ptom.blog

Level Headed Diatribe Against LGAT “Impact Training”

This material represents over a year’s worth of reading, researching, and careful professional and personal studies in order to provide a informed, well-reasoned, educational viewpoint rather than my initial knee-jerk reaction to the topic. Presented here is my final conclusion on the matter for your review.

I run the risk of offending a number of people that I am close to with the material that I present here – both because of my assessment and opinions of the LGAT organization “Impact Training”, and because I may also cite religious materials in the process. Normally I leave personal relationships out of my posts, as well as religion – this is a public forum after all, and the materials I’m likely to discuss here have nothing to do with either (it’s a personal geek blog, after all). I am willing to take this risk because the alternative is to say nothing, and I find this far less palatable than being despised for standing by my scruples. I’m saying it in public in the interest of helping and inspiring others.

First up, what is this all about?

LGAT stands for “Large Group Awareness Training.” It is a model of presentation whereby groups (usually large ones, hence the name) are exposed to selected materials under circumstances designed to elicit compliance and predictable responses. That “designed to elicit” part is my take on them – most of the definitions of the format include language such as “teaching simple but often overlooked wisdom” etc., which has more to do with content (and their opinion of it) than the delivery mechanism itself. More on this in a moment.

“Impact Training” is an organization operating locally in Utah as a purveyor of content using this format, which has gone on to combine its own origins with pop psych, a warped version of LDS theology, hard sales, and MLM practices in order to operate a for-profit organization for its own enjoyment and aggrandizement. It leverages several key principles of psychological manipulation to deliver its content under the guise of improving confidence, self esteem, relationships, and material success. The remainder of this article will be broken into two sections, “Method” which describes the tools of LGAT, and “Madness” covering the specific philosophies and principles of Impact Training.

Method

To best describe LGAT methods it’s appropriate to pull in some primers on its history and evolution, and some principles of modern psychology and their background.

Impact Training specifically comes from an individual by the name of Hans Berger, who has been involved as a founder and controller of both Impact Training and the “Harmony Institute” here in Utah. Hans got his start with “Lifespring”, which itself is an offshoot from the “Landmark Forum”, which came from “est” (erhard seminars training [capitalized as branded]), which came from “Mind Dynamics”, a component of “Scientology” (done with the “quotes” for now). The basic premise remains essentially unchanged from the abreactive therapies on which it was founded and are visible even now in the Dianetics that Scientology still deals in. Abreaction itself is simply a form of catharsis – the release of previously repressed emotion. This release typically takes the form of reliving events, but can be disembodied (which is to say, not linked to a specific trauma or episode) as well. The military looked at a formalized proposal for Abreactive Therapy following WWII, and concluded that though potentially effective it took too long and the results were not on par with other therapeutic techniques available at the time1.

In more modern psychology, catharsis and abreaction are occasional tools but are some distance from main line practice because of some significant drawbacks. The emotional release, while temporarily pleasing, does not absolve the original sensitizing events or traumas of their sting (repeated desensitization can be used to help, though that has more to do with controlled exposure to traumatic memory in a safe and productive environment than simple expulsion of pent-up emotion), and suffers from re-interpretation (experiencing memory in the light of the present state of mind) and false memory mechanisms (fantasy and invention, even unintentionally). Which is to say that, based on the presentation of the technique it’s possible to elicit an abreactive response from an individual solely in response to the environment, without basis in any specific or even real emotional injury.

The Impact Training LGAT utilizes several techniques to produce abreactive responses to its own ends. I’ll go into both the techniques in play and the intent with which it does so (which both still fall under the “Method” part of this discussion). First, the techniques.

Visualization, Guided Imagery, and Hypnosis: I myself am a practitioner of hypnosis; it’s an excellent working toolset for the application of behavioral psychology at the subconscious level, and if used properly can help to re-wire aberrant or undesired manifestations of motivation (e.g., behaviors) in non-conflicting and gestalt ways very quickly (specifically through the use of the hypnoanalytic techniques developed by Milton Erickson, rather than the more commonly portrayed authoritarian or sensationalized stage versions of hypnosis). I enrolled in certification as a hypnotherapist in 2002 in light of the bad tech economy as a fallback career which was never required (I landed with Overstock and things picked up from there). To date I’ve only ever used its therapeutical practices on myself, to reasonable effect. In the case of Impact Training, however, the analytical approach is avoided: the specific accounts of the imagery used there indicate standard induction practices (descending darkened staircases, presentation of doors, contextualized environments, etc.) and are then followed by very selective exercises. What and who the subject encounters and the means of their interaction with the same are dictated, and while the content of that interaction is up to the subject it’s predictable given the setup. It is meant to be confrontational, potentially provide some resolution, but mostly be empowering to the subject based on the transference of emotional responsibility that is the essence of the Impact Training philosophy.

The results of the repeated visualizations are reframed by the “Trainer” (I say “Trainer” in quotes as a branded(tm) title rather than an earned honorific, as the Impact Training staff are not licensed or certified by any governing body and are in fact students of the program themselves working off the volunteerism required to advance rather than credentialed therapists). Reframing is the practice of interpreting content (usually carefully selected content) according to preferred ideologies, prescribing “this is because of that” and “x is due to y” correlation to imply causation and inculcate those ideologies in the subject or other observers.

