PSI Seminars, the happy, happy, joy, joy cult.
I was going some research on my favorite subject PSI Seminars and found this on a blog on MySpace after I did a search on LGAT's. This was an interesting read so I decided to post it here. I changed the names to protect the innocent (or guility). He also had a posted pasted here from PSI Survivor's original post and her experience. I deleted it from here to save tme and space.
"PSI cho therapy or, my life with the happy happy joy joy cult
It's time for another edition of 'exploring cult dynamics!' with your host, Mr. xxx xxxx. In previous editions we've tackled hardcore Xtinity and the "Masterpath," moderately exploring common brainwashing techniques & groupthink rhetoric, using examples culled from the real-life situations of those that have to deal with indoctrinated family members, friends etc. Today, our host will recount his own experiences in and around the fringes of a New Age empowerment / 'life transformation' group called P.S.I. (People Synergistically Involved).
Case history: Spring 1997
During the time I became involved with P.S.I. I was living in CO., attending classes at College. After a brief stint of heavy partying in my late teens, I'd settled down into a routine of 'personal growth', which for me entailed studying eastern philosophy, daily routines of Yoga and Tai Chi, and practicing my writing. The College itself was profoundly uninvolving, scholastically: it was set up as a rich kid's 'playschool' where east-coast trustfundies could taste Colorado powder while earning basic credits. The staff at the school ranged from atrocious to "intellectually demanding;" one teacher in particular had a 'hardcore' class that forced potential graduates to construct a by-the-book thesis paper. Given how much time this would take out of the usual routines of bong-toking, heavy drinking, casual sex and snowboarding, this relatively moderate college requirement not only gives telling example of the curriculum and the overall attitude of education, it ended up flunking a good portion of the dissipated trusties as well – not that it mattered. Most of these kids came from mild to extremely wealthy backgrounds; some would receive allowances of up to $500 a week. In other words, they were on the golden road and consequently spent fortunes on maintaining the party-life and in having the latest toys in the brightest colors. Perhaps I have already digressed, but I suppose establishing environment is important to what follows.
In the spring of 1997 I began a job cleaning up the college dormitories. One of my workmates was a man I will call "DB", whom I met near the beginning of the year; he had struck me as a pompous asshole with more money and testosterone than brains and afterward I associated with him as little as possible – not a difficult trick, as by his own admission he spent 165 days snowboarding that year. However, something had changed with DB – the unpleasant aspects of his personality had been replaced by a far more genial presence; he appeared calm and happy and he continually raved about 'this seminar' that had changed his life immeasurably for the better. Quite naturally, he was trying to enroll as many people as possible into the program. The information he did reveal (as much of it was cloaked in secrecy so as not to 'ruin the experience) seemed tantalizing enough, and I assumed that this was a sort of higher-training platform for the various philosophies and paradigms I'd spent the last two or so years studying. The real proof in the pudding, for me, was how drastically changed this individual had become, almost overnight going from someone I'd not want to spend an hour with to a good friend and associate.
D.B. had me attend a "coffee", an informal meeting about P.S.I. attended by graduates with the intention of recruiting new people. By this time I'd already made up my mind to attend – though the cost was around $475, years of Yoga & assorted aesthete programming had given me a very low 'value' on the concept of money; it was energy to be used, not obsessed over, and the promise of a full refund (minus a $50 'processing' fee) if one was not satisfied with the experience – well, what did I have to lose?
The coffee was held at the manor of local funeral-home magnet xxxx xxxxxx, later to head the P.S.I. organization's branch in Denver. I saw a change in xxxx as well – DB dated his daughter and I'd visited the house one time pre-P.S.I.; the man who had struck me as a fairly lethargic middle-class shell had been transformed into a sparkling-eyed, uberconfident powerhouse. "Well, this can't be all that bad," I mused, "and I can always get my money back…"
DB had a hard time convincing other people to sign up, however. Many people shied away from its cult-like demeanor, despite DB's protestations to the contrary; his exuberance and pushiness alienated some, while others viewed the entire affair as suspicious: "cult! Cult!" I remember one of my myspace friends whispering subversively at the coffee DB had pressured him to attend.
SO – I forked over the money and a couple weeks later left for Denver with DB, the Xxxxxx family and another recruit (the same fellow that would eventually abandon me in the middle of Ashville during a road trip) for the four day P.S.I. Basic.
For a complete breakdown of what typically occurs at these life-training seminars, click here:
In essence, P.S.I. "it" is a mishmash of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy with a 'break them down and build them up' format, designed to expose people to the individual programs childhood and young adulthood have installed. Using mind-control techniques designed to bring people in a highly suggestible state, P.S.I. serves as an therapy arena where people can touch into their 'inner self' to confront negative / debilitating programming, all augmented by interactive exercises, meditation-breaks and games.
