Learning About Scientology Helped Me Understand My Childhood Trauma

Jessica

The brainwashing tactics used by the Church of Scientology were also present in my Catholic upbringing.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=1CWK62_0YGP0aFB00Photo by Austin Edwards on Unsplash

I’ve spent the last two years writing online about recovering from religious trauma and the aftermath of my leaving the Catholic Church at 17. Looking back, my decision to write publicly about my healing journey was the best thing I ever did for myself. I’m not sure what I was looking for, or what I thought would happen by sharing my very vulnerable and personal pain on the internet, but writing about my feelings came naturally to me. Writing and praying always came easy to me. But I was no longer someone who prayed. So, I wrote instead.

I was in high school when I could no longer deny my disapproval of Catholicism, not to myself or my parents. I didn’t believe in the teachings of the church and I was angry after so many years of unanswered questions about certain Catholic beliefs and practices surrounding women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and sexual abstinence. And of course, the constant cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

According to my parents and the priests who gave them guidance, my questioning the church was a sign of weakness. I represented a failure on my parent’s part for not teaching me unconditional devotion to my faith.

When I moved away to college, my parents and I rarely spoke. My relationship with them withered away, and my parents referred to my lack of faith on multiple occasions as “a test from Satan himself.”

While I was hundreds of miles away, studying at the university on a full-tuition scholarship and working hard to finish my undergraduate degree in psychology, my parents discussed my impending path into a life of sin if I didn’t return to the church.

On graduation day, I was 20 years old, a first-generation college student with an accelerated 3-year bachelor’s degree in psychology and no student debt. As I walked across the stage on graduation day, I was unbelievably proud of myself. My parents were too — but the excitement wore off quickly, and then it was back to figuring out how to save me from my “dangerous lifestyle without God.”

That graduation was over ten years ago.

With tremendous help from my therapist, and after writing countless online essays and researching other religions and cults, I have finally found peace. My relationship with my parents exists in a place I never thought it would be — a place of unconditional love, mutual respect, and compassion.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned about other religious institutions, cults, and sects, specifically the Church of Scientology, because what I learned not only helped me heal, it shocked me to my core.

After researching online, reading countless books by former Scientologists, and watching Leah Remini’s A&E documentary series “Scientology and the Aftermath” and HBO’s “Going Clear,” it surprised me when I learned that the same brainwashing tactics used in the cult of Scientology were always present in my Catholic childhood; I just didn’t know I was brainwashed then.

Before I really knew anything about Scientology, I knew that Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Elisabeth Moss were members of this controversial church. I was a big fan of the Emmy-nominated South Park episode, “Trapped in the Closet,” which poked fun at Scientologists. Although I didn’t understand it entirely, it tickled me when I saw Tom Cruise locking himself in a literal closet because the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard told him his acting skills were “just okay.”

L. Ron Hubbard was an American science-fiction and fantasy writer and the founder of the Church of Scientology. He died in 1986, just 1 week after suffering a stroke, although, throughout his time as the founder of Scientology, he claimed that he had reached an OT (Operating Thetan) level where he could physically cure any disease or illness within him.

After his death, Scientology leaders announced that Hubbard had decided to “drop his body” to continue his research on another planet, having “learned how to do it without a body.

Because, if Scientologists found out that Hubbard hadn’t actually been able to heal himself and that he died of a stroke, just like many other mortal beings have before him, well, the gig would be up.

Hubbard authored 1,084 books throughout his lifetime — he still holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Published Works by One Author.” Some of these works eventually became required reading material for Scientology members. (The introductory book package costs about $4,000 and must be purchased by each church member. The average cost for someone to achieve the goal of OT (Operating Thetans) Level Clear, depending on their individual needs, is around $128,000.)

The Church of Scientology focuses on getting Scientologists up the Bridge to Total Freedom.

This is done through Dianetics courses and hundreds of auditing sessions to move up the bridge until OT Level Clear is achieved. A Clear individual, according to Scientology’s website, is “able to perceive, recall, imagine, create, and compute at a level high above the norm; freer from accidents; unrepressed; and mentally stable,” among many other qualities.

Scientologists practice Dianetics, which was introduced in Hubbard’s controversial, yet highly popular book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The book was a commercial success, but it’s important to note that the scientific community and medical professionals were quick to criticize and challenge the credibility of Hubbard’s claims to major therapeutic benefits through “identifying the source of human aberration as the reactive mind.”

