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PersonalityAnthony Robbins

Lorin Friesen, October, 2013

Tony Robbins is a well-known motivational speaker with a smile that seems to stretch from ear to ear. The Contributor person often exudes an aura of self-confidence. Tony Robbins has made a career out of displaying and sharing this self-confidence. This essay is based upon his book, Awaken the Giant Within (any quote referenced with a page number comes from this book). I also found a Masters’ degree essay by Stephanie Ramones that examines some aspects of Robbins’ approach. Huffingtonpost has a perceptive interview with Tony Robbins (which will be referenced as HP). Finally, these two websites contain a number of quotes by Tony Robbins. Any quote without a reference comes from one of these two websites.

If one is familiar with the seven cognitive styles, then a 30 second glance is sufficient to recognize that Tony Robbins is a Contributor person, because most of his quotes are classic Contributor talk, and only the Contributor person can exude so much confidence. However, if one looks beyond the smile, the aura, and the Contributor clichés, Robbins makes a number of insightful comments, primarily about the functioning of practical Contributor thought, but also extending significantly beyond this mental circuit.

Contributor thought is quite complicated to work out. As one can see from the diagram of mental symmetry, it receives input from several cognitive modules. There are two sides to Contributor thought. Practical Contributor thought works with concrete experiences and intellectual Contributor thought works with abstract theories. In this essay I will refer to these two as Cp and Ci. I should point out that Cp and Ci are more than just aspects of Contributor thought. Instead, Cp is a mental circuit of concrete thought that uses several cognitive modules under the control of Contributor thought (Cp stands for practical Contributor). Similarly, Ci is a mental circuit of abstract thought that uses several cognitive modules under the control of Contributor thought (Ci stands for intellectual Contributor). [1] Using an analogy, Ci and Cp are both mental cars that are being driven by Contributor thought. All cognitive styles can develop Ci and Cp, but each cognitive style will naturally focus upon a different aspect of traveling, such as studying the map, fixing the car, looking for interesting places to visit, or making sure that there is gas in the gas tank. What matters to the Contributor person is getting behind the wheel and driving.

Robbins focuses upon using practical Contributor thought (Cp) while adding some help from intellectual Contributor thought (Ci). This corresponds to the pragmatic mindset that characterizes American culture, which is analyzed more thoroughly in the essay on American evangelical Christianity.

Before we continue, I should emphasize that I knew nothing about Robbins’ material before September 2013, and I have not studied neuro-linguistic programming, from which Robbins derives much of his content. Therefore, if mental symmetry can be used to explain Robbins’ concepts, then this is because both are describing the same cognitive mechanisms, and not because one has copied from the other. Until now I have written Robbins off as ‘the Contributor salesman who oozes confidence and gets rich from infomercials and seminars’ and I am certain that Robbins has never encountered the theory of mental symmetry.

When examining religion, we saw that blind faith is naturally accompanied by an attitude of self-denial, and this attitude will end up warping doctrine in predictable ways. With Tony Robbins one sees exactly the opposite problem. Instead of denying self, he builds everything around self, and this also ends up warping his understanding. On the one hand, he has a deeper understanding of cognitive issues than the typical theologian. On the other hand, instead of stating his concepts as universal principles, he presents them as tools for improving self, and he is continually trying to market himself to his audience. As Ramones, the writer of the Master’s essay observes, “It is also important to note that these seminars spend a lot of time advertising and pitching for the participants to go to the next seminar and constantly trying to prove to the participants that their seminars work.”

Robbins describes his basic approach. “One of the things I love most about what I do is the opportunity to unravel the mystery of human behavior and thereby to offer solutions that truly make a difference in the quality of people’s lives. I’m fascinated to probe below the surface to find out the ‘why’ behind a person’s behavior, to discover their core beliefs, questions, metaphors, references and values. Because my forte is being able to produce immediate and measurable results, out of necessity I’ve learned how to quickly locate key leverage points for facilitating change” (p.232).

Like Robbins, I am also attempting to ‘unravel the mystery of human behavior’ in order to ‘improve the quality of people’s lives’. I also ‘probe below the surface to find out the why behind behavior’ as well as examine core beliefs and values. However, my primary goal in studying cognitive mechanisms is to build a universal theory of human behavior in order to come up with long-term personal solutions. I then find myself dealing with the secondary issue of working out short-term steps that can be taken to implement this long-term solution. In contrast, Robbins primary goal is to discover cognitively based ‘leverage points’ that can produce immediate, personal changes. Robbins then finds himself dealing with the secondary problem of getting his short-term solutions to work over the long term. If one wishes to become rich and famous and interact with the rich and famous, then Robbins’ approach is far better. However, if one wants to make a lasting impact, then I suggest that that the long-term approach which I am taking is more effective.

Explaining Contributor Thought

If one wishes to understand Contributor thought, one must begin with the diagram of mental symmetry. We will first describe how Cp functions and then use this as a guideline for examining Robbins’ material.

The starting point for Cp is the emotional experiences contained within Mercy thought. Mercy strategy lives within an internal world of emotional experiences. Contributor thought controls the mental circuit that tries to improve Mercy experiences. Similarly, the starting point for Ci is the general theories contained within Teacher thought. Teacher strategy lives within an internal world of words and theories. Contributor thought controls the mental circuit that tries to improve Teacher theories. Logic and mathematics are two examples of Ci. This essay will be looking primarily at Cp, because that is the mental circuit which Robbins emphasizes.

Notice that Mercy thought leads to Contributor thought through two different paths. The path of imagination leads through Exhorter to Contributor, whereas the path of value leads through Perceiver to Contributor. Contributor thought combines these two paths by using value to guide imagination.

Let us look first at imagination. Exhorter thought is the source of drive, excitement, energy, and imagination for the mind. Exhorter thought is closely related to the function of dopamine. Mercy thought is filled with interconnected emotional experiences. Exhorter thought has access to these experiences (indicated by the gray line connecting Exhorter with Mercy) and uses them as a basis for excitement. Stated simply, Exhorter thought will be attracted to Mercy experiences with strong emotions—whether these emotions are painful or pleasurable. Exhorter thought can get bored. Therefore, what attracts Exhorter thought is a combination of strong emotions and novelty.

An arrow leads from Exhorter to Contributor. Contributor thought views Exhorter attraction as an urge—a goal to follow or an obstacle to avoid. What Exhorter passes on to Contributor is not just a single image but rather a set of related possibilities, each with an associated urge. Contributor thought then chooses one of these possibilities. One could compare this to a political election. A ballot usually contains a few names and a person chooses between the various candidates. Similarly, Exhorter thought provides Contributor thought with several possibilities and Contributor thought chooses between these. Looking at this from a neurological perspective, the cortex sets the context of thought and Exhorter and Contributor thought use the basal ganglia to work within this mental context.

Now let us look at value. Perceiver thought organizes Mercy experiences into categories based upon similarities and differences. The result is a mental map of value, in which each location has an associated Mercy emotion and is connected with neighboring locations by Perceiver facts. This map of value is physically illustrated by the typical store. Each item has a price tag and is placed within a colorful and informative package. This represents the Mercy experience and the emotional label. Similar items are placed close together in a store, making it easy to compare the features and cost of each item. This illustrates the role that Perceiver thought plays in organizing Mercy experiences.

When these two mental streams are combined, the mental result is like the screenshot of the computer golf game. Notice that a grid has been superimposed upon the landscape. The landscape represents imagination, which comes from Mercy thought through Exhorter thought. The grid represents the map of value. Contributor thought combines these two viewpoints by superimposing value upon imagination.

One can see from the diagram of mental symmetry that Contributor connects Perceiver with Server. Server thought handles actions and sequences. When Server is added to Perceiver, then actions become placed within a map. This is illustrated in the screenshot by the dotted line that connects the player’s current location with the hole. Guided by the Perceiver grid of value, Contributor thought will choose the Server action that leads to the desired Mercy goal. In the case of the golf game, a Server action will be chosen that will move the ball from its current location into the hole.

It is important to distinguish between what is happening externally and what is occurring internally. We can explain this using the illustration of the golf game. Externally, a Server action is being performed that produces an external result, in this case putting a golf ball into a hole. The Server path taken by the golf ball is guided by the universal laws of nature, and the golf ball moves through the Perceiver map of physical topography. No mental content is needed to determine the path of a golf ball. That is because the golf ball moves through physical terrain guided by physical laws.

Cp mentally models what is happening externally, allowing the golfer to predict where the golf ball will travel. Contributor thought does this predicting by superimposing a mental grid upon imagination. However, this mental grid is not constructed by Contributor thought. Instead, Perceiver thought builds the mental map and Server thought predicts the path. Adding more Perceiver and Server content allows the golfer to predict more accurately where the golf ball will travel and to control more precisely how the golf ball moves.

The golfer who lacks this mental content is governed by the external terrain. He may hit a golf ball in a certain direction, but the path that the ball takes will be determined by the physical landscape. Mental modeling allows the golfer to become the master of his circumstances. By being able to accurately model how the golf ball will travel, the professional golfer can make the ball go where he wants it to go instead of being a victim of his circumstances.

When imagination is guided by mental content, then a mental model becomes a simulation of reality, just as a computer golf game is a simulation of real golf. A professional golfer can actually practice golf in his head, because the path that an imaginary golf ball takes within imagination will be guided by his mental grid of Perceiver facts and Server sequences. Similarly, if the laws of physics are turned into mathematical equations, and if the topography of a golf course is copied into a computer game, then the path that a virtual golf ball takes in a computer game will be close to the path that a real golf ball will take in the real course that the computer game is simulating.

Now that we have a basic understanding of Cp, let us turn to Robbins’ quotes. I should mention first that every person has a Contributor module in his mind, and every person is able to develop practical Contributor thought. However, the Contributor person is conscious in Contributor thought, therefore he is consciously aware of the mental circuit of Cp, and he can use conscious thought to force it to operate. If one lives in a pragmatic bottom-line-driven society that requires the use of Cp, such as the United States, then Contributor persons will naturally become more ‘successful’ than other cognitive styles.

Mercy Experiences and Emotions

If one were to put the essence of Robbins’ message into a single sentence, it would be this. “If you look at anyone who has great well-being, anyone who has a sense of impact, anyone who leads, whether it be a mom leading a family or a person leading a business - the thing that makes them different than everyone else is they understand there are two worlds. The external world which I can influence and the internal world which I do control. And that internal world is where you have to master yourself. And I think that whatever your story is, whatever your core belief system is, you’re going to find a way to support it.” (HP)

In the previous section, we saw that three different games of golf are happening. The first is a physical game involving a real golf course and real golf balls. The second is an internal game of golf, in which the mind is modeling how a golf ball travels and using this to predict how a real golf ball will respond. Finally, there is a computer game of golf, which can be used either in an internal way to predict how a real golf course will respond, or in an external way as a virtual substitute for reality.

Using the golf analogy, Robbins is saying that there is both an internal game of golf and an external game of golf. If one wishes to play the external game successfully, then one must construct an internal model of the game of golf and become a master at this internal game. Notice that the goal of Robbins is not to tell you what game to play, but rather to help you develop an internal model of whatever game you choose to play.

Comparing internal with external, Robbins says “I’m a student of those who have learned to take the invisible and make it visible. That’s why I respect poets, writers, actors, and entrepreneurs—people who take an idea and bring it to life” (p.208).

In the same way that the starting point for game of golf is the physical substance of a golf course with varying terrain, so the starting point for Cp is the Mercy world of emotional experiences. As Robbins states, “ The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.

As we shall see later, control is a key word for Contributor thought, and the Contributor person hates to lose control. When the Contributor person is in control of a situation, then he is using his internal model of the game to accurately predict and determine what will happen in the real world. Using the analogy of golf, a person who is in control can use Cp to imagine where the golf ball should go and then he can hit a real golf ball in such a way that it follows the imagined path. In Robbins’ words, “ We can change our lives. We can do, have, and be exactly what we wish. ” In contrast, when a person is out of control, then his ‘golf balls’ do not go where he thinks that they will go, and he has no way of controlling where golf balls will go. The first indicates a deficiency in Perceiver knowledge, the second a lack of Server skill.

When Contributor thought is in control, then it is possible to use Cp to perform actions that lead to more pleasant Mercy experiences. For instance, a golf ball in a hole is more pleasurable than a golf ball on the green, which is more pleasurable a golf ball in a sand trap. In Robbins’ words, “ My definition of success is to live your life in a way that causes you to feel a ton of pleasure and very little pain - and because of your lifestyle, have the people around you feel a lot more pleasure than they do pain.

That leads us to a deeper conclusion. Pain and pleasure are physical sensations. They provide the starting point for emotional labels which Mercy thought assigns to experiential memories, but what really drives the mind is the Mercy label and not the physical sensation. As Robbins says, “ You see, it’s never the environment; it’s never the events of our lives, but the meaning we attach to the events - how we interpret them - that shapes who we are today and who we’ll become tomorrow.

Using the game of golf as an example, what guides Contributor thought is not the physical landscape of the golf course but rather the mental representation of this physical landscape. “ We are the only beings on the planet who lead such rich internal lives that it’s not the events that matter most to us, but rather, it’s how we interpret those events that will determine how we think about ourselves and how we will act in the future.

Moving further, mental symmetry suggests that similar emotional Mercy experiences will combine to form mental networks and will then begin to function as a unit. When a mental network is triggered, it will produce positive ‘hyper-emotion’ if it experiences consistent input and it will generate hyper-pain if it experiences inconsistent input. Robbins describes the emotional response of mental networks. “ When people are like each other they tend to like each other. ” That is because people who are like each other have similar mental networks, therefore each will naturally act in a manner that triggers positive hyper-emotion in the other.

Mental symmetry suggests that personal identity is composed of mental networks within Mercy thought. The result, as Robbins says, is that “ We will act consistently with our view of who we truly are, whether that view is accurate or not. ” Notice the potential discrepancy between mental content and mental networks. What a person can do is determined by his mental content—the facts that he knows and the skills that he possesses. However, a person will be driven by hyper-emotion to act and think in a manner that is consistent with the mental networks of personal identity.

Robbins suggests, and mental symmetry agrees, that it is far more important to improve the mental networks of personal identity than to pursue desirable objects or experiences. “ It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute...that gives meaning to our lives.

Mental symmetry suggests that most of the mental networks that shape personal identity are acquired in childhood, and that a person cannot choose his initial set of mental networks. Robbins agrees. “Guess what the challenge is! As always, we were already asleep when the essence of what would shape our lives was formed. We were children who didn’t understand the importance of having a clear sense of our values, or adults dealing with the pressures of life, already distracted to the point where we couldn’t direct the formation of our values. I must reiterate that every decision is guided by these values, and in most cases, we didn’t set them up” (p.247).

Behavior in the average person is guided by what Higgins calls the ought self, a collection of mental networks programmed—usually in childhood—by culture and authority figures that impose their structure upon personal identity. These mental networks will respond with hyper-emotion, generating hyper-pleasure when personal identity acts in a manner that is consistent with their structure, and hyper pain when personal identity acts in a manner that is inconsistent. In Robbins’ words, “Your values came from a mixed bag of experiences, of lifelong conditioning through punishment and reward. Your parents congratulated and supported you when you did things that agreed with their values, and when you clashed with their values, you were punished either physically, verbally, or through the pain of being ignored. Your teachers, too, encouraged and applauded you when you did things they agreed with, and applied similar forms of punishment when you violated their most deeply held views. This cycle was perpetuated by your friends and employers. You modeled the values of your heroes, and maybe some of your antiheroes as well” (p.247).