This same reframing is applied to lots of emotional responses, produced not only via the guided imagery but a host of other exercises and activities. One of the most distressing for me to learn about was the experiential reframing: an exercise where one participant discloses to another an event wherein they felt victimized, specifically a personal and meaningful such episode. After mutual disclosure from the other participant both are instructed to repeat their original story but from the vantage as though they were somehow responsible for the event themselves (this touches somewhat on the “Madness” content that will be explored in greater depth later). Having a person make such an assertion about their own experience, even if they are predisposed to discount such an assertion (and the preparatory exercises to that point do their best to reduce or eliminate such a predisposition), is tragically manipulative.

Why would a person go along with such an exercise? The key psychological tendencies which make LGAT sessions successful are that:

  1. People are wired to trust one another. If you are given a written statement, and told in advance that any portion of that statement written in red ink is false, you will still be influenced by it to a degree as though it were true.
  2. People are wired to listen to authority figures. As illustrated in the Milgram Experiment, and relied on especially heavily in LGATs via the establishment of the Absolute Authority of the Trainer (usually through overt authoritarianism and over-the-top bullying of non-compliant participants: anyone arriving late or otherwise not adhering to the strict and stressful schedule, for example, is deeply berated as a public example in front of others).
  3. We are influenced by the behavior of those around us. Through the use of mirror neurons which inspire observed behaviors and reactions within the observer, and the natural tendency toward conformity, it’s possible to expand the effect of an exercise and its reframed response from one to many, and to use the many to reinforce and enhance the intensity of the same so it really sticks. LGAT sessions frequently have plants as well – prior participants and other accomplices placed throughout the audience who already know the anticipated response and play along (either to earn the favor of the Trainer and advance, or in order to help things progress in a controlled fashion).
  4. Emotions produce endorphins. Eliciting extremes of emotion causes a cocktail of endorphins to be secreted throughout the brain, as effective as if administering mind or consciousness altering drugs via syringe. The “Love Bombing” stages of LGAT depend on this, specifically the production of endogenous opiates that both block pain and create a social-bonding specific high that reinforces desired attitudes and responses and inspires a need to return to the same (behavioral/chemical addiction).
  5. Emotions trump rationale. There are 2 paths of analysis in the human psyche: emotional and rational. The rational is the one that says “it’s unlikely that person approaching from the other direction means me harm” and it’s the emotional that says, “yeah, but if they do I’m in for a world of hurt” and makes us cross the street anyway. Statistics, oddly enough, seem to act as the antidote for this by grounding the rationale in something concrete.
  6. Distraction induces suggestibility. The schedule of the LGAT is structured to be demanding, high-paced, and run extremely late into the night/early morning in order to keep the energy ramped up and reduce the amount of time for digestion, critical analysis, or rejection.

As to the intent of these methods then, and to finish up the line of discourse regarding abreaction, the authority figure produces dramatic and intense (intentionally dramatized and intensified) responses from participants, frames them according the the preferred ideologies, and uses the group setting to amplify the emotional response in an environment designed to make people susceptible to suggestions regarding the same. This falls under the “predictable response” and “compliance” parts of my initial description of LGATs.

Other tools in use are standard propagandist indoctrination (refer to the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, 1938), and some cultic persuasion practices: secrecy, isolation, and specialized dialog.

On the point of secrecy, attendees are counseled that they are not to reveal anything of the proceedings to those who are not also themselves participants in the program, and even then only up to the level of that participant. They are requested to sign “non-disclosure” agreements at the beginning of the sessions to reinforce this fact and provide an authoritative standard on which they can rely, and this point is hammered home with remarkable force.

This secrecy lends itself to a form of isolation – unable to discuss the nature of the experience (which, from the perspective of the participant so affected can be a subjectively remarkable experience they are eager to discuss, or an unsettling one for which they require consolation), with any other than the group or prior attendees associated with their program, sets them apart from the world (and frequently from family and friends). They must rely on the new special-status group of co-participants or the Trainers who are in a position of authority over the same.

New terminology or new definitions for existing concepts are regularly introduced and strongly reinforced, creating a specialized dialog for discussing the experiences that makes little sense to those unfamiliar with the glossary. The loaded words and phrases create an extra layer of distance between participants and the uninitiated, and are used to prop up the philosophies of the training: much the same way that experiential reframing is used to instill a particular perspective in the subject, altered dialog is used as a means of manipulating thought through manipulating language. One of the remarkable attributes of the psyche is its ability to create contiguous reality out of disparate sensation – in many ways the condition in which one finds oneself is based on an almost external level of observation: “Am I smiling? I must be happy then.” Language is a part of this – the words we speak reflect attitude and belief, and if the words are altered it changes the regions of the brain in play (exciting some, suppressing others) and by association the expressed attitudes. In Impact Training, for example, “need” becomes “deserve”, and all such “needs” are discussed as the things a person “deserves.”

The final steps of isolation come from Love Bombing: the literal bombardment of affirmations of acceptance and even physical affection that overload the limbic system (responsible for secreting those endogenous opiates in response to positive social contact) and overwhelm rational barriers and any negative self-assessments. This exaggerated display of endearment creates a sense of belonging within the group that draws a very distinct line with what is now the “outside world” that fails to understand the participant and their budding transformation. It creates a very real chemical high and associates it with that social environment – the same one wherein any misstep concerning the schedule or authority of the Trainer results in massive public beratement. The combination of control and reward have a deep and profound effect, lasting a few weeks to a few years, though other times waning without refreshers (which is where the sales tactics come in to solicit further participation).

Though minor by comparison, there’s also the very human tendency to throw good money after bad – these “courses” cost several hundred to a few thousand dollars, and people are likely to see them through in the interest that their money not be wasted, rather than cut their losses early (or ask for a refund, which results in more hard-sales tactics and stiff opposition).

