The deconversion of a Trump troll.

burning-trump-hat

You may remember a few weeks ago I asked readers to let me know if they knew of anyone who had finally turned on Trump.   I wanted to write a blog post describing the journey of such a person.

I got no responses to my question, and personally, I don’t know anyone who supported Trump who has changed their mind.   I gave up finding such a person.

But they do exist!   Granted, they’re rare as snow in Mississippi, but they are out there.  Yesterday I came upon an article written for Forward (an online magazine focusing on issues related to Judaism and Jews) by a New Yorker named David Weissman.

He colorfully describes his days as a hardcore Trump supporter and Internet troll.  Everything you might expect, he did it or said it.  He was all-in on bullying liberals and  Democrats (and RINOs — “Republicans in Name Only”).   He mainlined on Fox News.   He went to Trump rallies and owned a MAGA hat.   He willingly soaked in Trump’s hateful rhetoric and dismissed anyone who was offended by it as “snowflakes.”

It took one woman to change his views.    One day the comic actress Sarah Silverman responded to one of his inflammatory comments on Twitter.  He describes the way she engaged him in conversation and debate without putting down his beliefs or attacking him.  She remained patient and doggedly kept replying to his tweets in a civil and engaging way, explaining why she felt the way she did about things like healthcare, immigration, racism, and many other topics — and why she believed Trump was wrong for America and the world.

I have also tried to engage Trump supporters with the truth, but eventually I give up, because most Trumpists I meet online waste my time with straw man arguments, what-aboutism, straight-up gaslighting, and even personal attacks.   If they realize they’re losing the argument, they always fall back on their old standby, “it’s fake news.”  Or, “well, Hillary would have been worse.”  I began to block them  because it was just easier than the frustrating and seemingly futile experience of trying to get them to think outside their comfort zone or handle the resulting cognitive dissonance.  Patience is not one of my greatest virtues.   Maybe if it were, I might be able to eventually get through to a few of them.  Maybe.

cognitive_dissonance

Mr. Weissman seems like a man who might have been receptive to a different viewpoint anyway.   One of the things that worries and saddens me is that many Trump supporters seem to show signs of sociopathy themselves — or are attracted to a “strongman” type of leader who tells them exactly what to think because they don’t want to or don’t know how to think for themselves.   Trumpism has been compared to a cult, and it really is one.   Its followers respond to Trump as they do to a cult leader, and like Jim Jones’ followers, they willingly, even eagerly, drink his poison Koolaid even though it might eventually harm or even kill them (Trump is doing nothing for the average working class white person and is fact is doing a lot of damage to his own supporters).

As with all cults, it’s almost impossible for someone on the outside to deprogram a believer; it really is a form of mind control.    Trump supporters are literally in thrall to their golden calf.  Reality and facts get trampled under the hooves.

Maybe Mr. Weissman was less brainwashed than most other Trump supporters, or had just enough insight or self-awareness for reason and facts to begin to sink in.   Maybe it’s because Ms. Silverman, a fellow Jew, was perceived as sympathetic.   But it doesn’t matter why Weissman could be redeemed from Trumpism, while so many others seem impermeable to the truth and facts.  What matters is that it’s possible.

It didn’t happen overnight.  His deconversion happened over a period of several weeks or months (he doesn’t give an exact timeframe of how long it took), mostly by continuing his online conversation with Ms. Silverman.   He decided to read the links to articles she gave him instead of attacking them as “fake news.”  By reading and educating himself about the facts, he began to question what he’d believed (or wanted to believe) about Trump.   He became willing to deal with the cognitive dissonance all the new information was causing him.  (Cognitive dissonance is extremely uncomfortable for most people, who will do almost anything to avoid experiencing it).  Weissman describes how welcoming the “liberals” were, and the way they did not judge him.   Some of his Trumpist buddies began to bully him and call him a traitor. They were incensed that he and Ms. Silverman — a liberal — appeared to be friends.  Weissman began to see his fellow Trump supporters in a new light –  as ignorant people embracing a narcissistic bully (or even being bullies themselves) and willfully shutting out the truth.

Here is his story (which also gives tips on how to engage with Trump supporters):

I Used to Be a Trump Troll 

Advertisements

The sick cult of Trumpism.

trumprally

I must have a stomach made of iron, because last night I actually was able to watch the Trump Rally in Pensacola, FL without vomiting.   I have never seen one of these things before in its entirety, and it was eye opening and sickening.   I’m not going to bother posting the video of it here.  If you really want to watch it, it’s on Youtube.

Trump holds his hate-rallies to garner necessary narcissistic supply and the adulation and worship he craves, but this one had a secondary purpose — to drum up support for Bible thumping pedophile and sexual abuser Roy Moore.  I believe Moore is every bit as much of a narcissistic sociopath as Trump, and birds of a feather do tend to stick together.  Between Steve Bannon, Roy Moore, and Trump himself, these morally bankrupt despots are ready to take over the GOP and remake America into their hateful, racist, homophobic, sexist, and nationalistic image and call it “good.”

Trump’s speech, as always, was full of generalizations, baldfaced lies, self-congratulatory nonsense, empty slogans, demonizations of the liberal press, and smearing of people he dislikes or that threaten him, all while puffing out his chest and clapping for himself.  As usual, he said nothing the least bit inspiring, wise, compassionate, or intelligent.  His audience soaked it all in.

I have never seen another president demonize the opposing political party the way he does.    He called the Democrats “evil, bad people” who are actively trying to obstruct what he is doing (like, maybe they are trying to save America from becoming Nazi Germany 2.0 or Mussolini’s Italy?). He even accused liberals of trying to set up an authoritarian regime that would suppress free speech and freedom of religion (yes, really).     This is the way you talk about ISIS or maybe North Korea, not your fellow Americans.   It’s the kind of rhetoric banana republic dictatorships use to divide and conquer, while disguising their corruption and moral bankruptcy by making themselves blameless.   It’s a tactic utterly alien to any working democracy.

It’s not much of a stretch to go from “they are evil, bad people” to “they aren’t human,” and “they should be killed.”   Despotic leaders throughout history have justified genocide and torture by dehumanizing their opposition.   I fully expect that if something isn’t done to stop him soon, liberal journalists, protesters, and others who disagree with Trump and his cult will be jailed.  Our First Amendment is hanging in the balance.

Trump’s speech was also a great example of how malignant narcissists use projection and blame-shifting to manipulate.   To anyone familiar with NPD, it’s easy to see that whenever Trump smears others, he is really talking about himself.   He attributes those negative qualities to others that actually belong to him.   It’s almost funny once you realize what he’s doing, and once you see it, you can’t unsee it.   He’s really smearing himself, although most likely he’s not consciously aware he is.

waltermartin

Even more disturbing than Trump’s hate-filled, despotic speech, was the spectacle of the supporters attending.   They really remind me of a cult, and in fact they are one.    Cult leaders can convince their followers that the most heinous or amoral acts are somehow A-OK if they benefit the cult’s or leader’s goals.   Charles Manson was great at this sort of manipulation.    L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, was also well-versed in it.   The Children of God “Christian” cult was a less famous example.  Cult leaders throughout history have been able to brainwash and control their followers.  They can convince their flock to believe anything, no matter how insane or wrong, using mind control and manipulation techniques.

Cult leaders can also convince their followers to commit evil or amoral acts, often against what the cult leader believes is their opposition.  L. Ron Hubbard did this by calling people critical of Scientology “Suppressive Persons (SPs) or “low tone”  and followers who were in contact with them “Potential Trouble Sources.”  Hubbard required his followers to do the same, which included  cutting ties with concerned family members who dared to criticize Scientology or their family member’s involvement in it, or shun other Scientologists who were “ethics” problems.    Trump (and his sycophants) do the same thing by calling liberals, Democrats, and leftist and even centrist media “evil” and “enemies of America,” when in reality it’s Trump and his lackeys and enablers who are the ones destroying America.

The rally started off fairly quiet, but like obsessed sports fans, once Trump got going and the attendants got sucked into his unhinged, hysterical monologue,  the audience got louder and their demeanor more fevered.  They cheered him on and chanted “MAGA! MAGA! MAGA!,” “DRAIN THE SWAMP!” and “Lock them up!”  They waved American flags and MAGA signs.  They seemed like more like fans at a rock concert than a political rally.

