The Landmark Forum: 42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns
February 17, 2015 8:34 AM   Subscribe

My lost weekend with the trademark happy, bathroom-break hating, slightly spooky inheritors of est. (Previously, previously, previously).
posted by shivohum (97 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ha. My mom got talked into going to one of the est ones once, sometime back in the 70s. They didn't want to let her go pee, and between that and being called an asshole ("I got enough of that in grad school,") she was like "I'm outta here, see ya."

This always struck me as boot camp for people who don't want to or can't join the military.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


This always struck me as boot camp for people who don't want to or can't join the military.

Except in the military, they pay you.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:43 AM on February 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


An acquaintance recently got into this and keeps telling us he's now very aware of how he used to come across to people and is using that knowledge to act better. Really, he used to be fine and now he sounds robotic and annoying and he's oblivious to it.
posted by michaelh at 8:45 AM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


A friend did this, and he loved it.

Another friend's mom did this, and she turned into an utter loon.

Big ups to the Six Feet Under episode which parodies Landmark Forum.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:47 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's also a hilarious Mork & Mindy episode with a parody of est, including David Letterman as the Werner Erhard stand-in.
posted by jonp72 at 8:49 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


...What if your way of being in the center gives the center its being and you are given your being from the space created in the center?"
This is absolute gold. It's like if Yogi Berra convinced himself he really was a yogi.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:53 AM on February 17, 2015 [21 favorites]


Hey look, a bootcamp for suckers!
posted by oceanjesse at 8:53 AM on February 17, 2015


Oh GOD I had a landlord who was into this. He talked my roommate and I into going to one of their "orientations" and about halfway through she murmured to me "This is creepy. We don't owe these people a goddamn thing. Lets get out of here."

And then we went forth into the world when we could take a bathroom break whenever we wanted and the chairs weren't skin-crawlingly close together.

Of course, they proceeded to call our house twentyfuckingtimes a day. We tried to be patient, but eventually we were like, "Look, we know someone is making you do this, but could you tell whoever that is to GO FUCK THEMSELVES? Thanks."
posted by louche mustachio at 8:56 AM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh, wow. An old co-worker of mine got into this. From everything she said about it, it always sounded vaguely like Scientology to me.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:01 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


My ex-husband considered it one of my many personal failures that he could not talk me into this, and one of the many indications that I was 'uncoachable'.

He had gone three times. Maybe four.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:11 AM on February 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


I signed a six-page disclaimer in which I declared that I understood that after attending the Forum, people with no history of mental or emotional problems had experienced "brief, temporary episodes of emotional upset ranging from heightened activity...to mild psychotic-like behavior."

It's been years now, but the first time I worked up the nerve to ask my (former) primary care doctor for antidepressants, he suggested that I instead attend Landmark. And oh by the way, he said, they probably won't take you if you are on antidepressants.

I always knew that was a bit hinky, and that was the last time I saw him, but in subsequent years I regretted not having reported him to the Medical Board. The quote above increased that regret exponentially.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:12 AM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


I went to this doctor. Well, he told me I swallow a lot of aggression... along with a lot of pizzas! Ha Ha Ha! Pizzas! I'm basically a shy person, I'm a shy guy. Uh, he suggested taking one these uh, aggression training courses. You know these aggression training courses like EST, those type of things. Anyway, it cost 400 bucks! 400 bucks to join this thing? Well I didn't have the money and I thought to myself, "Join the army"! It's free. So I figured while I'm here I'll lose a few pounds. And you got what, a 6 to 8 week training program here? A real tough one. Which is perfect for me.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:13 AM on February 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article is obviously a huge fan.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:13 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


...What if your way of being in the center gives the center its being and you are given your being from the space created in the center?"

I have to admit, I'm intrigued, but I think I'm only down for Landmark Forum if it will let the strong wind of fish farming blow across the country.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:13 AM on February 17, 2015 [13 favorites]


It took me a while to figure out what this was, so based on "forum" my mind went haring off and created an image of the most dedicated sysadmins and moderators, sitting crouched over keyboards hitting refresh constantly for 40 hours, peeing in soda bottles lest they miss the slightest wink of activity on their site, but nonetheless having it crash 65 times in the course of a single weekend. They were hardcore and completely incompetent, I guess? Which if they're letting random people join them on a weekend basis, no wonder they have problems.

Anyway, the actual article is a lot more depressing and bizarre. I like my sad, determined moderators better.
posted by Scattercat at 9:23 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can understand why some people would want to control others, even in such inane ways, but what I don't get is why anyone lets them.
posted by emjaybee at 9:26 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


"I am committed to having every one of you register for the Advanced Course tonight," he says. He's no longer smiling. We can demonstrate our commitment to ourselves, to David, to Landmark—all for $650, a $200 discount—but only if we act now.

ALWAYS be closing.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:29 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


I went to the Landmark Forum long time ago, when I was in high school. My parents and sister had done it, and thought it was a valuable experience. I loved it--it was a very powerful and transformative. To this day, the lessons I learn there help me look at my life as something that I am actively responsible for, at all times. I learned to pay attention to the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, and the stories we tell ourselves about why things happen.

There was a cultish undertone, to be sure, but I've found the same thing with martial arts, or CrossFit, or going to synagogue. There is value to be gained from attending--you don't have to be part of the culture. There are a lot of people who need and want to be part of the culture, and they may be slightly annoying, but are ultimately benign. And you can get the benefits of attending by being polite and respectful, without joining full bore.

The format and the substance are designed to instill the "workshop buzz", and it works. You do feel a little high afterwards. But I think it can be a useful jolt for people. You really do start to hear the little loops you use to go through life, and that is a useful experience. It's a bit I Heart Huckabees in that way.

I'd recommend it. It's going to be a little weird, but I think a lot of people would benefit from it.
posted by oneironaut at 9:30 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


During its heyday, my friends and I referred to graduates as "est-holes."
posted by Repack Rider at 9:35 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


A co-worker talked me into attending one of these. Fortunately, Landmark canceled that event (although no refund) and I never let them reschedule me. See also, Lifespring.
posted by Rash at 9:36 AM on February 17, 2015


Metafilter: the most dedicated sysadmins and moderators, sitting crouched over keyboards hitting refresh constantly for 40 hours, peeing in soda bottles lest they miss the slightest wink of activity on their site

I had a friend who got pretty into the Forum, and it did seem to help her get through a pretty rough time in her life. It always struck me as a sort of self-perpetuating money-making endeavor, like a lot of the holdouts from the 70's New Age movements tend to be, but I suppose it can be that and still offer some utility to people.
posted by whir at 9:39 AM on February 17, 2015


Oh yeah? well..
Metafilter: It's going to be a little weird, but I think a lot of people would benefit from it.


