The Landmark Forum & My wife
Posted by: ash ()
Date: September 23, 2006 04:35AM

My wife took the Landmark Forum over the weekend. In terms of the genesis of our relationship in the past year, going to LF was step 4 or so.

Step 1: Grew apart because of various issues (the marriage grown cold)...mistakes made on both sides.
Step 2: Partner seeks fulfillment outside the marriage. My wife attended the funeral of an ex-boyfriend and "fooled around" with someone there.
Step 3: Well, Step 2 was unbeknownst to me - I had advocated couple's therapy for the both of us to resolve the issues from Step 1. We attended 2 sessions before Step 4 happened...
Step 4: Wife goes to Landmark Forum, calls to tell me she lied and cheated on me, tries to get me to go to the Tuesday graduation...etc, etc.

To my wife's credit, she has not really pressured me to attend a Landmark Forum. Over the weekend, while she was actually at the LF, she did engage in the scripted requests that I show up to graduation - and also did some high-octane phone conversations with me in an attempt to show me how miserable my life was.

That's not really what's disturbing me, however. There are three specific "happenings" which have left me unsettled, to say the least.

1. On Tuesday night, my wife's real estate partner called me out of the blue to ask me to go to her graduation (he was the one that told her about LF in the first place).

This was unusual for several reasons:

(A) I've only met the guy 3 times in my life. Total time with him: 3 hours?

(B) We've never discussed personal life.

His spiel can be condensed to a couple major points:

*It would mean a great deal to my wife if I showed up that evening.
*Think of LF as a "college level course in 'personal philosophy'".
*He, his wife, and friends have all greatly benefited from Landmark. He was able to reach some good breakthroughs with his parents.
*Anything I might be reading or have heard about LF is "just crap".
*He hoped I'd "do the right thing". A little parting pressure to close the voicemail out.

I saved the message. I plan on playing it tonight in couple's therapy.

2. I brought this up to my wife on Wednesday. Her reaction was unsettling. She basically had no direct emotional (or intellectual) response to what her partner had done. She refused to say whether she thought it was "appropriate" or "right" or "wrong" or "good" or "bad". It was all about "what I thought about it". She said that it "hadn't happened to her so she had no reaction to it". She said that if I had a negative reaction to what her partner had done, then I should call him and discuss it with him as I was the one affected.

Simply put, her reaction strikes me as inherently disengenuous. I do not believe that it is manipulative, revisionist or unrealistic for a human being to find her business partner's actions inappropriate (because he was inserting himself, uninvited, into a stranger's personal relationship...just because he knows her doesn't mean he knows me).

3. I'm starting to get the overall feeling that Landmark Forum achieves its startling "results" by impairing or re-orienting participant's moral compasses. If I'm correct, this action on Landmark's part is repugnant to me. Landmark achieves this, I theorize, by taking the following steps with people:

*Posit that there are "two parts" of any event: the facts of the event, and your interpretation of them.

*Your interpretation contains 100% of the actual "meaning" of the event. The event in and of itself is neither good nor bad; right or wrong; beneficial or hurtful.

*Therefore, "good" and "bad", being nothing more than your own interpretations, are nothing more than impressions driven by feelings.

My own grandstanding: this is moral relativism driven to a dangerous brink. I'm not sure if I agree with moral absolutism, but I do think that there are certain actions that humans can take which, for very good reason, have been almost universally identified by society as being "wrong". Mass murder would be a great, black/white example. A real warning sign is if you talk to someone who can't agree with you that mass murder, in any form, carries with it the taint of evil (however you choose to define "evil"). The gray areas come when you try to define whether war is mass murder...etc...etc...hence I'm not sure I believe in straight-up "moral absolutism". The point, nevertheless, is that critical thinking is in play with any such conversation!

*Once LF has gotten you to this point, they can then start to rah rah rah you into believing that anything bad that has happened to you in your life was nothing more than your own impressions. Since you control those impressions, they can change! Voila, the raped woman finds happiness! Hurray, the man abused by his father can forgive his Dad! It all meant nothing! We're free to live our lives without fear because fear is nothing more than our impressions; there is no reality actually behind the fear!

*While those who fall into this line of thinking with Landmark can be accused of forsaking critical thinking and being, in some way, intellectually dishonest, they cannot be faulted for eagerly accepting what the Landmark Forum is telling them. In many ways, Landmark is offering the ultimate "return to childhood", where everything is made right by a benevolent figure (even if they exist only in your fantasies). It's just so easy to want to believe that there is nothing hard and evil in the world. All we have to do is change our internal perceptions and "bam!", we can never be truly hurt again. we can now be fully "authentic" and embrace life, living each day to its fullest because no longer will we let ourselves be hurt.

This ultimately will have the effect of insulating us from everything that is wonderful in life. Everything that can produce the greatest joys, the deepest fulfillments. Because life is about vulnerability, and vulnerability is about admitting that pain, suffering, and madness (evil, even) is decidedly real. Yes, even your own internal disillusionment and/or pain is real, and was caused by real things happening. I'd even posit that fully admitting this to yourself is one of the first steps towards a REAL "authentic" experience. Bottom line, real life carries with it the potential for danger and for preciousness...all at once.

Only when you can be vulnerable to the reality of life are you capable of really appreciating the precious moments (time with your children, with your parents, with loved ones in general...time alone as well, enjoying what you love/like the most).

*Even more disturbing, Landmark Forum's "reprogramming of your moral compass" results in some very disturbing ambiguity. I began to suspect this in my wife, and confronted her with the classic example. I said to her "so, answer me this one simple question: when Hitler embarked on a campaign of genocide, was what he did right or wrong?" Her immediate answer was "well, for those affected, it was..." I retorted "no, that's not what I asked, I asked if it was RIGHT, or WRONG. Plain and simple, today, right now, for you, was it right, or wrong?" ........"well it happened in the past".....etc.

She couldn't face it. At the core of my being this hurts me. I know that if I'm to stay with this woman we have a long road to trod, but as it stands, we can't even face the REAL relationship issues we have until some of these fundamental LF tenets are challenged.

Anyone else have any success working through this?

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The Landmark Forum & My wife
Posted by: nutrino ()
Date: September 23, 2006 12:20PM

*Anything I might be reading or have heard about LF is "just crap".

Oh Gosh! What in the world do you think they were referring to ?

Mmmmmm.... why do they even bother having to to warn you off anything "you might be reading"..... ?

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The Landmark Forum & My wife
Posted by: MarkusWelch ()
Date: September 23, 2006 02:23PM


Your observations are spot-on.


Markus Welch

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The Landmark Forum & My wife
Posted by: joe6 ()
Date: September 26, 2006 04:12AM

> It's just so easy to want to believe that there is nothing hard and evil in the world. All we have to do is change our internal perceptions and "bam!", we can never be truly hurt again.

Yes, it is possible to control your perceptions like this, but it only works if people around you play along with the game.
Where can you go where everyone is playing the same game? Why, to another Landmark weekend, of course. The need to be around people who play along with this childish game of "perception control" explains two things:
1. You become addicted to going to Landmark courses so you can be in this controlled environment.
2. When you are outside of Landmark, you are abusive to people who are party-poopers and don't play along with this game by popping the bubble and bringing reality back in. This abusive behavior why they are called "estholes", since this started way back with the "est" organization.
But I think you are correct about the childish game they play. This is the vaunted Landmark "technology".

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