These components follow the basis for all “coercive persuasion” that is the foundation of cultic indoctrination: breaking down resistance and existing psychological structures, introducing new “preferred” ideologies and doctrines, and reinforcing those into the new structures on which the subject is meant to rely (as well as working to limit threats to the same so they remain in effect). These methods produce predictable psychological and emotional responses in the vast majority of the populace – not any specific sub-group of gullible nitwits looking to sign over their concept of reality to the first authority to offer them one, but in fact just about anyone subjected to the battery. They (the methods) are specifically geared to overcome barriers and alter one’s general conceptual orientation of the world, and in that goal they tend to be distressingly effective.

Madness

The specific philosophies (especially at the introductory levels of the program) of Impact Training follow the standard Mind Dynamics and other new-age empowerment paradigms. They assert not only that the unclouded mind has immeasurable potential to affect the reality around it (the literal world, not just conceptualized experience of the same), but that ultimate responsibility for the condition of one’s existence is entirely up to the participant, and in fact always has been.

This assertion is both positive and negative: one can purportedly “manifest” the reality they “deserve” with the right kind of “spiritual action” (yes, the “quotes” are back), and there are special tools and abilities open only to the initiated to assist them in so doing. It also means that everything that has ever happened to an individual has somehow, consciously or otherwise, been a similar controlled “manifestation” of their own intent, even those involving external entities. All the way up to the weather they’ve experienced or the drunk driver who killed their family, whatever you’ve got: the more personal and dramatic the better. Through the indoctrination received, one supposedly inherits the ability to “choose” or “choose out” of first the influence of these events upon them, and then the events themselves as a component of the physical universe.

Beyond the simple laws of physics and conservation of energy revealing such a thing to be impossible (or so comically improbable as to not be worthy of consideration), this philosophy taken to its final conclusion would pit every individual in the world against every other individual, as well as all forces of nature both terrestrial and cosmic. Were this philosophy and its influences to be real, what would be the final arbiter of conflicting manifestations, and how could suffering exist in any form but to be the responsibility of the sufferer? It belies the compassionate humanitarianism (which is nothing at all like the humanized version of vegetarianism) that I believe is the responsibility of every member of organized society and encourages a self-centered orientation of the universe.

Impact Training, as is the standard for LGAT, uses hard sales tactics to persuade, beg, and bully participants into enrollment for successive and increasingly expensive courses. No excuse is accepted, as the tools already imparted to them will supposedly enable them to overcome any obstacles to procuring necessary funds. Any questionable fiscal wisdom or responsibility of the participant to continue is irrelevant – if they have truly accepted the doctrines as presented and are capable of genuinely committing themselves they “deserve” the continuation and can’t afford to not continue. Shared pressures from the rest of the group are asserted, and those opting not to continue are either praised for their pledge to continue as resources and timing coalesce to their favor or belittled for not choosing to adhere to the path of enlightenment (though in their defense I’ve heard that recently the personal attacks for non-continuation have been toned down somewhat).

The Trainer at this point is usually a volunteer of the program, someone demonstrating their dedication to its efficacy by the number of recruits and continuing participants they can manifest. Any inability to effectively do so means the Trainer is simply failing in the execution of the reality-altering concepts, and needs additional training and reinforcement themselves, and any success belongs to the methods and system. This kind of self-fulfilling assertion begins in early levels of the program as participants are strongly urged to recruit family or friends to first attend closing ceremonies and then go on to enroll, with credit and advancement awarded to those successful recruiters (and in some cases “advancement” being conditional on exactly those circumstances).

The hard sales and Multi-Level Marketing style of recruitment as requirements for continuation in the pseudo-cultic program are in my opinion a horribly destructive combination: either one manages a continual stream of inductees and is heralded as a success to the program, or failures become their personal responsibility and grounds for mental and verbal abuse. Accounts of burned-out Trainers putting on the best face for the crowd as their lives fall apart (both within and without the organization) are repeatedly available online, and the responses and rebuttals from Impact Training adherents frequently resonate with double-speak and “blame the victim” tactics that quite honestly creep me out.

At advancing levels of training the overt LGAT tools are no longer necessary due to the depth of the indoctrination and reliance on the group it has created. It is here that the warped LDS theologies are introduced and used to play on LDS members’ (of which there are of course a great many in Utah) beliefs as a means of turning spiritual and religious devotion into yet another mechanism of attachment to the organization. I will not repeat any of those specific assertions in public, because I do not feel they warrant repetition of any kind – I’m willing to discuss it privately with anyone (no secrecy here), I just don’t ever want to be associated with the words in a public and searchable place. It is also in these levels that the highest amount of volunteer commitment to enrolling others in the program is required until one breaks into the inner circle or burns out and departs.

I have seen a few people go through the program, and I’ve been genuinely scared by the amount of unrighteous influence I saw exerted upon them and to which they seemingly wholeheartedly subscribed. On the LDS side of things this very much smacks of priestcraft (doctrine for sale), the “philosophies of men, mingled with scripture,” and the flattery and telling of pleasing things in order to lure people away from the truth (or their beliefs, such as the case may be). Abandonment of principles and morals associated with those beliefs followed, including a complete falling away from the organization of the Church itself (which has also issued an open letter to its membership specifically targeting these kinds of organizations, but does so in the light of day).

