Monday, April 23, 2012


The Skeptic's Dictionary has a great page about Landmark Forum. Landmark is the successor to Werner Erhart's est from the 70s. Swami Muktananda was explicitly influenced by est in creating the intensive weekends in the Siddha Yoga (SYDA) organization, The influence of est can be seen in the many other currently-active LGATs (Large Group Awareness Trainings), and this Skeptic's Dictionary page sheds some clear-thinking light on all of them.

One simple concept that I found intriguing is this. People naturally go through high and low psychological phases during their lives. Among those who are drawn to an LGAT, people in a down-phase are over-represented, as they have the most motivation for seeking quick transformation. The tendency of people at low psychological points is to eventually regress to the mean. That is, they move from the extraordinarily low psychological point to a more typical one (i.e., they feel better with time). If the LGAT can convince people of its transformational power, then when a better state occurs (for whatever reason), they'll likely attribute it to the LGAT, and become true believers.

Of course there are some people who get extraordinary bliss-states etc, not just relief from a low-point. Surely, the mere fact that attendance of these workshops and seminars gives people an opportunity to ponder their lives, seek new perspectives, question old assumptions, etc, can have amazingly powerful effects. But among the masses who become LGAT devotees, I'd think regression to mean is a significant dynamic.

In a broader sense, many psychologists say that our happiness tends to follow a U-shape. We're happy as children, then struggle as young adults as we adapt to challenging jobs and relationships and life complications. Somewhere in mid-adulthood, most people tend to gain greater mastery of their lives (and/or our lives actually become easier, as we advance beyond shitty jobs, as kids grow up and no longer demand constant attention, as relationships become more solid, etc). The point is that when we experience a natural life up-turn, we tend to project a reason on it, even if it's just correlation and not causation. If we happen to be Christians, we say Jesus is making us happier. If we're into meditation, we credit that. If we value money most, we think that wealth is the cause of this increased happiness, etc.

Our experience is one thing, and the way we interpret it (assigning a cause to our good or bad feelings) is something different.

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