So, you're on the outside looking in. Someone you know has attended a human potential seminar and when he/she returns you notice some changes - changes that you are not comfortable with.
Should you be concerned? What do you need to look out for?
Take a look at some of the points below. If some of these things look familiar to you, don't hestitate to read up more on them. There is a wealth of information on the subject, much of which can be found from the links provided, or else by doing a simple Google seach.
But even before I get there, I want to say a few things. If you recognize that someone close to you has been involved in a group using cult-like practices, DON'T rush in crying "Cult, Cult" or "Brainwashing!" Please read this article on coping strategies from Rick Ross first.
You may save yourself a lot of pain, and it may help you put together a constructive plan to help the person close to you.
A couple of things I have noticed for myself:
Often people who have been on these courses are told not to say what goes on there because this will spoil the experience for others who might want to do them in the future. Rubbish! This is a means of not revealing what happens on these courses. If it was known, I would suggest that many people would choose not to do them.
Another thing I have seen is that people who have been on such courses are also very vague about them when questioned. This is a Red Flag. Beware! Some people I have spoken to have had problems remembering what happened on these courses. A number of factors play into this such as confusion, lack of sleep, lack of food, and in some cases (which occur far too often) dissociation. Dissociation happens to people when they are put under extreme stress - this is how the body protects itself from that extreme stress.
The following warnings signs were posted by Chris Mathe, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology. He has worked as a trainer, facilitator, consultant, executive coach, and senior-level manager for over twenty years. I believe the six points he makes are very useful:
1. Radical change in personality or behavior.
Change is normal with any religious, philosophical, political, or social "conversion," but the key here is the word "radical."
Has the person gone from being a quiet introvert to being an outgoing extrovert? Has he or she suddenly begun talking about new ideas or using new words or expressions such as the drift, enlightenment, getting it, holistic, human potential, resonance, transformation, transpersonal, transcendental, life force, etc.
2. Severe depression or anxiety.
These symptoms can be indicators of post traumatic stress disorder, sometimes experienced by participants in New Age seminars.
These disorders can be triggered by negative episodes undergone during sessions of guided imagery or past-life regression often included as part of such seminars.
Both depression and anxiety are often accompanied by an inability to concentrate, chronic distraction, and inappropriate emotional response.
3. Confusion about reality, values, or knowledge.
Since Large Group Awareness Training and Human Potential Seminars are designed to "transform" the way one views and relates to the world, as well as to the tasks at hand, the transformational process can result in a disjuncture between the individual and everything else that makes it difficult to determine what is real, valuable, or true.
The insistence that "we create our own reality" can, when inculcated by means of hypnotic or assaultive techniques, cause one to suffer psychotic episodes.
4. Diminishing or loss of critical thinking skills.
The basic Eastern-mystical concept of the unity of all things includes as one of its corollaries that there are no distinctions between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and evil.
In fact, Eastern/New Age teaching generally attempts to invalidate Aristotelian logic in toto, so that "A" can also be "not-A."
This, if carried to the "logical" conclusion, makes nonsense out of language, and meaningful communication becomes impossible.
A typical New Age statement is, "That may be your reality, but it's not my reality."
5. Sudden onset of a series of physical ailments.
As Margaret Singer and Richard Ofshe have found in this article, radical thought reform programs can cause a variety of physical as well as psychological problems.
These include strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, stomach problems, increased pain related to periods for women, and lowered resistance to communicable diseases.
People need to be alert to these as they can be signs of psychological distress brought on by these types of training programs.
6. Marital or other relationship discord.
Seemingly normal "spats" between spouses, siblings, partners, or parents and children can be precipitated by attendance at a New Age (or other) seminar or program.
The radical transformation or conversion that often occurs frequently produces a fanatic out of the convert, whether the conversion is to New Age thinking or Christian fundamentalism.
Unconverted relatives normally find it difficult to endure the religious/metaphysical obsessions of the fanatic.
People should be prepared to inquire discreetly of the employee who is experiencing such discord at home to find out if the cause may be of this nature.