I did a number of PSI courses a number of years ago and which were extremely traumatic for me, but fifteen years after my last participation, I'm still wondering about some things:
What is the relationship between the values of such groups and real, healthy values and growth? I took part in the groups because they promised to help me be a more effective person. My sense of myself was, and to some extent is, that I am of value and have much to give, but that my succeeding in getting my unique contribution fully "into the world" has been limited. I thought PSI might help me in this way. I came away from the groups feeling the confrontational methods they used are not accessible to me. They shattered me.
Trying to practice "moving toward my fear", a method stressed by PSI with the pole claim and the ledge, sometimes leaves me paralyzed. I prefer a relaxed, conflict-free life, but life in this world definitely demands leaving one's comfort zone behind sometimes. I've seen myself do so, on occasion, when it's clearly become necessary.
I've also seen myself not rise, in situations in which to do so seems (in retrospect) to have been equally necessary. Rather than risk rejection on several occasions, I've gotten "stuck" for relatively long periods of time, or had other deleterious consequences after returning from the courses.
Conventional forms of therapy have not enabled me to change what seems my basic nature. I think I would have been better served in my life if I had been able to be more proactive. Whatever one might think of the "large awareness group trainings", however, their efforts to shock me into change did not succeed. I simply became extremely conflicted and then, in one case "broke.” Broke both in mind and the pocketbook.
Sometimes I wonder whether the emphasis of these groups on how one "shows up", i.e. exclusively on the social & external aspect of life, put people who are naturally more introverted at a severe disadvantage. On the other hand, it could be said that we are the ones who need the supplemental programs.
I find all my thinking about these groups even now, years later, to be latticed with such subtle nuances that it is difficult to draw conclusions. The groups do stress positive values I am (or say I am) interested in. And yet I don't approve of the confrontational and "totalitarian" (i.e. "total"--everything becomes related to the group) tactics. One quick example: In PSI, I remember, my Leadership Training coach would instruct us that "If someone you're trying to enroll gets angry at your aggressive approach, just apologize and keep going." The apology itself became simply a strategic instrument in the process of enrolling someone, and no longer had anything at all to do with remorse or the sense of having done something wrong or hurt someone. It was shocking and amazing to hear him so prostitute language and ethics, when I heard him do it on the phone--with my mom, yet!
And yet even now I think of the effectiveness and the other promises of the groups...yesterday I went to the link to PSI Seminars home page and I still felt the words glittering with either spiritual truth or some kind of "magic" counterfeit. I didn’t find any.
One final reason why it's difficult to be objective about these matters is the difficulty of looking truth in the face. The ego doesn't want to see the truth! The truth bring we were broken before PSI and when faced with the prospective of being taken by a con game who would admit they were stupid enough to fall for this, We all have egos. It's important to be able to look at ones self objectively and rather ruthlessly, but we are not willing to admit we made a mistake and were suckered into taking something that was harmful to our minds. That's obvious. But it doesn't make it easy!