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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: NoMinorChords ()
Date: December 28, 2012 06:49AM

Thank you, Dopamine Link, for posting this. Although I have seen this idea elsewhere - that Palahniuk intended a parallel between Fight Club and est - I've never seen anything from Chuck P about it. Has he ever publicly commented on this to anyone's knowledge? Or Tyler Durden as Werner Erhard? In Adaptation he satirized the writing guru, Robert McKee, who has had similar svengali-like powers over Hollywood executives and wanna-be script writers. But there he actually uses McKee's name, who, presumably, gave his permission.

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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: December 28, 2012 07:37AM


It seems that you have come here exclusively to defend Lifespring, which is a company with a sordid history of bad press, complaints and lawsuits. You have posted on MIT Lifespring threads. Now you are posting some spin here.

See []

Lifespring made very serious mistakes. But the Ross Institute has not identified Lifespring as a "cult", so that is a false argument.

Lifespring is an LGAT (large group awareness training) that downloads a philosophy as cure all. Other LGATs such as Landmark Education (former known as EST), Sterling Institute of Relationships, NXIVM and the Mankind Project have similar histories of complaints and bad press.

See []

LGATs seem to have serious inherent problems that produce casualties.

See []

This research paper was written by a Ph.D. psychologist that attended Lifespring and he breaks down the problems in the training fairly well.

13 liabilities of encounter groups, some of which are similar to characteristics of most current mass marathon psychotherapy training sessions [aka LGATs]:

They lack adequate participant-selection criteria.

They lack reliable norms, supervision, and adequate training for leaders.

They lack clearly defined responsibility.

They sometimes foster pseudoauthenticity and pseudoreality.

They sometimes foster inappropriate patterns of relationships.

They sometimes ignore the necessity and utility of ego defenses.

They sometimes teach the covert value of total exposure instead of valuing personal differences.

They sometimes foster impulsive personality styles and behavioral strategies.

They sometimes devalue critical thinking in favor of "experiencing" without self-analysis or reflection.

They sometimes ignore stated goals, misrepresent their actual techniques, and obfuscate their real agenda.

They sometimes focus too much on structural self-awareness techniques and misplace the goal of democratic education; as a result participants may learn more about themselves and less about group process.

They pay inadequate attention to decisions regarding time limitations. This may lead to increased pressure on some participants to unconsciously "fabricate" a cure.

They fail to adequately consider the "psychonoxious" or deleterious effects of group participation (or] adverse countertransference reactions.

The groups were determined to be dangerous when:

Leaders had rigid, unbending beliefs about what participants should experience and believe, how they should behave in the group. and when they should change.

Leaders had no sense of differential diagnosis and assessment skills, valued cathartic emotional breakthroughs as the ultimate therapeutic experience, and sadistically pressed to create or force a breakthrough in every participant.

Leaders had an evangelical system of belief that was the one single pathway to salvation.

Leaders were true believers and sealed their doctrine off from discomforting data or disquieting results and tended to discount a poor result by, "blaming the victim."

Also see []

This research by a sociologist identifies coercive persuasion techniques often used by LGATs.

The key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes are:

The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's sense of self to promote compliance

The use of an organized peer group

Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity

The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behavior once modified

Robert Lifton labeled the extraordinarily high degree of social control characteristic of organizations that operate reform programs as their totalistic quality (Lifton 1961). This concept refers to the mobilization of the entirety of the person's social, and often physical, environment in support of the manipulative effort. Lifton identified eight themes or properties of reform environments that contribute to their totalistic quality:

Control of communication

Emotional and behavioral manipulation

Demands for absolute conformity to behavior prescriptions derived from the ideology

Obsessive demands for confession

Agreement that the ideology is faultless

Manipulation of language in which cliches substitute for analytic thought

Reinterpretation of human experience and emotion in terms of doctrine

Classification of those not sharing the ideology as inferior and not worthy of respect

Given the very troubled history of LGATs like Lifespring I would not recommend that anyone become involved in such training. There are far safer alternatives such as continuing education at an accredited college, counseling from a licensed therapist, support groups that focus on certain issues available through local referral networks (e.g. social services) and talking to knowledgeable and trusted friend.

