The LGAT Experience
 
Having recently done an LGAT "Basic" course I thought I would take 
the opportunity to write about the experience. LGAT stands for Large 
Group Awareness Training. Most of these have their roots in a course 
called "Mind Dynamics" which was taught in California in the late 
60s and early 70s. From this came the two largest LGATs; 
est/WEA/Landmark Forum founded by Werner Erhardt, and Lifespring 
founded by John Hanley. Other LGATs include Insight Seminars, 
Actualizations, PSI World and many other smaller trainings which 
basically use a similar process.
 
An LGAT experience can be summarized as following a three step 
pattern.
 
1) Psychological breakdown/opening up the subconscious mind.
 
2) Catharsis or the releasing of repressed emotions usually caused by 
interpretations of childhood events.
 
3) A rebirthing or psychological buildup with processes designed to make participants 
feel good about themselves, the trainer and the course.
 
The training I experienced was developed by a former Lifespring 
trainer who I assume decided there was more money to be made by 
doing it on their own.  The course had other Lifespring graduates on 
the staff. Based on what I have read about Lifespring I conclude 
that the processes used are nearly identical to that used in 
Lifespring training. These processes are not proprietary and can be 
found in a variety of books. For the most part I can document just 
about every process or a variation thereof used in the training. 
 
DAY 1, Thursday evening.   Agree or Else
 
The participants sign an agreement which includes non-disclosure of 
the processes used. It is my understanding that mental/therapeutic 
processess are not proprietary, and cannot be covered by patent, 
copyright or trade secret laws and thus violating nondisclosure 
cannot hold up in court. I will refrain from mentioning the name of 
the specific training I experienced and any process used in the 
training that cannot be documented elsewhere.
 
Dr. Margaret Singer writes about LGATs in her book, "Cults in Our Midst".
 
"The program trainers and leaders typically get agreement from 
participants that they will not tell anyone about the processes that 
occur. To do so "will spoil it for your friends, family, co-workers 
etc, when they take the course. Tell them what you got out of it 
trainers advise. This means be vague about the actual content and 
provide glowing endorsements telling others that the training turned 
your life around but do not tell them how emotional, dramatic, 
confrontational, and unnerving the sessions can be for some people. 
Because of this promise, consumers who buy and attend these seminars 
do so without information about how psychologically, socially, and 
sometimes physically stressing the event can be."
 
"Day one is usually devoted to demonstrating the leader's absolute 
authority. The leader, or trainer immediately takes control of the 
setting with a demeanor that suggests he is a powerful, in-charge 
person and no one is to challenge what he says. He remains totally 
in charge, acts knowledgeable, and is practiced in verbal skills so 
that he never loses an encounter. Anyone who challenges the trainer 
will be humiliated and verbally mashed."
 
The first day started Thursday evening around 7. After some 
introductory stuff welcoming people, etc. the trainer brings up *THE 
AGREEMENT*. The attitude and tone of voice of the trainer 
predictably becomes stern and unyielding in a way to purposely 
provoke a response from the attendees.
 
The first point brought up is about not revealing the processes or 
personal information that is shared. Since people will be sharing 
some very deep personal secrets then this is common sense but people 
do not know this in advance. The processes are not unique to the 
course and not proprietary but people do not know this. 
 
The second point was about attending all the course including the 
followup session and also being on time. Several people objected to 
this stating they had other commitments family or otherwise. There 
were some people from out of town who could not make the next 
Tuesday evening followup.
 
Everyone of them was was met with unyielding harshness from the 
trainer. One of the arguments the trainer makes was if they would 
only "get it" they could make the space for the course in their 
schedule and "getting it" would also keep others from interrupting 
their attendance. "Getting it", of course means that we create our 
own reality or experience by our thinking and interpretation. 
However, this is not explained at this point and is designed only to 
provoke more responses from attendees. Several people storm out of 
the room. However there are ample staff people to handle those who 
leave. Outside, people are pressured by the staff to return to the 
course. Most end up coming back in the room while a few never return.
 
Other rules include not talking unless called upon, not sitting next 
to anyone you knew prior to the training, no eating, drinking, gum 
chewing, etc. Some people saw fit to argue with that. At this point 
the show begins to get quite boring as it had been over 3 hours that 
we were in the ballroom. At least we were allowed potty breaks as 
needed so I took one. When I got back the trainer was finishing up 
the agreements and we were asked to stand if we agreed. So we did. 
Then we were allowed a 20 minute break. We were reminded to be in 
our seats (precisely arranged and marked with tape on the floor) on 
time for the next part. 
 
