(quote)Date: 22 Jan 2003
Subject: How I lost my best friend
I have been reading through the postings on your website and am finding some of the entries extremely enlightening and helpful. I would like to add my own narrative in hopes of helping others who find themselves in a similar situation. You see, over the course of about two years I lost my best friend of 25 years to Landmark Education. It has been a profound loss, and this is the story of how I believe it happened.
Several years ago my friend met a man at her place of work. He was 15 years her senior, in the throes of a mid-life crisis, struggling with a dead-end marriage, and very much involved in New Age ideas and practices. I never met him, but heard enough over the years to sense that there was something slightly "off" about him. For example, he had spent 7 years of his life on an Ashram out west. My friend has always been interested in alternative paths to spirituality, and she and this man became good friends. Eventually, my friend fell in love with this man and although he led her on for about two years, it never turned into a relationship. When he finally left his wife he did not turn to my friend. Eventually he quit his job at the firm and disappeared from my friend's life. But before he disappeared, he "completed" with my friend. In Landmark-speak, this means he came clean with her; he basically told her that he had felt very compelled by their connection, but due to his own issues was ultimately not able to deliver the goods, and apologized for having hurt her. He also told her that she is an "extraordinary individual" with "limitless potential" and that she could probably some day become a great "leader" and help others in their journey towards self-actualization if she joined this organization called "Landmark", which, incidentally, had put him in touch with his authentic self such that he was able to admit everything he had just revealed to her. These crumbs from an incredibly ungenerous (and I believe toxic) person became a great "gift", and she ran with it. Within days she was signed up for the Forum, and that was the beginning of the end.
One day several months later (a few weeks after the WTC attacks, at a time when we were all feeling vulnerable and searching for answers) I came home to find a message from her on my machine. It went something like this: "Hi, it's me. Listen, I need you to do something really important for me. I need you to clear your schedule for next Tuesday evening and come support me in something that is very important in my life. I really need you to do this. Call me and we can talk more about it." She had asked me to do favors for her many times over the course of 20+ years as friends, but nothing had the urgent quality that this had. Naturally, I cleared my schedule and was there for her, but pretty much bolted before the evening was over, making it clear that I had absolutely no intention of ever signing up for a course. Commercialized spirituality is something I have very little tolerance for, and could not believe that my best friend had gotten sucked in so deeply.
Part of me wishes I had never gone to that "friends and family" evening. Until that point I was happily oblivious to what Landmark was about. After that evening I tried to search out and read anything I could get my hands on about the organization. I was not satisfied with the idea that you could only "get it" by going through it (In reality, there isn't all that much to "get" that can't be "gotten" by a trip to your local library.). That sounded suspect to me. I also realized that labeling it a cult was not useful either. Clearly my friend was not selling her belongings and moving to an Ashram. The thing that got my antennas humming was the total devotion participants displayed. Even from my friend, an intelligent, creative woman who I know to be capable of very subtle critical thinking, I never heard anything that even distantly questioned what Landmark is and does. The most I ever heard was, "It's not for everybody", implying that anyone who is not interested in doing Landmark has some kind of personality flaw or some other issue that they're avoiding dealing with. The more I read (both pro and con), the more I came to realize that Landmark's ways go against a lot of what I believe about how to help people improve their lives and relationships (I am a clinical psychologist). Also, there seem to be some ethically suspicious elements that are conveniently circumvented by claiming that Landmark's seminars are not meant to be "therapy". If a patient of mine ever went around doing testimonials about how I had changed her life, I would be considered a failure as a therapist and my ethical standards would be called into serious question. Yet testimonials seem to be Landmark's main method of recruitment. Also, termination is an integral part of the therapeutic process. Landmark does not seem to have a protocol for termination. Quite the contrary, the idea seems to be to get people to enroll in one seminar after another, ad infinitum.
As troublesome as some of the ideological and ethical issues were, what worried me more was what I observed in my friend over the weeks and months since she initially began investing time and energy (and money) in Landmark. Af first I thought the changes were really positive. She seemed nicer, easier to talk to and get along with. She was cheerful all the time, energetic, and full of fun. She seemed a lot more sensitive somehow, helpful and attentive, although I did find it odd when once or twice she called and apologized for things that I hadn't thought of as having upset me. She also began making these absolute statements about life and human relationships. She began to speak in a language of breakthroughs. She began using words and phrases in ways that increasingly rubbed me the wrong way. She began to attribute her newly found happiness to this system called Landmark and seemed to condemn things like "defenses" both in herself and others. More than once I found myself thinking, "Defenses are there for a reason; Without defenses people become psychotic". More and more I found myself silently disagreeing with many things she had to say but did not know how to begin expressing my disagreement because she seemed so committed and what she was saying seemed so absolute and non-negotiable. I eventually asked her to not talk about Landmark with me, a request that seemed unfair. I was saying in no uncertain terms that I could not be supportive of something that was so important in her life. It upset her very much but she reluctantly agreed to my request. It did not work, however, because she had bought into Landmark so totally that it pervaded her thinking and behavior, and it inevitably seeped into our relationship. On a few occasions, when I felt she was trying to do Landmark-style coaching with me, I'd get so frustrated that I'd say something like, "These are my feelings, and my feelings are valid!"
