Left confused, verbally abused and in debt after Landmark Forum. Anyone else?
Date: January 02, 2020 11:49PM
I found this forum while I was researching into Landmark and it made me feel less 'stupid' for feeling the way I do about Landmark. My research came about after watching Leah Remini's Scientology & the Aftermath series. So many little things made me acknowledge that I had seen these techniques and things being discussed at Landmark Forum.
I couldn't find an existing thread that covered what I want to share so I have started this new one. I have spent the last few weeks coming to terms with what happened to me at Landmark Forum and finding this website I see it wasn't all in my head, other people have had bad experiences and I am allowed to speak out. I wanted to share my story.
I was introduced to Landmark by someone who I went to for to get skin treatment for nearly 15 year. Let's call her Emma. Her girlfriend was very involved in Landmark. Emma had mentioned Landmark to me over the years, invited me to events and I always kindly declined. I had done a tiny but of research and articles questioning whether it was a cult came up. This was a red flag for me. Plus, their website seems very corporate and uses stock imagery that seems clinical.
Emma's girlfriend, let's call her Karen, befriended me and would always talk about Landmark Forum. Over the past 10 years she drops Landmark into every conversation. I always held the subject at bay best I could.
One day out of the blue Karen video calls me. She is in high spirits and going on about Landmark. I decline her invitations again and say I do meditation, yoga, mindfulness and I read my fair share of self help books.
All of these things help me and I can dip into what I need when I need it. I also tell her I have had successful therapy which has lead me to know who I am and why I do things. I have already sat for hours with a therapist going through my life so have a strong sense of what made me who I am and I have made peace with so much. I am in a good place.
She dismisses what I tell her and claims that Landmark changed her life and doing the forum is more powerful than anything I am doing.
"Possibilities" are mentioned a lot. She says how she's training to be a forum leader. The jargon used was so far from what a 'normal' person would use in a conversation. She was almost robotic and manic when taking to me. I now know this to be Landmark jargon.
I also tell her I recently quit my job and I am living off a couple of hundred dollars a month. I have also moved back with my family miles away from where I used to live. She says once I have done the forum I will be making more money than I can imagine, living my best life and will have so many opportunities open to me.
I ask her how. She says I have to do the forum to find out.
While I am on the video call she signs me up and pays for it. You have two years to pay me back she says. I am shocked! It's $600. I am now but in a position where I am now signed up and in debt $600. Part of me thinks well maybe she is right and this will help me. The other part thinks what the hell have I got in to? I didn't want this.
I then have to save up and borrow money to afford a $150 train fare to get to the venue to where Landmark is and I have to find somewhere to stay. A friend is away and lets me use her home for the 5 days. I also have to travel every day for an hour to get to the venue which costs and have to buy food.
As you all know from other posts Landmark control everything you do for 3 days. Part of my self care routine is being able to have regular healthy snacks to keep my blood sugar level, move around to stretch, be in fresh air, get plenty of sleep and keep hydrated.
All that goes out of the window at Landmark as you have to sit for hours on end pushed up against people you don't know, get it dictated when you can have a 20 minute break - 100 women using the 3 toilets available in a 20 minute slot was not fun for 3 days. Also, no food or hot drinks in the main room. your main 'lunch hour' was at 7pm. Even the doors are open and closed for you.
When I did get up to leave for the toilet it was frowned upon and I often found other women (healthy types like me) secretly eating as fast as they could almost crying in the corridors to hide from the volunteer staff who were constantly watching us.
Reading other articles I was also reminded by one of them about the room temperature. For some reason at times the room would be roasting hot and then freezing cold. It was never constistent and I wonder now if this was on purpose. More control?
I ended each day exhausted, disorientated and still have to go home to do homework. My stomach was bloated and sore from sitting long hours and not being able to eat. My back hurt from painful chairs. I felt broken down and crappy - but we were all promised this big breakthrough on the Sunday so I persisted and wondered that I may just have a moaning/ungrateful personality!
