How Gullible Are You?

How Gullible Are You?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to explore the question “How gullible are you?” Can you easily be conned or fooled?

First a quick update:

“Teens on Terrorism”
Witness the innocence and how much we have changed in our opinions about terrorism and loss of civil liberties in a clip from a TV special I co-hosted almost ten years ago and just posted to YouTube this week.

“James Ray and the Law of Attraction on trial”
Listen to the interview I give to Jim Peake of about the trial of James Ray charged with the reckless manslaughter of 3 people, click here to listen.

Now, let’s talk about gullibility; how gullible are you?

The dictionary defines gullible as: Naive and easily deceived or tricked; lack of guile or worldly experience; easily tricked because of being too trusting; unwary – not alert to danger or deception.

New Age Guru, NY Times bestselling author of “Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want”, and a featured teacher on “The Secret”, James Arthur Ray, is on trial charged with the reckless manslaughter of three people who died in James Ray’s sweat lodge when they attended his “Spiritual Warrior” retreat in October 2009. Of the 55 people who participated in the Sweat Lodge, some were doctors, engineers, salespeople, small-business owners and other professionals who paid $10,000 to break down personal barriers. And to do so, according to CNN and testimony this week during the trial, “they were willing to shave their heads, meditate in the desert for 36 hours without food and water, then symbolically die and be reborn in the sweat lodge ritual.”
Witnesses in the trial speak of some of the participants wanting to please James Ray and feeling intimidated by a man who made all sorts of promises such as “to have one of the most intense altered states you’ve ever had in your entire life.”  Participants engaged in extreme exercises that involved role-playing, sleep deprivation, lectures, journal writing, fasting for 36 hours and extreme physical challenges.

Some commentators such as marketing expert and author, Dave Lakhani, accuse James Arthur Ray of “cult tactics” and accuse the Law of Attraction as being nothing more than a “cult” belief. James Ray is a high profile teacher of The Law of Attraction.

How did these professional people fall into this dangerous situation? Did they get conned? How could they be so gullible as to pay $10,000 and be lead almost to their death? What type of person could be so gullible? How gullible are you? What are the dangers you should be aware of?

Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not only the weak-minded people that get drawn into a cult or get brainwashed.

Anyone who is experiencing a vulnerable phase in their life can fall victim to a cult or a guru. Humans have emotional needs such as significance, attention, a safe, secure environment to mature and develop; an emotional connection to other people; acceptance, a connection to the wider community, and; meaning & purpose. When these needs are not met or if we feel lost, are searching for meaning or an answer, we become highly vulnerable, and then when someone comes along claiming, ‘I can help you, I can give you what you need; I am the only one who has the answer’, he appeals to our missing needs and it’s very easy to persuade us or brainwash us. Our grave mistake is that we too often look for someone else to solve our problems. We don’t just look for hope; we look to a God-like kind of person – the person that has the secret to what we need.

Interestingly, the testimony of witnesses and participants in James Ray’s Spiritual Warrior retreat also reveal the power that James Ray had over the participants or at the very least, the power they gave him. It seems he chastised, shamed or humiliated participants in order for them to follow his instructions, and they, on their part, sought his approval and thus pushed themselves to dangerous limits and maybe, to the point of death.

One of the victims, Lizbeth Neuman aged 49, a divorced mother of three children who worked as a database administrator, stayed in the sweat lodge, until she slipped into unconsciousness, to her death. Her fellow participants believe that she did this to please James Ray and to get his approval; James Ray had chastised Lizbeth Neuman for being with a group of experienced volunteers who had shared snacks and a bottle of wine during the retreat, and according to some of the participants and witnesses, Lizbeth Neuman felt ashamed by her actions and in front of James Ray.

“Choosing to go in the sweat lodge, I believe she had something to prove to James Ray…I believe that her feeling shameful absolutely had everything to do with her dying in that sweat lodge” testified Jennifer Haley, a volunteer from California, a member of what James Ray called the Dream Team.

While James Ray’s Spiritual Warrior retreat and the revealing testimony in his trial might be examples of extreme cases where people become gullible to the point of falling into a cult-like program, it is equally easy for all of us to fall prey and become victims of seeking other people’s approval, trying to please other people or giving away our power and control to someone else.

In the interview I give to Jim Peake of, I reveal that to prevent yourself from being gullible, from falling prey to people who seek to control you or from giving away your power, it is critical to:

  1. Become clear about your values and your limits (how far you will or won’t go)
  2. Maintain your integrity at all times
  3. Believe in yourself when you know you are doing the right thing
  4. Stop trying to please others and stop trying to seek their approval
  5. Be willing to question the validity of what is being taught
  6. Be willing to go against the majority’s opinion

We also need to remember that when we create gurus we also falsely believe that they are perfect and God-like, but no one is perfect:
1. Anthony Robbins, one of the world’s greatest speakers and motivators, has taught relationship courses but has been married twice
2. Billy Graham, the Evangelist, number seven on Gallup’s list of admired people for the 21st century, apologized for anti-Semitic comments decades after it was revealed he called the Jews, ‘the synagogue of Satan’
3. James Ray, NY Times bestselling author, a teacher in “The Secret” who promotes the Law of Attraction and claims he can teach you to ‘Create Harmonic Wealth in all areas of your life’ is now on trial for three counts of manslaughter

There are five key things we can each learn from the tragic sweat lodge deaths and from James Ray:
1. Don’t fall in love with the person or their image
2. Fall in love with the message but always question the message and keep seeking the truth
3. Beware of people who make outrageous claims such as ‘I have the Secret, I can solve all of your problems or I am the only one who can help you.’
4. You can learn from everyone; anyone can be your teacher if you look for the lesson
5. Beware of giving your power away to anyone; don’t let anyone decide for you how you will feel today or what you should do

Finally, in response to a reader’s question, James Arthur Ray changed as he fell victim to the position of power and significance he gave to himself – he even dressed in white and played the role of God in his retreat; power leads to arrogance and superiority and it seems that James Ray became greedy and narcissistic – losing sight of his primary purpose to serve others and instead became swallowed up by his lust for power, ego and wealth.

To listen to an earlier interview I gave to Jim Peake about the dangers of gurus and cults, click here.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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