At the same time I was watching the live-stream video, there was a box to the side for comments.   Almost all those watching were Trump (and Roy Moore) supporters.  The comments were interesting and very reminiscent of those of young adolescents with a crush on some teen idol, obsessed sports fans, or cult members.   There was no depth or evidence of critical thinking or knowledge of politics in these comments — most were either repetitions of what Trump just said, strings of emoji hearts or clapping hands, or mindless phrases like “MAGA!” usually punctuated with American flags and hearts.  There were also comments like, “ROCK STAR!,”  “Trump rocks!,” “DESTROY THE LIBTARDS!,” and “DRAIN THE SWAMP!”   Strangest of all (but completely expected) were religiously tinged comments like “God’s Avenger!,” “KING CYRUS!” (many Evangelicals believe Trump is King Cyrus from the Bible) , “God’s right hand man!” and “THANK YOU JESUS FOR TRUMP!”   I even saw one that said “Trump = Emperor God King!” These comments were often punctuated with strings of emoji crosses or praying hands.  Most disgusting of all were comments that celebrated Trump’s spiritual or even physical beauty:   “His hair is made of Spun Gold!” and “Trump’s heart is so pure!” and “Trump always tells the truth!”

Yuck.

After watching the rally, I’m more convinced than ever Trumpism is not a political movement, but a cult.

 

The eerie similarities between the alt-right and Charles Manson’s cult.

charlesmanson

When Charles Manson, the infamous mass murderer who ordered his followers to carry out a series of brutal murders in 1969, died in prison in early November,  I was intrigued by the many comments I read that half-jokingly (but also half-seriously) said that had Manson been free (and still alive) he would have become an icon for the alt-right and possibly even become a de facto alt-right leader.

If you don’t think about it too deeply, the comparison seems preposterous.  After all, Charles Manson was an outcome of the 1960s far left (or at least seemed to be):  an aging LSD-tripping, wild-eyed, long haired musician (I hesitate to call him a hippie because he actually was not) and ex-convict psychopath who headed a commune of long-haired young hippies, most who were girls and most who were runaways (or castaways) from broken homes.   The girls (and the few boys) who lived with him at the Spahn Ranch in the remote California desert worshipped him as if he were a God, and he played the role well.   He had a mesmerizing, almost supernatural effect over his charges, and these lost kids, who weren’t necessarily bad people when they joined his ranch, became so brainwashed they were willing to do anything for him — even commit murder for him.

During their time at the Spahn Ranch, Manson and his disciples (collectively they were known as “The Family”) engaged in sex orgies, dropped LSD together, listened to music, especially the Beatles (Manson believed the words of certain Beatles songs spoke directly to him and were prophetic), and even made music (there is actually an album of music they released). They listened raptly to Manson’s sermons letting them know he was Christ and Satan wrapped in one, and about the coming Helter Skelter, which they were to set off.

mansonfamily

Some members of the Manson Family.

The young women cooked, cleaned and had sex with Manson, and even bore his children, who were also fed drugs and indoctrinated in Manson’s strange religion.  There was nothing Manson could do, no matter how heinous, that wasn’t perfect in their eyes, and his followers defended him and his actions to the death, even after he (and several of the followers) were convicted of first degree murder.   To these kids, Charles Manson was the Messiah.

But Manson’s “Family” was not just a late ’60s hippie commune that went bad.  In fact, Manson himself (who was already a good bit older than the average hippie) held hippies in contempt and looked down on them.   He was irritated by their idealism and obsession with peace, love, and Vietnam.   He could not relate to either their pacifism or their idealism.   He disliked their attitudes that “we are all one,” because Manson did not share their views about race or unity.  He was a racist who hated black people and admired Adolf Hitler so much that he tattooed a swastika on his forehead, and required his “girls” to do the same.   The Family’s entire belief system revolved around a future apocalyptic race war Manson called “Helter Skelter”:

manson-girls

Patricia Krenwinkle, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houten at their murder trial.  They believed they did no wrong.

Per Wikipedia:

Manson had been predicting racial war for some time before he used the term Helter Skelter.  His first use of the term was at a gathering of the Family on New Year’s Eve 1968. This took place at the Family’s base at Myers Ranch, near California’s Death Valley.

In its final form, which was reached by mid-February 1969, the scenario had Manson as not only the war’s ultimate beneficiary but its musical cause. He and the Family would create an album with songs whose messages concerning the war would be as subtle as those he had heard in songs of the Beatles.  More than merely foretell the conflict, this would trigger it; for, in instructing America’s white youth to join the Family, it would draw the young, white female hippies out of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury.

Black men, thus deprived of the white women whom the political changes of the 1960s had made sexually available to them, would be without an outlet for their frustrations and would lash out in violent crimes against whites.  A resultant murderous rampage against blacks by frightened whites would then be exploited by militant blacks to provoke an internecine war of near-extermination between racist and non-racist whites over blacks’ treatment. Then the militant blacks would arise to sneakily finish off the few whites they would know to have survived; indeed, they would kill off all non-blacks.

In this holocaust, the members of the enlarged Family would have little to fear; they would wait out the war in a secret city that was underneath Death Valley that they would reach through a hole in the ground. As the only actual remaining whites upon the race war’s true conclusion, they would emerge from underground to rule the now-satisfied blacks, who, as the vision went, would be incapable of running the world. At that point, Manson “would scratch [the black man’s] fuzzy head and kick him in the butt and tell him to go pick the cotton and go be a good nigger.”

The term “Helter Skelter” was from the Beatles song of that name (from their 1968 White Album), which referred to the British amusement-park ride of that name, but was interpreted by Manson as concerned with the race war.

There are a lot of similarities between the attitudes and beliefs of the alt-right and those of the Manson Family, which includes the cult-like worship of morally questionable, even psychopathic leaders.  Trump (and to a lesser extent, Steve Bannon and Roy Moore) are seen as messiahs to those who relate to their message:  heroic, refreshingly (to them) politically incorrect, abusively outspoken (they hear that as “honesty”) avengers and destroyers of the institutions and establishments they believed ruined America.  In Trump, Moore, and Bannon, they see men who sympathize with their racist, sexist, nationalist, anti-establishment, anti-government, and unpopular beliefs.

neonazis

Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

Like Manson, Trump also seems to have a cult-like appeal to his supporters.  It seems there is nothing he can say or do that will end their devotion to him.  Trump, possibly speaking the only truth he’s ever told, was right when he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and he would keep his supporters.   They would walk off a cliff if he asked them to.   Manson’s followers were under similar thrall, believing him perfect and right even after he ordered them to commit murders to set off his dreamed of racial Armageddon.

jerryrubin

Jerry Rubin, 1970.

Parallels between the alt-right and 1960s radical far left.

In some ways, the alt-right/white nationalist movement is even similar to the radical/militant 1960s far left movement that spawned groups like The Weathermen and the Yippies.    This far left movement, led by people such as Jerry Rubin (who later became an establishment businessman and 1980s yuppie) and Abbie Hoffman, was a movement that also encouraged anarchy and destruction of the establishment, by violent or militant means if necessary.  The anarchy and destruction encouraged by both groups had opposite goals of course: the radical 1960s far left wished to create a socialist, egalitarian utopia (using militant tactics to achieve that); the alt-right prefers a fascist nationalist dystopia.

Both movements attract(ed) young disaffected men who felt alienated from the society they were raised in.    Both movements also spread their message and inform each other of events using non-traditional, covert means of communication: for the far left radicals, it was “underground” papers, mimeographed flyers, and word of mouth; for alt-rightists, it’s social media like Reddit, 4chan, troll or neo-Nazi sites, and the “deep web.”   The alt-right, unlike the ’60s radicals, are more likely to achieve their nationalist dream, since they actually have a president (and others in power) who share their views.

doit

Jerry Rubin’s how-to guide to left wing anarchy (published 1970).

Here’s another article from VICE that draws a similar conclusion about Manson and the alt-right.

What Charles Manson Had in Common with the Alt-Right

 

Narcissistic abuse in Trumpistan.

Much has been written about Trump’s toxic psychology, specifically his malignant narcissism.  In spite of The Goldwater Rule (an agreement between mental health professionals to never diagnose someone they have not evaluated), so egregious is 45’s bad behavior that thousands of mental health professionals are breaking their own rule and speculating that he does indeed suffer from both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Psychopathy/Antisocial Personality Disorder (the non-clinical term is “malignant narcissism” when both disorders appear together).

But the problem isn’t limited to Trump.  Our “president”  (I’m sorry, but I refuse to refer to him as president without adding scare quotes for irony) has surrounded himself with a cabinet full of people as entitled-acting and seemingly lacking in human empathy and devoid of conscience as he is.   If they are not sociopathic themselves, they are enabling cowards who keep making excuses for Trump’s horrible behavior and the toxic, abusive things he says.   Some seem like programmed robots with no minds of their own, and others actually seem terrified to ever criticize or disobey him.

