How a recovering former Scientologist behaved as a manager. Sounds kinda like Landmark, eh?
Abigail’s fall from Scientology was long and difficult. When she got a job at her mom’s secular healthcare company, she used Hubbard’s business principles to whip the employees into shape, banning water-cooler chat, instating a uniform policy and riding people to keep their productivity “stats” up. Unsurprisingly, she made few friends, and her efforts didn’t work.
In her relationships, things weren’t much better. Believing the Scientology notion that all miscommunication is based on some sort of transgression, she’d try to resolve fights by getting boyfriends to confess their sins to her. Meanwhile, Abigail was beginning to wonder if Scientology
Children of Scientology - Rolling Stone
banky _ irrational
chargey - negative energy
griefy - sadness
They’re irrational, or “banky.” They’re putting off bad vibes, or being “downtone.” They’re full of negative energy, or “chargey,” and they won’t contain it — they won’t “get their TRs in.”
Serenity of Beingness
theta - life force energy
TR Training Routines (aka drills)
Making it Go Right
Gordon was never taught how to be a kid. Instead, she was expected to be what Scientologists like to call an “adult in a small body,” taking care of herself, by herself, and repressing the fear, grief and loneliness that came with that."
Her experience is a common one. And, according to many of the ex-Scientologists I spoke with at Gordon’s gathering, it’s not just prevalent — it’s baked into the religion in something known as the emotional tone scale. The scale was developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who created it in order to gauge a person’s life-force energy, or theta.
The current scale goes from -40, or Total Failure, to 40, Serenity of Beingness, ranking emotions from grief and anxiety to cheerfulness and enthusiasm. Emotions on the low end of the scale aren’t just discouraged — they’re signs of bad theta, which must be converted to good theta so a person can progress spiritually.
According to the members I spoke with, the tone scale became the basis for punishing emotions that the church deemed negative, and Scientology’s mission became almost indistinguishable from the project of repressing “bad” emotions. The solution to coping with these bad moods wasn’t to express or acknowledge them, the Second Gens explain. The solution was to go through a series of communication drills, or Training Routines, some of which critics say are designed to leave believers in a state of hypnotic calm—and then to keep the effects of those TRs in, or contain them. The result? A generation of children who grew up numb, unable to feel or even recognize basic emotions.
“All the other moms are always telling me how proactive I am. But that’s just a coping mechanism. I’m just making it go right,” she says, using the Scientology phrase for taking charge of a bad situation.
Whenever she got sad, or “griefy,” she followed church protocol and did Training Routines. According to the church, the exercises are “drills” to improve communication skills. In one, Silverman explains, two people are supposed to face each other for hours without moving or reacting. In another, she says, a person attempts to sit, calmly, while their partner yells things at them to make them react. According to Silverman, their purpose isn’t to create calm auditors or clear communicators. The goal of some TRs is to “exteriorize,” to have the soul leave the body and watch it from the outside. “And what is that?” she asks. “That’s dissociation. That’s building the muscle to dissociate at will.”
Loading the Language
..the more people talk about Scientology, the more they talk in Scientologese, sentences stuffed with acronyms and corporate-sounding inspirational phrases. However much they might dislike Scientology, its jargon is their native tongue. Some even say it’s a relief to talk without code-switching, or worrying that they’re talking gibberish.
There’s a reason why the language is so central to the belief system, and so hard to shake. According to psychiatrist and thought-reform expert Robert Jay Lifton, new lexicons are common in cults — and often essential. He calls the practice “loading the language,” and includes it as one of eight core features of high-demand groups.
When the group breaks to smoke, I ask Shelton for a second opinion. Forget the question of emotional repression for a second. If there are words for these feelings already, why not use them?
“It makes us feel special and unique,” he jokes. “If we used regular English words, then anyone could do this!” But he agrees with Lifton’s idea of cult idioms as thought-terminating cliches. “It gets people thinking in the cult leader’s system,” he says. “It literally makes it harder to think outside the box.”
"Jargon Like That Rewires the Brain"
Dr. Matthews agrees, pointing out that many high-demand groups have jargon around emotional repression. Some fundamentalist Christian cults use the phrase “keep sweet,” she says, meaning “stop whining, stop complaining.” She adds, “Jargon like that rewires the brain.”