My First Step to Full-blown Cult Member: The “Communication Course”.

Man, you guys, these are getting tougher and tougher to write. Actually taking the time to LOOK at what happened when I was 27—all the decisions I made that resulted in my spending 20 years in a cult—is PAINFUL.

I’ve been doing everything possible NOT to write this post: scrolling through Facebook, watching movies, knitting like a maniac (I know, oxymoron). But I have to keep going, so here we are.

Today, I’m going to tell you about my first step after spending thousands of dollars I didn’t have: The Communication Course. It’s supposed to help you learn how to communicate correctly, and there are certainly some points about it that are helpful. For example: Listen to someone and acknowledge what they say before you answer—always a good idea. But I could have gotten that information a million other ways. Here’s what really happened:

Jim said we were going to do this communication thing one-on-one, instead of me going into a classroom and doing it with other new people. That way, he could give me personalized attention and get me through faster with the best possible results. Sounds good, right?

So we started. He explained about TRs, or Training Routines. Jim said that these were specific exercises that teach you how to handle different parts of communication. He said that they’re done on a gradient, where each “skill” builds on the next. What they really are, in retrospect, are a successive series of mind-control techniques to prepare you for further Scientology indoctrination, but done so gradually that you don’t realize what’s actually happening. I’ll go through each one as I experienced it:


Here, you sit facing another person with your eyes closed, knees almost touching, and just sit there and do nothing for HOURS. You’re supposed to be comfortable enough to simply “be there”. How it actually felt was incredibly uncomfortable because Jim was invading my personal space. I also had my eyes closed, i.e. sensory deprivation, so I had no idea what was going on around me. Stressful.

So, sensory deprivation and stress—two key elements of hypnosis, as I learned much later when studying about mind control. Anyway, I sat there until I could be comfortable. This took a long time, as I was fidgety, plus I kept wanting to fall asleep. But finally I was able to just sit there. Basically, I was pretty much in a trancelike state; that’s when I passed the drill.

TR 0

OK, next gradient: Sit there across from each other with your eyes open, and don’t move, barely blink, don’t make any weird faces, just sit there and stare. In order to pass this drill, you have to do it for TWO HOURS STRAIGHT.

Oh, and this is the “best” part: the words “FLUNK!” “Start!” “That’s it!” “FLUNK!” is used FORCEFULLY when you do something incorrect. It goes like this:

“FLUNK! You squirmed.” “Start!”

“FLUNK! Eye movement.” “Start!”

“FLUNK! You yawned.” “Start!”

Every time I flunked, I had to start that two-hour clock all over again. Talk about FUN. Looking at it now, I can see how I was being slowly taught how to exist in this sort of zombified state. It was preparing me for the control soon to be exerted over me. I couldn’t take too many more Flunks, so every time Jim would say “That’s it,” I’d feel relief that we were going to either take a break for a few minutes or end for the day.

Finally, after a few interminable days of this, I was able to sit there for two hours and not move. Then it was on to the next TR, the most horrifying of all…

TR 0 Bullbait 

“Bullbaiting” was a blood sport commonly practiced in England where they’d set a bunch of dogs upon a chained bull. Luckily, this sport was banned in the early 1800s, but L. Ron Hubbard thought, “Perfect name for a training routine!” And believe me, he hit the nail on the head—or should I say, the bull on the snout—with that one.

On this step, you’re supposed to sit there, looking at the person in front of you—your “coach”—and NOT react to anything they say or do. You can’t even acknowledge that something they say is upsetting to you. The coach then tries every possible way to make you react, by figuring out your “buttons” and then pressing them HARD. 

Here’s where I can see that I started turning off my mind to any sort of critical thinking. It was excruciating and downright degrading. This is the part I’ve had the hardest time with, since I REALLY didn’t want to remember this. Here are a few of the choice things Jim did on TR0 Bullbait:

I’d be sitting there quietly, looking at him, and he’d suddenly stare at my chest and exclaim “NICE TITS!” I’d react each time, of course, alternating anger with uncomfortable laughter, and each time he’d say “FLUNK! You reacted!” “Start!” I had been programmed enough by this time—gradients, remember—to not walk out of the room, so I sat there and got through it. He had to say those words MANY times before I was able to just sit there.