Commitment and Action

We will now turn our attention to Robbins’ description of the mental structure that guides practical Contributor thought. Contributor combines Perceiver and Server. Perceiver thought provides Contributor thought with a map of value that allows Cp to determine where he is and where he would like to be. Server thought is used to move from one location to another, because Server thought is the part of the mind that handles physical action. When Server thought is used without Contributor thought then a person will repeat the same actions in order to achieve consistent Mercy results. As Robbins states, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.”

The Server person typically lives within a fixed external environment and then performs Server actions in order to achieve Mercy results. The Server person has a place for everything and everything lives in its place. For instance, the scissors may ‘live’ on a hook on the inside of the right cupboard door in the kitchen. Similarly, the Server person finds it very difficult to move from one physical location to another and the typical Server person becomes emotionally unstable when he has to think about situations that do not involve the immediate physical environment.

We saw when looking at the computer golf game that Cp models the external world in order to predict what will happen. Robbins emphasizes the importance of being guided by an internal model of reality rather than the external environment. “Create a vision and never let the environment, other people’s beliefs, or the limits of what has been done in the past shape your decisions. Ignore conventional wisdom.”

Instead of being guided by the physical environment, Cp chooses Server actions based upon a mental model of the environment. Robbins emphasizes that “You’re in the midst of a war: a battle between the limits of a crowd seeking the surrender of your dreams, and the power of your true vision to create and contribute. It is a fight between those who will tell you what you cannot do, and that part of you that knows / and has always known / that we are more than our environment; and that a dream, backed by an unrelenting will to attain it, is truly a reality with an imminent arrival.”

Choice is a core feature of Contributor thought. There is a Contributor aspect, a Perceiver aspect, and a Server aspect to Contributor choice. The Contributor aspect involves using concentration to focus upon some plan. Contributor thought does this with both Ci and Cp. When using Cp, the Perceiver aspect of choice picks Perceiver facts in order to adjust the mental map of value, while the Server aspect of choice decides which specific action will be performed. Robbins describes these three aspects of Contributor choice. “It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.”

The circuit of Cp (practical Contributor thought) changes Server actions in order to achieve better Mercy results. Robbins describes when he decided that he would change his behavior in order to achieve superior results. “I also remember the moment my life changed, the moment I finally said, ‘I’ve had it! I know I’m much more than I’m demonstrating mentally, emotionally, and physically in my life.’ I made a decision in that moment which was to alter my life forever. I decided to change virtually every aspect of my life. I decided I would never again settle for less than I can be.”

Contributor thought is guided by a mental model of reality. As we have seen, this mental model can be used to predict what will happen in the external world, just as a computer game of golf can predict how a real golf ball will travel. However, if one wishes to affect a real golf ball, then one must go beyond using the mind (or a computer) to predict how a golf ball will travel, and use of Server actions to hit a real golf ball in order to make it travel. As Robbin says, “ You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action. ” Robbins adds that “ A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.

Server thought is guided by confidence. Server confidence can be gained through practicing actions. The more an action is repeated, the more confidence Server thought will have in performing that action. Robbins emphasizes the need for consistent, repeated action. “I believe life is constantly testing us for our level of commitment and life’s greatest rewards is reserved for those who demonstrate a never-ending commitment to act until they achieve. This level of resolve can move mountains, but it must be constant and consistent. As simplistic as this may sound, it is still the common denominator separating those who live their dreams from those who live in regret.”

Cp does not just repeat Server actions. That is what the Server person tends to do. Instead, Cp will continually compare the predicted result with the actual result and then adjust Server actions in order to stay on track. For instance, when playing golf, the Server action that is used to hit the ball is guided by the mental model of reality. Once this action is performed, then a person examines where the golf ball actually landed and uses this information to update the mental model and adjust Server actions. Robbins describes this process. “The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if: (1) You clearly decide what it is that you’re absolutely committed to achieving, (2) You’re willing to take massive action, (3) You notice what’s working or not, and (4) You continue to change your approach until you achieve what you want, using whatever life gives you along the way.”

Robbins also describes other aspects of Cp. One aspect is known as bottom line analysis, in which one examines and compares various Mercy goals in order to pick the best one. Robbins takes several pages describing how to use bottom line analysis to choose goals in the four areas of: personal development; career, business, and economics; toys and adventure; and contribution (p.211). He then advises in each category to “choose your single most important one-year goal in this category—a goal that, if you were to accomplish it this year, would give you tremendous excitement and make you feel that the year was well invested. Take two minutes to write a paragraph about why you are absolutely committed to achieving this goal within the year. Why is this compelling for you? What will you gain by achieving it? What would you miss out on if you didn’t achieve it? Are these reasons strong enough to get you to actually follow through? If not, either come up with a better goal or better reasons” (p.213).

Another aspect of Cp is cost-benefit analysis. Robbins describes how this can be performed using practical steps. “Write down four actions that you need to take that you’ve been putting off...Second, under each of these actions, write down the answer to the following questions: Why haven’t I taken action? In the past, what pain have I linked to taking this action? Answering these questions will help you understand that what has held you back is that you’ve associated greater pain to taking the action than to not taking it...Third, write down all the pleasure you’ve had in the past by indulging in this negative pattern...Fourth, write down what it will cost you if you don’t change now...What’s it going to cost you emotionally? What’s it going to cost you in terms of your self-image? What will it cost you in your physical energy level? What will it cost you in your feelings of self-esteem? What will it cost you financially? What will it cost you in your relationships with the people you care about most? How does that make you feel?...The final step is to write down all the pleasure you’ll receive by taking each of these actions right now. Make a huge list that will drive you emotionally, that will really get you excited” (p.43).

Optimization is another aspect of Cp. Optimization replaces some aspect of a Contributor plan with an equivalent sub-plan that performs the same function more efficiently, more effectively, or at a lower cost. For instance, both a smart phone and a regular phone perform the same function of talking to individuals over the phone. However, a smart phone also performs most of the functions of a computer. Robbins applies optimization to personal identity when examining how to make more money. “If you want to earn more money where you are today, one of the simplest ways to do so is to ask yourself, ‘How can I be worth more to this company? How can I help it to achieve more in less time? How could I add a tremendous amount of value to it? Are there some ways that I could help cut costs and increase quality? What new system could I develop? What new technology could I use that would allow the company to produce its products and services more effectively?’ If we can help people to do more with less, then we truly are empowering others, and we will be empowered economically as well, as long as we put ourselves in a position to do so” (p.334). Robbins mentions that he has applied this principle to himself. “I became a very wealthy man at an extremely young age for one reason: I mastered skills and abilities that could instantaneously increase the quality of life for virtually anyone. Then I figured out a way to share that information and those skills with a huge number of people in a short period of time. As a result, I have prospered not only emotionally, but financially as well” (p.334).

Notice in passing how Robbins focuses upon using the circuit of Cp: Mercy experiences are evaluated in order to create goals for Cp. Cost-benefit is applied in order to motivate Cp. Personal identity is optimized by using Cp.

Exhorter Drive

Turning now from Contributor thought to Exhorter thought, Exhorter strategy is based emotional Mercy experiences and provides the drive for Contributor thought.

Robbins emphasizes the Contributor person’s need for Exhorter energy with a simple quote. “Live with passion!” Notice the exclamation mark. Robbins adds “There is no greatness without a passion to be great, whether it’s the aspiration of an athlete or an artist, a scientist, a parent, or a businessperson.”

We all need Exhorter energy, but as the arrow in the diagram of mental symmetry shows, Contributor thought is conscious in the module that is directly downstream from Exhorter thought. One could compare this relationship to that of a rider on a horse. The horse is Exhorter thought, while the rider is Contributor thought. The rider can control the direction of the horse, but if the horse has no energy, then the rider will not go anywhere.

Robbins emphasizes the essential driving role that is played by Exhorter thought and Exhorter energy. “Many people try to avoid pressure, yet the absence of any tension or pressure usually creates a sense of boredom and the lackluster experience of life that so many people complain about. In truth, when we feel excited, we feel a sense of pressure or tension within ourselves. However, the level of stress is not overwhelming, but rather stimulating. There is a difference between being stressed out and being the master of stress. Use stress (eustress) to drive you in the direction you desire; it can generate tremendous transformation within you” (p.204).

Because the Contributor person is so dependent upon subconscious Exhorter thought for energy, he will try to use his energy efficiently without wasting it. In Robbins’s words, “ The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results. ” Notice how the Contributor person is ‘using his talent’ to ‘produce outstanding results’. This describes how Cp improves Mercy experiences. Notice also how Exhorter thought is being described in the impersonal terms of ‘energy level’.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when the dopamine producing circuits die in the brain, leading to a paralysis of Exhorter thought. The Parkinson’s patient is severely handicapped at making mental and physical transitions. For instance, he may get physically stuck in the doorway between one room and another. Once a transition has been made, then Contributor thought takes over and works out the details. The Exhorter person is naturally talented at starting a plan, but has to learn how to continue past the initial stages. Robbins emphasizes that implementing a Contributor plan means getting past the initial Exhorter-driven stage that starts a plan to the Contributor-driven stage that implements a plan. “The most important thing you can do to achieve your goals is to make sure that as soon as you set them, you immediately begin to create momentum. The most important rules that I ever adopted to help me in achieving my goals were those I learned from a very successful man who taught me to first write down the goal, and then to never leave the site of setting a goal without first taking some form of positive action toward its attainment.”

Exhorter thought is attracted to strong Mercy emotions. The emotional Mercy experience or mental network that attracts the attention of Exhorter thought provides the goal for Cp. Robbins describes this principle. “ People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals - that is, goals that do not inspire them.

Mercy thought wants pleasure and not pain. Exhorter thought, in contrast, is motivated by either pain or pleasure. As long as there are strong emotions, Exhorter thought will provide energy. As Robbins says, “In life you need either inspiration or desperation.” Notice the intense emotions being described.

A rider can either control or guide his horse; he can either control the horse so that it goes where he wants it to go, or he can have confidence that he will be able to guide the horse as he gives it freedom to go where it wants to go. Similarly, the Contributor person can either function with control or confidence. Remember that Cp combines the mental stream of imagination with the map of value. The controlling Contributor person uses the connection between Contributor and Perceiver to limit the mind to a specific Perceiver context. In terms of a map analogy, this is like restricting travel to a certain city, valley, or region. Exhorter imagination is then given freedom to choose exciting Mercy experiences within this context. The typical Contributor person specializes in some restricted realm and then develops technical thought within this limited realm. Using a map analogy, Contributor driven technical thought learns everything about a certain city or valley, but refuses to move outside of this region. Think, for instance, of the professional athlete who excels at his sport but is psychologically inept outside of his chosen game, or the CEO of the successful company whose private life is a mess. Tiger Woods provides a well-known example of a first-rate athlete whose personal life is fourth-rate.

The Contributor person who functions with confidence allows subconscious Exhorter thought to change the mental context. Obviously, if one leaves the current city or valley, then one may end up in unfamiliar terrain for which there is no Perceiver map of value, which will cause Contributor thought to lose control. The controlling Contributor person fears losing control, which is why he limits thinking to some Perceiver context—to some region of the map that is known. The confident Contributor has confidence that the terrain will be familiar, even if Exhorter thought is permitted to change the mental context. The controlling Contributor focuses upon acquiring Perceiver facts and developing Server actions, because his goal is to gain a more accurate knowledge of the current landscape. Think, for instance, of the professional golfer who learns more accurately how to predict the path of a golf ball on a golf course. In order to become confident, the Contributor person must learn about emotions and how they function, because the confident Contributor is giving freedom to subconscious Exhorter thought, which is driven by emotions.

The male Contributor person often finds it difficult to get in touch with his emotions. That is because Contributor strategy works with confidence and not emotion, and the male mind tends to emphasize confidence rather than emotion. Robbins, in contrast, teaches that emotions are a valuable resource. “Realize that the emotions you are feeling at this very moment are a gift, a guideline, a support system, a call to action. If you suppress your emotions and try to drive them out of your life, or if you magnify them and allow them to take over everything, then you’re squandering one of life’s most precious resources” (p.179).

Notice that Robbins is coming up with a Contributor reason to value Mercy feelings. His ‘six steps to emotional mastery’ (p.180) describe how Mercy feelings can be incorporated into the circuit of Cp. The first step is to ‘identify what you’re really feeling’, which uses Perceiver thought to categorize Mercy feelings. The second step is to ‘acknowledge and appreciate your emotions, knowing they support you’. This recognizes that Mercy feelings provide the emotional landscape that drives Cp. In Robbins’ words, “Be thankful that there’s a part of your brain that is sending you a signal of support, a call to action to make a change in either your perception of some aspect of your life or in your actions” (p.181). The third step is to ‘get curious about the message this emotion is offering you’. Using the language of mental symmetry, he defines this curiosity as asking what Mercy emotions a person would like to have, the Perceiver facts behind Mercy emotions, and the Server actions that are required to change Mercy emotions. These three questions all address various aspects of the circuit of Cp. The fourth step is to ‘get confident’. Since confidence describes the ability to handle emotional pressure without falling apart, Robbins says that “The quickest, simplest, and most powerful way I know to handle any emotion is to remember a time when you felt a similar emotion and realize that you’ve successfully handled this emotion before.” Fifth, ‘get certain you can handle this not only today, but in the future as well’. Repetition helps to build Perceiver and Server confidence. Robbins advocates mental rehearsal, which can help to fine-tune the Contributor model of reality. “See, hear, and feel yourself handling the situation easily. Repetitions of this with emotional intensity will create within you a neural pathway of certainty that you can easily deal with such challenges.” The final step is to ‘get excited, and take action’. Because the previous steps have incorporated emotional Mercy experiences into Cp, Exhorter will be able to use these emotions as a source of energy to drive the circuit of Cp.

Robbins is describing here a way of thinking that is midway between confidence and control. On the one hand, he is recognizing the role that Mercy emotions and Exhorter excitement play in Cp. Thus, he is going beyond control. On the other hand, one gets the distinct impression that cognitive modules are only being valued for the role that they play in serving Contributor thought. In other words, Contributor thought is the ‘friendly dictator’ that runs the mind while the other cognitive modules are acting as the minions of Contributor thought. This describes an attitude of control and not true confidence.

This is conclusion is backed up by the attitude and specialization of Tony Robbins. On the one hand, his aura and his grin demonstrate that he is giving freedom to Exhorter thought. On the other hand, he is using Contributor thought to limit his primary mental context to personal coaching and giving success seminars. In other words, his area of specialization is motivating people to start using Cp, and teaching people how to use Cp more effectively. Robbins’ website says that “For the past three decades, Tony Robbins has served as an advisor to leaders around the world, continuously refining his personal coaching skills. Now a recognized authority on the psychology of leadership, negotiations, organizational turnaround, and peak performance, he has been honored consistently for his strategic intellect and humanitarian endeavors. As the official website for the world’s foremost self-help author, motivational speaker, and personal development coach, TonyRobbins.com offers a wide variety of coaching resources to help you achieve peak performance in everything you do. Whether it’s in your business, your health, your finances, your relationship, your emotions, or your time, there is a product, event, or coaching experience we can provide to help you create an extraordinary quality of life today.”

