What’s auditing like? Here’s a tiny example.

Imagine that you reconnect with a friend from high school – someone you haven’t seen in ages. During the conversation, your friend shows you a photograph of the two of you at Jones Beach on July 4th weekend. “Oh wow,” you think, “I had almost forgotten that trip!” After you peer at the photo, the two of you discuss the time you spent together: “Remember the bar at the edge of the pier? It was the first time I ever saw you drunk.” The photo helps you recover not just the moment-in-time, but an entire experience.

Until your friend brought out the picture, you might have “remembered” that you’d gone to the beach sometime during high school, though you might be vague about your companions or which year it was. You might or might not have directed your attention to the event; it wasn’t important.

But when your friend gets you to focus on a single photo, and talk about it, you can recall the entire experience, in more detail than you realized.

Auditing makes use of that human ability to re-experience. That’s not always expressed clearly, so perhaps this recent example from my own life can make it more understandable.

One of the things I did during my months-long hiatus from /r/scientology was tackle a family project. I inherited five huge boxes of family photos, which I scanned in and shared with my siblings (and sometimes on Facebook). The pictures – mostly slides taken by my father – began in the 1940s, with a box of pictures taken at my parent’s engagement party, and went through to the late 1980s, when my father died. I estimate that I looked at about 10,000 slides, not counting 100 8mm videos (which started in the 1920).

It was an oddly spiritual process, more so than I expected. I looked at my father’s life through his eyes. After all, we take pictures of the moments we think are valuable or important. So I saw my father’s dreams, the things he thought were beautiful, the moments of pride… and how, over the years, his dreams flickered and died. I could (and may yet) write a longer essay about those personal changes, for a wider audience.

However, there was one aspect of this process that made me think of the people here, particularly those who wonder “what auditing is like.” Let’s see if it entertains you.

Auditing is nearly always a subjective, personal, inward experience. The auditor directs you to consider something that happened, such as, “Tell me about a time when [something]” such as “…when you felt like you didn’t belong” or “…when you were afraid of something big” or (positives, too) “you ‘saved the day.'” Where the question comes from isn’t the point, at least for the sake of this discussion. But generally you’re directed to re-experience the incident, for the purpose of spiritually processing it and ultimately freeing up the energy.

When you’re in session, the auditor asks you to recall something. Quite often (it varies, and there’s no right-or-wrong way), you start out with a vague memory of an incident or experience that matches the command or direction.

So if I was asked to recall a moment in which I didn’t feel strong enough to do what I wanted, I might have kinda sorta remembered being a little girl on a flat-bed ferry; it was an old contraption (now used by tourists) where humans pulled on a rope to move the ferry (as well as vehicles and people) across the river. I’d be able to tell you that I was perhaps 5 years old, and that it must’ve been on one of our trips to Michigan or Wisconsin, and that I remember pulling really hard on that rope but being frustrated that I couldn’t make it move. (This is, by the way, exactly the sort of incident that comes up. Real life, our desires and frustrations. Everyone’s looking for space opera, but “I had a fight with my mother” is oh so much more common.)

So, back to my big photo project.

In the collection were three boxes of slides from the actual camping trip, as well an a family movie; based on the dates, I was actually 7. There’s a whole movie recorded of me on that contraption, which (based on other photos in the slide batch) is near the Iron Mountain mine. In the photo, I’m wearing a red jacket, I’m pulling on a big wooden stick (too big for me — this thing is meant for adults), and I’ve a “smile for the camera” expression. (The movie shows me struggling more.) There isn’t a lot of detail in the background, but it’s lush and green.

When I look at the picture, I remember owning those sandals. I think about my goofy smile. I actually feel the temperate of the place: humid, and that point in a summer’s day when a cool morning is beginning to warm up. I remember my concerted physical effort to get the darned contraption to move. And failing. With the adults around me being amused by the effort, which I took much too seriously.

In auditing, you might start with a vague memory. But as you examine it, the incident (positive or negatives) returns to you. The recall isn’t always visual – though obviously my photographic example here is. Sometimes my sensory memory is temperature, or movement (the feeling of going down the hill on a snow sled), or tactile (the feeling of my mom’s mink coat when she hugged me). It could be anything. Amusingly, when I look back at the collected family photos, I almost always remembered the clothes I was wearing – the scratchiness of that sweater or how much I loved that dress.

The point is that often, I see a photo and it brings back a full-sensory memory. When someone asks, “Were you ever there?” in ordinary terms we’re looking-back. In auditing, the idea is less to “remember” things as much as re-experience them. When you do so, it’s a lot easier to spiritually and emotionally digest whatever happened.

