How does one go from sincere seeker to psychopathic guru?
There is a line of argument that I’ve seen again and again in many forms and from many individuals—in personal development, NLP, communication, spirituality, and philosophy. A seeker begins by questioning the nature of Reality, of behavior and emotion, and learns many techniques for changing their own and others’ state/behavior/beliefs…only to end up going down a very dark path of manipulation and control. It often happens so slowly that many others often get wrapped up with this individual until one day they realize they’ve been had (at least for the lucky ones that wake up).
How does this happen? This dark view has it’s own internal logic which sounds good at first yet leads to psychopathic conclusions. My hope is that by clarifying this logic, showing it’s inevitable destination, and pointing out it’s errors, unaware readers can wake up early and choose a different path (or guru) before it’s too late. In fact, I believe this evil logic can be a very real danger to anyone involved in personal development, philosophy, or spirituality of any kind if left unexamined. The good news is that “psychopathology leaves clues” (to invert Tony Robbins’ motto “success leaves clues”) and therefore red flags can be easily discovered by the critical observer.
The following is a kind of summary account of this evil logic, spoken as if from the first person. Please note that I do NOT believe the following argument—this is written as a mix of multiple gurus, all of whom I find to be manipulative in various ways. (If you think I might be making a strawman argument, I will be happy to provide more primary sources.) Also note that this post might be a trigger for anyone who has been psychologically or sexually abused. If that’s you, you might want to pass on this article.
Love doesn’t “just happen”—it has a structure, as do all states like peace, joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm, and passion. That structure can be determined and then the state can be elicited. In other words, emotions are something you DO, not something that “happens to you”—even though it normally feels that way.
If you want to feel good, you can simply change your state—it’s your responsibility and your choice. If you want someone else to feel something towards you, you can do that too, if you know how to elicit their strategy. Once you know how to do this sort of thing, you can’t “un-know” it, so you may as well accept the responsibility for how you feel and how you make others feel around you.
Since all emotions are created in this way, they aren’t “real” in the sense of permanent and unchangeable. There’s a kind of arbitrariness to how we feel, but we can take control of this process as soon as we understand how it works. Since emotions aren’t quite real you could say that they are imaginary, so there’s no harm in doing whatever I want with them.
So…why not make myself feel really good by constructing emotions I want to feel, at the intensities I want to feel them? After all, I would be irresponsible not to do so, once I am aware I have such a capacity. Why not feel good all the time? Isn’t happiness just an emotion? If so, then happiness is entirely in my control, so I may as well do it!
Similarly, why not change the not-really-real emotions of others too. After all, I’m just making other people feel good! If they feel good about doing what I want them to do, well, it’s a win-win now isn’t it.
It also follows that if I hurt someone or make them feel bad, well, those emotions are so easily changeable that they aren’t really real…or at least, the more I consciously manipulate my own emotions, the less solid and real emotions feel to me. A particular individual might not know how to change his or her state rapidly like I can, going from depressed to ecstatic in a matter of seconds or minutes, but that’s not really my responsibility to teach them, now is it. Each person must take responsibility for their own emotions. If someone feels hurt from something I’ve done, that’s just because they aren’t managing their emotions to feel something more pleasurable.
Therefore it’s not really a bad thing if I upset or hurt others, even if I were to emotionally traumatize someone. I know many techniques for resolving emotional traumas in as little as 5 minutes or even less. Emotional trauma therefore isn’t anything like physical trauma, which actually takes time to heal. It isn’t really real.
From this it follows that it’s ok for me to consciously and deliberately seduce married or otherwise committed women [link NSFW and a trigger warning], push people into buying from me using any means necessary, elicit someone’s “falling in love” strategy even if I never plan on seeing them again, etc. If they aren’t happy in their relationships, then I’ll make them happy, because I know how to make people feel good (or whatever emotion I want).
Happiness is a feeling, a state—so is love, pleasure, excitement, enthusiasm, etc.—and it’s a good thing that people feel these feelings. So when I help someone feel these things with me, obviously it’s a good thing for everyone involved. Sure, if I were to break up a monogamous committed relationship using such techniques, the guy might be pissed, but you can’t blame me for making his woman feel good! [NOTE: “pick-up artists” like “Tyler Durden” often use this exact argument in justifying their bad behavior.] And furthermore, his emotions aren’t really real in the way that if I punched him in the face that pain would be real. (Of course, even pain can be manipulated and changed with hypnosis/NLP, even numbed out completely with hypnotic pain control).
So really, I see nothing wrong with making other people feel good—or even, sometimes, with making people feel bad. I make people do what I want and feel good about it, which of course makes me feel good! What could be wrong with that? Similarly, yea I might use high-pressure sales tactics when launching an information product or selling my personal development workshop, but otherwise would people really commit to making that change in their lives? Probably not. People are often motivated more by pain than pleasure anyhow. And if these people benefit from my courses and I just so happen to get rich from it, where’s the harm?
Of course not just emotions, but also beliefs and values are changeable—and often quite quickly if you know what you’re doing. So it similarly follows that they aren’t quite real. There’s no harm in changing a belief or value to be more useful. And useful for what? For what I want of course! I will of course make people feel good about the changes I make in them—that is, unless they don’t comply with what I want, in which case a little emotional pain never really hurt anyone, right?
Where did this logic go wrong? How should one argue against the logic of evil as I have outlined it above? Or do you subscribe to this view and have no major qualms about this argument? I ask not to figure out how to convince someone who is already fully committed to this view, but to help those who are undecided and may be wrestling with such questions now.
I should stress that this is not an intellectual exercise. There are many people living these questions right now—you may be one of them. The answers to these questions determine things like whether one is likely to become a psychopath or a saint.
I of course have my thoughts but would prefer to get discussion going first. Please add your thoughtful comments below, and I will (likely) follow up with another article later.
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