The Landmark Forum -My experience at the Introduction.

I quickly texted to my friend, “google landmark forum, is it a cult”?

I texted this  line to a friend while sitting in the “introductory” session of the Landmark educational meeting. A  friend had invited me, after telling me some of the good experiences she’d had.  When she described it, it sounded like a combination of motivational coaching, business coaching and personal development. All good things I thought, and I’m always interested in “bettering” myself.

From the moment I walked in, I knew that this was not what I was expecting. I had brought work to do, planning to simply listen in on their meeting and get my work done (it still remains undone as I type this).   The room was laid out like a church with pulpit almost, and as people strolled in the greetings were similar. Warm hugs, arm squeezes, even a tear or two.

I was quickly spotted as a visitor and many people came up to greet me.  I began getting uncomfortable almost immediately and sent of the above text to my friend.

After introdcutions, the “guests” were whisked off to a separate room for a separate session.  I was a little dissapointned as I’d come to sit in on the interesting information that my friend said they’d be covering (Brain science).

There were only 2 of us, plus a nice man with a nametag that read “Introduction Leader”, and an “introduction leader in training”.  Wow…whatever this thing is…to need to have introduction leader’s in-trianing  means that they’ve got a pretty big funnel of educational training for their “leaders”.

In the tiny room, our leader sat with a book stand next to him and his 3 ring binder with all the information he was supposed to cover with us.   He led us through a not-uninteresting exercise, but clearly one with an specific motive…to get you to see how messed up you really are inside.

I am currently going through some business buildign activities, and I’ve been very proactive and trying to launch a new branch of my small business…making phone calls, gathering market information, etc.   I picked this activity as my item to work on for the session.  But this didn’t fit his model at all…the leader’s example of “what I’m already doing”, “what I already have”, and “what I’m already being”, were all negatives….his was also a business situation…what he was already doing was letting sales leads slip by, not closing calls and spending his time doing efforst that were not buildign the bottom line.  What he was already being was…”selfish, irresponsible and close minded”.  He said that the point of the last part was to really “tell one on yourself”.

HUH?  What I was already being was forward thinking, proactive, seeking new education and opportunities…all good stuff…I just need to complete the last pieces of the puzzle to make it all a go.

If I didn’t already feel uncomfortable this was really starting to seem like an ill-intended, misguided effort at getting vulnarable people to sign up for an expensive course in self-help and common sense.  Not that those are bad things, but having gone through a number of small business coaching sessions that were all quite helpful, as well as being in a business that helps others achieve things they never dreamed possible (completing a triathlon), I was very dissapointed at the Introduction Leader’s approach to “discovering possibilities”.

None of the introductory session was aimed at finding solutions…and I certainly wouldn’t expect to find a solution in 90 minutes to a large problem.  Instead, it was devoted to giving you “carrots”, with examples of personal breakthroughs due to realizations of childhood traumas that have defined your personality to adulthood. (Things like being told by your school-age crush that you’re ugly, not being able to make final ammends with a deceased loved one, etc).

The suggestion taht every one has some childhood trauma causing limiting behaviors in adulthood I find very insulting. I live an examined life. I’ve overcome innumberable obstacles to get into medical school, become a  physician, invest profitably, start a small business and help other people reach their goals.  I constantly read business books looking for new,  different and better ways to accomplish my goals.

At intermission, I tried to leave, by politely telling him that I was just going to wait in the lobby until my friend’s session was done.   He turned bright read and got very fidgety.  He said, “Before you decide to leave, can we have another conversation about this?” Man, was he desperate to have me stay in the room.   I already knew that I was not interested in this thing, whatever it was (I still don’t know).

I took a break and did some pushups, handstands and planks in the hallway (I was missing valuable exercise time!!), and checked my cell phone.  Not only did my friend text me back, but her boyfriend too. There on my blackberry, two texts one right above the other simply said, “CULT!”  I laughed about it, knowing that somehow my instincts of “this just doesn’t feel right” were correct.

During the second portion ( I did decide to stay), we opened up a new pamphet, and I took the registration card out and obnoxiously tossed it in the air behind my chair, making a statement that yes, I am interested in being a better person…no, I am not going to sign up for the landmark forum tonight.  Now what do you have to tell me?

I could paraphrase what he talked about in the 2nd half, and there was nothign inherently good or bad about the content…but I failed to see the connecting of how signing up for the landmark forum TONIGHT was going to be the only way I’d slove the puzzle of letting my past limit my future.

In the end…it was 3 hours wasted, and my work is still not done.  But I felt compelled to share this with my readers and whomever else my stumble across it.

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7 Responses to “The Landmark Forum -My experience at the Introduction.”

  1. 3 hours!!

  2. Ahh, thank God you had that reaction, Doc! I saw the title of your post and my blood ran cold. Yeah, bigtime cult.

  3. This is funny. I can relate to a fair bit of what you said. I went to an introduction session and had many of the thoughts you talked about here. I actually signed up, mostly because of my girlfriend, but to be honest, also a little bit because I was intrigued. I read a bunch of stuff on the web and while I saw most people raving about it, I saw the cult stuff and it concerned me. I expressed this concern and my second thoughts to my girl friend and she dismissed it. She is not stupid or gullable so I decided to continue to trust her and did the course and to be honest, it was actually good. I am not planning on doing other courses, but I can for sure say that the cult nonsense is just a bunch of rumors and BS. Some self righteous people got their undies in a bunch over nothing. tea bagger type hysteria. — My two cents. for whatever it is worth.

    Your blog is great. Very refreshing to see a scientific approach to life’s hype. Keep it up!

  4. Ahh, thank God you had that reaction, Doc! I saw the title of your post and my blood ran cold. Yeah, bigtime cult.

  5. My best friend and her husband have gone through the Landmark Forum and found their lives enriched by it. Myself, I spent half the introductory session hiding in the bathroom with the same friend, utterly terrified and crying. I’ve got long-term emotional issues and they tripped every single one of my defense mechanisms. I think that their attraction lies in the healing power of confession and catharsis. When one goes through a catharsis, the emotional release imprints on the brain and people choose to continue with the Landmark training so they can get more of that good stuff. I think a person who is confident in him/herself and is willing to accept what the Forum has to offer will get a lot out of it. Myself, I found myself expected to tell too much Truth to a bunch of complete strangers that I didn’t know and had no reason to trust. It scared me silly. Fortunately, it was the impetus to get myself back into therapy, which is what I really needed. And my friend never tried to get me back.

  6. I have two siblings who took this nonsense, and they always talk about how amazing it is and recommend it to other family members. I hope they just went to experience it, and will not be going back or recommending it to anyone else again. I don’t know what it is about this thing, but as soon as I walked into the ‘graduation’ (whatever it was), I immediately walked out. The volunteers were nice and all smiled, that was the only thing worth noting…

    Good luck if you do decide to take it, but understand this is not your only choice. Do some research on it, and if you feel like its right for you, don’t let it take over your life.

  7. THANKS FOR THIS>My best friend growing up disappeared off the radar for a few years. Showed up and invited me to see what he was up to. He was leading a Landmark group. I sat in the back, jaw on the floor. Total brainwash/psych101 babble. We lost touch again. He got in touch again after ten years. He has left Landmark and is now a born-again.

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