Auditing isn’t done simply to recall lost memories. There’s a lot of other pieces to it, which have a lot to do with what you’re asked to recall, and why those things are chosen. However, I know that a lot of people are confused by what actually happens in session… and I thought it might be illuminating to get a picture – heh – of what that’s like.



Understanding what auditing is (and isn’t)

I’ve had hundreds of hours of auditing, probably thousands. It’s about 300 hours in the last year-and-a-half alone. So perhaps I can give a definition and explanation that’s a bit more than a cookie-cutter answer than, “The action of asking a person a question (which he can understand and answer), getting an answer to that question, and acknowledging him for that answer.” That’s a true definition, of course, but reading it is like trying to understand “What is Catholicism” from a dictionary definition. Certainly it isn’t inaccurate, but it doesn’t lead to understanding, whatever value you impart to the process. (After all, it’d be dumb to dislike something when you aren’t disliking that thing but rather your misconception of it.)

Speaking for myself: Auditing is the process by which someone directs my attention to subjects/issues I care about so that I can resolve them. By asking very specific questions, and never evaluating what the answers are, the auditor can help me look at my past experiences, attitudes, resolutions, and so on. In every session (and I do mean every session), I end up with a new realization about myself or the world — and it ends in joy-and-laughter and/or a sense of peace and well-being. One of the earliest attitudes in scientology was, “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t scientology.” And I have more fun with this than with almost anything else. Self-discovery is terrific, especially when it’s in the direction of “I can’t wait to see what my life will be like, now!”

One reason that it’s sometimes hard to “define” auditing is that there are several “flavors,” though each does have at its heart the “directed questioning” and lack of evaluation or invalidation. The latter is extremely important, and very different from other types of therapy. It’s the auditor’s job to listen, just to be there and hear what the client (sometimes called the PreClear or PC) says. I find my own answers. That’s the point of the process.

Among the types of auditing are:

  • Processes that help the client connect with the physical world, called objective processes. The definition sounds a little lame, even to me… but if you ever knew someone who was “kind of out-of-it” you might understand how these would be useful. (They were life-changing for me.)
  • Dianetics auditing looks at specific incidents from the client’s past and how they may affect her in the present day. This may be done using the original “Book One” processes or any of the streamlined processes developed since then.
  • “The Grades:” Four or five sets of auditing programs, each of which has a “mixed” set of processes, that aim to help with common issues (communicating better, resolve problems better, etc.).
  • OT Levels: These are the ones that get all the attention in the press, though only a subset of Scientologists get to them. They’re mostly done solo, rather than with another person as auditor.
  • Standalone processes, such as “the Ls” or Power Processing or Identity Handling.

And then there are the things that are sometimes treated as auditing but actually have little or nothing to do with it, such as:

  • “Ethics handling” wherein the individual is guided to cope with his own or others’ misbehavior.
    • In the purest sense this means, “Deal with distractions that keep me from progressing” (that is, if you’re guilty about cheating on your spouse, it can keep your attention away from actually handling your own case in, say, a Dianetics session) and “recognize the natural flow of action” (such as “You ain’t gonna get ahead at work if nobody knows you’re there”).
    • Unfortunately, in the CofS “Ethics” has been used largely for social control (making it “Morals” though it’s never called that).

As with other fields, some people specialize in one type of auditing or another. I know one (wonderful) guy who almost exclusively delivers “The Ls,” for instance.

All that is very high level, so let me give you an example of what I mean by “directed questioning.” I’ll show the questions from a bit of Power Processing, which is what I’ve been doing most recently (along with Identity Handling and a few other things). Let’s imagine I tell the auditor that I’m feeling an emotional “charge” on, say, being intimidated by authority. The auditor would ask me what ideal or serene condition the “intimidation” blocked (maybe, “I can be there comfortably with anyone” is my perception of that ideal). Note that it’s me coming up with the wording for those conditions, whatever resonates with me.

Then in session, the questions might include (but would not be limited to):

  • “Tell me a condition experienced of ‘being intimidated by authority.'”
  • “What is the emotion of that experience?”
  • “How has that condition been reacted to?”
  • “What is the emotion of that reaction?”
  • “Tell me a condition experienced of ‘I can be there comfortably with anyone.'”
  • “What is the emotion of that experience?”
  • :How has that condition been reacted to?”
  • “What is the emotion of that reaction?”

…Repeated, as necessary.

