Below are some critiques of the Landmark Forum. Before I list the critiques I think I should mention that the message of the Landmark Forum about taking responsibility for one's situation and being proactive to change is a positive valuable message. Sometimes people accept that things have to be the way they are instead of recognizing that their own behaviors make things the way they are.
I have heard that the Forum goes too far in that they tell people to blame everything that happens to them on themselves. Sometimes people really are victims of external circumstances and telling them to blame themselves for it besides making them feel low self esteem, can interfere with their taking action against the external causes of their problem.
Inspite of the positive message of the Forum I think that the Forum should be avoided because of the pressure they put their members under to pay for more and more seminars. The following are three essays, about the Forum. The first one is a summary of what a friend of mine told me about his experiences with the Forum. The other two I found on the net.
My friend told me how he was influenced into enrolling into the Landmark Forum. He said he was invited to a seminar by a friend. After the seminar three or four people approached him and asked:
Did you see anything that you liked or interested you tonight? Well just think how your life could be. Isn't a couple of hundred dollars a small price to pay for the rest of your life?
After the series of seminars were over he was volunteered into setting up chairs for another seminar by a leader who told him
I'm putting you on the team, I'm a stand for you. (I'm helping you.)
Later on when my friend wanted to stop volunteering he was told that he reneging on a commitment and that he let the team down.
My friend told me people attending the lecture chose projects to do. Such a project could be to create passion for one's job or to get a better job. They are required to set a schedule for getting the job done. For example by a certain date they should get their resumes out. By another date they should have interviews and so on. If one couldn't make enough progress one was asked what's getting in the way. Lets say your project was to lose 10 pounds and you gain a few. That's called a breakdown. They would want to understand why you had the breakdown. The seminars are like group therapy session in which people get up and discuss their projects and the leader responds One person might say :
"I haven't talked to my wife in 5 years?"
The group leader might respond with:
"You have a racket on your wife?"
Having a racket on someone is believing they are a certain fixed way. It's like a stereotype. According to the Landmark Forum people hold rackets on other people by thinking they are a certain way. According to the Forum people have to get rid of their rackets and realize that their rackets are not reality and not the truth.
Forum members are under a lot of pressure to give positive testimonials about what the Forum has done for them. When they hear each other giving positive testimonials that persuades them to stay in the group.
The last 45 minutes of every session people have to tell who they shared the Forum with. (Who they recruited) The meeting manager scheduled calls during the week between sessions when you are supposed to call them. According to my friend if you don't call they will make you feel guilty by saying your not committed and your not your word (you don't have integrity).
My friend told me that
"A few weeks ago I told the group manager that I don't think I'm getting a lot out of it"
The manager responded
"That's because you're not doing enough. You're not making enough of an effort."
It's interesting that the Landmark Forum that encourages taking responsibility is not willing to blame itself for failure in helping its members achieve their goals. Its always the member's fault.
When a member tries to leave they do everything they can to convince the member to continue. They told my friend the following:
When you give up you are giving up on yourself. You do this with all of your life. This is what gets you stuck in every area of your life.
Well when are you going to get in a relationship? How do you expect transformation if you are not going to be a Cause in your life.
Being a Cause means that you are actively doing something to be transformed. I suppose that being transformed means being changed into a happy successful person.
When a seminar series was over they put pressure on members to sign up for advanced courses. My friend told me that you are surrounded by an army of people to encourage you to sign up. He says at that time you are so saturated by the Forum that you just want to get out. They ask:
Did you accomplish everything you wanted to accomplish?
If you say:
No I haven't
Well you need the advanced course.
This is interesting. If their course fails to transform you they reach the conclusion that you need another one. They never reach the conclusion that the courses are not helpful and so you should quit.
When you tell them that the course hasn't helped they ask:
Why not? What's holding you back? Lack of money, lack of interest?
If the answer is lack of interest they'll sit with you. Then according to my friend they aggressively recruit by making you feel guilty for not sticking it out.