The emphasis of P.S.I. is win-win, subverting (or, in many cases, suppressing) the competitive survival-streak endemic in all humans, and in positive affirmation, i.e. training the mind towards a 'half-full' paradigm, trying to view situations 'outside the box,' applied rhetoric and mantra techniques ("PSIspeak", my own invention), and many other standards of the self-help industry, including emphasis on accountability & integrity, knowing and going for 'what you want', etc. The biggest slogan of all was "To think is to Create" via Napolean Hill's Think and Grow Rich. "You create your own reality" was a big one too – in that, the subjective programs tended to control the way a person communicates, does business, etc.; I prefer Wilbur's "We co-create our own reality", as this both emphasizes the narcissistic control-room of the noggin yet allows for chaos and chance outside the dominant sphere of groupthink/selfthink. Alas P.S.I. does not make the distinction and I've ever found myself amused / exasperated by people (particularly of New Age bent) who use it to confirm their nebulous conceptions on how everything 'works.'
Again, I've veered off track. As for the seminar: I felt as if I was on an emotional roller-coaster for those four days, and I left feeling refreshed, goal-oriented and extremely positive in my feelings about P.S.I. and life in general. Although I was already aware of some of the conceptions presented, others were new and the whole thing operated in a precise framework designed to maximize these ideas in a highly-suggestible state. I was, like most, mildly brainwashed into this 'new thing' that needed to 'take the world by storm' yadda yadda. Despite my acolyte status, however, I began to notice certain elements that, though I couldn't quite put my finger on it, were vaguely disturbing.
The hard-push to get people to sign up for the next weeklong course composed most of the training for the fourth day, when people had already gone deepest in 'their shit' (the 'Red / Black' game and assorted trauma-release exercises) and then gone through several trust / groupshare activities with the facilitator. The line from P.S.I. was that the Basic was just the basics; in order to get the full training (emphasized on self-training), one had to go to P.S.I. – 7 – a $3000 course, hosted in the Clearwater Lakes area north of San Francisco. The push to do the continuing courses was fairly tremendous; I remember seeing people rushing en mass to the sign-up booths to get a moderate discount on the higher level seminars. $3000 was quite a bit out of my range, but the seduction of 'The Ranch' had me firmly – here I could find out the real techniques of power and self-mastery, I thought; it seemed a natural step forward on becoming a more complete and happy person. I had been given tools to attain emotional intelligence.
The facilitators made suggestions for people uncertain about P.S.I. -7, going as far as to encourage "putting it on the Credit Card" or asking support money from people you knew or P.S.I. graduates. I had met a fair amount of the successful businessmen who were staffing the event; when I asked them ( a 'risk' for me) the answer was a kindly 'no'; when I asked xxxx xxxxxx, he laughed and asked me to propose a payment plan. While I understood that money-is-money and those with it have to be especially careful of those who want to take it, this reaction struck me as a bit at-odds will all P.S.I. had taught me – "giver's gain" – no one wanted to give to me, so I had to do it myself. Thus I worked that summer at the local grocery store, living in a one-bedroom apartment with three other people (including DB), and by the end of August I had $3000 saved. When I handed this to xxxx xxxxxx he made a joke about the money 'disappearing', which I suppose was his humorous reaction to someone who dealt in cash but at the time stuck a needle into my skeptic's core. Whatever, I thought. I'd paid my dues, on my own wage. Let the learning begin!
In order to attend the Ranch I had to fly out to San Fran (on my own dime, natch) and from there was bussed up into Marin County. I suppose a little insight into the history of P.S.I. is necessary. As the legend goes, Andrew Carnagie instructed a man to find 'the secrets of wealth and happiness' and to write a book about it; this man, Napoleon Hill, studied for twenty years and came up with ye classic Think and Grow Rich. Hill instructed several students, who in turn began to teach it to corporations and individuals – creating 'large group awareness training' or LGATs, which went under the name of Lifework, Landmark, P.S.T, est. Here's another (negative, mind you) mini-summery:
"PSI was founded by Thomas and Jane Willhite in 1973. They copied Mind Dynamics, a seminar founded by Alexander Everett from England
Graduates from the same class founded other LGAT's - est, Lifespring, Lifestream, Context Trainings and others. In addition to the break 'em down, built them back up brainwash, the LGAT's do use their own customized version of personality and character ethics which have been evolving over centuries and no literate person should feel compelled to shell out $4k to learn stuff they can get from a good personal growth book such as Covey's "7 Habits of Highly effective People"
PSI - everything is geared to selling more courses and getting friends and families sucked in, ruining many a relationship and career in the process.
