Landmark Education Forum – is it a “racket”?

A family member recently went on the Landmark Forum’s 3-day weekend course. She came back very inspired and energised. She is the kind of person who has never much been into this sort of thing, but had made many attempts at psychological “self-help” in some form or another over the years. She came back with a new language. She talked about living “authentically”, about giving up her “rackets”, terms which did not sound at all like her. She insisted that if she had had the money she would enrol everyone she knew. She herself had been enrolled by a friend who had insisted she attend. This friend also paid for half the fees. I had no idea what the Landmark Forum was about. (The family member was unable to give me a unbiased opinion.) So I “Googled” it.

Lo and behold – heaps and heaps of sites appeared – many worth checking out, although some were disturbing  as they suggest that the Landmark Education Forum is a scam. I do want to say, for the record, that I am happy that the family member attended the course and that this person did find alot of value in it – but then, her expectations were not unrealistic.

My own (google) investigation revealed the following:
Landmark Education Forum is a business. It was bought in 1991 by the associates of it’s founder, Walter Erhard, (previously John Paul Rosenberg), after he began to get some bad press. All Guru’s get bad press so I won’t go into the details – you can Google it yourself if you are interested.
Erhard developed a “Large Group Awareness” training that became known as EST (Erhard Seminars Training) in 1971. It was a part of the Human Potential Movement and involved intensive 15 – 20 hour seminars over a number of days with huge groups of people.
Those critical of EST called it brainwashing. EST was very goal oriented, as is the LEF. Participants are made to take responsibility for their lives, get on with the future and not “live in the past”. They are encouraged, while attending the seminar, to telephone or contact people who they feel they have unfinished business with – in some cases to confront that person and open communication with them. Which, I suppose, is great – especially for people who are truly “stuck” and unable to get on with their lives because of some minor thing that has been blown out of proportion. But there are those who feel that this could be dangerous for some people – especially if they have been abused and have no support structures around them to help them through the trauma after they have come away from the Forum.
“I participated at Landmark Education for 6 years and have to admit it made a huge difference in my life. I also had some bad experiences at LEC, especially with their staff and other leaders. I found the negative experiences to be shame-based and that there was a hierarchy that had to do with power and dominating an individual. Any time I questioned an individual above me, I was told I wasn’t accepting their coaching. They never looked at the possibility that they might be contributing to the situation.”
“What disturbs me is the fact that they used bright fluorescent lighting with no windows, didn’t allow food or drink in the room, and required such long hours. Hell, if you sit in a fluorescent-drenched, stuffy room for three days and nights, with little hydration and no [unsupervised] communication with the people there, you will probably believe just about anything.”
“I went to the Landmark Forum, but walked out an hour before the end of the first night. I am a social worker with a background in psychology, a master’s degree and am currently working on my LCSW. The manner in which individuals were treated at the Landmark was shocking. I can’t believe that I sat through hours of watching the facilitator humiliate individuals. They chastised me numerous times for ‘sticking out’ and making problems for the volunteers. It is scary that no one was allowed to be by themselves for long periods of time or deviate from the Forum rules in any manner. They said that the reason I wanted to leave was due to my ‘rackets.’ But the Forum seemed similar to cult recruitment and I demanded a refund. They said my money would be refunded, but I ‘me still waiting. I can’t believe that I allowed myself to attend something like the Landmark Forum.”
These are comments that I have copied from Rick Ross’s website (see previous posts) regarding the Landmark Forum. Although I have never attended their seminars, and therefore cannot give a properly informed opinion, the idea of sitting in a room with over a 100 people for more than twelve hours at a stretch over a few days is a bit off-putting. The best article I came across was by a journalist named Karin Badt. She claims in her article, “Inside the Landmark Forum” (www.huffingtonpost.com/karin-badt/inside-the-landmark-forum_b_90028.html ) that she really found the Landmark Education Forum to be helpful. She found their methods of marketing (by persuading attendees to recruit their friends and family) off-putting. She felt their critism of critical thinking problematic. But she didn’t knock it entirely. It’s a good article, I urge you to read it.
If you have attended, I’m interested to hear your comments.

