In the first part of this series I proposed to examine all of the nine workbooks use by clients in residential drug rehabilitation facilities run by Narconon (a Scientology front group) and demonstrate that Narconon training was simply Scientology in disguise.
The title of the first Narconon workbook is “Narconon Therapeutic TR Course”. It ‘teaches’ the same exercises as the “Success through Communications course”, which covers TR’s 0-4 is required of beginning Scientologists, and the “Hubbard Qualified Scientologist course” which covers the remaining 9 exercises.
In Scientology terminology, ‘TR’ stands for ‘Training Routine’. TRs are an escalating series of psychologically gruelling exercises performed with a partner. Exactly the same TRs are taught in Narconon (and in other Scientology front groups, such as Criminon and WISE) as in Scientology.
The workbook promises that TRs will “[…] help you increase and improve your ability to confront control and communicate, and to help you come off drugs”. These aims are identical to those of the corresponding course for new Scientologists – except for the tacked-on “[..] and to help you come off drugs”.
As always, I would be very grateful to any ex-scientologists who could provide links to the Scientology training literature which corresponds to the material in each Narconon workbook. I will add these to each post to drive the message home: Narconon = Scientology in disguise. Please use the comments section below or the feedback page to suggest links.
I have briefly described the first three ‘Training Routines’ described in the Narconon workbook below. I will cover the other ten in future posts. If you don’t believe my account of the TRs (and I don’t blame you – some of them can only be described as bizarre) I’ve also included the page numbers so that you can refer to the source material and judge for yourself. This is not difficult, as Narconon workbooks resemble children’s picture books – a typical page contains a big illustration and only a few lines of text.
As explained from pg 23 all of the TR’s are done with a ‘twin’ – another Narconon client. They are signed off by a ‘supervisor’ who is almost always a Narconon ‘graduate’ (an ex-client who has completed the whole course). Nobody involved in there activities has any valid expertise in mainstream drug rehabilitation techniques.
The use of ‘graduates’ resembles the system used in Scientology orgs, where staff are ‘given’ the normally expensive Scientology training in returning for working there for very low wages.
Each TR can take days to complete, and these exercises do not stop after you have been signed off on them. Once learned, they must be regularly practised. Since the only equipment required is two chairs and an ashtray, the cost of Narconon ‘treatment’ is nominal. However, residential drug rehabilitation is not cheap. Substituting Scientology is potentially very profitable indeed.
Finally, please remember that these ‘drills’ are supposed to be designed to help someone with a serious drug abuse problem to return to an independent life without relapsing. I am at a loss to understand how any of them are in any way relevant to this aim.
After reading a briefing which uses Scientology terms (such as ‘confront’ and ‘vias’) the twins sit facing each other on straight-backed chairs.
The supervisor present (who may be watching over several such pairs) will say “start”. The twins are then required to sit perfectly still in an upright posture, with their eyes closed, for several hours until the supervisor says “that’s it”.
If either person moves in any way, slumps in their chair, appears to be thinking about anything in order to distract themselves or otherwise attracts the attention of the supervisor, the whole exercise is started over. Students are required to ‘just be there’, which is effectively equivalent to trying to make your mind a blank. To pass, they both have to do this for several hours.
- You think you are undergoing treatment
- An authority figure is provided in the form of the supervisor
- If you don’t take these strange ‘drills’ seriously, your twin cannot progress and may object to your behaviour.
Narconon clients are used against each other to enforce conformity.
It’s not surprising that many people go along with it all. It gets worse. Once clients have completed the first simple exercises (and been lavishly praised for doing so) the TRs become stranger and more demanding. However, they do so very gradually indeed. Consequently, before you know it, you are accepting behaviour that you would have thought insane if it had been required at the onset. This kind of manipulation was demonstrated in Stanley Milgram’s classic social psychology experiment examining obedience to authority.
Now that the client has the basic idea (and has learned to conform) a small but significant addition is made. This time, the twins are required to stare fixedly at each other. Once again, they must be able to do this for several hours without moving before they are allowed to progress. If they twitch, scratch or lose focus they have to start over.
The strange blank expression worn by some Scientologists disputing with protesters (which can be seen in videos) is the result of endlessly practising this TR.
It is difficult to underestimate how psychologically unsettling such an exercise can be, if you take it seriously. Try staring fixedly into a mirror for, say, three minutes – and then imagine how you would feel after spending your day staring at a stranger for hours and hours on end.
The fact that the sensory input of people practising this exercise is totally unchanging amounts to a form of sensory deprivation. Under these conditions your mind desperately looks for the missing input and finds in random background thoughts. People practising TR0 for the first time commonly experience more-or-less vivid hallucinations. Neurologists call this well-documented phenomenon “the Ganzfeld effect“.
This can be seriously disturbing experience for new Scientologists – it is not something that a recovering addict should be exposed to.
This exercise makes a slight change. Now, one of the twins has to sit and stare straight ahead while the other does their best to provoke any of the reactions that were forbidden in the previous TRs. When they succeed, the twins change places. The exercise is complete when nobody can provoke a reaction from the student.
It is explained in the workbook that everyone has a ‘button’ – something that they will react to – and the purpose of the exercise is not only to find those buttons but repeatedly push them until they no longer elicit a reaction. Consequently, this exercise can be good-natured (getting someone to laugh is permitted) or nasty and abusive (e.g. is a racist slur is identified as a ‘button’). This depends on the situation – and provides another means of controlling an uncooperative student.
It is interesting that an authoritarian organisation like Scientology should introduce something like this at so early a point. It functions to prepare the participants to enter a dissociated state, put up with abuse and follow orders when placed under stress.
Once again, the demeanour of poker-faced Scientologists during protests owes itself to this exercise.
This is surely the exact opposite of what recovering addicts should be learning – surely they need to be helped to think independently, and assertively resist peer pressure to resume drug use when they return to everyday life.
There are 13 TRs in all, but this post is already long enough. I will discuss another selection of TRs from the first Narconon workbook in the next instalment…