Page 9 - May-June 2021 Edition of The 'X' Chronicles Newspaper
P. 9

Children of Scientology                                                                                 9

           Children of Scientology:

          Life After Growing Up in

                  an Alleged Cult

                 (Continued from Page 8)

        The church rejects the idea that it discourages
        negative emotions, and claims that all of its
        principles and practices are designed to help
        people recognize their emotions in order to
        “become more able and more aware spiritually.”

        Gordon, 52, first stepped away from Scientology
        31 years ago, but it took her decades to
        recognize her emotions. People called her flat,
        superior, condescending, cold.  When she fell
        into an abusive relationship, she had to learn to
        react when her boyfriend hit her, because her
        natural reaction — to do nothing — made him
        even angrier. But eventually, her emotions       YouTube channel on cults. In the kitchen, a man a vacuum.”
        started leaking out. She’d cry during Hallmark   with orange ringlets and a maroon suit is
        commercials, or during movies, and rush out of   introduced to me as Hubbard’s great-grandson, Dr. Cyndi Matthews, a cult expert and therapist,
        the theater, ashamed. She felt like an alien     Jamie DeWolf. DeWolf didn’t grow up in says SGAs from cults —what psychologists
        amongst enemies, afraid to reveal her true self.  Scientology, and spends much of his time refer to as “high-demand groups” — often face
        She wanted to heal, but she had no idea who she  directing films, writing and performing spoken- these sorts of challenges. People who join and
        was. Where did Scientology end and her real self  word poetry. But he recognizes the long shadow leave as adults have the luxury of connecting
        begin?                                           Scientology cast on his own family, and the with their past selves, she says. “For them, it’s
                                                         damage it’s done to others. “I’d love nothing about       reconnecting,    rediscovering,   re-
        Eventually, she realized she couldn’t do it on her  more than to see Scientology end in my everything. But SGAs don’t have that.  Their
        own, but she couldn’t do it with just anybody,   lifetime,” he says. Silverman — wearing a identity is the cult.”  And, since Second
        either. Over the course of several years, she got  leather wallet holster, her hair cut short — is in Gens’parents often choose the cult over them —
        in touch with a few Second Gen ex-Scientology    the corner, giving everyone in arm’s reach a during their childhoods and when they leave —
        friends and eventually proposed a radical idea:  generous pour of wine. “We need this today,” they often develop severe attachment issues,
        getting together. She called the group Children  she says to no one in particular, and tosses some fearing that everyone in their lives will hurt or
        of Scientology, and she envisioned it as a place  back.                                           leave them.  This makes it harder to make
        where SGAs could come and get support,                                                            friends, which makes it harder to transition out.
        building an ad hoc family where they could       Finally, Susan gathers the group, being careful
        learn to feel, think and survive in safety.      to not herd too hard.  As soon as she starts     At the retreat, the intros are still going. DeWolf
                                                         speaking, a man starts moving toward the door. apologizes for what his family has done to
        The retreat in Brooklyn is the fourth and        “I’m actually gonna sit this one out,” he says, everyone else. “My family owes other families,”
        largest of Gordon’s Second Gen meet-ups.         meaning the rest of the day. “These sharing he says, then commits to using his video-editing
        Fifteen people have RSVP’d for today’s get-      things just aren’t my style.” Susan nods, and he skills to help people share their stories on the
        together, with the plan to share stories and chart  disappears out the door. She gets it, after all. Children of Scientology website.  A woman
        the future of the group. They also want to share  Nobody here would say sharing is their style. reads an excerpt from a book about how adverse
        their stories with a larger audience, and they’re  But they’re here anyway, trying to learn how. So childhood experiences can lead to heart attacks,
        working on a Children of Scientology website     she starts them off easy. “Let’s go around the autoimmune disease, and early death. ‘Ideas Are
        where Second Gens can describe their             room and introduce ourselves,” she says, and Bulletproof’ guy introduces himself as Chris
        experiences and connect with other ex-           they begin.                                      Shelton, a  YouTube host and ex-Sea Org
        Scientologists who’ve gone through similar                                                        member who now spends his life examining the
        things. The week of, they tell me, they still had  The first few people follow the prompt, but then claims of Scientology and other cults. “I’m
        no idea who would actually show up, and when     someone breaks down. A man in his 30s with a trying to teach a bit of critical thinking,” he says,
        I get there at noon, the group hasn’t gathered yet.  shaved head tells the group that his wife’s but when the group razzes him he confesses.
        “Can you come back in an hour?”  Tristan         Scientologist parents refuse to see their children. “OK, OK, I did used to believe in the prison
        Silverman, one of the event organizers, texts me.  Every few months, he says, he drops off photos  planet,” he says, referring to Scientology’s
        “People were up late last night.” But the real   in his in-laws’ mailbox. But he never hears back. origin story that an intergalactic leader, Xenu,
        issue is that many of them were part of the Sea  A thin blond woman next to him nods. Her exiled billions of his subjects to Earth (or
        Org, and they aren’t interested in anyone telling  family was recruited into Scientology from Teegeeack) 75 million years ago. For a minute,
        them when or where to do something ever again.   Russia when she was little. On her own since she people go down the rabbit hole of Scientology
        So Gordon and Silverman are playing it loose.    was 11, she’s been out for several years and is dogma.  There is a brief but passionate
        When I get back to the house an hour later,      happily married, but things haven’t gotten discussion about whether being reincarnated
        people are drinking Chardonnay and smoking       easier. She had a stillbirth, and is raising a child into a cat’s body would be a promotion or
        obsessively outside. “Technically, I stopped,”   with autism. “All the other moms are always demotion.
        says a woman we’ll call Susan, the facilitator for  telling me how proactive I am. But that’s just a
        the day, who asks me not to use her real name in  coping mechanism. I’m just making it go right,” Then David  Anthony brings them back.  A
        order to protect her family members who are      she says, using the Scientology phrase for taking Brooklynite, he’s come with a small stack of
        still inside the church. “But on a weekend like  charge of a bad situation. “I haven’t even memorabilia. There’s a black-and-white picture
        this?”                                           grieved.” She’s trying to do that now, with the that shows him walking on a beach with his
                                                         help of a therapist, but it’s hard. “As a Second mother, the Sea Org ship Apollo hulking in the
        In one corner a middle-aged man wearing a shirt  Gen, it’s different than someone who joins background.
        that says “Ideas  Are Bulletproof” is talking    later,” she says. “They have an identity to go
        loudly with another middle-aged man about his    back to. We’re trying to discover our identity in                       (Continued on Page 10)
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