What was eventually most bothersome, however, was how I began to feel when I was with her for extended periods of time. I began to observe in her an intense emotionality on the one hand, juxtaposed and at times even superimposed with icy detachment on the other (anyone who's spent time with a Landmark person knows exactly what I mean). I did not know which part to attach to or go along with at any given time. I often found myself feeling confused and off-balance. She also started saying some really strange things to me. For example, I guess in an effort to be "completely open and genuine" with me, she once revealed to me that she sometimes thinks about me and my husband being intimate with each other and it makes her feel "hot" and "turned on". I had no idea how to respond or what to do with that information. It definitely gave me the creeps. She also became very confrontational, pointing out flaws that she perceived in my character and behavior without restraint. Frankly, I started to feel intimidated by her; something I had never felt before. She seemed so zealously committed to her ideas that I felt my choices were to constantly debate with her or to keep things superficial. I chose to do the latter, but that took a lot of work too. We ended up having to tiptoe around each other all the time. Because we were no longer speaking the same language, spending time together became very exhausting for me, as it undoubtedly did for her, and more and more we began to avoid seeing each other.
After about 5 months of total silence between us, we went out for dinner one night. I brought my husband along as a shield (for some reason she never talks about Landmark in front of him), and she, too, brought a date. He was clearly an associate of hers from Landmark, a creepy dude who reminded my husband of the serial killer in the movie "Copycat". He asked me a question about Gestalt Psychology but seemed to stop listening as soon as I started to explain what I knew about it; a surefire technique for making the other person feel insignificant and stupid. I had hoped that my withdrawal and silence might make her start questioning and inevitably moving away from Landmark. Instead, I was given clear evidence that she is more deeply connected with Landmark than ever. I realize that she has a lot invested there and has built a social network that reinforces her continued involvement.
One thing I would like to make clear is that people who are attracted to Landmark are not "losers". On the contrary, they are mostly educated individuals who are gainfully employed, but who, for some reason, have not been able to take the developmental step that would allow them to accept the existential reality that, contrary to what our manic, commercialized culture would like us to believe, we are not beings of limitless potential, living lives of endless possibility. Aside from a few highly gifted and fortunate individuals, most of us will live ordinary lives; grow up, grow fat, work to pay our bills on time, hope to meet a decent partner, struggle to raise our kids, care for aging parents, grow old ourselves and eventually die. And we will spend a lifetime trying to make some sort of meaning out of it all. As depressing as this may sound, a mature, well-integrated person will eventually embrace the mundane realities of life and and feel incredibly unburdened and liberated (as in: "You mean, it's OK to just be myself and live my life?"). My friend, however, and I suspect the many others who buy into Landmark, are willing to go to great lengths to defend against having to face that profound question: "Is this all there is?" While there are undoubtedly some in Landmark who hold advanced degrees and have lucrative careers, the masses are probably like my friend: individuals predominantly in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, most likely college graduates who majored in literature, philosophy, the arts and humanities, living in or close to urban centers, and working office jobs that do not embody the ideals that they came out of school with. It is at the very juncture in life that the existential question "Is this all there is?" begins asserting itself most urgently, that these individuals get introduced to Landmark by a co-worker or friend who seems to have it all together somehow, someone who is adept at "deep" philosophical discussions, someone who seems to have the right answers, someone who is attractive, or seductive, or seems open and caring in an environment that gives little value to an individual's feelings and thoughts, someone who seems to be an emotional oasis in an impersonal desert.
Landmark is a business, and what it sells is possibility: the possibility of suspending the stark realities of post-modern, and now, post-9/11 life; the possibility of avoiding the narcissistic injury inherent in giving up the idea that one is "truly extraordinary" and that life is "full of possibilities". What Landmark offers, at a price, is never having to say, "Yes, this is all there is, and it's OK", and many people, like my friend, are willing to pay the price.
NoLandmark replies: Readers: if you were thinking of skipping this one due to its length, don't. Thanks Maggy, for such an excellent perspective.
Date: 22 Jan 2003
Subject: We managed to escape!
From: Vincenzo & Ana
About two years ago, my brother called me just after midnight. He was filled with a new-found excitement and wanted to talk to me about a "life-transforming experience" he just had, earlier that evening. I listened to him go on and on about his new outlook, and how he wanted to share this powerful experience with me. We talked about some things that took place over 30 years ago, when we were children, and how he had been carrying so much "baggage" all these years. I admit I was in a bit of shock, but told him that if this seemed to be working for him, then great. As I hung up, my wife who had been listening in on my half of the conversation made the comment: "I think your brother joined a cult." We snickered over it, and didn't think much of it after that.