I count myself among the rational participants of the world, and have specifically chosen my religious affiliations (and am willing to discuss this with others, including how I can use the word “rational” and “religious affiliations” in the same sentence). I claim the privilege of worshiping according to the dictates of my own conscience, and afford others the same freedom. What saddens me here is not so much that others do not share my own beliefs as it is to see a core cultural and personal/spiritual conviction undermined by con artists and hucksters for the purpose of turning a buck without regard to the potentially destructive consequences. If they believe their own schtick, I pity them. On the other hand, if they perpetrate these acts knowingly, then Gentlemen: I drop my left glove at your feet and await your response to the challenge.

Any of those of you affected by the teachings of this or other such organizations, I continue to regard you as I always have – I may be saddened by the current state of affairs and the distance it has created between us, but only because I continue to love and cherish you. Loving from across a chasm I cannot bridge yields sadness is all.

For more information I highly recommend searching around for “Impact Trainings” and “LGAT”. Take the materials on both sides with a grain (or fistful) of salt and draw your own conclusions. For those open to considering direct challenges to LGAT practitioners (as opposed to those who would rather hear no such thing) I have a thoroughly bookmarked and dog-eared copy of Cults In Our Midst by Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer I’m willing to loan out (though I would like it back after it makes the rounds).


  1. Abreaction in the Military Setting: Harold Rosen and Henry J. Mayers. Arch. of Neurology and Psychiatry, LVII, 1947, pp. 161–172.

« »

Latest Comments:

  1. Paul,
    While your locutions borderline on being sesquipedalian, I heartily agree with your observations and conclusions. While my on research has not been quite as in depth, that which I have reviewed sustains the proposition that LGAT’s are highly manipulative and take ‘away’ from one’s agency while purporting to do the opposite. I have found that there are other ways to empower oneself and to find true joy in life that are far more effective and less alienating.

  2. Edited to add citation for military evaluation of abreactive therapies in WWII, and removed “the heck” from the first sub-title for ease of visual scanning.

  3. This reminds me of a Real Estate seminar that was I attended for free in Salt Lake City, but run around every major city, after watching late night adverts on how to get rich in real estate. The main guru’s name was Whitney or Whitaker or some such. So, I attend the free seminar in a hotel lobby for an hour. All the emotional and berating techniques are used and I allowed myself to be suckered into buying the real training class for $1600 where I’m supposed to learn how to make hundreds of thousands in a year or so. I attend the first two of three days of the upgraded seminar and realize that very little real content is being shared and the “Instructor” is harping on everyone to call their credit card companies to increase their card limits to $50,000 if they can. On the second day he shows the next level of training where you supposedly really learn by touring around Florida how to buy and sell houses for profit but these courses start at $23,000 and go up to $37,000 for the top level real estate wannabe rich guy. I was so upset that I was duped out of $1600 dollars by a con-man and system. I never went to the third day, which was on a Sunday and went to church with my wife instead. Much better choice. Since then, I also studied and researched hypnosis, NLP, and other psychological ideas that are used in PR and sales so as to not be taken in again by wolves in sheep’s clothing. “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”. I recommend the BBC production Century of the Self as a fascinating insight into how these principles were/are used to manipulate politics and industry “success”.
    Thanks for taking the time to document your experience with the LGAT system Paul. Much appreciated.

  4. This was very interesting reading. Thanks for publishing it. Several years ago I published a collection of quotations entitled Propaganda, Persuasion & Deception:Over 1,125 Selected Quotations for the Ideological Skeptic. It deals with much the same subject you have written about here. Google the title and download it for free. Thanks.

  5. I finished Quest (the first step of Impact Training) a bit ago (I won’t say when exactly) and wow, I have felt all over the place.

    First of all, I come from an LDS background, but left the church at the age of 25 for no real belief in anything supernatural. This was a process that took years and without going into extreme detail, I’ll just say that once I was out of the LDS church I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me.

    Many of my family members have been through training, including cousins, aunts, uncles, and even my mother. I have been talked to about the training for the last year or so by various family members and I never wanted to go because A) I knew they would talk about God and I’m not really a believer in God, especially when organizations like this keep confirming why I think the whole God institution is manipulative and plays on people’s fears. B) It seemed new agey to me, although if they would’ve stayed neutral with respect to saying “the Universe” and “heart” I probably would’ve been okay with most of what was said. BUT, they didn’t stay neutral. AT ALL, and I found their practices to be extremely manipulative and it never occurred to me until after being in the training about the sleep deprivation factor. I’ll just give a synopsis of everyday and explain my experiences. I ended up agreeing to go because I was at a time in my life where I felt out of control with my escapism and shutting down when things were tough. I figured I would just take the good things out of it and not pay any attention to the God stuff.

    Day One: Went in at 1:30 to register, then the training started at 3:00 with military like yelling to “PLACE YOUR BELONGINGS AT THE SIDE OF THE ROOM AND HAVE A SEAT” “FILL THE FRONT ROWS FIRST”. The staffers repeated this multiple times until everyone was probably so scared about what was going on, that we were all quiet.

    After we were seated, one of the main trainers, Justin, came up to the room walking very fast and getting into his “I’m better than you” Persona. He purses his lips a lot to look like a tough guy, and this bothered me. After he established himself, he started asking questions and someone made the mistake of raising their hand. And each subsequent person that raised their hand was grilled into humiliation hearing phrases like “I GET THAT ABOUT YOU” or “MY EXPERIENCE OF YOU IS…” From day one we were not allowed to say “you” in a general sense, but always “I” or “ME” even when it didn’t make sense… What happened on the first day was a lot of tears by the group and a lot of open disclosure. AND grilling by Justin. We were there until 11:30 that night just learning about why our lives sucked so bad. Some of it resonated with me, and I took those things and have ran with them, but a lot of it, like their “language of increase” crapola was ridiculous.

