One day in 2003, a patient unlike any other that Dr. Joel Gold had
seen before was admitted to his unit at Bellevue Hospital. This man
claimed he was being filmed constantly and that his life was being
broadcast around the world like The Truman Show—the 1998 film
depicting a man who is unknowingly living out his life as the star
of a popular soap opera. Over the next few years, Dr. Gold saw a
number of patients suffering from what he and his brother, Dr. Ian
Gold, began calling the “Truman Show delusion,” launching them on a
quest to understand the nature of this particular phenomenon, of
delusions more generally, and of madness itself.
The current view of delusions is that they are the result of
biology gone awry, of neurons in the brain misfiring. In contrast,
the Golds argue that delusions are the result of the interaction
between the brain and the social world. By exploring the major
categories of delusion through fascinating case studies and
marshaling the latest research in schizophrenia, the brothers
reveal the role of culture and the social world in the development
of psychosis—delusions in particular. Suspicious Minds presents a
groundbreaking new vision of just how dramatically our surroundings
can influence our brains.
Order the book from
A French Psychoanalyst, Dr Thierry Lamote, claims in a
Scientologie déchiffrée par la psychanalyse. La folie du
fondateur, Universitaires du Mirail Press), and in a
paper just published in the academic Journal 'L'Évolution
Psychiatrique', that L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the religious
group, The Church of Scientology, suffered a psychotic episode,
which appears to be the foundation for the multi-million pound
Scientology claims a host of celebrity followers, such as film star
Tom Cruise. The unswerving devotion of many adherents alarms some
people. Jenna Miscavige Hill, said to be an ex-Scientologist whose
uncle is a Scientology Church leader, is quoted inThe
Daily Telegraph Newspaper on 6 July as having publicly
warned Katie Holmes, currently divorcing Tom Cruise, that
Scientology was "no place for an innocent child", like her daughter
Suri. Cruise and Holmes are said to be starting a custody battle,
and it's possible that Cruise's high profile following of
Scientology, might become a factor in the dispute.
Analysing the founder of Scientology's writings and biographical
material, Dr Lamote's research contends it was Ron Hubbard's battle
with psychotic symptoms that partly drew him to therapy approaches
advocated by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. It seems he then
exploited Freud to create a movement which its adherents would find
difficult to leave.
In his paper entitled 'Scientology: A systematized delirious
inspired by Breuer and Freud's Studies on hysteria', Dr Lamote
claims Hubbard subsequently re-named various old techniques and
ideas used by Freud (some dating from before Freud founded
psychoanalysis) and incorporated them into Scientology. Part of the
continuing power of the movement may lie in these Freudian
approaches, Dr Lamote's analysis suggests. Supposedly unlocking and
exploring the unconscious, can become psychologically 'addictive',
explaining why so many find themselves drawn into Scientology,
become dependent on it, and then are unable to understand why so
many others remain suspicious of the movement.
Towards the end of the 1930s, Dr Lamote writes that Hubbard had a
tooth extracted under nitrous oxide, also referred to as "laughing
gas", used during general anaesthesia, but which can cause
disturbing mind-altering effects. Lamote then points out that
Hubbard, in a letter written on 1 January 1938, and other writings,
relates a set of strange experiences as result, including hearing
voices repeating enigmatic sentences such as, "Do not let him
know!". They could sound like the kind of hallucinations Doctors
associate with a psychotic illness.
Lamote found that Hubbard frequently returned to this painful
experience, indicating how profoundly important it was to him,
maybe a turning point.
Dr Lamote contends a psychotic process within Hubbard's mind had
begun, but lay largely undetected by the outside world until
possibly 1943 when Hubbard was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He
was put in charge of a naval gun ship, the USS PC-815, a submarine
chaser. In what remains a controversial episode, Lt. Hubbard,
shortly after setting to sea, appears to have heard things through
the sonar and hydrophone indicating contact with an enemy
Over the next three days, he launched 37 depth charges, and claimed
to have sunk an enemy submarine, while critically damaging another.
But no other official in the Navy seems to have agreed. Instead Dr
Lamote's research suggests that Hubbard was fighting a battle with
Dr Lamote wonders if this was part of his developing a paranoid
picture of the universe?
Around this crucial time, Dr Lamote's paper points out, the
exploding of the Hiroshima bomb perhaps profoundly shook and maybe
further destabilised him. Formerly a science fiction writer,
Hubbard appears to have become disillusioned, even perhaps
frightened by the power of science. This combined with his mounting
anxiety that society needed to be controlled, otherwise war and
total annihilation was inevitable, possibly laid the seeds for the
controlling nature of the movement he founded.
Lamote's paper contends that Hubbard turned to the science of
cybernetics of control, in order to build a religious movement at
the heart of which would be control over large numbers, in order to
reduce the risk of self-destruction, which appeared to him to be
Into this mix Lamote believes Hubbard threw in teachings from
psychoanalysts' Freud and his colleague Breuer, who were some of
the earliest proponents of the idea that psychological distress
arose out of repressed memories from earlier in life, which
required access, through therapy, in order for us to achieve
well-being. Hubbard had many physical symptoms and Lamote wonders
whether the early psychoanalytic idea, that some physical symptoms
had a psychological cause buried deep in the unconscious, may have
influenced him. Through this approach, he may have found relief
from his own physical symptoms.
Dr Lamote argues that Hubbard pioneered an idea of an 'engram'
which is a kind of memory of pain which goes back so far into the
past to include the pain of cell division, when we first started as
an organism, but could retreat even further, to past or parental
lives. The techniques of Dianetics, contends Dr Lamote's paper,
include many which resembled counterparts in psychoanalysis such as
hypnosis and abreaction, where past trauma is encouraged to be
Tom Cruise did jump up and down in apparent agitation on Oprah's
sofa during a televised interview.
It is this borrowing from psychotherapy and psychoanalysis that Dr
Lamote work suggests partly explains the powerful appeal of
Scientology to so many, and ironically enough, its founder Ron
Hubbard. Just as therapy can be addictive, so can Scientology,
because it borrows similar techniques but re-labels them. Like
psychoanalysis it offers a universal therapeutic method, supposed
to solve all human ills.
Dr Lamote points out there is almost a sense in which Freud has
been re-discovered and re-packaged by Scientology.
Back in 2005 Tom Cruise was reported to have condemned the actress
Brook Shields after she went public on the benefit she received
from anti-depressant medication, while suffering from serious
postpartum depression. Scientology is traditionally virulently
anti-psychiatry, and anti-psychiatric treatments such as its
It might be ironic, therefore, if Hubbard, founder of a strongly
anti-psychiatric movement had been heavily influenced right back in
the beginning, by what some would regard as the most famous
psychiatrist of all, Sigmund Freud.
Raj Persaud and Peter Bruggen are joint podcast editors for the
Royal College of Psychiatrists and also now have a free app on
iTunes and Google Play store entitled ‘Raj Persaud in
conversation’, which includes a lot of free information on the
latest research findings in mental health, plus interviews with top
experts from around the world.