, in this case Hubbard or a proxy. By "knowing" Hubbard understands as an infallible authority whatever a Scientologist doesn't internally, when blind faith trumps one's own judgment the victim is in fact enthralled, meaning mentally enslaved.
How can one be free if they have certainty that another is always right, with no exception for direct observations or personal experience or any evidence ? That overriding certainty that bars new ideas, new evidence, any doubt and self reflection is the foundation of the slavery Hubbard inflicts. In the clusters of elements Hubbard imparts one idea over and over - his authority. The whole system requires and reinforces this central value.
Here are some of Festinger's factors regarding resistance to change of behaviors.
1. The change may be painful or involve loss.
2. The present behavior may be otherwise satisfying.
3. Making the change may simply not be possible
When the cult identity is strongly established the victim has a majority of cognitive clusters, meaning groups of interconnected ideas and behaviours which support or agree with each other. Anything that supports this is easy to do but anything that conflicts is difficult. So changing behavior to resist Hubbard's authority is excruciatingly painful and difficult.
Even if Hubbard's doctrine requires behavior that is strongly dissonant regarding other elements - leaving your family, working a hundred and twenty hours a week as a slave, going into debt to donate money to Scientology, giving up your entire lifestyle, giving up your religion and other routine requirements is highly dissonant . This serves to divide prospective cult members into those who comply with Hubbard and people who won't and one way or another as the band Rush sang conform or be cast out.
The extreme nature of Scientology serves to help make the group sharply uniform. Scientologists with doubt get in line or get out, by their choice or their expulsion so the only social proof they get reinforces the cult doctrine. The more dissonant the elements Scientology brings in comparison with conventional society the stronger this effect becomes, and for many Scientologists normal society is mad, ignorant, hallucinating, lost and confused. Hubbard uses terms like abberated, degraded, low tone, one one, downstat, raw meat , reasonable and wog to constantly lessen anyone who isn't a Scientologist.
Festinger goes on to say:
When there is a clear and unequivocal reality corresponding to some cognitive element, the possibilities of change are almost nil. (Page 27)
Notably Festinger refers to actual reality, what is directly physically sensed. That Scientology gets its members to deny or even fail to see reality is a testament to the degree to which it influences its victims.
He points out a very important method to divorce oneself from a decision.
It would still be possible to reduce the dissonance by what also amounts to adding a new cognitive element, but of a different kind. He can admit to himself, and to others, that he was wrong. (Page 29)
Sometimes, however, the resistances against this are quite strong.(Page 29)
These two points are important aspects of human nature. Not just for Scientology. In Scientology in particular I experienced reducing dissonance when going into Scientology progressively over time by admitting my prior beliefs were wrong, some ideas resisted more than others and took years to be broken. I had extreme resistance to giving up beliefs, behaviors and emotions that are discouraged by the cult. This is routine for long term Scientologists, particularly staff and Sea Org members.
Then after twenty five years in I forced myself to examine critical information and admitting all the decisions and actions I made to support the cult was extremely traumatic. It felt like all the dissonance that was buried in my subconscious through trance logic was let loose in a relentless, overwhelming torrent of horror, confusion and anxiety. I didn't have a breakdown, but understand how some people do at that point.
I just forced myself to wake up and put one foot in front of the other, day after day and relentlessly studied thought reform and hypnotism and the true history of Scientology and cults for weeks. After I month I was still in shock. After another it was the same. After another it was slightly better. Then month by month it got a little better, a little less frantic, a little less shocked and by a year out I was feeling almost normal. Over the six months since then things have even gotten more normal.
A person would expose himself to sources of information which he expected would increase consonance but would certainly avoid sources which would increase dissonance.
This just seems like human nature. It is a terrible bias toward information that fits what you want to find, with avoidance of contrary evidence. This is terrible for objective analysis or critical thinking or scientific method. It is also bad for relationships. It exists to greatly varying degrees in people and even varies regarding different subjects within an individual.
So in a person considered reasonable and level headed this may be less than in a black and white thinker who is polarized, with unshakeable certainty on everything with no doubt or personal reflection.
Unfortunately, Scientology makes many members into extreme close minded and blindly obedient mental slaves. In this abusive relationship the victim tries to pretend the abuse and anything that could expose it are not true.
The operation of a fear of dissonance may also lead to a reluctance to commit oneself behaviorally. (Page 30)
Hence, it is possible for dissonances to arise and to mount in intensity. A fear of dissonance would lead to a reluctance to take action-a reluctance to commit oneself. (Page 31)
These ideas guide human behavior extensively, to avoid dissonance a person can avoid critical thinking and submit to an authority. The thinking is that the authority will reward obedience and bear responsibility for conduct. It is an imperfect solution. It discourages development of intellect and judgment. It actually atrophies these aptitudes.
This also helps to make leaving Scientology difficult. Committing yourself to looking at critical information on Scientology becomes an un-crossable boundary.
I want to note the dissonances definitely mount up as the cult member goes deeper into Scientology. Several strong factors intersect. The extreme difference between the Scientology elements within a person's mind and the precult identity's elements. The contrast is remarkably stark. Additionally the cult member must avoid a tremendous source of dissonance: direct observation of failure of the cult to fulfill its doctrine. They constantly see it as they go deep into the cult. Additionally Hubbard used contradictions in his doctrine extensively. He contradicted hundreds of his own statements. He changed methods and twisted definitions into reversals over time. That produces dissonance as cult members try to find consistent direction. Via trance logic it is avoided consciously but built to immense, even sanity testing levels subconsciously.
I once read a description by a class XII auditor (the highest level in Scientology) who said the doctrine can appear paradoxical and contrary. I believe she thought some wisdom could be found with enough work - despite already spending decades of her life searching within the doctrine.
I feel the mounted dissonance creates a terrible dilemma- continue to submit to Hubbard's authority completely with certainty blinding your conscious mind, despite anxiety, reelingness, blankness and overwhelm creeping through to paralyze you with fear of making the wrong decision. So you leave as many decisions as possible to authority, namely Hubbard, Miscavige, Scientology management, even auditors and staff of any type.
I feel even independent Scientologists with exposure to critical information often are held in thrall by this phenomena.
For the chapter Festinger wrote a summary.