He says they close in on your insecurities. They find out your insecurities and tell you that you need the Forum to overcome these things.
No one is going to accomplish all their goals. So the Landmark always can argue that you need another seminar.
I urged my friend to quit the Forum and to my surprise he did. Then he started receiving phone calls. His manager called him and said
You got "scared." It is the thing that has always stopped you in life. I am committed to causing a breakthrough for you.
My friend received a call in which they criticized him for not continuing to come to the seminar and told him that
You don't keep your word.
They asked him why he didn't keep his commitment and he mentioned my influence. (Without mentioning my name) They told him that I wasn't a real friend and asked if I really understand the work and told him how hurt they felt and that the woman giving the seminar says that they can't trust him and shouldn't let him come back. They told him how the whole team cares about him. My friend said that the team hardly knows him.
My friend said that the reason he went to the Forum was because he was lonely. He told me that people were a lot friendlier at the Forum than at Singles events. He said that when he went to the Forum members would look at his name tag and smile and say say Hi Joe (Joe's not his real name) and they would say
I'm committed to you having a breakthrough tonight.
It's a sad commentary on our society that my friend had to go to a cult to find friendship.
Some definitions before reading the text
CO$: Church of Scientology (COS).
Squirrel: Someone who left Scientology.
Suppressive: People Scientologists don't like.
by Andy Testa
Doug Shelton (email@example.com) posted: Please give any info on landmark "forum" program. Is this similar to scientology. Was this previously called EST? Why did they have to restructure their entire program? Thanks in advance
STAY AWAY. An intense course that deconstructs personality and rebuilds it around continued participation in the group. Anal-retentive non-stop participation in seminars and advanced courses is sold HARD. Read on for details.
Landmark Forum is the current incarnation of est, begun by Werner Erhard in the 60s after he was declared Suppressive by Scientology. I'm not sure of the dates. Werner was a staffer in Co$ who squirreled: he changed the tech and thought he had a better way to "clear" people. After his SP declare (mentioned in Captain Bill's letter) he started est. Est was pretty abusive, relying on incredibly strict discipline, insults and shouting to break down the resistance of the "student". The effect is to break down the personality and rebuild it around the group. Through the years, Werner refined the techniques so that the abuse was no longer needed. The result was the Forum. NOTE: Since est was and is a squirrel group, you are an SP for participating in it or belonging to it. Since I participated in it, I have used squirrel processes and am officially an SP, not just a self-declared!
I did the Forum around 1986. At that time, it cost $500 and took 4 1/2 days (two weekends, then a friday night). I got involved through a roommate. He was very enthusiastic about how it could transform my life, so I went with him to one of his weekly meetings. I was treated to a room full of very white people in nice clothes, all very positive and testifying as to how their lives had been changed by the Forum and their current involvement. I was then taken to a separate room and subjected to HEAVY sales pitches by about 5 staffers and volunteers. My roommate was there, and offered to loan me the money, and I agreed as I was a pretty wishy-washy sot back then. So off to the Forum I went.
The Forum attempts to deconstruct personal attachments in a non-abusive manner by focussing your attention inward: The basis is being kept in a hotel ballroom for 10 hour days with little sleep, listening to the same thing over and over and over. Most of it consists of having people look at their childhood, and find the events that caused them to make decisions about other people, especially their parents. Unlike Co$, this usually results in a CLOSER relationship with the parents. Once everyone has been reduced to tears through the constant confessions of the participants, the Forum leader builds everyone back up by directing their attention on using the Forum philosophy (still called a technology!) to better their relationships and self esteem.
Sounds good, eh? Well, the strict discipline is still there. You can't go to the bathroom when you want, you take meals in groups, there are strict rules about talking and conduct, and the leader won't hesitate to shame you into compliance. Much of it is psychology parlor tricks, like making a headache go away by imagining it as a physical void in your head, and imagining it being filled. This goes on for four full days. The last 1/2 day is sales night. This night, all the participants are told to bring friends and relatives. The focus of the evening is on sales: signing up your relatives for the Forum, and signing YOU up for advanced classes.
