Recently a relative of mine went through a large group awareness training program (LGAT) called "Asiaworks." His behavior then changed for the worse, and this prompted me to do some research on the Internet.
Asiaworks is an apparent spin-off from another LGAT named "Lifespring."
My relative's behavior and jargon was consistent with what I read on the Internet. I have since found many people who have gone through this course. What is frightening is the realization that LGATs like this are spreading through Asia. Asiaworks has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila.
In my opinion Asiaworks is an evil "cult-like" group, disguised as a self-improvement/development-training program.
Asiaworks operates upon the principle of developing people mentally, and thus somehow claims to promote world peace.
Frequently, their approach is subtle. People who have become involved often recruit their friends and family.
My relative, who went through a course with Asiaworks, subsequently was transformed. His entire personality changed. His eyes became glazed, like he was high on drugs. There is a type of euphoria participants say they feel as a result of their "enlightenment." He claimed to possess the "third eye," supposedly could astral travel and said he now had extra sensory perception. All this happened after just five days of within the Asiaworks program. Monks and ascetics don't make such claims, even after decades of fasting and meditation.
My relative also became disruptive and irritating, through his aggressive behavior, self-righteousness and new sense of superiority. Yet, if you asked him what was actually taught at Asiaworks, he would only say it was a secret. He said the only way to find out that secret, was to sign up and take the course.
At work he shocked professional colleagues with his erratic and hyperactive behavior. He complained that he could not sleep and that his mind was racing. He said that voices in his head told him that if he slept he would die.
Over the next few days, he leaked out a little bit of information about his "training."
According to my relative forms were distributed, which required that you disclose your father, husband's or wife's profession. And more disturbing, was the request that you disclose your deepest darkest secret in a journal that would be read to other participants. What was the relevance of disclosing all this information? Why did they want the professional background of a participant's immediate family members?
His family and friends rejected my relative's behavior; subsequently he attempted to return to normal. However, two weeks later, he experienced a complete breakdown. He was given unpaid medical leave by his employer to recover. But his negative behavior instead escalated. He became combative and broke things within his home.
He then became completely delusional, making fantastic claims, such as his mother had urinated on his head and his father and brother had sexually abused him. These claims were baseless fantasies.
Thanks to the Internet his family finally found out about Asiaworks.
Perhaps the pressure to bring in new members was too much for him. Asiaworks expects its graduates to bring in new people. His self-esteem may have suffered due to his failure to accomplish this.
Some of the methods generally used by LGATs like Asiaworks seem to have their roots in other controversial groups such as Scientology, which has been restricted in some countries.
Many LGATs such as Lifespring, EST and Vistar have a history of bad press and lawsuits. Lifespring was apparently forced by litigation to close down. But now it seems they have simply spun off a new enterprise under another name in Asia.
All these LGAT programs apparently fit the same pattern. They tear people down within a controlled, confrontational seminar setting and then build them up, according to their program model. Their methods have at times been compared to a type of "brainwashing."
First, groups like Asiaworks gain virtually total control of a participant's environment. Then they may use various methods to induce a kind of Trance State, which may be achieved through long periods of staring into your assigned "buddy's" eyes or some other practice. Then they hammer away in confrontational exercises until you eventually "get it." Whatever that is.
L. Ron Hubbard devised similar techniques, which are now called the "technology" of Scientology. Essentially, this consisted of long training sessions, within a controlled setting, with someone "auditing" you.
In Asiaworks it seems that there are not adequate breaks. A meal may only be a small break. Such an intensely focused and stressful environment can be seen as a kind of breaking and/or "brainwashing" process.
After graduation participants experience the euphoria and some sort of supposed superiority over less enlightened beings that have not experienced Asiaworks.
Psychologists have described such LGAT or mass marathon training as outdated and potentially unsafe or dangerous.
It appears that Asiaworks is constructed like a pyramid. Each graduate typically brings in more unsuspecting participants to pay for courses and so on, which benefits the people who control the organization at the top. More people bringing in more people, which then forms the base or foundation of the pyramid.
Each graduate is expected to continue to participate. He or she then attends little get-togethers with other Asiaworks alumni, which reinforces their loyalty. They often become deeply enmeshed within this close-knit group of fellow participants. They will use the same jargon as other members and say things such as, "How far ahead I have evolved."
The euphoria they feel may become addictive like heroin. And like any addict they feel the need to keep using. This means further group involvement through the Asiaworks post-graduate support system. But like heroin, their high fades, despite increasing dosages. And ultimately, like any mood-altering substance, its effects can be debilitating. This seems to be the case in my relative's experience.
It appears that many Asiaworks participants come to believe that the organization and its participants are their only friend. And that their family and old friends mean very little, if not nothing. In the end, they may spend more and more money on continuing courses which then may preclude other considerations such as their job. They may even become a full time unpaid volunteer. Until eventually Asiaworks becomes the center of their universe. Does this sound like a drug addict? Someone overwhelmed by an addiction and out of control?