(Day 3: May 27) Scientology’s techniques abuse the transference process familiar to all therapists, a psychiatrist told the Paris trial of the movement and six of its members.
Psychiatrist Dr Daniel Zagury, a court-appointed expert, was called to explain what he thought had happened to the three plaintiffs during their time in Scientology.
He said they had been drawn into the movement when they were at a vulnerable point in their lives: they had hoped to get help, they had seen those hopes dashed and felt a certain resentment as a result.
Aude-Claire Malton came to Scientology still vulnerable from the end of a relationship, said Zagury (see “The Original Plaintiff”). She was emotionally insecure, she had an inferiority complex, she did not like the way she looked; she was ill at ease with herself and her body.
Zagury talked in terms of the transference phenomenon, as first outlined by Freud: the transference of a patient’s expectations – his or her parental images – to the therapist.
You could observe the same phenomenon in different contexts, said Zagury: in the teacher-pupil or the doctor-patient relationship, for example. And this transference process lent the recipient a certain power.
There was a tendency to caricature the process of psychological manipulation, said Zagury. “In reality the mechanism is more subtle and perhaps more effective,” he added.
In the conventional therapeutic situation, he said, the patient seeks out a therapist. “There is a clear expectation of help – and they [the therapists] are supposed to know what to do to help you.
“In therapy, it is active: the request is direct. There is a link to offer and demand,” he added. And in the context of analysis, the idea is that the patient will progress.
In Scientology, the context is different: for whereas in therapy, conflicts are meant to be analysed and worked through, in Scientology they are not. And while in therapy, the transfer effect is meant to eliminated, in Scientology it is not.
And there was one element of the transfer process that was often overlooked, said Zagury: the negative element of resentment.
When the transference took place and the hopes were disappointed, then the feeling of hostility could be very strong. This explained why those people emerging from Scientology had such a strong feeling of having been manipulated.
Zagury set out seven stages to Malton’s passage through Scientology.
He pointed out that although she had not explicitly asked for help, she had accepted the offer of help after having filled in the personality test and gone for the meeting, after which she opened up about her personal life.
She had submitted to the protocol of the Dianetics training, which involved a certain psychological dependence. “She was looking for something new, so she played the game.”
And when her supervisors proposed more courses, given her insecurities, it was only natural that she would be interested.
By now however, serious financial pressures were beginning to build up. So when pressing her to buy more courses, they played on her sense of self-worth. “You are worth it,” they would tell her.
At a certain stage however, she felt that she was not getting the promised benefits – and a tension was developing between her new group, the Scientologists, and her family. The movement coached her on how to talk to her family, but she felt torn between them.
The moment of rupture had come when she decided she had been deceived. “They weren’t interested in me: they were interested in my money,” she said.
It was when this disenchantment set in that she felt she had been a victim of manipulation mentale (mind control).
“What is left for her is the impression of having been deceived. She wants to take some meaning from this,” said Zagury.
'Enslaving the subject'
Zagury said he did not feel qualified to say whether the way she had been treated was punishable under the law. Nor would he speculate on the intentions of the Scientologists involved.
But from the psychiatric-psychological point of view, there had been a clearly identifiable process at work, he said.
“There was an abuse of the transference process,” said Zagury. “It wasn’t at the service of the subject, but at the service of enslaving the subject.”
Zagury stressed the importance of the transference process. “You are in a phase when you think your interlocutors are going to bring you the happiness you have looked for for so long,” he said.
Olivier Morice, the lawyer for the individual plaintiffs, asked him to comment on a remark he attributed to one of the defendants, Alain Rosenberg, to the effect that getting a psychiatrist to study Scientology was like getting a Nazi to study a Jew.
(Scientologists' hatred and fear of psychiatry is rooted in the teachings of the movement's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who wrote that they were effectively at the root of all modern society's evils.)
Zagury, who up until then had presented his findings with the animation and enthusiasm of an academic immersed in his subject, smiled apologetically.
In carrying out his study, he said, he had tried to stick to the psychological processes that had been involved. "If we are going to start talking about Jews and Nazis…” he smiled again: that was a different question, outside of his field of expertise.
