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Opinions of Landmark Forum
February 25, 2005 7:49 AM   Subscribe

I reconnected with an old acquaintance at my highschool reunion. We've spoken a few times since then, and this person speaks very enthusiastically about their experiences with Landmark Forum. (MI)

I've read some skeptical views of the organization. Has anyone had any personal experiences with the group? I kind of feel like I'm being recruited, and I'm not at all interested, but in fairness to this person, I'd like to learn more...
posted by extrabox to Education (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Chuck Palahniuk of Fight Club is a big fan - make of that what you will. One of the guys at our work attended a couple of courses and started trying to get other people to take the courses as well. He seemed much more "culty" after taking the courses - he'd brook no criticism of the Forum and dismissed any bad accounts that popped up on the web. Be warned that you are urged to take more courses as you progress and that courses get more expensive the further you up the ladder you go and that the ladder never ends.
posted by john-paul at 8:10 AM on February 25, 2005


You are being recruited. If you are invited to any benign-sounding meetings they will morph into recruiting sessions.
posted by sad_otter at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2005


Cult. Mild cult, but still a cult. I know someone who went fairly far with it- he became a teaching assistant, or something, in addition to all the courses he took. He doesn't do it anymore, but he's the kind of person drawn to self-help stuff. He pulled another friend of mine into it, who didn't stick with it beyond the first course. It seemed to me to dwell a lot on the "everything is your own accomplishment/fault, stop blaming others" idea. I can see it benefiting people who lack some core social skills regarding being grounded, but I don't get the impression that it's going to blow the mind of anyone who's done a fair share of navel gazing.

New York Magazine did an article on them a couple years ago.

Bottom line- they're going to draw you into a successive series of courses/seminars, each of which costs money. They're not going to brainwash you or anything, but they display a lot of characteristics many would associate with cults.
posted by mkultra at 8:16 AM on February 25, 2005


see here.
posted by andrew cooke at 8:16 AM on February 25, 2005


admin. please hope me. here
posted by andrew cooke at 8:17 AM on February 25, 2005


andrew: you've been hoped.
posted by jessamyn at 8:38 AM on February 25, 2005


It's a cult. I've experienced it, and I actually had to call a friend discreetly in order to have them pick me up when I was supposed to be going to the bathroom. I called from an undisclosed location and only returned later to get my bags. Please don't get involved with this.

Here's a summary:
* They don't advertise, so you'll only hear about it from people you already know. This makes it seem nice, since, hey your friend likes it, so maybe you will too. This is a novel idea, very clever.
* The "classes" are unending. Once you're involved, you'll be told that you need to "continue your education" by paying more for another "higher level" course. This is how it makes money. Everyone pays around 300$ for attending the basic course, which nets them a significant amount of money per session.
* Everyone except for the speaker is a volunteer, usually someone in the "higher level" courses who's wasted a lot of their money on the system. This makes them feel proud and accomplished, and justifies the cost somewhat.
* You'll be put into a hotel with a very strict schedule. If you are tardy, you will be personally singled out in front of everyone, and be embarrased. The system works by breaking you down into an emotionally vulnerable state.
* You're broken down by having to be constantly awake for most of the day, attending these lectures. The first night, you'll be in the "class" listening to this speaker from early in the morning until around 2am the next day. You'll feel awkward bringing up how absurd this is, but peer pressure prevents anyone from discussing it. It starts again the next day, and eventually becomes an accepted routine.
* The basic "philosophy" that is taught boils down to: Everyone is a self-serving hedonist. Repeat after me. People will not accept you because you are one of the "elite." This is okay. Accept that other people are liars in all that they do. You are a liar. You are a bad person. Repeat after me.

I'll write more later, if you have any particular questions, but I would highly advise you not waste your time and money (or someone elses' money) on this. Look up Werner Erhard and the programs that came before The Forum (EST is one). Some of them were outlawed because they were too abusive on the participants.
posted by odinsdream at 8:55 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


I've been interested in EST, Landmark, and other similar type programs, though I've never taken any of the courses.

I have, however, read a couple of books that are of similar nature, and I'd recommend going that route if you're at all interested. The positive things that can be taught at these courses (yes, there are positive aspects to it) can, fortunately, be learned on your own, from reading. This ends up being much, much cheaper.

