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Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: Dopamine Link ()
Date: July 13, 2011 12:19AM

How LGATs trigger bipolar symptoms – What we now know about the body’s response to stress and sleep deprivation:

After doing an LGAT in 2010 I noticed very clear links between the structure of the course and the events that had led to my two significant manic episodes. Both the triggers of my two manias (excessive stress and sleep deprivation sustained for a period before suddenly removing the stressor) and the symptoms of my mania (how I felt and my observed behavior) could be seen in the way the LGAT took place and in the observed behavior of almost every person who took part in an LGAT. To be fair the behavior and “testimonies” of LGAT graduates read, for the most part, like the symptoms of a hypomanic state. Any person unfamiliar with this state could be excused for confusing it with “enlightenment” or “breakthrough” and the feelings of euphoria, self-worth, confidence and sociability have seduced many of history’s greatest minds. People who are hypomanic just feel like the best possible version of themselves – they feel alive, exhilarated, powerful and often more joyful than they’d ever believed possible. What I’d like to try to explain is the spectrum nature of bipolar disorder – that every person, whether classified as bipolar or not, has their own stress tolerance – and that neuroscience can now provide a highly probable explanation for the feelings of bliss, exhilaration and – occasionally – impulsivity that appear at the end of a training… and then disappear quite soon afterwards.

Because I'd like people who are unfamiliar with Bipolar Disorder to understand this post I'm going to explain this as simply as I can and go through the basics first:
Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as 'Manic Depression') is a mood disorder that affects about 2% of the population. It is characterised by extremes of mood that, by definition, 98% of people have not experienced before (other than – possibly - through the use of certain recreational drugs). This means that – by definition – if a “normal” person is pushed into a hypomanic state it will feel like nothing he’s ever felt before. While most people experience their greatest happiness at a level of e.g. +10 and their greatest sadness at -10, using the same scale people who are bipolar, when manic, experience an indescribable sense of euphoria and exhilaration that could be considered maybe +20 happiness. On the down side there is clinical depression where bipolar people feel sadness of maybe -20.

This is greatly simplified - in fact there are a number of types of bipolar disorder with various levels of 'happiness' and 'sadness'. It is important to understand the ‘spectrum’ nature of the illness in that you don’t get a blood test for it, but are diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist based upon observed symptoms. Being bipolar really just means that you are particularly vulnerable to triggers such as psychological stress, traumatic life events (break-up / divorce) or sleep deprivation. It just so happens that the criteria which one must meet to be called bipolar results in a grouping of 2% of the population – if the symptoms had to be relaxed slightly this percentage could be 10% and if relaxed further it could move to 50% and so on. Every person alive is vulnerable to sleep deprivation and psychological stress to some degree and a number of factors, both social and physiological contribute to stress tolerance and stress response. To name just two physiological factors, mood disorders have been linked to an exaggerated stress response via the HPA axis (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) and a 2000 study at The University of Michigan demonstrated that people who are Bipolar 1 have, on average, 31% more monoamine producing cells in certain parts of their brains (monoamines include the neurotransmitters DOPAMINE, serotonin and norepinephrine).

Bipolar 1 (which is what I am) experiences the highest highs (full mania) (+15 to +20) and the lowest lows (-15 to -20), Bipolar 2 experiences something called hypomania which is a milder form of mania (+11 to +15) and then the lowest lows (-15 to -20) and Cyclothymia is when someone has hypomania and mild depression. Within each of those forms you get people whose high periods last a few months, others whose last just a few days or weeks and some just a few hours. The last 'group' are known to be 'rapid cycling'. Some people have mixed episodes where they have symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. The point I'm making here is that there are as many forms of bipolar disorder as there are people who've been diagnosed with it and among those who haven't been diagnosed there are people who very close to that classification and people very far from it. Just like there is a normal distribution of 'height' among people there is also a normal distribution of 'mood stability', so while most men (I'm guessing a bit here) - maybe 80% of adults - fall between the height of 5"5 and 6"4 there will be a couple who are much taller and a couple who are much shorter. Likewise with mood you get 2% who are bipolar and 2% on the other end who are unbelievably "stable" (but probably seem like robots as nothing seems to affect them). The Bipolar 1 people are like the Shaquille O'Neals of the mood world and the Bipolar 2 people are more like Michael Jordan height-wise. 80% of people are "average height" and likewise 80% of people probably respond to extreme stress in a manageable way.

