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4-Part Series: How cognition and culture mediate beliefs and behavior, contributing to the rise of autocrats – Seth Bernstein

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Buy the whole series or just choose which one hour, pre-recorded module suits your requirements!

CPD / CE / NBCC Hours: 1 for every module

Today, all across the world a common playbook is being used by aspiring autocrats to seize control of their governments for personal benefit. It is working. For clinicians to understand the psychological mechanisms that make this possible is critical to understanding the inner world of many of our clients and the world in which they are attempting to live. The same could be said to be true for us clinicians who are attempting to be helpful to our clients, but often feel that we are just as much in the dark and adrift as they are.

My unusual dissertation written 45 years ago can help us to begin to understand how millions of mostly nice, reasonable people, believe and act upon lies told to them by master manipulators from across the political spectrum. This phenomena has existed across time and across cultures, countries and religions. A prime example of this is the belief that the U.S. 2020 presidential election was stolen.

This workshop makes use of the conclusions from my dissertation to explain the stolen election belief. Additional research, which has occurred since 1974, is used to further explain this phenomena.

The workshop is part documentary, part experimental science, and part academic research and theory.

TRAINING information

Today, all across the world a common playbook is being used by aspiring autocrats to seize control of their governments for personal benefit. It is working. For clinicians to understand the psychological mechanisms that make this possible is critical to understanding the inner world of many of our clients and the world in which they are attempting to live. The same could be said to be true for us clinicians who are attempting to be helpful to our clients, but often feel that we are just as much in the dark and adrift as they are.

My unusual dissertation written 45 years ago can help us to begin to understand how millions of mostly nice, reasonable people, believe and act upon lies told to them by master manipulators from across the political spectrum. This phenomena has existed across time and across cultures, countries and religions. A prime example of this is the belief that the U.S. 2020 presidential election was stolen.

This workshop makes use of the conclusions from my dissertation to explain the stolen election belief. Additional research, which has occurred since 1974, is used to further explain this phenomena.

The workshop is part documentary, part experimental science, and part academic research and theory.

Module 1

Module 1: Cultural Contexts

The historical, and cultural contexts of the Human Potential Movement and the Make America Great Movement (MAGA)

The Human Potential Movement
• The beats and hippies
• The sexual revolution
• Psychedelics, cosmic consciousness, and eastern religion • The war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement
1 of 5
• How the Human Potential Movement shaped the presenter’s choice of dissertation topic
• Where the Human Potential Movement fits in Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

The Make America Great Movement
• MAGA’s historical, cultural, and emotional contexts
• Where MAGA fits in Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs
• The psychological underpinnings of conspiracy theories
• The new world of communication platforms and information
gathering processes
• The worldwide rise of autocracies which are the result of similar
factors and metastasize by similar means
• Different drugs for different times create different outcomes • The MAGA vision

Choice Of Dissertation Topic: testing Freud’s theory of penis envy vs. testing psychic abilities

Learning Objectives

 Understand how culture and history shape beliefs and how beliefs shape culture and history
• Understand historical, cultural, and political factors that led to the rise of the Human Potential and MAGA movements
• Begin the process of understanding how the emotions of hope and fear can be adaptive within normal limits and maladaptive at high levels, both for individuals and for groups
• Begin to see MAGA as part of a world-wide phenomena, one that has appeared throughout history

Module 2

Module 2: The Experiments and Their Results

Dissertation Experiments
• Review of the literature (relatively brief)
• Experimental design and methods (relatively brief)
• Results
• Explanation of results: Cognitive dissonance theory & Hypnotic relationships

Political Experiments: The 2016 and 2020 Presidential Elections
• Political Design – the electoral college
• Results
• Preliminary reaction to results: Two variations of grief explained using the Kubler-Ross’ model of stages of grief + Pathological grief

Learning Objectives

• Understand the theories developed by paranormal investigators which support the existence of paranormal phenomena and psychic abilities
• Learn an example of an experimental method for evaluating claims of psychic abilities
• Understand how Festinger’s theory of Cognitive Dissonance and Milton Erickson’s theory of hypnosis can explain the results of these experiments
• View the presidential elections of 2016 and 2020 as two experiments that were undertaken with similar methods, yielding very similar results, but strikingly different reactions from the people who experienced loss
• Apply Kuler-Ross’ model of grief to understand these different reactions

Module 3

Module 3: How Is It Possible That So Many People Believe Obvious Lies?

• Applying lessons learned from presenter’s dissertation to the
belief that the 2020 election was stolen – Hypnotic relationships + Cognitive dissonance theory; confirmation bias; and the illusory truth effect
• Additional areas of inquiry regarding false beliefs:
• Pattern recognition and belief systems
• Identify, conformity, and tribalism
• Deception and gullibility
• Cults of personality, intimacy, and identify fusion
• Mental illness

Learning Objectives

• Understand the applicability of Cognitive Dissonance Theory and Milton Erickson’s theory of hypnosis to the phenomena of people believing lies told to them by charismatic leaders
• Explore the neurobiology of pattern recognition and how this capability applies to belief systems
• Understand the applicability and scientific appropriateness of the concept of “tribe” to the phenomena of extreme political conflict
• Gain a broad understanding of the scientific literature regarding the validity of psychological constructs such as deception and conformity to explain how people come to believe and sometimes act upon false patterns (ideas)
• Understand the unique aspects and dangers of identity fusion and personality cults

Module 4

Module 4: How might the ‘blinders’ come off?

• Lessons learned – from research + from deprogramming efforts
• Strategies
• Bring people of different political persuasions together
• Develop better listening skills, e.g., Collaborative Problem
Solving
• New leadership successfully appeals to common values
• Former True Believers become effective change agents
• Inoculation through education
• Containment
• Address the underlying economic and social conditions that
make autocratic leaders appealing
• Question: is the “Big Lie” really a lie? If not, what else could it
represent?

Learning Objectives

• Gain a perspective on the broad challenges which the appeal of autocracy represents
• Understand the cyclical appeal of such phenomena and how its appeal ebbs and flows
• Learn the various methods that have been tried to reverse, counter, or minimize this appeal
• Understand that the potential to fall prey to maladaptive belief systems exists in all of us, not just “them”
• Learn different strategies for addressing the current appeal of autocratic movements
• Don’t lose hope, but don’t become over-confident that the “arc of history” will quickly or easily bend towards either justice of lucidity
• Re-conceptualize the concept of the Big Lie

About Seth

Seth Bernstein, Ph.D. is a practicing clinical psychologist who has been leading professional workshops since 1990. Originally trained as a psychoanalytic therapist, his practice has diversified to include a wide variety of effective, evidence-based techniques used within a solution-focused framework. His clinical experience is consistent with the findings of the scientific literature: SFT is an evidence-based approach to clinical practice that complements virtually any clinical treatment modality.

Dr. Bernstein has provided his trainings across the U.S. to therapists working in private practice, schools, the military, public and private health agencies, schools and universities, hospitals, etc. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Bernstein has written many articles and one book related to the subject of psychotherapy. Now, his passion is teaching – passing on to the next generation of therapists his love for SFT – an approach to psychotherapy that has made his past 10 years of clinical work the most enjoyable, relaxed, and creative of his professional career.

CPD/CE

CPD / CE / NBCC credits: 1 for each module

 

 

 

 

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4-Part Series: How cognition and culture mediate beliefs and behavior, contributing to the rise of autocrats – Seth Bernstein

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