Would you sign up for voluntary brainwashing? Well, maybe you should.

Have you ever understood something rationally, but felt emotionally paralysed deep down inside and not quite ready to make a move? You’re not alone. There were decisions I’d been putting off for months, even though I knew what’s the right thing to do.
One of them was leaving my corporate job and applying for a new one. What if I never find a better job than this? What if I don’t make friends at a new workplace? I don’t even know how to look for a job, or have enough skills… Such thoughts would keep me occupied for long enough that some of my less afraid friends would change their jobs twice in the meantime and get their salary doubled.

Whenever I finally made the move, I was wondering why it took me so long

Even though I’m better at making tough choices now, there are many things I understand rationally that still trigger crazy emotional responses in me.
I thought this would calm down if I meditated enough. Turns out that meditation cuts out all the noise so you can experience everything more fully and intensely – including the difficult emotions I’d rather not experience at all. That’s not super helpful when trying to do something productive.

What if you could instantly change your emotional reaction to things instead of beating yourself up?

I know it’s possible.
I gave up smoking almost effortlessly while reading Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins. Hey, I didn’t even read it with an intention to quit smoking in the first place! This book made me realise what needs I tried to fulfil with smoking, and how can I fulfil those very same needs in a much more awesome way.
This was over two years ago, and while many of my friends had quit smoking and then started again, I hadn’t had a single cigarette ever since.
There were some stressful times, and some crazy times, and some times when I felt like hitting my head against the wall, but I never thought that smoking a cigarette would help me relax. That association in my head is completely gone, and now I’m wondering how the heck it ended up there in the first place.

If a book can have such impact, what could you achieve in real life?

This curiosity made me sign up for Tony’s signature seminar – Unleash The Power Within.  I never thought I’d attend a self-help seminar, but my shifting attitude towards smoking showed me he’s certainly doing something right. I was also feeling quite overwhelmed with the number of work and personal projects I have on my plate right now, and thought I could use some help in managing them all.
I didn’t read anything about this event in advance, and so wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
There’s one thing I didn’t expect for sure.


When we entered the room on the first day, we were welcomed by lasers, club music and people jumping on the stage. This wasn’t a random choice. As it turns out, what you do with your physical body is the single most important thing that affects how you’re feeling.
The more you dance, jump, and celebrate, the more energy you’ll have and more likely you’ll feel like there are great reasons to celebrate. After 4 days of jumping around, I can testify this true.
But the event wasn’t only jumping around. In between the carefully scheduled party times there was some serious emotional work going on.
Session after session after session, we examined and questioned the language we use, what needs matter to us the most and what means we use to meet them, our values, attitude towards money and most importantly beliefs about ourselves and the future.

You could get all this information for a fraction of the price. But information is not what we came for.

Like the past me afraid to quit my job, you can have all the information in the world and still feel unable to process it emotionally. It’s implementing what you learned in real life that makes the real difference. That’s why the whole event was designed around reprogramming yourself and changing how your gut reacts to things, thoughts and beliefs.
And designed it was perfectly, I must admit. Everything – from the music, to lights, to animations, to dance moves, to group and pair exercises, to staff welcoming us at the venue, was designed to make us feel certain ways, and break everyone out of old, unproductive patterns.
We were certainly hypnotised, in the best possible sense. On the very first day all 13 000 (yes, thirteen thousands!) participants got outside to walk on burning coals, and did that while cheering and screaming ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’.
Everyone was so programmed for success that there wasn’t even time to doubt whether that’s the right idea. Sure, it felt scary, but everyone was so excited to become a firewalker that this excitement became contagious, and there was simply no way to give into fear.
If you’re wondering how walking on burning coal feels like, I’m happy to tell you it’s a gentle breeze when compared with diving in freezing cold water. It also lasts a small fraction of that.

If that sounds a bit like brainwashing, you’re probably right.

Still, would you rather keep your brain dirty and polluted with self-criticism, self-sabotage, or a million reasons to punish yourself? 
They said it’s not possible to feel depressed during the event, and they were right. If someone could trick me into feeling that powerful, awesome and capable of achieving anything every single day, I’d happily sign up and pay for that.
But we all knew we’d be going back home quite soon, and so spent a good amount of time learning to brainwash reprogram ourselves in an instant whenever we get stuck in an unproductive state. I have still a lot to practice in this area, but that’s not going to stop me from trying.
One of the most powerful experiences in reprogramming myself was the Dickens Process – a teardown of how the bullshit you believe will affect you in 5, 10, or 20 years. At first I was quite indifferent, as my life is pretty amazing right now and even if I didn’t change a single thing I’d really have no reasons to complain. But then I realised how much more I could be and contribute if I wasn’t that anxious and overwhelmed, and what a horrible waste such indifference would make. I realised I can be both happy with where I am now, and striving for making a greater impact in the world.

If you’re considering UPW to get some answers, it’s most likely not the right place.

I don’t feel like I have an easy answer to anything, there’s only more and more questions. The exercises we did have shaken up a lot of beliefs I had about my body (I hate cardio!), my finances (I shouldn’t ever need more money than I have right now), or my capabilities (I can only do one thing at a time, and everything else will fall apart while I do that).
I can see through a lot of bullshit I kept repeating in my own head, but haven’t fully replaced it with more useful beliefs yet. This also means I’m not quite sure now who I am right now and what exactly it is what I hope to become. Once in a freefall, always in a freefall.
Even though I didn’t get all the answers, I came back with something much better than this. It’s an awesome set of tools to use movement, language and focus to get me out of my head whenever I’m feeling bad, and into a much more happy and productive state.
There’s only so long you can be upset or angry if you put on Rihanna and jump around with the silliest dance moves.
Trust me, I tried.

2 responses to “Would you sign up for voluntary brainwashing? Well, maybe you should.”

  1. Great summary I can relate… so much more integrated and aware after UPW and pushing through changes that before seemed just like they would only ever be thoughts/dreams in my head

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