    Also, the ground rules were laid out. No smoking, drinking, taking any advil or mind altering substance, so not even melatonin or Nyquil or anything! Some couldn’t take the heat and agree to that so they left. No disclosing anything to anyone about the processes in Quest, because “it would take away from their experience”. No talking about anyone outside the group, No Chewing Gum, No Cell Phones, Always arrive on TIME, and Take care of your buddy… As in, if your buddy didn’t show up one day you would most likely be asked to leave since you didn’t care enough to get them there and make sure they were coming. I don’t remember all the other rules, but basically the whole thing was about “BEING YOUR WORD” and not breaking it. Whatever…

    Now, I can’t remember which day we did the “Trust” exercise, but I THINK it was on Day One. We had to go around the room and say to random people we made eye contact with if we trusted them or not… with these 4 phrases:

    “I trust You”
    “I don’t trust You”
    “I don’t know if I trust”
    “I don’t care to say if I trust you”

    Darren made us do that a few different times, and one of the times he said if we say “I trust you” to someone, we were then to disclose our deepest, darkest secret. One lady said something to me that was so disturbing I figured she must be mentally ill. Something about how she had sex one time while on her period and the tampon got stuck… Um, never needed to know that! And that’s not a deep dark secret!

    Day Two: More about how we are in charge of ourselves and have the power to BE who we are, but that we get so lost in our minds that we don’t get anywhere. More humiliation of group members, and lots of crying. We also played the BLACK/RED game which was to demonstrate to us that there is no Right or Wrong, just what works and doesn’t work. We all failed miserably at this game because we didn’t follow the instructions or something and got caught up on things that didn’t matter. And there was a lot of tension. I guess this game made a good point overall.

    Before I go into Day Three, I have to say that I was fine up until that point. It wasn’t such a horrible experience before that, even though I didn’t agree with the way they did everything I WAS feeling bonded to my group, I WAS feeling motivated and I was examining my life in a different way.

    Day Three started with the normal stuff, but then we had to do an exercise where we got rid of all of our family demons by imagining a Photo Album and “calling forth” our Mom, Dad, anyone else who had ever hurt us, and finally OURSELVES. We had to yell and scream and the whole room was full of wailing, sort of like in the scriptures where they say “weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth”. I totally got into it, I was saying every word in the book and beating the crap out of the chair (as we were instructed to do). We then had to act as if we were the people we were screaming at, apparently to gain empathy for them. Overall it was an effective exercise, but everyone was totally off their rocker (myself included) while we were doing it. Everything went down hill from there…

    God had to be mentioned constantly. Why, WHY couldn’t they JUST say Universe, why couldn’t they just say “HEART”, why did they have to act like the only way we could really just “Be” was through tapping into our Light Source (AKA God). I started getting extremely uncomfortable, and from there, the next few hours of sharing seriously felt like LDS Fast and Testimony meeting, people giving near death experiences, etc etc. I felt nauseated and like I was being cheated by it having to take that route. I’m all for unconditional love and “there is no right or wrong” only what works and doesn’t work… I’m for humanity and love and peace, but not when there’s a God agenda behind it. That’s part of why we have so many wars in the first place. So after this “sharing” came a buncha talk about Summit and how if we don’t go to Summit we’re going to backslide and go back to who we were before Quest. I didn’t like this manipulation… If we really are “at choice” as they like to say, and are supposed to always feel with our hearts, and be who we are, and there is no right or wrong, then why would they plant this manipulative seed in our minds? Wouldn’t it be up to us if we FELT the need to go to Summit? People were eating it up. The sales pitch for Summit and then Lift Off was done through an illustration… 2 land masses far apart with a body of water inbetween and sharks infesting the water. Quest is half of a bridge, Summit is the other Half, and the Lighthouse on the other side provides a place for us to “LIFT OFF” as birds into the sky.

    I felt so manipulated because I honestly thought “Wow, they want us to believe we can create anything in our lives, and use that to THEIR advantage to get more revenue!” It’s total hypocrisy based on what they taught us in Quest. Why can’t someone take what they learned in Quest and be done? Why do they HAVE to go to Summit and Lift Off, and thousands of dollars later, somehow be One with the Universe? If it’s truly a choice, it can be done without their pseudo-support.

    Also on this day we did a singing exercise, and if I never hear the song we sang again, I would be perfectly fine. It’s called “STAND”, and we stayed until the wee hours of the morning all having to sing it by ourselves in front of everyone. I guess it was sort of a fun exercise that got us out of our shells, but it lost its flavor when a person in my group started having a really bad migraine, so much so that they could hardly function. A staffer finally asked Darren if she could go home, but he looked at her with no empathy at all and said “Your group deserves you to be here”. I felt so bad… plus it would be against her “WORD” to take any kind of pain reliever.

    We didn’t get out until 2:30 that morning. So 14+ hours of brainwashing and sleep deprivation.

    I’m not sure what day the hugging exercise happened, but I did enjoy that at the time. Now I see that it was more of a manipulative exercise that keeps you wanting to see these people over and over again, and makes you question your own relationships and if they’re “intimate” enough. Of course, it couldn’t just be an exercise about unconditional love, it had to involve something supernatural like the trainers saying “Some of you may feel like you’ve seen these people before” As in a pre-existence type thing… We had to look into the people’s eyes and when prompted hold up 1-4 fingers. 4 fingers being the ‘hug’ fingers. That is what most people did, and there was a lot of crying.
    Also on that day we were able to go out to eat with our buddies and one other DYAD (twosome), and while it was enjoyable to get out of that warehouse, I again realized how little overhead this company has. They don’t feed you, they have the higher up trainings feed you (like Lift Off) or your angels. They also offered a $15 dollar photo of the Quest group that took about .50 cents to make and used the phrase “You can choose to receive a $15 dollar family photo and receive it by the end of the day, is that exciting folks?”

