Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dianetics and Scientology: Lessons for the treatment of paranoid schizophrenia? Books | Stranger than fiction

I've not read many reviews of Dianetics. This one is interesting ...
In a way, it's impressive. Hubbard not only managed to get one of these books published, it actually became a bestseller and the founding text for Scientology. It's not your garden-variety crank who can take a crackpot rant, turn it into a creepy gazillion-dollar church with the scariest lawyers around, and set himself up as the 'Commodore' of a small fleet of ships, waited on hand and foot by teenage girls in white hot pants. But, I digress.

... Not only does "Dianetics" offer precious little sideshow appeal, it's impossible to read much of it without realizing that it's the work of a very disturbed man. (Here's where things get less entertaining.) Hubbard's grandiose preoccupation with "an answer to the goal of all thought," the reiteration of fantasies of perfect mastery foiled by invasive, alien forces (engrams are described as "parasites"), the determination to envision the mind as a machine that can be brought under absolute control if only these enemies can be ejected -- all these are classic forms of paranoid thinking. The alarm bells really start to ring when Hubbard describes colorblindness as caused by a "circuit" in a person's mind that "behaves as though it were someone or something separate from him and that either talks to him or goes into action of its own accord, and may even, if severe enough, take control of him while it operates...
The subsequent description of Hubbard as a high-functioning paranoid schizophrenic is persuasive; it includes a description of what seems to have been one of his core delusional complexes having to do with abortion and domestic abuse. If Hubbard were paranoid schizophrenic this would also account for his suspicion of physicians and hatred of psychiatrists.

I've long wondered about the natural history of paranoid schizophrenia and its relationship to religion. Hubbard's story adds an interesting angle. We are far from understanding what paranoid schizophrenia is, how it can be avoided or mitigated, and what the natural history of the condition is from age 20 to 40 and beyond.

I wonder if some of the methods Hubbard teaches in Dianetics (later incorporated into Scientology's "Thetan" retraining programs) reflect techniques Hubbard developed to manage his own psychiatric disorder. If so, could we translate them into evidence-based testable therapeutic techniques?

It would be a great irony if L Ron Hubbard, a passionate hatred of psychiatry, were to teach us valuable lessons in the management of one of the most terrible of human disorders -- schizophrenia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are so right.