To clarify, before Scientology, Hubbard was best known for his fantasy writing. He never studied psychiatry; he did not possess a degree in psychology and he never had professional training that would give him the credentials to describe himself as a “mental health practitioner.” Hubbard’s 1930 transcripts from George Washington University’s School of Engineering show that he was a poor student, failing many of his courses. His claims of a high rank in the military have also been questioned. Hubbard has a history of compulsive behavior and lying. But I digress.

So how did this science-fiction writer who was frequently challenged by the scientific and medical community find wealth and worldly success as a popular author and leader in spiritual enlightenment to thousands of followers around the world?

Upon researching the shocking truths of Scientology, I realized the indoctrination I experienced in Catholicism wasn’t uncommon or rare. Brainwashing and preying on the vulnerable happens in most organized religions. It’s the answer to why so many people fall for the quick promise to everlasting life, sold by dishonest people like L. Ron Hubbard.

1. The Practice of Disconnecting from Loved Ones

Scientologists practice what is known as disconnection. From their official website, Scientology explains:

“A Scientologist can have trouble making spiritual progress in his auditing or training if he is connected to someone who is suppressive or who is antagonistic to Scientology or its tenets.”

It may sound like disconnection isn’t anything more than a gentle suggestion for Scientologists to steer clear of dangerous people. But according to former Scientologists, disconnection is actually a horrifying practice enforced by the Church of Scientology, in which they require members to disconnect from anyone the church declares a Suppressive Person (SP).

To be declared, you simply have to commit a crime against the church. Speak ill of the church, speak ill of leader David Miscavige, speak out against abuses in the church, read about abuses in the church, or publicly leave the church — these are all crimes against Scientology.

If I were a Scientologist, my writing this article would in fact cause me to be declared an SP. And if you, my reader, are a Scientologist, that would mean you’d be declared an SP as well.

What does this mean for families?

Disconnection is a control mechanism used to keep members of Scientology in constant fear of being declared themselves for communicating with another declared person.

Meaning, if the church tells you that someone is a risk to you and your family’s journey to enlightenment, to the church of Scientology, and the planet, they require you to “disconnect” from them. Cease all communication, in-person, or online. No more telephone calls or text messages. If you see them in the grocery store, you must turn around and walk away, even if they’re your son.

This SP could be your next-door neighbor or your long-time business client. It could be your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, your children. It doesn’t matter who they are to you; you stop communicating with them if the church declares them as an SP.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Scientology, you might shake your head in disbelief.

“There’s no way someone would stop talking to their child and grandchildren because their church told them to. What kind of person would do that?”

Well, we cannot focus on the individual who, as a member of the church of Scientology, stopped thinking for themselves a long time ago. We must focus on the institution that indoctrinates its members to believe that their church is more important than anything else in the world — more important than their families, their jobs, their marriages, their grandchildren.

Think about how this church has gotten away with brainwashing its followers into believing that when you disconnect from your child, it will only help them come back to the church. You are responsible for helping them make progress on “The Bridge to Total Freedom” and disconnecting from them is just part of the process.

And when you, a faithful Scientologist, sincerely believe that disowning your children will help them believe again, well, it actually makes a great deal of sense why mothers and fathers would abandon their children.

Of course, the church publicly denies this.

There is no “Scientology Disconnection” policy that requires Church members to disconnect from anyone, let alone family and friends who simply have different beliefs. To the contrary, the moral code of Scientology mandates that Scientologists respect the religious beliefs of others. The Church encourages excellent family relationships, Scientologists or not, and family relations routinely improve with Scientology because the Scientologist learns how to increase communication and resolve any problems that may have previously existed. — Scientology.org

The church will deny this (and all other claims of abuse) for as long as they have billions of dollars and a team of the best lawyers corrupt money can buy. As long as they hold a tax-exempt status, they will be powerful. Powerful to cover up missing person’s cases and claims of emotional and sexual abuse. Powerful enough to convince a mother that she can no longer see her daughter or her grandkids “for the greater good.”

So, what does the disconnect policy have to do with my Catholic upbringing?

I am grateful that my mother and father were never instructed to disown me by a priest when I quit Catholicism. I’m afraid to think of what may have happened if they were.

But in a sense, they did let me go because I was no longer Catholic. I felt “parent-less” for many years of my adult life. When we occasionally spoke on the phone, my mother reminded me that everything bad that happened was because I was no longer Catholic. And when I called her to celebrate any successes, she said it was because of God that I had achieved these milestones in my career.

I sincerely believe they acted this way, not because they were terrible parents, but because they believed that it was the right thing to do for my salvation.