    I didn’t end up buying one because I was starting to feel the manipulation there. I also felt it even more when we were asked to “create” a situation on a break where we did something nice for someone without them knowing it. Wouldn’t you know it, when we went outside the group room, there were roses you could buy for exorbitant prices, stickers and necklaces. At least they were kind enough to provide note cards and pens incase you didn’t wanna buy anything.

    By day 4 I was done… I still went but they just kept pitching Summit and talking about God and Spiritual Beings having a human experience, yadda yadda. Towards the end of the day we got into our groups and were asked POINT BLANK if we were going to Summit and if we gave any kind of “excuses” we were told that “Your family deserves you to be there”, and that if we ask the universe for something the answer will always be “YES!”. Well, maybe, but my bank account would be dry, I’d lose my job, and we’d have no home to live in, but I guess they don’t care about that! I told them flat out I wasn’t coming and that I didn’t like the god stuff… and they just said I can interpret it however I want. They also had us sign up for an interview time on the following Monday.

    Later, we had graduation and I was numb at that point. My husband came and my daughter and some other family members. When one of them asked if I was going to Summit, and I said NO, of course I got the tape recorder answer back. Nobody would take No for an answer.

    Finally done with the whole process and I start realizing that the bonding I had with these people was fleeting and if I wasn’t going to Summit I would lose contact with most or all of them. I felt SAD about that! I cried everyday after feeling like I was going to lose these people just cause I wasn’t in the “in crowd” anymore. I realized this whole thing isn’t about unconditional love, it’s about manipulation!

    I also was called for an interview and told again that I deserve to go to Summit and maybe they could send a letter to my boss telling them it was a “win win” situation. And when I told her no, and also didn’t show up at the reunion I received ANOTHER call from a higher up basically planting in my head that I was lost without them and that if I ever get an aching or feel like I’m on a rollercoaster that their door is always open. Well, thanks but no thanks.

    My family members that are in this freak me out. Especially after reading what they teach in the higher up trainings and TIT. I did see their love water in the vending machines and was totally disturbed by that.
    I’ve pretty much cut my losses. I still have friends on facebook but I still don’t know how real those friendships are. I even emailed everyone saying I won’t be going to Summit , but that we deserve to stay in touch and only got a few genuine responses. Everyone else ignored me.

    So, there you have it. My Quest story. I wish people could see them for what they are. Just because you get good things out of it, doesn’t mean it’s GOOD and a LOT of the good stuff is bred from manipulation, like feeling you LOVE everyone in your group. It’s not as real once you’re not in their fold. Very sad…

  6. My wife went through Quest, Summit and Liftoff about 4 years ago. We are active LDS. We haven’t discussed her Impact experience for a long time, but I am still disturbed by her participation in it. She never has apologized for not letting me in on what she did there. In her mind, she had a deep spiritual experience at Impact, but she never shared it with me. The best name I can give that attitude is dis-loyalty. So yes, I still have issues with Impact, even though it has been several years since she was active.

    I’m looking for others to join me in writing/filming a documentary about Impact. Any interest from you?

  7. My wife left me for impact because I did not feel that it was right and supporting her was not enough. I had to drink the koolaid and if I didn’t that was the end of us. Needless to say I tried to go but was kicked out for standing up for my beliefs. My beautiful wife and I are now seperated. Impact ruined my life and marriage. To anyone concidering going I emplor you. Don’t do it.

  8. This blog is just what I have been searching for! Thank you for the research presented, and the truth laid out for those of us plagued by Impact. I have not participated in this program, but have loved ones currently involved. My heart aches for them, and their choice to get involved with such a degrading so called training. I will stand against impact and against those responsible for the spiritual and emotional mutilation of soul searching individuals… not just kin. Thank you to all who speak out against impact.

  9. I am an educated man. I hold two doctorate degrees. I am a little ‘long in the tooth’ as well, nearing 60. I am NOT BETTER than anyone, just educated. I mention this only to provide context, and in the hope that perhaps it might make a small difference in someone’s decision to stay away from IMPACT.

    I can’t thank you enough for taking the months (ne’ years) to research this so methodically. I, too, was involved in this cult for several years. I saw it from the ‘inside-out.’ It is manipulative, coersive, and outright destructive. I have seen it destroy individuals and families. Yes, it may cause a positive shift in some persons’ lives, but this rarely lasts more than a few years once the impactee stops participating in the never-ending hierarchy of ascension (read: more and more training, more and more income to Hans and Sally).

    I will leave anyone reading this with one small piece of wisdom; really wisdom that everyone should use for EVERYthing like this: DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! Do not rely on me, on the author of this site, and especially not on someone who is already ‘in’ a cult. Do it for yourself. Be thorough, be educated. I only wish someone had given me this advice several years ago. The info IS out there, you just have to dig.

