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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: $375lighter ()
Date: September 27, 2002 12:46PM

I participated in the Landmark Forum not long ago. Yes, I got some important “breakthroughs” from it. But I was also taken in along with everyone else in the room for those three days.

Below is my tongue-in-cheek version of what the Landmark Forum Leaders’ Manual would read like if I had written it. Writing it was most cathartic (sorry about the length). This pseudo-manual is based on (1) my experiences at the Landmark Forum, (2) my discussions with others who have taken the Forum, (3) my subsequent research, which so clearly illustrates the strategies/rhetoric I witnessed in the Landmark Forum.

If you’re considering the Forum (no doubt pressured by happy, transformed friends or relatives) read my impressions and then do your own research. You’re a human being with a free will and the right to make up your own mind. Don’t give that away – no matter how many times your Landmark friends tell you you’re living in a fantasy by dissenting.

One Disgruntled Forum Graduate’s Translation

…At the beginning of Forum, give the opportunity for those not interested to leave and get their money back. If anyone does have the guts to get up in front of the 100-odd people staring at them, watch them with a mildly amazed expression until they leave the room. The other 99 people (hereafter referred to as “customers”) will notice this behavior and sit quietly. Don’t worry about the customer that got away. You didn’t want an unimpressionable prospect anyway, and his desertion has served a useful purpose. The others have been tacitly warned. When offering the second opportunity to leave and get your money back (minus $100 deposit this time), it’s unlikely anyone will want to draw the same reaction from you – on top of feeling stupid that just a ½ hour ago they could have gotten the entire $375 back. Do not divulge the true nature of the three-day Forum until after both “money back” opportunities have passed. Just keep telling everyone what an amazing opportunity they’ve been presented and the incredible “transformation” they are about to experience in every aspect of their lives (now that it’s non-refundable).

Describe the Forum as a “Roller Coaster Ride” so that customers expect and thereby easily dismiss any discomfort and doubt they might feel during the Forum. Do not further explain exactly what kind of ride you’re really taking them on. Ask them if they’ve “got it” and ask for a unified showing of hands.

Be sure to claim that Landmark Education Corporations teachings are compatible with all religious belief systems (as written in The Manual). The “life has no meaning” and other objectional stuff that is incompatible with most religious frameworks isn’t presented until day 3. Odds are good they’re hanging on every enlightened word you utter by then and they are actually eager to drop all of those confining “filters” or contexts that would normally send up red flags.

Don’t seriously entertain questions. If the customer seems to be making some sense, do not allow this to infect the other customers/revenue base. Instead intimidate the customer by telling him/her that their barrier is that they think too much. This way you effectively invalidate any argument before they even make it. Tell them they’re not going to “get it” if they keep on like this. They should do whatever they can to try to stop evaluating what’s happening around them. They aren’t being ‘coachable’ or open to transformation. Reinforce these assertions by asking the rest of the customers/revenue base if they “get it”. They will raise their hands in unison. The doubter will likely sit down and shut up like the good little revenue stream that he/she is.

Play dumb. Make customers articulate their objections. Chances are they are sufficiently bewildered by the barrage of terms and concepts that they won’t be able to give an airtight argument. When this happens, rely on your training and pat answers to the usual objections. Most customers will be intimidated and ‘outlogicked’ into backing down and shutting up.

Deny the origins of Landmark Education Corporation, preferably in an intimidating manner. Ramble for 10 minutes using a hypothetical argument like “Where did the ideas of Landmark come from? Where does ANYthing come from? Where did the idea of a cup come from? Who cares? All you know is that it works when you’re thirsty and need a drink!….” After you’ve gotten everyone on board about it not mattering WHERE the idea came from (they “get it”), lower your voice 3 decibels and hurriedly go over a vague, nonchalant sentence or two about a guy sitting in his living room with his family reflecting on life and discovering some transforming things that will change the world for the good. Avoid using the terms “est” or “Werner Erhard”, and never EVER mention anything about cults or brainwashing unless it’s to make a joke about how only ignorant non-transformed people would draw that parallel.

Never ever stray from the strategy of reading the manual word for word for the important stuff. It is not only mind numbing to customers, but does not allow a clear, linear progression of thought and thus the opportunity to reflect and assess what’s being fed to them.