The reason that I very probably over-explain this is that the vast majority of people who do LGATs seemed to be pushed into a hypomanic state, while some appear to go manic (delusions and psychosis) and some are pushed into mild or severe depression. Let’s look at the symptoms of hypomania to see if you recognize any of them from either your own behavior or from someone else returning from an LGAT:
Hypomania Symptoms (one or more of the following):
• Euphoria (feelings of absolute bliss and exhilaration)
• Impulsive behaviour (spending sprees, sexual indiscretions / affairs, divorce, changing jobs, gambling sprees, risky business investments, reckless driving)
• Sense of enormous self-importance, self-confidence, life purpose
• Frequently increased religiosity / cosmic pre-occupation
• Mood inconsistent with situation / environment
• Increased energy / decreased need for sleep
• Increased motivation / goal directed behaviour
• Increased sociability (feeling comfortable in any social setting)
• Pressure to speak (very fast talking as if ideas are coming too quickly to verbalise)
• Increased creativity (many great artists, musicians were bipolar - Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Vincent Van Gogh, Kurt Cobain...)
The symptoms of mania are much the same, but much stronger. (By definition someone hypomanic can still function while someone manic needs to be medicated / hospitalized until he/she slows down.)
• Delusions of grandeur and psychosis are seen at the upper end of mania
• Suicide and clinical depression are seen at the low end of the mood spectrum
You would think that I made up those symptoms just to fit them in with LGAT symptoms, but check them out on any bipolar website - most will have the bulk of them and, with a basic grasp of how the brain works, you can understand why people behave like this.

I can attest to the fact that when I was manic I felt invincible - an enormous sense of wellbeing, of peace, of clarity (initially) and energy. I didn't sleep for over a week and managed on just an hour or two a night for the next six weeks. I quit my job, I gave all of my money away and I felt as though I'd been injected with something that said "YOU ARE AWESOME - YOU CAN DEAL WITH ANYTHING!!!!!" I felt absolutely no shame in telling people EXACTLY what I felt for them and, since I just felt love, the effects were generally positive. I felt as though I could do things that were (realistically) impossible. At the end of about two months whatever was causing the high ran out (NOTHING changed externally and my attitude or mindset hadn't changed). In 24 hours I went from on top of the world to feeling utterly useless and of no value. I felt as though I could not even do things that (realistically) were very simple. It's difficult to explain this but I felt as though I couldn't get up and cancel a cell phone contract for example. Things that were very basic seemed impossible and it felt as though nothing could work out right. That thing that was causing my high had dropped below even normal levels and had disappeared entirely. That thing is called DOPAMINE.

Bipolar Disorder is often explained using "The Dopamine Hypothesis for Bipolar Disorder" which basically says that high levels of dopamine in the brain cause mania and low levels cause depression. Dopamine, like Seratonin and Norepinephrine, are Monoamines, a group of neurotransmitters that allow cells in the brain to communicate with each other and they need to be in balance for your mood to be where it should be. These neurotransmitters are always present, helping you cope with day to day things, but when you are put in an extreme situation your body behaves in an extreme way.

To give you an idea of how these neurotransmitters impact mood, consider that most antidepressants function by increasing the amount of one (or more) of these monoamines in the synaptic cleft (which is the gap between the two brain cells communicating). An SSRI is a "Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitor" and a "SNRI is a Seratonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor". Quite recently drugs such as Wellbutrin have come out - these are thought to be Dopamine agonists (they increase dopamine levels). The point I'm trying to make is that there is clearly a chemical aspect to mood and to feelings of bliss, energy, confidence and sense of self-worth. Cocaine functions as a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, Amphetamines are also dopamine agonists and HDMA (or 'Ecstasy') flushes out the Seratonin reuptake transporters, causing the synaptic cleft to be flooded with Seratonin... hence the high.