As for Trump’s pathologically loyal supporters, they really do seem unreachable.   No amount of logic, facts, reason, or even appealing emotionally to their “better angels” seem to move them.   Like Manson’s young followers who continued to defend Manson’s evil behavior and insane beliefs even to the point where they were willing to murder on his behalf, to his supporters, Trump really could “shoot someone on 5th Avenue” and they would not budge from his side.    When presented with facts — even outright proof that their views are wrong — I’ve noticed a tendency for Trump supporters to double down on their pro-Trump beliefs (for example, if science has found that climate change is real, they will tell you that scientists are liars or are misinformed).   Much more so than his opponents, Trump supporters seem to resort to personal attacks or angry outbursts, and, when that fails, they will cut you off from further discussion, even blocking you on social media so they don’t have to engage with you further or have their views challenged.

There’s two other situations in which you see this unholy trinity of egotistic authoritarian leader, sociopathic or sycophantic lackeys and enablers, and followers who seem to have no ability to think or act for themselves:  in religious cults and in political dictatorships.   Trumpism resembles a cult, and in fact it is one.   Trump uses the same Machiavellian mind control tactics on his followers and those who carry out his bidding that cult leaders and dictators do.

I do believe we are being tested, and Trump is the logical conclusion of where we’ve been headed since at least the 1970s.   His election signals that we have reached rock bottom and are being forced to be accountable — or self-destruct.   If we are being tested, then it follows there is a solution, but it’s imperative that we do not allow ourselves to ever normalize what is happening or become so beaten down emotionally, mentally, and spiritually that we feel like there’s nothing we can do and succumb to the abuse — and yes, it is abuse.

The first step in fighting encroaching totalitarianism (let’s not mince words here because that’s exactly what this administration wants to install in place of democracy) is knowing the nature of the beast that threatens us, but to do that, we need to name it.

This is narcissistic abuse.   It’s just as incapacitating, soul-destroying, creativity crushing, sickness-engendering, trauma-inducing, and crazy-making as the kind wrought on us by malignantly narcissistic parents, teachers, “friends,” relatives, lovers, and spouses.

But it’s a lot worse than that.   It’s worse because it’s narcissistic abuse on a massive, nationwide, possibly worldwide scale.   Unlike a toxic family or workplace or marriage, it’s a lot harder to go No Contact when the leader of your country is an abuser.   In fact, going No Contact may not even be possible, should WWIII, enslavement, or internment in modern day concentration camps come to pass.  This is not hyperbole or conspiracy theory:   if things are allowed to continue the way they have been going since January,  a high-tech feudalism, modern day replay of Nazi Germany, or even a Christian Taliban with Old Testament law replacing the Constitution will be our new reality.

Because what we are enduring is narcissistic abuse writ large, the same terminology and lingo used by narcissistic abuse survivors to refer to abusive parents, coworkers, lovers, friends, bosses and spouses certainly applies here as well.

So I’m going to present some of these narcissistic abuse terms, define them for those who aren’t familiar with what they mean, and use examples of how they are being used by this administration in their attempts to control us, beat us down, and eventually destroy us.

Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is probably the most well-known term used by narcissistic abuse survivors, and can now be seen in many articles about Trump as well.   The term “gaslight” is taken from the 1942 psychological thriller of the same name, in which an abusive, sociopathic husband attempts to make his wife believe she is going insane by telling her she is imagining noises in the attic, the gaslights in the house going on and off by themselves, etc. when he is actually the one doing it without her knowledge.    Gaslighting someone is an insidious and cruel mind control technique intended to make the other person question their own observations and beliefs, and even reality itself.

Trump gaslights us all every day through his demonization of the press (it’s all “fake news” and journalists are “enemies of the people”),  liberals and Democrats, people who refuse to give him the worship he craves, and the truth itself, which he insists is a bunch of lies made up by the “lying media.”   Hitler did the same thing, calling the media “lugenpresse,” which literally means “fake news.”    He gaslights us by telling us that his abusive words and rhetoric are just “honesty” and that “political correctness” (avoiding abusive language and unfair policies) is the real evil that must be done away with.   The intention is to wear those of us who value the truth down mentally and emotionally, while at the same time normalizing and encouraging those who pacify him and believe or deny his lies.

Divide and Conquer.

Divide and Conquer is a technique in which a cult leader or other sociopath in a powerful position deliberately sets people or groups against one another, the end result being that once a large group is fighting among themselves, they are easier to control or unleash abuse on without them really being aware of what is really happening.

Divide and Conquer can be seen in this administration, in which Trump encourages aggressive and violent behavior by the supporters who attend his rallies against reporters, people of color, and non-supporters who disagree with Trump or his policies.

Language is a powerful tool and Trump uses it to divide and conquer.   Non-whites, Mexicans, Muslims, Democrats, and other groups Trump dislikes are dehumanized through language which normalizes aggression and violence against them.   “Rough them up,” he says when speaking about reporters, and then later defends himself by saying he’s “joking” (which is a form of gaslighting).    No other president has ever used language so destructively to deliberately encourage hatred and division, but it’s common among sociopaths and malignant narcissists like Trump.   It foments hatred among his supporters against “the Other,” and they begin to normalize aggression and violence, even acting out on it or threatening civil war against Trump’s enemies, since Trump seems to think it’s okay.    When a nation is divided in this manner, they are weakened and less unified, and thus easier to control and terrorize.

Projection.

Malignant narcissists have extremely fragile egos, and therefore cannot tolerate any criticism.  Deep inside they are actually painfully aware of where they fall short, but this will never enter their consciousness. Should you ever call them out on their faults, be prepared for them to retaliate against you or target you for abuse.    To defend against the knowledge of their own faults coming to awareness (thus destroying their image of themselves as perfect), they will project their worst traits onto others rather than admitting any fault in themselves.  The fact that they have an uncanny way of blaming others for the very things they themselves do indicates that subconsciously, they know where they fall short.

Trump’s projection onto others is most obvious in his tweets, in which he regularly blames others for things he himself is doing, or accuses others of having character traits he himself possesses.   Thus,  it’s others who are weak, who are obstructionists, who lie, who are “very bad people,” who are disloyal, who are not nice, or are “bad hombres” — never him.

Flying Monkeys.

Flying monkeys is another term borrowed from the movies — in this case, “The Wizard of Oz.”   When the Wicked Witch tried to keep Dorothy from getting to Oz by targeting her for torture and death, she enlisted the help of an army of flying monkeys to do her bidding.  At the end, after Dorothy accidentally killed the Witch, we finally found out the flying monkeys were really the Witch’s slaves and were actually grateful to Dorothy for freeing them.   In real life, flying monkeys may be lesser narcissists, or just normal but weak-willed people who are codependent to the abusive leader and become the leader’s enablers and cheerleaders.  Sometimes they are not aware they are being used as flying monkeys, especially if the leader has convinced them that the targeted person or group is the real enemy and they are the ones being victimized (see DARVO, below).

Trump uses his cabinet members, his family members, and his supporters, including the people who attend his rallies, as flying monkeys to normalize and defend his hateful rhetoric and policies that will hurt the rest of us, including the flying monkeys themselves, who seem like they’re brainwashed.   This was already discussed in the second paragraph of this post, so I won’t go into more detail here.

DARVO

DARVO is an acronym that stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.    It’s common for narcissists to deny saying or doing something, but then attack YOU for accusing them, thus making themselves out to be the victim, and YOU as the one who is doing the abusing.  It’s a form of both gaslighting and projection, with the added technique of feigning victimization to garner pity and support.

Trump is always playing the victim, complaining about how it’s always others who are obstructing him or lying about him, or who want to take him down.   One of the most infamous examples to date is when he addressed a graduating class of the Coast Guard and proceeded to whine about how he was the most persecuted politician in the history of our nation.   By making himself out to be the ultimate victim (and of course making everything about him and ruining these graduates’ special day), he also diminished the experiences of other politicians, war heroes, and former presidents who had suffered far worse.

Scapegoating.

This term is self-explanatory.  It comes from the field of family dynamics.  Malignant narcissists (and sometimes substance abusers such as alcoholics, who tend to have Cluster B disorders) almost always select a scapegoat to project the lion’s share of blame onto and thus the scapegoat becomes the designated carrier of toxic shame that the narcissist refuses to own.  In a family headed by one or more narcissistic parents, one child may be selected to be the family scapegoat.  That child is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family, and is told repeatedly they are stupid, worthless, evil, ugly, crazy, or bad.  They are punished more than the other children, even when they did nothing wrong.  Their achievements are dismissed or even treated as something bad that must be punished. The scapegoat may also be bullied and abused by siblings, who act as the parent’s flying monkey(s).   A scapegoated child tends to enter adulthood with depression, low self esteem, a pervading sense of danger, and other psychological problems that tend to reinforce their role as scapegoats even as they move beyond the family.   Because scapegoats aren’t quick to defend themselves, are fearful and lack self esteem,  predatory personalities seem to be able to smell them out and proceed to dish further abuse and rejection on them.

