By Flo Conway, Jim Siegelman

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Additional info for Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, 2nd Ed.

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This experience led Erhard to further revelations. He has said, "What I recognized is that you can't put it together. " For the most part, the est training consists of endless hours of lectures on the nature of reality, perception, and belief systems. The lectures are intertwined with a series of est "processes," mental exercises aimed at erasing the trainee's "tapes" (est jargon for patterns of thought and feeling that, est says, prevent one from fully experiencing life). The course of the training is laced with direct verbal assaults in which trainees are dubbed "turkeys" and "assholes" and drawn into "personal encounters" with the est trainer.

For in addition to their earnest looks and tireless proselytizing, many of America's young cult members had taken up fund raising in a big way. They had learned to solicit door-to-door in residential neighborhoods, set up folding tables outside suburban shopping malls, and make intensely personal approaches in bus and train stations and airport terminals coast to coast. Yet this industrious and charitable public image born no relation whatsoever to the bizarre stories being told reporters, judges, doctors, and anyone else who would lend an ear to a distraught parent or jilted lover.

What turned the former high school cheerleaders and homecoming queens of the Manson Family into obedient mass murderers? Why didn't Patty Hearst flee her captors when she had more than ample opportunity? 44-caliber handgun? What, if anything, have these transformations in common with the rebirth in Jesus Christ of two men as dissimilar as former Nixon aide Charles Colson and one-time black revolutionary Eldridge Cleaver, and what elements do they share with the mysteries of sudden personality change that abound in modern life?

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