Beginning in June, 1997 my wife, whom I love dearly, has become progressively more involved in a group called Landmark Education (a.k.a. Landmark Forum, the Forum). This group is the successor to Werner Erhard's discredited Est from the 70's. Erhard's brother bought the "technology," repackaged it, toned it down and made it subtler and more palatable than Est. Many think Erhard is still involved. They are definitely marketing geniuses.
My wife attended the Forum with our daughter. They came away somewhat skeptical (my daughter more so than my wife). My wife said it was an OK experience, not great, helped with some issues and the way things are looked at. She had no intention of continuing on with other courses or with the "free" after Forum weekly sessions. Then the phone calls started. She was getting pretty irritated with them, but then all of a sudden she started to go to the weekly sessions. She then signed up for the follow-up course. It has since been non-stop courses, seminars, homework parties and volunteering with no end in site. Skeptical after the Forum--she now thinks everyone should attend.
The methodology of the group seems to be to use "graduates" to recruit others to attend the first course (the Forum, 3 days) of an endless series of progressively lengthier and more expensive "courses." At "graduation" Landmark participants are often pressured to sign up. Again, many receive endless phone calls. They are also pressured to attend a series of "free" after Forum sessions--whose purpose, in my opinion, is to get them to sign up for the next and more expensive course.
Unsuspecting "guests" are asked to attend a "graduation" or a "community event"--where they are pressured to sign up and/or hounded by phone for weeks if they don't. Once emotionally hooked (I believe this takes place during/after the follow-up course to the Forum), participants rationalize signing up for course after course, which could potentially cost thousands of dollars.
Some of Landmark's courses might last for a year or more --including several out of town sessions. In between the large group sessions, there are local weekly small group seminars and "homework parties"--consuming time during the week.
"Volunteers" are used extensively at the various courses. At this point, pressure and repeated phone calls are no longer necessary to get the now willing and committed participants to enroll in the next course(s).
In my opinion, this brand of pop psychology taps into people's insecurities, fears, disappointments, etc. and helps them feel better about themselves and how they relate to the world, but then gets them emotionally hooked to a never ending process of introspection and self-analysis.
They have a "language" all their own where simple words have esoteric meanings. Other group participants become insider enlightened friends with whom feelings are shared and confidence is placed. The unenlightened masses are looked upon as somehow missing out on life's possibilities. It seems the highest compliment a committed participant can bestow is to get you to enroll in the Forum. The answer to all criticism is. "You don't understand " and "You have to attend the Forum so you can understand."
My purpose in writing this is to encourage people to check Landmark out thoroughly before making a decision to attend. anything--even a "community event" or a "graduation." Participants are always told to bring "guests" to a "community event," which is held several times during a course and/or to the Forum's "graduation" night. "Guests" are praised for attending and the successful "recruiter" is congratulated profusely. As a "guest" if you fill out the guest form, get ready for your phone to start ringing.
If you have been invited to one of these sessions I urge you to do some research before making your decision. In "I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional", Wendy Kaminer, a Harvard-Radcliff fellow wrote: "If you want to experience or 'process' New Age's heady combination of pseudo-science, religion, and money visit a session or two of The Forum, the new incarnation of Est."
Be forewarned a committed participant will summarily discredit and dismiss any negative information about the organization or the program. But if you feel attracted to a Large Group Awareness Training experience for some reason--I hope instead that you seek out a reputable psychologist.
Copyright © Rick Ross
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