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.