He continued to take various Landmark classes, and was spending LOTS of time as a volunteer in his local office. He also lives about a three hour drive from us. He would often invite us to attend one of the workshops and introduction meetings. We always declined. Last September, he was going to be driving up for a visit, and called a week prior to ask if an associate could join him for a brief meeting. Curious, we said "Okay". Well, my brother and this young girl of around 22 showed up (she was from the local office), and they got out some papers and workbooks. My friends who had dropped in for the barbique were shooting me looks of "What the heck is this? Is your brother a fruitcake?" Anyway, we managed to get through it, the girl left, and we turned our topic of conversation elsewhere. Later that night, my brother practically begged me to sign up for the class. I told him that I wouldn't do anything of the sort, unless I was to do it with my wife. And coughing up $800 for the both of us to attend this shin-dig was not high on my list of priorities (we enjoy eating periodically, and that is a months grocery budget for us!). He answered: "If I pay for it, will you go?" I was stunned. The idea of my brother willing to fork over that type of cash, made me think that perhaps, there might be something good here. So, we signed up to attend a class in early January, 2003.
The first day of the class, we sat there and listened to the host go on and on for SIX HOURS about what the L-M-F was going to do for us. We saw one man publicly humiliated and interrogated by the hostess, when he decided to leave, early on (SMART MAN!). After six hours, we were told we were FINALLY going to get started...
WHAT A BUNCH OF WHINY PEOPLE. People were actually stunned when my wife "shared" that she DIDN'T hate or blame her parents for all the "tragedy" in her life, and that her biggest complaint was that the kids didn't walk the dog frequently enough. At this point, she was starting to tell me (on the breaks) that she was not buying into this. Her exact words were: "This is a bunch of crap." After two days of sitting on hard chares and rushed breaks and demands that we stay up late when we got home around 12:45 to telephone people and write essays, my wife was in severe pain. She suffers from degenerative arthritis, and her back and legs were in severe pain. (Anyone who has been to one of these things will remember that on the first day, the participants are told NOT to take any *over the counter* medications as they would reduce the "experience". As a result, my wife could no longer sit without crying, and 45 minutes into the first session, she hobbled to the ladies bathroom where there was a small lounge. Within minutes, three of the "true believers" had converged upon her, interrogating her as to why she was there. I guess one of them realized the severity of the situation, and I was summoned. I ended up taking my wife home and medicating her. She spent the rest of the day in bed, in pain. She also told me that I should return to the LMF, in case I "got something". So, I went back. Also, my brother would be driving up for the "Graduates Visit", and I had no way to reach him as he was already on the road.
At long last, the Host stated (after a combined total of 34 hours of telling us what the LMF would do): "And here it is! The Magic Moment!" All 139 people in the room bent forward to hear the $400 pearl of wisdom that would "enlighten" us...
"According to the Landmark Forum, the meaning of life is... THERE IS NO MEANING!"
Were it not for the fact that there were 138 witness' in the room, I would have strangled her. "WHAT!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?! My brother paid $800 for this!?!?!??!?! If he was so hot and bothered to give me that big lump of cash, I could've taken us to Reno, or some other place. Hell! I can get a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu for $99 each way! What a RIP-OFF!!! During a "share" time when we were supposed to pontificate over this revelation, I looked at the sap next to me and told him he was on his own. I then went to the Hostess, and told her that she was taking part in a scam, and that her statement was a load of "horse-feathers". Her smug look of self-righteousness only angered me more, as she spoke to me as if I was a three year old child being admonished for touching something I was told not to. I would "get it" if I just kept an open mind and stayed for the rest of the night, and the following Tuesday evening session (but make sure to bring lots of friends to sign up!).
I stayed, kept an open mind to the fact that I had just seen so many people bamboozled, and decided that I was NOT going to be taking part in any future LMF activities. I did go to the Tuesday session, but only out of respect to my brother's investment. My wife (who was still in pain) stayed home.
I watched everyone "share" and speak of their new "possibilities", and beat a hasty retreat out the door as soon as it was 10:30. When I got home, I was met by a family that was fearful of the fact that I might have been "assimilated" into the LMF. While I had been out, my wife had decided to do a little checking on the internet about LMF. SURPRISE!!! She found this site, and many others of similar content. I reassured them that I was still the same old grumpy & grouchy fellow (with "issues" intact) that they knew and loved. My son was very happy that the old man was not going to get "mushy" on him.
Where we go from here, concerning LMF is still unknown. I am sure my brother will be curious to see what my reactions are, and if I plan to spend more money for more courses (Answer: NO WAY!) We also anticipate getting LOTS of phone calls from the local LMF office asking my wife to "finish" her course, so we can continue with the 10 week follow-up sessions. (Sure, and the sun will rise in the West next week.)
Needless to say (after this long-winded tirade), we are worried about my brother and how this is impacting his life. It is confusing, and not a little frightening, that a man with a PhD could fall for this nonsense. Wish us luck.
NoLandmark replies: Thanks for your beautiful "tirade." Yet another revealing inside look to what the Forum is all about. Your brother may have a PhD, but he also has issues (like the rest of us) and Landmark is helping him avoid them for the single purpose of turning him into a good recruiter.
Date: 21 Jan 2003
I have a friend who just got into landmark. He asked me to the recruitment session, and I agreed before having found your site.
NoLandmark replies: Well then I bet you found the session quite entertaining...
