PSI Seminars and what Happened to me...
Date: September 29, 2007 10:52AM
PSI Seminars employs a well-tested and highly refined formula to get your money. Their methodology is neither proprietary nor unique, and is described in any scholarly work about cult dynamics.
What follows here is a below-the-surface interpretation of what happens during a weekend PSI. This will not be obvious to most participants because the language used at the PSI is carefully designed to conceal and distract.
Recruitment is via invitation from a trusted friend, so you start out with a very open mind. This is much more effective than seeing an ad in the newspaper. In fact, PSI Seminars does not buy advertising--instead they rely on the free yet powerful word-of-mouth advertising from their members.
PSI speakers are charismatic, that is, they are very good at being persuasive. They appear believable, trustworthy, caring, intelligent, and worthy of admiration. They are well-paid, highly trained professionals, selected for their speaking abilities. These are the only paid employees you'll see at PSI.
The member-volunteers you meet, including the friend who brought you, are sincere in their belief that PSI Seminars is good for you. They have been convinced themselves, and are being strongly encouraged to convince others. In fact, PSI Seminars assigns them recruitment homework, as spreading the word is an integral part of their growth as a member. They are encouraged to take PSI Seminars as far as possible by attending course after course, each costing hundreds, even thousands of dollars. At these meetings, members are trained how to recruit.
PSI Seminars preys on people with low self esteem or who are somewhat depressed or dissatisfied--in other words, the majority of the population. People are looking for answers and PSI Seminars claims to have all of them. They begin with what I call the "christmas present."
The Christmas Present
Imagine seeing a box under the Christmas tree. It's very nicely wrapped, undoubtedly placed there by someone who cares about you. It's a very large box and has a note saying "Something very special, just for you." You can only guess what's inside, but you know it's got to be something very special indeed. You can't wait to unwrap it because you know it will make you happy.
This is how PSI Seminars gets you interested--by telling you it has something you want without actually giving you a single detail about what it is. Consider the name, "PSI Seminars." What does it mean? Absolutely nothing. Unless your like the name the “Piss and Shit Institute.” This was also true of their previous name, "Est," and of the Landmark offshoot "Scientology," which offers you the wonders of "Dianetics."
PSI Seminars is an empty box to be filled with treasures that only your imagination can provide. This is a popular advertising technique. Think of that car commercial where you get only tantalizing glimpses of the "stunningly redesigned" product. You get no specific details, only a vague framework upon which to place your wildest dreams of what you want the product to be. It makes you want it even before you really know what it is. That's how PSI hooks you. Their members are told they must not reveal any information to outsiders about what actually goes on in the meetings because that will somehow ruin their benefit. In truth it would just undermine PSI’s recruitment strategy.
Breaking you down
Once you're hooked into attending your first PSI, the psychological work begins in earnest. This is where PSI Seminars borrows heavily from successful cult operations--operations that have been powerful enough to lead people to take their own lives in the name of the cult, like Heaven's Gate. Of course PSI has no interest in mass suicide--they want hordes of live, happy, paying customers. Remember, PSI’s sole purpose is to collect money.
The first thing PSI needs to do is kill your own opinions, your own ideas, your own independent thoughts. They'll ask "who are you being" and tell you that you are being a bad person. Your ideas are your "stories" which you need to "let go" of. Your opinions are your "racket" that you use to justify everything you do. If you question anything presented in the meetings, that's your racket, your story, a result of you being a closed-minded person, a person who just won't let go.
And PSI Seminars will provide the physical and emotional stress that facilitates "letting go."
Your weekend PSI Basic is four consecutive full days plus an extra evening. The schedule is 3 p.m. to midnight each day. No food is provided. Breaks are three hours apart, and you are told that if you take an unscheduled break--even for the restroom--you will ruin the experience and not get the benefit for which you have paid. The idea is to create physical and mental discomfort by exposing you to marathon sessions. Such a schedule inhibits critical thinking and impairs mental alertness (true adult education professionals recommend breaks at least every 50 minutes to keep participants alert and learning).
When you finally get home you are exhausted, it's after midnight, and yet you have a homework assignment (usually some sort of writing). And you have to be finished and back in session early the next morning. There is little time for sleep. Sleep deprivation is a common technique that cult leaders use to make people's minds malleable and highly open to suggestion. Prisoners of war are routinely subjected to sleep deprivation in the hopes they will reveal secrets to their captors.
Another borrowed technique is public humiliation. You'll be coaxed into getting up in front of the entire group of 150 people to spill your guts, revealing your deepest and most embarrassing secrets. This often reduces people to tearful sobbing, which is amplified by loudspeakers. Again, if you don't do it you're sabotaging your benefit. This activity is designed to break whatever self esteem you have left and leave you desperate for something to depend on.
And that something is PSI Seminars. Exhausted, feeling worthless and helpless, having "let go" of your individuality (but also hopeful for rescue), a charismatic speaker tells you there is an answer, that PSI Seminars "technology" can give you the power to make yourself strong again, to make you feel good again. You've already been told that the life you've been living is unworthy, hopeless, and born of ignorance, "rackets," and "stories." You've even been convinced that your family, friends, and lovers are also ignorant and suffering from not knowing the benefit of PSI Seminars. You'll believe almost anything at this point, and you'll be ready to submit yourself to the particular brand of pack mentality that PSI Seminars offers.
You are ready, in PSI speak, to have a "breakthrough."
They don't have to convince you to go out and kill yourself--there's no need to go that far. All they have to do is convince you there's a reasonable likelihood that PSI Seminars, through its special technology that no one else has, can fix you. And on the final graduation evening you'll have your poor ignorant friends and relatives along so that PSI Seminars can offer to fix them too. And of course you'll need to spend another $3000.00 or so for your next "advanced" course. Then another $4000.00 for the leadership course.
The only way PSI Seminars can keep you paying is to keep you in the dark about what PSI really is. So in a very clever twist, PSI’s mysterious technology, the one you use to make yourself happy, is centered around denying reality --pretending things are something they are not. Now here's the twist: the fantasy that PSI Seminars helps you construct includes PSI Seminars membership itself as its basis. Once you have become dependent on the fantasy, you will go into debt, if necessary, attending courses and giving up your time as an unpaid "volunteer." A volunteer taking notes in the back of the room. All this because without PSI Seminars, the unthinkable could happen: your fantasy would collapse, and you would feel the way did during those first marathon sessions.
Building the fantasy
With PSI's help, you can look at a bad situation and through a fairly simple exercise draw conclusions about it that make you feel good. You use the power of creative interpretation to infer positive outcomes. Essentially you make up your own reality by selectively ignoring the facts in front of you. Got a bad performance review at work? Well forget about that—your negative reaction to it is just a "story" anyway—and remember the time last year when your boss said "Good work." Problem solved! (or to put it more clearly, Problem ignored!)
At PSI Seminars you have hundreds of peers telling you it's perfectly ok to think this way, that it's ok to automatically assume, for example, that it's your partner's problems, not yours, that's causing strife in your relationship. Why face problems if you can simply decide they don't exist? Better yet why not just leave the relationship; it doesn’t exist anyway, Right?
Brainwashing, or mind control, or voodoo; just very effective advertising. PSI Seminars uses well-tested psychological techniques that take advantage of natural weaknesses in human personalities. Advertisers do it all the time with ads carefully designed to appeal to your most basic emotions--sex, power, fear, etc.--those that reside below the threshold of critical thinking. PSI Seminars does it in a more interactive, much more powerful way: they imprison you in a room, convince you that critical thinking is bad, and then, appealing to your emotions, pound their message into you.
And their message is this: Keep giving us your money and you'll be happy.