Creepy, right? It got worse.

Jim said the most disgusting things to me, about what he wanted to do to me, how he wanted to throw me on the floor and f*** me right there, how I had been with so many men that I was basically a whore anyway… it’s giving me a headache writing this because it’s the first time I’m actually remembering what really happened to me.

I was becoming more disconnected from reality with each successive thing he did and said. I see that now. If I could say anything to my 27-year-old self, I’d say I’m so sorry to have put you through that degrading, disgusting, dehumanizing situation. I’m so, so sorry.

I “got through” this “drill” only when I was able to sit there and deal with everything he said or did with no reaction from me. No wonder, so many years later, David Miscavige was able to say or do anything he wanted to us and we wouldn’t react. We were trained that way from the beginning!

TR 1: Dear Alice

On this drill, you learn how to communicate basically nonsense phrases in a robotic way, over and over again, so that you can do it easily. It’s a great indoctrination to the Scientology jibberish you start spouting to each other on a regular basis.

The purpose of the drill is to teach a Scientologist how to say commands, since commands are the basis of all auditing. You’re supposed to basically get your communication across without flinching or laughing, and say it newly each time as if it’s the first time you’ve said it.

To do this, you read excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to each other, over and over again. You’re supposed to take whatever phrase you want from the book, ingest it, then say it to the other person as if it came from you originally. Phrases like:

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

“We’re all mad here.”

“Curiouser and curiouser!”

“I said pig, not fig.”

And on and on.

So insidious. This prepared me to be able to just ingest any amount of nonsense and repeat it to another person without thinking twice about it. And believe me, I ingested a LOT of Scientology nonsense over the years. Imagine studying at least 2-1/2 hours a day, every day, for decades. That’s the amount of nonsense I ingested. The only way I’m somewhat sane today is that I was miraculously able to turn it all off. How, I still don’t know.

TR 2: Acknowledgments

Here, you learn to simply acknowledge the statement said by another person. Pretty innocuous, you would think, except that here you learn to accept anything that anyone says to you.

It goes like this:

“I just ate a ham sandwich.” “Got it.”

“I love you.” “Thank you.”

It’s all fine and dandy until someone starts saying crazier and crazier things and you still have to acknowledge them. Things like, “I want to kill you!” I’d have to acknowledge something like “Oh no!”

REALLY? Someone wants to kill me? I think I’d be running out of the room and calling the police at that point. But not in these drills!

What I see now is that I was learning to just acknowledge any crazy thing that was said to me. It’s almost like I was learning to accept any off-the-wall statement as fact. Good preparation for moving up to higher levels in Scientology, where there are a LOT of crazy things, believe me!

TR 3: Duplicative Question

In this drill, you ask the same two questions over and over again, trying to get the other person to actually answer the question. The two questions are: “Do birds fly?” and “Do fish swim?”

You just say the question over and over again, and the other person tries to say or do something to get you off track, to the point where the person tries to leave the room and you have to get them to sit back in the chair and answer the question.

This comes in handy when you’re trying to interrogate someone, which was done a LOT in the Sea Org. I was mostly the recipient of that interrogation, unfortunately.

Another key point about this is that the drill goes both ways. Once you can get your question answered, you become the coach and try to do things to the other person to sway them off of the question. So you try to leave the room and you’re forcibly brought back. Again, a way to drill in that you’d BETTER answer the question or you’ll be restrained until you do.

I was pretty malleable by this point, so I didn’t really try to leave the room—only halfheartedly. I knew that there was NO WAY he’d let me out of there.

TR 4: Originations

This is similar to TR3, except when you ask “Do birds fly?” the other person makes an origination like, “My foot hurts” or “I’m getting upset, let’s stop.” The idea here is that no matter what the other person says, you need to get them to answer the question.

Why? Because almost every Scientology auditing process contains a series of scripted questions that, if the person answers them, are supposed to get him or her to have some sort of major realization about life. That’s what this “communication course” is all about, after all: training you to be a good little girl and boy and answer the question, no matter what’s asked of you.

The whole point of the communication course is to get you ready to buy in to the rest of the insanity, and that’s exactly what it does.

Once I was done with these TRs, I thought it was over. But no! There were more…

To be continued.


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