Scapegoats are usually the most physically or emotionally vulnerable, the most sensitive, or most thoughtful individuals in a toxic family or other group, and/or they are the whistle-blowers or the truth-tellers who refuse to become flying monkeys or enablers of the narcissist.   Ironically, in a toxic family, they may be the most emotionally healthy individuals.   Malignant narcissist parents or other leaders wish to silence anyone who tells the truth or blows the whistle — or who is a constant reminder to them of how dangerous and toxic they really are.    Narcissists hate the “weak” and vulnerable, and they also hate those who tell the truth and expose them for what they are.     They may also scapegoat those who disagree with them or criticize them.

Every week, it seems that Trump has a new scapegoat.   While mainstream or liberal reporters and journalists (the truth tellers and whistle blowers) and groups of people who are not white, male and Christian seem to receive the lion’s share of his abuse and vilification, from week to week, Trump also targets a new individual — almost always someone who he perceives as being critical of him or obstructing his harebrained and wrongheaded policies.   Obama is a constant target, since his very existence threatens his fragile ego  (it’s obvious to me Trump hates Obama for having the temerity to be both more popular than he is and black), but he has also targeted Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and John McCain, as well as former and current insiders like Sean Spicer, Mitch McConnell, James Comey, and Jeff Sessions for abuse, which he usually metes out on Twitter.

Blame-Shifting.

Similar to projection and DARVO, blame-shifting is when a narcissist or sociopathic person refuses to accept or own blame and instead shifts responsibility onto someone else.    Malignant narcissists will never ever admit wrongdoing or say they’re sorry, because to do so is admission that they are less than perfect and that is intolerable to them.    The abusive husband who makes excuses for beating his wife (“she asked for it because of her nonstop nagging”) is shifting blame onto his wife instead of owning the fact that beating her was wrong.

Trump is constantly shifting blame to others.   Not once during his entire 8 months in office has he ever apologized or said he’s sorry for anything.   He’s made a lot of mistakes, some pretty terrible — but it’s always someone else’s fault.     When his unpopular and unconstitutional policies fail to pass, it’s never his fault — it’s always the “Obstructionist Dems,” Mitch McConnell, the “FAKE NEWS” lying to the people, or whoever the villain of the day happens to be.   He even makes excuses for the deplorable behavior of some of his white supremacist supporters, as he did when he said there was violence on both sides in Charlottesville — which there wasn’t.   In so doing, he also sent a clear signal to his white supremacist and neo-Nazi supporters that Trump was okay with their particular form of terrorism (running a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a young woman).

Splitting.

People with Cluster B disorders tend to think in terms of black-and-white, us-versus-them. There are NO shades of grey, NO mitigating circumstances, NO ambiguities.  If a malignant narcissist has decided you are “bad,” there is NOTHING good about you.  You might as well be Satan himself.   If you have been labeled crazy, you are a word salad blabbering lunatic fit to be put in a straitjacket and locked up in the loony bin until the day you die.    If you have been deemed an enemy, you can NEVER become a friend, nor do you have ANY redeeming qualities.   Since you will inevitably disappoint the malignant narcissist, eventually he will turn harshly against you.

This is called splitting, and Trump does it all the time.   Trump is incapable of seeing how complex people are, because he has zero insight into himself or any curiosity about human nature.   If someone insults him, they couldn’t just be having a bad day, because Trump lacks the empathy to be able to put himself in someone else’s shoes.   He would never consider that they might be right, either, because doing so would be intolerable to him.    Insult Trump and you become the Enemy — fair game for dehumanization, vilification, and retaliatory abuse.   There is no in between.  If you are not loyal to him, you are Other — and Other is always very bad.

Devalue and Discard (D&D)

After a period of love-bombing (see below), in which you are the most perfect, wonderful, loyal friend or ally ever (because to the narcissist, you are either ALL good or ALL bad),   you will inevitably (because you aren’t perfect) do or say something that hurts the narcissist’s feelings or causes him narcissistic injury.  Once that has happened, they will turn on you like a pit viper and will proceed to make your life hell.   In relationships, this may be the point at which the person who yesterday showered you with roses, candlelit dinners, and love letters now refuses to take your calls and blocks you on Facebook.

Trump has done this with many of his staff members, who were once confidantes and allies, and who he now attacks and vilifies because they failed to be “loyal” to him or were critical of him in some way. To Trump, other people are objects to be used or to provide narcissistic supply (worship and adulation), not imperfect human beings with both good and bad points.

Love-Bombing.

This is the initial phase of a relationship with a narcissist, in which you are the most perfect person in the world, but really you are just a mirror reflecting back to them what they want to see in themselves.  Once that image is tarnished (because you found fault with the narcissist), the abuse and/or devaluation begins.

Trump employed love-bombing during his campaign, when he made all kinds of promises that “only he” could fix.  He promised “healthcare for everybody” when his real agenda was to give a huge tax break to the wealthy while taking healthcare away from the most vulnerable, which included many of his own supporters.   He promised lots of new manufacturing jobs, a border wall that “the Mexicans would pay for,” and all sorts of other things that he had no intention — or capability — of turning into reality.  The only thing he’s kept his promise on is his neverending war on political correctness, but that’s turned into a war on anyone who dares criticize or question him.

Narcissistic Injury/Narcissistic Rage.

When you point out a narcissist’s faults or failures, he will enter a state of narcissistic injury — which means he is suffering a massive blow to his ego.  Most people, when hurt, have a healthy enough sense of self that they will deal with the emotional blow honestly — by talking about it, admitting their feelings were hurt, making a joke about it, or just telling themselves it really doesn’t matter and trying to move on from it.   But a malignant narcissist is incapable of making a joke or moving on or God forbid, admitting their own vulnerability.  Because their sense of self is so fragile (and is really just an overlay for the emptiness within), the only way they can feel good about themselves again is to attack you and deflect blame.   This is called narcissistic rage.   Narcissistic rage can take many forms:  gaslighting, outright verbal or physical abuse, threats, triangulation (secretly ganging up with others against the perpetrator), splitting, bullying, blame-shifting, deflecting, denial, the “silent treatment,” and D&D.

Trump displays many or even most of these behaviors whenever he perceives someone or some group has insulted him.   You can see it in his face and body language when he’s enraged.  His lips purse, his whole body goes stiff, and his eyes narrow and turn almost black with hatred and spite.   He’s frightening to look at when he’s in the midst of narcissistic rage, which is often.  I won’t list examples here because there are simply too many.   Trump is paranoid and constantly battling real or imagined enemies.   Eventually, everyone becomes an enemy to Trump.

False Self.

Narcissists have  a very fragile sense of self and feel empty inside.   To compensate, at an early age, they develop a “false self” — a kind of mask that shows others what they want you to believe they are.   If this mask is threatened or attacked in any way, they risk their “real self”  (the vulnerable and insecure child the mask hides) being exposed.   This is why you cannot criticize a narcissist. Rather than listen to you and agree you may have a point, they will  fight you to the death to maintain their image of perfection.    Being seen as vulnerable or defenseless is simply too frightening to them.   That’s one of the reasons they hate the vulnerable so much — people they perceive as “weak” fill them with shame of that which they need to hide.

A false self can take many forms, but for a classic or overt narcissist like Trump, it’s usually invulnerable and appears tough and self assured.   If the mask isn’t challenged, this type of narcissist can appear to be very competent and confident.   Some male narcissists, especially if they’re highly malignant like Trump, maintain a mask of toxic masculinity.   Trump admires dictators and “strongmen” types like Vladimir Putin.  He admires authoritarianism and political tactics that intimidate, terrorize, and oppress vulnerable populations.   I don’t know the details of Trump’s early childhood, but I’ve heard his father was emotionally abusive and empathy and kindness were not qualities he valued in a male child.  Only financial and material success were valued and rewarded.    I wouldn’t doubt it if Trump’s desire to please such a difficult and unloving father is at the root of his narcissism and the “strongman” style of his false self.

Fear-Mongering.

