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Impact Training (IT) is a large group awareness training (LGAT) program. It's been around since 1985 and calls itself an institute for higher consciousness. The training is "designed to empower the human spirit toward a free, unconditional loving and joyful life." Actually, Impact offers many trainings with nifty names like Quest, Lift-Off!, Summit, and Life Mastery Training. Like all large group self-help businesses, IT can brag of many graduates and provide many testimonials from smiling, happy, optimistic people. One trait any successful New Thought program must have is to encourage participants to think positively and to communicate positive thinking by affirming what you want. This technique of putting forth positive affirmations, even knowing they are not true, is used in many businesses where to admit failure is the worst sin of all. Even if sales are dismal, you must put on a happy face and pretend that all is well and that despite all appearances to the contrary, you are doing just great, thank you. Any expression of distrust in the program is discouraged. Your key to success is to affirm the program no matter what.
The Quest program is Impact's first-level course. On its website, Quest is said to help you "Take a quantum leap towards being a happier, more loving, and productive person!" A quantum leap, as you might know, is a very small and discrete distance, but in New Age parlance it means a sudden, dramatic advance. "Do you want to be happier, more loving, more at peace with yourself and others, more optimistic, and more confident? If your answer is yes, we invite you to take part in the Impact Trainings Seminars." If your answer is no, something's wrong with you. In any case, the appeal is obvious. What isn't obvious, perhaps, is that nobody can become happy by taking a course in how to be happy. Anyone who strives to be happy and seeks out others to teach them how to be happy is, I predict, not likely to find happiness. I am sorry to report but there is no happiness training. On the other hand, if you are not a loving person, are pessimistic and depressed, are not at peace with yourself, and are usually angry or distrustful of others, then if you become more loving, more optimistic, more at peace with yourself and others, you will probably become happier than you are now.
Can a program like Impact or Landmark or MJB Seminars help a person become less unhappy? Sure. Some of the secrets to becoming less unhappy aren't really secrets. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been working on methods of training individuals to control their thoughts by a variety of techniques. Dwelling on thoughts of past harms done to you or that you've done to others eats away at happiness. Responding with anger to things that are beyond your control is self-destructive. You can control your attitude toward things and people, as the Stoics used to say, even though you can't control the things or the people.
The complaints you are likely to hear about Impact and similar programs is that there is an incessant push to take more and more courses and to bring in friends and family to take courses. In the end, the programs can be very costly both in terms of cash and in terms of relationships. If you spend some time on the Rick Ross cult forum pages, for example, one constant refrain from disgruntled participants or relatives of participants is the fervor of trainers to recruit new people even to the extent of harming friendships and family relationships.
One red flag should be that there are usually Complaints web pages set up by former participants in these self-help training programs. Here are some messages (unedited) I found on the Impact Complaints Board:
Family of 35 years wrecked by impact cult activities. Unreal the damages this institution causes although they say the opposite. My sister and her husband of 35 years are breaking up over this cult.
She has always been the family first person of all time, now she has no time for her husband, 5 children, and 13 grandchildren. she spends her ever waking moment at impact. she works their for pennies at best. on her days off she is working. when she is home, she is alway on the phone with some type of impact emergency.
she is divorcing, has little contact if any with her children, and grandchildren. call and talk to her and she well tell you she is doing awesome.
lets see, you've lost your husband of 35 years, denounced your religion, quit associating with friends, but you claim your are doing awesome.
[In response to the above, another person wrote:]
She is accountable for living this way and now she is taking action within herself to be HAPPY. This complaint is ridiculous - no one FORCES anyone to stay in Impact unless they want to - everyone has a choice to leave and those who stay benefit greatly - they get THEMSELVES back.
I've had my wife, and her brother and sister attend Impact, and you know, I would trust them, if they would tell me what happens and goes on in there! But because they don't, I can't. From the little bit that I glean from them, it sounds like the other accounts on the internet are true. As for my wife, although she seemed to be better person the first day or two after (by better I mean happier and more enthusiastic about life), it wore off after that.
WOW!!! I've been thru Impact and it has ONLY made me a happier, kinder, more loving wife, mother, sister, daughter and human being. I don't judge others like I used to. I am much more involved in service thru out the world and doing my part to end suffering. If those are the definitions of a cult, well...I don't know what to say to that. I was NEVER asked to hand over my savings, or move up there to live with them. When it was over, it was up to me to go home and live a fulfilling and service oriented life. Their greatest message is to love one another!! That's it!! The secrecy stems from not wanting to rob others of the incredible experience that it is!! That's it!! GEEZ!!!
What goes on in impact trainings, well here is some of what I remember. I was punished for not turning off my cell phone and was made to stand in the back of the room for 4 hours and I am 58 years old that was hard. People are broken up in groups and have to solve a problem, later broken in groups again and you have to sing a solo in front of everyone weather you can sing or not (embarrasing). If you were an abused chiled, raped or other things you are told that is in the past and has no bearing on your life today, you sit across from your chosen buddy and scream what do you want and you tell them this is repeated over and over again. You get to dance which was alot of fun. They play really good music which was great. You get a chair kneel in front of it and pound on it and yell, cry, scream, getting out your emotions on someone who has done wrong to you in your life such as a parent who abused etc. You tell the trainer about something in your life he responds to that. You get a notebook and are told to wright about a certain subject. Everyone wonders around the room and you tell them to their face I trust you, or I don, t trust you. This is some of the things you experience. The first class is Quest it is for 4 days, you are told to commit not to smoke, drink alcahol, coffee and nothing that will stimulate you for energy you cant .take any kind of over the counter medicines, you can take perscription medications you have to wright them on paper and hand it to them. The rason for this is so your mind is clear.
Oh My Goodness, the world is so full of negativity.To call it a cult is laughable. But love and light to you all. All they profess is undiscriminating love!
--Ask the LIfe Mastery participants about their use of staffs, crystals and chanting --Ask the LIfe Mastery participants about their trips to Mt Shasta and the race of peope who live under the mountain.
One critic set up his own website to discourage others from getting involved in Impact. If you are considering taking a course from Impact (or any similar program like NLP or MJB), I recommend that you look at this site first and read the posts from those who have gone before you.
Wikipedia lists Impact Training as one of the many spinoffs of Lifespring, an LGAT founded in 1974 by John Hanley Sr. who had worked with Werner Erhard, founder of est, at MindDynamics, an LGAT founded in 1968 by Alexander Everett. The Wikipedia Impact Training page was removed in 2006 (last attempt at access on 15 Dec 2010). Hanley is still going strong with Lifespring Now.
books and articles
Barry, Dave. "Altered States" in The Miami Herald, April 13, 1997. (Humorist Dave Barry takes Peter Lowe's SUCCESS 1997 12-hour success seminar featuring Anthony Robbins, Elizabeth Dole, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Brian Tracy, Lou Holtz, Jim Morris, Peter Lowe, Pat Riley, Dr. Ted Broer, George Bush, and Dan Kennedy.)
The Awareness Page - everything you wanted to know about various LGATs
Jamal Mazrui's Empowerment Zone an amazingly extensive list of Internet links for "helping individuals and communities achieve self-actualization and full citizenship"
List of self-help authors (by their fruits ye will know them!)
Last updated 12/17/10