What is wrong with Landmark Forum

if you have come to this post hoping that it will be discouraging of people attending Landmark Education’s Forum course, you will be disappointed.  My overwhelming impression is that the Forum helps people  get out of their own way and improve their relationships with people who are critical to them.  If you have personal problems that your friends and therapist cant help you with and you can afford the Forum course, you should probably go, it is extremely likely to help you.  i have a number of critiques of the program, which i will touch on in this post.  But what i really want to talk about is my own peculiar set of excuses for not doing Landmark.  [If you want to read critical things about Landmark there is an article in Mother Jones and a more “balanced” on in the UK Guardian.]

Typical Landmark Inspirational Graphic

At first blush it is no surprise that i am attracted to Landmark forum, it is a very intentional attempt to be a memetic structure.  As with most successful religions there is a proselytizing aspect built into the program “This has done great things for me, it could do great things for you (=person that i care about) too!”  Some people find this creepy or scary, i think it is clever and useful, especially if they are (unlike many religious practices) bringing tangible benefits to those who practice the belief set.

Many of my intimates have take the course.  Hawina, Sky, Shal, Kassia, Tobias (aka Frodo), Shana and most recently Marta and now Clementine.  They all think positively about it and several of them do it on a continuing basis.

So why dont i go to it?  The reasons have changed over time.   When Hawina and Frodo and Sky were taking it, one of the central projects i was working on with Shana and Joy and Hawina was the co-empowerment program (sadly there are not functioning links to this material now).

Co-empowerment was a loose collection of tools designed to help people get unstuck and get more of what they want from life.  In this way it was very much like Landmark.  When you sign up for Landmark you agree to protect their intellectual property.  Were i to go, the many tools which Landmark employs to get their great results would be taboo for my re-use.  Since some of the co-empowerment tools i was already using were similar to Landmarks stuff it was easier just to avoid confusion as to whose clever tools i was working with.

Another reason i dont want to go is i have an addictive personality and Landmark is designed to be addictive.  Several Landmark participants have said to me “You would make a great Landmark Forums course leader.”  This is of course a compliment.  And it is a warning sign.  I dont want a big part of my life to be about Landmark, i certainly dont want a job with them.  And if i dive in and fall desperately in love with it (or get addicted) i might well be inspired to rise in its hierarchy (all in the name of serving people and advancing the revolution)  to a staff position.  i have a more “roll my own”/independent path set out for me.

Sara’s critique, which i share, is that Landmark is classist.  It is expensive to go to and it does not really care organizationally that it is largely inaccessible to many people.  A sliding scale would be easy to implement and far more fair.  People criticize it for being a for profit entity which benefits a small number of owners and paid staff, with many unpaid enthusiastic volunteers.  This is a trivial concern for me, if you want to talk about problems with for profit organizations lets focus on Apple and Amazon, which are doing some very serious damage.

Landmark is not a cult, as it is occasionally described in the mainstream media.  But people fear that it is because it often changes the way people think about things and especially themselves.  From my perspective a lot of people need to change the way that they think, so these “dangerous” tools are completely appropriate.

There is lots more to say on this topic, but i want to get back to posting more regularly, so i will let it go at this for now.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

8 responses to “What is wrong with Landmark Forum”

  1. Joan Mazza says :

    Hi, Pax. I did the basic Landmark course in about 1994 because Oakers were doing it and I thought that was a vote of confidence. I did benefit (I was ready for the concepts) and I went on to take one seminar, included in the base price. This focused more on recruitment than on anything else. I objected to what felt like coercive practices to keep you coming to meetings, calling each other, forced bonding and agreements.

    I know of several people who did advances courses and neglected their businesses and personal relationships, often at the encouragement of leaders. (I was given bad advice along these lines, which is too long a story for here.)

    I tell people to take the basic course and run. It’s like a cult in the sense that there is an exclusive “in-group” and you are discouraged from leaving and doing your own thing without Landmark. You get a hard time when you voice your own views if they are different from the dogma in any way.

  2. Angie Tupelo says :

    Reblogged this on Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History and commented:

    I have had nothing but negative experiences with Landmark- either from constant nagging to go to a session or supporting friends who are exiting the Landmark world. My favorite parts of Pax’s piece are:
    “Another reason i dont want to go is i have an addictive personality and Landmark is designed to be addictive.

    Sara’s critique, which i share, is that Landmark is classist. It is expensive to go to and it does not really care organizationally that it is largely inaccessible to many people.”

  3. marta says :

    I did get a lot of out of it, and have a hunch that i got a really lucky “forum leader” who was all about the love and i felt no pressure from her to “spread the good word”. i didn’t bring anyone to the intro and i agree about it being classist, and i’m super grateful that i got to go on their “2 for the price of 1” dealio with twin oaks/communes. I had a huge resistance before I went, and now think it’s harmless, and possibly amazing for some. and totally get how annoying the nagging and self-promoting things are. i like what someone wrote on FB about having a good sense of your boundaries being crucial. I am grateful for the gift, and for the warning that the seminars will be “recruit-centric” — i won’t be into that, if i go to a seminar. thanks, all.

  4. Ian Mayes says :

    I think that you hit the nail on the head when you said this:

    “When you sign up for Landmark you agree to protect their intellectual property. Were i to go, the many tools which Landmark employs to get their great results would be taboo for my re-use. ”

    I think that part of the anarchist thing to do would be to have whatever helpful tools there are be available to people free-of-charge, without being under “intellectual property” lock-down. If it is genuinely helpful, why not share the love?

    Here is a great article about this topic by Eugene Gendlin, the guy accredited for developing the self-help practice called “Focusing”. The article is entitled “The Politics of Giving Therapy Away” –
    http://www.focusing.org/gendlin/docs/gol_2056.html

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  6. Nisha says :

    I invite you to face your fear of becoming addicted to the forum. The forum is about facing your fears and getting your smallness out of the way so that you are able transform yourself, the people around you, the world around. If you do the program you’ll come to discover that the forum ends up actually being about other people/the world.

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