Narcissists and sociopaths, in order to gain control over others, often resort to instilling fear and even terror in their subjects.   Cult leaders, some religious leaders (especially fundamentalist leaders, whether Christian or Muslim), and dictators (as well as abusive husbands and mean bosses) are all known for this.   They threaten and bully.   They demand obedience and “loyalty” — or else.   They believe their bullying behavior makes them seem strong and invincible, but anyone who needs to resort to threats and schoolyard bully tactics to get cooperation and support is pathetically weak in character and devoid of any real strength.

Trump bullies others and makes veiled threats against his opponents all the time on Twitter.   He demands loyalty and calls people names.   Many of his staff members seem intimidated by him and almost afraid to be honest or do the right thing.    I sometimes wonder what he has threatened them with if they fail to cooperate.

Worst of all, Trump also tacitly encourages bullying behavior by his supporters against his opponents by failing to criticize their violent actions adequately or at all (Charlottesville), and by “jokingly” encouraging terrorist-type behavior and violence against his detractors at his rallies.   But Trump is not joking.  He is quite serious.  Malignant narcissists are incapable of any real humor.

Obfuscation/deflection.

Another tactic malignant narcissists use to deflect blame or avoid responsibility is obfuscating — confusing the issue or creating chaos.   Trump does this in a variety of ways, but all are intended to instigate chaos or create a new crisis that serves to obfuscate (hide) something he wants to deflect attention away from (such as the Russia investigation).   Every day, some new drama comes out of this White House.   Every day, he’s fighting with someone else, threatening someone, or someone else has quit or been fired.  It’s like a reality show from hell.

All the constant drama is intended to create chaos and confusion, and keep both his opponents and supporters off balance.   Leaders like this can be extremely dangerous because they are likely to incite something serious (like nuclear war with North Korea) in order to deflect negative attention away from themselves and their dishonest, unethical, or illegal activities. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care for the idea of being nuked because a petty and childish old man’s ego was wounded.

Another way narcissists obfuscate is through a special kind of “word salad” in which nothing they say makes any sense, although on the surface it may seem to.   They leave you feeling confused and scratching your head, wondering what the hell they really meant by what they just said.   Of course, if you question them or force them to make their message more clear, they will blame YOU — for being stupid or not understanding.

Why Scientology auditing is not at all like traditional psychotherapy (Part 1)

scientology_auditing

This is an actual question an auditor asks you during the introductory (“communications”) course that is really an early indoctrination procedure.

This is my second post about Scientology.  It will be in two parts.

My first post about Scientology was about my own experience (thankfully, short lived) in the cult, but this one will focus less on my own personal experience and more on how Scientology (and the related Dianetics) “auditing” works and why it isn’t at all like (and is far inferior to) traditional psychotherapy (that is, when you have a good, empathetic therapist).

But before I get into the differences, I feel it’s necessary to give you some background about Dianetics and Scientology auditing and the religion that arose from it.

Mainstream mental health: an imperfect science.

emotional_baggage

Psychotherapy isn’t perfect, and of course, there are many bad therapists.   Even when you have a therapist who you are comfortable with and who knows what they’re doing, it can take years to be “cured.”    It isn’t an exact science, or really, much of a science at all (it’s more of an art form) so there aren’t any easy answers or sure-fire “formulas.”   Human beings are complicated, and a modality that may work well on one person may actually do nothing for another, or even make them worse.   And of course, there are many terrible therapists, who are either completely incompetent, are only in it for the money,  lack enough empathy to be effective, are unconsciously attempting to work out their own issues (which is what attracted them to the profession in the first place), and even (if they are sociopathic or narcissistic, and many are) exploit or emotionally abuse their clients.

People can also become “addicted” to their therapists. They can become overly dependent on them and never leave therapy because they feel like they can’t cope on their own.   And it’s true, some therapists do become unhealthily attached to their clients, and discourage them from ever leaving.   A good therapist who doesn’t have unresolved attachment issues will discourage a client from becoming overly dependent on them (while still projecting warmth and empathy), with the end goal being for the client to be able to leave and  function better and feel happier, using new sets of emotional tools to do so.

But psychotherapists (both psychiatrists, who are medical doctors who can prescribe drugs, and psychologists and  clinical social workers, who cannot) are bound by the law. In a best case scenario, they must abide by the law and a certain code of ethics, or be barred from practicing their professions or even face civil or criminal charges.

All these disadvantages aside, traditional psychotherapy is a positive and life-changing experience for most people who undergo it and stick with it, and it has existed for over a century.  There are many different modalities suited for different psychological disorders or problems.   There are both short term and long-term methods.   Some, like CBT or DBT, aren’t cures but are really training methods that teach a person mindfulness skills so they can function better and are less symptomatic.  Others, like Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis, schema therapy, attachment therapy, psychodrama, EFT, hypnotherapy, and other “talk therapy” methods are long-term modalities that actually attempt to get to the root of the client’s problems or release trauma.  Many therapists mix several different modalities, and some include mindfulness tools like meditation, visualization, and relaxation techniques into their sessions.  Talk therapy can take many months or even years to have results.   In a best case scenario, the client will be cured of whatever is ailing them.  Even if they aren’t cured, a lot of the charge that was feeding their disorder is removed. Some disorders, especially those that have a physical component or are due to faulty neurological “wiring” respond better to drugs than to talk therapy, and continued management by a psychiatrist may be necessary, even though improvement in symptoms is almost immediate.

Scientology’s beginnings. 

dianetics

The book that started it all.

Scientology has always been very hostile to both psychiatry and psychology.  L. Ron Hubbard, a second rate science fiction author, had always been fascinated with the human mind and how it worked.  He published his bestselling  book about his discoveries, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” in 1950.  Dianetics is a bastardization of traditional psychoanalysis, but really isn’t much like it at all.   Hubbard was a sociopathic narcissist who had no degree in psychology and in fact lied about many of his accomplishments.

Dianetics uses elements of Freudian psychoanalysis, but is based on the belief that almost all people have “engrams” (unless they are “natural clears,” which are very rare).  Engrams are cellular imprints of moments of trauma that always contain some sort of physical pain and the “unconsciousness” that accompanies a painful or traumatic event.    The part of the mind that contains the “engrams” is called the reactive mind, and the goal of Dianetics “auditing” is to remove all the engrams through “reliving” the memories associated with them, so the person eventually attains a state called “Clear,” which means they have no reactive mind anymore and can act in rational and healthy ways not based on unconscious painful memories or trauma.

psychiatrykills

A Scientology anti-psychiatry demonstration.

In the early years of Dianetics, Hubbard attempted to get it recognized as a valid form of psychotherapy, but his book and methods were rejected by the mental health community. Hubbard, being a malignant narcissist who was devastated by this massive narcissistic injury, turned against the entire mental health field.  He vilified it and preached  to his followers that psychiatry and psychology were the worst evils to befall mankind and that Dianetics was the only valid way to become a happy and functioning person.

 

A new religion is born.

scientology_church

Hubbard began to market his book through the same pulp science fiction magazines  that published his stories, and his Dianetics book proved popular.  Many people claimed to be helped through Dianetics auditing, but this wasn’t enough for Hubbard.    He was quoted as saying, “the quickest way to become rich is to start your own religion,” and so he did.   Not only could he become the messiah of his own church based on his “miracle cure,” he also no longer had to pay taxes.    He trained many new auditors and started the Church of Scientology in December, 1953.    He added the levels of O.T. (Operating Thetan) states that go beyond the state of Clear.  An OT supposedly had complete control over matter, energy, space, and time, and at the highest level, could perform Herculean actions without even needing a body to do it.

To his religion Hubbard added a “space opera” cosmology, which sounds suspiciously like a plot in one of his stories.   The level of OT III is the level at which the “top secret” cosmology is finally revealed (of course, now due to the Internet, anyone can find out about it for free).   Supposedly, an evil galactic ruler called Xenu, who lived 75 million years ago, thought his planets were overpopulated and had most of the population frozen and dumped into volcanoes in Hawaii (which didn’t exist 75 million years ago), and programmed their spirits (thetans) with the “R6” implant, which is the reason why traditional religion and mental illness (and all other evils of mankind) came into being.    These disembodied spirits were then released and attached themselves to living people as “body thetans” (BT’s).  BT’s are analogous to possession by minor demons.   A person at the OT levels spends much time “auditing out” the BT’s to achieve more perfect spiritual enlightenment.  Scientology’s insane doctrine was illustrated in a famous episode of South Park in 2005.      It’s so unbelievable that the show had to show disclaimers at the bottom of the screen that said, “This is what Scientologists actually believe.”

xenu

From “Trapped in the Closet,” South Park episode.