The LGAT's will do anything and everything to make a buck - the facilitators will advise people to quit their job or a relationship just to get them into a seminar (and collect a commission). The dangerous thing is that the PSI facilitators practice psychiatry and relationship counseling without license. They turn their subjects into unpaid sales staff of their seminars and "make people deployable without their consent (that's the reason why Margaret Singer, clinical psychologist from UC Berkeley calls the LGAT's CULTS and that would then be the definition you may want to remember
They coerce you into buying their seminars at times when you are most suggestible, vulnerable and emotional. Some of their staff prey on people in the above situations
They use deceptive tactics to sell their seminars. People have experienced emotional and physical breakdowns; suicide attempts and psychotic episodes following poorly run LGAT sessions. That's what I have a problem with.
Willhite died in the late 80's from an airplane crash and the ranch he bought at Clearwater Oaks became the central arena for P.S.I. work, continued by his widow Jane Willhite. It should be mentioned that there is an aura of 'mystery' surrounding the higher levels of training, with certain symbolic distinctions, the biggest being that of the eagle – as the eagle 'never gives up' and will dive for a fish one hundred times (etc) – and those who have completed the $4000 MLS /WLS (men / women's leadership seminars, which comes after PSI-7) receive a gold ring with an eagle's head as a mark of their education. Also, while at the Ranch one can see 'the house' where Jane Willhite lives upon a high ridge and I remember a staff member recounting how she was invited to visit... anyway, the seven-day course was fairly intensive, with a day devoted to ropes-course activities, but my overall impression was fatally marred when, later into the week, one of the facilitators asked "what are you doing here? You have the tools (e.g. the Basic) to control your life" – I found that profound in the sense that it seemed as if I wasn't learning anything really beyond from what I'd initially invested; P.S.I.-7, the 'necessary' course, seemed like a rehash when it was all said and done. $3000 can motivate a lot of justification, and in some ways I still feel the experience was worth it – I met and exchanged information with a number of interesting individuals, had the opportunity (as with the Basic) to have my own "poor-me" bullshit contrasted by people who had truly suffered greatly in their time (Child abuse victims etc) and were getting an enormous amount of catharsis from PSI's techniques. Also, I was recruited to raise $3000 dollars in the course of the week so our class (#300) could have an eagle-plaque on the Ranch's 'wall of fame'. I, who had money programs to begin with and hadn't managed to raise any money for this education from graduates, managed to succeed in this task ("suggested" by another and quickly assumed by all to be on my shoulders). True, I was working in an environment of high suggestibility – using P.S.I.'s business tactics to benefit P.S.I. and, by extension, the 60-odd people in my class – but this 'breakthrough' I count as valuable in the long run, if nothing else than as an interesting examination on how people can be influenced to reach for the checkbook.
It should be noted that, at that time, I had no conception that P.S.I. was only one of many life-training courses. Willhite's origins were given a nice sheen (Hill was mentioned) but an aura of secrecy and an emphasis on the founder's own books etc. gave the impression that P.S.I. was something new, unique, and valuable for the human race (the only truth being in the very last category)—and hey, wouldn't it be great if everyone knew this stuff? Your family and friends and work acquaintances? The recruiting had even been given its own training course, P.L.D, where for 90 days one paid $345 to be called three-four times a day and counseled on goals, the biggest goal of all being enrollment of family, friends and anyone else.
This pushiness, combined with a relatively disappointing P.S.I-7 experience (the ropes-course stands out most prominently in my mind, 10 years later, as I managed somewhat to overcome the vertigo-program of my father & confront my fear of heights) – began to increase my ambivalent stance on P.S.I. Certainly the core curriculum they taught was invaluable (I fumed about why some of these simple ideas were not taught in public education), but all organizations are subject to the interior programming’s of man himself; even P.S.I., as I'd later come to discover, struggled with maintaining its own course of ethics among its facilitators.
The PSIspeak began to get on my nerves with increasing contact with graduates who used it to either a) defend their core conceptions of the world, b) give an arbitrary 'sheen' to the horrors of the world (often condescendingly: example: "so your stepfather f*cked you in the *ss for five years? Well, what are you going to do about it now?") or b) as a method of manipulation – the hierarchy scheme of the various seminars, the emphasis on enrolling and the encouragement that those 'who had not done the training' were somewhat less-evolved (and only needed to go through the Basic to reach 'our level' – note: this was discouraged in rhetoric but exploited in practice); the 'rules' by which facilitators could easily employ PSIspeak to chastise and control participants (I engaged in a debate with one facilitator which ended up with her repeatedly telling me "I had to work on my issues" with the matter, rather embarrassing when a hundred other people are watching).