Do not claim that there are any absolute answers. Of course, Landmark is the absolute answer, but this will meet with resistance from all of your independent-minded customers. It’s much more effective to give everything a wee bit of credibility (not ‘good or bad’, not ‘right or wrong’, not ‘true, untrue’ etc.) to put everyone at ease about themselves and their annoying tendencies to evaluate and discern what they adopt. Simply tell customers that they must shed all such opinions and beliefs in order to grow, succeed and transform (now they’re ready to accept anything you say without question.) Go one step further and reveal that people throw up these defenses, or filters, for one of two reasons: (1) to look good, and (2) to not look bad. If they buy this (and they will want to) they will be able to see that, though not "bad", these outmoded defenses are clearly now selfish and vain. Watch the desire to evaluate ideas subjectively drain from the room! By denying that you’re telling them a ‘truth’ you are less likely to experience resistance to Landmark indoctrination.

Do not allow customers to reflect, question logically, take notes, or talk to other customers during Forum sessions. Unified disagreement must be avoided at all levels and costs.

Instill group behavior, not individual behavior. This includes group confirmation by the raising of hands at key moments as well as group behavior conformance to an exhausting but useful set of tedious, confining rules. You will not have to do much to enforce rules. The herd will self-govern and actively keep one another within the invisible boundaries you’ve drawn through an unarticulated intimidation (often referred to as “peer pressure” in pop culture circles). No one will want to be the lone dissenter. More useful techniques can be observed under the social psychology subject areas of “group think” and “mob mentality” should you care to pick up more skills.

Tell customers they’re learning to be their own person, free, and empowered. They are more willing to believe this than that they are enduring similar influences as “Stockholm Syndrome” hostages (though not on as grand a scale). People are arrogant by nature and will resist accepting they could be manipulated in this way. Particularly when they’ve become “free” and “empowered”.

Tell customers that “Integrity is not about rules or imposed demands” This guidance should not interfere with the rules and imposed demands Landmark places on customers; we must engender dependence and further paid coursework, after all. Your apparent honesty and integrity will dispel any question of your being genuine and they will not even recognize our rules or imposed demands as such. Tell people something about integrity and they’re more likely to believe you’re modeling integrity than that you have none. For further examples, consider similar messages from history: “I am not a crook!” and “I did not have sex with that woman!”

Create and enforce an atmosphere that engenders Cognitive Dissonance. This can be promoted with uncomfortable chairs to sit in for upwards of 36 hours during the Forum, only infrequent break for nourishment, restrooms and beverage intake (it helps to give telemarketing assignments and other assignments to be carried out during the break to further reduce time for rest, reflection and nourishment). Also ban aspirin and alcohol that might counterproductively relax and alleviate headaches, and maintain an exhausting 9a.m.-midnight agenda plus travel time and emotionally draining homework. Combine this with charged emotional highs and lows during the Forum and extreme boredom as “The Manual” is ceaselessly read aloud and you will have effectively worn down, exhausted and numbed your customers in short order. Their lack of alertness is, in fact, important to the sale. Educational experts recommend many more breaks, rest, opportunities for interaction and debate, etc. for a real democratic learning process to take place. We at Landmark Education Corporation are NOT running a democratic learning environment. Do not make this mistake. The necessary mental and emotional strain and exhaustion will leave customers eager to grasp onto anything that resembles a firm foundation and consensus. Provide said firm foundation and consensus in the form of group agreement to potentially objectionable or questional concepts (unified hand raising and “got it!”s) as well as encouraging customers to share heart wrenching, gut-spilling stories of their past - always at the microphone in front of 100-odd strangers. Customers will believe themselves unified and on task. be continued

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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: $375lighter ()
Date: September 28, 2002 11:49AM

Do not allow questions, particularly about intentionally complex or confusing vocabulary or “distinctions”. Intimidate those asking questions by (1) requiring them to ask in front of the group at the microphone, and (2) telling them that their “racket” is to analyze. They are suffering from this “inauthenticity” (which is neither good or bad, per se… but should be eliminated). Tell the customer this prevents him/her from moving forward and taking action in life (being “transformed”). When the customer accepts this view and commits him/herself to not thinking too much, they are more open to suggestion. If customer does not appear sufficiently intimidated, ask his/her fellow customers to raise hands in unison to show that everyone else has “gotten it”. Dissenter will sit down and shut up, and is no longer a threat to your sales/revenue goals.