Hubbard believed if this “top secret” material were revealed to someone at a lower level of “processing,” that they would die of pneumonia or go insane.  His real fear was probably that people might laugh his church out of existence.  Of course, most Scientologists (at least before the Internet) don’t even know about this secret doctrine because so few of them have achieved the state of OT III.   Many (who haven’t been completely brainwashed into believing anything they are told) leave when they find out.   Others are offended that figures like Jesus or the Buddha are considered “implants” who never even existed, especially since when they first joined Scientology, they were promised that their own religion was not incompatible with Scientology.  At OT III, they find out they must renounce their former religious beliefs, if they still had any.  It’s the ultimate bait and switch, something Scientology is well known for.

“You don’t get rich writing science fiction.  If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” — L. Ron Hubbard

Scientology also co-opted the Christian cross (although the eight pointed version Scientology uses is actually based on the Rosicrucian cross) and sometimes requires its clergy (professional auditors and high ranking church officials) to wear clerical collars in public to seem more authentic.

During the late 1950s through the 1970s, when people were becoming interested in alternative therapies and “new age” religions, the Church of Scientology exploded in popularity, until the late 1970s when the IRS and the FBI descended on Hubbard and his church due to tax fraud and other shady and unethical activities conducted at Scientology’s headquarters and at its paramilitary offshoot, The Sea Org.  While Scientology remains popular, especially among celebrities and the very wealthy, the costs of Scientology training and Dianetics auditing are far too expensive for the average person to afford, so the only people who can move up the “Bridge” and attain the rarified Clear or O.T. (Operating Thetan) states, are the very wealthy or those unfortunates who “work off” the expense as residents of the Sea Org (and rarely achieve those states anyway).

Dianetics and Scientology auditing vs. traditional psychotherapy. 

Moving away from the religious aspects of Scientology and back to its original purpose as a form of “therapy” (and most people who undertake Dianetics or Scientology auditing are only using it as a form of therapy anyway, having no idea of what they’re really getting into), please read Part 2:

https://luckyottershaven.com/2017/01/15/why-scientology-auditing-is-not-at-all-like-traditional-psychotherapy-part-2/

My love affair with Scientology.

south-park-s09e12c01-free-personality-test-16x9
Credit: South Park: What Scientologists Believe – Business Insider

In the late seventies, I flirted with $cientology (the $ sign isn’t accidental). This happened when I came across one of its books (one of the only ones not written by its founder L. Ron Hubbard, who was not only a malignant narcissist of the highest order, but also a very bad writer), an easy to read and humorous “self help” book called “How to Choose your People,” by a writer named Ruth Minshull. The book was discontinued in the early 1980s, most likely because it wasn’t written by Hubbard and was therefore not acceptable “scripture.” Hubbard, a monstrously narcissistic and sociopathic cult leader, couldn’t stand having to share the spotlight with anyone else.

“How to Choose Your People” was entertaining and well written, and I found its idea of something called “The Tone Scale” intriguing and it seemed to make sense. (In fact, I think it’s one of the very few tenets of Scientology that has any validity). I liked the idea that emotions ran on a sort of continuum, with one logically leading to the next. Every human being can be placed somewhere on this “tone scale.” Although most people move around on the scale according to their mood, everyone can be placed at a “home” tone, where they will be most of the time. The “tones” ranged from Apathy (the lowest you could go–this would be where severely depressed and suicidal people are) to Enthusiasm (very happy and contented people). Each tone was assigned an arbitrary number, although no one ever explained what those numbers meant. *

There were two “emotions” around the middle of the scale, called Covert Hostility (1.1) and No Sympathy (1.2, making it slightly “better”). Although not at the bottom of the scale, while I was involved in Scientology (and the related Dianetics, the mental “technology” that is similar in some ways to psychoanalysis and serves as a tool to brainwash its members), Covert Hostility and No Sympathy were considered by most Scientologists to be the two worst places to be on the Tone Scale. No one wanted to be labeled a “1.1.” Because if you were, it meant you were a Suppressive Person–that is, a sociopathic person who could harm the Church and its members. If you were pegged a “1.1” or a “1.2” you could be excommunicated or punished by a cruel form of shunning (which I was subjected to at one point).

The traits of someone with a “tone” of Covert Hostility or No Sympathy are exactly the same of those of the malignant narcissist. Here is a picture of the tone scale as it appeared on the cover of Minshull’s 1976 book. (There is an expanded tone scale too, which has additional levels, but for our purposes this one is sufficient).

minshull1

Click image for larger view.

The love bombing phase. 

So I finished Minshull’s book and was intrigued enough to go to the local Scientology Center (on New York’s upper west side–I was living in Queens, NY at the time) and find out more. They gave me a “personality test,” that was supposed to identify what my issues and weak points were. There were 200 questions on the test, but when I was done, someone sat down with me and went over my results and convinced me I needed Dianetics auditing or classes in Scientology (much cheaper than Dianetics auditing) to overcome these weak points. The recruiter was very convincing and friendly, and assured me I would only be set back $15 to sign up for the HAS course (Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist aka “Communication Course”), which was really training in something called Training Routines (TR’s) which were actually brainwashing techniques, only they don’t tell you that when you sign up.

At first the TR’s were very seductive–they were fun and actually seemed to work. They did seem to help me be able to “confront” people better. The TR’s involved things like sitting in a chair staring at someone as long as you could without reacting, laughing, or looking away. After this, the ante was upped to something called “bullbaiting,” where the person could try to get you to react and “lose your Confront” by insulting you, trying to make you laugh, or calling you names. There were higher levels of TR’s that involved walking across the room, touching things, asking if birds could fly, and reading passages from “Alice in Wonderland.”

All these things were supposed to help you communicate with others better and raise your “tone,” but in actuality, these were all brainwashing techniques that would eventually result in giving you the infamous blank stare that many Scientologists seem to have while under the cult’s thrall.

The ante is upped. 

cartman_emeter

After I “passed” the Communications Course (by getting a “floating needle” on a lie-detector type of device called the E-Meter), I was convinced without too much difficulty to sign up for the next course, the HQS course (Hubbard Qualified Scientologist). That one set me back $250. (The prices are probably much higher today). By this time of course, I’d been sufficiently indoctrinated that $250 for further “processing” and “training” didn’t seem that bad. It didn’t take much to convince me to hand over the money. The prices of the courses (or “auditing,” if you take that route, become higher the further up the “bridge” you go. At higher levels, they run thousands of dollars. Most people don’t have that sort of money, but can “pay off” the expense by allowing themselves to become slaves to the Church — usually by working on site, or at higher levels, by joining the Sea Org, Scientology’s paramilitary organization in Clearwater, Florida. It’s at Sea Org that you hear all the horrible stories of abuse, starvation, imprisonment, the destruction of families, the separation of children from parents, and even the deaths of a few Scientologists who failed to toe the line or became, in Scientology parlance, SPs or “Suppressive Persons,” just because they still had a mind of their own or balked at the abuse meted out on them.

Back to my own story. In order to help pay for the HQS course (because in those days $250 was a lot of money, especially for a 19 year old) it was suggested I work at the Scientology Center (actually a Mission, which does not offer higher level training and auditing) part time, answering phones and opening and distributing mail. The position (called a “post”) paid nothing, but I got “credits” to help pay for the course. Of course, by now I was spending most of my free time at the Center, because right after “work” it was time for the classes, which ran about 4 hours a night (5 days a week).

Students were closely monitored and every class ended with a session on the E-Meter. If you were caught yawning or daydreaming you were told you had a “misunderstood word” and had to go back and re-read Hubbard’s unreadable material to try to find the word you did not understand. You were not allowed to move on until you found the word and “passed” on the E-Meter. I began to realize I wasn’t having much fun anymore, but if you criticized Scientology or its “teaching technology” in any way, you would be sent to Ethics.

e_meter
Scientology E-Meter

Scientology’s real agenda begins to emerge. 

No one wanted to be sent to Ethics. If you were sent to Ethics, it meant there was a problem and you were considered a “Potential Trouble Source” (PTS) and disciplinary action would be taken. I was sent to Ethics about three or four times, all for very minor transgressions such as minor criticism–or catching a cold (more about that later). The punishments ranged from having to re-read material to find “misunderstood words” (and be “passed” being connected to an E-Meter), to cutting off friends and family members who could be potential “Suppressive Persons” or enemies of Scientology (you would be required to write them a letter telling them you were cutting them off), to shunning, to excommunication.