Note that (a) this isn’t something I ran personally (I’m not easily intimidated!) and (b) you wouldn’t find that particular process inside the CofS (it’s something from my Freezone auditor), though it’s based on work that Hubbard did.

In session, anything can (and has!) come up, from any point in time. In session I’ve talked about something that happened an hour before, and something that happened when I was 3, and something that occurred in a previous lifetime. They include both my own experiences and situations I’ve observed externally. For instance, in Friday’s session I ended up looking at an incident that had devastated my father in his youth; his anguish about it impacted decisions he made about raising me, which in turn caused me to make decisions (like, “I won’t do that to anyone else, no matter what!”). In “running” that process, I had tears streaming down my face… and 10 minutes later I was laughing delightedly. I IMed my husband an hour later, “I’m in love with the world.”

Whew, that’s a lot. But then, so is auditing.

Did I mention that it’s fun? Because, dammit, it’s so much fun.

About “Keeping Scientology Working…”

I should note up front that this opinion is my own, and does not necessarily represent anyone else’s. However, the role/importance of KSW is a distinguishing difference in the perspectives of the Independent field. Indys and Freezoners have a very wide range of opinions, and the acceptance of KSW is a sharp dividing line. The fundamentalists do their best to deliver auditing purely the way Hubbard presented it, though without the insanity of the CofS. In other words: the fundamentalists would never change an auditing command, but another Indy/FZ auditor might. Or might use an alternate meter, or no meter at all. Or might deliver services over Skype.

I could take the attitude that the fundamentalists are wrong, but I don’t. Plenty of people are happy with the tech-as-written, and “If it works don’t fix it” often is wise advice. I run into head-butting contests with people who are “pure KSW” when they criticize me, but I know some awesome auditors who are happy with what they’re doing by, indeed, keeping actual Scientology working.

The ostensible point of the “Keeping Scientology Working” policy letter — which is one of the few policies you have to read when you start every single course in the CofS — is to protect the organization and the technology from those who would harm them. That is, it could have been written with a message like, “Don’t get distracted from what we’re doing or confuse it with something else; that weakens us and dilutes its value.” Or simply: Stay true. There’s nothing wrong with a sentiment like that.

However, KSW (as most people refer to it) is written in an emotional tone of anger. You can tell that Hubbard was spitting mad when he typed that. And like anything we write when we are pissed off, it’s… not usually what you should have said. (Each of us can remember hitting SEND on an e-mail message when we should have waited until the next morning.) For example, when we’re angry we generalize; we over-simplify; we insult other people instead of sticking to the facts. And KSW did all those things… then became the cornerstone of the organizational culture.

The other problem with KSW is that it includes several statements that are lies, pure and simple. For instance:

In all the years I have been engaged in research I have kept my comm lines wide open for research data. I once had the idea that a group could evolve truth. A third of a century has thoroughly disabused me of that idea. Willing as I was to accept suggestions and data, only a handful of suggestions (less than twenty) had long-run value and none were major or basic; and when I did accept major or basic suggestions and used them, we went astray and I repented and eventually had to “eat crow”.

The truth is that a horde of people contributed to the tech, and in many cases Hubbard took sole credit for their research and their work. I’m told that after KSW came out, quite a few of those people up-and-left, because there’s few things worse than having the boss say, “I did it!” when you yourself did that work. It’s bad enough to not get a thank-you; it’s another for him to take credit.

Some points are a matter of interpretation and opinion, such as:

The common denominator of a group is the reactive bank. . . . Person to person the bank is identical. So constructive ideas are individual and seldom get broad agreement in a human group.

If that were so, we’d never have seen open source software. Or intensely demanding, collaborative projects such as spaceflight. Or any number of other worthwhile endeavors that people do together. So speaking for myself… I very much disagree with him on this point. (Which is not to say that he’s completely wrong about human behavior — there are such things as mobs and Internet trolls.)

But even if everything Hubbard wrote in this policy letter was 100% factually accurate, it’s still wrong-headed, and has had a terrible result. Because in KSW, Hubbard set himself up as the sole source of wisdom and the only person whose word you could trust. And his word was cast in stone, forevermore. If someone else has a bright idea that might get results faster… sorry, unless it came from Ron it’s “squirreling.” If someone wants to learn about a subject beyond what LRH wrote about it (say, on marketing or public relations), it’s “off-source” and thus cannot be trusted.

That becomes increasingly ludicrous on some topics. Once they might have been up-to-date and even valuable, but 50 years later… not so much. Hubbard gets some credit for paying attention to nutrition and vitamins in an era when they were pooh-poohed, but science knows a lot more about those subjects these days. However, since KSW means that nothing can be changed, the CofS follows the original policies to the letter. (Which is why we see the CofS do such bizarre things in public. They literally do not know any better. And they’re sure that LRH was right about everything.)