And as I watched Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, as Leah Remini consoled sobbing former Scientologists who hadn’t spoken to their parents in over 15 years — the same parents who had never met their grandchildren because of the disconnection policy — I didn’t stop crying until I realized I was shaking in my chair.

Over the years, I’ve received countless emails from former Catholics who are part of the LGBTQ community who were kicked out of their home or disowned by their parents, and it always destroys me emotionally. These kids are just kids, and they deserve to be loved, held, and accepted. But because of their parent’s religious beliefs, they were never given that love.

Scientology is yet another organized “religion” claiming to promote healthy family relationships but behind the scenes, they exploit individuals by disconnecting parents from their children and children from their parents because members are taught their church should come first above all things, even their families.

2. The Fear of Psychiatry and Mental Health Professionals

Scientologists are taught from very early in their Scientology courses that psychiatrists are essentially evil because Scientology has “exposed thousands upon thousands of cases of psychiatric negligence, abuse, and brutality.” (There is no evidence to these claims, and it’s likely that they were born from L. Ron Hubbard’s humiliation after sending his book Dianetics to the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association in 1950, and they laughed at him in response.)

And in case you needed more proof of the hatred Scientology has for psychiatry, they spent millions of dollars to build a psychiatry-hate museum in Los Angeles. Through the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Scientology co-founded organization, Scientology set up a museum and visitor center called: “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death.”

Scientologists instead practice what is known as auditing. Auditing is the Scientologist-approved version of a “therapy session.”

The goal of auditing is to restore beingness and ability. This is accomplished by (1) helping the individual rid himself of any spiritual disabilities and (2) increasing individual abilities. Obviously, both are necessary for an individual to achieve his full spiritual potential.
Through auditing, one is able to look at his own existence and improve his ability to confront what he is and where he is. Auditing does not use hypnosis, trance techniques, or drugs. — Scientology.org

A specific number of auditing sessions are required to advance on the Bridge, and these sessions don’t come cheap. Some people have reported paying $200 per hour, but after watching Leah Remini’s series, I know this is on the lower end of the scale.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0AK257_0YGP0aFB00Screengrab from Scientology website

What does an auditing session look like?

Well, there’s an electronic device known as an “E-Meter” which supposedly reads your energy. The person holding the device is known as the auditor or “the listener”; they receive training from fellow Scientologists who are not medical professionals. These auditing sessions are not endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association or any other medical association.

According to the Scientology website:

Using the meter, the auditor ensures that the process covers the correct area in order to discharge the harmful energy connected with that portion of the preclear’s reactive mind. When charge lessens, the person heightens his ability to think clearly in the area being addressed and his survival potential increases proportionately. As a result, the preclear discovers things about himself and his life — new realizations about existence, the milestones that mark his gains.

In Leah Remini’s show, viewers learn disturbing details of children forced to act as auditors to adult-aged criminals and pedophiles, and later being sexually assaulted by these same individuals. It’s absolutely disgusting that auditing sessions are still happening to this day under Scientology. (The church has publicly denied any claims of abuse in auditing sessions, or anywhere else.)

Although Catholics aren’t taught that psychiatrists are evil, we are encouraged to turn to the church for guidance on issues in our lives before looking elsewhere for help.

As a Catholic teen, I was always happy to choose prayer and strengthening my relationship with God over seeking help from licensed professionals for therapy or guidance. Confessing to a priest and ridding myself of my “sins” was the only way to wipe my slate clean and progress in my journey to heaven — similar to the Scientology bridge.

I’ll never forget the first time I began having sexual thoughts as a young girl. My immediate response was to self-punish and confess as soon as possible. And I did. When I asked to be taken to confession, my parents looked at me with pride. As uncomfortable as it was for me to talk to a priest about my impure thoughts, I knew it was the right thing to do.

As a 13-year-old girl, I sat in a private confessional stall, and I described my dirty dreams to a man in his sixties. I am horrified now as an adult that this was not only allowed, but it was encouraged. If I would’ve had the option to speak to a counselor or social worker, I likely would’ve been comforted at the fact that puberty and sexual maturation can bring confusing feelings and thoughts. But I was not an evil or sinful child, and I hate that the church made me feel as if I was.

3. The Teaching of Self-Inflicted Blame and Internal Guilt

In my Catholic home, I learned that when you have a problem, you pray. If you feel sad or depressed, you’re not praying enough. If you’re having issues in your marriage, it’s because you need to pray harder. If you lost a book or your car keys, it’s better to recite a prayer than look for your lost items. If you are stressed, aggravated, or confused, you pray.

Because if you’re praying enough, I was taught that bad or inconvenient things won’t happen in your life.