The core of the theory of dissonance which we have stated is rather simple. It holds that:
1. There may exist dissonant or "nonfitting" relations among cognitive elements.
2. The existence of dissonance gives rise to pressures to reduce the dissonance and to avoid increases in dissonance.
3. Manifestations of the operation of these pressures include behavior changes, changes of cognition, and circumspect exposure to new information and new opinions. (Page 31)
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 3 Dissonance And Decisions
Like the first two posts in this series this one is an examination of the book A Theory On Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger. I will use quoted excerpts and contrast the ideas against my twenty five years in Scientology, which I left in January 2014.
I will also bring the information I have found outside Scientology regarding hypnotism and subjects like social psychology. There is a wealth of information to help ex cult members recover.
I am going to quote two summaries of chapters at this point. There are a tremendous number of experiments described in the book to examine the hypothesis, but I am not going to present all of that. I strongly suggest reading the book and others on cognitive dissonance theory if you want that.
Dissonance has been shown to be an inevitable consequence of a decision. The magnitude of the postdecision dissonance has been hypothesized to depend upon the following factors:
1. The importance of the decision.
2.The relative attractiveness of the unchosen alternative to the chosen one.
3. The degree of overlap of cognitive elements corresponding to the alternatives.
Once dissonance exists following a decision, the pressure to reduce it will manifest itself in attempts to decrease the relative attractiveness of the unchosen alternative, to establish cognitive overlap, or possibly to revoke the decision psychologically. (Page 47)
Okay, this summary has a bunch of important ideas. Dissonance results from decisions, there is no way around it. The size of dissonance is quite important and varies greatly. Important decisions make more dissonance than unimportant ones. That's easy to get.
Also if you reject an unappealing choice it is easy and produces little dissonance. We don't worry over things we don't desire at all. Now cognitive overlap means the degree that choices are similar. It is a fancy way of analyzing the details associated with choices. The cognitions as described before in cognitive dissonance theory are ideas, behaviors, opinions, taken one at a time. Overlap means having similar or identical parts.
So that translates as decisions that are very similar to each other in the alternatives produce little dissonance while decisions with higher degrees of differences can be more dissonant.
Alternatives that seem to hold little freedom actually are easier to pick from. If the differences are slight and irrelevant you sort of can't make big mistakes.
Okay, now I will provide one more summary, then describe it and try to fit the Scientology experience into this information.
1. Following a decision there is active seeking out of information which produces cognition consonant with the action taken.
2. Following a decision there is an increase in the confidence in the decision or an increase in the discrepancy in attractiveness between the alternatives involved in the choice, or both. Each reflects successful reduction of dissonance.
3. The successful reduction of postdecision dissonance is further shown in the difficulty of reversing a decision once it is made and in the implication which changed cognition has for future relevant action.
4. The effects listed above vary directly with the magnitude of dissonance created by the decision. (Page 83)
Now regarding importance, Hubbard was successful at making his gradients, or gradual, approach. As a Scientologist you make small commitments, minute changes, buy a small book, do an introductory seminar over a weekend or an introductory course that costs very little. At first the ideas are not too radical. Things like the possibility of a mental therapy or spiritual aspect to life. Not too radical or absurd. This is intentional.
The immense commitment Scientology requires is hidden until much, much later. For staff it is often a minimum of forty hours a week working without pay and often up to a hundred hours a week with an income often of zero to a couple thousand dollars a year, but the total control of their decision making trumps these sacrifices. At the Sea Org level actual mental slavery is the best way to describe the experience of such near absolute control.
But the road to the Sea Org is usually a very long one. Most Sea Org members usually come through one of two routes traditionally. Long time Scientologists join after years of change within the cult. Or they are second generation Scientologists raised in the cult who join often as teenagers.
Also worth noting is that the importance of the decisions made regarding Scientology escalates usually. You are going from deciding to take a short course or read a book to spending more time and money, then often joining staff for years or donating thousands and thousands of dollars as a public.
But the acceptance of greater changing in thinking through Study Technology indoctrination limits thoughts to create a greater change. Many phenomena associated with critical and independent thinking are relabeled as being caused by a lack of understanding, so accepting Hubbard's infallible authority becomes automatic. This actually changes how decisions are made. The signs of cognitive dissonance are actually used to trigger submission to Scientology.
In Scientology confusion, reelingness, overwhelm, mental blankness, anxiety and stomach reactions ALL are defined in Study Technology as being due to fictional barriers to study. By labeling these signs that warn of dissonance as being due to words or images needing understanding by the student Hubbard conditions students to turn off their intuition by misinterpreting the warning signs associated with dissonance. By making the contradictions in Scientology which in other subjects inspire investigation, questioning, critical and independent thinking and doubt become instead triggers to go looking for the red herrings of misunderstood words, skipped gradients and lacked mass.
This complex detail packed methodology controls the attention of the Scientology student and takes advantage of dissonance to bypass the positive effects dissonance can bring such as considering why the dissonance is there and how can true consistent doctrine contain contradictions.
It often leads to zeroing in on what causes it normally.
In Scientology Hubbard by relabeling the phenomena instead gets the student to have their attention absorbed in his methods in a manner of complete acceptance to his authority with blind faith and their critical and independent thinking reduced or shut down, essentially a hypnotic relationship. It functions as self hypnosis covertly.
Regarding the dissonance associated with choosing to follow Scientology usually the cognitive overlap escalates over time. Since Scientology requires more extreme behaviors and ideas. Additionally the unchosen alternatives are repeatedly degraded and condemned by Hubbard, so the Scientologist uses this condemnation to bolster his confidence his decisions are correct.
The dissonance inflicted by Scientology is high due to the importance of devoting your life to a group that has unconventional practices and requires disconnection from family usually. You stake your eternity on Hubbard's promises and it doesn't get more important than that.
Of tremendous relevance is the implication which changed cognition has, with cognition meaning behavior or belief. It requires an immense willingness to give up your association with the group, even often including your family, quite often your employment and housing, additionally it involves admitting you were wrong to join Scientology, wrong to spend time and money on Scientology, and wrong to use Scientology on others.
Think about admitting that all your religious, political, moral and philosophical beliefs are wrong. By making Scientology an all or nothing belief system Hubbard put all his eggs in one basket - you completely buy in or completely reject it usually. So unlike most subjects there is no room to adopt parts while rejecting others. That coupled with Scientology's rejection of doubt and confusion within the ethics system makes even seeing the need to reexamine your decision to practice Scientology or believe in Hubbard's authority unthinkable. So if you even catch yourself coming near questioning Scientology you nip it in the bud, and avoid anything or anyone that encourages questioning anything from the cult.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 4 An Iron Fist In A Velvet Glove
Like all parts in the Building the Prison of the Mind series this post is written comparing the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger against my twenty five years in the Scientology cult. I will quote excerpts and attempt to interpret the Scientology experience in this framework.