Oops! What advanced classes? Nobody said anything about advanced classes! Yes, you are again leaned on heavily by the staff to sign up for seminars. Their goal is to have you ALWAYS enrolled in a class. ALWAYS. They claim to transform you in the Forum, but the transformation only lasts as long as you stay involved in the group. Now, when you've just finished the Forum, you're feeling on top of the world, so you sign up and testify for your family real hard. As well as participating in the seminars and Forum, they also rely on volunteers. Part of your involvement is to volunteer to help put on the seminars and Forum. In fact, most of the work is done by volunteers. There are very few paid staff.
I participated in several seminars and volunteered at seminars and a Forum. I took part in a sales barrage on friends and family during a Forum sales night. The approach is to not let people equivocate, not let them leave without signing up. "How much is the rest of your life worth?" is a common throw-away line. This group is really into the hard sell, and they are EXTREMELY anal-retentive and leader-oriented. Everything is ordered in excruciating detail, down to the separation between rows of chairs at seminars ( no shit, I had to use a ruler to measure). Any question about WHY something was done was met with a terse "because Werner said to do it that way".
I decided to stop participating after they began pressuring me to take the Six Day course. Six Days at a camp for intense further scrubbing of your cranium. At this time, I was a student working two jobs. This course cost over $1000 and I had none, so I had no intention of taking it, but they insisted. They told me to get a job that would pay for it. I refused to change my life plans to take this course, so I became a target for constant recruitment. The same happened when I refused to sign up for a further seminar. You see, to these people, when you stop participating it means you are allowing all those negative thoughts you purged to influence you again. You need them to keep you on the path to transformation. By wanting out, you PROVE you need their help. Well, they called me every single day for weeks. They would not even get off the phone, but would just tell me about the breakthroughs waiting, and how they would help me if they could, but they wouldn't accept no. They wouldn't get off the phone. I had to hang up on them. They don't see social politeness as anything but equivocation, which is seen as a desire for help. So if you don't like being rude, they'll never leave you alone.
Now this was in 1986, recall. Is it still the same? Yes. A friend of mine did the Landmark Forum this year, before I could talk to her about it. She confirmed that the personality deconstruction is still used, although it only takes 3 1/2 days now (friday-sunday, plus tuesday night). My step- son attended one of the meetings at the request of a friend this year, and he was disgusted by the shameless hard-sell. One of his friends was actually told to take up a collection from the strangers in the room so he could afford to sign up for the Forum.
A bit rambling, but hopefully it answers you question. As this question seems to keep cropping up, I'll save this post for future reposts.
\ firstname.lastname@example.org Contributing to the downfall of Scientology since 1995. /
by email@example.com (Anonymous)
Doug Shelton firstname.lastname@example.org wrote
>Please give any info on landmark "forum" program. Is this similar to >scientology. Was this previously called EST? Why did they have to >restructure their entire program? Thanks in advance
It was previously called est (lowercase) for Erhard Seminar Training; then became The Forum; then after Werner Erhard was described on national TV as being less than reputable (I seem to remember allegations of wife beating and molesting his daughter) he transferred his holdings to a corporation which became Landmark.
est was a seminar where the instructors would scream at you, inform you what a worthless piece of dreck you were, where you had to stay in your chair, and you were not allowed to take rest room breaks (stopping to pee might interfere with your "getting it").
It metamorphosed into the Forum where you had more frequent breaks and the instructors didn't shout as much (kinder and gentler cult found to be necessary when the novelty of paying to be verbally assaulted wore out).
It's similar to the CO$ in that it's an institutionalized way of separating a sucker from his money and it always has new courses/seminars for additional bucks. It never made it to legal religion status, but it could be considered a cult. Erhard is probably as much of a megalomaniac as LRH was.
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