Yadda yadda… All in all, I enjoyed my time with the happy happy joy joy cult (I take this from one of their exercises, where people jump up and down while exclaiming "I'm excited!" or "I'm happy!" to spark physical enthusiasm and energy) and I did learn a lot However, P.S.I. – like Yoga, Carlos Castenada, Socrates, Nietzsche and any other number of 'paradigm-shift' material – eventually began yet another stepping-stone on the long staircase of my education. The $4000 for the next seminar didn't seem worth the investment, to me; I knew what made me happy (writing, hiking and philosophizing) and, moreover, I had a direct conflict with one of the biggest PSIspeak techniques: think positive. This, like in all cult-like organizations, became the rule of the word; people got on your back for daring negative contemplation. While it is true that peak performance is best initiated with positive reinforcement and that negativity is the sabotaging mechanism, to just conform to a 'positive mindset' reduced and dissipated the very prominent and important issues at large for the human race; it was, in essence, a gate of denial. "Oh, you're thinking negatively about this? Well, that's your subjective experience and you're going to bring the project down and everyone else too" – regardless of concepts like common sense and critical analysis. The more extreme aspect of this can be found in my past musings on 'The Masterpath', and the danger is in this: empowerment is fine and dandy, but four days of seminar are not going to 'fix' anything and maintaining a 'be here now' mentality effectively suppresses many negative stress-points that often should be addressed. I'm of the opinion now that those who confront abuse issues during a Basic would be better off spending the $3000 on professional therapy rather than blow it on a glorified / mystified basic extension. Moreover, empowering certain individuals in this manner can be very destructive; PSI does impart, for some that take the course, an underlying arrogance of assumption and rhetoric-justification, ignorance given platform.
A few months ago I postulated to my friend and my mother that "we're really just evolved beasts", trying to explain through the New Age bubble that refuses to account for our violent, savage past of scramble, scorn and surpass. Everything "is perfect" from a higher stance, people contract into their sufferings, etc. etc. Although this is somewhat effective for whitewashing the very basic concepts of cruelty, stupidity and perversion (giving it all meaning), it certainly isn't a "perfect" formula no matter what syntax is applied to construct a mental realm of belief. Even those with extended training are still like every other person: trained in a certain way to process and filter reality, weighted by doubts, media-influenced temptations and confusion. Corruptions can exist under the 'best' intentions, including those who espouse these best intentions.
Jump forward to eight years later. I'm buying a sandwich at the local Subway when an old high school acquaintance enters. We chat for a bit and eat together; he mentions "P.S.I." and how he looked my name up on a list of 'area graduates'. It seems this person has just completed the MLS seminar and is working to create a "Pagosa P.S.I." He asks me to attend the upcoming meeting. I cautiously agree, remembering keenly the positive and negatives of my own personal experience. I attend one meeting. I see both the good and bad of PSI in those few hours; I hear the life-stories of the participants, and contribute in turn; but afterward I felt little desire to return – P.S.I seemed a long ways back on the 'staircase'; moreover I knew the propagation techniques that P.S.I preach and demand would soon be snaking out time-consuming tentacles around my form. Engaged as I was in my private studies and artistic commitments (then DJ work / production and some writing), I felt I didn't have the time to commit the "100%" they were demanding, a suspicion made clear when, after much pressure and repeated calls, I attended another meeting where they formed a 'mastermind' with the intention of creating a Pagosa basic. Here I realized by lack of desire to commit that 100%; moreover I felt disgust at the draconian techniques of the higher brass of PSI, who said they would only stage a Basic if a certain number of people were involved, and not one person less; I stayed away after that point, though the phone calls and even occasional visits to the Radio station continued for another six months or so. I resented the 'disappointed' looks these PSI members gave me; I must have been seen as a 'betrayer to the cause.'
I've written the above blog because, after some time of not thinking about it, I goggled "PSI" with "mind control" and discovered, after so many years, the structural backbone of these organizations (when I was actually into PSI, the internet yielded very little information about the organization and the founder; wikipedia still does not acknowledge many of the founders and LGATs currently practicing.). This site here
provides more than enough information about what goes on, the hypnotherapy tools employed, history of etc; FACTNet has several message boards where the merits of PSI and its associates are debated back and forth, both sides having generally good points to make (one thread is infected by trolls but the rest of the discourse is that rarity of the net, civilized and with class).
In some ways it was good to have those internal suspicions confirmed, but I stress again that PSI was, for me, valuable life-training; the important thing to remember is "kill the master" – in that, educate oneself and then challenge, critique and continue on, rather than exclusively adhering to only one branch of learning – for such is the way of cults. PSI is certainly superior to shelling out $300,000+ the way top Scientologists are for a debased and daemonic version of these 'human truths'… but the same core training can also be found in a $5.99 paperback version of Think and Grow Rich, with just a dash of Edgard Cayce and Anthony Robbins…
As for my friend DB, he who introduced and championed PSI to me -- he gave away a $20,000 car to someone he hardly knew, put his sister through the training (they had horrifically abusive childhoods), decided to become the greatest facilitator of this information in the world (pre-PSI he'd vowed to become the greatest snowboarder in the world), got into a fight with the PSI top brass because they wouldn't allow his sister to attend the higher-level classes (18+), broke up with his girlfriend and entered an obsessive state about it. The last time I talked to him he mentioned how his sister had been busted with a bunch of gangbangers for selling X, how he'd grown disillusioned with the politics behind PSI, and that he was entering the military.