One time I came to the Center with a bad cold. I was immediately sent to Ethics because according to Scientology’s deluded doctrine, if you became ill, it meant there was a “SP” in your life who was hostile to your involvement in Scientology and by default, you became a PTS (potential trouble source). Sniffling and sneezing, I sat down and held the two metal cans of the E-meter. I was asked a bunch of questions about anyone in my life who was hostile to Scientology. You couldn’t lie, because that would be picked up by the meter. At the time, I was dating a guy who thought Scientology was stupid, and I told them that. I was ordered to “disconnect” from him, or be excommunicated. I had to write the boy (who I was still in love with) a letter telling him I was disconnecting from him because he was hindering my progress up the “bridge.” I cried while writing to him, but it did get mailed and I did disconnect.

Later, I almost had to write a “disconnect” letter to my own father, who I had once dumbly admitted had been making fun of Scientology. I was able to get out of that one by insisting he really wasn’t opposed to my involvement and just liked to make jokes about lots of things. But I did know other people there who were ordered to disconnect from family members, sometimes their entire families. I have heard of some Scientologists even being forced to disconnect from their own children. Looking back, I recognize this as the cult-equivalent of what a narcissist does when they attempt to isolate you from friends and family members. It’s a way to weaken you by cutting you off from your support systems so they more completely own you.

Shunning is another disciplinary measure, and I was once subjected to it (I cried while “auditing” a student, which I’ll describe in more detail later). I was told although I would still be required to fulfill my job duties and attend classes, no one would be allowed to speak to me and I was allowed to speak to no one (unless it was directly related to my job or something I was learning). It was horrible. This torment on for several days, until I was “passed” up a level and allowed to be spoken to again. But before that could happen, I had to go up to every high level member and employee, make amends to them and “re-introduce” myself. I also was required to do some tasks to “make up” for whatever “sin” I’d committed. Some involved things like cleaning bathrooms or washing dishes. But others could get pretty weird. I’ll describe the task I was required to fulfill in order to be re-accepted into the group.

Scientology’s vendetta against mainstream mental health and the part I played in it. 

lronhubbard

L. Ron Hubbard: pulp science fiction author turned self-proclaimed messiah.

It’s well-known that Scientology has always been very hostile to mainstream psychology and psychiatry. L. Ron Hubbard thought of psychiatry as the worst evil to befall mankind. My theory about this is based on his malignant narcissism. When he first developed Dianetics (the “auditing technology” that resembles psychoanalysis in some ways) back in the early 1950s, Hubbard had attempted to get it recognized in the psychiatric community as a valid form of psychotherapy. Of course, Hubbard had no psychology degree (and in fact, had lied about much of his background). The psychiatric community refused to promote his ideas or his book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.” Hubbard, enraged by their rejection of his “brilliant technology,” turned against the psychiatric and psychological communities (and marketed his book, at first, through ads in pulp science fiction magazines, where he was already known as one of their contributors).   Eventually, he decided to turn his ideas into a new religion and named it Scientology.  Now, he could make more money than he ever could as a mere author, and never have to pay a dime in taxes.

That’s the background that will explain the task I was assigned to do to get back in good graces with the Church. I was given a list of names of psychiatrists and psychologists and told to go to the library and look up each one in the phone book and get their phone numbers. Okay, that was easy enough. I headed back to the Center with the phone numbers filled out, hopeful that this would fulfill my duty.

But no, they weren’t done with me yet. I was told to go home with the list of names and phone numbers, and call each of the doctors and ask them what they thought about Scientology! As someone who hates phones and alway felt awkward speaking on them, I felt like I was in some kind of nightmare. I also had to LIE to them and tell them I was a research student doing a study for a university program.

But I did do it. A few of the doctors refused to call me back, or I only got to speak to their secretaries, who couldn’t give me an answer, but most of them I got to actually speak to, and as would be expected, most of the responses were negative toward Scientology. Apparently, my research was sufficient. Finally, I was then allowed to “make amends” to all the higher level staff members and the shunning was lifted.

Ironically (or maybe not so ironically), a year later, I entered college as a Psychology major.

Disillusionment and return to reality.

Toward the end of the HQS course, you are told to recruit other people into Scientology. I had to go outside, no matter what the weather, and try to talk people into coming up to the Center to take its personality test. The more advanced TR’s taught in this class became increasingly bizarre. These sessions could go on for hours, and as part of the training, I was also required to “audit” other students and conduct TR’s on them. If they proved difficult or uncooperative, I was the one who was blamed and was not allowed to stop “running the TR’s” until my student had passed on the E-Meter. If it went on all night, then so it did. You were not allowed breaks to eat or rest, and neither was your student.

This is what led to my “shunning” punishment. What happened was I was so exhausted from lack of sleep and hunger that I burst into tears in the middle of running a session, and was immediately sent to Ethics and that’s how I got shunned. I was stunned by their total lack of empathy. You were never allowed to show any emotions other than fake happiness (“Enthusiasm” on the tone scale); showing any “low toned” emotions like fear, grief, frustration, pain, or anger was “bringing ‘case’ on post” and you would be sent to Ethics or punished for doing it.

I thought about leaving, but didn’t dare–because they threatened you with something called “Fair Game.” No one ever explained exactly what that was, but in Hubbard’s indecipherable scripture, “fair game” appeared to imply the Church reserved the right to stalk you, torment or even kill you if you “blew” (left). I’d also paid so much money into it by this point and spent so much time with them that I was hesitant to toss in the towel.

Shortly before I was to graduate from HQS (which I never did finish), I was sent to talk to a recruiter about my next “step up the bridge.” I was told I should sign up for “Life Repair,” which cost $6K. I told the recruiter I did not have that kind of money. The recruiter turned to the hard sell at that point. He told me to get a bank loan or ask my parents for the money. Neither was possible. There was no way I could pay back the bank, as my other (paying) job was part time and paid only $2.75 an hour (minimum wage at that time), and my parents were not the type to hand over large sums of money, even for something legitimate.

Finally, after two hours of unsuccessfully trying to get me to sign up for this $6,000 auditing package, the recruiter gave up and was quite hostile to me after that. He not only told me that I must not really be interested in moving up the Bridge, but that I was probably a Suppressive Person and an enemy of Scientology because I would not put myself in huge debt to continue to be brainwashed.

It was at this point I left the Church. I just didn’t care anymore. I had gradually come to realize that the “emotional tone” of the organization was somewhere around Covert Hostility and No Sympathy–which was quite interesting since those were the tones that were the most hated and feared and were the realm of the dreaded Suppressive Person. In other words, Scientology was a psychopathic, narcissistic cult, founded by a psychopathic malignant narcissist (1.1 on his own Tone Scale) whose ravings (and fabrications as a “war hero” among other things) are legendary. What they were really doing was projecting their own emotional tone (malignant narcissism) onto those who disagreed with them.

I also realized how I had been gradually seduced into this sociopathic organization through misrepresentation, manipulation, threats and lies. The personality test and the inexpensive and fun HAS course that promised to help me feel happier and more confident was merely the “love bombing” phase before the abuse that would come later and increase over time. I did NOT want to become one of the upper-level Scientologists, with their blank, weird stares, creepy smiles and total lack of empathy. Just look at Tom Cruise today: does he even seem human anymore? Hell, I’d rather be a Suppressive Person any day.

I didn’t get nearly as far up the “Bridge” as many other people, and therefore did not experience some of the trauma and torture inflicted on members who are more deeply enmeshed with this cult. Eventually they WILL take over your entire life. For anyone interested in finding out more about the evil mindgames this cult plays, its psychopathic paranoia about both government agencies like the IRS and its hatred and fear of traditional psychotherapy and psychiatry, and the horrific (and sometimes fatal) punishments inflicted on many of its members and their families, I highly recommend either of these two websites that call out Scientology for what it really is.

The Ex-Scientologist Message Board: http://www.forum.exscn.net
Operation Clambake: The Inner Secrets of Scientology: http://www.xenu.net/

This is also pretty interesting, and what they actually believe is NOT a joke.
South Park: What Scientologists Believe (Business Insider):
http://www.businessinsider.com/south-park-what-scientologists-believe-2015-3

*****

* I just read that the numbers assigned to the emotions on the Tone Scale come from E-meter readings. In fact, Hubbard did not invent the E-meter. It was invented by a Freudian psychoanalyst named Volney Mathison, who used it on his psychotherapy patients.  It was called the Electropsychometry meter.  Hubbard bought the rights to the E-meter, and adapted it for use in Dianetics and Scientology auditing. The readings on the E-meter determine a person’s emotional tone.