Bombard customers with new and confusing language (old words with new meanings) and concepts. This will keep them both slightly in the dark about the real agenda of Landmark, and allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment and acceptance when they finally feel they understand what you’re getting at. Keep asking “did you get that?” They’re bound to feel that they did after a while if they keep raising their hands in unison. “Enrollment” should be slipped into your monologue 20-40 times an hour. No less. Explain that it means engaging others in conversations about their Forum breakthroughs. This will lead to Curriculum for Living, Advanced Course and Forum financial commitments and enrollment. Pretty cool, isn’t it? Subconsciously, we must always impress the connection between conversational ‘enrollment’ and pyramid-scheme style course ‘enrollment’.

Create a situation on day 3 whereby you will be justified in telling customers they have no integrity and instill in them the need to redouble their commitment to being ‘open’ and ‘coachable’ lest they remain terrible and dishonest people. Talking out of turn, standing instead of sitting, being late… any of these examples will suffice. Emotionally extort customers by throwing a temper tantrum in front of them and refuse to continue with the forum (i.e. lead them to higher levels of transformation and further “breakthroughs”) until they recommit themselves. By now they’ve become hungry for your guidance to a degree that they will eagerly apologize and submit. Go one step further and make them repeat the words aloud instead of raising their hands. This will let you further blackmail them by holding them “to their word”. Their contrition and humiliation in the face of your integrity will reinforce their own sense of growth. This is a particularly effective and proven technique in all successful mind-control-based organizations. (The local Landmark crew will reinforce integrity angle with follow up seminars, the first of which is “Integrity: The Bottom Line”. Local Landmark members will demand that customers attend, requiring special permission to skip seminar for emergencies, etc. This session is key to breaking down any resistance to future seminars and expensive courses. It also helps to get the customer’s group members to also call him/her to harass him/her into coming. This is particularly effective with customers who possess decency and a sense of obligation to others. But we digress – this was covered in the Volunteers/Assistants Manual.

The Forum must be conducted in this manner: 5% on Friday, 30% on Saturday, 60% on Sunday (5% in the Tuesday night wrap up/sign up session). Though each day is the same grueling 15 hours of sitting around. This is sufficient time for you to slowly and surely reel in the customers and get them to trust everything you’re saying. The most objectionable (and emotional) material is strategically spaced according to this schedule.
Once customers are sufficiently reeled in and in full agreement with you, you are encouraged to use high-pressure sales techniques with abandon. Some such proven rhetoric includes “How DARE you not share this [Forum/transformation/other Landmark jargon] with everyone you know?” And “Money should NEVER be a barrier to enrolling in the Forum or Curriculum for Living. This is about your LIFE. Isn’t your life worth it? Isn’t your family worth it?” And “Some of you are hesitant to invite your friends, family and co-workers. That’s ok. It’s not good or bad. Just be miserable all of your life! I don’t care.”

Before every break, give customers the assignment of calling up people in their sphere with whom they must become “complete”. Most will stun their contacts with their humility and will experience a sort of euphoria and empowerment. This will reinforce the telemarketing behavior and increase the likelihood that they will contact other potential customers. As a side benefit, it limits the amount of time customers have to obtain nourishment, rest, and feedback from other customers about what’s really going on here.

It is a proven psychological phenomenon that the more you flatter customers that they have become “empowered” “their own person”, “transformed” and “free”, the more they are likely to believe you – and the more devoted they become to your guidance, assured of your concern for them and their emotional/social well being.

After every infrequent, insufficient break, spend a minimum of 1 – 1-1/2 hours pitching the $700 Advanced Course. Most customers will be more focused on the lofty vision of their future transformed than the fact that they’re being effectively pitched. Never forget that your Landmark Forum Leadership abilities are being evaluated based on how many people you can get to sign up and plunk down $700 for the Advanced Course, as well as how many of your customers’ telemarketing contacts sign up at the Tuesday night session.

Refer repeatedly to Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, etc. Infer that customers are learning the same secrets of benevolent greatness that these heroes possessed. No one will be able to argue with that. Couple this suggestion with the revelation that you want to transform the world… or want world peace.. or something equally ambitious and noble. If you can do this with tears in your eyes, kudos. If you can tie it into a story about how you promised your mother on her deathbed that you would do this noble work until the day you die… highest marks! Only the most cynical customer will question their tearful, orphaned leader.

When you (repeatedly) tell customers that their telemarketing contacts must bring (1) their checkbooks and (2) appointment calendars to the Tuesday night meeting, make it sound funny. They really like you by now and will laugh along with you. Nothing’s better than to get them to laugh at the blatant (and therefore obviously false) greed you’re displaying. They won’t believe there’s anything sinister in it. They’ll believe that it’s not about money but about your loftier motive of changing the world as quickly as possible. You’ve mentioned this enough times by now. It has sunk in as truth. And they will feel like ambassadors for world transformation, not unpaid salespeople.