  10. Thank you so much for your insightful breakdown of LGAT’s. I was convinced by my ex to attend one of these psychological nightmares. After seeing him with a renewed energy and zest for life, I thought there must be something to all. There’s certainly something to it – but not anything I want any part of. My ex has been a part of Summit for 5 or 6 years now. The only time we could get along since his involvement was during and shortly after he had “staffed” another class or event.
    It took me a while to figure out why he (and I when I attended) was on such an emotional high during a training, but would go back to his abusive, uncaring ways between classes. Then viola, it hit me. He is a recovering heroin addict. The above statements mention the release of endorphines. The euphoria and adrenaline rush is similar to the effects of opiates. While the drug is active in the body, the addict’s world is complete. When the effects wear off he’s crawling around on his hands and knees looking for crumbs.
    The worst part is his oldest daughter being wrapped up in the madness. He has made his relationships contingent on Summit participation; so, to have any sort of relationship with him, she must also drink the punch. When she’s in it, she’s nearly the fanatic he is. When she distances herself, she gets that it’s all manipulation.
    During the second portion, my buddy left on a stretcher after having had a mental break. Much of the mind manipulation is based on basic psychology and knowledge of simple human behaviors. The problem with that is that not all humans are the same, and not all will react the same to stimuli. While we are in these rooms we turn into sheep, faithfully following the sheperd; being led to believe we can change the world single-handedly. A few days after the psychosis subsides, you just might be left questioning your ability to change your own underwear

  11. Thank you all for sharing these experiences. I came to this blog seeking divergent points of view about Impact because I wanted to understand why controversy exists about the program. I appreciate the many posts. I’ve heard good and bad about impact and was trying to find objectivity. I still can’t. I seem to only be able to find those who praise it and those who disfavor it; nobody seems to try to recognize it benefits along with its problems. Non favorable points of view that I have read tend to highlight some benefits but there is always a clear bias (which is fine). Given the many praises of the program, it just makes it hard to find the reality. I suppose it is up to me to find the objective middle ground. Again, thank you all for your posts and research.

    I find it interesting that much of the focus on here has been on how people have disagreed with the tactics (i.e. manipulation, emotional response, peer pressure, etc.) with less focus being places on the actual merits (or lack thereof) of the program. While the delivery method of a program is part of the program and can lend credibility to or discredit a program, it does not define it. I’ve not been to Impact but know some good people who swear by its value in helping them be better people. They are not so blind to not see some of the not-so-good tactics mentioned throughout this blog. But they have been able to sift through those to find the good things, apply them and be better people. They are better communicators, they take accountability for their role in hard things in their and aspire to make positive changes that lead them to happier lives. I can’t discount these positive results even if LGAT also seems to use some radical approaches which, admittedly, are not great…but are not surprising to find in any business trying to thrive. Most of the same tactics to ‘convert’ people to their products or causes are used in most commercials, advertising, media of almost every organization or businesses throughout the world trying to influence people towards a cause they feel is good. Every day we filter through attempts to influence us as we make choices about our lives based on the merits of products, programs and services on not on the ads, selling tactics, etc. of the advertiser.

    Even after reading these posts with a desire to understand what this program has to offer, I am still not convinced that it is all bad. It sounds like Impact has much to offer people who might want or need some motivation or guidance in improving their lives in some positive ways. No one likes to be pressured or manipulated but for those who can see these tactics for what they are and separate those from the good ideas shared, I can’t help but think Impact might be a good program. It is obviously not for everybody but in world of people bombarded with disappointments, hardships, abuse, struggles, pressures, etc. I welcome anything positive to counter those things.

    The original post included a lot of research and mention of academics. Thank you for the thought and time spent on the research. The comprehensive commentary on the methods and philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of Impact were helpful. While the author’s criticisms of some of these approaches were clear, they were nonetheless personal opinions of what worked or did not work for him/her. The inclusion of personal opinion mixed in with all the good academic research about the methodologies (many of which are by the way sound and used successfully in many settings) undermined the credibility of the academics referenced that were intended to strengthen the criticism. I would actually probably agree with his/her opinions on the use of those methodologies but I cannot entirely discount the use of some of those methods in any program designed to effect change. I appreciated the commentary under Madness about the content. I am still left with questions. Many people are professing to make positive changes as a result of Impact. They are not all brainwashed legions of followers. They, too, are “level-headed rational participants of the world.” They are fathers, mothers, successful professionals, active members of their churches, etc. They are good people doing good things. Something good is coming from the sessions. Why?

    I would likely feel manipulated like Tiredofmanipulation did. I abhor any tactic to coerce or manipulate and it is unfortunate that Impact has alienated many people as a result of this approach. I appreciated Tiredofmanipulation’s admission of some of the benefits of the program. It is too bad the whole program has to be discounted because of the use of some of the tactics.

    Perhaps Rich Tomlinson said it best when said that “there are other ways to empower oneself and to find true joy in life that are far more effective and less alienating.” This statement does not discount the good that Impact has to offer but it does seem to suggest that improvements to the program or other programs altogether might increase one’s likelihood for success in making positive changes.

    I’d like to hear more specifics on how Impact content has been “destructive” to families and relationships. I’ve heard that said in 2-3 posts on here. I’d be curious to know how it so negatively affected relationships. I suppose I’m still just trying to reconcile why so many people can be positively influenced by this program while others walk away with such a sour taste.

  12. The benefits can be had at a deeper personal investment (i.e., long hard work as opposed to instilled in a harried weekend) through other means: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey) + Getting things Done (Allen) do a good job of helping one develop resolve, clarify personal purpose, and put that into a realistic framework of productivity that creates an effective influence on the world.

