12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 2)


By Mark Spencer, ITA Certified New Code and Classic Code NLP Trainer and Change Agent

Few people can describe what they have learned from an LGAT experience, often saying “you have to be there, I can’t explain… you should come to the next one”.
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We constantly try to make sense of everything we experience

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” ~ Anon.

Think of what happens when you attend a wedding or a funeral, or experience a live and intimate performer or any other event that may invoke strong emotions and some moments of self-reflection or new thoughts. Even though these events may be to celebrate the union or commemorate a life and comfort those in loss, we often can’t help but relate some of these thoughts to our own relationships, our own life’s direction, our own legacy, our own mortality. At times these thoughts may culminate in a decision or a resolve to make some aspect of our life better and it may be very hard to express what we have just experienced in our mind and we might only remember what we concluded.

So there are things in our lives that grab our attention, engage us and we may not be able to put a finger on what happened, how we strung our own thoughts together to arrive at a new understanding. It is fascinating how – before you are aware of the mechanisms at work on us and uncover our unconscious strategies, we are really highly influenced and we often have little idea as to how or why our very own brain followed a train of thought and got to where it did, often unconsciously.

We explored the unconscious influences in another post as Derren Brown explores Subliminal Advertising, using two subjects from with Saachi and Saachi, challenging them at their own game.

We get framed for many things we experience

Some of the research by Stanford University Medical Center into these training programs demonstrates that nonspecific effects of expectancy and response sets may account for positive outcomes1. In other words, we have a level of expectancy established by ads, friends, precepts, hope and the like, that has a number of response sets or possible outcomes.

So, asking an attendee ‘what did you get out of the training’ may result in a very loose and nonspecific response. With this kind of detail, you will not get very far with your research from first-hand reports, thus the importance of the Research that needs to be done as described in Part 1. So, despite the enthusiasm of a friend or acquaintance, there may not be much detail to go on with first-hand accounts.
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One explanation for this is the very nature of the event – where hype and many contributing forces account for the mix of emotions and state that the attendees may have, but they have little substance to speak of. Any wonder that some people are keen to attend again and again, because it may be the only time and place that they can enter this state – where they can generate the feelings and emotions that allows them to make changes in their lives.

This might be a useful strategy for some to pursue, but it can be very expensive therapy.

What can you do?

Check for Notes

So, you know someone that has gone to an event – see if this person has something like notes that they can share or being more specific about what they learned. Many of the training offerings that are a bit dubious (but not all) restrict note-taking and recording, so if someone has notes, it might be an exception, not be too suspicious. The more vague the description, maybe the more the person attending was subject to a lot of stories and framing for an experience, rather than a take-away learning.

Given there may not be much to go on, it is time for some critical thinking

How does this compare to other experiences?

If the training you are considering is mostly an orchestrated experience, how does it compare to going to a good sports event that you enjoy or a concert with your favourite experiential band? Also to consider – is this the most efficient and economical way to get this experience?

What other ways can you get into a state that generates expectancy?

If it is important to be in a state that generates expectancy and an ability to transcend your own self-imposed limitations, then look how/where you can do just this, either for free or for a lower cost. An exceptional coach can do this with you.

Get around happy and positive people

“Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.” ~ Karl Marx

If it is about being with happy and positive people, then there are alternatives. Look for positive groups with interests like your own. Start one. Join an unrelated group like trekking, camping, car, social, or a sport and find positive people in that group.

“People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person, or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” ~ Plato

Get some time out

If you need time out of the treadmill of life, then do what you need to do to take care of domestic affairs (whichever applies: children/dependents, pets, household, partner, work) and take some time off in a place that allows you to think clearly, dream possibilities and create a new part of your future.
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Immersion in a positive environment

If you want immersion in a positive environment, maybe you need a new place to work or where you socialise. Have you ever evaluated those around you – the ones you spend a lot of time with? If they are affecting you, do you need to have an adjustment in the ratio of needy/draining vs encouraging/uplifting friends – you just have to step back and notice what’s going on.


We should be able to generate the environment we need anywhere but, if you seriously want to change your whole outlook, maybe moving somewhere may help – first take some time to decide which happiness index to believe, then organise to visit that country or place and really take it in. Hopefully, these places are going to be more genuine and long-lasting in their happiness. There is far more to do in life than being the next widget inventor or widget web-seller, being happy can take so many forms, so expand your perspectives… a eg. Top and bottom countries, ranked by happiness index Source: LiveScience, World Happiness Report or Bloomberg: These Are the Happiest Countries in the World. Maybe just reading about what they do inspires and encourages you.

Navigation in this article series

12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Introduction) - Introduction - where people overspend, waste their life and get hurt, looking out for others to guard against being brainwashed, includes signs and tips for what you can do
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (References) - Brainwashing Reference Material, transcriptions of LGAT events, what's banned in some countries, about de-programmers, Cult watch, Cult truth, abusive churches, recovery programs, stories in full from Cult Awareness and Information Centre (CAIC), TED, Cults, Sects, and New Religious Movements, Resources for Recovery from Destructive Cults and Groups
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 1) - Awareness - Read. Be aware of what you are planning to attend, research the organisation. What you can do if you are being asked to go to an event, considering an event or someone who is wanting to sell to you.
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 2) - Specifics - What happened at the event you went to? Few people can describe what they have learned - "you have to be there, I can't explain..." Research states: nonspecific effects of expectancy and response sets may account for positive outcomes
12 things you should know to avoid being brain-washed (Part 3) - Loyalty and allegiances; Projecting the Perfect Leader; Long Sessions, but is there any substance?
12 things you should know to avoid being brain-washed (Part 4) - Lose your friends - Many attendees lose their own friends and family through the pressure to supply 'friends' as potential purchasers of the training or event, or to become followers of the cause.
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 5) - Exit Minders; Silence equates to Agreement (not); Am I the only one who is thinking this?
12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 6) - 6 You may have already learned about the Exit Minders, Silence equates to Agreement (not), Losing Friends, Lack of Substance in previous posts… this post continues with the sixth of the 12 things you should know and what you can …
Did you notice where the author of this sign places children in relation to dogs and other animals? 12 things you should know to avoid being brainwashed (Part 7) - 7 You may have already learned about the drivers for brainwashing from the introduction to this series, Exit Minders, Silence equates to Agreement (not), Losing Friends, Lack of Substance in previous posts… – this post continues with the seventh of …


  1. LARGE GROUP AWARENESS TRAINING, Peter Finkelstein, Brant Wenegrat, and Irvin Yalom, Department of Psychiatry, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California 94305. Ann. Rev. Psychol. 1982. 33:515-39 

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