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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: Dopamine Link ()
Date: December 28, 2012 05:08PM

Hi NoMinorChords

Since you haven't defended Lifespring on this thread I will respond to you (since this thread is about the commentary provided in Fight Club on est and its descendant Landmark Education). Prior to noticing the many links between FC and LE (and LGATs in general) all that I knew was that Palahniuk had taken part in the forum. After noticing the clear parallels I Googled the subject and found a few vague links between Werner Erhard and Tyler Durden, but very little detail at all.

If you haven't read any of my prior threads I'd like to make it clear that I believe that all LGATs past and present are potentially dangerous. Not only that, but they are consciously dishonest about these risks when recruiting participants. The Fight Club analogy of "applying the formula" to vehicles wihch "crash and burn" every now and then couldn't be more appropriate.

Since I believe that LGATs trigger short-term euphorias which are chemically similar to hypomanic states (and because I am bipolar) I am intimately aware of the transient feelings of confidence and insight that LGATs generate. If you are, in fact, a supporter of Lifespring (or any LGAT for that matter) please consider the fact that - while you may have emerged unscathed - there are thousands upon thousands who didn't (and who were not adequately made aware of the risks beforehand). The frequency and level of damage experienced by those unfortunate few is far greater than LGATs admit.

I know first-hand the agony of living with psychological damage - supporting LGATs is much the same as buying wigs from the Nazis. Claiming "...but MY wig is great" is socially irresponsible. That wig comes at a great cost.

Please feel free to mail me directly if you'd like to discuss this further.


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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: NotAMachine ()
Date: February 08, 2017 03:32AM

Hi DL! Sane person here letting you know that you totally nailed it here. My parents were heavily involved in est when I was growing up and only now am I piecing together the damage it did to our family (and me) over the years. Why only now? Because the first rule of est was not to talk about est. I had to find out by asking non-est family members what the hell happened after my dad passed away. They said, "your parents were in a cult and we were afraid to talk to them about it."

I had read that the Fight Club author had taken Landmark Forum so I recently re-watched it and... wow. So many connections to Werner Erhard, est and Landmark! It's riddled with the philosophy of narcissism that Erhard injected into his LGATS. It seems so on the nose, I'm not surprised Chuck Palahniuk hasn't been more vocal about it's message. He's probably afraid of lawsuits.

One thing I kept noticing: Tyler and "Jack's" creepy rotting Victorian house in fight club seems like a visual nod to Werner Ehard's creepy black Victorian house he had on Franklin st in San Francisco. Surrounded by white or bright colored homes, it was like it was standing alone- just like the Fight Club house.

I know this is an old post (google brought me here) but I just wanted to let you know that you're not crazy. At least not crazy about this :)


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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 08, 2017 04:36AM

Reportedly it was just as weird inside Erhard's San Francisco digs.

Read here from someone who was an est graduate and worked in Erhard's library.


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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: NotAMachine ()
Date: February 08, 2017 07:25AM

Wow.. Thanks Corboy!! I hadn't read that piece yet. Yeah, weird indeed. Exactly what you'd expect from a man who demonized morality and the human conscience.

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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: ellenaaa ()
Date: February 10, 2017 04:37AM

Here's one of the best things ever posted to I've reposted it several times. I don't think she'd mind. You can pull up her other posts over there.

Date: 9 Mar 2002 06:59:06 -0800
Local: Sat, Mar 9 2002 6:59 am

i would like to know if there is anyone out there stuggling with the
same issues that i have encountered....

first , my story:

I was 14, my dad got "enrolled" in est (1976). He proceeded to have
everyone in the family take the training and himself go on to being a
"guest seminar leader"
with the aspirations of becoming a "trainer" himself. He began
practising on me...i would have to sit through 4 hour sessions of him
telling me to "get off it" and to "be responsible for my own
experience" This was all mixed in with people calling me endlessly to
"assist" and badgering me unmercilessly to do seminars and courses.
Our entire life was est...(you get the picture, right?)

