LGATs and Fight Club. Dissecting a Delusion

John Hunter, PhD
November 26, 2019

2. Parallels between the LGAT industry and Fight Club


“For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination” – Noam Chomsky [55, p. 212]

The response by many LGAT proponents to assertions of unethical influence is certainty that they are rational thinkers and that they could not have been manipulated. Like this Fight Club metaphor, however, LGAT manipulation is invisible to those who do not know exactly what to look for. LGATs exert their influence by surreptitiously devaluing critical thinking, tiring participants over a number of days (to further minimise their ability to question), convincing them that “experience” is the most trustworthy “way of knowing”, and then triggering a powerful emotional experience, which serves as a substitute for rationality and understanding. Many LGAT graduates are, in fact, convinced that the only way a person can understand these trainings is through personal experience [33].

The irony is that, in claiming to be invulnerable to these processes without intimately understanding them, LGAT proponents reveal their willingness to form beliefs without considering all of the evidence: Their certainty is not based on an in-depth comprehension of persuasion processes (the rational approach), but instead on an emotion-based heuristic (their “experience” and the deep-seated need to feel invulnerable to exploitation). Similarly, while LGAT proponents may believe that they are enlightened, it is a strange enlightenment that elicits a mentality of, “All that I care about is if this works for me”. If a personal development course makes a person less empathetic and more inwardly focused, then they have regressed, not grown, and anyone who callously discards those who will inevitably be harmed is one step further from Gandhi and one step closer to Bundy.

Through the book and the film, Palahniuk and Fincher appear to be commenting on the reckless way that LGATs go about providing “enlightenment”, while sweeping casualties of their processes indifferently under the rug. It is contended that Fight Club is about how Palahniuk became aware of this manipulation and harm, of the torment it caused him to acknowledge these uncomfortable facts, and of the intimidation he felt to speak openly about his concerns.

In order to finally escape from Tyler’s influence, Jack puts a gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger [C]. In doing so, it might be said that he had to let a part of himself die in order to be free. The film ends with The Pixies’ Where is my Mind? playing and Jack and Marla watching as buildings collapse all around them. They are holding hands as his world falls apart and this, possibly, represents a reconciliation with reality under difficult circumstances. Perhaps it was not easy for Palahniuk to accept information that undermined his involvement with this organisation, but in the end his conscience prevailed and he chose evidence, rationality, and morality. I like to think that Fight Club is more than the story of men beating each other into submission, or – as other “experts” have suggested – a simple commentary on consumerism and masculinity. To me, it is primarily about experience-based beliefs, the worlds we build around those beliefs, and the courage it takes to dispassionately review them.

1. Introduction to the LGAT industry


C: “My eyes are open…” [6]


6. Fincher, D. (Director). (1999). Fight Club [Motion Picture].

33. Hunter, J. (2017). Stress-induced hypomania in healthy participants : the allostatic “manic-defence hypothesis”. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from Research Space: University of KwaZulu-Natal: https://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/handle/10413/15188

55. Chomsky, N. (2003). Chomsky on Democracy & Education. London: RouteledgeFalmer.

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John Hunter, PhD

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