Date: 19 Jan 2003
Thank you so much for this site. I had never heard of Landmark until a friend started attending last year. She keeps harrassing me to go, and it is really beginning to annoy me. I have told her that badgering is not an effective form of persuasion. I have also told her that the that Landmark's position that the rest of us folks are too stupid or insincere to know what we're thinking is very offensive. She keeps contradicting herself by saying that this is not what Landmark does but then turns around and questions everything I say. If I were to say the sky is blue, she'd ask me if it really is blue or was I just saying that to be nice. Whatever. It is getting to be too much energy to be around her, defending every action and statement. Am I going to have to sever contact? There's certainly no way to argue my point of view anymore. They've got their hooks in her. Any suggestions? Again, wonderful site. At least I'm not alone.
I'm also terrified of being harrassed. Is there any way that my friend will give them my contact info? I have not given her permission to do so (and I'd kill her if she did!) but is there any way that would happen?
NoLandmark replies: I haven't heard of recruiters giving away contact info. At least in the US it is illegal for a telemarketer to call after being asked once not to. It is true Landmark's philosophy is illogical and contradictory. That's why it is subject to catastrophic failure (followers suddenly realizing they are living a lie). Your story is a classic example of how Landmark destroys relationships. And unfortunately, badgering IS an effective form of persuasion for most people, and the technique is an integral part of the marketing strategy.
Date: 16 Jan 2003
Subject: I'm going to forum in Cape Town
Thanks a million for your site. I've been coerced into doing forum by sister and brother. I have gathered all the info I can. I 100% agree that it's a highly dangerous form of manipulation. I have taken the advice you said to another person, about how to try and keep level-headed:
NoLandmark replies: Of course the exact nature and intensity of the onslaught (mind slaughter?) will depend on who is leading this particular Forum. I would approach it by looking for the agenda behind the rhetoric. Watch for the thinly vailed attempts at manipulation, humiliation, and physical and emotional abuse. Always keep in mind their one true agenda, which is having you sign yet another check while bringing new victims to Tuesday recruitment. Then, when their nonsence is directed at you, you'll be able to knowingly smile and laugh it off to yourself.
I have an M.Sc. in theoretical physics, but I'm afraid all that means is that I am exactly the type of guy who will swallow this stuff, because its not presented rationally or logcially, but uses sales techniques. It takes a con to know one, and from what I've read on the net all the salesmen type people see this stuff immediately for what it is.
I hope I come out sane! I'm pretty sure I will walk out early on. I will email you afterwards!
PS I am sad that even Cape Town is not immune to the long arm of Landmark.
NoLandmark replies: Don't worry, you'll be fine. You don't necessarily have to be a jerk to understand one.
Date: 16 Jan 2003
Subject: Need Help
I have recently had my grandmother, parents, and now uncle go through the Landmark Forum. Upon htier return i really thought that they had been brainwashed. There was little left of the once vibrant people I knew.
My parents have since come down from the Forum's euphoria, but they are still taking classes and are still evangelical in their praise of the programs.
I need help in discovering what this program really is and why it is so damaging to the people who take it.
Please help me by sending me any information you have from credible sources that I could you in an argument for themt o not send my niece.
NoLandmark replies: They're going to send your neice? That makes me sad. Sending a child to any unlicensed treatment program is extremely irresponsible. But then, Landmark makes its members "let go" of any true responsibility. You can show them my website, and also try the links on my front page.
Date: 16 Jan 2003
Subject: Forum--ugly experience
I am confused, my old life means nothing to me anymore, Ifeel empty, afraid and unable to relate to the world. I feel like I am in no-mans land. I am having a problem between deciding what is 'right' and 'wrong' and how I feel about everything. The warning bells went off for me when the leader said the 'problem' with the internet is 'freedom of speech'. I'm sorry, but freedom of speech is one thing I have always treasured. I did not question her on this as I thought it was only important that I realise that and not everyone else. I also think the act of contacting people with whom you've previously fallen out with is dangerous. There are usually good reasons as to why some people cease communication with certain types. I know I have. I contacted a 'friend' with whom I have had major problems with in the past and now regret it. There were good reasons I wanted her out of my life and those reasons haven't changed. I now realise what a sham Tuesday night was and feel ripped off. Just before I went into the town hall, I wanted to leave. I thought, " there is no reason for me to be here", I had warning bells going off in my head left, right and centre. I now realise it was nothing but a marketing scheme, designed to exploit the "experiences", of the people in the forum. While I feel I had many 'breakthroughs' in the forum, I was well aware that any "sharing", I had to do was for their benefit and not mine. I also didn't like the way the forum leader turned to the crowd every time someone said something a bit "daggy". So what? It's their opinion and they were subliminely degraded by the leader.
