The principle behind the Large Group Awareness Training is as simple as it is universal: life can be better if we take time out to think about it (and to experience it from a distance.) Putting all of the issues relative to LGATs aside for a moment – the manipulation, the abuse of power, the spiritualistic excesses – the general idea behind group training is that we can possibly lead happier, more productive lives by examining them.
The corollary to this principle is that, left to the whimsy of life’s experience, people are likely to become self-sabotaging, prickly and sometimes pathological beings. To some degree, we all agree with this idea. We all agree that life itself isn’t a sufficient teacher. We send our children to school. We read books. We attend church. We watch the History Channel. We self-educate in a myriad of ways, because none of us really believes that life, left strictly to its own devices, is a good enough teacher to forego any self-improvement.
But LGATs claim to provide a particular sort of aptitude: they claim to educate us in very specific areas of human proficiency. Namely, LGATs are schools of meta-life – proposing to take a view from 30,000 feet and then to translate that perspective into greater, more productive lives. This perspective, the thinking goes, would create a much greater degree of clarity and would remove the many self-delusions that we suffer. These self-delusions, or “broken thinking,” apparently plagues the human race in its pursuit of peace and happiness.
One of the greatest of these self-delusions is the objectification of one another. Of course, if I look at another human being intellectually, I know that the other person has the same basic complement of emotions and thoughts as I do. The man sitting next to me on the airplane reading his book and listening to his iPod has the same basic feelings, concerns, loves, hates, and passions that I have (though they may be experienced in a different way.) In short, on some level I’m perfectly aware that he’s every bit the full-fledged human being that I am.
But, one of our greatest delusions is that we simplify one another in order to keep down the emotional clutter filling our heads. For now, the man next to me on the airplane might just as well be a cardboard cutout of a person. Before I get to know him and his life, in my mental shorthand of the moment, he’s simply an obstacle to getting to the bathroom.
This shorthand condenses and simplifies our lives a thousand times a day. When someone blows past us on the freeway doing ninety miles an hour, that person isn’t a complicated, mystifying human being experiencing some urgent event – this person is “an idiot.” When someone clods along at forty-five on the freeway blocking the fast lane, this person isn’t a wise (perhaps sometimes distracted) senior citizen going to visit their loving grandchildren – this person is “a moron.” Hundreds of times a day, we slap labels on one another and we discard the beauty and sophistication of each human soul and we cram each other into card catalogues under undemanding titles such as “nice,” “idiot,” “saint” or “fool.” Of course, none of us can be summed up in a single word (or in a novel, even.) But we quietly fool ourselves into thinking that, while we may be very complicated ourselves, other people are extraordinarily simple and easy-to-judge. Slap a label on a person and no further consideration is necessary.
This board is prominently populated by people who see no need for LGATs (at best,) and those who despise them (at worst.) Occasionally, someone appears who will argue in favor of the LGAT of their choice. More infrequently, someone will provide a moderate perspective on the subject. I’ve been watching this board for many years (through several changes of style and location,) and the pattern has remained consistent: those who offer anything but anti-LGAT opinion are subjected to some stunningly scathing scorn. There is little in the way of moderation, openness or any apparent desire to teach and be taught. Quite the contrary – the primary raison d’etre of this board seems to be a place to publicize contempt and hatred for the LGATs, their leaders and those who would attend them.
Over the last week or two, I’ve had the experience of posting a moderate point of view regarding the Impact Training that Hans and Sally Berger offer in Salt Lake City, Utah. Many years ago, having experienced their training myself and having subsequently terminated my involvement there, I have what might be considered a moderate perspective. I see the Impact Training as being one of the worst of the LGATs in terms of manipulation, condescension and egomania. Yet, I haven’t tipped over into believing it to be wholly evil, either. I’ve expressed much the same opinion on two threads on this board.
The reaction of some of the other board participants has been sobering. The invective has been impressive to say the least. My seemingly moderate perspective has been rewarded with insults such as “idiot,” “deceiver,” and “Judas,” just to name a few. Apparently, any opinion that isn’t absolutely damning of any and every LGAT is vulnerable to such attack.
Clearly, I’ve been labeled, categorized and discarded as a resource for consideration (though the accumulation of knowledge, wisdom and temperance is precisely what this board is supposedly about.) But this doesn’t really come as a surprise to anyone, does it? Isn’t this just what we’ve come to expect from our fellow human beings? Don’t we typically show some of our greatest passion in damning those different from ourselves? Isn’t throwing me into the “idiot” category no different than throwing the slow, freeway driver into the category of “moron?”