On the last day, be funny. Incredibly funny if possible. This will enhance and reinforce customers’ feelings of euphoria at having “gotten it” and that they’ve “graduated” and taken that first big step toward total “transformation”.

Never be overly empathic or sympathetic. You are not at the same level as customers, you are transformed. They will want to be more like you, and will endure your insightful admonitions that they are “slimy” in the interest of one day climbing to your enlightened pinnacle. (Say “slimy” in a funny way so that people will laugh and not resist or realize they’re being publicly humiliated.) They will feel you are empathic enough when you give them your own round of tearful stories about the dark, hopeless, pre-transformation hell that was your life before Landmark.

Convince customers that all the crummy things that have happened in their lives are only fantasies or lies they made up to support their negative feelings about those events (“rackets”). For example, if a customer’s father used to beat him, you must make the customer accept that his feeling that “my father is a bad guy who beats his kids” is a total fabrication (a “story”) and all such fantasies must be banished. Convince him that his father really did love him but had an odd way of showing it. People will do anything to believe that people are good and loving and not bad or evil. This is almost guaranteed to work as the customer is standing in front of his fellow customers (in a seemingly “safe” environment) all of whom have just raised their hands in unison to indicate that they “got it” and were “touched, moved and inspired” by the surprising truth of it (but don’t use “truth” as it will spark resistance). Next insist that the customer/victim of child abuse call up his abusive father and apologize for ever believing the fantasy that he was a bad father. Be sure to tell the customer to invite his father Tuesday night, and bring his checkbook. Don’t worry about any confusion the customer has, his feeling of empowerment at re-categorizing his abusive past will alleviate this. This strategy works with all manner of horrible events: rape, sexual assault, physical assault, verbal and emotional abuse, workplace harassment, etc. The more tragic, the stronger the feelings of “empowerment” when they apologize to their abusers (and invite them Tuesday – checkbooks in hand).

[Disclaimer: Landmark does indeed instill breakthroughs in “empowerment”. Never in my life have I felt more empowered than on Tuesday night as I drove to the store to buy cat food and toilet paper… when I should have been attending the final Forum session.]

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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: $375lighter ()
Date: September 28, 2002 11:55AM

Thanks for reading and responding, Hope. I'm glad someone got something out of my diatribe - makes the catharsis so much more solid. Sounds like you have a lot more reason to complain than I do. At least you had the guts to hassle them for some kind of resolution. I don't even want to answer my phone!
Take care of yourself.

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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: Hope ()
Date: September 29, 2002 12:30AM

Diatribe? No! Perhaps this can be put in with the other articles on the Rick Ross web site. It is so well written, so truthful, so exactly what I was experiencing but couldn't believe they could mean what they were saying.

Now, imagine a therapist doing the same thing, yet throwing in a little "real psychotherapy", a little real scientific proof. A Landmark fanatic - his integrity was incredible. Always late, never fulfilled promises, tried to get out of paying (dual relationship), and then left the country without properly discharging his patients. Landmark did wonders for him.

THANKS $375 lighter.


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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: $375lighter ()
Date: December 07, 2002 05:01AM

When I did my initial research (post-Forum) I had come across a web page that described the episode of declaring LGAT participants unclean/impure/lacking in integrity.. requiring that they recommit to the rules before continuing. I would love to find that reference again as it so clearly demonstrated the careful orchestration and manipulation involved in Landmark Forum (reading that description was the critical turning point for me, anyway).
REQUEST: If anyone has come across this reference in their research can you please post/send me the link? It reads as an actual description of events, as opposed to being heavy-psych jargon.

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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: Boz Martyn ()
Date: December 25, 2002 02:58AM

That's interesting. But our leader, Bill Palmer, never seemed to be actually reading from the manual. Ever. He would go and look at it from time to time, then would seem to go totally impromputu with how he presented the info. This gave the illusion of total mastery, which is his forte as one of the original est guys. So I'd have to say that there was little -- to me, anyway -- that was totally boring. Rather, I found his presentation quite compelling.

In other words, he just numbed my mind in a different way than the boring ones do. LOL

- Boz

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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: Pauly ()
Date: January 15, 2003 07:02AM

I would fervently encourage people to do serious research on this organisation before embarking on any of its so called "curriculum for living". Fundamentally - I believe people need to understand that the confrontational breakthroughs that are supposedly achievable over a rigorous weekend (known within the psychological circles as "drive thru deliverance") - can be achieved proficiently and readily by trained counsellors and psychologists through diligent medical channels- and ironically - at a markedly cheaper basis.