Anyways. Yep, I too had a pretty good friend and his wife go through these things, it seemed to be what he needed at the time. He asked me to come to one of their orientations which I did, but it really was not my cup of tea in the least bit. Asked me to go to another (free) orientation that he was running, to which I replied I'd go if he needed some sort of moral support (sometimes you support your friends even if it's an inconvenience) but there was no way I was buying into the program. We decided I wouldn't go and AFAIK there was no hard feelings.

But, man the model does creep me out to no end.
I wonder if Landmark was what Murakami thought of when he wrote about Kei in Colorless
posted by edgeways at 10:08 AM on February 17, 2015


I owe my career to Landmark, which gave me the shot of courage I needed to do something very frightening (stand-up comedy). It is also the reason I floss my teeth every night without fail (because I can either "have my reasons or my results".). It helped me a bit with my relationships -- my wife, a lot more. She really transformed some pretty toxic ones, and all without the other person changing at all. Not that these relationships are perfect -- but they are definitely better. All this from a three-day weekend with an hour hard-sell at the end.

I took the other courses, which were not as inspiring. Then I left. Nobody bugged me. I never went back. Total outlay: $1200.

Worst cult ever.
posted by haricotvert at 10:15 AM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think if you strip away the insistent sales pitch, the philosophy can be valuable for a lot of people. But people just don't like feeling pressured into doing things, even if they'd ultimately be good for them (cf the stereotype of vegans or crossfitters as annoying evangelists). I was, uh, strongly encouraged to go to Landmark, and it did shift my approach to life, but I opted out of dragging my family and friends to it, which made people in the group really annoyed.

Recently I ran into another attendee at a coffeeshop. We exchanged some small talk about what we'd been up to since we saw each other. The next week, I found out she'd looked me up on LinkedIn and sent me a message inviting me to another seminar. It gives you the feeling that you're never anyone's friend, just a mark.
posted by desjardins at 10:25 AM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


That movie is more like an infomercial. It says nothing about his life that wasn't personally vetted.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:47 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


"...What if your way of being in the center gives the center its being and you are given your being from the space created in the center?"

Is this what a TED talk from Heidegger would be like?
posted by thelonius at 10:55 AM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


desjardins: "But people just don't like feeling pressured into doing things, even if they'd ultimately be good for them (cf the stereotype of vegans or crossfitters as annoying evangelists)."

It's easy to fall into the evangelist trap. I smoked for over 25 years, then I quit cold turkey in my easiest quit ever. It's been three months, but I know I'm never going back.

The urge to preach about the joys of being a non-smoker from the rooftops is almost overwhelming. I want to share The Good News with every smoker. But I know damn good and well that wouldn't work. Smokers would hate me if I did that. I would hate myself if I did that. So I keep my mouth shut unless someone asks.

I think it's the same for a lot of people who discover something good or something that helps them. I have to remind myself that quitting smoking was only easy for me this time because it took 25+ years to get to that point in my relationship with nicotine and most smokers aren't there yet. Just like most people aren't in a place where they are down with a high-stress personality seminar. I know I'm not.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:55 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lately I've been in social circles that also include some members of the International Socialist Organization. And the impression I get of Landmark is very much like my impression of ISO - nice enough people, maybe a bit more earnest than is appropriate, in an organization that could also be quite nice, except for how their ideas and practices are marred by the (very American, very modernist, very capitalist) organizational demand for absolutely relentless hard-selling at not just every opportunity, but at every moment that could even hypothetically be construed as vaguely resembling an opportunity.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:21 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Exactly.

"Ugh, I had a bad day at work."
"Oh really, you should come to the next seminar!"
posted by desjardins at 11:26 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think if you strip away the insistent sales pitch, the philosophy can be valuable for a lot of people.

They're parasites on the poor and desperate, not perhaps quite those who have slid done into poverty, working or not, but those just barely clinging to a middle class existence and are one late paycheck, firing or medical catastrophe away from joining the underclass. These are the people who've been told for three decades and counting that you can make your own luck here in America, that those who are poor deserve it, that they themselves deserve to be rich but will have nobody to blame if they fail, been trained not to connect the dots between the economy, their shitty lives and how the rich keep getting richer, the one percent now owning, what, ninety to ninetyfive percent of wealth in the USA and who'll do anything, but anything to prove that they too believe in capitalism and if only they'll clap their hands together fast enough, especially when their bosses have hinted strongly they should or else maybe tinkerbell wll live.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:38 AM on February 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


This article was way to forgiving of Landmark. And almost bizarrely superficial. Minimal history of est, Erhard's alleged crimes, no mention at all of accusations of abuse in Europe. Why write the piece if you're not even going to do cursory research?

I've dealt with Landmarkers more than I'd wish on anyone. It's a great course in cheap 70's pop philosophy that never acknowledges it's cribbing from, and twisting of, valid existential writing.

And the worst part of it is that it makes adherents borderline insufferable and nearly impossible to conduct business with. The best thing I got from attending the 'course' was knowledge of their catchphrases so I can call people out when they try to recruit coworkers and friends.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 11:41 AM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


knowledge of their catchphrases

Curious ... what are the major ones? Would be good to know this.
posted by jbickers at 11:55 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Many many years ago--well before the internet I did EST for several weekends. Long story short--Seeing many many people denied their request to use the toilet I misjudged my AM coffee consumption. After requesting ( several times)to use the toilet, and being "denied" I said to the trainer--here is the deal--Either I go in a cup right here in the back of the training room or I am going to use the toilet. Which do you prefer ? The Answer-- No problem and they immediately told me where it was and were most kind. Moral--you are no more a prisoner to peoples expectations than you agree to be. It was in fact a rather revealing interaction.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:03 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've done the Landmark Forum and I honestly don't know why it gets such a bad reputation. It is particularly annoying how much knee-jerk hate Landmark gets here on Metafilter which is like a broken record about therapy, therapy therapy you need therapy right now no really the answer to your question is therapy because the answer to everything is therapy.

(To be clear I am all for therapy, just making a point that Landmark Ed falls under the much-loved therapy umbrella so if you are pro-therapy, it is rather a strange stance to take).

