Tuesday, October 21, 2014


With the "power of prayer" at our disposal, of course we were "happy." In fact, we were constantly reminded in the letters from Berg that living for the Lord in the cult was enjoyable. We were experiencing God's blessings, we were playing the "glad game" (like in the movie, Pollyanna), and we were the happiest people on earth. After all, we were the "chosen ones."

In 1959, psychologists Leon Festinger and James Carlsmith conducted interesting experiments on 
cognitive dissonance, one portion being on people's attitudes toward the enjoyment of a very boring assignment, such as mindlessly turning knobs on a board.

When they were done with the tedious job given them, the participants remaining in the study were offered the job of explaining to the next participants how enjoyable the tasks were. Some people were paid $1 to do this; others were paid $20. Those who only got $1 felt they had to justify to themselves why they were telling the next participators how fun the very boring job was, so they convinced themselves that indeed the tasks were enjoyable. Those who got $20 were content to lie just for the money; no need for self-justification. ($1 obviously being considered not enough to pay someone to lie.)

The researchers concluded that when people are compelled to lie about, in this case, the supposed enjoyment of a boring task, in order to relieve the cognitive dissonance of the contradiction, they convince themselves that the lie is not really a lie but is actually true. Lying to themselves to justify lying to others.

In a curious admittance of the folly of our happiness delusion, although not seen as such, Berg wrote (among other things), "I'd rather be happy in madness, than only be sane and sad." So madness is better than sanity as long as one is happy.  

I've only included parts of this experiment that I felt pertained to my point of the idea that Family members considered themselves to be happy in spite of the circumstances. On the surface, that sounds like a wonderful positive outlook. In reality, it was mindless and crippling denial.

If you care to read a more thorough synopsis of the study, you can find it here.

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