As a young girl, if I failed a test at school, if I wasn’t picked for the school soccer team, or if I fell down during my gymnastics routine, it was because I wasn’t praying enough. Rarely was I consoled or comforted, more often than not I was told to pray. As an adult, if I didn’t get hired for a job, if I wasn’t accepted into a literary publication, or if my pet fell ill, my mother would tell me, “These things happen if we’re not praying enough. You just need to pray more.”

And as I watched Leah Remini’s show, it shocked me to learn that there was a common belief among Scientologists, a similar sickening self-inflicted guilt trip that I’ve experienced as a Catholic.

Scientology believes if anything bad happens in your life, it is your own fault. If you’re having problems with money, relationships, school, your marriage, it’s because you’ve done something to deserve it. On Scientology and the Aftermath, I learned many former Scientologists who were sexually abused as children grew up to believe they were raped because they deserved it.

I turned off Leah Remini’s show after watching adults retell their heartbreaking experiences of sexual abuse at Scientology kid camps. I sat and thought about how their parents and my own dismissed their children’s cries for help, teaching them that if something bad happened to them, it was their fault.

This self-blame tactic works to the advantage of Scientology and other cults like it because no one wishes for bad things to happen to them. So these individuals invest more of themselves, their time, the money they do not have into Scientology — praying that their faith will help them reach an ultimate sense of happiness and satisfaction in life. Unfortunately, the “Bridge” is complete and utter bull crap; the idea of a promised afterlife and “clear planet” robs innocent people of time and money they will never get back.

My last note for anyone on their own healing journey from religious trauma.

You are not alone, even though it may feel like it sometimes. Just know there are so many people like you, unsure of where to turn because their family — the people who were supposed to love them unconditionally — have disowned them or cut off contact with them because of religion.

There is hope and a better life out there. I see you, and I feel your pain. Join any support group you can find that pertains to your specific religion/faith. Research other religions and cults and connect the dots, as I did.

I never thought that binge-watching Leah Remini’s A&E series “Scientology and the Aftermath” would help me heal as much as it did. I highly recommend the show to anyone recovering from religious abuse. Be warned, the content is heavy and at times, disturbing. Nevertheless, it is an amazing, Emmy-winning docu-series, wonderfully executed by actress Leah Remini and Mike Rinder, a former senior executive for the Church of Scientology.

Learning about Scientology has opened my eyes to how many other religious institutions, sects, cults, etc. have preyed — and continue to prey — on people who are looking for a purpose, a reason for living, a sense of community, a family outside of their own, and they’ll give what little money they have for a chance at finding it. Then, they’ll go into serious financial debt to keep that opportunity alive.

Because of Leah Remini’s efforts to expose the harms of Scientology, I saw how common it is for vulnerable people to be taken advantage of and indoctrinated to choose their faith over their family. And with this insight, a weight lifted from my shoulders. I stopped blaming myself, and I stopped blaming my parents. Instead, I fought to love them as hard as I could because I knew my love would have more impact on our healing than anything else.

And thankfully, the mutual love we’ve shown each other over recent years defeated the differences in beliefs we hold. My parents are still practicing Catholics, and I am not. But I finally understand why they raised me the way they did, and I don’t fault them for it.

I must add that Scientology has frightened me to my core, more than any other cult.

Even though I was never a member, I get chills up and down my spine every time I see a Scientology building or one of their “Celebrity Centres.” Every time I learn of a new actor or actress who publicly praises Scientology, I shudder and hope their fans and supporters will not follow in their steps.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s self-absorbent of me to fear that this article will somehow end up on some Scientology-hate site and I’ll be torn apart online, but that thought has crossed my mind.

It is a very common practice for Scientology to start hate websites, to harass, to attack, to target those who speak out against the church. Granted, I’m an online writer with a small following, but I wouldn’t put it past the cult and their team of lawyers because I’ve seen how they handle critics, journalists, and the media.

Scientology is literally unstoppable until the day that the IRS revokes their tax-exempt status.

When that happens — and I hope it is soon because so many people are speaking out about the criminal acts of abuse, violence, and trauma they’ve experienced within Scientology — I think many things are going to change for this pyramid scheme of an organization. Until then, I remain aware and alert of the reality of the dangerous system that exists under the Church of Scientology, and many other organized religions, like my former one.

Many “religions” can destroy families, marriages, and careers like Catholicism tried to do in my family. And they’ll continue to do so for as long as people are looking to believe in something, anything.

© Jessica Lovejoy 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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I share my life through stories about relationships, healing, self-improvement, and pets. Sometimes, I write articles that online trolls can't resist.

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