About the article itself. I get that everyone's personal experience is what it is and that the author is full within her rights to have had a bad experience and tell all about it. But what's with ominous generalizations and scare quotes? For example: "Landmark Education, a for-profit "employee-owned" private company" - why is "employee-owned" in quotes? It is literally an employee-owned LLC. Another example: "though it's hardly a secret, Landmark does not advertise that it is the buttoned-down reincarnation of the ultimate '70s self-actualization philosophy, est". Well yeah, ok, why should this (40-some year old for chrissakes) connection be advertized? Does IBM advertise its Nazi connection? Does Coca Cola advertise its cocaine connection? Or how is this for nonsensical: "Landmark's corporate clients bring not just respectability but more warm bodies bearing checks." Wow, a corporation sending its employees in for training sure is proof that something untoward is going on - and by the way, when was the last time you had to bring a personal check to your corporate training?

The article is chock-full of these vaguely accusatory and often non-sensical statements. Yoga and meditation used to get portrayed exactly like this - I remember all these articles implying that yoga/meditation are religious in nature, or in the very least a gateway to some dangerous cult, with a generous sprinkling of anecdotes about this one girl who was an honor student but got involved in yoga and ended up dead etc.

They're parasites on the poor and desperate, not perhaps quite those who have slid done into poverty, working or not, but those just barely clinging to a middle class existence and are one late paycheck, firing or medical catastrophe away from joining the underclass.

What. Most people in my class were upper middle class. If nothing else the $500 fee makes sure the demo skews towards upper middle class.

Finally, about the hard sell and the attendant "adherents". The sell at the end of the class (to take more classes) is kind of a funny thing because on one hand, oh my god is it ever a hard sell. But on the other hand, one of the principal things you learn is how to not be affected by the sell (not just their sell, any sell) so IMO the problem kind of takes care of itself. And yeah, the "adherents" are insufferable. But isn't it true of any adherents? I mean, do we condemn healthy eating because some vegetarians are super pushy? I had great results from my class, as did a couple friends of mine, and I assure you that I/they have never engaged in any proselytizing.
posted by rada at 12:10 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


> Moral--you are no more a prisoner to peoples expectations

They made you threaten to commit an unsanitary act in a public place before they let you pee, after you asked politely several times. Who had control here?
posted by rtha at 12:18 PM on February 17, 2015 [18 favorites]


Ugh. When I met my wife she was working at a bakery that was owned by a guy who was heavy into Landmark. He would sponsor everybody's first time and never shut up about it. She ended up leaving the job when it became clear that he wouldn't promote anyone unless they continued in The Forum.

I'm sure there's some good advice to be had in the damn thing, but it is so clearly a pyramid scheme that I can't see it as anything but paying for advice that you could get in a couple trips to your local library.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:28 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Too late to edit: "way too forgiving of Landmark."

Argh. Sorry.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 12:36 PM on February 17, 2015


I have a few pals who are into it, and I did attend an info session once. The #1 takeaway I got out of that + knowing these people is that Landmarkers are really into straight talk. If you say to them, "I'm not interested and I don't want to attend/join" they get it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:36 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


From Swaine and Freiberger's "Fire In The Valley," I read that est was practically a requirement to work in sales at Imsai, one of the early microcomputer manufacturers. It came across as very cultish. That's all I really need to know.
posted by lhauser at 12:42 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


A real problem with the hard-sell that is in concrete terms central to Landmark's philosophy1 is that it ends up poisoning the well for all discourse related to the thing being hard-sold. It becomes impossible to tell whether or not expressions of support for the organization are actually the result of a sincere appreciation for the change that organization has made in the life (or whatever) of the person making the statement, or if they're just instead something adapted from a template found in section 23 subsection 27 stroke Z of the organization's three ring binder.2

Basically, groups that market themselves in this particular hyper-capitalist way end up making it actually impossible to express anything resembling believable authentic3 support for the group, due to the chaff-like presence of all the people going around announcing how great the group is for every purpose always regardless of whether or not they actually believe what they're saying.

1: I reject the idea that one can cleave apart an organization's philosophy and its practices/praxis: what a group is is what it does, not what it says it does.
2: In this particular case, section 23 subsection 27 stroke Z is titled "How to hard-sell to people who self-identify as resistant to hard-sells."a
a: See also section 24 subsection 1 stroke A, titled "How to deny the existence of both the hard-sell and of the three-ring binder explaining how to perform it."

3: And yes, I'm aware of how fraught a concept "authenticity" is. I'm also aware that much the same critique can be leveled at people participating in (bourgeois electoral) political campaigns, but nevertheless, in an un-theorized, un-rigorous gut level "truthiness" way I feel much more comfortable calling up people asking for them to vote or give to a candidate or party than I do hitting up all my friends over and over again to join an organization that will tell them to hit up all their friends over and over again to join an organization that will.... and so on ad infinitum

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:49 PM on February 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


For some reason I thought EST ended up in a compound with a ton of weapons, but I can't find anything about it so I must be confusing them with another of the self help cults. And it's going to bug me now, was it TM that I was thinking of? The Krishnas?
posted by fido~depravo at 12:57 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Rajneeshees poisoned that one town in Oregon...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:07 PM on February 17, 2015


Scientology.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:08 PM on February 17, 2015


When I was in my 20s, my boss's girlfriend was involved in a similar program, called Actualizations, and to help her meet her quota of registrants, my boss paid for me to go. It wasn't great, but it inadvertently led me to great things, so I can't hate on it.

I stayed involved in it for a while past the initial go round so when I got fed up, I got really fed up, and through a series of coincidences not unrelated to being fed up, I started doing hospice volunteer work, which is something it turns out I love and has added tremendous meaning to my life.

Not bad for a cult experience.
posted by janey47 at 1:17 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is this what a TED talk from Heidegger would be like?

It's a great course in cheap 70's pop philosophy that never acknowledges it's cribbing from, and twisting of, valid existential writing.

I was definitely present at at least one event where the leader openly described some of the philosophical underpinnings, and Heidegger was indeed one of the names included. So while it's not something they boast of or talk about as a day to day thing, and probably a lot of those involved don't know it, some of those involved are perfectly aware of it. Some of it can also be compared to Zen Buddhism.

She ended up leaving the job when it became clear that he wouldn't promote anyone unless they continued in The Forum.

I hate when I read stuff like that because that's exactly why it becomes hard to be believed when someone like me says they learned some really valuable things there. Bosses aren't supposed to make the Forum a condition of employment. Unless things have changed, one of the first things that happen on the first day is they ask if anyone is there because they've been told it's a condition of employment, or if anyone feels they've been made to be there for that reason - and those people are given the option to leave with a refund, or choose to stay for their own reasons. Lululemon has also had this problem where the company founder was a Landmark graduate and was known to basically only promote others who were.
posted by dnash at 1:25 PM on February 17, 2015


(To be clear I am all for therapy, just making a point that Landmark Ed falls under the much-loved therapy umbrella so if you are pro-therapy, it is rather a strange stance to take).

