Friday Conversations With My Psychiatrist | January 9, 2009

There’s a certain rhythm to our appointments which gets broken after we’ve had a break. Even missing one appointment throws our timing off and we end up spending the first forty-five minutes catching up and talking about stuff we’re both interested in, then for the last fifteen I end up rushing through all the things I can remember wanting to talk about.

The break this time, of course, was Christmas and New Year’s. We talked a little bit about how 2008 ended up being a pretty successful year for me, but only at the end. Getting the diabetes under control, for example.

We didn’t discuss this, but in terms of relationships last year was not a good year. I actually became more isolated as the year went on… which, I think, was partially me reacting to all the bad medical news I was getting during the first half of the year.

Something we did discuss was cult behaviour, specifically the behaviour of the cult I grew up in compared to other media savvy cults operating today.

.

The leaders of most cults (re: all cults) use anger and paranoia as tools to keep the followers focused on the tasks at hand. But the anger and paranoia trick really only works if there are reasons to be angry and paranoid.

As long as a group of people remain convinced others are out to get them said group will remain focused on the outside threat, and not on the increasingly ridiculous demands placed on them by the people in charge.

In 2006, for example, Andrew Gumbel wrote about the opening of a Los Angeles “museum” called “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death”, which is run and owned by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an organization founded by the Church of Scientology.

“It’s not enough for Scientologists to express their near-pathological hatred of psychiatry in all its forms; they also have to feel they are being persecuted for their beliefs.”

It’s weird to say this, but there are parallels between the cult I grew up in and the cult of L. Ron Hubbard.

…just as an aside, my psychiatrist knew almost nothing about Scientology beyond the Tom Cruise connection. I was actually relieved to hear this.

My parents and their friends started a commune based on a printing press, a literary magazine and a belief in mild Marxism. By the fourth year they had fully adopted the aura of victimization common to people with their politics, the windows were boarded up, the kids moved to a safehouse and there were guns in the house.

A bunch of stuff happened in those four years, including some very real interference by the Canadian government, but this isn’t about that.

By the fourth year my parents and their friends were being used by larger anti-American and pro-communist groups. Their initially successful magazine had degenerated into a hate-filled anger fest directed at America and their stooges (re: Canada).

In reaction to government interference the members of the cult adopted aliases and pseudonyms, so when they wrote for the magazine they published — there was also a weekly newspaper — one person could publish under four names.

But then other people, using their aliases, would write letters to the editor responding to the aliases of someone else in the cult.

And then other committees and organizations were formed, with cult members given extravagant titles, who would then respond to letters to the editor using their new and special titles to give the response a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

By the fifth and sixth year the magazine was filled with letters to the editor, responses to those letters, debates about those responses, plus the columns and editorials and news stories, all written by the same people.

And it all made sense to them. If a letter came in which asked questions about the direction of the magazine, it was a cause for huge alarm in the cult because, obviously, it was from a government agitator. And it was published and mocked and torn to little bits.

What they were doing was trying to decrease the very real likelihood of going to jail — which some of them actually did — for publishing their ideas, so they invented new people and new organizations to get their word out.

And after a few years, I think they really forgot who was who.

But Scientology has done the same thing, and to its benefit, by inventing most of the threats they perceive — it’s actually pretty hard to find anyone who considers the Co$ to be at all relevant beyond the Hollywood connection… which must gall them like crazy.

Like most cults, and like the one I grew up in, the fact people don’t take their philosophy’s seriously becomes a direct challenge to those beliefs. The cult I grew up in tried recreating the packages the message came in and could never quite understand it was the message itself which was corrupted.

Which explains why, over the past thirty or forty years, Scientology has founded and splintered off several organizations, and each time those groups splinter it increases the scale of Scientology’s message, without having to use the brand — the seriousness of which, thanks to Tom, has really been diluted over the past few years.

So there are fourth and fifth generation Scientology groups now, which claim no connection to Scientology, but who espouse exactly the same mantras. According to the people who keep track of these things, there are hundreds of Scientology front groups now.

Basically people are getting the message, and believing the message, without having the stigma of Xenu over their heads

When I interviewed my father for my book project several years ago, he said the one major thing he learned from the experience of leading the cult, was to decentralize.

Which is what he has spent the two decade’s after his — somewhat violent — removal as leader of the cult doing.

My psychiatrist and I actually spent the next fifteen minutes or so talking specifically about what my father has been doing over the last couple of decades, but there’s not enough space on the Internet for that discussion.

At least not yet.