As you will know from reading other articles and posts about Landmark Forum the grand reveal is 'life is meaningless, the past is the past etc etc' - All of which you can read in the book 'The Power of Now' or when you take a free meditation class. It's in no shape or form rocket science. It's common sense an what most self help is based on.
The hard sell was noticeable from day one (hour one) and made me feel sick/pressured. We hadn't even finished this forum and we were told the next was had the 'real learning'. All for $800 of course. I knew I couldn't afford it and somehow I was made to feel bad because of that and like I had failed somehow. I now know this was because of the things they were 'brainwashing' us with. And it was brainwashing.
That final reveal of the forum with the 'guided meditation' to me was hypnosis. 45 minutes slipped by too quickly for it not to be, people crying and then laughing to wake up and be handed a leaflet on the advanced course. No care for nurturing or giving people space to process what had just happened - nope, here's the advanced course and you get a discount if you sign up by Tuesday.
A yoga or meditation class doesn't do this, It also struck me there was no mention of healthy living, exercise, diet or self care at any time during the Forum.
Wouldn’t they want you to be healthy and look at this if they are so concerned with peoples lives? Apparently not. It was all about a 'state of mind' and an 'attitude'. They even claimed mental health conditions would be cured by their 'forum' techniques - in my opinion dangerous to state and not supported. - Another comparison with Scientology.
I also knew it must have been a form of hypnosis as I have had hypnosis done a few times including to help me give up smoking so I know how powerful it is.
I asked the 'charismatic leader', not sure if I can mention his name on here for legal reasons, but it rhymes with Kerry. Also, I would just like to add I still have thoughts in my head writing this that are fearful of speaking up - like I am not allowed to speak up against Landmark. By typing away I am proving I have valid opinions and a right to speak up.
I ask 'Kerry' in one of the breaks about morning anxiety and how when I wake up I get anxious. He says, "After the forum you will never get anxiety again'. He then turns on his heels and walks away. No more info on that just a cold plain 'statement'. A 'statement' that is completely false. I have had more anxiety wondering how I am going to pay back $600.
Looking back I can't believe I put myself through all of this nonsense. In the forum, I witness breakdowns from women who had been raped and sexually molested by family members told to ring their rapist or molester. Landmark are not therapists, they don't have the training - how is this allowed?
On the Sunday night I invited Emma along to the session as she was already in Landmark and she was happy for me I was doing it. She even offered to come alone. Karen was now living in another country as they had split up but were still mates.
We were then encouraged to come up to the front of our guests and tell them about our experiences. I felt I had to.
As my guest had travelled nearly two hours to get to me I felt I owed her. I stood up and went to the front. I thanked Natalie for signing me up (I felt I had to) and thanked Emma for coming. I said I had got some tools from the last few days and I made a joke about being a ‘poor artist and how I appreciated their support.
The group laughed...but weren’t laughing at me they were looking and laughing at Kerry who was behind me on the stage.
I was later told he was prentending to play a violin as I talked to my guests and when I said ‘poor artist’ he did a big pretend yawn and gestured that I was talking crap.
My 'thank you' speech was cheapened and mocked. It made feel like crap. There was no merit to him doing this, no lesson to be learned. He was mocking me behind my back.
Part of my brain said ‘this is my fault because I said the wrong thing and maybe this was my ‘racket’. The other part of me thought Kerry was a major rude word that rhymes with 'bat'. He didn’t do this to anyone else.
At the end of Sunday night as Kerry thanked the guests for coming along he started crying...CRYING…. about how he loves his job and helping other people. It was a big show. He had shown no other emotions when he was alone with us over the last 3 days.
Throughout the weekend I had seen Kerry rip people to shreads as part of the forum. He was unforgiving, cruel and had no empathy.
From reading other experiences I have noticed this 'crying act' is used by all the Forum Leaders especially when there are guests from the outside in attendance.