And a bit of wisdom from the folks at “Living In -Formation”, which I think sums it up nicely:

Every behaviour has a positive intention…

If you’re willing to look behind any behaviour, yours or another’s, you’ll find that the original motivating value is positive and purposeful. If the behaviour is a negative or unwanted one, then you can explore alternative and healthier ways of satisfying the value which the behaviour is trying to fulfill. If someone has done something which you find unacceptable, then aim to discover the positive intention behind this. When you find it you’ll be able to accept the situation/person better and respond more resourcefully. Now that’s freedom!

(Written by Jevon Dängeli – NLP Trainer & Coach www.neuro-linguistics.net )

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About clickholistic

I blog - both for reward and for fun.

7 responses to “Landmark Education Forum – is it a “racket”?”

  1. jimtsutsui says :

    I attended the Landmark Forum in 1991. It was an overall, life-altering experience. It altered my life by allowing me to see the invisible barriers that were in place. These were things that I “didn’t know I didn’t know.” The things I know, and the things I know I don’t know aren’t barriers, they are strengths. My weaknesses were things that were unknown to me and in my blind spot. Once I started exploring the nether regions of my life; (like why I get so upset and impatient with my mother, why I feel distant to my father, why I rebel against authority, even when I know it doesn’t work, why I have three university degrees and still feel stupid about life, why procrastinate on important projects until the last minute, etc.) I saw that past events of my life had all been filed away in my “future.” These were the barriers that were invisible but having a big impact on me and the people I love day in and day out. After seeing all of this at the Landmark Forum week-end, I have since then been able to keep taking these barriers out of the future and putting them back into the past where they belong. Over the past 19 years I’ve found these to be in an endless supply. LOL That is why I find the Landmark Forum so valuable. Life is a work in progress. Any source of insight and empowerment, and new points-of-view can only be a good thing. Reading about how some people leave after one day makes me grin and at the same time feel a tinge of sadness for them. They came up to a barrier, and were not able to go past it. They did the same thing they have always done when life didn’t look the way they wanted it to look. They quit, they gave up, and worse they made everyone else wrong about it. That’s life. In the Landmark Forum I got the chance to choose “aliveness” and gave up merely “surviving” in life. Like the Forum Leader said, “no one survives the game of life. In the end we all die.” LOL And she wasn’t saying that she didn’t believe in life after death. She was saying she was talking about THIS life. Ultimately, we don’t survive it, so why not live it fully self-expressed, with possibility and integrity, and freedom? That is what the Landmark Forum has given me for the past 19 years…

  2. thegoatinsf says :

    It’s a cult.

  3. webspheredude says :

    i have attended it ..its just a scam/cult. They brainwash people . They have fake people to vouch for their progams.

    • clickholistic says :

      Thanks everyone for taking the time to post your comments. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the Landmark Forum, so that it why I posted this. On a personal level, I realise that a certain level of discomfort is required in order to progress, and we all need to really push our boundaries at times. But I find it difficult to believe that embarrassing people and belittling them in front of a huge group of their peers is an effective technique for helping them reach their true potential. But again, everyone is different! There is no doubt that money is a huge driving factor for many of the individual group leaders, and the MLM structure that is used to sell their courses is reminiscent of Mannatech’s successful method of selling. I’m just not sure if when it comes to health and personal development that this is such a good idea. Again, my own opinions, for what they are worth!

  4. jimtsutsui says :

    The one sentence replies above are obviously not of any substance. Also, I am real, and not fake, and notice I post my photo and real name on this site and do not hide behind anonymity or generic images.