A common goal for those of us who got into Scientology was to gain better control over our own lives, to think for ourselves. But KSW says outright that you shouldn’t think for yourself (at least not about the tech), because only Ron can do that. It is diametrically opposed to the tech’s purpose.

In the real world, it’s okay to read something and then disagree with it — even if it’s from an authority (such as your boss). However, in the CofS, if you publicly disagree with KSW you will find yourself in a world of hurt, because you’ll be seen as supportive of those who would harm the tech or the organization. So either you shut up and keep your thoughts to yourself (which is not conducive to spiritual enlightenment IMHO), or you decide to agree with that viewpoint, which leads you into a worldview that ultimately I think is harmful.

And then — in part because of that anger — he makes it all so dreadfully serious:

When somebody enrols, consider he or she has joined up for the duration of the universe — never permit an “open-minded” approach.

In the 50s, Hubbard wrote (somewhere, I haven’t looked up the reference), “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t Scientology.” That’s the attitude I bought into way back when, and it’s what I still buy into. Because every time I come out of an auditing session I think, “Damn that was fun!” If I don’t spend a few minutes giggling, it’s because I’m sitting quietly in a blissful, serene “Isn’t the world great?” haze. That is what I signed up for. Not for someone telling me that he has all the answers and that I’m an idiot who can’t be trusted to contribute.

There’s one thing that Hubbard wrote in KSW with which I agree: “If you can’t get the technology applied then you can’t deliver what’s promised. It’s as simple as that. If you can get the technology applied, you can deliver what’s promised.” Unfortunately, it’s KSW that has kept the technology from being applied. And it’s a damned shame.


How to find an auditor in the Scientology Freezone

Someone in a private Indy group asked a question regarding choosing an auditor. I wrote a short answer, and then realized I had more to say.

I hadn’t thought this through before, but I realized someone should write guidelines for “How to choose an auditor.” Many of us never needed to think it through, before. When I was in the CofS, after all, there weren’t very many auditors on staff, and I was assigned someone. One might have a “preference,” but for most people it wasn’t exactly a shopping trip.

Yet in the independent field, we make our own choices… and there’s a lot of factors involved in making those choices.

One element is the level of commitment we are prepared to make — rather like choosing an accountant, web developer, or dentist. You don’t want to fumble at the start, because the services are not cheap, and re-starting with someone new is time-consuming. Sure, you can change whom you go to — but we all want want to decide to trust this person for the long haul. That’s especially so in choosing an auditor, since we know we’ll be confiding our most vulnerable thoughts to that person.

So I think about the criteria I used in choosing other service professionals, and try to map that to choosing an auditor.

Ask Somebody

The primary way any business gets new customers is, of course, referrals. If I don’t know whom to trust, I’ll ask someone I do trust for advice. The difficulty with referrals is that I’m apt to trust my buddy’s advice even if it’s not-quite-right for me. A friend might like and trust his lawyer (who is renowned for, say, property law), but I need someone with contract law experience which his lawyer lacks.

Or I’ll go to someone I already know from earlier conversations, even if the conversations were not about my case. (Cat photos always help, right?)

This ought to be a lesson to freezone auditors about the way they participate on message boards, and the frequency in which they do so. My inevitable personal example: When I decided I needed auditing RIGHT NOW, two people sprung to mind immediately — both of whom I’d known-and-liked from a private freezone mailing list, with whom I’d corresponded on-and-off for years. I liked them personally… which matters. And in my head I thought, “These people know their stuff” because they had demonstrated their breadth of knowledge. One of them worked out better logistically, and as it turns out I could not have made a better choice for my needs. This isn’t meant to be a Success Story… but if you want an enthusiastic referral, contact me privately.

The problem is… many people in the freezone are not in a community already in which they know-and-trust other people, which makes it hard to ask for a referral or to choose an auditor based on lurking-on-conversations. So you’re rather on your own.

Questions to Ask… or Not

One button for many people (including the woman whose query inspired this essay) is where an auditor got training, to what CofS level… or if the auditor was “fully trained,” given the nature of the freezone. We don’t have an external certification process for freezone auditors to establish a baseline for technical competence (the way that the computer industry has tests wherein a hardware-repairer can demonstrate, if not consummate ability, a lower likelihood of screwing up). I don’t know if that’s something anyone would want to put on the table.