In fact, I believe that if a panel of mental health professionals were to review this board -- say licensed psychologists -- they would likely reach the conclusion that many of the most prolific posters here “could use some help.” It’s perhaps noteworthy that one of the common themes on this board is that LGATs aren’t necessary and that the world would be better off if they were outlawed, but so many of the loudest participants here could use the very sort of life-perspective offered by these trainings. Quite on the contrary from proving that the world has no need of LGATs, this board seems to prove the opposite: that the world is in desperate need of something (anything!) to temper the irresponsible and damaging excesses of the human ego. How can we be so blatantly offensive and unkind to one another and, in the same breath, disclaim that we have much to learn about becoming better human beings?
If the world of LGATs is guilty of hypocrisy (as claimed repeatedly on this board,) then this is the last place in the world that should be proclaiming it.
(Post script: I do realize that many on this board see themselves as warning others who may unwittingly get involved in LGATs without understanding the dangers and the downsides. To that extent, I believe this board provides a very positive service. At the same time, the vitriolic and closed-mindedness of so many board participants discredits their opinions. A greater degree of moderation would go a long ways to making rational criticisms of LGATs more credible. Nobody is inspired by a hater.)
You sound like a very reasonable chap and I respect you for this very reasoned and balanced comment. I disagree with your conclusion however.
My experience is purely of Landmark, the few seminars I attended, the effect it had on someone I loved and the route cause of a relationship break-up. I have posted a range of criticism's of this organisation on this board. Why? Well yes, a Psychologist may read my ramblings and indeed conclude I might need some “help”. Some might say I have used this place as a means for grounding my anger and frustration, others that I was reaching out to see if “I was not alone”. Both are no doubt true and being really truthful, about this, I may well have flipped out big time if I had not had a place to vent this emotion.
Let me give you a very specific experience with which to demonstrate where my loathing came from. My ex was constantly telling me with total conviction “I was the most important thing in her life”. Close to our relationship finally ending she called me to see if we could rescue things. Strangely, something had altered in her and she seemed to be seeing my point of view about how her Landmark commitments were consuming her life. I was overwhelmed with happiness and offered to come round the following evening to hopefully get things resolved. Guess what? – Landmark commitment. The next night? Landmark Commitment. The next Day? Landmark commitment…………etc etc etc. I pleaded with her, to once, put our relationship first and see me the next evening. She refused, stating that it was imperative that she did her Landmark commitment – she had given her word.
This is obviously just one small microcosm, an anecdote that could have different interpretations. But can’t you see how inherently EVIL this manipulation is? Landmark volunteers are brow beaten, bullied and psychologically abused by their peers and leaders into “being their word”. They are “being trained” they claim to have a powerful life that works for them. In so doing, everything else in these people’s life becomes second place to the point were they actually destroy things, not make them work.
You talk of the importance of enquiry into human behaviour, to find “a better” way of being and to evolve our ideas to avoid the obvious catastrophes we are creating for our race. I totally agree with that idea. Our existing religions and institutions are simply not fit for purpose anymore and something radical has to happen, soon. However, if the only answer is the LGAT way that is currently on the table, the hypocrisy, the corruption, the manipulation and brainwashing that goes on I think I would rather just go with the current systems thanks, and maybe work out a way of evolving ideas that does not resemble Nazi Germany or any other horrific, totalitarian control freak system that various cultures have experimented with in the past.
The participants of this board are, in my opinion, like me horrified at the methods and tactics utilised by these institutions. Probably most have had their lives or lives of their loved ones and friends seriously compromised or even ruined. They simply want to speak out, vent their angst, check they are not alone. If that means that its unbalanced and in some cases offensive to some then so be it. No doubt if LGATS could find a legitimate way of closing these sites down they would do and probably hunt down the individuals ruthlessly for years to come.
LGATS behave like an extremist immigrant who has moved from a country run by a dictator, only to then protest to the authorities to have freedom of speech closed down on any debate about their imported faith systems, the very same faith systems that were either banned or controlled by the regime from which they have fled. What’s more they revel in telling the population of the country in which they reside just how wrong they are for tolerating this corrupt way of life (whilst breaking the laws of their new country like they don’t matter)
You wonder why there is so much anger and vitriol here?