Several experiments in social psychology are described in great detail. I won't repeat that here. I do recommend the book to everyone. I will primarily deal with the hypotheses forwarded by Festinger and points relevant to Scientology.
After one experiment the idea that if one goes against personal beliefs for significant reward or to avoid significant punishment little dissonance or none results. While small incentives to act against beliefs generate strong dissonance. Why ? If you pretend to like someone you really don't like but will get a million dollars for being pleasant to someone for a day, the benefit is accepted as motivation and so no dissonance will follow. If you are nice to someone you really don't like for no benefit, you might be confounded by it - that's high dissonance.
This principle is important in Scientology as usually a new recruit for Scientology tries, bit by bit, slight odd changes in behavior. An odd study method, a strange drill, an eccentric auditing procedure all are off putting at first but cleverly combine two effective tools for persuasion.
First, the slightly unusual new methods being requested are meant to be done immediately, upon introduction with no critical examination. The social environment acts like the slight request is entirely reasonable, and even delaying this at all is absurd. An auditor, registrar or course supervisor encourages instant compliance and rewards blind obedience. So, it is easy to give in for seemingly no incentive.
Secondly, with no reward for complying apparent the new cult member generates dissonance by doing things they really don't understand without a clear motive.
To reduce this dissonance a simple adjustment occurs, in belief. The unaware cult member shifts beliefs to fit their behavior.
If one wanted to obtain private change in addition to mere public compliance, the best way to do this would be to offer just enough reward to elicit the overt compliance. (Page 95)
He went on:
These studies lend support to the idea that attitude or opinion change is facilitated if a person finds himself in a situation where, by showing compliant behavior, he is engaged in actions which are dissonant with his private opinions. The changes in private opinion which ensue are the end result of a process of attempting to reduce or eliminate the dissonance. (Page 112)
Hubbard may have read this book, or articles based on it or similar concepts. He certainly exploits the mental weaknesses outlined here quite well.
He had students redefine new words in their own words, so they participate in validating the very terms he is handing them. And in star rate checkouts students explain Scientology concepts and demo his ideas with examples they must enthusiastically create.
It seems like so little, but by having students over and over create examples and explanations in total agreement with Hubbard's doctrine the students unknowingly influence their very own minds to hold beliefs in line with both their behavior and statements so the new beliefs become identical to deeply seated personal convictions in the individual cult member's mind. They function like ideas arrived at after observation, testing and contemplation but without any of those crucial elements of judgement.
Plainly, these ideas from Hubbard feel like conclusions from deep introspection and independent analysis to the cult member. So since they feel like personal deep convictions, they are protected by the ego defenses vigorously.
Regarding these kinds of beliefs Festinger comments:
There are several areas of opinion where it is notoriously difficult to change people. (Page 120)
Festinger cites a study:
There is evidence in our data that once a change in behavior has occurred, a change in beliefs is likely to follow. (Page 121)
So Hubbard cleverly installed new ideas and tricked victims into holding them close, and defending them zealously.
Imagine developing a method that could get people to take ideas you create and take them as their own strongest faith without really testing or critically examining them. Granted the method doesn't work on everybody, but dissenting voices are quickly silenced in Scientology.
So only obedient followers are allowed in the cult. If you ever wondered what a person would do if they could achieve such extreme covert influence, undue influence in truth, than just look at the cult and you will surely see the terrible and tragic results.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 5 Explosive Dissonance
Like all the other posts in the Building the Prison of the Mind series this post refers to the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger. I will include quotes from that book for reference. Festinger refers to many studies and experiments, but I won't go into them here.
This post deals with particular ideas on cognitive dissonance building and being avoided.
If there is no behavior or action in which a person engages or possibly may engage that is relevant to a particular area of information, there will be no motivation from this source to acquire cognition concerning this particular area of information. (Page 124)
Now that can be broken down to simpler terms. If something isn't important regarding a subject than it can't inspire dissonance for that subject. It is irrelevant, even if related to the subject. Why ? Because it just doesn't matter so it won't upset or really help in a meaningful way.
This has a special significance in Scientology. When Hubbard decreed that there is no background information or outdated ideas he made everything students study have equal authenticity. In other subjects a student can see different ideas developed at different times by an authority as being more or less final and complete. They can also compare different authorities and give one more credibility than another. This approach encourages a degree of critical and independent thinking and analysis which is entirely absent in Scientology.
Hubbard put his name on everything, despite plagiarizing ideas from many others, and gave them all the same literal unquestionable authority. So none can be dismissed as old or partially developed in comparison to others. So no comparison occurs.
This additionally makes dissonance between them routine as Hubbard contradicted himself consistently. So that traps the student in a web of close minded contradictions. I covered that method in Insidious Enslavement and the Secret of Scientology part one Control via Contradiction.
Festinger described how people without preexisting bias on a subject who need to make a decision on that subject seek information. Regarding that subject they seek information of different kinds from different sources and are impartial in what they seek out and willing to take in information of different kinds without concern for either the source or content. They are open to different ideas from different people.
After making a decision some of the information will become consonant in other words in agreement with the behavior chosen and some will become dissonant in other words in disagreement. This will effectively reorganize the information and eventually create bias.
Festinger went on to say:
The presence or absence of dissonance in some particular content area will have important effects on the degree of information seeking and on the selectivity of such information seeking. (Page 126)
Relative absence of dissonance. If little or no dissonance exists, there would be no motivation ( considering this source of motivation alone ) to seek out new and additional information. (Page 127)
The presence of moderate amounts of dissonance. The existence of appreciable dissonance and the consequent pressure to reduce it will lead to the seeking out of information which will introduce consonances and to the avoidance of information which will increase the already existing dissonance. (Page 128)
The presence of extremely large amounts of dissonance. Under such circumstances a person may actively seek out, and expose himself to, dissonance-increasing information. If he can increase the dissonance to the point where it is greater than the resistance to change of one or another cluster of cognitions, he will then change the cognitive elements involved, thus markedly reducing or perhaps even wholly eliminating the dissonance which now is so great. (Page 129)
Festinger here gives us crucial information. If the internal conflict over an idea or behavior is entirely absent a person has no reason to gain information. There are some things a person doesn't care about. A concept may not have any supporting or opposing content in one's mind. So you just don't care.