"To think is to create" works in some ways, but is not a universal maxim, if nothing else than for the bare fact that most people's thinking comes from someone else's creation, both before and after LGAT.
EDIT: I posted a lot below, but this requires attention:
It appears that PSI instructor xxxxx, daughter of PSI World president xxxxx xxxx, cohort of owner Jane C. Willhite, is not practicing Win-Win, Givers Gain. She was convicted of felony hit-and-run driving in December 2004 and will be sentenced on April 8, 2005. She has the possibility of serving up to 4 years in prison, or at least 90 days in jail. She hit a man walking at the side of they road in the wee hours of morning on September 18, 2003 and didn't know she had hit anything due to intoxication. The two gents in the 2001 Mercedes Benz Suv couldn't recall anything either because they were also drunk. I guess she was riding on the "red horse" trying to fill up her emptiness with alcohol. And, I guess poor xxxx xxxx, 58, probably walking home from work, created this, his death. Remember the words of Ernestine Fischer, "They are the ones creating it," referring to the person's circumstances. Jane C. Willhite is planning to help the xxxx family sue the newspaper over their coverage of the trial. What? For telling the truth and exercising their 1st amendment right to inform the public about a documented circumstance? All of this information can be obtained from the Lake County Record Bee newspaper. They should be "nailed on the concepts with the concepts." I don't understand why xxxxx just didn't go into her levels and heal this man's broken body and save his family from grief instead of denying the act from the onset. Xxxxx had a broken windshield and a dent in the front of her car. That could have been fixed in her workshop too. And people pay thousands of dollars to learn these concepts while those at the top of the organization do not practice them, but blame others with the attitude of "I just don't care. They are the ones creating it."
The following is the climax of PSI Basic, and one the secrets they command initiates not to spread in order to "not ruin the experience". That said, this is a fairly common exercise in all LGAT programs and the below is taken from someone who did the Landmark training.
The Red/Black game: After several of these types of processes it was time for the Red/Black game. In this game people are divided into 2 teams and sent to separate rooms. Instructions were given to get the most number of points and elect a captain who will tally the votes. The trainer asked if anyone in the room had played the game before. A few had and were excused. I raised my hand and stated that I had read about the game in a book. I was told to play the game anyway.
There are 10 frames in this game like a bowling sheet. The 5th frame is double points, the 10th frame is triple points. Points are accumulated from frame to frame. There is no communication to the other team other than a staffer runs back and forth between rooms and tells you how the other team voted between frames. Each team votes on a color red or black with a simple majority. The trainer goes back and forth between the rooms and observes. There is absolutely no help from the staff.
Scoring is as follows:
Team A vote Team B vote Team A scores Team B scores
Black Black +3 +3
Red Black +5 -5
Black Red -5 +5
Red Red -5 -5
It should be obvious that the scenario is win/win win/lose lose/win and lose/lose.
When I went to the next room with my team, I was overwhelmingly elected to be the team captain since I had read about the game. I then explained the purpose of the game and how it is to illustrate the win-win scenario. We took a vote which I counted being the team captain. The votes for black outnumbered red by about 2:1. The staffer came into the room and said. "Team B what is your vote?"
To which I responded "Team B votes Black."
The staffer said "Your vote has been accepted. Team A votes Black."
The black/black vote gave each team 3 points. Everyone seemed quite pleased that the vote turned out the way it did and it appeared that we were headed towards a win-win game. But this was not to be the case.
I asked for the vote for the second frame and this time the overwhelming majority voted black with just a few people voting red. The staffer returned and asked
"Team B what is your vote?"
I responded "Team B votes Black."
The staffer replied "I'm sorry, you did not follow the ground rules. Your vote is invalid."
This was quite puzzling. We took the vote again with the majority voting black. Again the staffer returns and asks
"Team B what is your vote?"
I responded again "Team B votes Black."
The staffer replies again "I'm sorry, you did not follow the ground rules. Your vote is invalid."
Being that the staffer is not in the room when we vote then one of the staff members that is seated at a table in the rear of the room must be giving him a thumbs down sign. The staffers seated at the rear sit with their arms crossed and are not saying a word. I was to learn later that this is practiced.