I agree with this statement. If you could go to the pharmacy at Wal-Mart and buy a carton of 70 hours of group psychotherapy for 400 dollars, you might get something that looks very much like the Landmark Forum. (The 70 comes from adding one free 10 week * 3 hours per week seminar that was included in the base price the last time I shopped it.) You don't have to pay attention to their sales pitches any more than you have to attend to any other. Use your interior ad-block.
posted by bukvich at 1:37 PM on February 17, 2015


Lobotomy, trepanation, heroin tonic, blood letting, project MKUltra.

(just a partial list of things that have roughly the same connection to modern therapy as EST and Scientology/Gold Base have to Landmark Ed)
posted by rada at 1:40 PM on February 17, 2015


Martinwisse--Your response, They're just parasite, poor and despeerate etc........ Is stated as a fact. I am guessing these are your opinions , assumptions and conjectures. I have not been involved in it for at least 30 years so I can not speak to it's current operations. If you have factual information re: the participants it would be helpful. The certainty of your assertions re: the nature of the participants, its goals etc is certainly dismissive of the people who have chosen to participate. If you have know it is the "poor and desperate" (with your caveats) please let me know how this is substantiated.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:41 PM on February 17, 2015


rtha--not unsanitary--I had a cup. And I guess you would have gone right away or nor signed up. OK
posted by rmhsinc at 1:44 PM on February 17, 2015


I have a friend who was super into this. He did the hard sell. I think I skipped out on the free session or the next one wasn't scheduled for a while. The thing that most put me off was him eventually saying "if you want to come to the first day this weekend, I'll pay for you." Doing some research and finding that the session was $500, I was floored. He's not rich. Why would he pay $500 for me? What are the motivations here? How deep have they brainwashed him?
posted by naju at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2015


I had a colleague who did a Landmark weekend course and found it really valuable, although when she talked about what went on there it sounded like the seventh level of Hell to me. She stopped talking about it so much when they started pestering her to fork over more money and do more courses.

I've been to a few cultish things myself in my youth- a Mormon youth weekend-long gathering, an Amway convention - and I think Landmark has a lot of similarity. Part of what makes all these things successful is all the group activities and the platitudes and the emphasis on YOU, it's OK to think about yourself and talk about yourself and share your secrets, which generates massive emotions. Very like therapy in a way, except that since most of the people in the room are also going through the same thing there's a perceived emotional connection, making you feel as if you belong and are needed and cared about, and everyone else is just like you! Sometimes more screwed up than you! And that's OK because (whatever the group is about) can help fix your problems! It's alluring, and I suspect for the majority of people it's temporary.
posted by andraste at 1:50 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, naju, your comment makes me so, so sad. Way to misinterpret your friend's generosity.
posted by rada at 2:05 PM on February 17, 2015


Why not assume that perhaps naju knows their friend better than you do, and made a closer-to-correct read than you could? Your comment comes off as very shaming.
posted by rtha at 2:07 PM on February 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Why not assume that perhaps I know Landmark better than naju, and made a closer-to-correct read than s/he could? The "deeply brainwashed" comment comes off as very shaming.

naju - I sincerely apologize if my comment did come across as shaming. It just truly blew my mind that you could not even allow for the possibility that your friend just wanted to you have a nice experience.
posted by rada at 2:16 PM on February 17, 2015


Unless things have changed, one of the first things that happen on the first day is they ask if anyone is there because they've been told it's a condition of employment, or if anyone feels they've been made to be there for that reason - and those people are given the option to leave with a refund, or choose to stay for their own reasons.

Regardless of the existence or nonexistence of anyone at Landmark's heartfelt belief that no one should be there because they want to keep their job at a Landmark'ed company, the hard-sell-to-your-social-network marketing used by Landmark will ensure that there will always be people there who've been coerced to participate, by their bosses and others. That's one facet of what the hard-sell means, and it's something that you'll always get if you're building your organization via social network hard-sell.

(this is, by the way, why no one should ever let the hard-sell into their organizations, no matter how well it may work in the short term.)

In this particular context, when you ask "if anyone is there because they've been told it's a condition of employment," you're not actually asking if anyone is there because they've been told it's a condition of employment. Only the hopelessly naive (or people who are tactically pretending to be hopelessly naive) would fall for that. Instead, in this particular context, what you're actually doing is instructing people who are there because they've been coerced to pretend that they haven't been coerced.

If Landmark were interested in stopping recruitment-via-coercion, they wouldn't ask people to pinky-swear that they weren't coerced to attend. Instead, Landmark would drop the hard-sell altogether.

I don't particularly care much about Landmark in and of itself, but I am interested in it as being such a clear sign (or symptom) of the distinctive quality of our times. The interesting thing isn't that Landmark is such a reprehensible outlier. Because, well, it's not an outlier. It's a mainstream, dead-center contemporary American capitalist enterprise. Which is to say, what's really interesting in discussions of Landmark is that increasingly more and more of our social/economic activity seems to be built among Landmark-ey lines. When someone tells you "it's not what you know, it's who you know," or urges you to get your next job by working your social group for connections (and, by implication, to select members of your social group based on their quality as connections), they're saying that the way to get ahead, or even just the way to survive, is to instrumentalize your relationships with other people in much the same way that serious Landmarkers instrumentalize their relationships.

I have no idea what to do with the knowledge that 21st century capitalism wants us all to become functionally equivalent to Landmarkers. What I want to do is hide behind the couch or under the bed indefinitely, but that typically doesn't work in practice as well as it seems like it will in theory. Ironically, my attempts to hide in my bedroom from our Landmark-like society typically only last until I have to come out to pee.

That aside: I am noticing that a common thread in the positive stories about Landmark we're seeing here goes something like this:
  1. Someone feels disconnected from meaning.
  2. They go to a Landmark event that tells them that they don't have to be disconnected from meaning
  3. Either turned off by the hard sell, or just capable of resisting the hard sell, they decide not to go to other Landmark events. However, now that they know that it is in fact alright to try to connect themselves to something bigger and more meaningful than themselves, they go out and find that connection outside Landmark.
It's sort of unfortunate that Landmark has built itself by viral means, because organizations that empower you to go out and find meaning (as a hospice volunteer, as a stand-up comedian, whatever) — but that don't tell you to market shit to all your friends and relatives and employees and people-you-bump-into-on-the-street — can be pretty freaking fantastic.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:23 PM on February 17, 2015 [20 favorites]


Organizations that empower you to go out and find meaning (as a hospice volunteer, as a stand-up comedian, whatever) — but that don't tell you to market shit to all your friends and relatives and employees and people-you-bump-into-on-the-street — can be pretty freaking fantastic.

