Interview with an anonymous person who attended Unleash the Power Within seminar in San Jose, CA in March 2018, in which Tony Robbins attacked the #MeToo Movement.
How long were you at Unleash the Power Within event?
14 hours straight and that was only the first day.
What were your initial impressions?
That is was brainwashing. Tony Robbins told us that it would be long days and with no breaks. He said he did not recommend that we eat so that we could get into our “peak state” and that fasting would help us increase our energy. To me this puts a person in a vulnerable state so they are more susceptible to brainwashing.
Making fun of him the entire time was the only thing that got me through. I mean the guy was so ridiculous. The pageantry of it was just insane. He had these huge sticks to “clap” with and would make people get up and dance like every half hour. He made us stand up so much my knees started hurting. There were dancers who worked for him, Golden State Warriors’ Cheerleaders, and a lot of loud music, flashing lights, and smoke machines. It was a lot of sensory overload. There were people who worked for him in the crowd, but in plain clothes, to hype the crowd. It was so fake and you could tell the people he picked out in the crowd were like plants to be his “yes men.” It was so brainwashy and despicable.
What struck you as main themes?
That you can do anything you put your mind to. That it is easy to become rich and successful if you just follow his plan. That you can overcome any obstacle or bad thing that has happened to you.
Did you find off anything about it?
There were no physically disabled people there that I could tell, except for one blind person. I am disabled myself, but I have a chronic invisible illness. It felt like this event was built for the able-bodied only. Like the firewalk. He said 50% of all people who do the fire walk get blisters on their feet. The fire walk is something you do at the end of the first night to, “prove to yourself you can do anything.” He said getting in “peak state” helps you do the fire walk. I didn’t do it because of my disability. I could not walk fast enough and my skin is sensitive. He played off getting burned like it was no big deal. He also asked, “where are my beautiful black sisters at?” They were supposed to get up and dance and it was like 5% of 12,000 people. It was super white and rich.
What do you think about the idea that Tony Robbins is pushing a cult?
(Laughs). My co-worker told me that on the 3rd day Tony told the crowd that they should do 2-3 if his seminars a year to keep motivated and work on their goals. He is asking for people to give him thousands of dollars for a forced fast. He also used weird words and phrases. And asked us to move in certain ways. It reminded me of Scientology to be honest. His “peak state” thing seemed to be like a hypnotic state. Better to brainwash you with. It is very culty. It made me uneasy for sure.
Did you find the event to be about making profit for Tony Robbins?
Oh yea, that was the entire point. It was not really about “helping people,” which is what he claims. He says he overcame abuse in his childhood and that has motivated him to help others who have been traumatized. But I saw it as taking advantage of people, not really helping them. He used a lot of positive psychology and telling people that they can do anything using canned and generalized examples. But there was no substance there.
Thoughts on Tony Robbins philosophy on anyone being able to replicate this success?
I think people use their own abilities to overcome barriers or reach their goals and they may attribute to him. But I don’t think he can take any credit. This is a rich straight able-bodied Christian guy who is saying to people like me that I can do what he has. Like no. That just isn’t true. Our society limits us based on all kinds of things. He did not have that many things going against him, as he is privileged in many ways. Like as a queer disabled woman he wasn’t talking to me. His audience is really well to do white folks to begin with. Like, I have to fight through pain, fatigue, and depression and I have to work hard through all that. But I still will not be able to do what a Tony Robbins can do. It just isn’t possible. I mean some of the hardest working people are some of our poorest in this country so it is pretty messed up to claim hard work equals success.
Tony Robbins speaks to many mental health issues. Did you find him qualified to do so?
No. The way he answers the question of how to cope with abuse is just “power through it.” In my experience that doesn’t work.
Tony Robbins seems to suggest anyone can erase their life long traumas in seconds. What are your thoughts on that?
Ah yes, he says, “everything is just a state of mind and you can change your life as easy as” and then he would snap. Like, no dude you cannot change years of abuse in one moment just by sheer willpower! It is insulting to suggest otherwise.
More on Tony Robbin’s take on mental health.
What were your impressions of Tony Robbins take on women?
He was entirely heteronormative. Every statement he made was, “guys do this, women do that.” He talked in gender stereotypes and that everything we do is based on our gender roles. And for women, especially, he painted us as being “too emotional” and “not logical.” It was like he was saying we are hysterical. I was pissed off by it, because it is obviously not true and as a woman I was insulted by that. We live in the SF Bay Area and we are very diverse here. There are so many kinds of expressions of human being here. Not everything is binary. He went so far as to tell every woman she wants a husband. Being gay myself, I would like a wife, thanks. It is very gross and disheartening he would be so close-minded.
