How did I go through personal growth training?
Personal experience of participating in motivational courses.
Yelena Kostyuchenko, a journalist for Novaya Gazeta, described how personal growth training on LifeSpring technology led her to a severe mental illness. This article has sparked a wave of discussions on the Internet. Reading the material and the responses to it, I recalled how this program went about seven years ago – fortunately, not with such dire consequences.
Personal growth trainings based on the American LifeSpring were in fashion then, and the head of the organization where I worked at that time was always fond of something – well, they sent us. I was not familiar with any psychology then and loved the new experience – well, I went.
The first stage of the training lasted three days for 12 hours, the group consisted of about 60 people. The main trick was emotional buildup: they humiliate you (“Who and what are you trying to prove ?!”), they inspire you; either we and the partner yell at each other, then we hug or talk about the most intimate. Against the background of lack of sleep and rare interruptions, by the middle of the second day we went into an altered state of consciousness (as I understand it now) and were ready to believe every word of the trainers. And they screwed into our brains ideas about the authorship of their lives: set bold goals, you will achieve everything, you are the boss, get together and act and the like.
A few sketches.
On the second day, all latecomers stand during the first block (an hour and a half), and then they are sent one at a time to the stage to explain what and to whom we wanted to prove with our lateness. Exercise “what infuriates you”: we scream this phrase for 10 minutes in a row in the face of our partner, heavy rock plays in the background. Surprise from the coaches: we come from the break, and they silently sit in the back row, showing with all their looks: well, guys, this is your training, so prove yourself, make us teach you something …
On the last day, we set goals: for a day, for a month and for a year. It seems that there were six people in the group with me, five of them were girls, and all had one goal for the year – to get married. The coach criticized them – they say that this is not the goal, because it depends not only on you. But against the backdrop of endless talk about the authorship of his life without any limits, this sounded unconvincing. My goal was modest – to take the family to the sea. Then I still did not know that I would soon be waiting for a third child, enrolling in magistracy and watching the ruble fall, so the time to buy tickets was the most suitable – as a result, thanks to Life Springs for the autumn of Montenegro!
As far as I can tell, in the process it got through everyone – on the evening of the second day everyone hugged and cried, and on the third day, in the end, they promised to bring friends.
After the training, I drove home with a deafening feeling of emptiness: for three days I was taken to Disneyland, from one vivid impression to another, and now – the rides were over, they won’t feed me with strong emotions anymore. And I must admit, I wanted to continue, I wanted to relive this fireworks of feelings again, relive it again and again.
Have I benefited? No or almost none: this training did not cause profound changes – strong emotions, no more. Can such a training help someone? Yes, I think: there is a percentage of people who do not have enough magic kick to make long-overdue changes in their lives.
Did you hurt me? Perhaps not either – apparently, I have a stable psyche. Could this training be dangerous? Definitely yes, it was obvious to me back then. If a person is mentally unstable, this cascade of polar states can lead to unpredictable consequences, as happened with Kostyuchenko. There is no filter at the entrance – pay the money and come, the responsibility for the consequences lies only with the participants. They say up to 20% leave such trainings with mental disorders – it seems to me quite plausible.
So, what is personal growth a la Life Springs training? This is Disneyland for adults – a fun for those who do not stick movies, and sports require too much effort. Something like LSD: paid money, came – and you worry for three days as much as you did not survive for a year. Training can provide motivation for working on yourself or an important existential experience – but you can also get hooked on it, and it can also be dangerous for the psyche and destructive for social connections.
Now I know that the real psychology is different. That it is necessary to be careful to the inner world, and that the main thing is not to harm. I am suspicious of promises to change my life in three days (and even two months), but I believe in small steps for a long time. I try to remember that each person is unique, and I firmly know that psychological violence does no better. And I choose the person who will do something in my inner world more carefully than the dentist, and his method of work is more careful than the brand of the phone.
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