The mental result could be called pseudo-confidence. Robbins has learned the cognitive mechanisms behind motivation, he teaches these mechanisms in his seminars, and he uses his knowledge of these mechanisms to make his seminars exciting. It feels good to have an audience in the palm of your hand. It feels even better when those audience members are paying $600 - $2000 each to attend your seminars. It feels still better when the rich and famous give glowing testimonials of your personal coaching. This will create a positive feedback loop for Cp. Exhorter thought gains energy from strong Mercy emotions. Enthusiastic, paying audiences that include famous individuals produce intense Mercy emotions, which creates great drive and excitement for the seminar speaker. Why would the Exhorter horse want to leave a valley that contains such exciting emotional fodder? Thus, Tony Robbins can give total freedom to subconscious Exhorter thought within his own mind, even though his area of expertise is limited to using words to motivate people. Tony Robbins’ smile and aura comes from giving freedom to subconscious Exhorter thought, and this aura of confidence attracts an audience.

Notice the intense emotions contained in the following description. “All of us at the Anthony Robbins Companies are committed to providing the best experience available for creating an extraordinary quality of life today. The Robbins Results Immersion System includes three powerful steps...An Immersion Experience: Your first step is to experience a live event with Anthony Robbins. These events are designed to create massive momentum...After experiencing the power of a live event...Tony personally coaches you and passionately entertains you as you take daily action to implement the proven strategies and tools for achieving the results you want and deserve.”

Robbins asks the reader, “do you have a set of specific and empowering ways to make yourself feel good at a moment’s notice?” (p.121) One of his personal answers is “Conducting any of my seminars, especially huge ones (one of my favorite submodalities).” As long as Robbins continues to have an enthusiastic, paying audience, then he can continue to generate his aura of confidence, and Robbins can use the money that he receives from his audience to solve all of his other problems. Robbins may recognize and teach that money is an inadequate bottom line, but he sure likes having lots of money. “Many people make the mistake of thinking that all the challenges in their lives would dissipate if they just had enough money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Earning more money, in and of itself, rarely frees people. It’s equally ridiculous to tell yourself that greater financial freedom and mastery of your finances would not offer your greater opportunities to expand, share, and create value for yourself and others.”

I am not suggesting that Robbins’ approach is merely pseudo-science. Robbins has a legitimate expertise in cognitive mechanisms, especially those that relate to the function of Cp. However, anyone who specializes in using words to manipulate audiences can generate a loss of confidence upon a very narrow field of expertise. This principle is often illustrated by the politician. Getting elected is a skill, but there is no guarantee that the person who knows how to get elected will know what to do once he is elected.

I should also emphasize that Robbins also exhibits a real confidence that goes beyond pseudo-confidence. In Robbins’ words, “For some people, in order to feel like they’re in control in any context, they have to know what's going to happen in advance of its occurrence. For others, in order to feel like they’re confident in some area, they have to have experience in doing it. If this were my rule for confidence, I couldn’t accomplish most of what I’ve done in my life! Most of my success has come from my ability to get myself to feel certain I could achieve something, even though I had no references for it. My rule for confidence is, ‘If I decide to be confident, then I’ll feel that way toward anything, and my confidence will help me succeed’” (p.272).

A Critique of Robbins

This blog page contains a review of Robbins’ material, including comments from a number of individuals. The author describes his reaction. “It’s funny, I just did this CD last week and I don’t remember much about this tape. I think that’s my main gripe about the program. Tony claims you will learn all this stuff, and after you’ve finished the CD it’s hard to remember the details. Maybe if I listened to the CD again I would be able to retain it all. Or maybe all the information wasn’t there. The overall point of this CD is to inspire you to work towards your goals.”

The blogger thinks that Robbins’ material contains a few nuggets of good advice. “Tony gave really solid advice here on investing. I can sum it up right here in two sentences: Invest early and regularly to take advantage of compound interest, and use asset allocation. These are two very simple yet effective rules for investing. I find it a bit misleading that Tony sells this CD package promoting ‘ Capitalize on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for achieving financial freedom’ which turns out to be nothing more than two common pieces of investment advice and advertisements for his seminars and investments. Actually I find it a lot misleading. Don’t get me wrong, the advice is very good, but it’s advice you can easily find with Google.”

We saw at the beginning of this essay that Robbins is looking for cognitive mechanisms that can produce immediate results, and that Robbins’ secondary goal is to ensure that these immediate results remain without fading. As far as this blogger is concerned, Robbins’ advice has primarily a short-term impact. “The useful information was the advice on relationships and the investment advice. The motivational material will make you feel good when you listen to it, and even get you excited about life, but then it wears off and you’re left with very little. I think this is a key part of Tony’s marketing: He is good at ‘pumping you up’ and making you excited, and that’s when he promotes his seminars.”

Ramones agrees that he is good at ‘pumping up a crowd’. “Robbins seminars are reminiscent of rock concerts, with high-energy popular music blasting at entrances, club like lighting with bright colored lights and animations all over the room and dancing on stage and in the audience. This creates an atmosphere of play and high energy in addition to lowered inhibitions.”

Part of the problem is that when Robbins goes beyond motivation to science, then his basic knowledge can be inadequate, while his motivation to make money is still present. “Tony started talking about measuring energy in Mhz. Yes MegaHertz! He claimed a Big Mac has 5 Mhz of energy. I knew from all my science classes that this was complete [garbage]! I couldn’t believe Tony was saying this. Couldn’t he verify his material with a scientist or nutritionist? Hertz measures frequency, not energy. In food energy is measured in calories. Ok, so now I’m suspicious of Robbins. Later he talks about cleansing the body with a wheat germ drink for 10 days. It just so happens his pal Dr. Young has an entire line of products for sale to help us achieve this cleansing!” As an electrical engineer, I can confirm that it makes no sense to use a unit of frequency to describe energy. Instead, one would say that a Big Mac has 491 kcal or 2 MJoules of energy.

Ramones divides the typical seminar crowd into three groups. “From personal observation, having been involved and connected with the Robbins environment for almost a decade, there tends to be three scenarios: First, an individual successfully is able to maintain the momentum from the conference and is able to take massive steps towards increasing their well-being; second, the individual feels the need to repeatedly return to events to tap into this social group and the identity they hold in the Robbins environment; third, the individual returns home and returns either to baseline or only slightly above or even below (‘after event burn out’). The latter seem to be the most likely scenario as most people at the seminar you never hear back from again and seem to just go on with their lives. There is also a fairly significant following of people in the Robbins environment that regularly return to events to volunteer (‘crew’), some even attending Robbins events 10-20 times a year. These individuals often cycle through all the Robbins events and seminars and ‘move up’ to leadership positions as volunteers and sometimes eventually becoming paid Anthony Robbins corporation coaches. The line between dependency and dedication of these individuals is thin as they live, breathe and eat Robbins and have made the Robbins environment their life. These are extreme cases but there is a group of people that are not dependent on the Robbins environment per se but do repeatedly return to events.”

In other words, most people are getting Exhorter energy from the emotional impact of Robbins’ presentation, and only some are taking the steps that are required to build their own lasting excitement. Ramones adds “There is no denying that Anthony Robbins is a charismatic individual and most of his success in self-help can most likely be attributed to that. There is a strong possibility there is something just about Anthony Robbins that makes his interventions powerful.”

This emotional dependency upon Robbins is shown by the volunteers who maintain their Exhorter energy by emotionally feeding off Robbins’ aura. Saying this more technically, emotional experiences generated by Robbins have created a mental network within the minds of the volunteers, and this mental network retains emotional intensity as long as it is continually triggered and ‘topped up’ by Robbins. Using an analogy, Robbins’ methods could be compared to building a city in the middle of the jungle. The city will only survive as long as the encroaching jungle is kept at bay. Similarly, for most listeners, the force of Robbins’ personality is creating an artificial ‘city’ of Cp within the mental ‘jungle’ of emotional experiences. Mental symmetry suggests that the only way to defeat the jungle is to use the Teacher emotion of a general theory to transform the Mercy mental networks of childish identity. Unlike Robbins’ method, building a Teacher understanding will not produce instantaneous results. However, a general Teacher theory of human personality does have the power to produce lasting, inescapable change over the long term.

Robbins’ seminars are reminiscent of the typical religious revival. For instance, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain describes Tom’s town being overtaken by a revival while Tom is sick in bed. “When he got upon his feet at last and moved feebly downtown, a melancholy change had come over everything and every creature. There had been a ‘revival,’ and everybody had ‘got religion,’ not only the adults, but even the boys and girls. Tom went about, hoping against hope for the sight of one blessed sinful face, but disappointment crossed him everywhere. He found Joe Harper studying a Testament, and turned sadly away from the depressing spectacle. He sought Ben Rogers, and found him visiting the poor with a basket of tracts. He hunted up Jim Hollis, who called his attention to the precious blessing of his late measles as a warning. Every boy he encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn and was received with a Scriptural quotation, his heart broke and he crept home and to bed realizing that he alone of all the town was lost, forever and forever.” After another three-week bout with sickness, Tom recovers to discover that his friends have relapsed from their religious fervor. “He drifted listlessly down the street and found Jim Hollis acting as judge in a juvenile court that was trying a cat for murder, in the presence of her victim, a bird. He found Joe Harper and Huck Finn up an alley eating a stolen melon. Poor lads! they—like Tom—had suffered a relapse.”

For many individuals, the motivational seminar has taken the place of the religious revival. Ramones describes the historical progression from religion to self-help seminar. “Much of self-help and psychology texts entered the popular stream of thought throughout the early 20th century through the guise of religion (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous relies heavily on the idea of guidance and strength from a higher power and Norman Vincent Peale’s (1952) Power of Positive Thinking which offered a sort of spiritual cleansing). As the self-help field developed from the 1930s to the 1950s, the nature of self-help became more secular and pragmatic (however religious and spiritual self-help texts still remain extremely popular) with Dale Carnegie and Dr. Spock rising to popularity...In the 1960s through the 1980s self-help began to be directed on the inner self, encouraging individuality and self-reflection. It was during this time the New Age movement, which stresses inner spirituality and understanding of the world, came into vogue. The humanist movement, led by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, was also overtaking psychology, emphasizing the power and authority of the individual. This led to what self-help started becoming in the 1980s and 1990s and for the most part still is today, a discipline which focuses more on personal action and responsibility, which argues that the individual is ultimately responsible in all ways for their distress and well-being.”

Summarizing this section, concrete thought can learn to function in different modes. The most basic level is for a person to float through life in stimulus-response fashion, responding to the current Mercy situation with the appropriate Server action. A person can gain stability by acquiring a set of Server skills and repeating these skills within a limited physical environment. This describes the mindset of the typical Server person, who acquires and performs skills but hates to change where he lives. A person can also function in a rigid manner, using Contributor thought to shut down any thought or action which is deemed to be inappropriate. A person can develop expertise in some area, using Cp to improve and optimize within some limited context. Finally, a person can become confident, giving Exhorter thought the freedom to move from one context to another, confident that the ‘rider will not be thrown from a horse’. Tony Robbins is preaching Contributor confidence, and he demonstrates Contributor confidence, but his Contributor confidence is based primarily in his ability to preach and demonstrate Contributor confidence. His real expertise is helping individuals to start using the circuit of Cp and begin functioning at the level of Contributor control.

For instance, participants who attend the ‘Unleash the Power Within’ seminar are given the opportunity to firewalk, in which one walks barefoot across a bed of hot coals. If a person has wet feet, sufficient calluses, and walks at a steady speed, then walking across coals is safe, even if it appears dangerous. Robbins uses firewalking as a way of building confidence in following the circuit of Cp. As one seminar attendee relates, “The inherent lesson was that faith gets you through a lot of things you never thought possible. So does love. Fear only stops you. So the point is when you get up to step across and walk across the coals – you totally believe they could hurt you if you don’t do it correctly. So watching people take a leap of faith and do it was totally inspiring...Walking across myself, I took 8 steps – on step 4, I started to look down (which is what we were told NOT to do, or we would burn) and my foot started to feel, ‘siiiizzzzzzle.’ I looked up fast, snapping my head upward, and it stopped. I couldn’t believe it when I got to the other side. Call it mind over matter. Call it the placebo effect. Whatever. The point is that I did it. And I knew in the future that no matter what I wanted to do, I could do. Skydiving. Riding the tallest, scariest rollercoasters in the world. Anything.”

Gaining sufficient confidence to follow Cp in situations that threaten the physical body is a valuable lesson. In the language of mental symmetry, physical sensation creates a very powerful mental network, and it is difficult for practical Contributor thought to alter established routine when faced with such an entrenched mental network. However, Robbins learned about firewalking back in 1983, and he has been using it in his seminars ever since. When a seminar speaker continues using the same schtick for thirty years, then one can conclude that his Exhorter horse is stuck in one valley.

Changing Emotional Labels

Now that we have looked at Robbins’ description of practical Contributor thought, let us turn our attention to what he says about the Perceiver map of value. Remember that Perceiver thought arranges Mercy experiences into categories, and the resulting Perceiver map of emotional Mercy experiences guides the operation of Cp.

Physical sensations of pain and pleasure do not change. But it is possible to change the emotional labels that Mercy thought places upon experiences. Because the mind is driven by emotional labels and not by physical sensation, it is possible to alter behavior by changing emotional labels. In the words of Robbins, “ The truth is that we can learn to condition our minds, bodies, and emotions to link pain or pleasure to whatever we choose. By changing what we link pain and pleasure to, we will instantly change our behaviors.

For instance, when two children argue over who will do the dishes, the typical conversation goes ‘You do the dishes! No, you do the dishes!! I do not want to do them.’ That is because in the childish mind the experience of doing dishes is associated primarily with the physical sensations of tedious work. In contrast, when two adults argue over the same chore, the typical conversation goes. ‘I will do the dishes. No, I will do the dishes. You did them last time.’ The physical sensation involved in doing dishes has not changed. But what has changed is the emotional label which Mercy thought places upon the experience of doing dishes.

Perceiver thought plays a major role in altering emotions by connecting and reconnecting experiences. In Robbins’ words, “It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” Perceiver beliefs are not emotional and they have no direct impact upon emotions. But Perceiver beliefs can indirectly affect emotional labels by changing the connections between Mercy experiences. For instance, washing dishes feels good to an adult mind because Perceiver thought has connected this activity with experiences of personal approval. Similarly, if a child is told that he will get paid for doing the dishes, then the Mercy emotion associated with doing dishes of change, because Perceiver thought has now connected this activity with the positive experience of receiving money.

In Robbins’ words, “All personal breakthroughs being with a change in beliefs. So how do we change? The most effective way is to get your brain to associate massive pain to the old belief. You must feel deep in your gut that not only has this belief cost you pain in the past, but it’s costing you in the present and, ultimately, can only bring you pain in the future. Then you must associate tremendous pleasure to the idea of adopting a new, empowering belief.”

Before we go on, notice two things. First, Robbins is describing a method of changing behavior that goes beyond mere choice. In terms of the golf analogy, using belief to change behavior is like changing the path of the golf ball by using a bulldozer to alter the landscape of the golf course. That brings us to the second point. Using a physical bulldozer to determine where a physical golf ball travels is a major undertaking. Similarly, changing one’s belief system should also be a major undertaking. And yet, the ‘successful’ Contributor person is often quite willing to change his beliefs and adopt a new persona in order to sell some product. The reason for this is simple. Every cognitive style will naturally emphasize conscious thought while downplaying subconscious thought. Contributor thought ‘lives’ in the ‘driver’s seat’ of the mind. Perceiver thought forms the map for the mental car of Cp while Server thought constructs the roads. For the typical Contributor person, driving the car successfully is more important than the country in which he travels or the road upon which he drives.