My parents got divorced when I was 8, my dad was irresponsible and basically showed no responsibility to me. About 2 years ago, when his second wife left him, he called me a few times and told me he wanted a relationship with me. At first I was sceptical, but he insisted on 'bringing the family together'. I thought, " maybe he's changed". I was just beginning to trust him and feel I was building a relationship with him. He hounded me for almost a year to do the forum. When I said I couldn't because I work on the weekends he told me to be unreasonable. I eventually did and now I realise the whole motivation for our newfound relationship has been the forum. I feel ripped off and a fool. Icant even have a conversation with my father without it turning into a 'coaching' session. The other night I tried to have a conversation with him and when I said world peace would be "nice", he proceeded to lay into me about how world peace would not be "nice ", that "nice", is what "an ice-cream is" and then proceeded to lecture me about the importance of "language". I don't feel I can have a relationship with my father right now as I feel sick every time I talk to him. When I questioned him on the integrity of the organisation, he told me to call them to get "coaching". I said, "I don't need coaching, this is my opinion". Itruelly feel like I am going insane. I still don't manage to see how an organisation who preaches integrity can't just stand up and say, " our main purpose is to make money. We sell you a product but that's it". Instead they say that they are committed to your wellbeing. I don't believe this.
I now feel really strange. I can't stop sleeping and don't want to leave the house. I feel like something has gone on but I can't explain it. The funny thing is that I DID "get it", but by standing up for myself, I feel I am betraying myself and going against my integrity. I think it is especially hard because I have a parent who has never related to me in the forum and I feel like it is just another way my father has violated me. The thing with a "story ", is that it has sometimes occurred. You can not take away a person's experience, even if it becomes retold as a story.
Just a quick question. Are the 'leaders' (the presenters) the only one's who get paid? Our 'leader' told us that the leaders are 'shareholders' in the company. She then said "you wouldn't do this for the money". I'm just wondering if you know how much they get paid? She made out she was doing it for the love of it. You mentioned that the only people paid in Landmark forum are very highly paid leaders or people at the top. I'm just wondering who these are?
NoLandmark replies: Abuse is very difficult to deal with, especially now that Landmark has compounded your problem by delivering its own form of abuse through your father and through the Forum. Remember that the abuse is ONLY designed to coerce you into joining Landmark. As long as you resist the abuse will remain. There is nothing wrong with you—the problem has always been with your father, and Landmark is just supporting and exploiting it. Your perception of the company is clear and accurate—never doubt that. Regarding paid employees, as a privately-held company Landmark does not have to reveal much about itself. There seems to be some question as to whether all or just some Forum leaders are paid. A "shareholder" strongly implies there is money involved. Consider a 150-participant Forum: that's a $50,000 weekend, minus only the cost of renting the space. Someone is going to get a "share" of that.
Date: 13 Jan 2003
Subject: Help me backout!
I registered for the Landmark Forum as a result of two friends prodding me at a weak moment. I am supposed to go this weekend, but I want to backout. I understand there is a chance in the first few hours of the session to backout. Has anyone heard of anyone actually getting a refund if they back out before the session? Will I get my money back if I backout that morning?
Help - I can't afford to lose the money, but I do not want to go!
NoLandmark replies: If you back out and then pester the company for a refund, usually they will give in. I'm not sure about the nonrefundable deposit though, so you might be out a hundred bucks. Still, a little more persistance and you might even get back that as well. Landmark is vulnerable to strong-willed people!
Date: 11 Jan 2003
Subject: I HATED THE LANDMARK FORUM
I first want to say that i am a very open minded person and i went into this just that way.... I did about two hours of the 3 1/2 day forum. Why 2 hours? Because after the way this lady stood up at the podium (acting all knowing) I was sick in my stomach.
My father, who heard about this from a friend, suggested i go. Either I get something out of it or I don't. But he wanted me to decide for myself.
I got there and the atmosphere that it takes place in is very uncomfortable. The office itself is not established. It looks like they rented out a room with a bunch of tables and chairs and call it "landmark eduction". I walked into a group of very enthusiastic participants and "volunteers". Once I sat down in the room, they closed the doors, and right then I was uncomfortable. The site you have just come across is not far from the truth about the Forum. It hits the hard truth!!! I left at the first break. Why did I stay so long if I didn't like it? Like I said, I am an open minded person and, yes I didn't understand one word that came out of her mouth, but I guess I hoped it would get better. It didn't... The first chance I got I ran to my car, called my dad crying and he told me to leave!!!!!
The landmark forum is bullBLEEP! (excuse me) and if you ever talk to bonnie (the boss lady of the forum) or ronnie (the recruiter) hang up or run the other way. Not only are they too persistent, they are inconsiderate. Every day before the forum, ronnie called my cell phone to pressure my fiance to join. It began to feel like harassment. I hated hearing my phone ring because i knew it was her. Finally he agreed to go (only because I didn't want to go alone). After the fact he realized he had other obligations. That alone is understandable, however ronnie and bonnie told him that the Forum was more important, and to tell his other obligations that this was prearranged and to hold off on everything else to go to the seminar.... Just to let you know, he had to fix his transmission, pick up his pay check, and had a job interview.... Now because the forum is all day, he would have had no time to do anything.
They don't care about anything but money.
Please, I beg, don't go to the Forum, save that money or use it to buy a loved one a present (whatever) just spare yourself the uncomfortable situation you will be putting yourself in.
They are a cult. I've seen how they can twist your thoughts....