Tony Robbins said something about the #MeToo movement at this event, about the movement being centered on victimhood and women looking to gain “significance” through attacking men. What were your thoughts on this?
So he said one basic need of all people is significance. It is in his workbook. He said it is the need to be the center of attention and get acclaim for all the work you have done. So when he said the #MeToo movement is about women trying to gain significance he was saying women are just trying to gain attention, which is untrue. He gave an example of a male friend of his that did not hire an attractive well qualified woman because he was afraid. I have problems with that statement. What does this guy have to be afraid of if he controls himself and does not harass her? The real question is why are men in power harassing women, not how do we make these guys feel more comfortable?
More on response to Tony Robbin’s comments on the #MeToo movement.
Do you think Tony Robbins uses minimization, invalidation, or dismissiveness?
He does minimize some things if it does not jive with his point of view. He does say stuff like, “this is just how I see things,” but then he brainwashes and continues to try to fool people into spending more money on him. It is like he is trying to trick people. He categorizes things that happen to people with his weird labels like “significance” and says not to do certain things because it leads you down a self-defeating path. That is a form of dismissiveness in my opinion. The way he talked about the #MeToo movement was invalidating. He was also dismissive of the woman who spoke up in defense of the movement. He talked over her and didn’t allow her to make her point. He cut her off several times and didn’t let her get her point across. I feel that was very invalidating and in a way he proved her right about the way men can be with his own crappy actions.
Tony Robbins mentions God often. How did this come off to you?
As an atheist I find it very off-putting having God shoved down my throat every five minutes. He seems to use God to help brainwash people. He evokes God because it helps people relate to him, thinking he holds similar values as them.
The atmosphere of Tony Robbins seminars seem like a peer pressure environment. Would you agree with this assessment, as and if so describe how?
Oh yea, for sure. As we discussed earlier about the plants in the audience that work for him; he asks you to pick someone in the audience to help encourage you. I feel like many of these people are being paid by him to hype Tony Robbins. He asks everyone to stand up constantly and asks people to call and response. If you do not do it you may feel left out. When the woman spoke up about #MeToo he used the audience against her several times. He would ask the audience, “who is with me? Say aye.” And everyone was used to repeating “aye” And they did most of the time. In this particular case with this woman he eventually lost the audience’s support. But these are the kinds of manipulation tactics he uses. He also uses music and dancing to try to bring people away from negative moments to distract them. He did this after this #MeToo thing blew up in his face. It was gross.
Tony Robbins tends to ignore life circumstances and systemic oppression as obstacles to success. Your thoughts?
I agree he does. For example when he asked, “where are my beautiful black sisters at?” He asked them to get up and dance. I looked around and black women were less than 5% of the audience. That shows that the people he caters to are predominantly white. He also says nothing else matters as long as you put your mind to something you can do anything. But he says that as a straight white cis male with a lot of money. He should not assume most people can achieve what he has.
How much did it cost to attend this event?
General admission tickets were $1,100 for four days. The people in the very front had to pay $5,000. The only reason I attended was because my workplace paid for me to go as professional development. I didn’t get anything out of this event that I felt was positive.
You chose not return to the next few days of the seminar. Can you tell us why?
Number one, as a disabled person it was hurting me too much to sit in stadium seats 14 hours a day and having to get up all the time was killing my knees. Also being inundated with very loud music, strobe lights, and smoke machines throughout that time was too much for me. But the main reason why I chose not to return, was the sickening reality of seeing Tony Robbins trying to brainwash people and trick them into wasting money on him. Him giving people false hope just to make a buck is wrong. Seeing what he did to the woman who spoke up about #MeToo also really upset me. It was disturbing. The event overall just wasn’t made for me or people like me. That it was really for able-bodied white upper class people made me sick. And I really needed my weekend to recover. I did not need to listen to that pompous windbag another second. What a waste. Tony Robbins is a scam artist. I feel that people are desperate in this capitalist society to be successful. But Tony Robbins pedals false hope. And it is wrong.
About the time this interview went to print Tony Robbins publicly apologized for his controversial #MeToo comments after the founder of the movement, Tarana Burke, called him out.
Our anonymous guests thoughts on this?
Too little too late.