Although seratonin and norepinephrine are certainly involved let's just focus on DOPAMINE for now. Dopamine is a precursor (or cousin) to Noradrenaline (also called "Norepinephrine") and Noradrenaline is a precursor to the more well-known ADRENALINE. Dopamine is just a neurotransmitter, Noradrenaline is a hormone AND a neurotransmitter and adrenaline is just a hormone - secreted by the Adrenal Gland. Most people are aware of the function of adrenaline - a physical threat appears, the Sympathetic Nervous System ("Fight or Flight" response) kicks in and adrenaline is released. As a result blood is diverted to your muscles, to your eyes and away from your skin, reproductive organs, immune system etc. This is an evolutionary response that allows us to deal with physically stressful situations.

What is not as well-known and, until quite recently, was not understood is the way that the body responds to a psychological threat. Top international neuroscientist, Dr. Gene Wallenstein, in his 2003 book "Mind, Stress and Emotions - The New Science of Mood" explains quite nicely what we now know about the response of the body to a PSYCHOLOGICAL THREAT (Of course in 1971 or earlier when LGATs stumbled upon their methods they had no clue of what was going on in participants' brains from a neuroscience perspective). Wallenstein explains that people process psychological stress using the HPA axis - the HYPOTHALAMUS in the brainstem interprets the stressor, it creates a substance called CRF which it sends to the PITUITARY Gland, the Pituitary Gland creates a substance called ACTH which it sends to the ADRENAL Gland and the Adrenal Gland starts pumping out cortisol. What they've now worked out is that cortisol impacts the monoamines (DOPAMINE, Seratonin, Noradrenaline) affecting their levels, so it was hypothesised that stress could increase DOPAMINE levels. The thinking behind this was that dopamine provides a person with all the tools to cope in a stressful situation, so from an evolutionary perspective it made sense. Dopamine gives a person confidence and allows them to feel like they can cope with anything, so if a person is overwhelmed then a small increase in dopamine can bring him back into balance (homeostasis = the state of equilibrium towards which the body continually strives.)

Going back to the link I saw between my LGAT (a derivative of est, Lifespring, Silva Mind Control and Actualisations) I noticed the following:
In 2003 - when I first went manic - it was following an EXTREMELY STRESSFUL period in my life where (correctly or incorrectly) my value and sense of self-worth were very much tied up in finding a high-paying job in my field. Because of the state of the market at the time (London 2002 / 2003) I couldn't get that job and I felt an enormous sense of inadequacy and guilt and failure as a person. (This was my first attempt to find a job after leaving university). This stress translated into poor sleeping patterns and, because I had to get up very early to get to work I slept less and less and became progressively more stressed. After eight months of enormous stress I was offered an unbelievable job out of the blue, when I least expected it. It felt as though all of my feelings of inadequacy and guilt were very abruptly removed and replaced with something hugely affirming - something which said "You made it! You're a success!" The next two days I was hypomanic and on the third day, after getting a few good nights' rest I went completely manic.

So, I've now spent a considerable amount of time comparing the LGAT that I went on to those described by other people - Landmark, est, PSI, Quest etc. and I've read everything that I can on these things from Cults in Our Midst to Combatting Cult Mind Control to thousands of pro and anti posts by people who've taken part in these trainings all over the world. While not identical, most LGATs follow the following basic process:

1. Spend the first 80% of the training convincing participants that they are worthless "assholes"
2. Put the participants through numerous exercises and create an environment where participants feel inadequate, highly stressed and guilty
3. Pepper the stress with relaxation techniques before inducing stress again
4. Push this to a climax (breaking point / "breakthrough")
5. Deprive participants of sleep and create mental exhaustion by giving few breaks, having very long hours and giving home work on top of this
6. Spend the last 20% of the training telling participants that they have "graduated" and that they are now wonderful. Lots of hugging, dancing, affirmation.
Having spent eight years studying up on (and living with) bipolar disorder I've come to understand both the academic and practical nature of things which trigger a manic episode and, sitting in that LGAT one year ago today (we finished on the Sunday night of the World Cup Final) I thought "I COULD NOT THINK OF A BETTER RECIPE FOR A MANIC EPISODE THAN WHAT I'VE SEEN TAKING PLACE IN THIS TRAINING." After looking into the behaviour of the vast majority of participants from these trainings on discussion forums and by looking at the promises made my LGATs on their sites, it was clear that the vast majority of people with "normal" mood regulation experience hypomanic symptoms - euphoria, sense of life purpose, occasionally impulsivity, inflated sense of self-worth etc. Those prone to mania may experience delusions of grandeur or psychosis and those who cannot cope with the stress may experience depression and, possibly, suicide.