By this time people are starting to murmur that voting black must be wrong and that we should be voting red. I responded that the purpose of the game is to observe how you play game. I was thinking about how things had become rather interesting. I asked the group what they remembered about the ground rules. People responded with what they thought they heard. I took another vote. This time there were a few more voting red. Again the vote was declared invalid.
This time several people became very upset. A few of them get disgusted and leave the room. They are, of course, attended by staff. I can't blame them since it has been a long and stressful evening and it is well after ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />midnight and at the rate we were going we could be there all night.
A man stands up and says that we should be voting red. That is why our vote was wrong. I stated that there was nothing in the ground rules stating which way we had to vote. More and more people rally around this individual and there is a motion to dismiss me as the team captain. The majority vote to dismiss me and install the other guy as team captain.
He takes the vote which is red by a small majority. The staffer returns.
"Team B what is your vote?"
To which the captain responds "Team B votes Red."
The staffer said "Your vote has been accepted. Team A votes Black."
There is much relief and celebration in the room. Not only has the vote been accepted but we are now winning the game. I was to learn later that members of Team A in the next room thought that Team B had tricked them into voting Black in the second frame and were now arguing for the third frame to be voted Red.
I stood up and said that I thought that what I did wrong was not count the individual votes in the second frame since it was overwhelmingly Black.
We took another vote which was black by a very small margin.
"Team B what is your vote?"
"Team B votes Black.."
The staffer said "Your vote has been accepted. Team A votes Red."
Several people are upset that Team A has voted Red. Even more people get up and leave the room. I think by the end of the game only 2/3rds are left in the room.
The fourth frame is voted Red/Red. The rest of the game goes rather quickly. From this point on with each frame more and more people in the group vote Red that by the 9th frame only myself and one or two others still vote Black. The tenth frame was the opportunity for triple points. At this point it is close to the end of the game and I said to myself "Screw it. I guess majority rules".
Everyone in the group voted Red, myself included.
Team A also voted Red.
The final result was a score something like -7 to -17. Little did we know there was hell to pay...
By this time it was after 1 AM and we were told to file back into the main ballroom in silence. The trainer had a look that would kill. When we got to our seats we were ordered to close our eyes and the trainer screamed at us for over 30 minutes straight. We were told that what we did in the game amounted to war and the way we played that game was the way we lived our lives. That screaming lecture accused us of just about every negative behavior imaginable. We were told that crime in the streets, racism, and other personal and social problems were because of people like us. You would have thought we were the leaders of Russia and America who just fired off an all-out nuclear exchange at each other and were now being called to account for it in hell. Those of us who knew how the game was supposed to be played and voted black were especially berated because we didn't "take a stand" for the win-win situation.
After a night of sleep deprivation and now another late night plus all the psychological opening exercises, this screaming lecture over a PA system sends thunderbolts through your consciousness. I felt like with every sentence that a powerful jolt of electricity was sent through my nervous system.
We were told to leave in silence and were given an assignment to spend an hour reflecting on what we just did and to be back at 10 AM. This is in addition to written homework due the next day. By this time it is going on 2 in the morning.
How to win the game? Refuse to vote unless the whole team votes for the win-win scenario.
Philip Cushman writes in his PhD dissertation on Lifespring, "The Politics of Transformation":
The last exercise of the evening is the "Red and Black" game. This is a type of "prisoner's dilemma" game popular in social psychology experiments. Participants are encouraged by the trainer and by staff to "win" the game, really pour it on. Staffers become like cheerleaders, and, after the trainer has explained the game ("The purpose is to win"), participants are divided into two teams and are left on their own to elect captains and figure out how to win the game.
[COMMENT: The game, of course. is rigged. It directly follows the long "parent process," when participants are in an euphoric, emotionally primitive state in which they experience the ultimate gratifications of childhood: unconditional love and unlimited attention. After all the importance the trainer has placed on "winning," "doing whatever is necessary to win," and "creating your own reality," it turns out this game can be won only if the two sides cooperate. In the 18 trainings subjects reported on only once did participants figure out how to cooperate.)
By the time the game has to be stopped, 3 of 3"behavior" subjects (100%) reported that many people had become very excited. driven, and frustrated about winning. it is at this point the trainer steps in and harangues and humiliates the participants. He swears at them, he calls them names, he blames the arms race and world hunger on people like them, who "can't imagine winning without killing the other side."
The recrimination is very strong, and very effective. All subjects reported being affected by it and remembering it. The pattern was the same for 14 of 15 "experience" subjects (93%). Either subjects felt distraught because they tried to win by making the other side lose, or they figured out the key to winning, but they were too frightened to speak up or too self-critical to believe they knew the answer Either way, one "experience" subject noted, everyone seemed to feel embarrassed and crushed. As one "behavior" subject noted, it was, paradoxically, a no-win situation.