When Judge Château asked him how people could come to spend so much money, Zagury referred her back to the phrase that had come up during the sales sessions: happiness has no price.
Eric Aubry, for example, had told him more or the less the same thing. “What is a lot of money when you expect to at last find the solution, the answer, to all the problems you have had during your whole existence?
“It is a lot of money but at the same time it is not a lot if happiness is at the end [of it],” he added. “But when happiness is not at the end, then…”
Zagury turned to Eric Aubry’s case. Aubry had known that by going to the police, by filing his complaint, in the eyes of the Scientologists he had betrayed them – it was as if he was the one who had committed a crime.
It was possible to identify with the aggressor, said Zagury: and a central feature of some traumatic experiences was that the victim would sometimes wonder if they themselves were not somehow to blame.
But that helped explain why Aubry had gone to the police, said Zagury: “He wanted the courts to vindicate him.”
When Eric Aubry came across Scientology, he was waiting for something new in his life – a change. When it came to the people with whom he had dealings in Scientology, Aubry was extraordinarily sensitive, said Zagury: “That is an essential element of transfer,” he said.
“He saw himself to be suggestible, but there was a conflict: he trusted his interlocutors even when his instinct told him he was making a mistake. But through curiosity, he pushed the experience.”
Plaintiff 'did not know the rules'
He had bought into the promise of change that the Scientologists had offered him: the change that he had been looking for.
And while he was thriving in his professional life, where he knew the rules, in Scientology it was a different situation entirely. “He was in a process of which he did not have the rules.”
Aubry had not come to terms with certain aspects of his personal life, and was looking for answers. So when some Scientologists had made indiscreet remarks about just this aspect of his life, it was all the more wounding.
Aubry was extremely sensitive to any intrusion into his intimacy, said Zagury. And that became a problem during his time inside Scientology.
Not only were his conflicts not analysed, not only did he fail to find the interior peace he was looking for, but on the contrary he felt more alone, he felt a lack of peace.
If he had been ill at ease with himself before he went into Scientology, he was even more so afterwards, said Zagury.
Aubry was plagued by guilt and shame about his own personal problems. When he started criticising Scientology, he was plagued by doubts, by the possibility that they might be right and he wrong. “That is why he so needed the courts to intervene,” he said.
Aubry had been vulnerable because of his personal neuroses, his lack of self-confidence (despite his thriving professional life). “He needed an authentic therapeutic experience,” said Zagury.
Judge Château asked why after writing a 12-page letter denouncing his treatment in Scientology in May 1998, he had nevertheless continued to take courses for months afterwards.
Zagury said that although Aubry had been hurt, he had been determined to see the experience through.
For the prosecution Nicolas Baïetto asked Zagury what he made of a past life experience that Aubry had recounted about having been a member of the Renaissance nobility living alongside Leonardo da Vinci.
Zagury saw it as a kind of role-playing: the past life he felt had discovered – and the conclusions he had drawn from it – related to aspects of his private life that preoccupied him.
But that was not the real problem, said Zagury. “It is more the questions that are put to him than the answers that are problematic.”
Zagury had spoken of a brief delirious state that Aubry had experienced during the Purification Rundown during which he hallucinated (“Which doesn’t mean he was mentally ill,” he added).
But when Zagury spoke about delirium in relation to the past life experience, the defence picked him up on it.
Was he suggesting that the Buddhist belief in past lives was a delirium? Not at all, said Zagury. Then what is the difference between the Buddhist belief in past lives and that of the Scientologists?
Zagury said he could not answer: that was not his area of expertise. But it did seem to him that the cultural context had something to do with it.
In the Hindu culture, for example, it might not be considered at all delirious to speak in such terms; in the western culture it was more problematic.
It was not the job of a psychiatrist to dismiss someone’s religious beliefs in this way. The problem, he said, was when someone started to suggest such beliefs to someone.
As for Scientology’s belief system, he said: “I’m not an expert on Scientology and frankly, I don’t want to be.”
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