Stress and sleep deprivation are two of the triggers for mania/hypomania that you'll find in any credible work on causes for bipolar disorder. These were two significant features of the training that I did and my disgust with the general manipulation taking place in these LGATs pushed me to research this further.

Since the writing of Mind, Stress and Emotions there have been three very interesting studies published in The Journal of Neuroscience (The Journal of Neuroscience is the weekly journal of The Society for Neuroscience, an organisation established in 1969, made up of over 40,000 physicians and scientists worldwide... so it is the most credible source of information on the brain and central nervous system around.) March 17 2004 an article was published based on a study performed at The McConnell Brain Imaging Center, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal Canada. Using PET scans the study concluded "THESE DATA SUGGEST THAT AVERSIVE STRESSFUL EVENTS CAN BE ASSOCIATED WITH MESOLIMBIC DOPAMINE RELEASE IN HUMANS." So, according to this study stress leads to dopamine release. It gets more interesting. On August 21 2008 an article was published based on a study performed by The National Institute on Drug Abuse - "JUST ONE NIGHT WITHOUT SLEEP CAN INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF THE CHEMICAL DOPAMINE IN THE HUMAN BRAIN." In Science Daily (25 March 2011), referring to the study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, a study performed at the University of California Berkeley (with assistance from an associate professor at Harvard), an article entitled "PULLING AN ALL-NIGHTER CAN BRING ON EUPHORIA AND RISKY BEHAVIOR". The reason, again, was through increased DOPAMINE (also measured using PET scans).

What these trainings are doing is simply creating stress and a sense of no self-worth while depriving people of sleep. By applying and removing stress the courses condition DOPAMINE production to remain at higher and higher levels (much like adrenaline kicks in quickly, but takes a while to calm down.) As the training ends the stressor is removed and replaced with affirmation - participants are now producing dopamine but are not using it and their synaptic clefts are flooded with dopamine, in much the same way as taking cocaine causes flooding of the synaptic cleft. Conveniently the follow up workshop is two days later - at this stage not only will most peoples' dopamine production still be up, but they will have had the chance to sleep and so the dopamine produced for staying awake will also flood the synaptic cleft. Excessive spending and generosity (who remembers either offering (or being offered) to pay for someone else's course - someone you'd met four days earlier?) are common symptoms of hypomania so for LGATs it's nice to get a group of people together - who are feeling a euphoria that they don't understand - and ask them to buy something. This is why you have to buy the next course NOW - the longer the delay, the greater the chance that the high (and impulsivity) will have worn off.


This is not rocket science – it is easy enough for any person to understand.

Speak to any psychologist or psychiatrist about their manic patients and ask them how difficult it is to convince them that they need to go back on medication and that their sense of well-being is just chemical. That state of euphoria is unbelievably seductive and it's conquered far more intelligent and introspective minds than my own. The first time it happened to me I had no idea what was going on and, even with all that I've read and all of the precautions I've taken, I know that I can still be tricked by it. What chance then does the average man on the street have when he's pushed into this hypomanic state, he feels better than he's ever felt in his life and he has some non-professional clown (who's established himself as the source of all knowledge in the room) telling him that this feeling is a result of their "technology"?

Their "technology" is stress, sleep deprivation, sudden removal of stress. It's that simple.


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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: July 13, 2011 09:35PM

A great post, Dopamine Link and very illuminating. The manic states that Tony Robbins et al work so hard to produce are lucidly explained here.
I had chronic, undiagnosed PTSD myself, well before it was recognised as PTSD, and the key for me was re-learning how to sleep, naturally and regularly, whether I felt like it or not. I had to go to someone and spend a long time learning this skill and dealing with all the crap that had prevented my doing this naturally.

No simple solutions there but understanding what is going on in these states does give one a framework to start ordering your life to manage them better.

Should be required reading. The LGAT leaders don't of course understand the minutiae, they don't have to, they just find out what works to make their customers vulnerable and push it to the limit---hence the casualties.