My next appointment is actually twelve hours from now. I waited so long to write this post because I didn’t really want to write the last post… it felt like something I had to do, and I don’t generally get those kinds of pieces written. So stuff got backed up.

I had to write the security thing because I know there are people blogging today who have an unrealistic sense of security and privacy, but I didn’t want to write it because generally when someone knocks on your front door to tell you your back door is unlocked… well, that conversation is a little awkward, and the messenger mostly gets shot.

“Hi, your back door is unlocked.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I just twisted the knob and it opened right up.”

“What?”

“No, don’t thank me. It was a service I was happy to perform.”

“Wait, who..?”

“Sorry, can’t talk now, there are other doors I have to check on. Maybe I’ll come by later on and we can chat.”

“What?!”

“See ya.”

.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Appointment Day, Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Manic Depression. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Friday Conversations With My Psychiatrist | January 9, 2009

  1. ames says:

    Hey Gabe
    I hope you don’t mind me lurking about here. I just had a great belly laugh over the faux security conversation…

    I was wondering what you meant by “The cult I grew up in tried recreating the packages the message came in…” and by “decentralizing.”

    a.

  2. Gabriel... says:

    The cult I grew up in would take long breaks between publishing the magazine… sometimes it was to raise money so they could continue publishing, but also to reevaluate the message and content of the magazine.

    This was the dinosaur age, the kids who raised me knew as much about what was really going on in the world as a blind and deaf Amish kid trying to rebuild an engine. They were getting most of their information from books printed in China, or from people who thought exactly like they did.

    So their message was a little warped… and they couldn’t figure out why no one else could see what they saw.

    “decentralization” is to be in charge, without being the person who has their door kicked open by the police. It’s having your name on the board of an organization — which you probably started — which runs all kinds of organizations, which have splintered off others…

    If things get screwed up you just point to the board and say something to the cops like “I was just one of twelve people, I did what I could.” Then you go off and join the board of one of the other organizations.

    All of which is a cute way of saying no one’s in charge, except everyone takes orders from you.

    As always Little Sister, these are my interpretations of memories and discussions… so don’t be taking this post as gospel.

  3. thordora says:

    My shrink had a heart attack, so I am shrinkless at the moment. And no, I didn’t give her the heart attack, oddly enough. 🙂

    considering all this, what made you want to go into journalism? A need to right their errors, tell the real stories?

  4. bromac says:

    I am always so intrigued by talk of the cult. I can’t imagine.

    You’re a survivor.

  5. Gabriel... says:

    Hi bromac (you need an avatar)… the cult was definitely intriguing. I don’t talk about it a lot because it was something which happened around me… it was my life because the people who raised me created and participated fully in it, and its rules applied to me, but I wasn’t involved in creating it or deciding on its philosophical course. So writing about the actual cult doesn’t entirely make sense in the context of my recovery.

    When the cult collapsed and disbanded they had their own childhoods, family’s and memories to fall back on. Plus they were adults by then and could reason as an adult. When the cult collapsed they took the foundation of my life — my childhood and my memories — with them. So I should probably be writing more about this aspect of the cult…

    I think it’s the difference between writing about what the sun is and what it’s effects are on my life… having to explain to people what the sun is in order for them to understand its effects on me is what prevents me from writing about the whole affair.

    Hi Thor (still love your avatar)… I actually got into journalism by accident. When I was seventeen I started writing a column for the local paper. Then, eight years later and borderline homeless, I applied for the print journalism program at Algonquin College as my third option. Radio broadcasting was first, television was second — DJ or cameraman. But I slept through the entrance exams for radio and TV, so Print became the default.

    I think my plan, when I was younger, was always to write a book about the cult. But surprisingly having a publisher and writer for a father, an editor and reporter and poet for a mother, was not something which pushed me to be a reporter.

    But I’ve always loved print media, and being a reporter — in my opinion — is the greatest job ever invented.

  6. bromac says:

    What is intriguing to me is hearing about it from a child’s perspective. I grew up in a fairly normal family–mom and dad still married, successful and supportive. My family has had its up’s and down’s for sure, we have a black sheep, very black.

    However, having grown up in relative normalcy, by the standards of society anyway, creates an interest in how others were raised and the ramifications now of the decisions their parents made. Decisions made FOR them which have lasting and painful impacts on a child’s growing mind.

    I consider myself very lucky to have had the upbringing I did, and it makes me all the more intrigued and compassionate towards others’ lives.

  7. voodoo says:

    I find this most interesting. What we grow up in, and the aftermath of it all. I really envy the talent you hold for the written word.

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