Mental symmetry agrees with Robbins that personal breakthrough begins with a change in beliefs that leads to an emotional relabeling of Mercy experiences. This corresponds to what mental symmetry calls the first stage of personal salvation. But mental symmetry suggests that the purpose of the first stage of salvation is to construct an accurate belief system, one that is consistent with natural law as well as the structure of the mind. Thus, the typical Perceiver person often sees the Contributor person as a mercenary who is willing to sell his soul in order to get ahead. Using the car illustration, ignoring the country in which one is driving usually works for a while, until one gets stuck in some godforsaken location surrounded by unfriendly natives.

Mental symmetry suggests that Perceiver facts can be acquired in one of two ways. Perceiver thought can learn facts by looking for connections that are repeated, or Mercy emotions (usually from Mercy mental networks that represent authority figures) can overwhelm Perceiver thought into believing what is true. Robbins approaches this topic from the perspective of value—using Perceiver facts to change emotional labels in order to alter Contributor plans. “Often the best thing you can do to create mastery in any area of your life is to raise a belief to the level of conviction. Remember, conviction has the power to drive you to action, to push you through all kinds of obstacles. Beliefs can do this as well, but some areas of your life may require the added emotional intensity of conviction...So how can you create a conviction? 1) Start with the basic belief. 2) Reinforce your belief by adding new and more powerful references. For example, let’s say you’ve decided never to eat meat again. To strengthen your resolve, talk to people who’ve chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle: what reasons prompted them to change their diet, and what have been the consequences on their health and in other areas of their lives?” (p.57)

Robbins recognizes that repetition increases Perceiver confidence. “The more references you develop, and the more emotional the references are, the stronger your conviction will become.” He also realizes that Perceiver thought can be fooled by the Mercy mental networks of experts or culture. “One of the challenges with convictions is that they’re often based on other people’s enthusiasm for your beliefs. So often people believe something because everybody else believes it. This is known in psychology as social proof. But social proof is not always accurate. When people are not sure what to do, they look to others for guidance...Using social proof is a great way to limit your life—to make it just like everybody else’s. Some of the strongest social proof that people use is information that they get from ‘experts.’ But are experts always right?...Trusting experts blindly is not well-advised” (p.57).

Notice that Robbins may be following Perceiver truth, but he is selectively choosing his truth based upon his Mercy goal. For instance, if a person chooses to become a vegetarian, then he searches for Perceiver facts that back up this Mercy goal. One could refer to this as selective rational thought. Robbins is going beyond using Mercy pressure to fool Perceiver thought but he is still using Mercy goals to limit Perceiver thought. He is searching for truth, but he is not searching for all truth. In the language of mental symmetry, Perceiver thought is functioning, but its area of functioning is being guided by personal identity in Mercy thought rather than general understanding in Teacher thought.

Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. Thus, I suggest that the term ‘godforsaken’ that was used a few paragraphs back is appropriate, because constructing an accurate belief system is mentally equivalent to building a mental concept of God, because one is looking for universal principles that apply to personal identity. A similar principle applies to computer games that simulate reality, such as a computer golf game. Physical movement obeys the laws of nature, which can be stated as general Teacher theories using symbols and equations. A major component of a computer game is the physics engine, which models the laws of physics using computer programming language. Using religious language, the physics engine is the ‘god’ of the computer game that guides the movement of every object within the game. The more accurate the physics engine, the more realistic the game looks and feels.

The Contributor person who focuses upon ‘driving the car’ often has a major midlife crisis in which he realizes that he has been driving through the wrong country, discovers that he has been ignoring the topic of countries and roads, or finds out that his car is starting to break down. Robbins describes the midlife crisis that occurs when the ‘car’ of the physical body starts to age. “People who act inconsistently with who they believe they are set the stage for the societal cliché of an ‘identity crisis.’ When the crisis hits, they are immediately disoriented, questioning their previous convictions. Their whole world is turned upside down, and they experience an intense fear of pain. This is what happens to so many people having a ‘midlife crisis.’ Often these people identify themselves as being young, and some environmental stimulant—turning a certain age, comments from friends, graying hair—causes them to dread their approaching years and the new, less desirable identity that they expect to experience with it. Thus, in a desperate effort to maintain their identity, they do things to prove they're still young: buy fast cars, change their hairstyles, divorce their spouses, change jobs” (p.306).

Notice what is happening cognitively. I have mentioned that experiences from the physical body create a powerful mental network within the mind. When the physical body begins to fail, the mental network that represents the body will start imposing unpleasant memories upon personal identity. Saying this another way what triggers the midlife crisis is not so much getting old, but rather the onset of getting old combined with the fear of getting old. When other people make comments about growing old, then the mental networks that represent those people also start making personal identity feel bad. The typical response is to counteract this negative input by using physical experiences to create competing mental networks that broadcast youthful messages.

As Robbins points out, the main problem is that personal identity is being impacted by mental networks that come from other people and physical objects. “Having an identity that is specifically linked to your age or how you look would definitely set you up for pain because these things will change. If we have a broader sense of who we are, our identity never becomes threatened” (p.306).

Tony Robbins experienced such a crisis in 1994 when he had a brain tumor. He describes in his Huffington post interview what he used to do. “I would literally go out at 17 years old on these slow jog runs for an hour and a half doing these incantations. You know, ‘I now command my subconscious mind to direct me in helping as many people as possible, by giving me the strength, the humor, the brevity, whatever it takes to show these people, to get these people to change their life now’ -- and do it over and over again. Or ‘God’s wealth is circulating in my life, it’s what flows to me, an avalanche of abundance. All my needs, desires and goals are met instantaneously, by infinite intelligence -- where I’m one with God and God is everything.’ I’d do that for an hour. And I’d shout at the top of my lungs while I’m jogging and I would literally condition myself to be there.”

Using the language of mental symmetry, Robbins was using verbal repetition and worship to fabricate an artificial mental concept of God. First, Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity—a common thread that ties everything together. Repetition artificially creates such a common thread. Second, Teacher thought uses emotion to evaluate generality. Shouting at the top of one’s lungs uses Mercy emotions to fool Teacher thought into thinking that the words that are being repeated have generality.

Third, ‘Being one with God and God is everything’ is the simplest way to artificially create a mental concept of God. ‘God is everything’ creates order-within-complexity by saying that there is order-within-complexity—it all fits together because I say that it all fits together. ‘Being one with God’ turns this pseudo-theory into a concept of God by personally identifying with this pseudo-theory. These are all standard mental tricks that have been analyzed in other essays. Mental symmetry suggests that the goal of the first stage of salvation is to construct a mental concept of God based upon a belief system that accurately describes universal laws. Robbins, in contrast, was using positive-thinking self-deception to fool his mind into thinking that the first stage had been accomplished.

Robins still uses positive-thinking mental tricks. For instance, after a false media claim “that people were wailing after sustaining severe burns to the feet”, the medical staff member at a 2012 firewalking event explained that “contrary to some media reports, the screams that people heard at the event were actually participants building their adrenaline levels to prepare themselves for the walk.”

When Robbins got his brain tumor, this triggered a midlife crisis. “So now, here I am 31 years old, I’m the most successful I’d ever dreamed of being and I’ve got a tumor. What the hell -- all of a sudden I’m not functioning anymore. What I lost was my certainty.” In the language of mental symmetry, Contributor thought lost control. Robbin states that “when I got my tumor, I kind of uncovered that there was another part of life that I wasn’t fully masterful of and that is the art of fulfillment.” He then came up with what he calls “probably the seminal piece of my work, which is that all human beings are driven by six needs.” (HP)

The Six Needs

Robbins’ six human needs are:

“1. Certainty/Comfort. We all want comfort. And much of this comfort comes from certainty. Of course there is no ABSOLUTE certainty, but we want certainty the car will start, the water will flow from the tap when we turn it on and the currency we use will hold its value.

2. Variety. At the same time we want certainty, we also crave variety. Paradoxically, there needs to be enough UNcertainty to provide spice and adventure in our lives.

3. Significance. Deep down, we all want to be important. We want our life to have meaning and significance. I can imagine no worse a death than to think my life didn’t matter.

4. Connection/Love. It would be hard to argue against the need for love. We want to feel part of a community. We want to be cared for and cared about.

5. Growth. There could be some people who say they don't want to grow, but I think they're simply fearful of doing so—or perhaps NOT doing so. To become better, to improve our skills, to stretch and excel may be more evident in some than others, but it's there.

6. Contribution. The desire to contribute something of value—to help others, to make the world a better place than we found it is in all of us.”

The first two needs describe the interaction between Contributor thought and Exhorter thought. Contributor thought wants to be able to accurately predict and control the environment, such as knowing that turning the key will start the car, or knowing that pieces of paper with numbers on them can be used to purchase items. Since Robbins is a Contributor person, this is his first need. However, Contributor thought is driven by Exhorter energy, and Exhorter thought requires variety, leading to Robbins’ second need. As the quote states, the average person experiences these two needs as a paradox. Using the analogy of a rider on a horse, the Contributor rider does not want to lose control and get thrown from a horse, but the horse will not move if there is insufficient excitement and variety. As a result, many Contributor persons function on ‘the edge of the cliff’. They get close enough to the cliff to bring excitement to Exhorter thought but not so close that they will fall off the cliff and lose Contributor control.

Robbins relates that his experience with a brain tumor caused him to lose control. “I had an experience when I was diagnosed with a tumor...long story short, I had an experience where I realized I had lost all sense of certainty in my life, whether I was going to live or die and I began to realize that for most of my life I had worked early on in my life as a kid to pound certainty inside myself, because I didn’t have any.” (HP).

The third need addresses the Mercy mental networks of personal identity. The goal of Cp is to improve Mercy experiences. The typical Contributor person uses Cp to gather more stuff, such as houses, cars, and trophy spouses. We have seen that Robbins’ brush with death helped him to recognize that this is inadequate and that Cp should be used to improve the Mercy experiences of personal identity. This mental ‘marriage’ between practical Contributor thought and personal identity is illustrated by the Christian sacrament of the Eucharist, which has been analyzed in previous essays.

The fourth need is for love. The third need refers to the mental networks of personal identity. The fourth need deals with the interaction between personal identity and other mental networks. Mental symmetry agrees that these two needs are significant, but suggests that they can only be adequately met within the context of a general Teacher understanding.

Robbins says in the Huffington interview that “The final two needs are the spiritual needs. They’re not religious, they’re spiritual, they’re what lifts your spirit. And that is, number five is, you’ve gotta grow. If you don’t grow, you’re not going to be fulfilled...I don’t care where you are in your life, if you’re making progress with your family, if you’re making progress with your body, if you’re making progress with your kids, if you’re making progress in your energy or your health, you’re going to feel better about your life. And so progress is a symbol of growth. Everything in the universe grows or dies. And the last one is contribution. What makes us feel alive is to have something that has greater meaning. Life is not about me, it’s about we.”

These last two needs describe aspects of Teacher thought. Looking at the fifth need, Teacher thought feels good when there is order-within-complexity. Thus, Teacher thought will feel increasingly good when there is growing order and structure. For instance, it is this Teacher emotion that causes a bureaucracy or organization to grow. Therefore, Robbins has gone from fooling Teacher thought to acknowledging Teacher thought. This is a major step forward. Robbins also recognizes that the Teacher understanding that comes from personal growth can free the Contributor person from the need to stay in control. “Most people never feel secure because they are always worried that they will lose their job, lose the money they already have, you lose their spouse, lose their health, and so on. The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way, that you are increasing the caliber of who you are and that you are valuable to your company, your friends, and your family.”

This is a significant point that is discussed further in the essay on Pentecostalism. In simple terms, if one lacks Teacher understanding, then the only way to achieve certainty is through control. For instance, because the typical fast food employee lacks education, he must be told exactly how to construct a hamburger. However, when there is Teacher understanding, then one can set goals while giving people significant freedom as to how they will reach these goals. This is how one treats the professionally trained individual.

The problem with Robbins’ approach is that the foundation is still personal identity in Mercy thought rather than a general understanding in Teacher thought. That is because the Teacher understanding is coming from personal growth. As the industrial revolution shows, transforming change occurs when the starting point is Teacher understanding. Saying this in religious language, Robbins has gone from faking a mental concept of God to constructing a mental concept of God in his own image. Mental symmetry agrees that personal growth is a fundamental principle, but suggests that personal growth needs to function within the context of a general understanding.

Robbins’ final need involves going beyond personal aspirations to the group. For instance, in 1991 Robbins started a charitable foundation that now helps people around the world. Robbins says that “ Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.

Robbins is describing altruistic behavior, which is a significant aspect of personal growth. Using the language of mental symmetry, whenever a person acts or thinks in a certain manner, then the mental network that prompted this behavior will ‘take credit’ and become mentally connected with this behavior. A person acts selfishly when his behavior is guided by the mental networks of personal identity; when behavior is guided by mental networks that represent other people, then a person is submitting to authority or following peer pressure. Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity; it comes up with a general understanding based upon the behavior of many people. Thus, when a person becomes part of something that is larger than himself, then he is being driven by Teacher thought. When a person is motivated only by becoming part of something that is bigger than himself and not by either selfish desire or societal pressure, then no Mercy mental networks will ‘take credit’ for this behavior and it will become mentally connected to the Teacher mental network of a general understanding. In philosophical language, this is called following Kant’s categorical imperative. In religious language, it describes becoming righteous.

Mental symmetry suggests that becoming righteous is a major aspect of the second stage of personal salvation. However, instead of constructing a mental concept of God, Robbins is extrapolating from personal identity by doing something that is bigger than himself. Robbins explains that “The reason I feed people today, over two million people every year, is because my family was fed when I was 11-years-old by some strangers on Thanksgiving. I just never forgot it and decided someday I would do the same for other people, so it was a great gift to my life.” (HP) It is admirable to feed so many people, and Robbins is performing an altruistic activity that goes significantly beyond personal desire. However, this action is still an extrapolation of personal need in Mercy thought rather than based upon a general understanding in Teacher thought. Robbins is still building a God in his own image.

Robbins is also applying a standard Contributor compensation mechanism. It is quite common for Contributor persons to become successful by using the circuit of Cp backed up by force of will. After they have become successful and have made lots of money they then try to compensate for the fact that they stepped on people on the way to the top by using their tainted money to fund charitable projects. The most famous example is John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, who became the world’s richest man and spent the last forty years of his life doing charitable work. Rockefeller helped a lot of people when he was giving away money, but he also ruined a lot of people when he was making his money. The problem with this approach is that it views morality purely from the bottom line perspective of Cp, in essence viewing morality as a scale. Stated simply, Cp calculates moral goodness by subtracting ‘bad deeds’ from ‘good deeds’. If a person has done evil, then he can make up for his moral deficiency by doing good.

Mental symmetry suggests (and Christianity agrees) that the root problem is the mental networks of childish identity, and that these mental networks need to be torn apart and reassembled in order to create a mindset that naturally functions in a moral manner. This does not mean that it is wrong to use the ‘scales of justice’. However, the penance of balancing evil with good will only deal with individual experiences and will not solve the underlying problem.