On the Monday we had the day off and I felt amazing. Looking back I know I felt amazing because I was FREE. I didn't have to sit in a room for 3 days for 12 hours under shitty lighting and next to some stranger while hungry and needing to pee.
That's the thing - everyone feels amazing Monday as they have been talking about themselves and thinking about themselves all weekend and now they get to be free in the world. We are finally free - We can eat, pee, breathe, stretch, sleep and think for ourselves.
Also, anyone who is ringing people to make amends (as you are encouraged to do on all your breaks) will also feel amazing. They have faced something they have been putting off.
The heavy hard sales were put on us all and I decided that I would think for myself. I didn't want to bring anyone to the Tuesday 'Graduation' night because my friends are creatives also living on a couple of hundred bucks a month. I would never put a friend in a position of being in debt for $600 when I don't think that the forum is healthy.
On the Monday, I did sit down and write down all my goals and the ‘possibilities’ for my future - but to be honest I do this all the time anyway. I set goals and have a manifesting mood board. I look at what I want to do with my life every 3-6 months or so. I love doing it.
Karen was messaging me asking how it all went. I lied and said great. I was so conflicted and confused. I (again) felt wrong for disagreeing with the forum.
On the final Tuesday, I didn’t have to be back at the Landmark building until 7.30pm. By this point I wanted to just go home, but I thought I would make the effort to dress up nice and put on lipstick for this final night. Feel good about myself. Also, over the 3 days I had talked to a couple of people who I thought it would be cool to keep in touch with.
A lot of the hard sell is to do with people in it together so if they (your new mates) are doing it - you should too.
I got to the building early around 7pm and hung up my coat. I felt proud of myself for seeing this bloody thing through. I had mixed emotions but at least I had given it a try.
Then things got really horrible for me…..
When I arrived on the final Tuesday night everyone in the waiting area was super friendly and I was feeling so relieved as it was the final night. I hung up my coat and noticed there were rows of tables lining every wall inside the main room and in where we had the coats. These were the tables to sign up for the advances courses. The robotic volunteers were ready!
Kerry was at the door to the main room so I said a friendly ‘hello’ as this was the only way in and out of the main room. Without even saying ‘hello’ back he immediately stopped me walking past by standing directly infront of me and asked ‘you alone?’ in a very abbrupt rude tone. I said 'yes' and he did these dramatic “ugh - blah blah blah - ugh”’ noises into my face and waved his arms at me nearly hitting me in the face and ordered me to hurry past him.
Basically, ‘Get out of my sight’. I was able to dodge his hands by mere inches. He was right up in my face. He spat as she shouted in my face and and he was so close I could feel his breath. I was shell shocked. I’m a 5"10 foot woman but he is a taller man than me and used this against me to intimidate me and make me feel like crap.
It was so rude. He couldnt even say ‘hello’. Not to mention this was nearly assault. If I had taken a step forward I would have had a black eye or a slapped face from his dramatic hand gestures.
It has taken me 18 months to come to terms with this incident and really process what happened. I felt like it was somehow my fault. I didn't tell Karen as I felt guilty for her paying. Now I am furious about it.
I have since told her this week and the only response I got was that all my success since the forum was from doing the forum - it's not. And, her existence is because of the forum. No empathy or caring, 'sorry to hear that or that's awful" - she didn't even acknowledge what I had said about being verbally attacked and nearly assaulted.
Kerry was only interested in whether I had anyone with me for the final night and that I would have no one to sign up and sell to. Can you imagine if a yoga teacher or mindfulness coach did this to you?!
I continued and walked in the room feeling really shocked, shaken up and overwhelmed. I nearly started crying in front of some of my new ‘friends’ and I told them what had happened. To my surprise they told me I must have imagined it and it was my ‘racket’! I started to have an anxiety attack knowing these weren’t my friends or every going to be and I was here alone - so I turned around, picked up my coat and left the building. Again, it felt free.