Here is a picture of Volney’s E-meter, before it was co-opted by L. Ron Hubbard:

volney_emeter

The Psychopathy of Ayn Rand

Ayn_Rand1
Ayn Rand1” by Phyllis Cerf (April 13, 1916– November 25, 2006), permission obtained from her son Christopher Cerf[…]Richard E. RalstonPublishing ManagerThe Ayn Rand Institute”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Ayn Rand, the author and philosopher who The Tea Party seems to worship with the same reverence they worship Jesus Christ (which is highly ironic, because Rand was an atheist and her values diametrically opposed to Christianity). Certain conservative pundits in recent years have twisted Rand’s ugly philosophy of selfishness (“objectivism”) into their “Christian” right-wing political agenda, and Bill O’Reilly even went so far to say that Jesus would not want to help the poor and homeless because it’s their own fault they don’t have enough to eat. These right wing pundits and politicians never stop to consider that it was the poor and homeless who were Jesus’ disciples and friends, not the rich and powerful. Rand believed that empathy and altruism were the greatest evils to beset mankind, and her childhood hero was a serial killer. She said “she liked the way his mind worked.”

I was going to write an article today about Rand’s obvious psychopathy, but someone has already done it for me. Everything I’d want to say is already here, so I am just going to reblog their excellent article, which uses the items on Hare’s psychopathy checklist to pulverize Ayn Rand because she fit every one of them (these are highlighted in bold).

THE PSYCHOPATHY OF AYN RAND
From Prophet 451’s Journal [link not available]
(stolen from Democractic Underground)
http://www.cwporter.com/psychorand2.htm

randkikestar1
Czar of all the “Rationalists”

You’ve probably heard of Ayn Rand. Most people have these days. She was the author of such inexplicably widely-read “novels” (really, barely-disguised political diatribes) as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. Her books are currently enjoying something of a boom among those who misguidedly believe they would be in the self-righteous community of “Atlases” at Galt’s Gulch. The novels themselves are of only passing interest, being long, melodramatic and mediocrely written. Rather, it is the “philosophy” at the core of the novels which bears attention.

Hear ye, hear ye, I come to bury Rand, not to praise her. While numerous conservative thinkers (and, oddly, Neil Peart) have lauded Rand as a philosopher, few academic institutions include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical discipline. Conservatives, such as Chris Sciabarra, tend to believe that the academic left decries Rand due to her anti-communist, pro-capitalist slant. Like much of the witterings of conservatives who presume to know what the left thinks, that presumes firstly, more power than the academic left has had in decades; secondly, assumes that the left was universally pro-communist and anti-capitalist, something which has never been true and thirdly, that Rand was saying anything worth studying. She wasn’t. Rand’s “philosophy” was the same defence of endless greed which mankind has been engaged in for eternity, the same attempt to place a moral cover on pure selfishness that has long been pursued by any number of exploiters down the centuries. Nietzche was, and is, pilloried for saying “God is dead”, Rand is lauded for effectively saying “the self is God”. There is nothing new here, save perhaps for the self-delusion that allows so many professed “Christians” to adhere to a philosophy that glorifies greed and athieism. There is also a cult-like deification of Rand by her followers and “swarming” of those who dare criticise her which reminds one very strongly of Scientology (and Glenn Beck followers but that’s another matter).

There is another name for those who hold that the only proper moral consideration is the happiness of the self; for those who view empathy and compassion as weakness; who view selfishness as the only virtue: Psychopaths.

Contrary to popular belief, the psychopath is not automatically violent. Rather, the psychopath is defined by a near-complete lack of empathy. Robert Hare (who created the widely used “Hare Psychopathy Checklist”) describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators” who use a combination of charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexuality and violence to satisfy their own desires. The more human qualities of conscience, empathy, remorse or guilt are either completely absent or extremely limited. It must be repeated that the psychopath is not necessarily violent. Indeed, many are not because their lives have never placed them in a position where violence was the only means to satisfy their desires. Many businessmen (and therefore, many politicians) profile as psychopaths because they exhibit the core characteristics or some section thereof. Ayn Rand should also be considered a psychopath.

Hare’s checklist lists certain personality factors as indicative of psychopathy. The average person will perhaps exhibit one or, at most, two. The psychopath will exhibit all but one or two.

In no particular order, these items are: Glibness/superficial charm.

After her writings became popular, Rand collected around herself a group of cultists who virtually worshipped her. However, Shallow affection, the psychopath’s charm is only ever superficial. As one comes to know and understand the psychopath more fully, the charm which initially attracted one to them is revealed as only skin-deep. In this, Rand was entirely textbook. She was described by most who knew her best as a bitter, friendless child who grew into an equally bitter and acidic woman.

Grandiose sense of self-worth would certainly fit Rand. A woman who names her beliefs “Objectivism” out of a belief that any reasoning person who observes the objective truths of the world would necessarily come to full agreement with her would probably qualify. The fact that her little cult were required to memorise her works and discounted as “imbecilic” and “anti-life” if they asked questions simply seals the deal. Her sincere belief was that thinking freely would automatically lead to total agreement with her views.

The ruthless policing of her cult would also qualify her under the Cunning/manipulative qualifier.

Pathological lying is one that Rand is probably innocent of. So far as we know, there is no reason to believe she was a pathological liar.

Lack of remorse or guilt and Callous/lack of empathy could be described as “Ayn Rand syndrome”. These two qualifiers are really the core of her books, philosophy and worldview. In one of her books (“The Fountainhead”), her “hero”, Howard Roark, blows up a housing project he designed when a minor alteration is made and then orders the jury to acquit him (the fact that, as an architect, Roark was presumably contracted for his work and therefore, it wasn’t “his” anymore piddles all over the supposed respect for property too). [I will add here that there is a scene in “The Fountainhead” in which Roark rapes a leading female character, and Rand defends his crime because it gets him what he wants–Lucky Otter].

In “Atlas Shrugged,” her ode to the super-rich which imagines them going on strike against progressive taxation, Rand describes the rest of the world (without whom, let us not forget, the super-rich would be unable to make anything) in such niceties as “savages”, “refuse” and “imitations of living beings”.

When one of the strikers engineers a train crash (because they don’t just strike but commit acts of terrorism too), Rand makes it clear that she believes the murdered victims deserved their fate because they supported progressive taxation. A stewing hymn of Nietzchean will-to-power, misanthropy, failure to understand economics, feudalism and sexual politics verging on the obscene, “Atlas Shrugged” is full of this stuff. Her heroes spend their time both insisting that they are the heroic producers (and without labour, what are they producing exactly?) and bemoaning that others do not worship them as such. In her spare time, Rand was an admirer of serial killer William Hickman (I’ll spare you the details of his crimes save to say that they were brutal even by serial killer standards), describing him as “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy”; “other people do not exist for him and he does not see why they should” was her evaluation of his crimes and Rand considered this worthy of praise.

Finally, on the personality factor, there is Failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Since our record of Rand’s life isn’t fully detailed, it’s difficult to say how much she satisfied this one. Certainly, when her lover Nathaniel Branden found another partner, she blamed him rather than herself or her increasingly poisonous views. We shouldn’t sympathise with Rand as injured party too much here, she was herself married to someone entirely different and cruel enough to carry on the affair without regard to discretion. Indeed, if the only duty of the superman is to please himself, Branden was acting according to Rand’s ideals and she should have applauded him. She once said the USA should be a “democracy of superiors only” with “superior” being defined as “rich”. One scarcely needs to point out that such a system wouldn’t be democracy at all but oligarchy and interestingly elitist for all her followers’ claim to despise elitism.

One doesn’t need to work very hard to diagnose Rand. Her life and writings paint a vivid picture of psychopathy so clear and obvious that it is only surprising so many miss it. She was a phenomenally damaged woman for whom one can feel an element of pity (an emotion that disgusted her) even while aware of how terrifically dangerous she and her philosophy was and are.

Rand herself died alone except for a hired nurse. Her deranged views had driven away anyone who might have been close to her. Like L. Ron Hubbard, however, her lunatic ideas have spawned a cult that would turn all of us into happy little psychopaths; a cult that includes many of the world’s foremost economists, politicians and rabble-rousers (Beck again, although “intellectual terrorist” might be more appropriate). Like George Orwell, Rand imagined a dystopian world characterised by the powerful’s exploitation of the powerless. Unlike Orwell, Rand wanted to live there.

…..

I suppose I should add here that Rand was also a hypocrite. Decrying government support systems and safety nets as “coddling the incompetent and undeserving,” she unflinchingly collected both Medicare and Social Security when she contracted lung cancer late in her life. I suppose she thought she was a “deserving” exception to her own ugly philosophy of selfish callousness?