To some extent, Robbins recognizes that personal transformation means rebuilding mental networks, and that a person will only adopt new mental networks if existing mental networks are falling apart. “I always tell people there’s nothing greater than a crisis to create a breakthrough. Because that’s when we breakthrough usually -- most people don’t proactively breakthrough -- they breakthrough because they have to. They breakthrough because it’s a ‘must’ to change now, not a ‘should’ to change now. And the beauty of crisis is it doesn’t feel beautiful, is it melts us down. And when you’re melted down you can recast your life in a new way. But when you stay in the same form, you just keep doing what you’re doing. People have so much momentum in the way they are -- they have so much inertia, would probably be a better description -- in this is how things are, the sameness, the certainty of what I know, that very often it takes a crisis to break that inertia and get somebody to all the way push through...the most powerful thing about a crisis is, it moves you to do something that you wouldn’t have done before. Because you have to. You know the current situation is not working, so you’re going to have to do something else. And I think crisis is almost always a gift. If you look at people’s lives and ask them what have been some of the greatest breakthroughs of your life, and then ask them what preceded it, virtually always it was a crisis of some sort. And all a crisis is, is nothing is working, you’re not being rewarded, you’re getting pain for the very things maybe at one time you were rewarded for.” (HP)

Robbins also recognizes that personal failure can lead to a Teacher understanding that makes it possible to transform personal identity. “ I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.

However, Robbins warns that “If we don’t see a failure as a challenge to modify our approach, but rather as a problem with ourselves, as a personality defect, we will immediately feel overwhelmed. After all, how do you change your entire life? Isn’t that more difficult than just changing your actions in a particular area? Be wary of adopting the belief of the problem being personal. How inspired can you get by beating yourself up?” (p.53). Thus, Robbins appears to be willing to accept that some mental networks of personal identity need to be transformed in order to ‘modify one’s approach’, but he seems to be unwilling to recognize that the core of personal identity needs to be transformed. When such a core transformation occurs, then a person will feel that ‘the problem is with himself’, he will conclude that he has ‘a personality defect’, and he will ‘feel overwhelmed’. Mental symmetry suggests that these are the sorts of emotions that will be felt during the first stage of personal salvation.

Mental symmetry also suggests that the only way to totally transform childish personal identity is by personally submitting to a general theory in Teacher thought. This will not just feel spiritual, but it will feel religious, because a mental concept of God emerges when a general theory in Teacher thought applies to personal identity. Submitting childish identity to a general Teacher understanding will both cause feelings of total personal inadequacy, and provide positive Teacher feelings of understanding to balance the Mercy pain of falling apart personally. Saying this another way, the good Teacher emotion of understanding myself will counteract the bad Mercy emotion of ‘feeling overwhelmed’.

Summarizing, Robbins talks about going beyond Mercy identity to Teacher understanding, but he appears to avoid submitting Mercy identity to Teacher understanding. In religious language, he constructs a God in his own image, but he does not submit his own image to a universal concept of God. Instead, in Robbins’ cosmology, the divine ‘sun’ revolves around the human ‘Earth’. In Robbins’ words, “Everything happens for a reason and a purpose, and it serves you.”

When childish identity comes into contact with general Teacher understanding, then a method for dealing with guilt is required, because a person will feel that there is a fundamental problem with personal identity. Mental symmetry suggests that the key to dealing with guilt is for Teacher thought to view Mercy identity through the lens of Contributor thought. This is explained elsewhere in the analysis of atonement. In simple terms, childish Mercy identity is a bundle of rule-breaking, hedonistic, self-seeking chaos. Teacher thought, in contrast, wants rules to apply everywhere, over the long term, without exception. Thus, Teacher thought will view childish Mercy identity as a personification of Teacher disorder. The solution is to come up with a Contributor plan of salvation that combines Ci and Cp. In religious language, this Contributor combination acts as an incarnation that connects finite identity in Mercy thought with general understanding in Teacher thought. Using the analogy of a school curriculum, from the viewpoint of Ci, a curriculum is a general theory that brings pleasure to Teacher thought, while from the viewpoint of Cp, a curriculum is a personal plan that leads personal identity from immaturity to maturity. If Teacher thought views childish personal identity directly, then Teacher thought will feel emotionally repulsed by the chaos of childish identity. However, if Teacher thought views childish personal identity indirectly as a student in the school of personal growth, then Teacher thought will feel emotionally pleased by the structure of the school curriculum.

Now let us turn to what Robbins is saying. On the one hand, he views personal development as a transformation that leads through crisis to a breakthrough. This describes the viewpoint of Cp—reaching a goal which contains better Mercy experiences. On the other hand, he also views personal development as a process of growth, which describes the viewpoint of Ci—expanding the Teacher order-within-complexity of personal identity.

So what is missing? First, Robbins does not take his approach far enough; he transforms aspects of personal identity but not the core of personal identity. Second, Mercy identity is still running the show and not Teacher understanding. Saying this another way, Robbins helps his clients to make more money and he also helps them to go beyond merely making money. In Robbins’ words, “I teach the practical side of things. But very quickly, people go to an event like mine – they’ll find that they came because they want to make more money, or they want to lose weight, or they want to transform their relationship, or they want to turn their kid around, or whatever the case may be -- take their career to the next level. I deliver on that, but I’m a Trojan Horse. Once I get you there and I deliver on it, now you’re enthralled and now I lead you to a place where you remember who you are and what you’re here for.” However, when it comes to the next step of letting go of a focus upon money, then the best that Robbins has to offer is balancing selfishness with altruism.

In other words, what ultimately holds everything together is the Mercy mental networks of existing identity and culture rather than the Teacher mental network of a general understanding. This inadequacy is not really Robbins’ fault, because Christian doctrine, which contains the essential content of such a general understanding, is not taught as a general theory, while secular knowledge has not progressed to the point of coming up with an integrated Teacher understanding.

Teacher Thought

Let us look now at what Robbins does say about Teacher thought. Even though his starting point is Mercy identity, he has significant insights about the nature of Teacher thought. We have looked at Cp, the Contributor-controlled mental circuit that uses Server actions to reach Mercy goals. Ci is also under the control of Contributor thought, but it uses Perceiver facts to expand Teacher theories. In simple terms, Ci begins by assuming some general Teacher theory together with some set of logical rules, and then uses Perceiver thought to develop this Teacher theory.

Robbins refers to this as ‘asking the right questions’, and he states that “This entire book and my life’s work is the result of my asking questions about what makes us all do what we do and how we can produce change more quickly and easily than it has been done before. Questions are the primary way that we learn virtually anything” (p.126).

Robbins says that questions accomplish three things. First, “Questions immediately change what we’re focusing on and therefore how we feel. If you keep asking questions like ‘How come I’m so depressed?’ or ‘Why doesn’t anybody like me?’ you will focus on, look for, and find references to back up the idea that there is a reason for you to feel depressed and unloved” (p.131). In the language of mental symmetry, posing a question sets up a potential general Teacher theory. Ci will then use logical thinking to develop and support this theory.

Robbins points out that “There’s a big difference between an affirmation and a question. When you say to yourself, “I’m happy; I’m happy; I’m happy,” this might cause you to feel happy if you produce enough emotional intensity, change your physiology and therefore your state. But in reality, you can make affirmations all day long and not really change how you feel. What will really change the way you feel is asking, “What am I happy about now? What could I be happy about if I wanted to be? How would that make me feel?” If you keep asking questions like this, you’ll come up with real references that will make you begin to focus on reasons that do in fact exist for you to feel happy” (p.131). In the language of mental symmetry, affirmation uses Server repetition to impose a theory upon Teacher thought, whereas posing a question encourages Ci to come up with logical reasons to support the Teacher theory.

Second, Robbins says that “Questions change what we delete... the brain spends a good deal of its time trying to prioritize what to pay attention to, and more importantly, what not to pay attention to, or what to ‘delete.’ If you're feeling really sad, there is only one reason: it’s because you’re deleting all the reasons you could be feeling good. And if you’re feeling good, it’s because you’re deleting all the bad things you could be focusing on. So when you ask someone a question, you change what they’re focusing on and what they’re deleting” (p.133). In a similar vein, Thomas Kuhn says that a paradigm changes the way that a scientist observes his environment, causing him to see things that he ignored before, and vice versa. In the language of mental symmetry, when Ci chooses to focus upon a certain general Teacher theory, then anything that lies outside of the context of this general theory will be ignored. The Contributor person is naturally talented at ignoring—and denigrating as worthless—anything that lies outside of his current context. Robbins is tapping into this natural Contributor ability.

As Robbins points out, the question that one poses carries with it presuppositions. The traditional example is “When have you stopped beating your wife?” which implicitly accuses a man of being a wife-beater. This is why I like to ask general questions using vague language when meeting someone new. The type of answer that a person gives often reveals underlying presuppositions, which may tell more about that person than any specific answer.

Third, “Questions change the resources available to us.” Robbins expands, “the questions that we ask ourselves can shape our perception of who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we’re willing to do to achieve our dreams. Learning to consciously control the questions you ask will take you further to achieving your ultimate destiny than almost anything I know” (p.135). Robbins is describing here the interaction between Cp and Ci. [2] If Ci is to help Cp, then Ci must explore questions that Cp finds useful. Robbins suggests five ‘problem- solving questions’. “1. What is great about this problem? 2. What is not perfect yet? 3. What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it? 4. What am I willing to no longer do in order to make it the way I want it? 5. How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?” (p.136). The first question focuses upon the positive Mercy emotions of the situation; the second asks what Mercy aspects can be improved. The third question examines which Server actions should be done; the fourth asks which Server actions should be stopped. Finally, the fifth question asks how the process of reaching the goal can be made more pleasurable.

Notice that Robbins is not using Ci to work with Teacher theories the way a logician, theoretician, mathematician, or philosopher would do. Instead, Ci is being used primarily to expand the capabilities of Cp. Saying this another way, research is being used to further a business bottom-line. Again we see Robbins’ tendency to make abstract thought the servant of personal identity. His advice extends considerably beyond Cp and personal identity but still centers upon improving personal identity.

We have looked at Robbins description of Ci, otherwise known as technical abstract thought. It is also possible for abstract thought to function in a less rigorous manner, referred to as normal abstract thought, which uses patterns and analogies to construct general theories. Robbins makes a number of observations that describe the operation of normal abstract thought.

Robbins describes the essential role that metaphors play in building Teacher understanding. “One of the primary ways we learn is through metaphors. Learning is the process of making new associations in our minds, creating new meanings, and metaphors are ideally suited for this. When we don’t understand something, a metaphor provides a way of seeing how what we don’t understand is like something we do understand. The metaphor helps us to link up a relationship. If X is like Y, and we understand X, suddenly we understand Y” (p.165).

Teacher emotion comes from generality. Teacher thought feels good when a simple explanation can be used to describe many different situations. Robbins refers to this as a global metaphor. Robbins describes the general nature of a global metaphor. “Can you see how changing just one global metaphor from ‘Life is a competition’ to ‘Life is a game’ could instantly change your experience of life in many areas simultaneously? Would it change your relationships if you saw life as a dance? Could it change the way you operate in your business? You bet it could! This is an example of a pivot point, a global change, where just making this one change would transform the way you think and feel in multiple areas of your life. I am not saying that there is a right or wrong way of looking at things. Just realize that changing one global metaphor can instantly transform the way you look at your entire life” (p.168).

Robbins recognizes that a global metaphor is a general package that contains many specific elements. “A whole set of rules, ideas, and preconceived notions accompany any metaphor you adopt. So if you believe life is a war, how does that color your perceptions of life? You might say, ‘It’s tough, and it ends with death.’ Or, ‘It’s going to be me against everybody else.’ Or, ‘It’s dog eat dog.’ Or, ‘If life is really a battle, then maybe I’m going to get hurt.’ All these filters impact your unconscious beliefs about people, possibility, work, effort, and life itself. This metaphor will affect your decisions about how to think, how to feel, and what to do. It will shape your actions and therefore your destiny” (p.167).

Every general Teacher theory has a domain where it applies, similar to the way that a king rules over a certain kingdom. The greater the domain, the more general the theory. Because a more general theory feels better than a less general theory, Teacher thought is emotionally driven to overgeneralize. Robbins describes this propensity, using the example of tennis. “What often happens after hitting a poor shot? People start generalizing —and more often than not, in a disempowering way. ‘What a terrible serve’ becomes ‘I couldn’t serve today to save my life.’ Their next few serves are likely to be equally underwhelming. Then the train of generalization picks up speed, moving from ‘I couldn’t serve today to save my life’ to ‘I never did have that great a serve’ to ‘I’m really not such a hot tennis player’ to ‘I never seem to be able to master anything’ to ‘I’m a horrible person.’” (p.233).

Therefore, it is important to apply global metaphors only to the domains where they belong and not allow them to overgeneralize beyond their area of applicability. Robbins describes this error. “Being aware of the vast power contained in metaphors includes knowing how to use them in an appropriate context. The challenge is that a lot of people have metaphors that help them in their professions, but create challenges at home...One of the best examples of an inappropriate metaphor is a man who was so dissociated that his wife and children didn’t feel any connection with him at all. They resented the way he never expressed his true feelings and the fact that he always seemed to be directing them. Do you know what his profession was? He was an air traffic controller! On the job he had to remain detached... That disassociated attitude worked well in the control tower, but it didn’t work at home. Be careful not to carry the metaphors that are appropriate in one context, like the environment in which you work, into an incompatible context, like how you relate to your family or friends” (p.173).

Robbins recognizes that words have emotional power. “Many of us are well aware of the powerful part that words have played in our history, of the power that great speakers have to move us, but few of us are aware of our own power to use these same words to move ourselves emotionally, to challenge, embolden, and strengthen our spirits, to move ourselves to action, to seek greater richness from this gift we call life” (p.143). Words have an indirect ability to trigger Mercy emotions through the use of adjectives or descriptive nouns. “Using emotionally charged words can magically transform your own state or someone else’s. Think of the word ‘chivalry.’ Does it conjure up different images and have more emotional impact than words like ‘politeness’ or ‘gentlemanliness’? I know that for me it does. Chivalry makes me think of a valiant knight seated on a white steed, championing his raven-haired damsel; it conveys nobility of spirit, a great round table about which are seated men of honor, the whole Arthurian ethic—in short, the wonder of Camelot” (p.143). Thus, Robbins recommends changing the emotional atmosphere by choosing one’s adjectives carefully, an approach he refers to as Transformational Vocabulary.

While Robbins accurately describes many the aspects of Teacher thought, he appears to be missing the fundamental concept of Teacher emotion. Words are not emotional merely because they trigger emotional Mercy experiences, but because Teacher thought feels good when there is order-within-complexity. Teacher emotion drives metaphors to be treated as global metaphors. Teacher emotion motivates the mind to encapsulate many rules, ideas, and preconceived notions within a general package of a global metaphor. Teacher emotion drives the mind to overgeneralize theories. And Teacher emotion mood causes people to extend global metaphors beyond their legitimate domain.

The distinction between Teacher emotion and Mercy emotion can be seen in Robbins’ tennis example. Teacher emotion is driving the inadequate tennis player to overgeneralize, however this overgeneralized theory is bringing order-within-complexity to experiences that have bad Mercy emotions. Thus, positive Teacher emotion is being combined with negative Mercy emotion.

One major reason that Robbins does not recognize that Teacher emotion is different than Mercy emotion is because he does not allow Teacher emotion to exist independently of Mercy emotion. This can be seen in the following quote. “By changing the Master System, we can change how you’ll interact in a variety of circumstances. So instead of just conditioning yourself to feel differently about rejection and eliminating the fearful behaviors, you can adopt a new global belief that says, ‘I am the source of all my emotions. Nothing and no one can change how I feel except me. If I find myself in reaction to anything, I can change it in a moment.’ If you truly adopt this belief, not intellectually, but emotionally where you feel it with absolute certainty, can you see how that would eliminate not only your fear of rejection, but also your feelings of anger or frustration or inadequacy? Suddenly, you become the master of your fate. Or we could change your values, and make your highest value one of contributing. Then, if somebody rejected you, it wouldn’t matter: you’d still want to contribute to them, and through constant contribution, you’d find yourself no longer being rejected by people. You’d also find yourself permeated with a sense of joy and connection that you may never have had before in other areas of your life” (p.239).