If you have moderate dissonance, meaning a bit of discouraging information but not too much you avoid disagreeing evidence and seek agreeing evidence. So you might avoid TV shows that disagree with your political views, as an example, and watch ones likely to agree.
For millions of Americans an extreme polarization and self censorship is observable. With as an example Fox news millions of people either agree and only watch Fox news for national political information or strongly disagree and never watch Fox news for national political information.
One could say many of these people have moderate dissonance and seek to reduce it by finding agreement from Fox while avoiding disagreement from others. Now one might say "Why is the dissonance continuing if he only seeks agreement ?", Well he runs into people who don't follow his beliefs or other evidence. So he can stay in moderate dissonance for decades if he doesn't change his routine or get new information of significant influence relevant to the dissonant cognition.
Here is the goldilocks zone of any subject, you care and are not unbiased and open to any information. But you are seeking more proof you are already right and avoiding proof you are wrong. The conditions are just right to keep you close minded and biased towards your beliefs and behaviors. And to keep finding evidence you are right while avoiding evidence you are wrong.
The Scientology cult is built to get a person here subtly, covertly and keep them there.
Now when dissonance is near the absolute limit possible a person changes dramatically. They can seek dissonant information to examine. Why ? Because the way they have been thinking and doing things isn't comfortable and finding small bits of consonant information doesn't relieve the dissonance.
As a simple way to describe this say you get a job at a company and for a while like the pay, work and work environment. It is highly consonant. You don't look for evidence against your job. Simple, then say you find out your company pollutes extensively and uses slave labor in other countries and other unethical practices. Say that is highly troubling to you and you feel tremendously conflicted. It generates high dissonance. You are very concerned on a deep personal level.
At that point just seeing the company logo or motto won't comfort you. A manager just trying to mildly compliment the company won't work. It will merely frustrate you.
In this situation seeking more evidence against your old behaviors and ideas may actually be sought and feel right. Even though you face admitting having been wrong you can dismiss much or all the dissonance involved by changing your mind. All the dissonant elements can be resorted as consonant and the formerly consonant ones as dissonant. So you can entirely switch sides on an issue. For a job you might quit.
Well for Scientologists this has special meaning. When dissonance escalates to explosive proportions the Scientologist can start seeking neutral or critical information on Scientology. Normally Scientologists never do that.
But eventually hearing the same ideas from Hubbard or getting auditing may not relieve doubts about Scientology. So this is the origin of lurkers - the people who secretly look outside the cult and examine the internet at sites like the Underground Bunker and read books critical of Scientology.
In social psychology the three factors of emotions , behaviors and ideas interact. In theory all three are connected and can influence each other. Hubbard stole all three for his methods and renamed and redefined each. He called emotions affinity, ideas reality and behaviors communication. He recognized that manipulating any one could control the other two. I explored that in ARC and KRC.
Cognitive dissonance theory has the concept that with enough dissonance, which for my example can be seen as equivalent to an emotion, one can affect behavior and subsequently beliefs which are ideas. With no concern for something no behavior regarding it is inspired, with slight concern a little reassurance is sought and accepted and with tremendous unrelenting discomfort, even anxiety , internal conflict and worry a person can be driven to look for disagreeing information to settle the issue. They can become open, even slightly, to accepting the criticism of their formerly held beliefs. In this way emotions that in the past trapped a person can turn and compel them towards freedom. This level is called explosive dissonance.
The lurkers moved outside the goldilocks zone. Some sadly are so overwhelmed and confused they stop and go back into the cult. So the information they run into is important.
Fortunately many keep up looking outside the cult and begin recovery in earnest. I hope this post has offered an explanation that will help people understand why people stay and why they leave. And to help them recover.
Scientology Building The Prison Of the Mind Part 6 Overcoming Denial And Counterarguing
Like all the posts in the Building the Prison of the Mind series this one will quote the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger. They should be read in order as they build one upon another.
In the book Leon Festinger describes many experiments to support his ideas. I won't repeat all of that. I suggest every ex cult member read that book. I will draw from his conclusions and concepts specific parts to reframe the Scientology experience.
In this post I want to address Festinger's ideas on how people will avoid unpleasant information. In his model certain aspects of the implications accompanying information make it unpleasant and to be denied, avoided or refuted.
Regarding information that is likely to create dissonance Festinger has definite ideas.
If the expectation is that the new information will probably increase dissonance, there is mostly avoidance of exposure except at very low dissonance and at the limits of dissonance. (Page 131)
That simply means if you are expecting information and can choose to accept it or not you will usually judge it as likely to agree with your beliefs (consonant) or be against your beliefs (dissonant) or not affect your beliefs at all (irrelevant).
He found people with little preexisting dissonance on a topic won't avoid the topic. If you have little anxiety or internal conflict on an issue you won't be worried or upset by potential disagreement. It's not a big deal.
Also if you have moderate or high dissonance on something you will strongly avoid disagreeing information. You will be uncomfortable and guarded about such information. You can be comforted by evidence that confirms your beliefs so you prefer that to escalating dissonance. It is more comfortable.
But if you have somehow achieved very extreme dissonance, all the way to nearly the possible limit, it will be quite different. At this point it flips. A person is quite uncomfortable about the dissonance inspiring subject and can't reduce that with agreement on the information.
So they stay uncomfortable, anxious, flustered and become desperate for resolution. They can have doubts creep in and display a behavior of seeking out dissonant information to resolve the issue. They are not as sure as they were and open to looking at the other side of an issue.
This happens often enough to be part of many lives. Most of us see our parents as perfect and all knowing until puberty (roughly) and become disillusioned and change our views. That change is a reversal. On our way there we get and accept more contradictory evidence.
That's an example of holding beliefs, getting evidence against them, then having dissonance mount high, and finally doubting your beliefs. Then looking for evidence against your beliefs and finally reversing your beliefs and being relieved in that the issue now feels settled.
You can probably think of other examples in your own life.
Now an important thing to be aware of is the tendency people have to try to avoid or minimize dissonance most of the time.
One might also expect, however, that at the initial moment of impact of the new dissonant cognition, effective processes could be initiated which would prevent the dissonant elements from ever being firmly established cognitively. One might expect to observe such things as attempts to escape or avoid further exposure, erroneous interpretation or perception of the material, or any other technique or maneuver which will help to abolish the newly introduced dissonance and to prevent the further introduction of dissonance. (Page 134)
That is a way to say that if you realize or suspect information will be against your beliefs automatic responses are switched on that can counterargue against the information. Counterarguing is thinking of claims against the information or reasons to not accept it or using fallacies to avoid the information.
