The Compelling Effects of Simply Staring: Understanding the Scientology Mindset Part 13

stareDissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through
interpersonal gazing | Giovanni B. Caputo| Psychiatry Research 228 (2015) 659-663   Download Full Text as .pdf

In plain language, this scientific paper describes a series of experiments which investigate the psychological consequences of two people (a dyad) staring at each other for a period of time (in this case, no longer than 10 minutes).

The author concludes that this can bring about visual hallucinations and a dissociated state, including a feeling of being disconnected from your body.

This is highly relevant to the ‘Training Routines’ (TR’s) taught to beginners in Scientology and Narconon – especially “TR0 Confronting“which is described on the linked page. During this exercise participants (who stare  at each other for two hours or more) commonly recruit strange hallucinations and a feeling of leaving their body.

Note: page numbers given are from the .pdf reader software, not the article itself. Continue reading

Narconon ‘Drug Rehabilitation’ is Scientology in Disguise – The Evidence – Part 2: Beginning ‘Training Routines’

narconon1Download ‘Narconon Theraputic TR Course’ as .pdf

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.

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Undertanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 12: Scientology’s Training Routines and the Ganzfeld Effect

hallucinationThe first thing that new Scientologists do is a series of ‘Training Routines’ (TRs), and in an earlier post, we saw video demonstrations of ‘TRs’ by two ex-Scientologists.

In one Training Routine (TR-0) two people sit and stare at each other until they can do this without moving for more than two hours. ‘Learning’ how to do this can take much longer.

Unsurprising, this practice has strange psychological consequences – for example, participants  commonly experience vivid hallucinations, and there is good evidence to suspect that they also enter a state of elevated suggestibility.

Early critics of Scientology viewed this practices as a form of hypnotic induction, and  L Ron Hubbard claimed, in his ‘lectures’ and elsewhere, to be an expert hypnotist. Over the years, this explanation has been used (not always coherently) to explain the altered states of consciousness experienced during TRs (and many other aspects of Scientology practice).

This idea has its points – but I would like to propose an concept which I think is a much better fit  (at least for the TRs) –  the Ganzfeld Effect. In this post, I will try to explain what it is, and show how it explains the experiences people have when doing their TRs.

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Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 11 – ‘Brainwashing’

brainwashingIn the previous 10 parts of this series I have explored some of the insights that post-war psychology provides into the extraordinary power which the Church of Scientology  holds over its members.

These  theories did not exist in the early days of the Church of Scientology. The only psychological framework that seemed to offer an explanation for the strange behaviour of converts then, was ‘brainwashing’.

Unfortunately,  Cold War ideology got in the way of science, and the result was a very questionable theory.

Since then, there has been almost half a century of progress in psychology and social psychology (and intensive study of a variety of ‘cults’). This progress has both discredited the brainwashing thesis, and provided much better explanations for ‘mind control’. This new understanding is more subtle and complicated… but that’s life.

I will try to explain below why I believe that ‘brainwashing’, as an explanation for the behaviour of Scientologists,  should be abandoned, why it has persisted for so long,  and why this matters. Continue reading

Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 9 – The Way to Hell is on a Gentle Gradient

staircaseIn a previous post we discussed Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment investigating obedience to Authority, and suggested that it helped to explain why  good people, when they become Scientologists, comply with orders that have bad consequences for others.

Milgram created a machine that administered convincing, but phoney electric shocks to an actor who pretended to be in pain. Nobody was at any risk.

His experimental subjects were ordinary people who were required to administer shocks in the course of an ‘experiment into learning’.  The experimental procedure manipulated them into  gradually increase the intensity  of those shocks until they (apparently) reached a dangerous level.

When the experimental subjects began to doubt the morality of what they were doing, an ‘authority figure’ (the scientist in charge of the experiment) insisted that the procedure must continue.

Incredibly, 68% of  continued to administer shocks all the way up a potentially lethal 450V.

There is an crucial feature of this experiment that is strongly enphasised by Scientology, and it explains a lot about its power to persuade members to comply to demands that go against their basic personality. Continue reading

Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 6 – Attribution Theory or Why we Blame the Victim

dana-fradon-your-honor-we-the-jury-blame-the-victim-new-yorker-cartoonThis series has described a number of concepts, mostly drawn from social psychology, which are exploited by the Church of Scientology to control its members.

It’s worth pointing out that people in the wider world (you and I included) share these psychological quirks.

Attribution theory reveals a bias which is both used against Scientologists when they are in the Church, and works against them after they leave. Continue reading

Understanding the Scientology Mindset – Part 4 Power Corrupts: The Stanford Prison Experiment

stanford prisonIn the previous post in this series (Obedience to Authority) we saw how ordinary people would abdicate their responsibilities to an authority figure, and behave in a a quite frightening way.

I suggested that this experiment helps to explain why Scientologists who are good people find themselves doing questionable things when told to so by the Church.

It does not explain why Scientologists (also good people) who are placed in positions of authority give questionable orders to other members of the Church  – and enforce them with the harsh punishments required by Scientology doctrine.

Professor Philip Zimbardo performed a classic experiment that helps to explain how this happens. He created a mock prison, in the basement of Stanford University, and recruited students to play the roles of both  guards and inmates. in the film linked to below he revisits this location, and then uses original photographs and film to help describe what happened.

Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment View Online | Download as .mp4

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Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 3 – Obedience to Authority

obeyAfter the Second World War, when the full horrors of the Nazi Holocaust became widely known, the world struggled to find an explanation for the behaviour of the apparently ‘normal’ people who had participated (or were complicit) in cruelty, torture and genocide on an industrial scale.

Many theories were proposed – notably that German culture was responsible for creating an ‘authoritarian personality’ which led people to obey orders without question.

Stanley Milgram stepped in to this debate with a controversial experiment. His results were astonishing, and required a complete reappraisal of  what we thought we knew about human behaviour.

This experiment also helps us understand why people who join Scientology find themselves acting in ways that are completely out of character –  because they are acting ‘under orders’ from the church hierarchy.

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Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 1 – Cognitive Dissonance

cogdiss dlibert

Sometimes, the things we believe and the things we do just don’t match up – for example, office workers who think of themselves (and generally are) honest people who steal all of their personal stationary from work.

This situation can create Cognitive dissonance. Cognition is the mental process we use to form our knowledge and beliefs about the world. Cognitive dissonance happens when our beliefs (I am honest) contradict our actions (I’m stealing supplies) creating intense psychological discomfort.

There are two ways the office worker could resolve his cognitive dissonance, and relieve his discomfort.  The first it to simply stop stealing – then there would be no conflict between his beliefs and his behaviour. The second option is more interesting – and is very relevant to what I am calling the Scientology mindset Continue reading