Robbins recognizes that changing the general Teacher theory of a ‘Master system’ or ‘global belief’ has the power to transform personal identity. Similarly, mental symmetry suggests that the Teacher emotions of a general understanding make it possible to transform the Mercy mental networks of childish identity. But this transformation will only happen if Teacher understanding and Teacher emotion is allowed to exist independently of personal Mercy feelings. Instead, Robbins is making Teacher thought a servant of Mercy identity. In order to ‘become the master of your fate’, he recommends adopting ‘a new global belief that says I am the source of all my emotions’. Using religious language, instead of creating a mental concept of God that is independent of personal identity and then allowing this mental concept of God to transform personal identity, Robbins is creating a mental concept of God in the image of personal identity, by making Teacher thought a servant of Contributor choice and Mercy feelings.

Changing Values

We have examined the way that Robbins uses normal abstract thought as well as Ci. We saw earlier that a mental network will attempt to impose its structure upon thought and behavior whenever it is triggered. We also saw that if a mental network is triggered and continues to experience inconsistent input, then it will start to fall apart, and the resulting hyper-pain will strongly motivate an individual to allow that mental network to express itself. This becomes readily apparent whenever attempting to break a habit.

As Robbins describes, the hyper-pain of a fragmenting mental network often causes a person to sabotage personal growth. “So often I see people who take huge strides forward, only to mysteriously pull back at the last minute. Or they’ll say or do things that sabotage the very personal, emotional, or physical success they’re pursuing. Invariably the reason is that they have a major values conflict. Part of their brain is saying, ‘Go for it!’ while the other part is saying ‘If you do you’re going to get too much pain.’ So they take two steps forward and one step back” (p.256). In the language of mental symmetry, personal progress is threatening the structure of some mental network, this mental network is responding with hyper-pain, and the individual is pulling back from progress in order to protect stop this mental network from falling apart. In Robbins’ words, the source of self-sabotage is a conflict of values.

Robbins suggests two steps to address this problem. The first step is for a person to make a list of his basic values and place them in order from greatest to least. “All you have to do to discover your values is answer one simple question: ‘What’s most important to me in life?’ Brainstorm the answer to this question” (p.257). The second step is to reorder these priorities. “I began to think about what would happen it, instead of just teaching people what their values were and clarifying them, I actually got people to consciously select or redirect the order and content of their values hierarchy system. What if I took someone whose number-one value was security, and whose number-fifteen value was adventure, and I switched the order, not only intellectually but so that adventure became the new highest priority in their nervous system? What kind of change do you think that might make in someone’s life? A minor one, or a major one? The answer is obvious. By doing this, you literally change the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves in virtually every area of their life. I couldn’t imagine a more profound shift that a human being could make. In essence, this would be the kind of change that has been described throughout history: a conversion from Saul to Paul, if you will, with the things that a person hated most becoming the things they loved most, and vice versa” (p.258).

Mental symmetry agrees that behavior is driven by core mental networks and that mental networks form a hierarchy with stronger mental networks imposing their structure upon weaker mental networks. Thus, if one could reach into the mind and reorder mental networks, then this would have a major impact upon behavior.

And that is where the problem arises. First, accessing mental networks is not that easy. That is because mental networks become apparent when they are triggered. Childish identity is actually a hodgepodge of disconnected, incompatible mental networks and a person’s value system is determined by the collection of mental networks that are currently active. For the average adult, the situation is not as bad. Attempting to write an accurate list of one’s core mental networks can be a very helpful exercise, but it will only reveal part of the picture.

The second problem is even more daunting. One does not simply choose to reorder one’s basic values. Free will may have sufficient power to choose value number eleven instead of value number eight, but to suggest that one can choose to exchange value number one with value number fifteen at a ‘nervous system level’ is simply wishful thinking. I know from personal experience the repeated choices that must be taken over an extended period of time if one wishes to reorder the priority of mental networks.

However, I suggest that it may be possible to follow Robbins’ advice under two conditions. First, a person must have the cognitive style of Contributor. That is because the Contributor person can choose to focus upon a certain context and ignore anything that lies outside of this context. We saw this Contributor trait earlier on. Thus, the Contributor person often does experience major transformations such as the one from Saul to Paul (evidence suggests that Paul was a Contributor person). In addition, Robbins’ advice does have some chance of success because a person is choosing between existing mental networks rather than just deciding to suppress mental networks. However, if such a decision is to last, then it needs to be followed by major mental reprogramming. The Contributor person who undergoes a conversion experience often appears manic, because his new behavior is built upon a narrow cognitive foundation. If this foundation is not extended through major mental reprogramming, then chances are that he will relapse into his previous behavior.

Second, it is possible to reorder the emotional hierarchy of mental networks if the mind is governed by an even more powerful mental network that acts as a mental policeman to enforce this new emotional hierarchy. Robbins describes the behavior of his most powerful mental network. “Instead of ‘Why did all this happen to me?’, I began to ask a better question: ‘What is the source of all human behavior? What makes people do what they do?’ When I woke up the following morning at 8 a.m., I felt a frenzy of ideas pouring through me. I grabbed my journal and began to write continuously, sitting in the main cabana. People walked in and out throughout the day as I wrote nonstop from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. My arm was sore; my fingers were numb. I wasn’t just thinking calmly and writing; the ideas were literally exploding through me. From this unstoppable river of ideas, I designed Destiny Technologies™ and a good portion of the science of Neuro-Associative Conditioning.™ When I went back to review my notes, however, I couldn’t read a word! But the ideas and feelings were anchored within me. I immediately realized the potency of what I had created: a program that could help a person redesign the life priorities of their nervous system, to literally redirect the process of how people make all their decisions about how to think, how to feel, and what to do in virtually every area of their lives!” (p.258).

Robbins has spent decades thinking about human personality and has taught thousands of seminars on the subject. I know from personal experience that when one spends this much time developing a cognitive model, then the resulting Teacher theory will turn into a very powerful TMN, and this mental network will often come up with ideas in the middle of the night when the mind is free of conscious control. Notice the strength of Robbins’ TMN. He felt a ‘frenzy of ideas’, he wrote all day ignoring everyone around him, he ‘wasn’t just thinking calmly and writing’, and his writing was totally illegible. Robbins talks about exchanging the priority of mental networks, but I can state with considerable confidence that Robbins would be incapable of lowering the priority of this TMN. However, he probably is capable of reordering other mental networks under the guidance of his core TMNs of ‘Destiny Technologies™ and Neuro-Associative Conditioning™’. If Tony Robbins really is capable of reordering his core values, then let him demonstrate this by reducing the priority of Neuro-Associative Conditioning™ from number one to number fifteen, and let him make this change long-lasting by letting go of his trademark. I daresay that he would find this impossible.

I am not suggesting that Robbins’ plan of identifying and changing the priority of values is wrong. However, if one really wishes to transform core Mercy mental networks, then one must first build the Teacher mental network of a general understanding of personal identity, which Robbins has done. Mental symmetry suggests that a mental concept of God will emerge when one constructs a general understanding that applies to personal identity. However, what type of Teacher mental network has Robbins constructed? A hybrid concept of God that is partially based upon universal cognitive mechanisms and partially based upon his own personal identity. [3]

The average person who attends a Robbins’ seminar does not possess Robbins’ hybrid mental concept of God. But he is spending several days in an environment in which he is exposed to the emotional force of Robbins’ personality. Thus, he too is exposed to a hybrid environment of Teacher theories and Robbins’ personal aura. Repeating an earlier quote from Ramones, “There is no denying that Anthony Robbins is a charismatic individual and most of his success in self-help can most likely be attributed to that. There is a strong possibility there is something just about Anthony Robbins that makes his interventions powerful.”

When Robbins gives a seminar, then two things are happening. First, Robbins is teaching universal cognitive mechanisms. Second, the person of Robbins is the center of adoration and rapt attention. The first is a Teacher emotion, the second a Mercy emotion. As we saw earlier from Ramones, Robbins has a number of devoted followers ‘attending Robbins events 10-20 times a year’. Ramones adds that ‘The line between dependency and dedication of these individuals is thin as they live, breathe and eat Robbins and have made the Robbins environment their life.’ For these individuals, Robbins’ hybrid concept of God that is partially based in universal cognitive mechanisms and partially based upon the personal identity of Robbins has literally become their concept of God. He is their guru. Every time Robbins preaches to an adulating crowd, this mentally reinforces the mental network within Robbins’ mind that a person can build universal Teacher understanding upon a foundation of personal identity.

Robbins describes what it means to live as the personal source of general Teacher understanding in the opening paragraphs of his book. “I’ll never forget the day it really hit me that I was truly living my dream. I was flying my jet helicopter from a business meeting in Los Angeles, traveling to Orange County on the way to one of my seminars. As I flew over the city of Glendale, I suddenly recognized a large building, and I stopped the helicopter and hovered above it. As I looked down, I realized this was the building that I’d worked in as a janitor a mere twelve years ago!...Looking below, I was a little disturbed when I saw that the off ramp to my seminar was jammed with bumper-to bumper traffic for more than a mile. I thought to myself, ‘Boy, I hope whatever else is going on tonight gets started soon so that the people coming to my seminar arrive on time.’ But as I descended to the helipad, I began to see a new picture: thousands of people being held back by security where I was just about to land. Suddenly I began to grasp the reality. The traffic jam had been caused by people going to my event!...When I walked into the arena from the landing pad, I was surrounded by hundreds of people who wanted to give me a hug or tell me how my work had positively impacted their lives” (p.3).

I am not suggesting that it is wrong to be successful. I also recognize that an attitude of religious self-denial can create a powerful mental network that emotionally sabotages personal success. Instead, I am pointing out the danger of being worshiped by others. When Robbins suggests that is possible to become the master of one’s fate, is he saying this because it is a universal cognitive principle, or is he saying it because he has become the master of his own fate and he believes that this is a universal cognitive principle because he has also become the master of people who think that they have become the masters of their own fate but have actually allowed Robbins’ personal aura to become the master of their fate?

What would Robbins have to do if he wished to transform his hybrid concept of God into a mental concept that is based only in universal cognitive mechanisms. I suggest that he would have to stop giving seminars and stop coaching for several years, long enough for his mental networks to go through the withdrawal symptoms of no longer having crowds fawn upon him, and no longer having the rich and famous pay him fabulous sums to be coached by him. One is reminded of Jesus’ parable of the rich young ruler. “A ruler questioned Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.”’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But He said, ‘The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.’” (Luke 18). Notice how the rich young ruler is practicing self-improvement. But, he wishes to achieve lasting personal benefits. Jesus tells him that he needs to let go of Mercy mental networks in order to hold on to general Teacher understanding, and Jesus emphasizes that this type of transformation is only possible if the starting point is a general Teacher theory

Lest I be accused of overstating, I would like to quote one individual’s account of the firewalking that occurs on the first night of the Unleash the Power Within seminar. “With drums beating in the background, everyone was chanting ‘YES! YES! YES!’ There was no room for doubt. All fear had been overpowered by force of will. Later this came in handy when Robbins’ pitched his Mastery University, a multiple thousands of dollars series of ‘advanced’ seminars taking place in exotic locations. Again Robbins worked the crowd into a frenzy of ‘YES!’, overpowering objections by any means necessary. Nearly every technique employed for the firewalk employed aggressive positivity, actively negating reality through force: 2000 people in a huge conference room with 50-ft screens jumping up and down and clapping to loud music. Screaming ‘Yes!’ when you are feeling ‘this is dangerous and possibly stupid.’ Yelling ‘cool moss!’ when you are feeling burning coals against the soft tissue of your feet. Making your ‘power move’ to get into ‘a peak state’—a power move being an aggressive gesture (Robbins’ involves beating his chest like an ape) that stimulates a fight-flight nervous system response, overpowering subtler experiences.”

Values and Goals

Robbins distinguishes between values, goals, and rules. This distinction makes sense when examined in the light of mental symmetry, however we will see in a few paragraphs that Robbins introduces an interesting twist when discussing rules. I have suggested that any set of related emotional memories with sufficient emotional content will turn into a mental network, and we have looked at how mental networks behave. Thus, I suggest that values, goals, and rules all involve mental networks, but these mental networks are being formed in different ways and are influencing the operation of Cp in different ways.

Robbins describes values and gives some examples. “what are the emotional states that you value most in life? What are the emotions that you think will give you the most pleasure? Love or success? Freedom or intimacy? Adventure or security? I call these pleasurable states that we value most moving-toward values because these are the emotional states we’ll do the most to attain. What are some of the feelings that are most important for you to experience in your life on a consistent basis? When asked this question at seminars, my audiences invariably respond with words like: love, success, freedom, intimacy, security, adventure, power, passion, comfort, health” (p.249).

Notice the various characteristics. First, these values are being described using single words. This tells us that Teacher thought is involved, because Teacher thought feels good when a single word can be used to describe a complex subject. Second, these words represent ‘the emotional states we’ll do the most to attain.” Third, notice that Robbins refers to these highest values as ‘moving-toward’ values, implying that one gets closer to them but never reaches them. Robbins also talks about ‘moving-away-from’ values, which he defines as ‘some of the emotions that are most important for you to avoid experiencing on a consistent basis’. Again, he gives a possible list using single words: ‘rejection, anger, frustration, loneliness, depression, failure, humiliation, guilt’ (p.254).

Mental symmetry suggests that these three characteristics describe Platonic forms. Repeating part of an explanation from a previous essay, Perceiver thought organizes Mercy experiences into categories and Teacher thought summarizes the essence of these Perceiver categories. This leads indirectly to Platonic forms—Mercy images of idealized experiences that do not exist in real life. For instance, Perceiver thought will notice that Mercy experiences contain round things and come up with a category of ‘round thing’. Teacher thought will then come up with a general theory of ‘roundness’, leading indirectly in Mercy thought to the imaginary image of a perfect circle. This imaginary idealized image is the Platonic form of a circle. It does not exist, but it is based upon a generalization of items that do exist.

Applying this to Robbins’ concept of values, using single words to describe values implies that Teacher thought is summarizing the essence of Perceiver categories. The strong emotion emerges because Teacher thought is working out the essence of Mercy experiences that already have emotional labels. For instance, the term ‘passion’ obviously refers to emotional experiences. However, by using the single term ‘passion’ to describe the essence of a multitude of passionate experiences, one is adding the Teacher emotion of generality to all of the Mercy emotions. Third, because a Platonic form does not exist in real life, one can move toward a Platonic form but one can never fully achieve it. Fourth, because Teacher emotion is different than Mercy emotion, it is possible to construct a Platonic form that summarizes the essence of painful Mercy experiences, such as rejection or frustration. Teacher thought finds these terms pleasurable while Mercy thought finds the experiences described by the terms painful, leading to ‘moving-away-from values’.

Finally, note that Robbins, as usual, is approaching the topic from the viewpoint of Cp. He is not asking how the mind forms values and he is not asking what type of values the mind should form. Instead, what matters to Robbins is the impact that values have upon the functioning of Cp. The underlying assumption is that everything should be subservient to Cp.