Start by reading The biography of Werner Erhard by William Bartley, if for no other reason than reading a good book about an interesting man. You'll be able to reflect on some of the bad decisions he made in his life, and learn more about yourself from them. I did, at least.

Make your own decisions, don't look too much into what someone on MeFi (or anywhere, for that matter) has to say about it. Some people will have terrible things to say, some people will have great things to say.

Don't just go blow $300 on the course, do the research, take a year and read about them - if you still feel you'll benefit from taking the course (my guess is that you won't, if you read and gain personal experience on your own), then take it.

Hope this helps.
posted by nitsuj at 9:21 AM on February 25, 2005


Thank you so much everybody...Super interesting. I really appreciate your thoughts on the organization. And thank you andrew cooke...i had searched the green, but clearly not the blue...
posted by extrabox at 9:24 AM on February 25, 2005


The Forum is no cult. You can do the entire follow-up curriculum for a few thousand dollars, they don't encourage separation from families, revenerence for a single charasmatic leader, or giving up one's lifestyle, occupation, or even religious observance. (The Forum's predecessor, est, did have a charasmatic leader, but he left 20 years ago and its now run by a group of a hundred or so faculty/shareholders.)

It is, basically, a certain kind of structured navel gazing, with a leader to administer the structure, but what you get out of it is completely unpredictable.

It is truly transformative for a small minority -- mainly people who have been living a pretty stupid lie and just need a kick in the butt to realize it -- useful for a significantly larger minority, and harmless, if not particularly useful, for the rest. Those who find it transformative tend to become enthusiasts and volunteers; a few end up working full time for a salalry. Kind of like the Boy Scouts.

Of those for whom it is harmless but not useful, some, like Odinsdreams, get really pissed off by the methodologies.

In my opinion, one should never do the Forum unless its recommended to you by a close friend or family member, someone whom you trust to know you and know themselves, and who can give you the heads up on what to expect and what to laugh off. Going on the say-so of a co-worker is a bad idea.
posted by MattD at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2005


LANDMARK FORUM: Just a Bowl of Cherries . . .But Watch Out for the Pits!
posted by ericb at 9:46 AM on February 25, 2005


EST > Actualization > Forum. Cults, all of them. Anything so good at getting people to part with their money and think that they've received something of value is either a cult (i.e. religion). If you are able to convince people to part with their money and NOT think that they've received something of value, even when they have, then you're the IRS.
posted by luriete at 9:53 AM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


My sister got into the forum for a while and drove me up the wall. She convinced my mom to do it, too, and before going my mom and I joked about how it would just be an interesting anthropological experiment for her to attend, etc. The sucky thing was, my mom went and that sunday night (they lock you up for three days and deprive you of sleep and normal human interaction, so you don't hear from people who attend fri at 6am through sunday at about 10) - she called me in ecstasy about the transformation she'd undergone.

Well, the transformation lasted about two weeks, and consisted basically of her feeling pretty high for that time, but nothing fundamental changed, except, sadly, my assessment of my mother's strength of character. I know that sounds harsh, but, I dunno... I know a number of other people who have done it, and they do not seem genuine to me. Some people from my martial arts school got into it; some co-workers of a friend of mine... they become "nice" but not in a way that really seems to get to anything deep. Honestly, before I knew these people were into the forum, their niceness always seemed weirdly superficial. I find it difficult to point to exactly what traits make it seem that way, but I know genuinely nice people and fake nice people, and the forum ones are all fake-nice. I'm not saying they aren't honestly trying, but maybe the problem is they're trying too hard. They don't realize that being 'nice' isn't work... [I'm not saying it never begins as work, but when it's still work, it's not genuine yet]

Making yourself a better person is always a good thing, but you don't need to pay a thousand bucks to be given some cheapened versions of philosophical ideas combined with a pro-business buzz-wordy "system"... I'm sure there are some people who do the forum and get something useful out of it, but they're not the ones who will actively push it. Anyone actively pushing their religion/system/etc is essentially trying to validate their own path by converting you.
posted by mdn at 9:54 AM on February 25, 2005 [4 favorites]


I'm sure there are some people who do the forum and get something useful out of it, but they're not the ones who will actively push it. Anyone actively pushing their religion/system/etc is essentially trying to validate their own path by converting you.