Ok, Dad is still leading seminars, still
telling me to get off it...i have not had anything to do with landmark
for at least 14 years and i am down right hostile twards anyone who
throws jargon at me.
Just 2 weeks ago, while in intensive pshycotherapy i discovered that i
actually grew up in a cult...est.
I've seen how doing it at such an early age, basically in my
formulative years, i developed quite a few basic beliefs that are
wrong and really hard to live with...for example...those 4 hour
sessions with my dad taught me that whatever I'm feeling is not
valid...that i can deny it all ("get off it")That I am not okay the
way i am...that anyone who has not done est is not enlightened and
therefore we "graduates" are better that anyone else and everyone else
is "on it" and stupid to the way it "really is"...I have been trying
to figure out how to fit into society and not take a me against the
world attitude ever since...

Mostly, i have a problem knowing what is actually real. I cant tell if
a situation is good or bad for me or if I'm happy because i have been
taught that i can just "get off it and create a new conversation"
basically settling for anything by denying what i feel for the last 24
years. My other problem is this...Most people take these courses as an
adult, with thier ideas and opinions about themselves and the world
already in place, so that when they realize they have been conned by a
cult, they have some sense of self to fall back on. Since est and the
forum are what i formulated my views from, i have nothing to fall back
on and I am finding myself quite terrified, empty and having no clue
what part of me is real...

Anyway, i would like to know if anyone out there was put into the
little kids training and what you are experiencing as a result of it.
Or even if you weren't a kid, but are just having trouble with
pshycological issues as a result of being in the forum or est.

I am not interested in hearing anyones counterpoint to all that i've
said, i don't want to hear from people who are sill gung-ho, trying to
convince us wounded souls that we just went astray, and if we would
only take a seminar, everything will be alright....bite me and go _ _
_ _ yourself at the same time!

told you i was hostile twards anything positive anyone has to say
about these experiences...

ok, i'm done for now...


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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: NotAMachine ()
Date: February 10, 2017 09:15AM

Thank you ellenaaa!! Grizz's post rings so close to home it brought tears and made me feel a little less alone. My parents joined est the year i was born so my brother and I knew no other reality either. Fortunately, I've faced what happened to us and am going through therapy to unravel years of emotional manipulation, abandonment, abuse and lies. Unfortunately, my brother is fully indoctrinated and refuses to discuss est or view our parents in any objective way (despite the fact that he moved to New York 15 years ago "to get as far away from them as possible"). He seems devoid of empathy and uses "est speak" psychobabble to avoid all conversations.

Does anyone know of support groups for people raised in LGAT/Landmark/Erhard/cult families? Specifically in the LA area?

I've met a few other people over the past couple of years who had parents in est and we all share a similar struggles. After researching what est was and finally understanding what it is, I'm bursting at the seams to discuss it.

As far as I'm concerned: the first rule of est... talk about est.

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Re: Landmark and Fight Club
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 10, 2017 10:19PM

If you decide to set up a support group, it might be a good idea to
establish a vetting process. Here on CEI message board, some est or Landmark
sympathizers actually gave misleading information to people who were
trying to free themselves from the conditioning.

Someone wrote here because her husband was pressured by his boss to do Landmark or lose his job. When we advised her to get him to a lawyer ASAP, someone named 'Elaine' showed up. Read the entire discussion.



(This thread is five pages long. all are worth reading. This gives lots of examples of Landmark disinformation.)

Twelve years ago, when this was the Rickross dot com URL forum, there was someone pretending to be concerned about Landmark named 'tricky' and who claimed to know how to help people escape from the conditioning,

If any of this material gives you bad feelings, feel free to take a break.

"Guy' was on our side. He once was a Forum Leader -- and he had left Landmark and was now helping people to get free from the conditioning.


In this page, someone named 'tricky' claimed that Landmark wore off after awhile.

Rick Ross stepped in and pointed out that the problem with Landmark is that its
effects do not wear off.


Post by 'tricky' to 'Hossgal'. Hossgal was trying to recover from Landmark.

Note how Rick Ross stepped in.


One good precaution is to keep all discussions at group level. If any discord
arises keep it at group level and resolve it at group level.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2017 10:28PM by corboy.

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