Myles, I've been to a few LGATs - here's what I learned about myself:
Lesson #1) I had serious problems with authority.
The cost of that was having 4 different jobs in 10 years. Given that I write software for a living, it's probably not a big deal, however, my mother (not so much my father) in particular found this situation laughable - and scolded me for not being able to hold down a job. She was employed for 18 years with her employer, before she started her own business in which she is extremely successful today (makes a 6 figures income (in USD) in a country where GDP per capita per year is 4500 USD).
I function quite normally in other ways, never had issue with women, sex, money or learning new things (intelectual development). I graduated with a B.S. in comp. sci. at age 21. I migrated to the USA all by myself as an exchange student at age 16. Got my perm residence within 8 years. Citizenship in 2006. Own a home. My self-esteem and confidence was (are) at a fairly high level, perhaps too high for my own good. I always aspired (and probably still do) toward the ideal in any situation, work or life.
This in and of itself, might not be such a bad thing, no? What's wrong with learning, furthering your intellectual horizons, socializing with others, going out with women, right? Nothing...
It may seem like nothing - but that "nothing" was me, my (elitist) attitude, my belief and my perception of the world. For whatever human, stupid (or pick your favorite adjective here) reason - I not only assumed, due to my own successes in life, especially as an immigrant to the USA, that my worldview was the only one that others should have, but I vehemently asserted it any chance I got. In front of girlfriends (some liked it, some didn't), friends (some liked it, some didn't), employers (none liked it), parents (loved it... for a while, until I think they realized I was fuc*ing up in subtle ways), etc.
Needless to say - assuming that because you developed into something that others who may have been underprivileged, or didn't care to, did not develop into - something which is higher on the socio-economic scale, doesn't make me any more special than all those other folks. Even if I am able to boil the ocean, and they can't - it still doesn't make you any more precious in the eyes of Mother Nature (or your God or favorite deity, if you're religious).
When (or what) does it make me special then? Only when I can create the perception of value in the eye of the beholder, be it a family member, lover or an employer - and value is subjective and individual within all of us. You create value in the only 2 ways known to humans - by _acting_. Human action is key and paramount to everything we know about the human race, and especially - to the subject of economics. There's a book out there called Human Action by Ludwig Von Mises. If you haven't read it - go get it immediately. What you read in there will explain not only LGATs, but mostly all of what you consider to be normal human behavior from an economic perspective. To a lesser extent, the other way by which we create value is by _communicating_ (speech, verbal or written). If you ever underestimated the power of speech - your bridge to the world - then you walked into the right place to learn the power of speech - an LGAT (and I may add, Landmark in this case is particular in how they use speech), and moreover, this forum. You'd be wise to listen to all that is said - here or in the LGATs, if you wish to complete your picture of reality.
Lesson #2) I underestimated the power of talking, speech and communication. I held a (bad) belief that "talk is cheap".
I briefly mentioned this in my previous point, but that is the second thing I learned in the LGATs. The _mastery_ with which the stories in LGATs is delivered, the groupthink that takes over each individual in an LGAT, is, IMHO, unprecedented.
Most LGATs, or most effective indoctrination tools are in effect, cult-like in nature. They have an authoritative structure, a charismatic "funny" leader, rules are somewhat rigit, off-topic discussions are not allowed, etc.
They know more or less all your common beliefs - but repackage them, and deliver them with a punch over a short amount of time (few days typically). They use your past "sins" (whatever you considered to be sin - they will make you think of it, regress you in time, in a sense) to get to know your vulnerabilities. They use humor to disarm you. The least likable aspect is probably that they use those feelings which they helped you harbor in a short time span, to market the crap out of the LGAT to your friends and family. They take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride. They "shake" your beliefs to their foundation. They use the stories of other participants, other people, who most likely came in there with some "problem", to humble you - I mean, hey, what is my problem with authority compared to e.g. an Iraqi child killed by a bomb schrapnel ('collateral damage', right?)? They use your past against you. They use your beliefs against you. They use other people's beliefs against you. Then they embolden you and tell you you are a superhero and you can overcome this. etc etc. Create a new future, right?
How did they do this? How did you "feel" as you read this? Put a word to that feeling. Powerful stuff, isn't it? You notice I did not say who killed the Iraqi child - maybe a crazy suicide bomber - or maybe an American soldier gone apesh*t - I left it up to you to determine it.
But how? Through speech. Through communicaton. Through words. Through innuendos and implications. That's how. But at the CORE level - I HAD to use words, because that's all you understand. I could've used Kanji symbols, but then you'd have clicked elsewhere on your browser, no?
In sum, that is what I _learned_. Was it worth the money? I dont really know. If I could get it for free, sure. But then knowing what I know - asking them to do it for free, is like asking me to write software for your problems for free. That's what these people do - they realized the blueprints of who we are - and believe me, we are finite in all possible senses - and showed you that through communication over a span of few days. Powerful? Well, depends on who you ask. Can it get you "sucked in"? Most definitely. Power corrupts. Knowing what makes others tick, and being able to adapt and use that on cue - is powerful. Can it be used to extort you for cash? Yes. Can it be used to extort you to perform a blowjob on the cult leader? Yes. But the bitch is - you will have consented in all of those instances. The decision would've come from you.
Did it "scare" me? Yeah - what scared me is my own realization of how arrogant I've been all these years, and God knows how many people I"ve alienated with my behavior. It scared me because I realized how much my own parents screwed me up in ways that I considered to be normal and universal. Not so in America. Not so in the workplace. Especially not so if you come from a ex-communist country like me (I wont name it).
So what are these self-realizations worth? I dont know. Perhaps I'd have arrived at them on my own, through life. Or I may never have arrived, because, I LOVE me, and the way I perceive my life and those around me. I was a happy camper before I ever discovered that only through brutal, self-reflection and self-reexamination, can you ever refine your thinking processess to the point where you are able to understand the essence of who we are - belief driven creatures. Whether it is an accepted (in the physical world) belief (water quenches thirst), or a learned belief (education, school, books, culture) - it is that, a belief.
And beliefs find a way into your head through one way and one way only - language.
I'll close with your belief about avoiding your sister - why did you do it? Or more precisely, can you in a single paragraph outline for me the reasons that led you to dodge your sister for 12 years. I can guess some of them, but I won't be so audacious to do so.
BTW, check out another post on this forum subject "Beliefs". Another LGAT user also is "confused" about his belief system, much as I was....
Until, I had, as some would call it - an "epiphany"..... I give partial credit for that to the LGAT. The rest was all me. Before, and after.
I was unaware of this site before taking the Landmark Forum in March 2006. I might not have taken it based on some of the posts that are here.
For those of you that are curious, here is what happened with me during the weekend forum in Boston, MA.
I saw that I avoid difficult situations.
My sister had been sexually abused by our father when we were little. I never knew about it until we were already adults. Once she told me about it, I avoided her for the next 12 years.
I called my sister during the Forum to acknowledge what I had been doing with her. I told her that I no longer invalidate her story and invited her to create a new relationship together. She told me that she had been waiting many years for me to call. I got my sister back.
I'll tell you anything you want to know about what I have experienced so far. I would also like to hear what you have experienced?