Very well said, mdn. If I had the option to mark 'best answer,' I would, based on that last paragraph.
posted by nitsuj at 9:59 AM on February 25, 2005


Wikipedia has a pretty big article on it... I know nothing about it though.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:07 AM on February 25, 2005


I attended a couple courses that are kind of parallel to Landmark (stem from the same roots back in the early 70s).

It was awesome and it did make some significant changes to my outlook and attitudes. I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about others, and in the end it was more or less worth it just for the experience alone.

But when it became way too obvious that they were in it for the big bucks, I parted ways. My wife and I spent upward of $10k on it (including airfare, hotels, etc). I think we got our money's worth, and over the longer term we haven't regretted spending it. It was a trip.

Anyway, not quite a cult, but definitely a business, and certainly an excellent chance to do some interesting self-growth work. You'll get out of it what you put into it.

That all said, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Not because of the cost, but because I'm not convinced most people get much from it in the long term. Hell, I'm not convinced I did, despite the lack of regret and interesting changes.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:22 AM on February 25, 2005


Nothing to add except thank you for posting this. I had no idea about this organization before today.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:36 AM on February 25, 2005


I've taken Landmark courses off and on for years and I'm a fan. I don't resent the cost b/c it's WAY cheaper than therapy or doing nothing, and I like (most of) the people I meet there. Everybody has an interesting life story, and as a seeker/idealist I enjoy occasionally being around other people who are as "dreamy" as I can be.

Usually I'll do a seminar if I'm stuck somewhere, like a job I don't like or a out of shape or just flat bored, and the homework and the ideas from the seminar get me on the right track again.

However, I am VERY LAZY and also not that bright. So if you're a go-for-it smarty then just go enjoy your life rather than relying on others to get you moving.
posted by pomegranate at 10:42 AM on February 25, 2005


One line in that New York Magazine article (from early 2001) chilled me, for reasons having nothing to do with this company.

"In New York, the company recently moved out of its offices in a walk-up across from Macy's. Now it leases an entire floor of One World Trade Center."
posted by GaelFC at 11:18 AM on February 25, 2005


I asked my doctor for Prozac, and he told me to go the Landmark Forum instead.

I'm not kidding. Still think I probably should have filed a complaint.

(I stood firm, though, and got my beloved Prozac.)
posted by mudpuppie at 11:52 AM on February 25, 2005


My parents took me through EST for years in the 70s and 80s. In the end I see them as middle-class aggressiveness training boot camps.
posted by stbalbach at 12:05 PM on February 25, 2005


Of those for whom it is harmless but not useful, some, like Odinsdreams, get really pissed off by the methodologies.

This is very accurate. I don't take kindly to being pressured into anything, and I especially don't like being surrounded by people whom, true or not, I feel are being treated badly or cheated. I felt cheated, and I wasn't even the one paying for my ticket. So, yes, I may sound a little angry, but frustrated is a better word to use. I dislike being cheated, and I especially dislike being bullied or psychologically demeaned, or accused of 'sins' I haven't committed. During one "sharing" session, I was supposed to talk to the guy next to me about mistakes I've made in my life. He divorced his wife after contemplating her murder and his own suicide. Apparently I harbor something similar, according to The Leader, but I had just repressed it. Oh well, guess it's really buried in there.

I don't resent the cost b/c it's WAY cheaper than therapy or doing nothing

That's because the forum is NOT THERAPY. That can't be said strongly enough. It's in the stuff you signed, too. Please, please do not confuse this group experiment thing called The Forum with licensed, professional therapy from someone specifically trained in administering it. I don't know how it's cheaper than doing nothing. You'd get more out of meditating over a cup of chai.

Did I mention you're also not allowed to write anything while you're in the room? If you dare pull a pen, The Leader will be notified by volunteers watching the room, and he will engage you in direct conversation in front of the other people to demonstrate how you are breaking the rules. This conversation will last from five to ten minutes. No one else will pull a pen for the duration of the session.