Training/certs is not my first thought, though I understand how it might be for others. Yes, there’s a baseline of certification I expect from, say, a chiropractor (e.g. I like to see a graduation certificate on the wall), but I look more of a demonstration that they learned their tech than where it came from. Some chiropractic schools had a mindset they imbued to their students, but if it’s 20 years later the chiropractor may have rejected it or taken the knowledge further by himself. I rather hope so. I want someone who can and does “think” with the technology he learned.

So when you’re looking for an auditor, in my opinion you should ask where he got his training, but you should also ask when it was, and where. There are differences; people tell me that auditors trained in the CofS in the last 10-20 years have stiff, rote TRs, for example. Somebody more tech-trained than I could probably stratify the auditor training by era. (I’ve gotten auditing only from the Indy field since 1987, so I’ve been happily “spoiled” with superb services.)

I wouldn’t stop with past training, though, any more than I’d choose my dentist based on the school he went to 30 years ago. How much experience does he have delivering services? Of this kind? How does he keep himself up-to-date? In most professions, that means learning the newest technology. And being an active member of professional organizations, which at least implies he talks shop with other practitioners.

When I choose someone for an expensive or important job, I also look at the information they provide on their website (or other promotional material, but really, that means a website). Plenty of these sites are lousy, no matter what the service is (my actual chiropractor’s site would not have sold me on him); most small business owners are better at delivering their services than at writing marketing copy.

Still, I do expect a certain amount of a “CSW:” Tell me what services you provide, and to whom, and give me clear where-and-when-and-how data. My accountant’s site does a good job of this on its home page (“…we understand the challenges small business owners face every day. We know they are pulled in many directions and must wear many hats – from Chief Executive to head of marketing to delivery person. That’s why we have built our practice around providing professional tax, estate and financial accounting services specifically aimed at helping small to medium-sized businesses”) so I know whether this is a match for my needs. Not the least of which is location and hours and how to contact them.

A really good website is a delight, and can sell me on a professional’s services. We shopped for a dentist, 10 years ago, without any referrals to guide us. The guy we chose has a site chock full of information that makes it clear his sensibilities match ours. He doesn’t just say that he does mercury-free fillings; he has a long essay explaining what they are, why they are important, and explaining patients’ options. I feel as though he’s educated me, even before we’ve spoken. We’ve been loyal patients since our first encounter with him. (This is called “content marketing.”)

I know some folks look for success stories or testimonials as evidence of ability, though that’s not my thing. They can give useful info, I admit; my dentist’s website has a testimonial from someone in a city 100 miles away, which implies that he’s so good people make a point of driving that far to get to him. But I treat testimonials the way I treat job references: of course you will find someone to say positive things about you. (Unless we want a Yelp for freezone auditors, which is another can of worms.)

One unique issue in choosing an auditor — but, I think, an important one — is finding someone who matches you on the spectrum of “tech standards.” I don’t want to open up a box of loud opinions on the subject of “standard tech” and KSW. But I do think it’s important for someone looking for auditing to find an auditor who matches or understands her in viewpoint on these topics. What’s the freezone auditor’s opinion on the evolution of the tech? What parts has he consciously embraced-or-rejected (I’ll pick on “ethics conditions” as an example), and why, and how does he resolve any discrepancies between that tech and how it was/is delivered in the CofS? Some of us come to auditing expecting things to be done a certain way, “just like in the CofS, except without [whatever sent you packing],” and at a minimum it likely helps the auditor to know about those expectations. On the other hand, if you’re appalled that an auditor might do things differently (for instance, I know some feel strongly that auditing over Skype is out-tech), it’d be smart to know that up-front before you make a choice.

If you reject auditing over a distance (e.g. via Skype), then another factor is the auditor’s location. If the person is local, great. But if she’s hundreds of miles away, it means you need to consider the cost of travel, as well as your time availability. By which I mean both the vacation time you need to take off from work, and the schedule of auditing you get during that visit. If you’re in town for a week, for instance, you’ll want to get as many hours of auditing as possible during that time. How much time is feasible? Depending on those logistics (and your case, once you’re working with the auditor), that might change your budget considerably.

In my eyes there isn’t any right-or-wrong answer here (I grant beingness to all viewpoints in this regard, though I have my own strong feelings). I also don’t think you have to be in complete agreement with your auditor about this. (I had my mind changed about some things, and I’m glad I did!) But it may be something to discuss up-front, so there are no surprises.

Well, that’s my thoughts on how people should choose auditors. I’m sure you have viewpoints of your own… many of which touch on things I didn’t think of. What did I forget to include here?