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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 13, 2011 11:23PM

For information about how we have discussed LGATs and disruption of circadian rhythms, read these citations. Many LGATs take place in rooms where the windows are closed, drapes pulled, no clocks to mark the passage of time. The human brain and body rely seeing sunlight and its changing patterns. These in turn affect the melatonin secretion.


Pay especially close attention to the article on manipulating the room environment. When that thread was started over 5 years ago, a staggering number of attempts were made to disrupt that thread discussion--a clue that it was a worthy subject for discussion and scrutiny.

Marya Hornbacher wrote a memoir entitled Madness. She has a particulary severe form of bipolar--rapid cycling bipolar 11. Tragically, it took years before she was given an accurate diagnosis.

I quoted some items from her book here



One of the many valuable things she mentions in this book is that the more manic episodes incurred by someone who has BAD, the more sensitized they become and the frequency of manic episodes increases, apparently by the CNS becoming 'kindled' and more easily triggered by stressors.

That is why early diagnosis of BAD and prompt adherance to medication and the needed lifestyle modifications is essential.

Hornbacher noted several things that trigger BAD and she ruefully listed them

Drink tons of caffiene

Live a high stress life

Stay up late and dont sleep

Use alcohol and street drugs

Refuse to follow the advice of your prescribing psychiatrist

The other thing described by Hornbacher is the way she went on spending sprees when manic.

Small wonder that profit minded persons might WANT folks to go're so much more likely to blow your money.

Two persons with BAD told me that one not only needs at least 7 to 8 hours of high quality sleep each night, but that it is important to get up at dawn, rather than force onself to get up in the dark predawn hours. Even with sufficent sleep getting up in the dark may be enough to destabilize someone with BAD. It is a medical psychiatric condition intimately tied to the dark and light cycles of natural sunshine.

being binned up in a seminar room without windows, all access to natural sunshine blocked, and time distorted by removal of clocks, plus sleeplessness and stress would be nasty for someone with BAD.

And some of these workshops are held several time zones away from where a person lives. Travelling rapidly through time zones can be enough to destablize someone with BAD.

Hornbacher wrote that one of her worst episodes was triggered by taking a plane flight from the US to London for a book tour. She was under additional stress because, just before departing to the UK, a close and beloved relative of hers had died.

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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 13, 2011 11:38PM

Another way to find material.

Stoic mentioned casino architecture

Select the all dates option. Put casino architecture into the search slot for this message board and see what you get.

Search it on Google.

Reportedly some LGATS will even oil hinges in doors and tape down locks to eliminate distracting squeaks and squeals.

All this said, the best way to identify an LGAT and avoid it is see whether they make you sign release of liability paperwork as a condition of participation--paperwork in which you sign away your citizen right to sue or mediate for damages in event that you are harmed.


If they want you to sign that kind of paperwork RUN, RUN, RUN

Finally, anyone sitting here thinking 'Oh this stuff about the room set up is so interesting, I want to go and demonstrate that I am strong enough to withstand the effects'--- the LGATs are counting on exactly this attitude in you.

The stuff described here zaps parts of the body and nervous system that are ancient, primative and that cannot be changed or accessed by the neocortex.

You cannot think your way out of this stuff, just as you cannot use a high IQ to overcome poisonous levels of a toxic chemical.

IF you see the release of liablity paperwork, thats a tip off that its an LGAT and run the other way. Period.

If they want you to sign forms that resemble these, its hypocritical.

These entities tell us to take responsibility for our lives, but they refuse to take responsilbity for the impact their techniques might have on subjects.

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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: Dopamine Link ()
Date: July 14, 2011 06:54PM

Thanks for the feedback. I'll check out those other posts as soon as I can.

From what I can tell, none of these LGATs know exactly how they cause their highs. A little bit like someone without medical qualifications finding penicillin, seeing that it works and handing it out to everyone. Some people may be allergic and die, but since they have no actual understanding of how it works and how to screen people for it, they keeping selling it to line their pockets.

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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: Dopamine Link ()
Date: July 14, 2011 07:09PM

Hi Stoic

From my comparativelylimited understanding of PTSD, dopamine dysfunction plays a fairly significant role, so it seems to follow that LGATs (due to their impact on dopamine) would have their fair share of PTSD casualties.

Very true that as soon as you can understand what's causing the problem (as opposed to "rackets") it becomes more easy to deal with.