You also have to have permission to leave the room to go to the bathroom (that's the only possible destination. you will be watched and they will ensure you return to the room and go nowhere else). If you decide to go somewhere else, you forfeit your money and cannot continue attending, after you are dragged back in the room to be confronted by the leader and humiliated about "giving up" or pressured into staying by "overcoming your desire to give up."
posted by odinsdream at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2005 [3 favorites]


I've taken a variety of "personal development" courses over the past ten years, including a Landmark course, and have had very valuable experiences and would recommend them, with appropriate caveats, to others. I've also seen a fair amount of things that I completely understand can be a turn off to people (and have been a turn off to me at varying points in time). Some comments and observations . . .

Focus. One of the great things about such seminars is the fact that they are concentrated opportunities to focus on yourself and do some reflection. Depending on where you're at in your life this can be a tremendous thing. I spend >40 hours per week at work but until I did my first seminar (not Landmark) I had never spent a solid forty hours thinking about my life and habits, where it was going and most importantly where I wanted to take it. I imagine going on a weekend yoga retreat or doing Outward Bound would be a similar experience. I also believe that the experience of doing things with others in groups is an incredibly powerful way to learn.

Cost.
In terms of the cost, well that's all relative. Most of the groups that do these seminars are for-profit entities and if you compare the cost to a technical training seminar it's probably on par.

Junkies. It's a testament to how powerful these experiences can be that people who complete a seminar like Landmark end up talking nonstop about it and want to share that experience. I did the same thing after I came back from India and after first went to Burning Man. This singular enthusiam can be very annoying to those around you and when it's tied to a personal development seminar it is easy to label it a "cult," but I think that's off base. (For one, most of these organizations aren't organized enough to be a cult ;-). I've never seen an organization that encouraged people who'd done a program to only socialize with others who have (that would be cultlike) but I have seen my fair share of personal development junkies who roll from one course to the next, can't get enough, and limit their world to those that talk only in jargon. That's lame and sad.

Landmark. I did the Forum and had a great experience and even signed up for the next seminar, though not immediately. I withdrew because I found the organization (as distinct from the program) to be incredibly annoying. Part of that is that is the fact that Landmark doesn't, in my opion, really come clean about the fact that they are a for-profit enterprise and they have to fill their pipeline like any business that sells something. So the notion of "enrolling others in your experience" (getting them on board with what you're doing in your life, which I'd argue is something that you should be doing with the people in your life anyway) is conflated with "recruitment." When you combine this with newbie enthusiams the whole thing comes across a bit icky. Having said that I'm happy I gave them money and did the weekend seminar.

What I've Gotten Out of This Stuff
I can point to several things in my life that I either discovered or accelerated due to programs like this:
*Getting in touch with my heart as opposed to just my brain and developing greater empathy
* Vastly improved communication skills with my partner, friends, and co-workers
* Reduced background anxiety since I have a clearer sense of what I'm up to and am not continually making up sky-is-falling interpretations of the world around me
* Identification of the things that inately drive me and some strategies for making sure they help me get what I want in life rather than get in my way
* A very clear vision of what is important in my life and what I want to make of it
* The disappearance of most fear, which I'd argue ends up being the propellant to some much of what people do

There's more and I'm not sugesting I wouldn't eventually be on my present path without taking such seminars but it has certainly been an accelerant.

On preview:
You also have to have permission to leave the room to go to the bathroom (that's the only possible destination. you will be watched and they will ensure you return to the room and go nowhere else).
I'll just note that I didn't see this when I did the Forum, which is fortunate given that I have a small bladder.
posted by donovan at 12:31 PM on February 25, 2005


Well it's not like you weren't allowed to go to the bathroom. You just couldn't go without someone noting it and ensuring that's exactly what you were doing. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

/nitpick
posted by odinsdream at 12:35 PM on February 25, 2005


Look, odinsdream, you had a negative experience, in part *because* of the fact that you left in the middle.. The first weekend is very, very different from other seminars - much more intense and often leaving people in a very weird place if they don't complete it. That's why they offer doubters a chance to leave at the beginning of the weekend (and get your money back) rather than encouraging people to sneak out in the middle.