There are other psychological defense mechanisms that are triggered including denial that all can have dissonance inspiring information set as triggers.
And emotional reactions that prevent even accepting the information. This is the anatomy of being close minded and stubborn.
Festinger describes several processes including intentional misunderstanding, thereby avoiding the dissonance, this can occur if the message is open to multiple interpretations or vague.
Also if the message is clear and not capable of alternative conclusions then other methods are utilized. A person may accept a message on the surface but see exceptions or that a particular example is true but that the general principle in question is not.
This is strikingly similar to Hubbard's claim that "suppressive generalities" exist. Many Scientologists and exes embrace this technique to reject without analysis virtually any concepts they wish to avoid.
Festinger quotes the conclusions of others regarding a study.
"...the prejudiced person's perception is so colored by his prejudices that issues presented in a frame of reference different from his own are transformed so as to become compatible with his own views. Quite unaware of the violation of facts he commits, he imposes on the propaganda item his own frame of reference." (Page 136)
That is quite relevant to Scientology as Hubbard made an entire alternative belief structure that rejects reality and direct observations and scientific method and critical thinking and Socratic debate. It is intentionally created to overshadow any possible dissent through fallacies and preemptive derogation of all these means of accepting evidence disputing the legitimacy and authenticity of Scientology.
If a person is involuntarily exposed to information that will increase dissonance, then in addition to the usual procedures whereby he may reduce this dissonance, there are also set up quick defensive processes which prevent the new cognition from ever becoming firmly established.(Page 137)
This means a person upon suspecting dissonance could occur may not accept information. This is the origin of a person hearing but refusing to listen. They are rejecting information before they receive it. Based upon expectations, not conclusions.
There is a significant tendency to forget those items of information which introduced dissonance. (Page 158)
It is worth noting there are several forms of deception. Lying is knowingly trying to deceive another. Denial is making a deception that extends to your own conscious mind, but is not effective on your subconscious mind aka unconscious. Finally dissociation is a mental breaking off of a portion of the mind more severe and extreme than lying or denial.
I can firmly attest that all three methods of deception are utilized to varying degrees in Scientology. Reality is not compatible with Scientology, so lying, denial and dissociation are resorted to.
But through examining experiments Festinger may have found a weakness to bypass the triggering of defensive and coping mechanisms which normally prohibit unpleasant dissonant reality asserting evidence. Anticipation.
By not creating anticipation of dissonance with or before a message, a mind may accept dissonance inspiring information without a lack of critical thinking.
It seems clear that the avoidance and evasion of material which might produce or increase dissonance depends on anticipations (probably unverbalized ones) about the material or on preliminary assessments of the material. If one could, then, create a situation where the anticipation and the preliminary assessments of some information indicate a reduction of dissonance while the material itself actually increased dissonance, one would expect to observe more change of opinion; that is , for some persons the dissonance thus introduced would be reduced by changing parts of the existing opinion system. (Page 158)
That is a fancy way to say that if you want a message to get through to someone try to phrase it in a way that doesn't immediately trigger anticipation that information that disagrees with their beliefs or behaviors is forthcoming.
You have to use honey instead of vinegar. Don't lie. Find something acceptable to start with. Concede some things that are neutral or not threatening in nature. Engage what willingness they do show to listen.
This is particularly difficult with Scientology as the minds of Scientologists are extremely biased towards absolute fanatical zealotry. They are extremely biased against any criticism of Scientology or Hubbard.
But at times a point of entry is found, an idea or argument gets through. People leave and question Scientology every day. Just not enough quite fast enough.
But if critics and family can get through relevant information the cult member gets a chance.
This is why some cult experts advice using parallel information. Have a cult member read about a different cult, so anticipation doesn't prevent acceptance of information. Information on other groups can trigger realizations about Scientology.
I myself was alarmed as I read about the mental and emotional experiences of prisoners of war studied by a survivor of the Nazis. He described how POWs in Korea were brainwashed and I realized their emotions were identical to my own while in Scientology. That convinced me Scientology was brainwashing members and therefore a cult.
If the book was about Scientology by an ex I might have rejected it out of hand. If it was by an author I might have said they were never in, and don't know what they are talking about. But as a seemingly safe book it snuck in behind a non-threatening appearance, and so was retained.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 7 Social Support And Dissonance
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.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 8 Reducing Dissonance Socially
In this post like all others in the Building the Prison of the Mind series I will consult and quote Leon Festinger's book A Theory Of Cognitive Dissonance against my twenty five years in Scientology.
This post focuses on Festinger's ideas regarding reducing cognitive dissonance generated by social interactions, meaning specifically for a person from discovering others hold conflicting ideas, thoughts, opinions, emotions and behaviors.
The larger the number of people that one knows already agree with a given opinion which he holds, the less will be the magnitude of dissonance introduced by some other person's expression of disagreement. (Page 179)
This is in psychology called social proof and in logic the bandwagon fallacy. It means we unfortunately as humans tend to feel validated by large numbers of people believing in what we believe in and behave as we do. It is ultimately irrational and fundamentally flawed. Popularity is not truth. But it is a good enough substitute that it serves to reduce dissonance. You are quite likely to feel comfortable having one person disagree with you if you know millions or billions of others agree with you. A lone voice can be easily dismissed, millions or billions are far more difficult.
As always the importance of the elements, meaning ideas, thoughts, opinions and behaviors in question determine the magnitude of dissonance. Very important elements inspire strong dissonance, moderate ones inspire moderate dissonance and unimportant elements produce little or no dissonance.
In Scientology the illusion of tens of millions of Scientologists agreeing helps to bolster agreement with Scientology, if held, but direct observations and evidence contradicts these false claims. There are tens of thousands of Scientologists, not tens of millions. And evidence leaks through despite the cult's best efforts.
So social proof is a flimsy tool in that it relies on weak lies that are contradicted by truth, particularly if one stays in Scientology for decades.
Regarding the importance as always Hubbard cleverly fools Scientologists with misdirection. He has Scientologists accept many thousands of ideas that establish an entirely new belief and behavior system but without worrying about very small and seemingly unimportant changes over time. They result in extraordinarily extreme changes, that are defended as being highly important when formed.