Hope you're back on track.


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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: Dopamine Link ()
Date: July 19, 2011 06:26PM

Some may look at the above post and say "So what?" Well iif someone is deliberately pushing you into a state that is associated with mental illness then that is a concern. More importantly, however, there is a "one size fits all" approach applied in an environment that is not regulated in any way. In order for this to be RELATIVELY safe those running the trainings would require insights into each of the participants that no amount of professional assessment could provide. Variables such as HPA stress response, monoamine producing cells and other physical assessmments would only start to give an idea of the physiological make up of a potential participant. Then they would need to understand how each person interprets stressful events. Different people view different things as stressful and there's no way they could ascertain this, even if they acknowledged the psychological assessments which would be necessary.

Very often the only difference between someone with a mood disoder and someone without is the presence of a significant stressor, so "I haven't had any significant problems before" is no reason to feel safe. The courses create EXTREME conditions and can push certain people past breaking point.

There has to be some degree of social responsibility with buying anything. If you buy clothes from a company that exploits its workers or buy stolen goods then you are contributing to the suffering of other people. Until there is a safe way to screen people for these courses (a disclaimer does not count) then participating is contributing to the suffering of other people. Being accountable means being responsible for the impact of your actions.

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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: lordmayor ()
Date: July 23, 2011 08:19PM

Hello DL –
What you say – and say very well and courageously –makes complete sense to me. I’ve never participated in an LGAT – but I have been a target of concerted recruitment by a friend of mine who is a Landmark Graduate.
I too suffer from bipolar – not as bad as you, mainly of the cyclothymic variety but have had a couple of episodes of Bipolar 2 going on Bipolar 1. So I know the symptoms and something of how it feels from the inside.
My Landmark friend does not suffer from bi-polar disorder. However, when I had my two initial ‘enrolment conversations’ with them – they rang me from the course after they’d made breakthroughs with their immediate family –they seemed very hypomanic to me exhibiting several of the symptoms you list in your first email. I could give many examples – but suffice to say that the encouragement by Landmark at that time of Utopian fantasies about bringing about world peace by 2020 (because by then everyone will have dome the Landmark Course) hadn’t helped ground a ne w found sense of life purpose.
If my friend who is not bipolar started displaying symptoms of hypomania during an LGAT course it stands to reason to me that someone who ordinarily suffers from bipolar is at great risk from participating in LGAT training.
Final note – for all LGAT watchers - there is a counsellor/coach named Lynne E. Sheridan (URL – who has put her MA in Counselling Psychology thesis from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, CA (where?) on her website. Lynne Sheridan is involved in World Works and MexWorks training (spinoffs of Lifespring, I understand which, in turn, is a spinoff of est/Landmark), Her thesis is an apologia for LGAT training. It seems to have the slippery quality of a lot of LGAT publicity – specifically in that although her thesis is based in her experience and view of World Works and MexWorks rather than all LGATs -something she acknowledges – she still is generalising from two instances to cover all/most LGATs with her ‘arguments’ throughout.
I draw this to your attention because in her personal note at the beginning of her thesis she speaks about witnessing the benefits of LGATs to people who have been labelled with, w among other things, Anxiety Disorders, Bi-Polar and Depression and to people suffering from Aspergers syndrome. This all seems very irresponsible.
All the best –

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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 23, 2011 11:20PM

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Re: Linking LGATs and Bipolar Disorder through DOPAMINE
Posted by: Dopamine Link ()
Date: July 24, 2011 06:45PM

Hi Lordmayor

With regards to your comment on this psychologist, I have a few thoughts on authority figures and how people, according to much scientific analysis, often cede decision-making to authority figures.

Firstly I'm glad that you could identify with what I was saying and hopefully it ensures that you don't risk your health by putting yourself through one of these courses. I've read a disclaimer (I think it was Landmark's) which acknowledges that people with a history of mental illness such as bipolar disorder should not take part, so it's counter-intuitive that your friend is pushing you (you should point this out to him the next time he asks you to attend a workshop). With regards to psychologists, I think that it should be made clear that - while they have studied up on bipolar disorder - they do not necessarily specialise in it or even take a special interest in it. They may be drawn more towards substance abuse or relationship problems and understanding of the illness is still fairly limited even among the experts. I try to keep abreast of relevant new studies and papers on the illness and, while new things are being discovered all of the time, it often takes a while for these things to filter through to universities and practitioners.

