A view on the isa experience from a long-term assistant
Date: September 05, 2011 02:53AM
I first did the isa experience when I was a teenager and I've done the experience repeatedly, did the GIT (Graduate Intensive Training, the ‘advanced’ course and assisted on both the isa experience and the GIT several times.
When I first did the experience, it was a roller-coaster of emotions and after it I felt ecstatic for 2 weeks. I then believed in it with great passion for several years, before slowly realising it was a cult.
As a teenager, all the information was new to me. I am grateful that it opened a door to my self-development, which in the long run, has led me to become a better person and discover a lot about myself and others, however I feel that there are more doors to this ‘world of discovery and development’ and that a different door would have served me far better.
WHY ISA IS A CULT AND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO ‘ASSIST’ ON ISA
There are several reasons why I know isa is a cult in terms of how it differs from other personal development courses I’ve since attended, business training, school, etc. etc. Assisting on the isa experience is particularly cult-like. For the assistants there is:
• A strong, repeated message that isa is the only way. If you don’t do it the isa way, then you’re not ‘working on yourself’. For example, one of the former facilitators (Ernie W) stopped facilitating (I don’t know why) and there was a lot of grumbling that he’d “stopped working on himself” despite the fact that his career flourished and I’m sure he remained a very decent human being.
• Assistants agree to make 10 contacts a week (at least one a day) to ask that someone does the experience. This is one reason that they tend to put so much pressure on their friends and family, it’s part of their agreement to do so.
• The work is completed for free. Assistants are unpaid, have to cover all their own expenses and indeed sometimes ‘pay and assist’ if they don’t meet all their agreements (this includes getting at least 2 other people along to every experience).
• There is a lot of pressure to recruit more people to the experience.
• There is a massive amount of attention on minutia. Chairs have to be aligned at the start of each session to within a cm, calls are timed to within a second. I firmly believe that this focus on minutia doesn’t have any true benefit, but reinforces the brain washing to follow instructions without questioning them.
• Assistants often visit Ole Larsen on ‘holiday’ and end-up working for free for a week or more (decorating his house, doing the gardening, building, etc.) This must undermine their self-esteem and only benefit Ole, yet it is done in the name of ‘working on yourself’. This is also very different to charities as only one person (the cult leader) benefits, not a larger group.
• Ole Larsen has no integrity, he has lived with a series of young women, has had affairs, drinks too much, doesn’t make agreements or keep them and doesn’t appear to do anything for anyone. In short, he is the stereotypical cult leader. I’ve not spent enough time with Luis Cordoba outside of isa experiences to be able to tell one way or another. Despite this, Ole must make an absolute fortune from isa.
• Isa is very good at telling you what to do to change, but has not changed at all in decades. Even the lame jokes they tell at the experience are identical every single course.
• They change words to mean something else. For example, in the experience ‘responsibility’ is defined as the ‘ability to respond’. Unconsciously we associate the word more with dictionary definitions, e.g. ‘deserving to be blamed for something that has happened’ or ‘being the primary cause of an event’. Twisting language in this fashion makes us ‘responsible’ for everything, which is basically a major guilt trip.
• In the experience, participants ‘voluntarily’ let go of a lot of their own power, their choice as to take a break to go to the toilet, take non-prescription medication, what time to get up, whether to share certain secrets, etc. These aren’t physically forced (no-one’s actually physically restrained from leaving), however the pressure and conditioning is intense. The experience therefore creates a loss of the sense of self.
• Certain processes include humiliation (disguised as ‘feedback’), followed by love bombing, sensory deprivation, etc. These are standard cult practices.
‘Cults in our Midst’ by Margaret Singer defines people like assistants as ‘manipulated manipulators’ basically assistants believe (and I know I used to) that they are benefitting others, doing good for the world, developing themselves, etc. It’s worth remembering this!
QUESTIONS ISA ASSISTANTS SHOULD ASK THEMSELVES
If you are an isa assistant and are reading this, I would encourage you to ask yourself some questions:
• Looking at your relationships with friends and family who have NOT done the isa experience. Have these relationships improved or got worse? Do your friends or family resent the pressure you put on them to do the experience? Do you feel superior to them and judge them for not ‘working on themselves’?
• One of the phrases used in isa is ‘YOU CAN’T DO SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW IF YOU CARRY ON DOING WHAT YOU DO KNOW’. If you’ve assisted on isa more than 2 or 3 times, it becomes easy, sure there’s still a rush of emotion, but it’s not in any way actually challenging or doing anything new. The isa experience and the GIT haven’t changed in decades. You’re doing the same thing you’ve done for years. You are therefore not actually doing anything different, ‘working on yourself’ or growing, but merely repeatedly doing things which very quickly fall in your ‘comfort zone’.
• Look at your time and your finances. Are they handled? Are you learning the skills you need to run a business, or grow rich by doing isa? Could you spend your time differently to instead create a better lifestyle for yourself, or help the world in some other way? Could you make more difference by contributing your time to a charity or by helping friends?
• Is it serving you to get so little sleep? Do early morning calls with your buddy and team leader, homework that takes an hour or so a day and all your other commitments really serve you?
• You may be learning discipline, but if you’re applying it on meaningless tasks, does this serve any purpose? You may consider isa a training ground, but when will you leave the training ground and start living your real life?
• Will your life be better if you stop doing isa?