So becoming a Scientologist over a long time has many steps that produce small dissonance and small resistance but when these changes are completed are firmly set and inspire tremendous dissonance and resistance to disagreement.
Other factors are the relevance of the group disagreeing. For Scientologists virtually any non Scientologists are mainly irrelevant regarding Scientology as they are seen as unenlightened and far beneath even understanding truth.
Also the degree of disagreement effects the degree of dissonance. With Scientology's black and white thinking there is only room to agree and anything more than virtually unnoticeable disagreement is intolerable.
Festinger describes three methods for reducing dissonance in social situations. First one can reduce or possibly eliminate it by changing his or her own mind. You could change it to what others with conflicting views hold.
Hubbard safeguarded against this by having his infallible authority be the most consistent and strongest basic belief underlying all of Dianetics and Scientology. Completely turning against that is extraordinarily difficult for Scientologists. That cannot be overstated.
But obviously, as people like myself eventually do entirely reject Scientology and Hubbard it does occur, often with extreme difficulty. So after dissonance grows to tremendous, explosive levels some people respond by reconsidering and ultimately rejecting their old beliefs and behaviors.
Second, a person may gain agreement from others by persuasion. You can get them to change their minds toward agreeing with you. That seems to prove your ideas are correct. To be a bit more rational and honest that only proves you can persuade people, not that you or they are actually right. A very important difference.
And third a person can try to make another not comparable in some way. This is also incorrect from a logical or truth seeking perspective. But accepted routinely. The genetic fallacy is judging a claim based on its source. That is very poor reason as anyone can make a true or false claim. The message is not the messenger.
By deciding another or others are unqualified or inferior or evil and rejecting their claims without examination one can evade dissonance. So by substituting emotional reactions and flawed excuses for rational thinking one can feel more comfortable, additionally by being for example disgusted by those who disagree ( Which Jon Atack explained in particular for me) one evades examining their claims while feeling justified in having negative emotions at the dame time.
In Scientology this takes the form of Hubbard's loaded language with twisting terms that include any critic of Scientology and makes all such persons equal as suppressive persons. All are entirely discredited in Scientology and loathed instinctively by Scientologists, so through the genetic fallacy and ad hominem the critics are seen as beneath deserving being heard or even tolerated, while conforming Scientologists are seen as peers worth hearing, but any dissenting voices are transferred to the other category. Additionally Hubbard placed himself as so far above everyone and everything else in his victims' minds that maintaining these relative values of ideas is of primary importance to Scientologists.
So getting Scientologists to see that a blind unwillingness to examine claims based on sources is an unwillingness to examine information that is so restrictive that it functions as a prison of the mind in itself.
The three values of first hatefully degrading critics while failing to objectively, carefully examine claims from them and secondly listening to Scientologists only to the degree they conform exactly with authority in the form of Hubbard, or his proxy Miscavige, and rejecting them to the degree they disagree and finally to hold Hubbard and his doctrine as so far, far above criticism or doubt that going against him is unendurable together function as a very effective prison of the mind.
Somehow if you want to free a Scientologist you may need to demonstrate that the three values and really behaviors described above effectively close their mind and make objective, critical and independent thinking virtually impossible. They need to open their own minds.
Now this isn't hopeless. Most Scientologists leave and eventually reject Scientology, despite Hubbard's best efforts to permanently enslave his victims.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 9 Group Priorities
In this post like all others in the Building the Prison of the Mind series I will consult and quote Leon Festinger's book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance and framing my twenty five years in Scientology with this information.
Festinger in the chapter Role of Social Support: Theory disclosed an idea that dissonance in individuals within groups would influence what issues and topics are brought up in social interactions and thus become relevant issues to groups. I am slightly paraphrasing his ideas.
But it is quite important as Scientologists have dissonance over aspects of observable reality that contradicts Scientology doctrine. The abilities Hubbard promises never materialize and the organization is in fact not ethical, doesn't treat staff or Sea Org members well, and is in fact extremely abusive.
To negate the dissonance between the beliefs and observations the group members are compelled to act like bulldogs in trying to get agreement both within the cult and with any outsiders the group members interact with. They want to create more agreement with their beliefs and since observable evidence cannot be made more believers can be.
When there is significant or moderate dissonance, even strong dissonance but not yet maximum or explosive level dissonance, a person can be compelled to seek consonant elements, meaning ideas and opinions that agree with their own. For Scientologists it means they are strongly inclined to seek agreement from other Scientologists on issues they have dissonance on, including trying to resolve confusion on Scientology doctrine by studying more to gain greater understanding of Scientology.
So they are stuck in a rigged game, until they realize the assumptions regarding Hubbard's infallibility and messianic status and his technology could be incorrect.
This compulsion to only find agreement while in the Goldilocks range of dissonance, meaning strong enough to push one to avoid disagreeing information and to seek agreement and not the very strongest dissonance which itself cannot be relieved by more agreement but which is relieved by entirely changing one's beliefs and behaviors, is problematic for a special group of Scientologists.
People who are expelled via suppressive person declares or otherwise separated from the cult have an interesting problem: they as independent Scientologists or freezoners are simultaneously separated from others who would support their beliefs, thereby lessening the dissonance and often stuck only in contact with others outside the main cult.
So what do they do ? Some close ranks and form extremely small, closed off cells of mini cults. They can be extremely antagonistic to outsiders as they realize the lies regarding Scientology's growth and size and effectiveness socially have no merit. They are stuck in a no man's land of dissonance without relief. Some of them end up interacting with exes and critics and viciously lash out as they are incredibly uncomfortable and blame critics for not seeing their beliefs as true.
They don't merely disagree, they are disgusted by the presence of educated disagreement - meaning people like exes and critics who have learned about Scientology in great depth. To a lone independent Scientologist a person entirely unfamiliar with Scientology merely is ignorant, and that excuse is sufficient to curb dissonance. They can think Scientology is a broad subject that requires extensive study and feel superior to the vast majority of people. Inaccuracies in the South Park story and tabloids serve to reduce dissonance, as Scientologists smugly can point them out.
The issue of the ex who was in for years or decades and understands Scientology concepts and can discuss them in Hubbard's language and has used his methods who entirely rejects Scientology is quite unacceptable to the lone independent. They feel compelled to correct us, to get our agreement and cooperation. Plainly the dissonance drives them to hate us and attack as they have access to critics and don't understand how we can both understand and reject Scientology.