NoLandmark replies: "They don't care about anything but money." Yes, once you get that, you get the whole thing.
Date: 9 Jan 2003
Subject: effects of the Forum
I did the Forum in -94 and was heavily involved with Landmark until November -97. I took most of the courses and was assisting heavily, being an introduction leader. I recruited my ex-girlfriends brother who took 2 courses and did some assisting. He didn't seem to get much out of the Forum and I was intrigued by that. I lost contact with him but heard from my ex that he didn't feel so well, having depressions.
One day I received a call from my ex-girlfriend. Her brother had hung himself.
Now I have to live with the knowledge that my part in his involvement with Landmark might have caused his suicide. I'm sure he's not the only one having taken this extreme measure to end his suffering caused by this, in my view, criminal cult.
NoLandmark replies: Wow. Perhaps your story posted here will help save another's life.
Date: 5 Jan 2003
I just finished the landmark forum today. Or, should I say, I gave up around mid-day on Sunday, finding it dreadful and useless to me. I was, however, quite impressed by the way some people seemed to get touched and moved by what were in my view some simplistic and aggressive psychological techniques. At the time of leaving the group supervisor put a lot of pressure on me to stay, until I gave up and just left. To be fair, I must say he offered to reimburse me, saying that they did not want the money of someone who did not benefit from the course. And now here I am on the internet surfing for more information in order to understand the power and success of an organisation which offers, in my view, such a poor quality of training... and I discover the whole controversy around the landmark corporation.
From my experience, I do not believe this program present any danger to balanced people with healthy self-confidence. Unfortunately, I could also see how some people got broken down by the aggressive interpretation that the "coach" was making of their story. Moreover, the whole point of the forum is to push people into acting immediately based on the principle taught during the day... which could, in some instances, have irreversible consequences. I would not recommend this training to anyone: either you are balanced and used to introspect yourself, and it is useless; or you are fragile, and it is dangerous.
NoLandmark replies: Unfortunately Landmark targets its marketing to people who are fragile. Another part of the marketing scheme is to have you come home from a Landmark meeting and immediately call someone you've always hated and try to make amends. Trouble is you haven't even begun to address the issues that led to the bad feelings in the first place because Landmark has taught you to completely ignore them. So you tell your loved ones how wonderfully transformed you have been and you attempt to recruit them. On the receiving end, it rings hollow, insincere, and selfish. The result is a bizarre and unnatural connection that either doesn't last or remains incredibly shallow. But it works for Landmark because it brings in new recruits! (See also the letter from Butterfly of 16 Dec, below)
Date: 24 Dec 2002
From: Joe from London
I am concerned that a very good and longtime friend has started to attend landmark courses and recruit as many people into their forums/seminars. Not only has he tried to interest me, with only a negative response, but has successfully recruited his flat mate. She has attended several courses, but in private she has complained to me that they are bullying her and trying to make her spend as much time as possible at their london HQ to the detriment fo her work. Fortunately she is gradually coming to see Landmark as a cult and that their practices are based on a similar 'techniques' to the Scientologists: eg: tell you there is something seriously wrong with your psyche and only they have the courses/info to help, no doubt at great expense. However, the problem remains with my longtime friend and he is still actively recruiting people. I have asked him not to try this on with any of my friends, but when you have known someone for so long it is almost impossible to distinguish between his friends and my friends. I will direct friends to this excellent website and would appreciate any feedback on how to tackle this issue with possible 'recruits' to prevent my social life turning into a sinister 'body snatchers' scenario.
NoLandmark replies: Landmark was founded by a Scientologist who stole their techniques. I like to think my website affords some kind of immunity to the Landmark infection. Sending your friends here to get vaccinated is a good idea, but make sure you get to them before Landmark does! Hey, now we've got two NoLandmark-certified films: "Fight Club" (written by a Landmarkian) and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Date: 22 Dec 2002
I have been invited to attend their forum on scholarship. What, they can't get enough people to fork out $375.00 on their own, so they give the forum "free"? Your site is getting me thinking about NOT attending. Why waste my vacation on this program and spend $500 for a hotel I will not enjoy because I am "holed-up" in a roomful of people for 14-15 hours a day!? Please e-mail me back, I would love to talk more about your experiences with this organization.
NoLandmark replies: You have good instincts. I will have to investigate this "scholarship" program...perhaps I should apply?
Date: 20 Dec 2002
Subject: excellent site!
One of my roommates has been a dues paying cult member for a year or two now. From time to time I've searched the net to find some info to try and help her & to share with her/my other friends who have differing levels of concern over her involvement with them, your site is by far the best resource I've found (I'd seen some of the info/stories you linked to before). Anyways, just wanted to say great job... keep up the good work, and if you didn't know - you're the top search result on google for the query:
"Landmark Forum" cult
good job -
NoLandmark replies: Thanks!
