Walked out of a "Forum" during its second day

"Instead of being an uplifting experience I found myself in a two day long negative spiral"

August 2000
By a Forum participant

I found your site while looking for information on Landmark Education--after having recently walked out of a "Forum" during its second day. I simply could not put up with their methods any longer and in my opinion under certain circumstances they could be dangerous.

I attended the Forum at the suggestion of a family member who had recently completed it and was incredibly enthusiastic about what she had "created" for herself. 

I was having some problems with some members of my staff and partners at my business. The way the Forum was described to me I thought it would promote better communication and hence be able to resolve these issues.

After attending an introduction session I signed on for the Forum. I should stress that I attended completely of my own free will, my family member had not applied any pressure.  I would also like to mention that while I do have some basic psychology college units to my credit, I am not at all associated with the medical profession.

Instead of being an uplifting experience I found myself in a two day long negative spiral--being told that even the good bits about my life were not that good and that I was carrying all this baggage around from my past.

People were encouraged to get up to the microphone and confess their "inauthenticities" to cleanse themselves [see "Cult of Confession"].  During one confession recited by a gentleman about his feelings for his recently deceased father I became very emotional.  This was obviously because I had some unresolved conflict with my own deceased father, I was told.  I thought I was upset simply because his story reminded me that I missed my own deceased dad.  I found out during the break that this person whose confession so moved everyone into action behind the microphone is actually a Landmark "volunteer" who attends several Forums.  Hmmm! [see "Mystical Manipulation"]

They kept us there for 16 hours on the first day and sent us home in the wee hours of the morning with assignments to complete.  Why does it take so long?  Landmark says because there is so much to cover.  If there is so much, why did we spend about 6 hours on the first day hearing what the Forum will do for us once we get into it?  Why didn't we just get into it? And why did we spend so much time filling out the same information on different forms and hearing about what the next, even more expensive, Landmark course will do for us? 

No, it seems to me that they kept us there because they want us deprived of sleep, and they wanted to deny us the opportunity to discuss anything we had done in the Forum with outsiders who might question their methods. 

Everyone was confused by the Forum's new language [see "Loaded Language"] of transformation, but it would all become clear, we were told.

Everyone performs a small meditation technique to clear up headaches etc, which appeared to work for some.  People were grateful and enthusiastic that their minor ailments seemed to disappear. Participants at the Forum are requested not to take any medication for the duration of the three-day Forum.

Day two arrived and I was tired beyond belief, but I got up early and headed out to the Forum--preferring to risk my life behind the wheel of a car while half asleep rather than run the gauntlet of volunteers who would grill me should I be late. 

The confessions began again in earnest and many were moving.  People let everything out in front of 200 strangers.

Confusion continued to mount and one participant asked if the moderator would clear up some points he made.  The moderator responds that he deliberately made them confusing. Subsequently, it turned out that she must be confused because her parents divorced when she was young and she blames herself. Everyone applauded and she sat down again. Everyone accepted that the reason they are confused would be revealed later.  

After our next break a distraught girl confessed that she phoned her estranged father during the break to invite him to the Forum's final evening session.  He supposedly told her he was not interested, and she was obviously devastated.  How could he not love her enough to attend?  To his credit the moderator comforted her--advising that all parents love their children.  Everyone applauds and she sat down.

Our evening session involved confronting your fears.  For me, this consisted of sitting with my eyes closed and concentrating on the moderator's voice.  He told us that everyone in the world hates us, but we are safe here, and we can display our full emotions.  People began to weep, while others had hysterical outbursts.  I'm too busy trying the meditation again to get rid of another headache, which lasted all day. I was chastised for opening my eyes before being told to do so.  I then made my decision not return from the meal break.  We were then told to open our eyes and another participant who dared to question why this exercise was necessary is ostracized in front of the group and informed that if he is not open to coaching he can "get the hell out."  

Landmark preaches that life is lived moment by moment--so I accepted the moderator's invitation. To hell with waiting, I got up and left my seat. I heard the moderator ordering me back as I walked out the door and into the gauntlet.  I handed in my name badge to a volunteer and said, "I won't be back."

It became obvious to me that the objective of the Forum is to make people vulnerable to suggestion before lowering the boom with their philosophy.  They use a combination of hostility, apparent open friendliness, fatigue, and mob mentality to achieve this. What concerns me is that a weak person could very easily be sucked into this black hole.

Personally, I don't feel that I have suffered any as a result of my two days at Landmark, other than being angry at having wasted two days of my life. Their basic philosophy, of being true to your word and taking responsibility are (I believe) honorable, but the methods they use to deliver this is extreme. It is not an experience I would recommend.


Copyright © 2000 Rick Ross

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