What is wrong with Landmark Forum
if you have come to this post hoping that it will be discouraging of people attending Landmark Education’s Forum course, you will be disappointed. My overwhelming impression is that the Forum helps people get out of their own way and improve their relationships with people who are critical to them. If you have personal problems that your friends and therapist cant help you with and you can afford the Forum course, you should probably go, it is extremely likely to help you. i have a number of critiques of the program, which i will touch on in this post. But what i really want to talk about is my own peculiar set of excuses for not doing Landmark. [If you want to read critical things about Landmark there is an article in Mother Jones and a more “balanced” on in the UK Guardian.]
At first blush it is no surprise that i am attracted to Landmark forum, it is a very intentional attempt to be a memetic structure. As with most successful religions there is a proselytizing aspect built into the program “This has done great things for me, it could do great things for you (=person that i care about) too!” Some people find this creepy or scary, i think it is clever and useful, especially if they are (unlike many religious practices) bringing tangible benefits to those who practice the belief set.
Many of my intimates have take the course. Hawina, Sky, Shal, Kassia, Tobias (aka Frodo), Shana and most recently Marta and now Clementine. They all think positively about it and several of them do it on a continuing basis.
So why dont i go to it? The reasons have changed over time. When Hawina and Frodo and Sky were taking it, one of the central projects i was working on with Shana and Joy and Hawina was the co-empowerment program (sadly there are not functioning links to this material now).
Co-empowerment was a loose collection of tools designed to help people get unstuck and get more of what they want from life. In this way it was very much like Landmark. When you sign up for Landmark you agree to protect their intellectual property. Were i to go, the many tools which Landmark employs to get their great results would be taboo for my re-use. Since some of the co-empowerment tools i was already using were similar to Landmarks stuff it was easier just to avoid confusion as to whose clever tools i was working with.
Another reason i dont want to go is i have an addictive personality and Landmark is designed to be addictive. Several Landmark participants have said to me “You would make a great Landmark Forums course leader.” This is of course a compliment. And it is a warning sign. I dont want a big part of my life to be about Landmark, i certainly dont want a job with them. And if i dive in and fall desperately in love with it (or get addicted) i might well be inspired to rise in its hierarchy (all in the name of serving people and advancing the revolution) to a staff position. i have a more “roll my own”/independent path set out for me.
Sara’s critique, which i share, is that Landmark is classist. It is expensive to go to and it does not really care organizationally that it is largely inaccessible to many people. A sliding scale would be easy to implement and far more fair. People criticize it for being a for profit entity which benefits a small number of owners and paid staff, with many unpaid enthusiastic volunteers. This is a trivial concern for me, if you want to talk about problems with for profit organizations lets focus on Apple and Amazon, which are doing some very serious damage.
Landmark is not a cult, as it is occasionally described in the mainstream media. But people fear that it is because it often changes the way people think about things and especially themselves. From my perspective a lot of people need to change the way that they think, so these “dangerous” tools are completely appropriate.
There is lots more to say on this topic, but i want to get back to posting more regularly, so i will let it go at this for now.