    My opinion of coercive persuasion is not based on what does or does not work for me, but rather based on psychological studies and personal standards of integrity – an attempt to change someone’s mind through manipulation or without full disclosure of the means and cognitive biases they propose to exploit is a game of dishonesty and con men, and seeks to rob people of their right to choose for themselves. Yes, lots of industries do it to a degree, but to subject a captive audience to such a distilled concentration is tantamount to abuse (which is exactly how I would categorize a good number of the experiences I’ve read). The limited peronal empowerment value Impact does purport to impart is not worth the experience.

  13. I am interested in gett more information on this as some of my family are participating in this and I am very worried about them

  14. I recently finished Impact, and had a great experience….while I was at the facility. I live across the country, and since being home, while I am thankful for the things I have learned, I feel like I was almost on a 4 day high from some weird drug and am now coming down. This is why they push the second training so fast. So they can keep the “love” coming and get you deeper involved in it. I am on the fence as to whether or not I will do the “Summit” training, especially since my husband read lots of things on it and now is convinced it’s a weird cult like thing. I will tell you the one thing that is hanging me up.

    I was sexually abused as a child. I went through therapy, but still let it affect me in my life. I went to this training to get over my past and feel good about myself so I can be a better wife, mother and person. So I left there being told that basically “is it a possibility that before you came to earth you wanted to learn unconditional love and your father said he would serve you and teach you that by sexually abusing you?” When we were told to discuss this with our buddy, we were told to remove “fault” and “blame” and just account that it happened. They asked us to recognize things we may have missed, signs we may have ignored, etc. I am “in my head” as they would say because my father chose to do this so it is his “fault.” Children are innocent in the eyes of God, so why should I have seen signs and why should I take accountability for something I did not have control over as a 3 and 4 year old child. And during my session, multiple offenders got up and confessed and I was sitting next to one! Legally, there were 16 and 17 year old children there and a couple was one convicted sex offender there who should not be around minors. That just dawned on me….HOLY COW!!! He was going around hugging everyone, too.

    So although I did learn a lot about myself that I feel is valuable, I do not think that continuing the trainings is the right thing for me to do in my life. When I told my “empowerment coach” that I had commitments at my children’s school, Christmas was coming, I would need to fly over 2000 miles and pay $1000 for a ticket, he told me those things were “mechanics” and reasons and excuses and would be there again in January. I told him I felt that in my heart I did not want to make a rift in my marriage and wanted to be there with my family. He said he would support me in any choice, but I could feel a difference in his voice.

    Then I asked my friend about the lift off, because I’m sure that if we were pressured to do Summit as much as we were, Lift off would be next. I live so far away and to be expected to be there 4 weekends over 6 weeks, is not reality for me. I think that as I type this, continuing on is just not for me.

  15. I have friends who are part of this bulls**t. I went to some “thing” where they had us move from person to person, and they would tell me things, and wanted me to tell them things..hell I cant even remember. I know I was laughing to myself about how ridiculous this was. My friends who went all talk in weird phrases. I get asked for things, like money, and then told that they ‘created’…wait..you didnt create anything…or asked for a ride because they “deserve to…”whatever. I say its attempts to manipulate a desired response. I called it out the first time I saw how my “friend” had changed. Anyone that succumbs to this crap is weak minded, and incomplete as a person. Some woman called me to attend the “training” (brainwashing) and I laughed at her, told her I didnt need them or any group to make me feel good about myself, which she replied (as have others who have been to this farce) that I was closed off. I again laughed, told her no again and hung up. I love my friends, but I am no fan of this organization or those that promote it as anything positive. Its nothing more than a way to take money away from people who can utilize if for a better purpose..like FOOD.

  16. Hi I just experienced Impact Training and I totally loved it. So happy. Have had a rough life and was able to put so many things into perspective. I am active LDS and felt my experience, although non religious, very spiritual. Thanks for this forum to learn and discuss!

  17. I was kicked out of this breeding ground of Sodom and Gomorrah last night at 6:30. I stood up to the God of this world, I mean Justin Aktison the trainer. I saw him break many people. Brainwashing them into warped ideals of a twisted theology. He wanted me out because I could not be broken. At the point he was kicking me out he was nose to nose with me. He tried to hide his fears but the deep swallows in his throat proved otherwise. I left without incident only because they have a full time security officer who is from West Valley Utah there full time. To this sad insecure little boy Justin Aktison, I hope that we can meet sometime when know one is around and finish your insignificant conversation.

  18. Been to the Training. Follow The First Presidency. I did not and suffered greatly although I learned some things. Please if you are contemplating going to this so called training, Please Please Follow the First Presidency. I remember as soon as the doors closed the whispering of the Holy Ghost left and a counterfeit spirit entered and you spend a lot of time rationalizing it away. Follow the First Presidency, Pray to Father in Heaven in the name of Jesus Christ and he will witness to you the peace of this answer if you are truly sincere.

  19. I am currently in Lift Off. I have mixed feelings about the trainings. For the most part I feel that they are very positive, have some interesting ways of looking at life that I’d never considered before, and the bonding with the group reminds me of how connection with many people is such a positive feeling.

    I do see the manipulative tactics that go on in here and I have experienced emotional lows after leaving the different sessions as your HUGE high that you have does go away. I do see alot of people that make Impact such a HUGE part of their life, and for that I’m sad to see. If they can’t take the tools they learn at Impact and integrate this into their life and give their light to others without the constant integration of Impact, then they need to learn how.

    Overall, I would say Impact has been a great experience for me. Though after Lift-Off I’m through for a while. I feel alot of pressure to make Impact the focal point of my life and to do that I would need to neglect my family, which I’m not willing to do. I will continue to visit Impact in great moderation, as I have seen it change people in a very good way. I hope they can keep their light shining after their experiences are over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>