Let us turn our attention now to goals. Robbins explains the difference between values and goals (which he also refers to as means values). “So often people are too busy pursuing means values that they don’t achieve their true desire: their ends values. The ends values are those that will fulfill you, make your life rich and rewarding. One of the biggest challenges I see is that people keep setting goals without knowing what they truly value in life, and therefore they end up achieving their goals and saying, ‘Is this all there is?’ For example, let’s say a woman’s highest values are caring and contribution, and she chooses to become an attorney because she once met a lawyer who really impressed her as being able to make a difference and help people through his work. As time goes by, she gets caught up in the whirlwind of practicing law, and aspires to become a partner in her firm. As she pursues this position, her work takes on an entirely different focus. She begins to dominate and run the firm, and becomes one of the most successful women she knows, yet she feels unhappy because she no longer has any contact with clients. Her position has created a different relationship with her peers, and she spends all her time in meetings ironing out protocol and procedure. She achieved her goal, but missed out on her life’s desire” (p.248).

A goal can be described as a specific Mercy experience or set of Mercy experiences that a person wants to achieve by using the circuit of Cp. Robbins describes setting his goals in a critical juncture in his life. “On that day, I set specific goals that transformed my life. I described the woman of my dreams, detailing what she would be like mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. I described what my kids would be like, the huge income that I would enjoy, and the home that I would live in, including the third-story circular office area that would overlook the ocean. A year and a half later, Life magazine was in my home, interviewing me as to how I had made such incredible shifts in my life. When I pulled out my map to show them all the goals I had written down, it was amazing to see how many I’d achieved. I had met the woman I described, and married her. I had found and purchased the home I’d envisioned, down to the finest detail, including the third-story office in the turret of the castle, overlooking the ocean” (p.211).

A Platonic form is an idealized, composite Mercy image, therefore it is possible to become more like a Platonic form but one never fully realizes a Platonic form. In contrast, it is possible to fully reach a goal, because a goal is composed of Mercy experiences that actually exist. Robbins emphasizes that pursuing goals is merely part of the process. “Goals are a means to an end, not the ultimate purpose of our lives. They are simply a tool to concentrate our focus and move us in a direction. The only reason we really pursue goals is to cause ourselves to expand and grow. Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it’s who you become, as you overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve your goals, that can give you the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfillment” (p.219). Robbins also points out the danger of pursuing a goal that can be fully reached. “Achieving our goals can be a curse unless we have already set up a new set of higher goals before we reach the first. As soon as you find yourself about to achieve a goal, you need to make sure that you design the next set of goals immediately. Otherwise you’ll experience something we all need to avoid: outrunning our dream. How many times have we read about people who achieve their ultimate life goals only to say, ‘Is that all there is?’ because they feel they have no place to go from the top?” (p.220)

Translating this into the language of mental symmetry, both values and goals are examples of Mercy mental networks, however a value is a Platonic form, which is a composite, idealized Mercy image, whereas a goal is a collection of specific emotional Mercy memories. If one wishes to continue growing and achieve lasting happiness, then all goals should be expressions of Platonic forms. Saying this another way, mental networks form an emotional hierarchy, with stronger mental networks imposing their structure upon weaker mental networks. Platonic forms should always impose their structure upon goals and not the other way around. However, because Platonic forms are imaginary images that do not really exist, one must also set and pursue goals that do exist, which are partial expressions of Platonic forms.

For instance, beauty and elegance are Platonic forms. The music of Mozart is a concrete expression of beauty and elegance. When one practices a piece of music written by Mozart, the goal is to learn to play that specific piece of music, but this goal expresses the values of beauty and elegance. If a person pursues only the goal of perfecting the composition by Mozart, then once that goal has been reached then there will be nothing more to achieve, and one will play Mozart in a way that lacks beauty and elegance. However, if the goal of playing the musical composition is viewed as a partial expression of the Platonic forms of beauty and elegance, then one will play Mozart in a manner that transcends the mere notes, and one will not experience an emotional letdown after having perfected the piece.

Two Forms of Rules

Let us turn now to rules. Robbins describes the difference between values and rules. “We all have different rules and standards that govern not only the way we feel about the things that happen in our lives, but how we’ll behave and respond to a given situation. Ultimately what we do and who we become is dependent upon the direction that our values have taken us. But equally, or possibly even more importantly, what will determine our emotions and behaviors is our beliefs about what is good and what is bad, what we should do and what we must do. These precise standards and criteria are what I’ve labeled rules. Rules are the trigger for any pain or pleasure you feel in your nervous system at any moment. It’s as if we have a miniature court system set up within our brains. Our personal rules are the ultimate judge and jury” (p.268).

Saying this more simply, goals describe the destination, while rules govern how one reaches this destination. For instance, my goal may be to make $1 million while one of my rules may forbid theft. Therefore, the rule against theft will prevent me from getting $1 million by stealing it from another person.

Robbins does something very curious when analyzing rules. We have seen that he usually regards Ci as the servant of Cp. However, when dealing with rules, then the relationship changes and Ci becomes the master of Cp. In order to understand this, one needs to know the difference between logical cause-and-effect and sequential cause-and-effect. For instance, suppose that I let go of a glass cup that I am holding in my hand. This will be followed by the cup hitting the floor, which will be followed by the cup shattering into pieces. This describes sequential or causal cause-and-effect, because a Server path is leading from one Mercy experience to another. Letting go of the cup leads to the Server action of the cup falling to the floor; the cup hitting the floor leads to the Server action of the pieces of the cup flying apart. In sequential cause-and-effect, each experience in the chain is separated by time.

Normally, rules involve sequential cause-and-effect. For instance, if Johnny steals a cookie, then this will be followed by the unpleasant Mercy experience of mother being displeased with Johnny, which will itself be followed by the uncomfortable Mercy experience of mother punishing Johnny. When Mercy experiences are connected by Server actions, then one is dealing with the concrete circuit of Cp. Robbins appears to be describing this type of rule in the following quote. “For example, if I asked you, ‘What’s something you would never do?,’ you’d give me a threshold rule. You’d tell me a rule that you would never violate. Why? Because you link too much pain to it” (p.282). Notice that he is talking about something that a person would never do because of the painful results. This describes the thinking of Cp.

Ci uses a different type of cause-and-effect thinking which could be referred to as logical cause-and-effect. Here the effect will occur if there is the correct Perceiver combination of causes. For instance, if a warm-blooded animal has feathers and wings, then it is a bird. In other words, if the requirements are met, then the result will be true. [4]

With this in mind, examine the following quote. Robbins asked one individual, “‘What has to happen in order for you to feel successful?’...What followed was a litany of rigid rules and requirements that he felt he must meet in order to be successful in his life. He had to earn $3 million a year in salary (he was currently earning only $1.5 million in straight salary, but an additional $2 million in bonuses—this didn’t count, though), he had to have 8 percent body fat (he was at 9 percent), and he had to never get frustrated with his kids” (p. 271). This describes the computer-like thinking of Ci, in which the description of ‘successful’ is only true if a certain list of requirements is met.

Robbins’ solution uses Ci to change Cp. “The solution is very simple. All we have to do to make our lives work is set up a system of evaluating that includes rules that are achievable, that make it easy to feel good and hard to feel bad, that constantly pull us in the direction we want to go...Once we design our values, we must decide what evidence we need to have before we give ourselves pleasure. We need to design rules that will move us in the direction of our values, that will clearly be achievable, using criteria we can control personally so that we’re ringing the bell instead of waiting for the outside world to do it” (p.275).

Why would Robbins take such a step? At the beginning of this essay, we described Robbins’ bottom line. Repeating part of an earlier quote, “Because my forte is being able to produce immediate and measurable results, out of necessity I’ve learned how to quickly locate key leverage points for facilitating change” (p.232). What is faster? Learning how to hit the target more accurately, or changing the definition of the target so that more shots are defined as hitting the target? The first uses Cp, the second Ci. Obviously, the Ci method of redefining the target is much faster, and Robbins is looking for instant solutions.

With that in mind, let us reread the previous quote. “All we have to do to make our lives work is set up a system of evaluating that includes rules that are achievable, that make it easy to feel good and hard to feel bad.” This describes changing the target to define more shots as hitting the target. And who is in charge of setting up these rules? Personal identity. “We need to design rules...using criteria we can control personally so that we’re ringing the bell.” In other words, doing Server actions to reach a Mercy goal takes too long, therefore Ci is being used to redefine the standard of success. However, Ci is not being allowed to function independently but is still a servant of personal identity. [5]

Robbins asks, “You may say, ‘Isn’t this just a game? Couldn’t I set it up so that I meet my rule for health just by breathing?’ Certainly you could base it on something this simple. Ideally, though, you’ll design your rules so that by pursuing them you have more of what you want in your life...Every person around you has different rules and values than you do, and theirs are no better or worse than your own. The key question is not whether rules are right or wrong, but whether they empower or disempower you.” (p.277)

Let us step back for moment and ask what the world would be like if people followed Robbins’ advice. Robbins is telling us to use Ci to redefine the standard of personal success. But who has the capability of changing the rules? If we look at the rules of society, then only those who have access to lawmakers can use their personal influence to redefine the laws of a society. And who has access to lawmakers? Those who are rich and powerful. The average individual, in contrast, is forced to submit to the law. If we observe ‘the top 1%’ who are able to get the laws of the land changed, how are they using this ability? Generally speaking, they are using law to qualify themselves and disqualify others. Notice that we are not talking here about cheating. The cheater accepts the existing rules but takes shortcuts to satisfy these rules. We are also not referring to an unlevel playing field. This occurs when the rules are changed to make it easier for some people to succeed than others. Instead, we are looking at a situation in which the laws are changed to exclude others. Performance is not even an issue, because people are being accepted and rejected not based upon their Server actions using Cp but rather upon meeting Perceiver requirements using Ci. The winner does not have to do anything to succeed because he being chosen logically. The loser is losing no matter what he does because performance is not the issue.

Robbins asks rhetorically whether this is just a game. Unfortunately, it has recently become clear that there is an upper crust of ultra-rich and ultra-connected who view life as a game, and who change the rules of society so that they can win ‘just by breathing’. They are never satisfied but rather continue to redesign the rules to allow them to get more of what they want in life. They also have an amoral perspective. They do not ask whether a rule is right or wrong but rather seek rules that empower them and disempower others. Curiously, Robbins’ highest paying clientele comes from this ‘top 1%’ and those who are aspiring to these rarefied heights. Whether these individuals know it or not, they are applying Robbins’ advice, and the result is very nice for them and very nasty for the rest of us.

Forbes magazine is a mainstream pro-business publication. A 2012 Forbes article said that the top 1% in America now control 43% of the nation’s wealth. “It’s historically common for a powerful minority to control a majority of finances, but Americans haven’t seen a disparity this wide since before the Great Depression — and it keeps growing. It’s a common belief in America that all people have the same opportunity for success as the top 1 percent. Most people consider success to be a by-product of hard work, and hard work is something that Americans are extremely familiar with. In fact, Americans have increased productivity by 80 percent since 1979; unfortunately, their income hasn’t risen accordingly, if at all.” Instead, “Since 1979, the bottom 90 percent of the nation has consistently lost money while the upper classes have gained...The fact is that the upper classes really are taking money from the poor in a very real and concrete way.” And “Asking politicians to enact changes that would reduce the wealth of the upper classes is a conflict of interests. It’s little wonder that tax cuts for the wealthy are repeatedly enacted while the reverse is so rarely true. People with high incomes want to keep the money that they have made, and this includes the men and women who control the country. It’s also important to remember that politicians are supported financially by the wealthy. In order to be elected, politicians of all levels require backing, and that backing generally comes from corporations. It’s impossible to deny the link between politicians and corporations, and the link is consistent regardless of a person’s political leanings.”

This Vanity Fair (another well-respected, mainstream magazine) article from 2011 describes how many executives are now being paid large sums ‘just for breathing’. “The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards ‘performance bonuses’ that they felt compelled to change the name to ‘retention bonuses’ (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.” Notice how what the CEO does has no bearing upon his financial reward. He is succeeding logically because he meets the qualifications and not because of anything that he is done, while those who do perform are being logically excluded.

Vanity Fair adds that the ‘top 1%’ are using their access to lawmakers to change the laws so that they qualify and others are disqualified. “The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder.”

Robbins says that “In sociology there’s a concept known as ‘ethnocentricity,’ which means we begin to believe that the rules, values, and beliefs of our culture are the only ones that are valid. This is an extremely limiting mindset” (p.277). Robbins is correct. We have seen that everything in Robbins’ book is designed to increase the control and power of the Contributor person. Thus, we conclude that Robbins is practicing a form of cognitive ethnocentricity, which regards only the rules, values, and beliefs of the Contributor person as valid.

A Code of Ethics

Robbins outlines the process of constructing a system of beliefs in considerable detail, and he recommends creating a code of conduct and following it. “You might want to write your Code of Conduct on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet or on your desk at work or by your bed. Every now and then, during the course of the day, take a look at your list and ask yourself, ‘Which of these states have I already experienced today? Which of them haven’t I had yet, and how am I going to accomplish it by the end of the day?’ If you truly commit to your Code of Conduct, imagine how incredible you will feel! You’ll no longer be controlled by events; you’ll know that, no matter what happens around you, you can maintain your sense of yourself and live up to the vision you've created. There is a tremendous pride that comes with holding yourself to a higher standard and knowing that each day you alone will determine how you feel, that you will conduct yourself only at the highest level” (p.345).

While Robbins talks about defining a code of conduct and submitting to it, nowhere in Robbins’ book does he actually define a general code of conduct. He continually assumes the presence of some implicit universal standard of morality, however when it comes to explicitly suggesting possible rules for a universal code of conduct, then Robbins says almost nothing. In one passage he suggests that killing girls and having sex with their corpses might be wrong, but he is apologetic about coming even to this conclusion. “Certain references denigrate our experience of life. Are you a little bit concerned when you hear music like that of the Geto Boys? One of their recent songs is a rap song about cutting a girl’s throat and then having sex with her corpse. Do you think this kind of reference repeated again and again, not just in children’s minds, but in anybody’s, would be a little bit destructive? I’m not saying that someone’s going to hear this and then go out and do it; I’m just saying that it’s trash. Does that mean I’m promoting censorship? Absolutely not. I think one of the beauties of our country is freedom, but I think that you and I, as leaders, have the right and responsibility to know what references mean and the impact they can have on the quality of our lives” (p.295).

To some extent, Robbins’ reluctance to impose a standard of moral ethics is understandable. That is because Robbins is trying to avoid the attitude of religious fundamentalism, which uses emotional status to mesmerize Perceiver thought into believing a set of moral standards and absolute truth. However, what is Robbins doing when he gives a seminar? He is using his emotional status to mesmerize Perceiver thought in his audience members into believing his set of rules. Remember what Ramones said. “Anthony Robbins is a charismatic individual and most of his success in self-help can most likely be attributed to that. There is a strong possibility there is something just about Anthony Robbins that makes his interventions powerful.” Some individuals have become completely mesmerized by Robbins. As Ramones said, “The line between dependency and dedication of these individuals is thin as they live, breathe and eat Robbins and have made the Robbins environment their life.”

