Recently I have been speaking to various friends and people from my past back when I was involved with some of my very first trainers in the field. I remember how confrontational their styles were they would not hesitate to destroy someone in front of a group of anywhere from 75-100 people. I always thought it was incredibly remarkable the lengths they would go to prove their points. If you disagree with them or did whatever they would make it a point to put you on notice and they would call it holding you accountable.
A while back I was talking to a woman that I was working with I had told her about my experience in NLP and Personal Development she had told me about a company in the city where I live that runs a leadership program. She ranted and raved about them and told me how they would tear people down. They would do exercises where they would have people run up and down the line and have people tell you what is wrong with you. Supposedly the theory is that it’s supposed to get you use to not caring about what others think.
I told her standing while having someone yell at me and tell me what they think is wrong with me didn’t sound like something that I wanted to do (especially since I served in the Marine Corps that’s something I already had done before) more so when you factor in that I would be in essence paying them to do so. One of the things that I’ve noticed a lot of these trainings like to do is put people into exercises where they openly express their vulnerabilities in very black or white type of scenarios. These exercises a lot of the times are a form of metaphorical tasking.
They are having people do things and whatever they are doing is supposed to teach the participant some sort of lesson that they need to learn. While these types of exercises can be useful my experience has been the lesson that these exercises teach is for the participants to be dependent on one individual for the answers to their problems. They all implicitly teach people to look to a guru usually the person leading the seminar for the answers.
Most of the time because the tasks are so metaphorical they can literally mean anything but when it’s put on by someone that you are paying to train with and especially if you are new to personal development I find it’s easy for people to fall into the trap of abdicating their critical thinking skills.
And most of these trainers are so good at getting people to do so. They set up false either – or scenarios. If you are not in your seat by a particular set time then you are wasting the groups time and you need to explain to us why your time is more valuable than all of ours? Or why do you not owe all of us an apology? I remember on trainer that what he used to do when people would go to the bathroom he would make a scene in front of the entire audience stating that the person that was leaving was looking for some way to avoid their problems. And that needing to go to the bathroom when something important comes up that applies to them is just an example of that type of failure to cope.
So many assumptions are being built into these types of scenarios. Most often from my experience these are really power games by seminar leaders that give them an excuse to abuse people in order to build compliance. They are able to do this because they can always cloak what they do behind the veil of they are just trying to hold the other person compatible and that what they are doing to help them brings them no pleasure at all but they have to do it because they care about the person they are doing it to.
I was talking to a friend recently that was telling me about a trainer that they thought they were testing them and they were stating they can’t figure out their intention. For example they wanted to do something in the past with this one person and when they originally brought it up to them the speaker was all for it. Just recently they contacted them again and the other person told them to forget it that they weren’t interested. This gentleman told me he can’t decide whether the person is trying to help them by telling them not to do it and that it’s really a test to determine his commitment or do they really not want to do it.
I would think to many people that are just starting out this would be a hard thing to discern. Most people in my experience that enter personal development want to believe that the people they are working with has all these benevolent answers for them. Having met quite a few trainers I can speak from experience when I say that I met individuals that preached about how sacred marriage was while they were cheating on their wives. I would watch the same person call people out in front of audiences of people because they had some sort of addiction to smoking or they didn’t want to get married or something like that. The speaker in question would attempt to hold them accountable in order to ‘help’ them.
Meanwhile this same trainer was in the process of being sued by multiple casinos for gambling debts, they were rumored to have a drug addiction and were in the process of going to trial for multiple charges of fraud. I don’t remember anyone in any seminar I was with him ever hold him accountable his actions. I do remember someone bringing up his failing marriage at one seminar and the speaker was able to find a passage from the bible that he could use to blame his wife for what was happening because SHE was the one asking for the divorce. So she was obviously the one in the wrong.
What I’m getting at here is that while a lot of these groups exercises that are taught at many transformational seminars can possibly be helpful. My experience has been that they are nothing more than tools to gain uncritical compliance from attendees while hiding under the guise of conveying some sort of benevolent message.
The biggest flaw in my opinion in doing this type of stuff from what I can tell is that it teaches people to look to others for confirmation of the ‘right’ answer. It also teaches people to do nonsense stuff without real justification other than there is a lesson for them to learn.