From Victim to Perpetrator: Life as a Scientology Staff Member

This may be a bit controversial, because I’m going to write about being on staff in a scientology organization and all the shady things I did to get people in the front door. I’m also going to talk about how, from the minute I started in scientology, I never thought of myself as a victim and still don’t.

When you join staff, you’re taught from the get-go that being a victim is the lowest possible thing you could be, and that scientologists aren’t victims. Basically, scientologists are moving up to “cause over life”, and when you’re on staff you are already more “at cause” then the garden-variety scientologist.

There’s a hierarchy: public scientologist, field staff member, mission staff member, org staff member, sea org staff member, and the top of the top—international management sea org staff member. All the way up, you become more and more convinced that there’s no such thing as being a victim, and that you cause everything that happens to you, good or bad.

This can be both a blessing and a curse. For me, the good part is that I’ve been able to move past scientology and create a new life, because hey, I’m no victim. Guilty, yes. Embarrassed, yes. Regretful, yes. But sorry for myself? Not so much.

The bad part is that I still think I’m responsible for every non-optimum thing that happens in my life, which can be unbearable at times. You know how I’ve written in the past about how getting sick or having something bad happen means that I must have “pulled it in”? This is the hardest thing to shake. Today, for example, I’m sick with a cold. I can’t help but think that I’ve done something bad in some area of my life and that’s why I’m sick. I’m not kidding here, this stuff can be really hard to get rid of—but writing about it helps.

All this talk about being a victim is leading up to this: When I became a staff member, I was no longer a victim. It was now my turn to victimize others. Of course, I didn’t see it that way at the time; I thought I was helping them to become more free.

My guiltiest feelings come when I think about the hundreds of people I helped get into scientology. It’s devastating to me. It’s also one of the main reasons I will continue to write about this: I hope that by reading what I write, you understand that there are those who will prey on your good nature, scientologist or otherwise. Be aware of them. Don’t let them in, no matter how convincing they seem.

That being said, I’m going to show you how I was taught to bring new people into scientology: body routing, finding their “ruin”, and signing them up for introductory services.

Body Routing

This term means exactly what it sounds like. We were taught to go out on the streets and physically route people into the mission. It’s done in a variety of ways. You’ve probably seen the “free personality test” that gets handed out everywhere. This is the most successful way to get people in. If you ever see one, tear it up for me, will you?

Almost every night, I’d go out and do “door-to-door personality testing”, meaning I’d knock on people’s doors and get them to fill out a personality test. I’d tell them I’d be back in an hour to pick up the test. If they said yes, I’d come back, get the test, and make an appointment for them to come in and get their results. I’d have to follow up on them of course, because most wouldn’t just walk in of their own accord. But we’d get dozens of people in a week for their test results.

The other way to get in new people was by selling dianetics books. A group of us would set up a table at a fair or flea market, or we’d just stand in front of a grocery store or Target with a few books, and pretend we were doing a survey. The questions would be: “If you could be anything in life, what would you be?” “If you could do anything, what would you do?” “If you could have anything, what would you have?” “What do you think prevents you from being, doing, or having that?” They’d tell us, then we’d sell them the book with the answers to all their questions. Of course we’d get their phone number so we could follow up and get them in for a free personality test.

I did this kind of stuff every single night for years. But remember, this was the late 80s; I’m not sure how much it’s done today with all the public scrutiny of scientology. I do know that I’ve seen cars in parking lots with “free personality test” fliers on the windshields. I make sure they all go in the nearest trashcan.

As an aside, I’d like to say one thing. If you see someone on the street offering you a free personality test, try to be kind. They’re probably fairly green or completely deluded, and they think they’re doing something incredibly important for you. The more you harass them, the more likely they are to be convinced that what they’re doing is right. That’s how it works. Maybe by being nice and kind, they’ll see that and snap out of it somehow. Maybe not, but it’s worth a try.

Finding a “Ruin”

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Once a person walks in the front door, it’s the responsibility of the staff member to do anything and everything to make sure they stay. I had many a stern talking-to from “Mike” the mission holder about how, if I didn’t get that person through their personality test and onto a service, I was forfeiting their eternity. “This is probably the only time this person will ever walk into a scientology organization,” he’d say (HOPEFULLY, RIGHT?). “You are responsible for whether or not that person makes it into the future or not.”

That’s a big burden to put on someone. I took it seriously, however, since I’d always been the “best at” whatever I chose to do in life. There was no way this would be any different.

I learned how to do a personality test evaluation until I could do it in my sleep. My goal was to “find the ruin” of the person—basically, what’s ruining their life? Then I’d show them how scientology could fix that. It’s how I got in, so I knew it worked. Now it was up to me to get others in so we could save their souls.

I can’t tell you how many people I had in front of me who’d burst into tears when I found their “ruin”. From there, it was easy to sign them up. Oh, and it didn’t matter if they said they had no money. I learned that people could ALWAYS find money if you looked hard enough. Second mortgage—why not? Sell your valuables—what’s more valuable than spiritual freedom? Can’t pay the rent this month—don’t worry, you’ll be so capable after this course that you’ll easily make the money.

If you think this sounds coldhearted and cruel, I can’t argue with you. I was trained to be heartless when it came to taking the person’s money and getting them on an introductory service. The service could be a basic course like “How to Improve Relationships” or “Overcoming the Ups and Downs in Life”; it could be a 12-hour introductory auditing session; it could even be a book and extension course that they did at home, but that was frowned upon and only used as a last resort.

Every time I got someone on service I was given a huge acknowledgment, and every time I failed I was punished or made to feel less worthy somehow.

Also, everything I did was measured in statistics, so I had BETTER have my stats up by the end of the week—the dreaded “Thursday at 2”. I don’t even remember why this was the chosen time anymore, but I can tell you that it was always a MAD DASH to get your stats up before Thursday at 2. If I needed one more person on service to get my stats up and it was a Thursday morning, I wouldn’t let them leave the chair in my office until they signed up for a course, even if it was an extension course.

Just writing about Thursday before 2 gets my pulse racing, because it was such an insane time. Everyone was on edge, since they’d been up the entire night before figuring out who their “prospects” were so that they could get their stats up. There was no sleep on Wednesday nights, believe me, unless you were lucky enough to have your stats up already. In that case, you were able to go home and get some sleep. Heady times.

Doing this kind of thing for years made me turn into a sort of automaton. Everything I said, everything I did, it was all scripted. That really helped drive in the mind control and conditioning that made me into the “successful” scientologist I became.

But here’s the crazy part: I was still only part-time on staff, and had a life outside of scientology. I never wanted to tell anyone in my “regular life” that I was a scientologist. I didn’t try to get my family in scientology. I didn’t try to get my friends in.  I did try to get my boyfriend in at the time, but he took one course and after the first hour said it was nuts and left. Instead of listening to him, I was convinced by the other staff members to break up with him because he was clearly a “suppressive person” in my life.

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which means that there’s a situation where you have conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors which produces a lot of mental discomfort. In order to alleviate that discomfort, you have to alter one of the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors to restore balance.

Clearly, I altered the wrong one.

And I was about to go even wronger.

More on that next time.

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