I suggest that what Robbins really needs is a general Teacher theory. If one starts with the theory of mental symmetry, then I suggest that it is possible to devise a universal system of morality that is consistent with Robbins’ guidelines. Let us begin by listing his guidelines. He begins by phrasing the problem in terms of consistent personal pleasure and maximized human potential. “For starters, though, we should at least rewire ourselves so we can experience pleasure more consistently in life. When people are feeling good all the time, they tend to treat others better, and they tend to maximize their potential as human beings.” (p.275)

Continuing, he says that a rule should be simple and reachable. “If your criteria are so complex or varied or intense that you can’t ever win the game of life, clearly you have a disempowering rule” (p.274). A rule should be under personal control. “A rule is disempowering if something that you can’t control determines whether your rule has been met or not. For example, if other people have to respond to you in a certain way, or if the environment has to be a certain way, you clearly have a disempowering rule” (p.274). A rule should lead to many ways of feeling good. “A rule is disempowering if it gives you only a few ways to feel good and lots of ways to feel bad” (p.274). Rules should be communicated with other individuals, and people should respect the rules of others. “Don’t expect people to live by your rules if you don’t clearly communicate what they are. And don’t expect people to live by your rules if you’re not willing to compromise and live by some of theirs” (p.280). Rules need to be consistent. “Have you ever had this experience in a personal relationship? You were playing by all the rules, and all of a sudden someone said, ‘Yes, that’s true, except in this one situation,’ and you went ballistic. People feel very intensely about their rules. Everyone knows their rules are the right rules. People get especially angry when they think others are making up rules or changing them along the way” (p.279). Rules need to be cross-cultural. “In sociology there’s a concept known as ‘ethnocentricity,’ which means we begin to believe that the rules, values, and beliefs of our culture are the only ones that are valid. This is an extremely limiting mindset” (p.277).

Finally, rules should go beyond the pronouncements of some specific religion. “...I heard several of my friends talking about the Mormon Church we had just passed and how ‘horrible’ those people were. It seemed to me that people just aren’t that deplorable; I had to see what was going on. So I attended the service, and saw that the Mormons loved God as much as I did. The only difference was that they had a few rules that varied slightly from my own. This started my spiritual odyssey, which developed into a personal ritual for almost a year and a half. Throughout my eighteenth and nineteenth years, two or three times a month, I would attend a totally different type of worship: Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Jewish, Buddhist, and so on. As a result of this, I truly began to live at a more spiritual level where I began to appreciate all people’s spiritual beliefs. Even if I didn’t subscribe to their particular rules or perceptions, I had a much broader base of understanding and compassion as a result” (p.296).

Now let us turn to mental symmetry. The primary difference between Robbins’ approach and mental symmetry is reflected in two words. Robbins talks about ‘ rewiring ourselves’ whereas mental symmetry focuses upon reprogramming the mind. A computer is both hardware and software. Software runs on hardware. Software can be changed through reprogramming. One does this when removing or installing programs from a computer. Rewiring changes the hardware, which requires at least brain surgery (and possibly soul surgery). It is true that microscopic brain rewiring occurs when memories are formed and reformed. However, it is not possible for a human to perform major rewiring on his brain, though it is possible to perform major reprogramming.

If mental hardware cannot be changed, then the way to maximize human potential is by developing each cognitive module to its full potential, and consistent personal pleasure can be achieved by providing each cognitive module with what it wants. In contrast, everything that Robbins teaches is designed to improve the mind of a Contributor person. Because Robbins’ focus is upon optimizing Contributor thought, following his suggestions will not cause Contributor people to treat others better, but rather will perpetuate the mindset that the Contributor person is a superior species of human being.

Every human mind, including the mind of the Contributor person, contains all seven cognitive modules. The Contributor person focuses upon Contributor thought because he is conscious within that cognitive module. However, if the Contributor person really wishes to maximize his potential as a human being, then he needs to develop all seven cognitive modules. Going further, when an individual gives all seven cognitive modules within his own mind the freedom to develop and operate, then he will also give people with other cognitive styles the freedom to develop and operate the cognitive modules in which they are conscious. Saying this more simply, if the Contributor person respects Perceiver thought within his own mind, he will also respect the Perceiver person, however if the Contributor person treats his Perceiver module as a servant of Contributor thought, then he will also treat Perceiver persons as servants who have no right to exist as fully independent individuals.

Moving on to Robbins’ other requirements, allowing all seven cognitive modules to function describes a simple, reachable goal. This goal is under personal control, because each person can choose how he will treat his mind. Since each cognitive module will respond in a positive manner when it is allowed to function freely, then this will lead to many ways of experiencing mental well-being. If each cognitive style is conscious in a different cognitive module, then the best way to learn how to treat subconscious thought is by communicating with other cognitive styles who are conscious in other cognitive modules, and people will respect the requirements of other cognitive styles because those same modes of thought are also present subconsciously within their own minds. Saying this more simply, if a Contributor person wants to learn about Teacher thought, then he needs to communicate with a Teacher person, and he will respect the Teacher person because Teacher thought also exists within his own mind. Going further, rules that are based in mental hardware are inescapable, they have no exceptions, and they do not change. They are also cross-cultural, because culture changes mental programming but does not affect underlying mental hardware.

That brings us to the matter of religion. As I have described in other essays, the Christian concept of a Trinitarian God will emerge when all seven cognitive modules are functioning in harmony, and this concept of a Trinitarian God will turn into a very powerful set of mental networks that will enforce mental wholeness. In addition, if one analyzes the process of reaching mental wholeness, then this corresponds to Christian doctrine. This does not mean that other religions are wrong, but rather that they are cognitively incomplete, because they lead only to partial mental wholeness. And if one approaches Christianity with an attitude of blind faith, then this is also cognitively incomplete and will lead only to partial mental wholeness.

A Universal Mental Landscape

That brings us to the matter of control, something which lies at the heart of Contributor thought. Robbins assumes that control means constructing my own personal set of beliefs. However, if the mind is governed by inescapable cognitive mechanisms—which Robbins himself teaches, then making up my own set of mental rules will actually lead to total loss of control. One can see how this works by returning to the initial example of the computer golf game. If a person constructs his own set of computer rules—his own physics engine, then the path of the imaginary golf ball in the computer game will have no relationship with the path of a real golf ball on a real golf course, and when the computer golfer applies his computer acquired skills to a real golf course, he will find that he is unable to either predict or control the path of the ball. Instead, one gains the most control over the physical golf ball by constructing and submitting to an internal model of how the golf balls travel—by constructing a mental physics engine that accurately models the laws of nature. Similarly, one can gain the most control over the mind by constructing and submitting to an accurate model of how the mind functions. Freedom does not come from making my own set of rules. That leads to self-deception and failure. Instead, freedom comes from being able to accurately predict how the mind and the world will function.

Robbins applies this principle to the physical game of hockey. “Consider Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings. He has scored more points than anyone in the history of the National Hockey League. What makes him so powerful? Is it because he’s the biggest, strongest, or fastest player in the league? By his own admission, the answer to all three of these questions is no. Yet he was consistently the number-one scorer in the league. When asked what makes him so effective, his response is that while most players skate to where the puck is, he tends to skate to where the puck is going. At any moment in time, his ability to anticipate—to evaluate the velocity of the puck, its direction, the present strategies and physical momentum of the players around him—allows him to place himself in the optimum position for scoring” (p.234). To some extent, Robbins applies this concept to the mind. However, when it comes to constructing a system of morality, then Robbins advocates self-deception rather than accurate modeling.

And that, I suggest, is a major consequence of basing a system of thought upon Mercy personal self-fulfillment rather than universal Teacher understanding. Robbins describes most of the cognitive pieces, but he regards them as tools to be used rather than universal laws to follow. In religious language, Robbins is building a God in his own image, rather than submitting to the mental concept of a universal God. Notice that both religious fundamentalism and self-fulfillment are inadequate. Religious fundamentalism denies self in order to follow God. As a result, personal identity will be suppressed rather than transformed. Self-fulfillment denies God in order to promote self. As a result, personal identity will end up living in self-delusion. Mental symmetry suggests that one should first construct the mental concept of a universal God in Teacher thought and then use this mental concept as a framework for reaching personal fulfillment. As Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6).

What does it mean to ‘seek the kingdom and righteousness of God’? Mental symmetry suggests that this contains two aspects. First, we have already seen that Mercy goals should be expressions of Platonic forms. Platonic forms emerge when Mercy thought submits to Teacher understanding. This describes the ‘kingdom of God’. Similarly, a person becomes righteous by acting in a manner that is guided by Teacher understanding. This was discussed earlier when examining Robbins’ sixth human need of altruism. Again, we see that Robbins has the pieces, but he is not putting these pieces together. Concrete thought uses Server actions to reach Mercy goals. Righteousness allows Server actions to be guided by Teacher understanding while Platonic forms allow Mercy goals to be guided by Teacher understanding. Why should Server actions and Mercy goals be guided by Teacher understanding? Because Teacher understanding provides the physics engine for the mind. A mind that is naturally guided by a physics engine of mental wholeness will become a ‘Wayne Gretzky’ that can instinctively and accurately predict and anticipate human situations.

Robbins’ study of human behavior has led him to develop many of the components of a universal theory of human personality, and this theory has turned into a potent TMN. Robbins’ universal theory describes a system of beliefs, emotions, and personal identity. However, we have seen that Robbins is not willing to use his universal theory to construct a universal system of beliefs, emotions, and personal identity.

Why? I suggest that Robbins’ theory tells us the reason. In simple terms, Robbins’ primary goal of self-fulfillment is sabotaging his search for universal understanding of personal identity. Earlier on, we quoted Robbins as saying that “So often I see people who take huge strides forward, only to mysteriously pull back at the last minute. Or they’ll say or do things that sabotage the very personal, emotional, or physical success they’re pursuing. Invariably the reason is that they have a major values conflict. Part of their brain is saying, ‘Go for it!’ while the other part is saying ‘If you do you’re going to get too much pain.’ So they take two steps forward and one step back” (p.256). This describes Robbins’ theory of personality. He has made huge strides forward in understanding how the mind functions. But he continues to pull back at the last minute when it comes to the implications of his theory. That is because the Teacher part of his brain is saying ‘Go for it!’ while the Mercy part of his brain is saying ‘If you do you’re going to get too much pain’. And so, his cognitive model takes two steps forward and one step back.

Robbins says that the successful individual asks better questions. I would like to finish this essay by suggesting a better question, starting with one of Robbins’ illustrations. Robbins describes visiting a morgue. “Years ago, I decided to visit the Bellevue morgue, and I experienced a major life transformation. I went there because my friend. Dr. Fred Covan, who is Chief Psychologist of Bellevue Hospital in New York, convinced me that in order to understand life you’ve got to understand death...As he opened each successive drawer, the emotion hit me again and again: there’s no one here. The body is here, but there is no person. Moments after death, these people weighed the same amount as they did when they were alive, but whatever they were—the essence of who they truly were—was no longer there. We are not our bodies. When we pass on, there’s no question that what’s missing is the intangible, weightless identity, that essence of life some call spirit. I believe that it’s equally important for us to remember that while we’re alive, we’re not our bodies” (p.314).

When discussing midlife crises, Robbins suggested that “having an identity that is specifically linked to your age or how you look would definitely set you up for pain because these things will change. If we have a broader sense of who we are, our identity never becomes threatened” (p.306). When it comes to personal identity in Mercy thought, Robbins has made at least a partial transition away from external structure to internal identity. This is shown by the quote about visiting the morgue. “We are not our bodies...It is equally important for us to remember that while we’re alive, we’re not our bodies.” Similarly, Robbins’ experience with a brain tumor caused him to discover his two spiritual needs.

Using the analogy of driving a car through a landscape, Robbins recognizes that the Contributor person cannot just focus upon driving the car but also needs to worry about constructing and maintaining the car. However, Robbins is still largely ignoring the landscape upon which the car travels and the country within which it drives. Using the golf game analogy, he is lacking the general Teacher theory of a physics engine that can predict the mental landscape. Instead, he is assuming that each person can form his own system of morality and construct his own physics engine.

However, what happens when the 1% follow Robbins’ advice and continue to manipulate systems of morality? Eventually, the system breaks down. The United States may have a marvelous Constitution and a brilliant balance of powers, but even the best Constitution in the world can only handle so much legislative and moral abuse. And Contributor thought requires a system of morality to function. This needs to be repeated. If the mental circuit of Cp is to model the real world, then a real world must exist for Cp to model. Saying this more specifically, without laws of private property, it is not possible to acquire wealth; without law and order, it is not possible to conduct business; without societal stability, it is not possible to form plans. Thus, Contributor persons who manipulate systems of morality for personal gain are ultimately deconstructing their very existence; they are sawing off the branch on which they are perched. Kant describes this as radical evil: Manipulating systems of morality for personal gain while assuming that these systems of morality will continue to function intact. For instance, lying is most effective when everyone assumes that people tell the truth and only a few people lie. In terms of the car analogy, continually changing the landscape of value will eventually destroy the whole concept of landscape. The Contributor person’s pursuit of wealth and prosperity assumes a universal mental landscape of societal law and order. When that mental landscape crumbles, then all that is left is the physical landscape. Animal existence demonstrates what it means to live within a purely physical landscape. Life is short and brutal, and the primary struggle is to find food and stay alive. Human society has functioned at this animal level, and in parts of the world, humans still function at this animal level even today.

The core of Robbins’ teaching is that humans can transcend this purely material animal existence by building mental landscapes and being guided by mental landscapes. But when every person constructs his own personal mental landscape and when Robbins refuses to address the topic of a universal mental landscape, then eventually there will be no mental landscape.

Robbins recommends that “rather than be judgmental, we need to realize that each of us has values conflicts within ourselves” and he recommends that the first step is to “gain awareness of what your current values are so you understand why you do what you do” (p.256). We have seen that Robbins is pursuing two sets of incompatible values. On the one hand, he wants a universal understanding of human personality. Pursuing this set of universal cognitive values will build a universal mental landscape in which human existence can flourish. On the other hand, he wants to base everything upon the specific experiences of personal identity. Pursuing this option will lead to tribalism and the deconstruction of human civilization.

Robbins tells us that that the second step is to “make conscious decisions about what values you want to live by in order to shape the quality of life and destiny you truly desire and deserve” (p.256). This means that Robbins needs to make a choice. What will be his ultimate master and shape the quality of his life and destiny? Universal understanding or self-worship? Civilization or tribalism?

Let us finish with what Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6).



[1] Lane Friesen initially described and labeled these two sides to Contributor thought back in the 1980s when examining historical biographies.

[2] Cp and Ci are not distinct mental circuits. Instead, they approach the same information from a different perspective. The reason that these two aspects of Contributor-controlled thought separate into Cp and Ci is because Cp uses Server actions while Ci uses Teacher words, and it is natural for actions to be disconnected from words. Therefore, integrating Cp and Ci means connecting actions with words.

[3] Thus, it is not entirely accurate to say that Robbins has constructed a mental concept of God in his own image. Robbins’ concept of God does include a number of universal cognitive mechanisms, however the ultimate source is still personal identity, and this ‘universal’ theory still revolves around personal identity in general as well as the personal identity of Tony Robbins.

[4] In the appendix to God, Theology & Cognitive Modules, I explore how differing Ci and Cp definitions of cause-and-effect show up in algebra, and how this distinction between Ci and Cp helps to explain some of the ‘ unsolved problems’ of philosophy.

[5] Remember that it is possible to achieve major change in a short period of time by clarifying and defining existing mental networks and by revealing contradictions between mental networks. That is because one is reconnecting mental content that already exists. The advice that Robbins gives in this area is quite helpful. However, it is not possible to rebuild mental networks in a short period of time or exchange a core mental network with a peripheral mental network. Instead, digesting a mental network is like peeling an onion. It occurs one layer at a time. As Robbins states, major personal conversion will only occur if a person comes to the end of his rope and is convinced that he must change.