Similarly with well informed critics who were never in Scientology independent Scientologists can go berserk trying to deny their accuracy and refute their claims. The more accurate and well informed a "never in" is who consistently disagrees with Hubbard and his technology the more it infuriates independent Scientologists. So naturally they often cannot stand Tony Ortega, likely the best and most well informed journalist regarding Scientology alive today. He has peers in Mark Ebner, Paulette Cooper, Mark Bunker and a few others but they are unfortunately a tiny minority, perhaps a couple dozen in the entire world .
So, as there are very few good, accurate, well informed journalists they become a focused in on target, but like the exes who resolutely reject Scientology and Hubbard, Tony Ortega and a handful of others persist undaunted in presenting the information they find, criticism be damned.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 10 Mass Phenomena
Like all other posts in the Building the Prison of the Mind series this post consults and may quote Leon Festinger's book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.
When a situation occurs where the identical dissonance exists in a large number of persons, one may observe very startling and curious mass phenomena. (Page 193)
Quite important in Scientology is the extremely similar beliefs and experiences Scientologists have. As a totalistic cult with extremely structured indoctrination designed to be nearly identical for several paths or routes in Scientology, really they serve as a caste system for slaves for Hubbard, covertly mentally enslaved, but slaves nevertheless.
Festinger goes on:
Uniform dissonance in a large number of people may also be created if undeniable and incontrovertible information impinges which is dissonant with a very widely held belief or opinion. (Page 194)
Scientologists have uniform dissonance since they all have to accept doublethink, all have to strive for clear and OT states which actually do not exist, and past life memories which cannot be authenticated and do not actually restore any knowledge or abilities, among other pesky observable facts that directly contradict Scientology.
Independent Scientologists have the additional problem of access to far more accurate information than Scientologists in the main cult. The independents can easily see how reviled and mocked Scientology actually is and that the cult is and always has been much smaller than Miscavige or Hubbard ever claimed. That is like a constant kick in the teeth, or perhaps crotch. They can also see that Scientology is so small and lacking influence that most people frankly never learn what Scientology even is or interact with Scientologists. All these unpleasant realities directly discredit both Hubbard and Scientology doctrine.
Festinger goes on:
Denial of Reality
It sometimes happens that a large group of people is able to maintain an opinion or belief even in the face of continual definitive evidence to the contrary. Such instances may range all the way from rather inconsequential occurrences of short duration to phenomena which may almost be termed mass delusions. (Page 198)
Let us imagine a person who has some cognition which is both highly important to him and highly resistant to change. This might be a belief system which pervades an appreciable part of his life and which is so consonant with many other cognitions that changing the belief system would introduce enormous dissonance. (Page 198)
These two ideas are extremely relevant to Scientology. They almost cannot be stressed enough. Regarding maintaining mass delusions an entire series of books could be written detailing the delusional belief system Scientology requires continuously and the encyclopedias Hubbard assembled detailing how to install and maintain these delusions to enslave his victims mentally.
He uses the tendency to not be able to reject an entire belief system as an ironclad grip on his victims' minds. He knew slowly creating beliefs, behaviors and emotions in line with his desire to control people very gradually, on a gradient approach, could result in creating a total reluctance to give up any aspect of Scientology as they are all firmly interrelated and bolster one another.
Festinger goes on to describe how introducing consonant elements to resolve dissonance or at least reduce it can occur by proselytizing to non-believers. As a group convinces more people to join their group and take on their beliefs the new members introduce more ideas in agreement with the group and more consonant elements ease dissonance.
In theory he discusses how if a group gets the entire world to adopt their beliefs then the dissonance could be entirely eliminated. That has special significance for a number of groups in a number of ways. Scientology in the main cult often through lies pretends a significant number, perhaps twenty million or so, members and the concept of rapid unstoppable growth to seem to be taking over the world as a way to use an image of inevitable universal acceptance and agreement. The image is entirely false with tens of thousands of Scientologists existing in reality, but the image is enough to influence people, no need for pesky reality to inconvenience anyone.
Interestingly as a comparison other belief systems have gained millions or billions of members, sometimes in a context of enough isolation that entire populations have little or no exposure to other belief systems. They often don't consider ideas outside their beliefs as possible. Some scholars who were, for example, in a Christian dominated society which considered Christian beliefs as given proven facts and infallible truth. Some based all logical proofs on unproven assumptions traced back to their religion.
Now, direct observations of contradictory facts within the doctrine or observable reality in comparison to doctrine can still inspire dissonance, despite popular acceptance of beliefs. So absolute escape from dissonance in non reality based beliefs is probably impossible. This is not an attack on Christianity, but any large religion will inevitably have some differing presentations of ideas so if all the doctrine are not reflective of physical reality it will inevitably be observable. Christianity has several thousand variations, some of which conflict quite profoundly and so are unlikely to all be completely simultaneously true.
Even universal acceptance would not bring eternal freedom from dissonance.
Scientology Building The Prison Of The Mind Part 11 The Weakness Of Non Reality Based Belief Systems
Like all posts in the Building the Prison of the Mind series this one consults and quotes Leon Festinger's book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. These posts all run in order and follow the book. They should be read in order and I recommend every ex Scientologist read A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.
This post focuses on specific ideas from Cognitive Dissonance on social effects. And their consequences.
The existence of dissonance seems to lead to the initiation of social communication, and the reduction of dissonance is followed by a lessening of such communication. (Page 225)
Festinger goes on to share very relevant and specific ideas on how and with whom a person experiencing dissonance will communicate. Festinger described how a person who internally has little dissonance and only finds disagreement externally in the minds of others is likely to seek to use persuasion to change other individuals' minds.
When a person has dissonance internally however the behavior is very different. They seek agreement with others who already hold their own beliefs to lessen dissonance. This is very applicable in looking at Scientologists' behaviors.
I found in the process of coming out of Scientology a noteworthy change in my own selection of information sources. While within Scientology I often didn't seek any sources of disagreement regarding Scientology and only sought information agreeing with Scientology doctrine quite often. I avoided contradictory evidence quite strongly.
In the process of coming out of Scientology and trying to learn what happened to me I realized at every point in adult life I have held thousands, perhaps millions of ideas and opinions and behaviors simultaneously. And that due to bias and flaws in thinking which are not ever entirely avoidable I had always held several hundred or thousand incorrect ideas. It is unavoidable, try as one might to escape it.