Landmarks curriculum has yet to convince me (or a large percentage of the psychology field) that it works. It employs “cult like” behaviours and manipulations (“loaded language”, group intimidation, elusive vague end products – ie: getting “it”). There are simply far too many personal accounts and detrimental case studies made about it for it to be considered psychologically watertight.

Imagine for a moment that Landmark education operated as a franchise food outlet. Would you purchase food from there - knowing that there were hundreds of personal food poisoning accounts and even court proceeding brought against them. Suppose for a moment that this food outlet was founded by an individual – with a shady past including tax evasion amongst the claims brought against him. Would you hand over a hefty sum of your money to this organisation? And (as an analogy) to think this food outlet would specifically market themselves to people with eating disorders or obesity (or as forum puts it - "you wouldn’t be here if something in your life was lacking").

It just doesn’t gel. As an analogy - Landmark education takes the approach that vomiting after every meal - is the surest way to lose weight. Would you trust this technique to your emotional and mental wellbeing?

Traumatic events and psychological disorders are a fact of life - I applaud people who have the courage to act on these painful elements of themselves. But I would confide in medically trained professionals - and be comfortable that there is no "revolutionary overnight cure" - but you will learn the proven techniques to empower yourself and to accept and move on.

Strong evidence suggests that this confrontational (EST-esque) Forum approach is irresponsible as a practice and can be downright dangerous (as is evidenced by Rick Ross's collaborated material and in Australian circles - Louise Samways "dangerous persuaders" and the Australian Cult Information Centre). There is no psychological benefit in the assumption that "inhibiting barriers" (aka - forum's rackets) can be attributed to single events occurring in childhood (which much of their curriculum claims) - it is also irresponsible - and yes possibly dangerous - to revisit (under mass hypnosis by an untrained/uneducated individual) traumatic childhood events. Psychologists use hypnosis only under the most controlled and strict adherence’s.

And that is just the surface. Do your research - use an objective mind - indeed be reasonably "uncoachable" – because its your wellbeing at stake.

Landmark/Forum - the "McDonalds" of modern psychoanalysis (or a lack thereof)


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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: Hope ()
Date: January 15, 2003 07:46AM

I appreciate your comments on Landmark. The problem with doing research beforehand is, people who've been there and have not had a positive experience, have a difficult time explaining what happened. It's similar to trying to explain what a sociopath\narcissist does. Stating out loud what happened doesn't give a clear picture. The ones that think LF is great, well, they're no help.

My naturopath used Landmark technology as therapy. He lied about his credentials and gave a very convincing presentation. After 1-1/2 or so yrs of "therapy" and having attended the Forum, I still have days where I think it must be me - I just didn't get it, that this guy is not the monster my shrink says he is.

The "technology" is so simplistic, it seems to make sense. The problem is, participants want it to work and when it doesn't it's further proof of their unwillingness to look at themselves (according to my doctor and LF).

LF people claim they do not practice psychotherapy, but if you read my emails from my seminar leader, that's clearly what they are trying to do.

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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: Pauly ()
Date: January 16, 2003 05:53AM

I can truly empathise with the problem of traumatised graduates not being able to verbalise what it is that they are so depressed/upset about (I was no different) - yet this is a credible side effect of shoddy psychoanalysis and psycho"restructure" and is fairly common symptom throughout the trauma counselling field – and is also common to the pursuit of the elusive end point (“got it?”) where the person finds themselves emotionally exhausted and extremely open and vulnerable to suggestion and thus have reduced ability to assemble rational self analysis.

Perhaps supportive deprogramming efforts need to be directed from the standpoint that these symptoms of "vague depression" are a common flow on effect from induced trauma of the personality?

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Considering the Forum???
Posted by: glenn7 ()
Date: January 22, 2003 12:09AM

i have done the landmark form and advanced course,
i got alot out of it, it did help with all aspects of my life.
i have told people about it, and they run it down
and thats ok.
people even have run me down for doing it.
and thats ok.
but the thing i notice about these people is they run everything thing down that they don't understand, like ,trust.

in short landmark gives you the tools for the GAME of life.
that is what they first tell you, look on the front of the brouchure.
anyone can take that as they want.
i leanrt from landmark.
some people by the comments here just want to prove that they are right by running things down.
thats the way they choose to play there game of life.

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