"I simply moved on"

June 2002
By a Forum graduate and advanced course participant

I had a personal experience with Landmark Education two years ago. I did the introductory weekend seminar with my husband and a friend. We felt a newfound respect for each other, but also found ourselves telling everyone to come to our "graduation night." Even though we were supposed to be coming from an "authentic" level of communication, I actually found myself far less authentic and primarily focused on influencing others to embrace my new mindset.

Soon my husband and I found ourselves losing the friends we tried to influence. At graduation my husband even came to the microphone, which was a big step for him. And I then enrolled that night for the advanced program.

My advanced program was hosted by a self-inflated bully. But at that time I wanted so much to change and was so certain that Landmark Education was the path for me. This type of unfettered therapy seemed good, because it forced me to see myself more clearly and appeared to be a vehicle for helping others. At that time I was also hosting a study group and felt that my participation in Landmark would help me to be a better host.

For years I had been surrounded by Landmark graduates. I liked their honesty and frankness. They had a certain way of being themselves. But their detachment was often disturbing. And I didn't appreciate their constant focus on recruiting more people. Nevertheless, at that time I wanted to deal with past injuries from childhood, and it seemed like Landmark could help me to do this.

I was disappointed with my Forum. The leader seemed like a big bully, full of self-glorifying stories about his past. I was disgusted by the end and felt the whole thing was for weak-minded people, who needed instruction, because they were to afraid of living and creating their own lives. The program was so sensationalized, with people speaking on a microphone on stage. And after they returned to the safety of their seat, the "King of the Mountain" our Forum leader, once again assumed control. It was good to be put on the spot, but the real test was bringing others to your graduation. We called people on the phone, even if we had not spoken with them for years, to "complete" something. But then we invited them to our graduation too. It all seemed so much like sales, sales, sales.

My husband had a revelation. He was full of deep sentiments and self-examination, which I had not witnessed before. He thanked me for bringing him and apologized for past injuries and injustices. We bonded in a way I never anticipated. It was wonderful to see him moving outside his boundaries, to what seemed like a wonderful possibility for transformation. This had to be about something?

The next week I told everyone who would listen about Landmark Education. Then I decided to push my own limits through the advanced program. Perhaps this was about inner self-loathing. A feeling that I needed to purge and be cleansed. Some sense that whatever I had already done was not enough, and that by doing more advanced work with Landmark I would somehow become the person I wanted to be.

In the advanced course I found myself digging up old hurts from my childhood. One day someone shared a story about forgiving a father for sexual abuse. A light went on in my head. I should do the same thing, because my father had sexually abused my sisters and I. After consulting a Landmark volunteer and another woman working with me we all agreed. Yes, I should confront my father while completing with him, and he must take responsibility. On my next break I called my father and completed with both him and my mother. But I didn't really feel complete. Instead, I felt awful and soon found myself on stage with the group leader. This was embarrassing. He had me fully recount my childhood experiences with both parents in front of everyone and then tore me to pieces. He said I was actually the abusive person and that at the next break I was to personally call both my parents to apologize. Then I should not only invite them to my graduation, but pay for their way and enroll them in Landmark.

I was stunned and could not see or think clearly. I was embarrassed, speechless and like a zombie. When we broke for lunch I did phone my father and apologize. He sounded relieved and said, "Nothing ever happened." Some women took me to lunch, and acted like my little mothers. I was still disoriented though and didn't know what to do. I felt so ashamed and diseased, but still stayed for the remainder of the program.

During the remainder of the program we watched a film, which made the point that when something happens to us, we make up a story about it and then live by that story. What we think happened, never really did happen. This seemed to suggest that my father really never did molest me. But the facts remained the same. My father molested me and sexually abused my sisters, which I at times painfully and personally witnessed. My mother was also an abusive parent. Dismissing this as simply "stories," was not the true path to healing.

I left the advanced course drained, exhausted, mentally fatigued .

One night at Landmark, while in a break room filled with phones, it occurred tome that this was like a telemarketing team. But unlike most telemarketing teams who are paid for what they do, we were not. Instead, we were bullied and then did our work without any salary. Was this the perfect con? Selling people on their weaknesses, which we all have, and then convincing us that without another course or program your life might run amuck? The secret to success seemed to always be within that next class. All your hopes for self-improvement were contained within Landmark Education.

It took me some time to heal from my Landmark experience. However, I am grateful that I had the experience. It led me to live my life more honestly, and to recognize how we can be influenced by others. I am not particularly close to my family, but I now try to avoid conflict. And though I care about them, as an adult I can choose who to spend my time with. And I choose to be with loving, healthy people who encourage me. I know myself better now. Some things I can change, while others I cannot. I view organizations like Landmark as a path for those who have a need to follow. But I would rather follow my own path and live more freely.

Perhaps because I was bullied so much in my early years by parents, siblings and peers, a desire for independence has given me the strength to see organizations like Landmark for what they are, a process that is too narrow and rigid. Landmark may claim that it is open and honest, but it seems to focus on its own boundaries, within which you are either for or against its solutions. If you don't cooperate with the process, you are a black sheep and an outcast. I prefer to live outside such boundaries, living and thinking for myself. So I simply moved on.


Copyright © 2002 Rick Ross.

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