What are these organizations that have zero marketing and yet people magically know about them? I mean, just yesterday I went to a rally to stop conversion therapy here in Minnesota and they sure talked a lot about spreading the word. They have a facebook page, Twitter, and so on. This was not some unusual tactic - every single meaningful organization that I've been involved with asked to bring in new members and donations.
posted by rada at 2:37 PM on February 17, 2015


What are these organizations that have zero marketing and yet people magically know about them? I mean, just yesterday I went to a rally to stop conversion therapy here in Minnesota and they sure talked a lot about spreading the word. They have a facebook page, Twitter, and so on. This was not some unusual tactic - every single meaningful organization that I've been involved with asked to bring in new members and donations.

Well, okay, to be fair, everything in the world actually is a totally stark 0-or-1 black-or-white binary, rather than like some sort of spectrum or anything ridiculous like that. So I guess you've got me there...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:41 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


Whoa, I had assumed EST was something The Americans made up.
posted by Monochrome at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


It just truly blew my mind that you could not even allow for the possibility that your friend just wanted to you have a nice experience.

I'm pretty good at picking up on whether a friend is being generous vs. whether a friend has been sold something that's making him act super weird and unlike any way he's ever acted in the 7 years I've known him. The hard sell + final desperate push did not come off as generous so much as glassy-eyed evangelical, part of a pyramid scheme with quasi-religious undertones. If I want a deeply transformative experience, I'll head to the desert with some ayahuasca, thanks.
posted by naju at 2:51 PM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


> What are these organizations that have zero marketing and yet people magically know about them?

Come on.

The organization I've volunteered for for more than a decade I found out about because I asked a friend how he knew so much about hawks, and he told me the name of it.
posted by rtha at 2:54 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ayahuasca is an interesting comp. Except I think you have to go to the jungle. It sounds like it is no fun at all. Exploding diarhea. Projectile vomit. Hallucinations of the grim reaper paying you a personal visit and explaining with live 3D demonstrations that you are soundly and truly totally fucked.

And people say it changed their life! And recommend it to their friends! And a bunch of us say man that sounds profoundly dumb.
posted by bukvich at 2:59 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Naju, perhaps it would interest you to know that I have done both, and on a scale of one-to-ten I would rate Landmark at 8 and ayahuasca at about 4, in terms of how meaningful or transformative the experience was to me. Also, I am not brainwashed or stupid or secretly motivated by some sinister motives.

On preview: bulls eye, bukvich.
posted by rada at 2:59 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


So as a Marxist computer programmer, I am, well, more than a little bit impressed that there's someone in the room making an argument that's actually even more inflexibly binaristic than my own. Such a role reversal...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:00 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


Which is to say, what's really interesting in discussions of Landmark is that increasingly more and more of our social/economic activity seems to be built among Landmark-ey lines.

Reminiscent of this This American Life episode about WakeUpNow.

But this stuff has always been around, too. Amway's been around since the late 1950s, for example.

What are these organizations that have zero marketing and yet people magically know about them?

There's a difference between marketing and multi-level marketing, I'd say.

In all fairness, though, AFAIK Landmark isn't compensating participants for recruiting new participants, so it might not be fair to characterize it as multi-level marketing or a pyramid scheme in that strict sense, but it certainly has some of the features of one. If the anecdata of the folks who have posted about their Landmark experiences in this thread are any indication, then a lot of new people have to be brought in the door to drive revenue if the bulk of people only do a few sessions and then figure they've gotten what they need out of it.

Political lobby groups, voluntary associations of various sorts, and charities or not for-profit organizations -they have other goals, like, say, watching hawks, or enacting or repealing certain legislation, or righting a social wrong, and use marketing and fundraising to reach those goals.

The people behind Landmark just want to make a buck. So you'll tend to get the friend has been sold something that's making him act super weird and unlike any way he's ever acted in the 7 years I've known him scenario more often than not, I'd wager.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:00 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was mostly joking about the aya, but I mean I'd try it. At least it doesn't involve any corporate shills. The grim reaper, that I can deal with.
posted by naju at 3:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really do believe that the major secrets in life don't involve seminars that only the moderately wealthy can afford to attend. Or if that's where the secrets are found, I don't want the secrets.
posted by naju at 3:03 PM on February 17, 2015 [15 favorites]


Buick, I am a software developer too but that's neither here nor there. When you say that Landmark makes people "market shit to all your friends and relatives and employees and people-you-bump-into-on-the-street" and then I say the same thing only instead of Landmark it's Hospice that does this, it's hardly fair to say that your view is nuanced but my view is inflexibly binaristic.
posted by rada at 3:21 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rtha, I recently had someone stay at my house so she could attend a local Landmark Forum. I have never mentioned it to her ever, she called me up, asked to stay with me, and only then it came out why. What does this prove?

If you are asserting that non-profits survive on people inquiring, you come on.
posted by rada at 3:24 PM on February 17, 2015


No, I'm rejecting the strawman you created. It's getting hard to type with my eyes rolling so hard, though.
posted by rtha at 3:33 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


The cost of the Landmark Forum is $500 which comes to about $12/hour. It's actually a lot cheaper than traditional therapy.
posted by rada at 3:42 PM on February 17, 2015


It's getting hard to type with my eyes rolling so hard, though.

for reals. Especially given that I've got very important Mario Kart I could be playing instead.

That said, rada, if you're in the Bay Area I'd love to introduce you to some acquaintances I have. They're really cool, really smart, really fun, and really, really really dedicated to trying to get people to join ISO. I think maybe if I throw them you as a sacrificial lamb, I'll be able to keep putting off having the possibly friendship-ending conversation where I have to tell them that, no, I am never coming to their The Meaning of Marxism study group, and yes, I have read The Meaning of Marxism, and yes, I really do think it's maybe the worst introduction to Marx ever written, and, no, I am in fact not ever going to join their organization.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:43 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


okay so I admit it basically what I'm doing here is typing out a variation of a little fantasy I have where I introduce a pair of Mormon missionaries to some Jehovah's Witnesses doorknockers and see which side gives up first.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:51 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whatever else, they are not therapists. So running down the path of "it's cheaper then therapy" is sort of a dead end.

rada, I mean this sincerely and with no hidden agenda or pejorative attachments, you seem to be sliding into a take-on-all-comers role and that rarely ends well.
posted by edgeways at 3:52 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's been more than ten years now, but I had a very bad experience with Landmark and the way it spread into my work culture in Europe (Big Name Tech Company).

