Exit Counselling - an informed decision
In April 1991, as a Scientologist, I took part in some exit counselling sessions. The first of these sessions began early in the afternoon of Thursday the 25th of April (ANZAC Day). As well as the two exit counsellors, my sister, one of my brothers and both of my parents were present. This meeting took place at the family home.
The first meeting lasted for six to eight hours at which point I left to go to work for a few hours and then home (I was not living with my parents). After work on Friday I went back to my parent’s place to meet with the counsellors and my family again. I spent Friday night at my parents house. On Saturday morning we continued the counselling / discussions. For me this day was full of many startling revelations about L Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. My counsellors had a large amount of information about the Church, most of it was written but some on video also. Most of Saturday was spent reading this material. After everybody else present had gone to bed for the night on Saturday I continued reading. I read right through the night and finally went to bed at about 7am on Sunday morning, probably not long before the others were due to be waking up. I have always been a bit of a night owl. On Sunday I got up early in the afternoon. Scientology was discussed for a few more hours. I left early in the evening as I wanted to go home and prepare for the working week ahead. On the Monday evening, after work, I went to meet with my counsellors for the last time (they were flying back to America on Tuesday morning), to talk some more, ask questions and see some more of the documentation they had with them.
My exit counselling sessions took place over a period of five days. I took part in these meetings because I chose to, there was no force (physical or psychological) involved, much less kidnapping. When it was convenient for me to stay over at my parents place, I did (Friday and Saturday nights) and when it was not convenient, I didn't (Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights). I was free to come and go from the presence of my exit counsellors, my parents and everybody else for that matter and I did ‘come and go’ as it suited me.
During this period I ate well, particularly when at my parents place. My parents served up meals with unusually large quantities of food and there were usually between meal snacks available. The food supply was perhaps a little overdone, the point being that starvation was not some sort of tactic used against me. In short, there was lots of food.
When I get tired the first thing to go is my ability to read written information. I don't read well when I am tired. During my meetings with my counsellors and family much of the information presented to me was in written form, when I felt I wasn't absorbing the information well enough I would call it a night. On some days I stopped the meeting even earlier because I didn't want to go late and affect my day at work the following day. I did not suffer from sleep depravation either by my own actions or due to the influence of another.
Some groups portray exit counselling or 'deprogramming' as it is sometimes called) as a barbaric act of violence against an individual. The sole purpose of the claimed actions being to 'break the faith' of an individual. Claims of kidnapping, beatings, food depravation, sleep depravation, psychological abuse and even rape have been made. I tend to laugh when I hear these claims made, for in my experience they are simply false. the Church of Scientology holds the view (and has stated it publically) that I was 'deprogrammed'. Such a claim, by the Church's own definition, claims that I was subjected to a list barbaric acts, yet this is not the case. My Exit counselling was basically the open discussion of Scientology and L Ron Hubbard and the presentation of information I was unaware of. Much of the time taken was with me reading information (that was new to me) about the Church of Scientology. Incidentally, such a discussion could not have taken place within the church as the expression of a negative view on any aspect of Scientology is defined, by Scientology, to be "natter" and it is treated as unacceptable, as such it is quickly and methodically silenced.
I find it amusing when I hear the Church persist in making its claims about the violent and barbaric nature of what it terms 'deprogramming'. The Church continues to claim that I was deprogrammed even though I have informed it that no such barbaric acts took place and even outlined roughly what in fact had occurred. It seems to suit the Church to ignore my account of events, even though I was there and was well placed to know the facts of what did and did not take place. The Church has chosen to ignore my account of events and to adopt the view it prefers to hold. To hold this view it is forced to ignore any facts that run contrary to its adopted view. The amusement I mentioned earlier comes about when I look at what the Church claims, look at what I know to be true, see the false nature of the Church's claims and I am then left looking at an organisation that is, at best, making false claims. From there I reason that the organisation either believes its claims to be true or has a vested interest in having other people believe these claims. It is my opinion that the latter is the case, the serious nature of the claims is an indication of just how desperate how the Church is to have the general public adopt a negative impression of exit counselling and those that practice it.
Why is Exit Counselling Needed Sometimes???
Built into the Scientology belief system is a belief that only people that are criminals or insane attack scientology. This belief is fairly fundamental and for some Scientologists it is a virtual certainty, or in Scientology parlance, a "stable datum". To a Scientologist an attack on the church is tantamount to proof of a criminal at work. Of course an attack can vary in severity, the criticism I am making here, while mild in comparison to what is deserved, would be treated as an attack. The reasoning behind this stated belief is that the Church is the most ethical organisation in existence and is perceived as a threat only by those with a criminal nature that they wish to hide. It then follows that anybody attacking the Church (even criticising it) has a vested interest in halting the Church's activities. This vested interest being the protection of yet undiscovered criminal acts. For the Church this is a convenient to hold, even though it is false, because from this belief comes what is probably the Scientologist's most crippling habit.
When confronted with any sort of negative criticism of Scientology a Scientologist will typically fail to confront the substance of the criticism but instead moves to discover the source of the criticism. Criticism is seen as proof of a sick or evil mind at work spreading such evil information (this thinking is based on the "reasoning" given above) the criticism is usually not evaluated as to whether it is true or false and what its implications are. Instead the typical Scientologist will somehow attempt to discredit the source of the information.
Once a person has adopted enough of the Scientology belief system his or her ability to objectively evaluate a criticism (and I mean factually based stuff that should be of concern such as the fact that L Ron Hubbard suffered from allergy troubles which Dianetic procedure had failed to treat) levelled at Scientology is short circuited by the 'appropriate handling' of criticism as briefly outlined above.
It is very difficult to discuss any negative aspect of Scientology with a Scientologist. For a person who doesn't understand how a Scientologist thinks this task is next to impossible, just ask anybody who has stood by helplessly watching a friend getting the wool pulled over his eyes by the Church. Most people in the unfortunate position of seeing a person they care for being 'taken in' sense that something is wrong, they now from experience, that it is difficult to communicate openly with a Scientologist about issues surrounding the Church, with every failed attempt the Scientologist becomes more distant. Most people in this situation know something is badly wrong, they just don't understand the phenomenon well enough to deal with it.
The main task of an Exit counsellor is to get a Scientologist, or any Cult member for that matter, to evaluate information about the group they are involved in in an objective manner. It is up to the individual to study the material and to reach his own conclusion. It is my opinion that, with the exception of a small few, all Scientologists once acquainted with the facts surrounding the Church of Scientology would decide that the pro's are far outweighed by the con's and leave. I suppose that is why it is called Exit counselling, arguably it's not even that, the Exit counsellor really only has to deal with the thought stopping techniques that the cult member has adopted and then present a more balanced set of information about the cult than the cult has already given to the member. In my case, once I was aware of the thought stopping technique I had adopted I chose to set aside on the grounds that I concluded that it was an unobjective way to deal with information. After all, if something is true, denying it wont alter the truth, it will just move you that bit away from reality. It sounds simple but it is easy to fall into the trap of believing something because we want to, not because the evidence warrants it.
When my Exit counsellors left I still wasn't convinced one way or the other about Scientology, I did however, have a healthy appetite for information about it and started reading on the subject and took time to evaluate what I had learned. About two or three weeks later I told the Church I had decided to discontinue my membership and I wanted back the money I had donated (the Church gives a money back if not satisfied guarantee in its sales pitch). The events that occurred from that point on are another story. The Church acted in a way to demonstrate yet again that money and then its image were more important than any other considerations. It was an is a truly self serving mechanism, just the way L Ron Hubbard built it.
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