I never said it WAS therapy, I said it's cheaper than therapy, particularly for someone who's sane and not on meds, basically well adjusted but just wanting to think about which road to take next in life. You can use a pen and miss sessions and everything else "normal" but they do request that you be respectful of others and act like an adult.
posted by pomegranate at 12:36 PM on February 25, 2005


For what it's worth, Landmark is also know for being very lawsuit-happy. When I was an editor at a high-circulation daily college newspaper a few years ago (the paper was financially and editorially independent from the school, which is unusual), they threatened the paper with a libel suit for saying some very mild but still slightly skeptical things about the program in a news column about Landmark recruiting among the students. The paper would have won the case, easy, but no one wanted to risk it or pay the lawyer fees that would have been involved, and a lame-ass correction/retraction/suck-up was run soon thereafter.

In other words, their media-relations tactics smell a little too like Scientology. That's a big red flag.

One of the kids on campus who got sucked in was a friend of mine. She was heavily recruiting me and other friends to come to sessions with her. From her descriptions alone, I was appalled. Reading up on them, and then hearing about the whole newspaper episode, just reinforced that feeling.

I never said it WAS therapy, I said it's cheaper than therapy

So's a bottle of gin, but that doesn't make it particularly useful as a learning tool.

The Forum is no cult. You can do the entire follow-up curriculum for a few thousand dollars, they don't encourage separation from families, revenerence for a single charasmatic leader, or giving up one's lifestyle, occupation, or even religious observance...

Let me guess: while in your first meeting, someone raised their hand and asked "how do I know this isn't a cult?" and they gave you that answer? Because I've heard that exact story before. You do realize that person was a plant from Landmark, right? As were many other people in the initial sessions?
posted by Asparagirl at 1:09 PM on February 25, 2005 [3 favorites]


BTW, Landmark has also been spoofed on an episode of "Six Feet Under" from, I think, two seasons ago. (The mom attends a class.) It was not a very flattering portrayal.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:12 PM on February 25, 2005


Look, odinsdream, you had a negative experience, in part *because* of the fact that you left in the middle ...

I stayed for two days, which ends up being around 40 hours straight of interaction and observation. I consider this a healthy amount of time to make at least a rudimentary guess as to the program's efficacy. It's fine that you got something out of it, but that doesn't validate it. I do not claim to know anything about the other classes. This is only my impression on the introductory class.

Oh, and wanting to use a pen is not immature or "disrespectful" of others.
posted by odinsdream at 1:29 PM on February 25, 2005 [2 favorites]


By the way, Six Feet Under did a hilarious send-up of the Landmark Forum over the course of a few episodes. Ruth joined; it was great.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:31 PM on February 25, 2005


Also, you -absolutely may not take any notes- if you attend. If you use a pen, things happen as I described. There was no "okay you just want to use a pen anyway" option. It was either no pen, or leave the session. Does that sound normal to you? Or does that sound like part and parcel with sleep depervation as yet another technique to make it more difficult to think clearly? If it does sound normal, something is wrong with your evaluation of this situation.

That's why they offer doubters a chance to leave at the beginning of the weekend ...

Yes. At the very beginning of the session, right after you get a nametag, you have the option to leave and get a refund. That's just about the same as not going at all. It doesn't excuse the rest of the event just because they gave you this option. You're also made to feel like an idiot if you did choose this option... and I'd agree, because nothing even happened yet. What are you supposed to be basing your decision on? The conversation goes something like "If you want to discover something REALLY AWESOME, then stay. If you're NOT INTERESTED in discovering something UTTERLY AND TOTALLY AWESOME, SO COOL... then you can leave and get a refund. Hands?"
posted by odinsdream at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


Again, I would like to offer big thanks to everyone who's offered such fascinating feedback about this program...it's not something to mark a 'best answer' on because I was looking for different viewpoints, and that's just what I got.

It's interesting to me, because, like most people, I wish to keep learning, keep making myself uncomfortable, keep challenging myself, and keep growing as best I know how.

