If you’ve read anything at all about cults, you know that one of the most difficult parts of starting life over isn’t about the physical challenges—food, lodging, job, etc.—but about the mental challenges of getting out of that “cult mindset”.
For me, it meant changing everything I thought about life, which took some time. I had been indoctrinated to believe that anyone who was not in Scientology was a “lesser being”. I had to learn that people in the “real world” were actually genuine and nice. You have to understand that I was not of that opinion while in Scientology, as my beliefs were more along the lines of “don’t trust anyone who isn’t a Scientologist.”
The first time someone was actually nice to me, I thought it was what Scientology terms, “social veneer”, or a mask to hide their “true” intentions. We were taught that you had to be completely direct at all times, and that being “nice” was a weakness.
It took a long time for me to realize that people actually WERE nice, they actually WERE genuine. And they actually DID want to help me.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when my mindset changed for good. I’d been out of Scientology for about a year or so, and through sheer determination and some dumb luck, I had gotten a job supervising a coffee shop. Well, still being in my Scientology management mindset, I was pretty militant about people arriving on time – to the point where I would berate them if they were even a few minutes late. This was how I thought things were supposed to operate, since I’d been managed by fear and intimidation for years.
One of my baristas had been late on a regular basis. I knew she had Crohn’s Disease, but that didn’t matter to me. I’d learned in my Scientology years that if you have an illness, you did something to “pull it in” and you had to get over it and stop being a victim. So I wasn’t cutting her any slack at all, and was actually quite harsh with her. I sure wouldn’t have wanted me for a boss!
The turning point for me was when this barista wrote a text to a friend, which she sent to me by mistake. The text read, “She’s crazy.” I saw it and went BALLISTIC. I mean, I was pretty crazy at the time, but I didn’t want to have it thrown in my face. When she came into work, I confronted her by SCREAMING at the top of my lungs. Mind you, this was well in earshot of everyone in the area. I was completely out of control.
I can’t believe that I didn’t lose my job that day, but I didn’t. However, when I got home that evening, I was a wreck. I couldn’t believe I’d just acted that way, so I drew myself a hot bath and sat in it. I started crying. Then I started heaving and wailing uncontrollably. It was almost like everything I’d been sitting in for years was coming out all at once. I knew where my reaction had come from, and I vowed from that day forward I’d be kinder to people.
It was such a shock to my system, that I guess it shocked the crazy mindset out of me. Thank God. I have no idea where I’d be right now if I still behaved that way around others. People who know me today would never imagine I’d act like that, but hey, that’s what oppression does to people.
My advice to anyone who has come out of a suppressive situation like this, or any other abusive relationship, is to realize that you aren’t the person they constantly told you that you were. You are good, kind and smart. Believe it.