Random posts from a link above that elucidate the dangers of the self-growth industry:
"I attended the PSI basic seminar a couple of weeks ago. I am a registered nurse that works with war veterans. PSI is very dangerous. I don't care how much positive information was instilled in the class- most of which is common sense- there are no trained professionals (i.e., psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians) that specialize in mental health to circumvent the extremely emotional, oftentimes painful, and damaging awareness that occurs during the seminar. One is asked to "take a closer look at what is really going on and come to terms with the 'truth of the matter'." One is placed in a semi-trance state and asked to relive very emotionally disturbing and painful experiences in life. 99% of the individuals have no idea what they are in for when their friends/family members suggest the seminar. Those who attend the basic are asked to dive into their emotional baggage for four days and then left with no safety net to pick up the pieces of their "discoveries." Unless, of course, one wants to pay $3400 to attend PSI7 (an advanced seminar) to learn how to utilize tools to cope with the potential damage created from the basic seminar. I had a very unsettling feeling after the seminar ended. I was told by my microgroup leader and other PSI junkies that it was me coming to awareness of my "less than adequate life." I sat down and discussed my feelings and experiences with TRAINED professionals. After realizing what PSI seminars was all about and the potential danger that can be wreaked upon one's life, I felt a clarity that I had not felt since the first day. Please do not enroll in PSI seminars and have a heart-to-heart discussion with those in your life who believe that PSI is their only way to truly achieve a rewarding life. They are selling themselves short and spending a lot of money to do so!"
"My relationship fell apart because of this. she tried over and over to get me to go. I asked her what qualifications these people had and how much money they were paying her. (she's been to two "ranch" seminars.) She's currently in pld and came home one night from a meeting and left me. I don't get how to show her that this is the biggest scam in the world. she's a very impressionable person. no job, sits around all day, no job to fulfill her. This has given her a purpose. a purpose without pay. jeeze, i'm I retarded?
I am sorry that your relationship fell apart. Oftentimes, individuals that put their faith in the program to give them answers, are guided by others that truly think they are guiding them in the right direction to gain insight into specific situations in their life. As one individual put it, "If you don't have real issues prior to attending PSI seminars, the facilitator (and others) will assist you in creating some." Unfortunately if you can't see some solidified value in PSI, you can't enroll others to further their mission. The concepts taught in PSI are very real concepts that one can achieve by attending motivational seminars (which PSI is definitely NOT) or buying a book or two. The damaging effects of attempting to get into one's psyche with hypnotizing exercises is certainly a way to brainwash individuals. For those individuals that think PSI is their only way to achieve more in life, I would challenge you to research the "activities" that take place within the seminar. Just about every individual in the mental health profession would concur that the techniques utilized are techniques that can create brainwashing and should be utilized only by mental health professionals not a bunch of pseudo mental health junkies. Even if PSI helps a large number achieve peace, the damage it can do to some outweigh the benefits. Those I have spoken to from the seminar I attended were on a "high" with a manic quality to their presence. This can not last forever. A friend of mine is heavily involved in PLD. PLD encourages groups of people to set their goals to achieve a greater sense of accomplishment in life. PLD is a great concept, however, she had to pay $300 to enroll in this program whereas none of the members were paid staff. They volunteered for the cause and PSI kept their money. A goal of all PLD members to sign up six new people in a 90-day period. If it is supposed to be about her setting goals, why are they giving her a goal to further their profit? A great selling technique after you are raw and vulnerable from 4 days on an emotional roller coaster ride is to get you to sign up for PSI7. I was told that if I wanted true wealth in life that I would get the money any way I could to attend because my life is more important than $3400. Interesting, because PSI speaks a lot about taking responsibility for actions in your life. However, I would have certainly been acting irresponsible by making a snap decision and signing up for a seminar with money that I did not particularly have for such efforts. The hypocrisy on the lessons taught (again, basic common sense) and the overwhelming pressure to sign me up for PSI7 was nothing more than a huge hypocrisy.
I too am a PSI graduate I was very involved with PSI for over a year. I attended all the seminars and staffed etc. I talked a few people into the program. (I really feel guilty about it too) My involvement with PSI Seminars just wrecked havoc in my life. I almost lost my marriage and lost many friends. It has been a struggle to heal and mend relationships.
As a previous poster said "The concepts taught in PSI are very real concepts that one can achieve by attending motivational seminars (which PSI is definitely NOT) or buying a book or two." Even PSI will tell you that nothing they say is new.
The nurse is correct. PSI Seminars takes some really valuable concepts that can be helpful to people to reach goals in life. People buy into the good stuff, but don't realize that it's wrapped around an inner core of deception, greed and exploitation.
PSI Seminars does use cult tactics of thought reform, brainwashing, trance, triggers, and psychological techniques that open up peoples psyches in a very unsafe environment.
