“You’re no good. I mean, who gets involved in a cult?”
“You’ll never write for a living. Who would hire you?”
“Sooner or later everyone’s going to find out who you really are. Then where will you be?”
I confess I’ve been a negative self-talker my whole life. It wasn’t just because of what I experienced in Scientology, although that exacerbated things for sure.
One of the reasons I got into Scientology in the first place was my negative self-image. Me, the one who graduated with high honors from UCLA. The one who had her whole life mapped out to be successful. Clearly there was something else going on that made me destroy that life plan in favor of being in a cult for 20 years.
Negative self-image. I see it everywhere around me. And I’m hyper-sensitive to it now, after being a specialty clothing retail manager for eight years.
I kid you not, every single woman who has come into my store and tried on clothes has pointed out the parts of herself she doesn’t like. Just once, I’d like to have a woman come in and say, “See these awesome curves? How can I enhance them?”
That will probably never happen. But oh, how I wish it would. We are all so hard on ourselves. I see the things I felt as a kid and young adult being passed on to younger generations, but it’s even worse now with the constant comparisons and “look at me” of social media.
So that’s what I’m struggling with now. Negative self-talk.
Types of Negative Self-talk
Since being out of Scientology I’ve studied a bit about this. Yes, I know, psychology—scourge of all mankind according to Scientology!
What I discovered is that there are many forms of negative self-talk, but four are most common: filtering, personalizing, catastrophizing, and polarizing. I’ve done each of these in my life, and when I really started looking at them, I could see how being in Scientology just made them worse.
It’s the ultimate bait-and-switch: I got into Scientology to get rid of all the negative self-talk, but it just made things more negative.
Here’s how I was able to break it down—and have a couple of my own breakthroughs in the process:
This type of self-talk occurs when you look at a situation and filter out all the positive aspects and magnify the negative ones. Let’s say you had a great day at work and got through some key projects you wanted to complete. When you go home, all you think about are the projects you didn’t get done and how much you still have on your plate. You forget about the good things that happened during the day.
In the Sea Org, magnify this by a thousand. I remember a specific situation where my team and I had just completed an issue of the International Scientology News. This was a quarterly puff piece that was David Miscavige’s baby because it was all about how much Scientology was expanding (NOT) and how great he was (DEFINITELY NOT). Anyway, we’d worked for days, pulling many all-nighters, to produce this thing in 16 languages and get it mailed out.
Did I hear “Good job” or even “Thank you”? Nah. It was “Where’s the Source magazine? Why isn’t that done yet?” “Where’s the Freewinds magazine?” and so on.
It’s funny to look at it now—well, not funny, but interesting—because I spent many years after Scientology telling myself that no matter how well I was doing, there was so much more I was NOT doing or doing badly. For example, I’d have a boss compliment me on a certain achievement and I’d be saying to myself, “Yeah, but what about all the things I haven’t achieved yet?” That’s a direct result of all those years of constant pushing to get more things done and it never being enough.
This happens when something bad occurs and you automatically blame yourself. Say for example you were supposed to meet some friends for an evening out but then it’s cancelled. You figure that it’s because nobody wanted to be around you.
Ok, this is a pretty benign example, but let’s take it a few steps further and put that crazy Scientology spin on it. In Scientology, EVERYTHING that happens to you is because you caused it. Period. Imagine living like that for 20 years. It can be devastating.
Here’s a good example: Every time I’d get a cold, I’d just know it was because I “pulled it in”. It had nothing to do with the virus going around or my immune system being compromised because of not eating or sleeping much. No, it was because I was “PTS”, a “Potential Trouble Source”, somehow connected to a Suppressive Person, i.e. a person antagonistic to Scientology. (I now wear that SP badge proudly, of course.)
So my cold was caused by my own actions or inactions in locating who was being suppressive around me so that I wasn’t the effect of them.
Listen, I agree that I’m responsible for my life and the choices I make, but to take it to the degree that everything bad that happens to me is my fault? Too much.
Now do you see why people can be physically attacked by David Miscavige and not fight back? They are so mind-controlled that they think they deserved it. I know it’s a far stretch for you to wrap your wits around that one, but that’s the insidiousness of mind control for ya.
This happens when you automatically think that the future will just get worse than it already is. Wake up late? The whole day will be a disaster. Spill wine on your dress at a party? The party is ruined from that point on. You get the idea.
In the Sea Org, this is just par for the course. There’s no “Wow, what rotten luck, but no worries—things will get better.” Oh no, far from it. It’s more like, “See what you did? That’s just typical of you. How am I supposed to work with someone who’s so incompetent?” These were words uttered on a daily basis in meetings with David Miscavige. His line was always, “I have to do everything myself because everyone around me is completely incompetent.” After a while you begin to realize there’s no use in trying, because it’s all going to be crap anyway.
Fun way to live, right?
This one may be the most Scientology-esque of all. This is when you think only in black and white, good and bad, right and wrong. There are no gray areas. So either you’re perfect or you’re a total failure.
Creative people are great at this: Either what I wrote is absolutely perfect, or it’s a total disaster. There’s no in-between.
With Scientology, this is taught from day one. EVERYTHING is either black or white. There’s no middle ground. Either you’re a Scientologist (good) or you’re not (bad). Either you’re a success or you’re a failure. Most horribly, if you try to apply some part of Scientology “technology” (I can’t write that with a straight face) and it doesn’t work, then YOU did something wrong. The “tech”, you see, is infallible. If you didn’t get the results you were expecting, then you did something incorrect. Period.
So when something would happen in my life over the past few years, if it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I’d figure I just didn’t do what I was taught to do correctly. This meant I never wanted to dig in and find out if there was a better way to do something. That’s pretty limited thinking, right?
Changing my negative self-talk
Yeah, I’m working on it. But it’s hard. It’s a constant battle with myself. It’s also a constant subconscious battle with all the people over the years who’ve drilled it into me.
The first step for me was becoming aware of how I’m being negative. The research I’ve been doing into this has helped tremendously.
The second step is to keep that awareness whenever I’m engaging in negative self-talk and then change what I say to myself—no matter how minor it seems.
The other day, for example, I was at the register in my store. I was looking something up, and hit the wrong button. “Well, that was stupid,” I said to myself. Fortunately, I immediately noted what I was doing and was kinder to myself.
Sounds funny maybe, but it’s working. Every time I tell myself I can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t, I acknowledge it and get over it, then move forward.
It’s a long road, but it’s one I’m determined to take. Life is great now, and I’m excited about the future.
If you ever engage in any negative self-talk, try being easier on yourself. I’ve found that it makes for a much calmer and happier life.