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Saturday, September 23, 2006


Thanks for the "Bizarre Secrets of Scientology" link. The depositions are in a strange way entrancing, which something tells me could be cause for alarm in and of itself. As much as I've heard and read about cults and how they draw people in, I think there's always going to be something that can't fully be captured in words. As you watch the videos, you can feel how the density and intricacy of the pseudotechnology overwhelm the suggestible and the psychotic, and at the same time appeal to the grandiosity that you find across the diagnostic spectrum—the need to feel special as a psychological defense, and therefore by any means necessary, rather than as a healthy, inherent need that is well-integrated into the self as a whole.

The "Medals on Parade" link is a great, metaphorical illustration for everything you’ve said about empty, overly compensatory credentials. Putting such heavily "decorated" bullies all together does more than anything to underscore their pompous absurdity. There's such a fine line between exaggerated exhibitionism and clownishness. I guess the relentless persistence at ever escalating domination is the only way to protect any of them from their worst fear—being laughed at and dismissed.

One thing that these examples of overcompensation have in common is the wearing on the outside of substitutes for healthy constituents of self. The most insightful and original among writers in psychology, past and present, always return to the idea of “integration” as an inevitable component of healthy functioning. The defensive effort to compensate for internal vacancy with external display only encumbers. Bling is heavy, awkward and ultimately gets in the way of internal harmony. It’s always something you wear.

Your reflections on your graduate training and your gradual development of expertise as a clinician illustrate this idea. A thorough familiarity with any subject matter, the kind that underlies expertise, starts outside oneself, but ends up permeating the self, informing, influencing and being influenced by its every aspect. The development of expertise depends on movement away from a fragmented, or as you described it, “piecemeal,” experience that is largely “worn on the outside” to an internalized one in which it’s all about having a feel for what you’re doing and have come to value. That’s priceless. Unfortunately, many move in a direction opposite to the one that leads to expertise; they heap more and more on an already cluttered exterior. That’s tragic.

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