Not too long ago, I was waiting on line in a bagel store. In walks a nicely, though casually, dressed man, who walks right up to the counter and orders a dozen bagels, oblivious to the line of people waiting. I thought to myself, "Geez, this guy is so self absorbed, he seems like someone who has done Lifespring." This thought was kind of amusing, and I was in no hurry, so I waited to see what transpired. The person behind the counter ignored him, and I placed my order.
Well, I walked out the door, and up the block a bit I saw a van with the Lifespring logo on the side! NO JOKE! So, I waited for a moment. The guy walks out of the store and gets in the van!
Now back to our regularly programmed channel...
There are several techniques to get folks into cults. All those apply pressure techniques get you to think, "Boy, this will really help me" and/or "Gosh, I'm nothing if I don't do this."
Usualy, once you're in, it's a clique... those are your friends and everyone not involved is lame and unenlightened. Then, you are asked to help out. Lured with the possibility of being a paid staff member eventually.
Here's how my roommate tried to get me involved. She's into Lifespring, or should I say, Lifespring is into her. It's a three day course where you evaluate your life.
"Can we talk?" "Yeah," I replied. "I mean, can we really talk?" Come on, I thought, "Yeah." She started "I know you're really nice and like to connect with people... " on and on. Buttering me up. "I'm doing this thing called Lifespring, it's really helped me..." blah blah. She also said, if you sign up now, it's only $300 instead of $500. I felt it was corny and potentially a cult, but I didn't want to insult her, so I said I'll think about it. She wouldn't let up. The conversation/pressure endured for an hour. At one point, I asked her what she got out of it. She replied "It increased my business by 50%." Not very impressive to me.
A few days later we were in the same room again. I said I didn't appreciate the hard sell. "Sale!, I'm not selling anything!" She then proceeded to berate me for quite some time. Pressuring me. "Oh, you have no friends you can depend on." On and on. At this point, I knew it was a cult.
From what I understand, the course is much like that too, breaking you down and rebuilding you their way.
She was always on the phone talking with friends trying to get htem to sign up too. She's working there alot too. I heard her mom doesn't like her working there so much.
Now, she won't even talk to me. I walk in the room and say Howdy and she turns around. Eesh. I guess the course helped her alot... yeah, right.
I spoke with some friends of mine who confirmed my suspicion. One was in a similar cult and eventually evolved out after realizing her insulation from others. The second has a friend involved in Lifespring.
Anyway, hope this helps.
I had a telling experience with a person who had taken Lifespring. As a result of my own extended cult experience we had a conversation that went along the following lines:
She and I were conversing and she happened to tell me about this Lifespring program she had taken which had really changed her life. She moved directly into a style of interaction which placed the burden on me to assert why I *shouldn't* take the program--a really heavyhanded proselytizing trip. I advised her that the only people who could really benefit from such a program were those that were LOOKING for it, and that I wasn't looking because I had studied something else which had fulfilled the needs she insisted Lifespring was directed to. Then, she said "well, it's not like I'm proselytizing or anything, I just found it really helpful." I turned to her and said, "Of course you're proselytizing. Of course you are proselytizing. That's exactly what you are doing, whether you under- stand that's what you're doing or not." It was a revelation to her--it absolutely floored her. I don't know whether she lived her life differently after that or not, but she did thank me profusely and genuinely for pointing it out to her.
It struck me as very strange that she was so insulated from seeing the very obvious nature of her activity!
My husband went through Lifespring a couple of years before we met. He claims he was helped; I don't know. I didn't know him before.
He also says they were completely upfront about selling the program to others. They even had workshops to train people to do just that. He has tried on and off to get me to look into it, but I was extremely uncomfortable at a graduation ceremony (I cannot tolerate being in a crowd of stangers feeling extreme emotions that I do not share) and that experience completely turned me off. He never pressed, though, and when later mailings got very newagey, he stopped entirely.
I did Lifespring in '88 and have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. I found some of it very helpful-- I'm not nearly as introverted as before-- and I found a lot of it a bunch of BS, especially the proselytizing, the "dress for success" conformity and the unreal cost of the whole thing, considering all their marketing is done for free by the graduates.
I've heard it described as a cult, and I've seen a handful of people react to it like it was The Best Thing You Could Ever Do. They then spent a good chunk of time and energy working for shitty pay in a a private corporation who could well afford decent wages and working conditions. Most of those left feeling rather disillusioned by the whole thing.
If anybody came up to me asking about the workshops, I'd probably tell them they'd get almost as much out of group therapy, with less of a dent in their pocketbook. If they decided to go, I'd tell them to stay the hell away from their "leadership" programs and don't do more than the basic workshops. Most of the extra programs are pretty useless, and yeah, they've become very "new agey". Gotta go where the market is.
As for where they're based, I think it's still San Rafael, California.
Individuals curious about Lifespring may find the following references useful. Some of them are complimentary of Lifespring, others are not.
+----------------------------------------------------------------------+ | A PARTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ARTICLES AND BOOKS CONCERNING LIFESPRING | | *** COMPILED MAY 1994 *** | +----------------------------------------------------------------------+ 1) Conway, Flo and Siegelman, Joe, _Snapping:__America's_Epidemic_of_ _Sudden_Personality_Change_ (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Com- pany, 1978), p. 219. 2) Rivera, Geraldo, "Lifespring," _ABC's_20/20_(transcript)_, 30 October 1980, (New York: Media Transcripts, Inc.) 3) Rivera, Geraldo, "Lifespring," _ABC's_20/20_(transcript)_, 6 November 1980, (New York: Media Transcripts, Inc.) 4) Halverson, Dean C., "Lifespring and the Sovereignty of Subjec- tivism," a pamphlet from Spiritual Counterfeits Project, 1981. 5) Haaken, Janice and Adams, Richard, "Pathology as `Personal Growth': A Participant-Observation Study of Lifespring Training," _Psychia- try_, Vol. 46, (1983) pp. 270-280. 6) Asakawa, Gil, "Stress for Success," _Westword_, Denver, Colorado, 11-17 December 1985, pp. 8, 10, 12, 14-15. 7) Lieberman, Morton A., "Effects of Large Group Awareness Training on Participants' Psychiatric Status, _American_Journal_of_Psychiatry_, Vol. 144, No. 4, April 1987, pp. 460-464. 8) Fisher, Marc, "Inside Lifespring," _The_Washington_Post_Magazine_, 25 October 1987, pp. 18-35. 9) Vahle, Neal, "Lifespring and the Development of Human Potential," _New_Realities_, July/August 1987, pp. 17-22, 51. 10) Solomon, Anita O., "Psychotherapy of a Casualty from a Mass Therapy Encounter Group: A Case Study," _Cultic_Studies_Journal_, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1988, pp. 211-227. 11) Hanley, John, _Lifespring:__Getting_Yourself_From_Where_You_Are_to_ _Where_You_Want_to_Be_ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989) 12) Keegan, Paul, "Into the Void," _Boston_Business_, February/March 1990, pp. 24-29, 68-77. 13) Mathison, Dirk, "White-Collar Cults: They Want Your Mind...," _Self_, February 1993, pp. 120-156. 14) "Readers Write/Fax," _Self_, April 1993, p. 20. 15) McAndrews, Anne, "I Lost My Husband to a Cult," _Redbook_, May 1994, pp. 60-72. +----------------------------------------------------------------------+ Some of these items are available from: Cult Awareness Network, National Office 2421 West Pratt Blvd., Suite 1173, Chicago, IL, 60645; 312/267-7777 -- Jon Ruth [ firstname.lastname@example.org (126.96.36.199) ]
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