And, in some ways, if one takes the "Landmark" position at face value, I can appreciate the problem they face. They seemed to have grown out of a movement that was extreme, and was cultish. Now in a sense they have "grown up" and are trying to re-establish themselves as a mainstream self-improvement, self-help seminar, and charge a price for the service, that if it gives you the benefits some have described, would be worth it.

But because of their roots, some of their practices, which in other settings, or from other organizations might seem normal or non-objectionable, strike many as being the proverbial tiger revealing his stripes.

For me, the bottom line is that I really object to the aggressive recruiting that clearly seems to be part of the package for those who become involved. I take college continuing education classes all the time, and none of these schools makes a big point of asking me to pull new students in for the next semester.

If Landmark really wants to be mainstream, they should trust in the benefits they offer, and leave it to an honest word of mouth to bring new people.

To me, aggressive proselytizing is a big red "danger" signal, and in this case, I will listen to it....(and I can't deny that odinsdream's stories give me great pause too)

But again, thank you all, and thank you particularly to those who did have positive experiences with Landmark and shared their stories.
posted by extrabox at 3:35 PM on February 25, 2005


I don't know anything about The Forum.. but clicking here will take you to Isaac Bonewits' Cult Danger Evaluation Form, which is a very useful tool for helping to figure out whether a given organization is a cult (in the new, mind-controlling sense of the word) or no.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:25 PM on February 25, 2005


The thread that andrew cooke linked to is mine. A friend of mine had signed up for the introductory course and due to my reading of a Toronto Life article on them I was leery. Subsequent googling made me even more concerned. I wanted some non-partisan informed opinions on Landmark, so I put together that FPP as a unobtrusive way to pick people's brains. Ah, those dark, cold, pre-AskMe days... but it wasn't a bad thread and I got away with it. That is, no one complained and I didn't get my orange-feathered ass dragged into MeTa:-)

But to give you an update on that friend of mine. He is a pretty level-headed guy and so once I'd sent him the thread and links to some of the other info I'd found on the web, I didn't worry any further about it. Forewarned is forearmed. He went to the seminar and it was a good experience for him - he still speaks well of it and says he learned quite a bit.

And although I sometimes I have to tell him to describe their concepts in plain English rather than in the lingo they use, I found there was at least nothing wrong with the Landmark ideas so far as he's explained them.
posted by orange swan at 5:03 PM on February 25, 2005


After hearing more about this Landmark organization, I have to suggest that it is not a good LGAT organization.

I remain fairly ambivalent about LGATs: I got my money's worth despite the limited difference it's made to my actual day-to-day life, but I know many others did not; and I did find the recruitment stuff to be very tasteless, though I simultaneously recognize that there aren't many other ways to sell them.

Anyway, I suggest you look into Klemmer/Personal Mastery. IFF (and that's if and only if) they are about the same as when I took 'em five or so years ago, the difference from Landmark is substantial.

F'rinstance, there was a lot of notetaking. At the end of the course, if you're not satisfied, you can get a refund -- and without a big public display of humiliation, though they will want to know better why you aren't satisfied. There are no beatdowns. It's a safe, supportive environment. There will be pressure to sign up for the next course at the end, and a drive to organize another seminar in one's own hometown.

Anyway, that was Klemmer then; I quit being involved the day they seemed to be more concerned about new signups than their past participants. It is entirely possible they've become as nasty as Landmark; or perhaps they realized that they needed the support of their past participants and did a 180 on their approach. I have no idea at all.

But it can't hurt to check into them. For me, it was all good.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:02 PM on February 25, 2005


Ever watch Dr. Phil on TV? The Landmark Forum is essentially a 3-day intense Dr. Phil show. I'm serious - he gets a lot of his approach from "est" and other courses like the Forum. (For example, I think he insisted no one could wear a watch in the room during the sessions. That's an Est thing, but not a Landmark Forum thing.)

A couple years ago, before Dr. Phil had his own show, he did a series of shows for Oprah where he had a group of people come for a very intense one-week workshop. MANY of the excercises and techniques he was shown using in that workshop were right out of the Forum - though his gruff manner was much more like the Forum's precursor, "est."