First one of our leading technical architects attended one of the seminars. She was very influential in the organisation, and got some of the shyer more junior guys to attend with her. One in particular came back beaming and repeating catch phrases about self-actualization (it was a long time ago, and I'm not sure my memory can be precise about the wording-- but suffice to say he was talking in a way he did not talk before he attended).

To be honest, I didn't think much about it. The architect drifted away, but the junior consultant seemed to get deeper and deeper into the organisation-- volunteering at seminars and meetings(I had at least the vague impression this was how he could offer to "pay" for others to attend, is that not true?) I don't think any of us would have noticed it again (we all politely declined to attend events) except he recruited a quite senior manager to attend one of the events.

Within 6 months, that manager created a culture where even though Landmark was not a requirement, he clearly showed he had a preference for Forum graduates. There was a huge amount of informal pressure to attend, and worst of all the manager started allowing the company to pay for this "training" so there were fewer and fewer excuses not to go.

Finally HR got involved after a formal complaint and after an internal investigation, banned Landmark from receiving any further corporate funds. The manager was formally warned and people resigned. Even though it did this one consultant good, my impression was that "hard sell" didn't begin to describe Landmark. I was left with a very bad taste in my mouth and a strong desire not to see them get any more business.
posted by frumiousb at 3:53 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


This was not some unusual tactic - every single meaningful organization that I've been involved with asked to bring in new members and donations.

Sure, I don't think anyone's saying that no other "meaningful" organization uses marketing. If you give money to NPR, or the local opera, or March of Dimes, you get on a list and they will bother you endlessly for money. And everyone is annoyed by it! Maybe you're one of the few that is overjoyed to get junk mail and telemarketing calls, but I'd rather give to charities when I feel so inclined, not because I felt pressured. Just because certain tactics work doesn't mean they're good.
posted by desjardins at 3:58 PM on February 17, 2015


I took EST in LA back in 82 I think. I had a friend who was into EST, he paid for the seminar and gave it to me as a gift. I remember after the seminar ended, and we supposedly got it, we all walked out of the Ambassador Hotel into the cool LA night air. As everyone walked down the sidewalk through the front lawn, I noticed there was a huge migration in place, hundreds of snails were crossing the sidewalk, from one side of the lawn to the other. You could hear their little shells going crunch as people trod on them. I remember my feelings of horror, thinking, "oh no I hope this isn't what it is going to be like from now on."

For anyone who is even the slightest bit interested in EST, or the self-actualization movement in general, I highly recommend Adam Curtis' documentary The Century of the Self. In particular, I recommend Episode 3, There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed. It has interviews with Werner Erhard, as well as film clips from an actual EST seminar. But you really ought to watch the whole series from the beginning, in order to follow Curtis' argument, that Freud's psychoanalytic theories lead to the self-realization movement of the 60s and 70s, which was subverted by cynical advertisers and politicians to create the anti-government policies of the Reagan/Thatcher era. It's stunning.

Regardless of that sort of societal impact, I thought the EST program was pretty good overall as a personal endeavor. It is mostly an exercise in mindfulness (of a sort), a hard and fast way to help you get rid of dysfunctional behaviors that prevent you from "experiencing your experience." I think my most interesting encounter with the system was after Erhard folded the EST seminars. Somehow Erhard became a friend of the CEO of ComputerLand, Bill Millard, when I worked at a local franchise in LA. They cooked up an EST offshoot, a sort of executive training company, which IIRC was called Hermeneutics, Inc. I recall the basic premise: "commit to your commitment." When people talk to each other, they are conducting transactions. They are making commitments without thinking, which the other person is likely to believe you intend to keep, even though you don't realize you made any commitment at all. So in any interpersonal contact, shut up and listen to the other person, and don't make any commitments that you aren't very serious about keeping. Then put your commitments in writing, and both of you agree that this is what you are committing to. I thought that was a pretty good system, even though it was impossible to implement it at the ComputerLand franchise where I worked, due to the local store management being idiots.

Anyway, I have had no connection to the EST organization since the 80s, I have never done Landmark or any of those programs, so I know nothing about it from direct experience. I don't even know what happened to Bill Millard, he disappeared after a big stockholder lawsuit and was last sighted in Saipan.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:01 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


The cost of the Landmark Forum is $500 which comes to about $12/hour. It's actually a lot cheaper than traditional therapy.

Boy, posting repeatedly in this topic to analyze other people's friendships and tell anyone with a less than positive opinion that they're wrong is sure convincing me that Landmark is 100% not culty at all!
posted by jess at 4:24 PM on February 17, 2015 [22 favorites]


Freud's psychoanalytic theories lead to the self-realization movement of the 60s and 70s, which was subverted by cynical advertisers and politicians to create the anti-government policies of the Reagan/Thatcher era. It's stunning.

Freud is so fascinating as a figure of intellectual history. As far as I can tell, the consensus is that he was wrong about every single one of his major theories. But he remains this inescapable, influential figure. Kill him in Vienna or New York City, and he just re-spawns in Paris. Even if major Freudian tenets like the origin of all neurosis in unconscious conflict have been discarded in psychology, A lot of Freudian ideas have been absorbed into the pile of unexamined debris that "everyone" knows, and they still exert a powerful influence from there.
posted by thelonius at 4:26 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I worked for a company where upper management was all about Landmark. They asked everyone to go to the Forum, they paid us for the day of work missed and paid for the Forum itself. While no one said it outright, I got the very strong impression that my continued employment hinged on me attending. So I went. I lasted a few hours before I couldn't take it anymore and I bailed. They called me for months trying to reschedule despite me saying that I was not interested. Shockingly, I was laid off not too long after.
posted by crankylex at 4:58 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I too had the corporate push to go. That was when I discovered that I'm agoraphobic and a claustrophobe. I couldn't breathe. People were close enough to me that it was like being in a rush hour London tube. I could feel other people's breath on my skin. It was beyond torturous. I left the seminar and was let go a week or two later when I declined to reschedule another seminar because I saw no value in being trapped in a time-share sales pitch for pseudophilosophy. (I have my degrees in philosophy if I want pseudoscience, I'll read my own dissertation. Ha!)
posted by dejah420 at 6:00 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Freud is so fascinating as a figure of intellectual history. As far as I can tell, the consensus is that he was wrong about every single one of his major theories.

