Thursday, January 24, 2013

Landmark Experience

I did do one thing of note last week that I have not shared with you. I wasn't sure if I was going to write about it and if I did, what I really wanted to say about it, if I should say anything at all, blahdiddlyblah.

But what the hell. I'm gonna babble.

Last month, a close friend of mine invited me to the closing night of a seminar she was doing called the Landmark Forum. It was the week I ended up with the flu, and I felt really bad about bailing on her since she seemed so excited about what she was doing, and as I understood it I would be going to support her on her "graduation" night. So this month when she invited me to come again after she finished the Landmark Education Advanced Course, and I said of course!

Then I did a little research.

And then I went hmmmmm.

There is a huge gulf between the positive and negative opinions of Landmark. A lot of people, my friend and her boyfriend included, rave about the program, deem it life-changing and the most transformative experience they've ever had, credit it with rebuilding relationships and pushing people towards success, say it's the impetus for making incredible life changes. Big corporations send their employees, wealthy CEOs claim the program gave them their start, etc and so forth.

And other people think it's kinda...culty.

I tried to go in with an open mind, and I can definitely see why the program is beneficial to some people. The leader was charismatic and funny, and their philosophy seems pretty sound. As I understand it, it's basically three 12+ hour days of intensive, concentrated therapy, focused on exploring your own culpability in your own problems, the way you perceive yourself and your life, and opening yourself up to infinite possibilities. In a room with 100-200 other people.  From what I've read online there's lots of crying. I do like to cry. But it seems like you pay $500 to be yelled at until you DO cry, and I prefer to cry organically.

Another element that prompts people to claim "CULT" is that the program was originally founded by a man who dabbled in Scientology a bit before coming up with this "technology", as they call it. It originated as "est" then became Landmark. If I haven't ranted on here before about Scientology, I will just say: that shit CRAY.  Also, Landmark is banned in France. Also, the company does not advertise, they only promote through word-of-mouth, and it seems like a huge part of the program is being told that you need to tell OTHER people about the program, too. Which is, you know...fine, I guess. But definitely a characteristic of cult organizations. And, the final night that I attended with my friend wasn't so much a graduation as an opportunity for them to try to get you to sign up. I felt a little tricked. But clearly this experience was so amazing for my friend that she wanted to share it with me and offer me the opportunity to have the same transformation, which I do appreciate.

But I don't want it, thanks. I mean, part of me is really curious, actually...but not $500 worth of curious. I asked my therapist what she thought of Landmark, and she was like, "Uh, no."

If you're curious to learn more, read this and this and this for positive experiences, and this and this and this for negative ones.

I do have a point to all this babble, I promise.

We did an exercise at the end of the night that was supposed to open our minds to new possibilities and make a problem disappear. Huh? Yeah, that's what I said.

Basically, you're supposed to think of a problem in these terms:
"I want x, but y."
Then, you reframe it as such:
"I want x, and y."
In theory, this little endeavor should open up your mind to different perspectives on your problem and you can decide to just, like...not have a problem anymore? Or something. I was really tired by the end, but I think that was the gist.

I started with:

"I want to have a more positive attitude at work, but I hate my job."

Which became:

"I want to have a more positive attitude at work, and I hate my job."

Other people's issues were better illuminated by this exercise, but I did get a little something out of it. By changing that one little word, you remove causation and the complaint you have becomes a fact of life. My attitude has nothing to do with how I feel about my job.


I am going to work on being more positive about it. It is what it is, all I can do is make the best of it and press on with a smile, and give it a few months and I'll be OUT OF HERE.

So thanks, Landmark. I don't want to join your cult, but you've inspired me to try to change my attitude.

Ultimately, I think the program is probably not truly a cult, but I do think it has the potential to cause damage. If you're a weak person struggling with serious issues, I think the Landmark system could potentially do more harm than good. But for people like my friend, it can definitely be helpful, so I won't judge.

Maybe I'll judge a little. 

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