If you separate out all of the business and recruitment parts of Landmark Education programs, what you're left with is some very useful and very valuable material. Odinsdream, I must argue, is very wrong when he claims the ultimate point is "Everyone is a self-serving hedonist...You are a liar. You are a bad person. Repeat after me. " That's not it at all. The real point of the Forum weekend is actually that who you are today does not need to be defined solely by your past mistakes. You can choose to define yourself in terms of a future you wish to create. This is a very positive thing. Sure, along the way to really understanding this you have to look at some serious crap you've done with your life, but if you could be free of that then isn't it worth it?

The idea that one can achieve enlightenment or something like it in a weekend started with "encounter groups" back in the 1960's. Now, after 40 years of these types of things, we know that really - you can indeed achieve a "peak experience" this way, but whether or not it has lasting impact and change in your life is very dependent on whether you're really ready to commit to it or not.

I maintain that the material of Landmark's courses - considered entirely apart from its business practices - is extremely valuable and worthwhile. I agree, however, that their method of recruitment basically stinks and is what gives their whole enterprise a very bad image. I think that's kind of sad.

For example, my advice is to absolutely never go to one of their "guest events." Ever. If you have a friend who does their seminars and invites you to go along, don't. Make that friend explain on their own why they liked the course, what they got from it and what they think you might get. Make it a long conversation, and try hard to get them to put it in non-jargon terms.

What happens when you go to a class as a guest is, you get to see about 20 minutes of people in the class talking about some cool stuff they've experienced because of the class. Then you get taken into smaller "guest rooms" for a separate discussion about what the Landmark Forum is and what it could do for you. The problem is that these guest rooms discussions are led by leaders-in-training, and staffed with volunteers in a training program all centered around how many people they can enroll into the Forum. These folks really do mean well, they really genuinely want to have you understand what this is all about so you'll sign up - but they become over zealous about it all. I was in that program, was in many of those guest rooms, and came away thinking they're about the worst possible way this company could sell their product. When I did the Forum, it was solely from discussions with my brother who'd just done it, (our Dad also did Est way back in the 70's). I never went to any of these guest events, and thus had no previous bad taste in my mounth about the company when I got there.

Again - the material itself, I think is excellent. The marketing/recruitment is not. But a "cult," it is not.
posted by dnash at 11:41 PM on February 25, 2005


I know a husband/wife duo who currently do this. They tried to recruit my wife and I.
After attending one of their informative sessions I was mildly amused that this thing existed and was a popular as it is.

I know some people benefit from it (some people benefit from faith healing too). But I am a contrairian and always look at things suspiciously until it is validated. To me, Landmark hasn't made me any less suspicious then when I first heard about it.

The wife of that duo goes, spends the weekend, comes back feels great for about 2-3 days then crashes, repeats.

I walked out of that recruitment session thinking of the Movementarians, and the "feel bad rainbow".

Even if they are not a cult, I thought cult.

To each their own. but not for me
posted by edgeways at 11:47 PM on February 25, 2005


I reiterate: there are non-abusive forms of LGAT available. You don't have to be Dr. Phil'd.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:03 AM on February 26, 2005


A week ago, I'd never heard of Landmark. This week, I had my trainer at the gym tell me about it. Then there was this thread.

And five minutes ago I got off the phone with my brother, who I haven't spoken to since we were last both home for Christmas over a year ago, who called to tell me that he loves me and that our non-relationship over the years is a bad thing and that it's worth it for us to put some effort into relating to each other. He is in the middle of a Landmark forum at this moment.

The stuff I've read here concerns me, and I don't know how long this will last, or whether they'll bleed him dry, but right now, this very moment, all I can do is sit here and cry, because I never thought I'd ever manage to find my way through his wall of emotional distance and after a day and a half of Landmark, he simply opened the door.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:37 PM on February 27, 2005


because I never thought I'd ever manage to find my way through his wall of emotional distance and after a day and a half of Landmark, he simply opened the door.

just so you know, it was his homework to call several people about specific things - someone they're out of touch with, someone they had lied to, someone they had not appreciated enough, etc. I'm not saying it isn't sincere or that it won't change things, but it is a very formulaic system and participants are heavily coached in what to say and how to handle these things.