    The Landmark Forum is not about belittling people or embarrassing people. Remember the Academy-Award-Winning film ROCKY? Remember the boxing coach and how he responded to Rocky? He said what he said, and did what he did, so that Rocky could hold his own with the World-Champion. That is what the Landmark Forum is; coaching for people to live extraordinary lives. Not everyone in the Landmark Forum goes to the microphone. In fact the majority never go to the microphones. People do the Landmark Forum to get beyond their personal barriers to living life. Barriers like “fear.” Fear of rejection, fear of not being liked, fear of failure, fear of not being included, fear of looking bad, fear of being conned, and fear of being laughed at. When you can go beyond your fears, then what could never happen before is now possible. The Landmark Forum empowers people to break out of the box they are living in.

    Also, this company is not multi-level marketing. No one gets money for bringing guests or having people register. The Staff are paid commensurate to what regular faculty members get paid for any educational institution. This is what you call word-of-mouth marketing. It is their reputation, the results people get, that sells this program. Not millions of dollars of advertising or hype, or fake promises. This is the real deal. Anyone who argues this either has never completed one of Landmark’s programs or bailed out when they came up to something that they refused to be coach-able with and quit.

    • clickholistic says :

      Thanks again for keeping the debate going, I really value your insight.

      Your comment that people: ” …bailed out when they came up to something that they refused to be coach-able with and quit.” is also problematic for me. To my mind that suggests that Landmark has the perfect cop-out – it’s the participant’s problem if they have issues with the method, the participant is a “quitter” or “un-coachable”. It just seems too easy to blame the individual rather than take a closer look at the method.

      I am not sure about the “no one gets money for bringing guests”. I am told that those who bring guests do get a significant discount. Whether this is true or not, I cannot tell. I am also told that participants are pressurised to bring guests – friends and family especially – and told that it would be remiss of them not to make it possible for their loved ones to participate. If this is true, then it does rather smack of indoctrination.

      But again, I am only too aware that the Landmark forum does offer many folks the opportunity to take a closer look at themselves – which is always a good thing!

      • jimtsutsui says :

        No, no discounts. I know. I’ve brought a lot of guests, had a lot of people register and do the Landmark Forum and never got any money or any discounts. You might be thinking about scholarships to do Landmark’s programs. If you “assist” which is Landmark’s volunteer program where you contribute your time and skills and do not get paid, sometimes, they are given scholarships to do other programs at Landmark, but never any money.

        When I was talking about people quitting or not being coachable, I am talking about REAL examples and experiences from my life. I had a friend who signed up to do the Forum, she wanted to have a breakthrough in her relationships with men. However, when they gave everyone the opportunity to leave with a full refund on Saturday, she left. I found out on Monday. I asked her why she left? She said she didn’t like the Forum Leader because he was young and reminded her of guys she didn’t like. That was kind of sad but also funny. I told her, don’t you see, that is what you wanted a breakthrough with, your relationships with “men!” Happily a few years later, after failed relationship after failed relationship, she finally went back and this time completed the Forum.

        Another friend, a guy, also left the Forum on a Saturday. I asked him why, and he said the Forum Leader kept saying that people were liars. I asked him what was the word he actually said, and he said people were inauthentic. I asked him to look at his life and we started to see how over and over, he covers up how he really feels until he gets to the place where he explodes and gets angry and upset and drives people away. I told my friend, can’t you see, you cover up your real intentions, and hide what you really feel until your relationships stop working, and then you go into a rant and rave and damage your relationships. He saw he did this with him mother, father, and others. This guy also went back and completed the Landmark Forum. The neat thing was because they both left at the opportunity to leave, they got full refunds from Landmark and later were able to come back and not lose any money.

        Now I imagine people who leave not at this opportunity on Saturday morning, or quit, or bale when it gets uncomfortable or boring or too confronting will not have a happy ending like my two friends did. Its the same as riding a roller coaster. It only works if you stay on the ride all the way to the end and don’t jump out in the middle.

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