Date: 16 Dec 2002
Subject: Digging up the past
I have recently been contacted by an ex-boyfriend whom I haven't heard from for nearly two years. I thought it was strange how he suddenly reappeared in my life. The next thing I thought was strange was that he would phone me always on a Friday night from what sounded like a call centre. This call centre turned out to be the LandMark offices where he spends his Friday nights (how sad is that) phoning people he knows to casually "catch up", but before you know it he's starting to inform you about this course which has changed his life. Next thing you know he's encouraging me to come along to this course and discover it for myself.
My intuition was telling me that something was fishy about this reappearance of a past ex who seemed so interested in letting me know about his life altering experience so I cancelled a "coffee" meeting with him and then didn't return his next few phone calls. That didn't put him off though because he put the literature in the post.
I mentioned the "LandMark" courses to a few friends and those who knew of it didn't seem to think negatively of it but one did agree it seemed like a cult. I am SO GLAD I took the time to search the internet because I was actually considering going along to one of these mumbo jumbo sessions. If he mentions it again I will tell him not to bother me with this garbage again otherwise I won't be responsible for where I kick him.
Having one divorce behind me due to the zealot Jehovah's Witness group snatching my husband, my antennae are twitching at the LandMark concept! Thanks for providing a forum where I could confirm my suspicions.
Kiss kiss :)
NoLandmark replies: Lots of body snatchers out there. Hug hug.
Date: 10 Dec 2002
Thankyou for your website and for not printing my name or email address....I am using someone else's computer.
I have just come back from 2 and half days of this workshop. I decided to leave - with just 6 hours to go to 'transformation'. I had no expectations of what LM was going to do or not do., I wanted to consider this 'wonderful' transformation - I had heard from my partner who had done it twelve months ago and to see what it was about. My leaving was met by questions - apparently not for QA, but an explanation for why I was leaving. In landmark speak let me tell you the facts without the story:
LM Are you leaving ?
LM why are you leaving?
Me: two reasons - one I have a headache and secondly, quite separate from the physical discomfort and more importantly- I am bored.
Me : Yes
LM: you know you can leave your bags and belongings here and an assistant can go over the road to get you an aspirin. You can go back in the room. I don't want you to miss anything.
LM: we can do that for you so that you don't miss out. You are only 6 hours from transformation.
ME: I am not concerned about the construct of "missing out" - I can't miss out on something that I don't know. Your talks mentioned that "I don't know what I don't know" - so I am sure that I won't feel as if I am missing out or gaining - it just is.
I want you to hear that NO is an answer.
LM: I really think we should look at the reasons - I am committed to you gaining this transformation and you have come this far.
ME: You are very kind to feel and express the need to be committed to the program. I don't want you to loose your commitment but I would like you to hear - to really listen and "get it"- NO is a word and an answer.
LM: but why did you come here?
ME: I had no expectations.
LM: but what did you write on the form? You can't have had no expectations.
ME: as I said I had no expectations.
LM but surely you wanted to consider how your life is and why it is not complete.
ME: that is one hypothesis. You have made a conclusion on something you don't know. You don't know what you don't know and yet you are concluding that my life must not 'be complete'....your beliefs applying your own framework are erroneous and a story....now I will invite you to be open to enquiry and to take the opportunity to explore that for yourself that if your organisation openly stated that it made changes to its program years ago because it was 'inauthentic' because it wasn't working and you were being inauthentic - do you think my boredom/discomfort/ unwillingness to stay -may be linked to the possibility that your organisation is being inauthentic now in the present moment? I will admit that I am a fraud
LM; A FRAUD!!???
ME: Yes ....I am being inauthentic to your organisation because I am neither moved touched or inspired by your program and continuing to sit in that room would be inauthentic. I have realised that I would only be staying because I don't want to look bad. But guess what ?!!! I don't care if I don't look good by leaving - I need to be authentic to my physical needs (headache) and mental needs (bored). I am sure you would want me to be authentic. I am following through and taking action. I take responsibility for my boredom and now will act to leave.
LM :interrupts...but I am concerned that you are going to miss out.(realises that she is talking over me) and says...Oh I am sorry for interrupting you.
ME: that's okay to interrupt me - you just be yourself and I like you being yourself....but as I said....no is an answer. No as I said I have a headache - lets sit on the floor so I can be comfortable. You look anxious and disappointed.
LM: but don't you want to be transformed...
ME: I don't know what I don't know. Your company makes a statement that there is no someday.....well I am hearing that by Sunday at 6.00pm I will be transformed and you are telling me know that in 6 hours I will be....and why has it not happened now? Because there is no product....it sounds like a phoney 'someday'....let's face it there is nothing to "happen" and even if it was absolutely going to happen - who cares?.
Now we can continue to have a circuitous conversation but that will waste my time and your time. I am leaving -went to shake her hand and said - I think you are a wonderfully kind person and I can see you are open hearted and sincere in your beliefs and I wish you well.
LM; if you leave now you won't ever be happy
ME: if you need to believe in the hocus pocus of chain mail ...if you do this then that will happen....then I feel concerned for you....
LM: I think you are being self righteous
ME: thank you for your opinion. If you need to label the behaviour in that way to feel comfortable please do so. I see where you are coming from, I don't agree, but I appreciate your opinion.