I saw trainers mind game students into doing things that were not in the best interest of the student. They set themselves up as authority figures, students listen to them as if they possess the answer.
PSI Seminars is like a beautiful box of chocolate truffles with a creamy feces center. People eat them up and exclaim about the yummy chocolate. Then offer you one. No one wants to admit to eating poop.
Especially not the PSI grads who every time they witness something unethical the cognitive dissonance they experience triggers them to rationalize it.
I have personally met and interacted with many of the trainers and the owner. Jane C. Wilhite, Ernestine Fischer, Gary Elkins, Shirley Hunt, Rob Rowe, Cathy Q. Perez, Carol Santucci etc.
I have no respect for these people. They know that "things happen" that are damaging to the students. I quote Ernestine Fischer "I just don't care. They are the ones creating it.".
I never once saw a trainer/owner/facilitator take responsibility for what they created. They always blamed the student.
Just finished PSI Basic here in Scottsdale. A friend of my mother's went in LA and just raved about the seminar. I thought that that was just what it was...an educational seminar in business-just what I needed at this point. I had no idea it was an LGAT until after we paid the $445.00. I had searched on the web for PSI and didn't see any negative things until I searched explicitly for negatives. This is where I made my mistake. I WISH I had done the negative search before payment.
I asked for a refund, was given the "no refund- but you have one year in which to attend" song and dance. I then called the Arizona Attorney General's office, then the Arizona Law Library wherein I was informed that their 'no refund' policy is not illegal because I had initialed the application where it states 'no refund'. (silly me). I called the Credit Card company and was informed of the same thing-that the chargeback would be denied because of the application. So the only alternative is to go to the 4+ days of activities, THEN ask for a refund. I am supposed to attend the "Graduation" tonight, but I am not going. I cannot stand another moment in the presence of this group; every moment in my past 2 sessions there was spent with them trying to sell me on the next phase, PSI7...which I will never attend.
This group uses manipulation and nearly coercive techniques to just get more and more money out of attendees. I could not believe what I heard people saying to their families on their cell phones during the break after the "Big Pitch" on Sunday...talking about borrowing the $6500 for both of the next stages (a special price for the two!) and how the seminar would guarantee their prosperity and ability to pay it back. I saw people using 3 credit cards to pay for this!
This doesn't even get into the techniques of the 4 days of the sessions. The emotional vulnerability of many there was wrenching to witness, and I felt there was absolutely no one qualified to deal with the fallout from an exercise gone wrong. There were one or two very intense emotional incidents and all that was offered was Kleenex and a hug. This is an irresponsible organization, created to make great deals of money at the expense of people who are insecure and vulnerable. Please do not attend unless you wish to endure amateur psychoanalytic sessions and moments of humiliation.
I have been to PSI Basic and I have staffed PSI Basic. PSI is not an "out-to-rule-the-world" cult, or "let's commit suicide together" cult -- it is a MONEY CULT. It is ALL about the money. The course cloaks the purpose with some reasonably good advice on goal setting, visualization, etc. and the merits of being a good human being, but in the end all they really want is YOUR money, your family's money, your friend's money, your company's money, etc. And if you are really whacked, they want you to (as I did) spend 40 hours "staffing" or up-selling to PSI 7. They pressure the staff into committing to "Paid In Full" PSI 7 up-sells. If the brain-washed staff does not deliver, then they question their "integrity." After the event, they invite everyone to party at the bar. This is touted by the facilitator as an excellent time to really sell, as the liquor sets in, and the confused victim is taken advantage of. At the beginning of my seminar, one of the volunteers was not following party doctrine, so the "facilitator", some lawyer/psyhologist/wanna-be-reverand so verbally abused her, as to force her off the team. Apparently, she might have reduced earnings. As a newcomer to the group, I was scolded within 5-minutes of the facilitator arriving to the seminar room for having a "Looking Good Program" (afraid to be myself). While everyone has a certain degree of self-doubt, I began to question myself, and wonder why he picked on me. The answer is now clear -- I was new to the group, and he knew he had the others already sucked in, so it was time to start chipping away at the newcomer. Later he asked, "When are you going to start loving yourself?" -- Ha ha... Actually, it's not so funny -- I saw one lady lay down $10,000 to continue with this torture. If you can keep a clear head, and filter the good ideas from the manipulation, you will find value in this course. For example: DO NOT STOP THINKING!! The facilitator will continue to say, "stop thinking in your head and start feeling in your heart." Wouldn't a used car dealer love for you to do the same!? Of course they don't want you to think -- that might get in the way of taking your money. When you do the math, PSI raked in around $70,000 from our group in about 40 hours. Not bad...
I forgot to mention above that our facilitator, Paul, actually told all the staffers that God speaks through him! And I think he is serious, or at least the whacked out staff believed him... What a bunch of bullshit!"