Will the est training make me happy?-1974 (29-30)

The est training

 

I read about something called the “est training.” The first one was held in October, 1971. I learned about it through a news article in which a participant was quoted as saying that things just started clearing up in his life without “doing anything about it.”

 

It seemed pretty radical and that it might be something that was strong enough to make me feel happy and peaceful with my life. I had been seeing a counselor for over two years and even though there was progress, there was nothing like a breakthrough.

I wanted something that worked quickly, not this slow step-by-step stuff

So it sounded like a life transformational experience that I had been looking for, rather than just improving step by step. I signed up for it. I remember my counselor Ruth Wolfert, who had done it, not really giving me the go-ahead on it.

Was I signing my life away?

The application form required that, if I were in counseling or had been in counseling, I would not be allowed to take the est training unless I said that I was winning or had won regarding the counseling. I really didn’t know how I would evaluate “winning” or “not winning,” and even if I could, how could I know if it matched what they meant? Regardless, I decided not to ask further but to finish the registration by declaring that I “was winning” and pay the fee.

Boot camp for everyone

It was called a 6-day, 60-hour training and was spread over two consecutive weekends. I think it must have been spring or autumn, I’m not sure. Maybe there were 150-200 participants. The leader, the est trainer, was a man. I don’t remember his name. At that time, I think there were only three est trainers in the world. I’m not sure whether or not Werner Erhard, the creator of the training, was still a regular trainer at that time. There were many assistants who handled logistics, including running microphones to participants when the trainer called on them to share or talk. The trainer walked a lot across the stage and up and down the aisles, but he also sat on a high stool and drank water or tea from time to time.

The atmosphere and requirements were on the severe side. Bathroom breaks every six hours. I prepared by drinking no water or other liquids for at least 12 hours before each day started. We could not wear a watch. The window blinds were closed in the hotel ballroom. It was impossible to tell whether it was day or night.

Long hours

You got out when they let you out, which was late. It started at 9:00 AM and lasted until almost midnight or later. Near the beginning of the training, the trainer told us how rough it was going to be and gave us an opportunity to leave then and get our money back. He compared the training to a roller coaster ride and said that you don’t want to leave in the “middle of the ride.”

 

They asked us to give our word that we would “keep our sole in the room,” that is the sole of our shoes. I think there was one meal break in the day, maybe two. We had strict instructions not to talk with anyone sitting beside us. All conversations were limited to one-to-one with the trainer when he called on you.

Abusive language

The trainer used a lot of swear words and abusive language directed in general to all participants. “Your life doesn’t work, you asshole!” The trainer kept hammering the trainees that “your life doesn’t work because you don’t keep your agreements.” He also repeated again and again, “You create your reality.” At the same time, he said, "what is, is and what ain't, ain't.” He also said, "true enlightenment is knowing you are a machine.” The end result of the training was “to get it.”

I didn't take the swear words personally

Everything seemed okay for me on the first day. When the trainer was screaming at us about how our life didn’t work, except for not being very happy, I thought my life was working pretty well and I was good at keeping my agreements, at least with others.

 

It was the second day that it happened. 

I volunteered

The trainer was introducing a process that he was going to take everyone through after it was demonstrated. It might have been called the "truth process." He asked for a volunteer to demonstrate the process. We needed to have something that was unwanted and was persisting in our life. I raised my hand and shared that I kept being afraid and reluctant to approach attractive women.

Okay, it's now or never!

 

He selected me. At the front of the room, I sat on the high stool. Using separate microphones so everyone could hear us, he asked me to close my eyes. Then he asked me to remember and share a previous time where I felt a fear that reminded me of my fear of approaching women.

 

I shared a few incidents. He kept asking me for one more. I remembered the terror that I felt when I got ston