For some people that may be exactly what they need to get through a door, but it also sometimes leads to people more or less 'going through motions' and never getting to a point of genuine, honest, open communication and interchange. That's ultimately what irks me about Landmark. They teach you how to be Landmark TM happy people, rather than working with you to help/allow you discover who you are.

Again, I don't want to be harsh on people trying to better themselves, and I realize we all take different routes, blah blah blah, but it's really up to the individual to get something worthwhile out of landmark. On its own it can just give people a false sense of self (as in, aha, now I know how to be "a good person" or whatever, as if it's just a set of finite information a weekend seminar can give you...)
posted by mdn at 1:46 PM on February 27, 2005


The stuff I've read here concerns me, and I don't know how long this will last, or whether they'll bleed him dry

Honestly there's little need to be conerned. I've read of one or two isolated cases where someone claims they went truly psycho after the Forum - which I suppose is possible, but it reminds me of the people who've died of brain aneurysms on roller costers. The injury or tendency for it was there beforehand, so was the ride really to blame, or was it just an unfortunate accident? In something like four years there, I never saw anyone have any sort of serious problem because of Landmark.

And really, for 90-ish percent of the people who do the Forum, that'll be it for them. The Forum includes a follow-up weekly seminar that's about putting the ideas and insights from it into practice in daily life, but not even all Forum graduates do that much.

As for bleeding dry - Landmark's stuff really doesn't add up to all that much unless you go seriously overboard. Scientology, for example, has a zillion levels that cost progressively more. That's not really true of LEC. I looked up the prices on their website - the Forum is about $400 now. The "Advanced Course" is the next one, and yeah it's pricey - but it's the most expensive thing they've got at all - $795. The final piece of the main curriculum, the "Self Expression and Leadership" class is only $200. From there on, pretty much the only other classes are the seminars, which meet weekly for about 3 months each, and are $100 each. You can take many of those, so it can add up eventually, but the costs overall are really not exorbitant.

(There are a few other programs, but really few people I knew there ever did them except the real die-hard "I'll take any class you've got" types.)

Oh, and this:

participants are heavily coached in what to say and how to handle these things.

Is nonsense. They encourage participants to call family and friends to repair any damaged relationships, but the only coaching is basically just to be fully honest. And whether or not they actually do it is up to them. There's nobody standing behind them with a gun saying "you must call your estranged family NOW." If the end result is people's families getting back together, what does it matter that it started because of "homework"?
posted by dnash at 9:10 PM on February 27, 2005


but the only coaching is basically just to be fully honest.

well, I got calls from both my mother and my sister after they did the forum, and they used the same lingo and formulations. I talked to other people who got calls from them as well, and it was hard not to feel as if we were their audience and they were playing a dramatic role, not truly working out stuff. They were all emotionally wrought up about all that had gone wrong, but ultimately, it was extremely egocentric... it was all about them and their mistakes and now their turning over a new leaf - just like that crazy cousin who's a hindu and then a buddhist and then a born-again christian... it's this big dramatic conversion, but does not necessarily translate into anything deep.

If the end result is people's families getting back together, what does it matter that it started because of "homework"?

Yeah, I said above, if it works, great. The problem is, in a large percentage of these cases, it doesn't last. Participants think that by making a phone call, they've 'handled that problem', and often imagine they're some kind of deep, self-reflective person for having done so, without understanding that human relationships are ongoing projects, and that most of us are always working on them. It is a rather self-obsessed and overly theatrical, in my opinion. Life/love is a continual effort; working on relationships is 'slow & steady'; and when people get swept up in these kinds of "I am a new person" things, it is often just a new vway for them to be the center of things.

of course, as always, YMMV, and best of luck/congrats to those for whom it's worked.
posted by mdn at 5:52 AM on February 28, 2005 [2 favorites]


It's exceptionally creepy. I encourage anyone thinking they need this to be complete to watch the hokey but correct take on the subject in "Star Trek V."

The last Landmark guy I met was going on about paranoid fantasies involving L. Ron Hubbard trying to have Est's leader killed, and claiming you could see messages in water, and that scientists could predict 9/11 by studying the cosmic energy field.

If you think this is a good way to end up, by all means go for it.
posted by inksyndicate at 5:52 PM on March 20, 2005


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