Nobel-prize winning biologist Eric Kandel's view of the consensus (PDF) is quite different. He writes, "Indeed, in the context of these contributions, few would challenge Freud’s position as the great modern thinker on human motivation or would deny that our century has been permanently marked by Freud’s deep understanding of the psychological issues that historically have occupied the Western mind from Sophocles to Schnitzer" and also that "psychoanalysis still represents the most coherent and intellectually satisfying view of the mind."

That's not to say Freud didn't influence even quite dubious self-help systems, since he clearly did.
posted by shivohum at 6:08 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was at IMSAI and yes, it was predominately populated with, how can I put it, est-holes. The story goes that the founder wanted to be an est trainer but didn't make the cut. So he started a company. There was a distinct est trainer look that was highly visible there amongst the male employees. A lot of conversation were peppered with est catchphrases. There was never any overt pressure to take the training. Just this underlying atmosphere of us vs them, with them being those who hadn't succumbed to the training. It was very cliquish. During my nine month tenure there, I was laid off as they started to fall apart, my experience was that I saw no real magical skills or abilities in those of est. There was this subtle arrogance like they knew something you didn't. But I saw no evidence of it. A friend went through the training and it changed her life for about three months. She didn't sign up for the post training reinforcement sessions. I think those are required to maintain whatever you got out of it. And, no, I'm not a joiner so I avoided the no bathroom break asshole yelling weekend enlightenment sessions. I was told that the first weekend's message us that you are an asshole. The second weekend's message was that that was ok.
posted by njohnson23 at 6:16 PM on February 17, 2015


dnash: " Bosses aren't supposed to make the Forum a condition of employment. Unless things have changed, one of the first things that happen on the first day is they ask if anyone is there because they've been told it's a condition of employment, or if anyone feels they've been made to be there for that reason - and those people are given the option to leave with a refund, or choose to stay for their own reasons."

What good does that do them? If my employer has made it clear that I need to take a certain training or lose my job, they're not looking for me to come back to the office with a refund, they're looking for me to take the training. If I come back to the office without having taken it, that's going to be a problem.
posted by Lexica at 8:14 PM on February 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


I remember getting kicked out of the Forum and getting my money refunded. Apparently I got a little too argumentative when they were telling us that 1+1 didn't have to be 2.

In retrospect, this may be why math majors don't get invited to the good parties.
posted by Mr Stickfigure at 8:20 PM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


Y'know, stuff like this, or a certain religion involving aliens and actors, usually sounds like hellish crap. But:

"I think it's the same for a lot of people who discover something good or something that helps them."

Logically speaking, somebody (or most likely, more than one person, or perhaps even a lot of people) got some benefit out of this, or the alien religion. And possibly got carried away insisting that this was the One True Answer For Everyone. The thing to keep in mind is that no one thing works for everybody. Not Jesus, not aliens, not the est forum. And if it doesn't work for your friend and worked for you, don't give them so much crap for that. Let them go find what works for them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:23 PM on February 17, 2015


What are these organizations that have zero marketing and yet people magically know about them?
Well, the Quakers, for one. I don't think I've ever seen any Quaker marketing, and yet people know about them.

I'd add the UU church, and Wicca, but I think once a Wiccan priest came to my university and talked about his spiritual path.

Actually, except for evangelicals, I would say that most churches and synagogues have zero marketing. You're just supposed to show up and see what it's like.

FWIW, Landmark sounds a lot like Lifespring. I found Lifespring useful -- along with therapy, acting lessons, psychoactive substances, anti-depressants and growing up. I learned some good stuff, and never went back. I would say the attitude of taking responsibility for your results is a good attitude to have, especially if you are, like me, a white middle class North American.
posted by musofire at 8:25 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've ever seen any Quaker marketing, and yet people know about them.

It's out there.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:03 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fun facts:
- One of the reasons Landmark is so bad, is that if for some reason you're not into it and your boss is, then you're in a world of pain.
- A major catchphrase for landmark alum is to answer everything you tell them by "Ok, I got it" then keep saying whatever they wanted to say.
- Landmark is banned in France.
- "Existentialism is a Humanism" by Sartre costs less than $10 and is very accessible. You might like it if you think you might like Landmark.
posted by Riton at 9:04 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is this what a TED talk from Heidegger would be like?

Apparently noted Heideggerian (and inspiration for a Futurama character) Hubert Dreyfus had some input into the early aspects of Landmark. Not sure if it's true, but I've read this.

Oddly, my wife just mentioned she is taking the Landmark course again next week. She has zero interest in reading "Being and Time."
posted by jade east at 10:43 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


1990 maybe, or '89, a friend got snared into it and he was *totally* about it. I asked some specifics -- what was it that he was given, how did it work, but he couldn't say, really; he was in a trance. A smiling trance. He's insistent, I've *got* to go to this 1 or 2 hour intro, and not wanting to I did go, and saw a relatively large room full of people in smiling trance lugging in people who were pushed and pulled and tugged into going. It was a nice room -- conference room in some hotel there in Houston -- and it was nicely set up, comfortable chairs, an attractive podium, strong-eyed strong-personality in the people who were orchestrating it. We took our seat, it came to order.

That intelligent strong woman talked for an hour and didn't say anything, she was selling sizzle, not steak. And just sizzle, not even the nice odor of steak being cooked, just the sizzle. She was a good sizzle seller, her strong eyes flashing. But she didn't say a goddamn word about what you could expect if you signed up for a weekend. She treated us like mushrooms, is what she did, she kept us in the dark and fed us bullshit.

Against my better judgment I threw down the cash for the weekend, maybe $250 then, maybe more, I don't recall exactly, it's been a while. When I signed up, there was real insistence that I be on time, in fact early, to show my commitment to this event which will give me my new life. They called me, at least twice the night before the event, again totally insistent that I be on time, early is better. I'm annoyed -- "Hey, I got it, I'll be there, give it a rest."

You know what happened.

I got there early, maybe fifteen minutes, maybe more, I don't know. Almost everyone was there early. And of course the lead scumbag didn't show up until 20 minutes late. I knew instantly that this is just a big mind-fuck, a horses-ass game, I sat back and watched. And what did I watch? I watched this piece of shit "leader" tear everybody down, in any way she could. And the game is that she is *really* good at putting people down if they question why she is being such a big jagoff, she is in a power position and knows it and used it so well.

I lasted about an hour. Then, as she was reaming some nice little old lady, I hit my limit -- it was enough. I'm like "Hey, what's your problem, why are you running this horses-ass game, how dare you be such a jerkoff." and that, ladies and gentlemen, was what she was primed for, and looking for, and waiting for. She was so happy, a huge gleam in her eyes as she began to tear into me. Except I wasn't having it, none of it, not one second of it. She was not the only person in that room with strong eyes and the ability to ream someone out.