Nolandmark.... I do not want to be associated in any way with this type of thinking. I will never speak of this experience again. I found the whole thing very very very silly....and absurd
NoLandmark replies: It never ceases to amaze me every time a Landmarkian manages to accuse a nonbeliever of being "self-righteous." There is only one actor here that qualifies for that description, and it sure isn't you! Of course, Landmark has cleverly redefined the term to mean its own opposite.
Date: 5 Dec 2002
Subject: another story for the archives
I just had an experience that I found violating of my personal and professional rights with Landmark Forum people attempting to corral me into their fold i.e.: control me.
I am a pretty well-known, talented freelance artistic director and writer who was hired by the Grady's to consult, create, and produce a national mailer and advertising program for the Bali-headquartered jewelry designer. A husband and wife team (most people call them "wackos", though I will refrain from the derogatory names such as the husband/famed designer, John, would call me. The Grady's are immensely talented and hot right now (he- creative, she - operations). The wife, Cyn, hired me at an allegedly secure and decent monthly contract rate which stipulated it was on the condition of her husband's "sanctioning" me by a certain date. He agreed, with arm twisted by her behind his back. (She knew it was a $3mil+ profit center.)
I had to travel to Bali to be "interviewed by the vampires" and sanctioned. There I was:
- subjected to rude and reptilian treatment
- required to participate in survivor hikes up and down the ravines of Bali
- designated sleeping quarters on their compound
- and being locked up/gated w/o drivers on their compound since they wouldn't pay for a hotel
- Sunday brunches with cult leaders who have exploited the Indonesian people and laugh about it
- a barrage of negativity regarding my personality (which "he" perceived as being "stupid", too Christian, lah-di-dah socialite, Upper East Side NYC - none of which I'm characterized by others as those demographic "labels" are irrelevant to my work and my personality), and ...
- being air transported thru Jakarta + 4 more cities in economy class during the worst of political seasons because they wouldn't pay for a better route or business class. I made 2 RT's to Bali and back the Summer of '02 and did not want to return without a colleague. (Unbelievably, they agreed, as said colleague was "FORUM")
Tho they all (he, his wife and entire company) loved my work, he proceeded to tell me how he didn't like me personally, and that I'd have to go to the Landmark Forum to "get it". At first, I was open, but The LF wouldn't take me w/o a Dr's excuse (which I provided) having taken a low-dose anti-anxiety after Sept. 11th in nyc. However, the scheduled Forum weekend conflicted with a mandatory court appearance for increased child support, and I could not change it, therefore was not able to attend. I was commanded to "Lose the Lawyer, join the Forum, come back to Bali" where "everything would 'work out just fine'." I attempted to keep them placated by saying I wanted to eventually take a course, but couldn't now, that it was my priority to settle things for my child's behalf now.
To make a long story short, I was pressed to decide: "So, Evvie, what'll it be? Your story or the possibility of a life. Time to decide. Get on or off this boat now." I got off, not knowing the consequence would be a total loss of income and a suspended contract after they loved my performance, and I delivered.
In addition, it put an indelible strain and a wall on a 20 year friendship with my colleague who, coincidentally, was a Landmark Forum Grad, and began proselytizing and became overly arrogant with me as well. I lost all trust in him. We have no real friendship left, just the history of one. Mind you, I was the only one with the ability to create and deliver this particular project under the time/ budgetary constraints/creative demand, though none of that was recognized.
Now broke and confused, I want to go on the record as saying: "The Forum Kills Spirits Who Don't Choose to BELONG". They have no ethics in regards to commitments with others and manipulated me into believing I was the one reneg'ing. Too complicated to even make heads or tails of.
THEY ARE ALIVE AND EATING OTHERS ALIVE IN INDONESIA. Watch out!
I believe that these people are playing with peoples' lives and well-being for their own personal benefit. I believe they are dangerous and that there should be a governing social agency that prevents them from forcing employees to join.
BUT ... I survived them.
NoLandmark replies: The reality of the situation would seem to be that they needed your skills...but reality (ie your "story") is irrelevant in light of the need to recruit. [note: I substituted a ficticious name (Grady) because we don't use last names here.]
Date: 3 Dec 2002
Thanks for the site. I was "invited" last night by an acquaintance. Was initially amazed by his story, but checked their site today. Promises seemed great (red flag!), but it was waaaaaaaaaaay to vague. The further I read, the more weirded-out I got. After a few more minutes of reading their claptrap I was embarrassed to have their site up on my screen at work (glaring red flag). Thanks for helping me to steer me clear of this weirdness!!
NoLandmark replies: One reader wrote a play called Landmark Forum and the Red Flags.
Date: 1 Dec 2002
Subject: For Jackie
Jackie opened her experience by stating that her story is not very interesting. It hit home base for me. Her description of the guy who tried to recruit her sounds like a guy I dated only a few months ago. I am scared and alarmed by the "possibility" that it could be the same guy. Thank you, Jackie, for submitting your story even though you felt it may not have the impact as some of the other stories on this website. I have decided to NOT attend the Forum and to NOT continue to correspond with the fella who suggested that I attend.
Corboy note: Will post Jackie's story next.