I also know of a few psychologists who send their patients to LGATs and their authority status carries much weight with often clueless (with regards to mental health) patients. The less a person knows about a given subject (or the less confidence a person has about their knowledge of a particular subject) the greater the authority position of the person claiming knowledge. In the case of a psychologist / patient relationship, the very fact that a person is seeing a psychologist indicates that they believe that an “expert” has knowledge and understanding that they do not have. Sadly this means that an enthusiastic thumbs up from a therapist will cause most patients to not only take part, but to push through even if the course feels incredibly abusive.

Milgram’s Experiment on obedience (Derren Brown performed this early 1970’s experiment more recently – I think you can find it on youtube) demonstrates how the vast majority of people will follow the instructions of an authority figure, even if the instructions go against their own values. More relevant to the topic of LGATs is informational social influence, which is also heavily linked to the concept of authority figures. This describes how people, when placed in an unfamiliar environment where there is ambiguity and pressure to make quick decisions, will often cede decision-making to someone else – someone who they believe probably knows the answer. LGATs force people into an environment where there is a great deal of uncertainty – instructions are always intentionally vague and it’s critical to make decisions quickly. Because everyone agrees to rules right at the start it’s very difficult to question what’s happening and, through silence, there is implied agreement as a group. Although people may feel hesitant and uncertain at first, they cede decision-making to someone they assume more capable (either the group or the guru). Unlike normative social influence (which is essentially “peer pressure” as we traditionally see it – doing something, even though you may think it’s stupid or nasty, because it will make you feel accepted by the group), informational social influence occurs when you don’t really know whether the thing you’re doing is right or not.

Because you are uncertain you follow the lead of someone else and the more you value the authority status of the person you’re following, the more likely it is that internal agreement will take place. It’s crucial to note that people often reach internal agreement without fully understanding the logic behind the thing they’re agreeing to. A simple example would be taking a firm view that the new BMW M3 is the best car in its class, based on the collective agreement of all of Top Gear’s presenters. They may have established themselves as authority figures and the fact that their opinions can massively swing sales for or against certain cars is evidence of this informational social influence. You may have never driven the new BMW M3 or any of the other cars in its class (you may not even know what ‘class’ it is in or what ‘class’ really means) but you may still be certain that it is the best in its class.

Moving back to LGATs it would appear that – through the use of exercises and an environment that creates stress – the guru is able to destabilize your own self-value. He tells you you’re “an asshole” (Mark Brewer wrote a great article about est in 1975 where calling people “assholes” was common and 40 years later in my LGAT they were still doing it) and that your thinking has caused all of the problems in the world. He’s surprisingly convincing about this and this is a lot for an ego to take – over the next 3 or 4 days he mocks you, ridicules you, patronises you and in that room he convinces you that you are worth very little and that you know nothing. I’m sure you can see where this is going from an “authority status” perspective, but I’ll spell it out. By adopting an exceedingly authoritative tone, speaking very knowingly and with great confidence and force the guru builds himself up (in that very controlled environment) to be something of a god. (In our course they actually did use biblical symbolism and the guru constantly hinted at omniscience, telling us he knew us better than we knew ourselves.)

It has been established time and time again through experiments in social psychology that authority figures can get people to do and believe things that reflection would insist were not particularly wise. By crushing the egos of participants for the first couple of days of the course, while simultaneously boosting his own value the ultimate authority gap is created – and the ultimate tool for manipulation.

I don’t believe that there are that many unethical psychologists and psychiatrists out there, knowingly supporting harmful LGATs. I think that they’re just human, equally looking for purpose and meaning in their lives and have been psychologically ambushed due to their own human vulnerabilities. Mental health professionals are probably targeted as they offer some credibility to what amounts to the psychological equivalent of the choking game. As Margaret Singer’s interviews with thousands of ex-cult members and Steven Hassan’s time recruiting for The Moonies has shown them – ANYONE can be taken in by these master manipulators. Whether you’re converted or not says far less about you than it does about the skill of the manipulator – mental health professionals are equally at risk.

I’m not sure if that was of any use to you, but it's just something I’ve been thinking about.


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