Wow, so much to say, I'm not sure I can do it justice, but here goes nothin'.
Twiggy: You are welcome here whatever your personal religious views. I for one am not going to attack you for them, and I doubt anyone else will. We might want to discuss a few points
or question you about why you believe what you do, but that's not the same as flaming right? I for one spent quite a few years out of the SO and still a Scientologist. I should know that there are many different points of view and depths of involvement. This is supposed to be the age of open-mindedness and religious freedom, right? I think that same open-mindedness is what a lot of us want to see in Scientologists. So we would be rather hypocritcal to "flame" you for expressing your views.
Outlander: I, too, agree that the SO was a key part in my evolution (good or bad) and I like how you put that.
However, the question of whether we are who we are because of our experiences, or some innate quality (nature vs nurture) is a sticky one. Lots of debate over the world about that. I personally think it's both. What happens to us effects who we are inside, but what we do with those experiences and how we handle them in the moment is a reflection of who we were to start with.
What did I learn in the SO? I learned that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. I learned that when I have the internal fortitude and the incentive, I can stay up longer and put out more effort. This is a basic lesson that the US Military uses Basic Training ("boot camp") to teach. Could I have learned the same lesson there, or somewhere else? I say yes.
What else did I learn from my childhood in Scientology? That people are evil and the depths to which they will sink are always greater than you expect... I could have learned that lesson touring concentration camps, or being a social worker, or the way my husband learned it -- as a cop on the street. I would rather not know that lesson as well as I do! I could have done without the firsthand experience. I had to leave Scientology, and get to know some non-Scientologists, before I was willing to say maybe people are also good and can also surprise you with their goodness.
I have a VERY clear recall on who I was as a young child. At the age of 6 I know I had a pretty strongly developed personality. I can look back with my grown-up eyes and say that I was stubbornly dogged toward any goal. I was so focused on whatever my goal was at the moment that I almost always got it. (I was on a pre-olympic swim team and gymnastic team.) I was disgustingly self-assured but also aware that it was not desireable to be stuck-up or a braggart, compassionate about other people's feelings, friendly and happy pretty much no matter what. I know from my IQ tests that I was extrememly intelligent, in fact freakishly so, with a photographic memory. Oh and I never shut up. All of these things were part of the "package", bundled with me if you will forgive a computer reference. At 6 years old not much had happened in my world to shape me into that person, I just was
Now, I know not everybody had the experiences I did growing up, in fact I'm kind of lonely in that regard (not that I would wish it on anyone else). Although my SO career was pretty typical. By the time I joined the Sea Org I had endured 13 years of what I guess counts as severe abuse at the hands of my parents, various boarding school bullies, and other Scientologist adults. Then I spent 4 years in the SO which was both different and the same, better and worse. At the end of all of that my personality had changed in a lot of ways. I spoke as little as possible, I was terrified of people, terrified of the future. I was certain that I was a very bad person. I was also certain that I was inept, stupid, incapable, retarded, and various other things along those lines. My memory was shot -- I was lucky if I could remember what I did 3 hours ago. I was sick, unable to eat, and having seizures. I was very very close to killing myself out of exhaustion, fear, and despair.
But deep down, hiding I guess, was the same core person that I was at 6. (I didn't know she was still there.) I didn't kill myself. In fact I managed to pull myself together (even though it took me years) to the point that I am happily married, a mom, in college, and have built a real life for myself that makes me happy. Did I do all that because of Scientology? No. For one thing, if it weren't for Scientology, I would have been taken away from my parents early on and that starts a whole other chain of "what ifs".
So here's the question: did I get the strength to climb out of the gutter from being in the SO? Did I get the will to not give up from being "toughened up" by my parents? I don't think so. Those attributes which many of us saw while in the Sea Org, that determination and energy and follow-through, are things which were inherent in us already. The adversity of the SO just gave us a chance to find out.
When I was in the SO I did
think it was because of the SO. Even for a while after I left. Because I carried around with me the knowlege that I could endure, that I could step up to the plate, I thanked the Sea Org -- for a while. Then I started to realize that that wasn't true.
I have met other girls who went through some of the same experiences as I did. They all reacted in very different ways. The girl with the most similar story to mine (dad abused her, dad died, mom is nuts, dropped out of school) is now a stripper and on drugs. What makes us different? Why aren't I in the same place she is? My husband's parents were alcoholics, negligent at best, and most of his high school friends are in jail for dealing drugs, car theft, and federal credit card fraud. How come he is a Police Officer and about to graduate from college?
Whatever it is inside me that made me survive all of this, I cannot say it was given to me by my parents or by Scientology or by the Sea Org. It was there already. Maybe God gave it to me, maybe it just grew there because of something genetic, who knows?
At the same time, my experiences certainly changed who I am permanently. I will never go back to being that same kid that I was. I won't ever leave behind some of the lessons I learned (like not trusting people) even tho some people argue that I am wrong. To that degree my life has made an imprint on my soul or personality or whatever you want to call it.
I'm just glad that that stubborness was big enough to last through so much crap for so long, even if I lost touch with it for a while. I wouldn't want to miss out on my life now, that would be a tragedy. But I do sometimes wish that I could have learned those lessons a different way. For one thing, more people understand you when you say you've served in the military!
Somebody has to speak for these people.... no more running. I aim to misbehave.... If you can't do something smart, do something right. (Serenity)