We went at it, maybe ten minutes, she's determined to keep being a jerkoff, I smile and say "Hey, have a great weekend, I'm outta here." and then she pulled her ace -- "You're not getting your money back!" Which was just great -- I laughed at her, told her it was worth 250 bucks to not be in a room with this jive going on, they can have it. Meant every word. And I was pretty much broke; it was a lot for me then. But truly, fuck her, fuck them, fuck their games. I walked.

They tried to stop me at the door, did all they could to keep me from leaving. I told them that if they want to talk to me, give me the cash back, otherwise get out of my fkn way. I smiled, blew them a kiss, and walked.

They called and called, telling me I had to come back -- it would have been a huge feather in their cap had I slunk back into the room and said "I was wrong to leave, I'm glad I'm back, plz commence to treating me like shit some more." but that was not going to happen. They wouldn't quit calling. I told one person, got to someone a bit higher up the food chain than just the morons manning the phones, I told her that I would return on one condition -- they give me back my cash, every dime, and not harass me one bit about staying longer. And that if I came up there and they did not give me back my cash, every goddamn person in that hall was going to know about it. She finally gave in, hoping I know that when I got there some miracle would get me to allow her to change my mind.

No miracles occurred. I drove up, walked in, said "Give me the cash.", she began some song and dance and I said "Give me the fkn cash, like we agreed on the phone." And she gave me the cash.

The whole thing is total bullshit. It's Marine Corps boot camp -- they strip you of every shred of yourself, force you to endure all sorts of indignities until you're just a shivering spot of goo sitting in that chair, and then they give little pieces back, and they tell you how happy you should be to have been given whatever jive they're handing out. I never was in the Marines but I've got lots of friends that have been, it really is very much the same sort of thing.

I was glad to get the money back but I'd have been just as glad to have spent it on taking care of myself, not allowing myself to be put down ... More than that -- I'm glad that I walked rather than *paying* some fool to put me down.
~~~~~
All of that said, I have known two people who have benefited from it. One of them the benefits wore off pretty fast and he was/is right back to being himself (and that is sure a good thing, he's one of my best friends, and it was tiresome to hear the doublespeak he spouted for two or three weeks). But it did help him kick out the stops some, in his work, see limitations he'd put on himself, made a number of sales in short order -- that was cool. The other person was an FBI agent, she was sortof a powerhouse anyways, she told us that it gave her real clarity, helped her discount "her story" and get on with real life. I don't know how long it held with her; she was in my social milieu only a short while, a few months maybe.
~~~~~
Paying someone to treat me like shit so I'll feel all warm and good when they stop treating me like shit -- just not in my line.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:43 AM on February 18, 2015 [22 favorites]


I already know I suck. You just saved me $250!
posted by thelonius at 8:52 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, when I said it was a pyramid scheme, here's what I mean. As you advance, the sessions get more and more expensive. You are discounted for every so many people you get in at the ground level. At least, this is how it worked in the 90's when my wife's boss was shoving it down everyone's throats.

So, you're not paid, but you're spending less money. With that, the incentive to push everyone into is huge. Because you're defining your self-worth around this thing.

I personally know of two musicians who used it to get off heroin. That's an unmitigated positive. That being said, if you walk in there in desperate need of some real therapy, there's some serious negatives that can come out of that. I think the worst part of it, is just that the underlying motive is profit. The assertion that it can literally help everyone with every problem they have is part of that.

It's the kind of thing that can make you a lot of money in a society where we don't take mental health seriously.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


As you advance, the sessions get more and more expensive. You are discounted for every so many people you get in at the ground level. At least, this is how it worked in the 90's

I did Landmark stuff for about 3 years in the 90s and that is definitely NOT how it worked.

First program: The Forum. At the time it was $300-ish, I gather it's $500 now.

Second program: The Advanced Course. This was expensive. I think it was around $750 then. I don't know what it is now.

Third program: Self-Expression and Leadership, at that time was $150. It may be $200 or so now. But notice, the price just dropped, not increased. This is a 3-month once-a-week thing where you're asked to develop a project to make a difference in some community in your life.

That's it. That's the "core curriculum" if you will. There are a range of seminar programs, that are once a week for about 10 weeks each. They center on themes like money, relationships, etc. Last time I looked they were $100 each. So, again, no cost escalation.

And at no time was there any sort of discount for bringing in other people.

The only other courses I can think of were specifically intended as a path toward possible work with the company. There's one that a lot of people did, called "the Introduction to the Forum Leader" program. It's for training the people who lead the small sessions for guests who come to seminars. So, let's say you're taking the seminar, you bring a friend so they can learn about Landmark. For the first 5-10 minutes of the seminar guests get to sit in and hear people in the seminar share about what they've experienced through the seminar that week, then guests get led off to smaller groups for a more directed "Introduction to the Forum." So this training program is for teaching people to lead these introductions. At the time, it cost $400, and lasted a year. It was four two-day weekend sessions, each three months apart, and weekly evening meetings. You paid $100 each weekend, but if I recall rightly, even then you only paid that if you didn't have travel expenses. (They only gave these weekends in certain cities, so people would fly in for them. Those folks got the $100/weekend fee waived.) Lots of people took this program because it was viewed (and sold) as offering a kind of skill set that would be useful in the business world at large. Which isn't entirely wrong, but yes it does also provide Landmark with a free sales force. (But that's a whole other topic.)

My point is just to say that the "increasing cost" and "discounts for bringing new people in" statements are totally false. I'm not trying to make anyone like Landmark if they don't want to - I just have this thing where I feel like people should dislike something for reasons that are true facts.
posted by dnash at 2:37 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


As another point in the "hard sell" data set, the owners of the late, lamented (I assume lamented, by somebody somewhere) San Francisco restaurant Cafe Gratitude got into some trouble by forcing their employees to attend Landmark events a few years back.
posted by whir at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2015


My point is just to say that the "increasing cost" and "discounts for bringing new people in" statements are totally false.

Fair enough, I'm just relating what this guy told us. I have no evidence he was telling the truth.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:55 PM on February 18, 2015


As another point in the "hard sell" data set, the owners of the late, lamented (I assume lamented, by somebody somewhere) San Francisco restaurant Cafe Gratitude got into some trouble by forcing their employees to attend Landmark events a few years back.

This problem is far more common with worldwide charities like United Way, or christianity, than the relatively tiny self-actualization world.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:39 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was thinking United Way, too. Though it's not like United Way participation being used as a cudgel by some bosses makes Landmark participation being used as a cudgel by other bosses any better, or somehow less awful.
posted by rtha at 6:46 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


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