Outisde the building, I ran into some more of the people I (thought I) had become close with over the course and told them what happend. Again, I was told this was my ‘Racket’ and ‘He’s not like that’ and I must have imagined it!!! They told me to come back inside and if I didn’t it would show I didn’t have ‘integrity’.
No one believed me about what happened even though I was clearly in shock, shaking and nearly crying - so I said goodbye and went back to where I was staying. I was then over it, angry and very upset.
What kind of person doesn’t believe someone who is clearly distressed and upset? Brainwashing came to mind again. These people were brainwashed to think anyone with an ‘issue’ was to blame as this was something inside them - the ‘racket’ which was a sign of weakness. In their eyes I was being a victim.
This is horrible but I truly believe if I had been just raped on the street and told these people what had happed I am sure I would also be told it was my fault and that it was my ‘racket’ - I am sure I would be told to phone my rapist and sort it out.
I feel angry that I didn’t officially complain. But, I wouldn’t have been able to complain - Kerry is the main guy. People would have said ‘oh thats just him’. Him stepping into my personal space, shouting at me and waving his hands into my face would have been laughed off I’m sure. Even though there doesn't seem to be a shred of humour in the forum or you are not allowed to express it. It would have 100% been seen as my ‘racket’.
I wished I had also stood up to him and told him to get the hell out of my face and my personal space but no one would have supported me. I would have been blamed. I would be the trouble maker.
To add insult to injury I was then hounded by Landmark who rang me around 3-5 times a week including Sunday mornings to get me to sign up for more courses. I had to sign into my online account and remove my personal details / giving them false ones and block 2 numbers that kept ringing me.
All this happened 18 months ago and what has really brought it back was the Leah Remini Doc. I get the impression from doing my own research on the Landmark Forum that they sue anyone calling them a cult. I saw an Elle Magazine article had been sued for mentioning they could be a cult. I read the article and thought it was bang on.
I would call them uncaring, brainwashing and only concerned with making money from a dangerous and outdated 'EST' business formula.
I would LOVE for someone to expose them and really challenge them more publicly. Someone needs to secret film them again like they did in the French news show.
I want to know what happens to the money? Why don’t they offer things for free if it helps people? Why has everything got a price? How trained in helping people/ therapy etc are these course leaders? It seems damaging to tell someone to just call someone who raped them and just chat it out.
In the last few weeks I have since cut Karen out of my life. I am still paying her back and feel sick that I could have spent that money on something that would have actually made me feel good about myself like a holiday. Also, Karen started pestering and pressuring me for her money back 2 months after Landmark. So much for the two years.
I am speaking out on my social media channels to tell every one I possibly can to avoid them and what I went through. I have sent my story to various journalists who are also researching Landmark.
Just like Landmark tell you to enrol every friend and family member I am telling every friend, family member and stranger I can - NOT to have anything to do with them.
A true friend or family member does not get you $600 in debt to do a course which is potentially dangerous to your mental health.
After I posted on Facebook I had people I know telling me their horror stories and sending me direct messages. Why don't more people speak up? People I have known for years have come forward.
The reasons may be because we are made to feel foolish for spending $600 and sticking with the whole weekend? Maybe because we are made to feel Landmark are right and we are wrong if we don't agree with them? Also, because people we trust tell you about Landmark and we don't want to upset them? - All of these apply to me.
It also worries me they have courses for children and teenagers. I hate to think what they go through as they don't know any different.
I finally feel free telling my story but it took 18 months to get to this point. Part of me still blames myself but it is not right for a full grown man to react to me like that. If he was a stranger on the street who did the same thing to me - shouting in my face and waving his arms - the Police would have arrested him.
I don't want anyone to be in that situation and I bet it happens to people more than we know.
If there are other ways which I can speak up further about Landmark Forum please tell me. If you have had other experiences like this I want to know as it will make me feel less alone and less foolish for ever attending.
And, Thank you for making it to the bottom of this post. I didn't want to leave anything out.
Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 01/03/2020 12:18AM by SpeakingUp.