So I accepted flawed reason and conclusions as the human condition forevermore. So I wrote I Am Wrong And You Can Be Too ! And it has a flexibility in accepting (in theory) the cautious possibility, even inevitability, of some ideas no matter how deeply or passionately being held, of having to be wrong.
The result of this is an increased willingness to accept contradictory evidence and to find only seeking confirmation from information to be alarming. It's an unusual approach to find high certainty as a sign to be cautious and play devil's advocate in trying to find evidence against my beliefs, in case they are incorrect or too simplistic and blocking deep critical thinking and comprehensive analysis.
But this is the opposite of the thinking stressed in Scientology. There submission to Hubbard is the highest value and seeking confirmation of his ideas and avoiding contradiction of them is the motivating force in Scientology.
Festinger goes on:
The greater the magnitude of dissonance already existing when one is made aware of disagreement within the group, the greater is the tendency to seek support from those who already agree with one's own opinion. (Page 230)
Festinger found people tend to want their faith restored if it is shaken and several studies have led him to believe a terrible bias and effect occurs quite often. People get their beliefs thrown into doubt by contrary evidence. They may even fail to maintain faith, but as they find reasons or agreement with their ideas they recover their faith, then overrecover their faith. It actually becomes stronger and more vigorously defended.
Festinger also found something else significant in behavior. If a person experiences an emotion they seek context for the emotion. Normally a person sees a causal relationship between experience and emotions, some things are boring, some frightening, some pleasing and so on.
But when unseen forces inspire emotion then context is sought, meaning expected. So in Scientology members often project negative emotions ruthlessly and passionately onto critics. Why ? Because Scientology consistently produces stress and anxiety that is buried and builds over time along with hidden dissonance. And without understanding of why certain people and ideas are so upsetting, Scientologists blame the people who remind then their technology doesn't really work, and they can't persuade non-Scientologists quite as they know they should be able to. The failures of Scientology to make magic are brought right out when critics or merely uncooperative individuals refuse to submit to Scientology.
Festinger went on to describe a vulnerability of belief systems that is inescapable ultimately for Scientology. It is an idea George Orwell described in the afterword of 1984, which hopefully will given time undermine any non reality based belief systems. The dissonance brought on by direct observations of irrefutable proof that the doctrine of Scientology or a totalitarian regime is undeniably false will weaken the mental hold any such system has.
That our minds eventually discover and reject the lies that enslave us is perhaps a saving grace, it may save humanity from abusive and totalitarian regimes time and again.
Festinger noted that when clear and certain disconfirming evidence impinges it usually inspires abandoning the dissonant beliefs. But sadly, there are circumstances where direct disconfirming evidence is not immediately persuasive enough.
This is made difficult if the social support one has entirely requires agreement with disconfirmed ideas. This is the norm for thousands of Scientologists.
Additionally, Festinger notes a crucial idea for an idea or belief system or group holding an iron grip, it is an experience familiar to many Scientologists. The irrevocable act that demands compliance.
This has long been known to a degree, it exists in the gang that requires murder to join or the child soldiers that are required to rape girls and murder children so they cannot try to return to the society they were plucked from. Most Scientologists don't murder for the cult, but many do leave and renounce families and friends. Many quit jobs and forsake their educations. People often sacrifice so much and are arrogant to so many people with Scientology as the only justification that admitting Scientology is an incorrect belief and behavior system becomes unbearable.
So with direct evidence showing Scientology isn't right but support within the cult acting to confirm it is right the cult member can increase agreement in Scientology by gaining new members. So cult members try to gain new members. Hubbard faked massive expansion to fool members. In the sixties he claimed millions of Scientologists existed, when there have never been more than a hundred thousand active members. Miscavige found an interesting twist on this by building massive organizations that are temporary manned up for publicity temporarily with Scientologists then hollowed out and left empty inactive shells, but still promoted as well staffed and vibrant centers of immense expansion, which never occurs.
So the lie serves to fool members into thinking Scientology has tens of millions of members and millions more joining every year as proof of its workability. When it has tens of thousands of members and cannot grow with its horrible reputation for crimes and abuses.
Festinger found groups support members unreal beliefs by mutual conduct.
By studying millennial doomsday groups he found failure of the world to end on an appointed date actually increased the fanaticism and zealotry of the members. This happens many times to long term Scientologists as Scientology is packed with contradictions and observable false claims.
The process of repeatedly doubting Scientology then recommitting oneself over and over serves not to just close a mind, but to weld it shut effectively making the prison nearly impervious to outside influences. But at the very peak of possible dissonance, with an adamantium outer layer the dissonance can no longer be reduced and the inside crumbles opening the mind to facing reality at last.
Explosive dissonance finally erupts. The experience is a tremendous release of long buried doubts and emotions. It takes one to the very edge of madness and has extreme anxiety, shame, self-loathing, disgust, feeling betrayed, feeling worthless and realizing your entire belief system and life is a lie altogether and at once. It can take months to recover from.
But in facing your fears and Hubbard's lies you free yourself from his dark influence and lift the long shadow off yourself and are free to walk in the light of truth once again.
Mockingbird's Greatest Hits
I have reached nearly two hundred posts online and thousands of comments as well. In looking back at all that I realized a very small number of posts have been consistently the most viewed and likely most helpful for people seeking to understand Scientology.
I certainly hope they are helping people. Here I will try to present the short list of the posts that best explain my ideas and can introduce you to information that I hope will help begin beneficial examination of Scientology.
1)Insidious Enslavement: Study Technology
2)Basic Introduction To Hypnosis in Scientology
3)Pissed It's Not Your Fault !!!
4)The Secret Of Scientology Part 1 Control Via Contradiction
5)Burning Down Hell - How Commands Are Hidden, Varied And Repeated To Control You As Hypnotic Implants
6)Why Hubbard Never Claimed OT Feats And The Rock Bottom Basis Of Scientology
7)A Million Years In Hell
8-10)OT III And Beyond: Sources Plagiarized From Part 1, 2 and 3
11)Propaganda By Reversal Of Meaning In Scientology
12)Scientology's Parallel In Nature - Malignant Narcissism
13)OT VIII Delusion Fulfilled
14)There Is No Irony In Scientology
15 - 16)Why Lying And Murder Are Justified In Scientology part 1 and 2
Why Lying And Murder Are Justified In Scientology part 3
17)Unraveling Scientology - A Missing Vital Ingredient
18)Loving A Lie
20)Orders Of Magnitude Part 1
These twenty posts have been both popular and give a very good grounding in many of my ideas on Scientology