When I first picked up a copy of Dianetics on display at the Greyhound Bus terminal in Medford, Oregon, in the summer of 1968, I read the back panel of the book and rejected outright its claims of that it could bring sanity to those using its techniques. My exact thought at the time was: “If what this book claims is true, then the world would be different than what I have seen. There would be lots of sane, able people somewhere, and I am pretty sure there aren’t any.” I put the book back on the rack and bought Dune, by Frank Herbert, instead. I devoured that book on the three-day bus trip to El Paso, Texas.
I was fleeing to my sister’s residence in the Texas wastes just this side of the US border near Socorro, Mexico. I say “fleeing” because I could no longer stand to watch my mother destroying her 5th marriage (one of her best) with alcohol and a very poor choice of friends. I recognized that she was dramatizing something — her decisions and actions seemed to come from a kind of insanity that manifested when she was drinking or under any pressure. My current step-father was pressuring her to have another (6th) child so he would have a son of his own, and she had health problems that made her very hesitant to do so. She figured it would kill her, because her 5th child nearly did. I refused to be my stepfather’s “son” (or call him “Dad”) out of loyalty to the memory of my own dead father, and because my stepfather didn’t seem to care about any of his stepchildren, including me. I think every time I called him “Bill” it drove a spike in our relationship. Once I departed on that bus at 16, I never spoke to him again.
Bill couldn’t stand to see my mom being a bartender or waiting tables. It presented as some kind of failure on his part to him and he railed in vain to keep her in the house watching his baby girl day and night. Mom was driven to “have fun” as she put it, and wanted money for her cigarettes and beer, both of which Bill was dead against. His penny-pinching created a rift between them — it rankled her that he never cut back on his magazine subscriptions or buying his own jazz LP albums. She bore a grudge to her dying day.
What started out as a lovey-dovey perpetual honeymoon between them became a running series of arguments, fists put through the sheet-rock walls, broken-down doors, police at the door, and restraining orders. Right after I left, Bill moved back in with his parents. I lost track of my mom and younger sisters for a couple of years. When I next saw her, she was working on husband number six (Buster), and that ended with her escaping from his drunken shooting spree (he shot and killed their dog) through the snow with my younger sisters in the dead of night to a neighbor’s house, with her house burning to the ground behind her. Not well, in other words.
So, I learned that people really do dramatize (put into words and actions) their own insanities. And they bring out the insanity of others through their own dramatizations.
It wasn’t until I actually picked up a copy of Dianetics and read it in 1973, that I learned what it was they were dramatizing in thought and deed.
Put simply: Words. Words (and other sounds and actions) received and recorded while one is in pain and to some degree unconscious.
Dianetics doesn’t just explain how it happens, it gives workable techniques for getting rid of the insanities one accumulates over the course of a long and eventful life.
I’ve received a lot of Dianetics counseling over the years. I’ve seen it work on me and others to bring sanity and happiness where there was drama and misery. Why DOES someone get married and divorced again and again? Why DOES someone take refuge in a bottle? Why DOES someone marry a lowlife home-wrecking insane criminal? Why do people act against their own self-interest, and that of their family or group?
I found answers to those and many more questions in the book. I re-read it again recently and realized once again what a brilliant book it is.
The world HAS changed (for me and many others) because of Dianetics. That brash know-it-all 16-year old who rejected it out-of-hand came to understand that Dianetics works on one person at a time, not on “humanity”, but one-on-one. Finding the sources of insanity takes time and patience and a skilled counselor, but the end result makes a real difference in one’s outlook and future activity. Just reading the book makes a difference.