When we come back there is lecture which include some of the basic 
philosophy/pop psychology of LGATs. One can certainly read about the 
philosophy in John Hanley's book, Lifespring available from 
Lifespring (www.lifespringinc.com)
 
Later we were asked to pair off into a diad (one on one exercises). 
What we did was an awareness exercise  of staring into the other 
persons eyes in silence for several minutes. Then we were asked to 
introduce ourselves and have a conversation. At the end of the 
exercise we were guided to close our eyes and remind ourselves of 
how we behaved in the exercise, did we open up and share or did we 
talk superficially.
 
Then we did "The Trust Exercise". This consists of milling around the 
room, looking people in the eyes for a minute and stating one of only 
three things.
 
1) I trust you.
2) I don't trust you.
3) I don't know if I trust you.
 
This goes on for ten or fifteen minutes. At the end we were again 
instructed to close our eyes and review what we did from the vantage 
point of being above the crowd. Let me point out that there is a lot 
of closed eye guided exercises in these courses. By closing your 
eyes and going within one usually enters an alpha or hypnotic state 
and is much more suggestible then normal. 
 
These courses also use popular music to set the mood. After the 
trust process we were instructed to sit on the floor and we listened 
to Jackson Browne's "The Pretender".
 
THE PRETENDER
 
                               I'm going to rent myself a house
                                In the shade of the freeway
                            I'm going to pack my lunch in the morning
                                  And go to work each day
                              And when the evening rolls around
                             I'll go on home and lay my body down
                         And when the morning light comes streaming in
                                  I'll get up and do it again
                                         Amen
                                       Say it again
                                         Amen
 
                          I want to know what became of the changes
                                 We waited for love to bring
                               Were they only the fitful dreams
                                Of some greater awakening
                             I've been aware of the time going by
                           They say in the end it's the wink of an eye
                         And when the morning light comes streaming in
                                 You'll get up and do it again
                                         Amen
 
                             Caught between the longing for love
                             And the struggle for the legal tender
                         Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
                              And the junk man pounds his fender
                            Where the veterans dream of the fight
                                Fast asleep at the traffic light
                               And the children solemnly wait
                                 For the ice cream vendor
                               Out into the cool of the evening
                                   Strolls the Pretender
                            He knows that all his hopes and dreams
                                   Begin and end there
 
                                Ah the laughter of the lovers
                                As they run through the night
                                Leaving nothing for the others
                                 But to choose off and fight
                            And tear at the world with all their might
                             While the ships bearing their dreams
                                     Sail out of sight
 
                                I'm going to find myself a girl
                            Who can show me what laughter means
                              And we'll fill in the missing colors
                           In each other's paint-by-number dreams
                             And then we'll put our dark glasses on
                          And we'll make love until our strength is gone
                         And when the morning light comes streaming in
                                 We'll get up and do it again
                                      Get it up again
 
                                I'm going to be a happy idiot
                               And struggle for the legal tender
                           Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
                            To the heart and the soul of the spender
                               And believe in whatever may lie 
                              In those things that money can buy
                         Thought true love could have been a contender
                                     Are you there?
                               Say a prayer for the Pretender
                             Who started out so young and strong
                                    Only to surrender
 
                             (c) 1976 SWALLOW TURN MUSIC
 
(You can get the lyrics to damn near anything off the web :-)
 
During the song the trainer periodically lowers the volume and 
instructs people to focus on their inauthentic, pretending 
behaviors. The tone of the trainer's voice is negative and rebuking 
like we are worthless pitiful pretending creatures. "Are you there? 
Or are you just pretending."
 
In my conscious mind I am somewhat amused by all of this. In my 
subconscious I can feel awareness of all my senses increasing. One 
cannot resist the psychological opening that occurs in these courses. 
 
After the exercises the group has to rearrange the chairs to the 
tape on the floor. The group is timed and encouraged to beat the 
previous time. This is just another way to get the group to respond 
to the trainer on demand. By this point nobody resists the trainer.
 
After this it is 1 AM and time to go home being reminded to be there 
the next night at 7. If people go to work the next day which I did, 
it makes for a night of very little sleep.
 
 
Click here for Day 2
 
 

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