UPDATE: It’s was 2009 when I wrote this particular blog piece. I have to say, though I haven’t had any contact with this ‘John’ in three years, something that Rose said really stands out in my mind.
“I said somewhere what I was reading about Landmark was more of the making people
self-absorbed, self-centered, etc..through the isssue of ‘self-actualization’.”
That’s John in a nutshell. His arrogance got worse, not abated a bit. He would start almost every conversation about “Landmark taught me…..” Well, at 67 years old, it seems that John had very little knowledge about himself….And he certainly was a user, an opportunist, and in the experience of others who knew him better than I did….untrustworthy.
I received this comment from Rose, a friend of some duration and a fine writer. Rose has helped me through some difficult times when I didn’t know top from bottom, and if it wasn’t for her advice, I would have prolonged a difficult and pointless situation. Rose has appeared here before on the discussion of D/s.
Because I find what she writes to be of ultimate sense, I post it here on the blog face instead of the comments section. I was especially taken with the part of “sowing seeds of doubt as to your own ability to decide your path, etc” as I have been rather touchy about this of late. When we don’t listen to ourselves and collect the lessons from our own experience, we will fall prey to fakers and others whose dominance might overcome our own common sense and experience.
Snakeoil salesmen come in all shapes, colors and sizes.
Oh, and those volunteers for Landmark? They are just that: volunteers. Who gets the 88 million dollars last year? This sounds like a pyramid scheme to me financially, but the worst part of it is that they create machines out of human beings. Think of wind up toys. And please look at the website at the end:
Thank you, Rose.
I don’t usually leave comments here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t read your blog. This entry interested me, because I, also, am extremely wary of anyone who implies they have all *the answers* and all I have to do, to get those answers, is “change the way I think,” (and, oh, yeah, by the way, fork over five hundred bucks). Of course, one thing I’ve always noticed about these groups (or individuals) is they tend to be of the opinion that that their way to think is *better* than your way to think. They sound very polite and very knowledgeable, and oh, so enthusiastic, but what they’re really doing is sowing the seed of self-doubt regarding your own ability to think for yourself and discover your own path through trial and error, and experiential learning, and then, for just the low, low price equivalent to a mortgage or rent payment, they’re going to teach you to see all the possibilities surrounding the discovery of the secret of life, success, inner peace, and the path to enlightenment. Who’d of guessed it would be that easy?
Do snake oil salesmen ever really go away?
I decided to visit the Landmark site, just for the hell of it, as I am wont to do things just for the hell of it… oh alright, more accurately I do these things because I’m the kind of person who just loves collecting data and analyzing people and events, for myself. I was curious enough to want to read what they have to say. I always read this kind of stuff with a skeptical eye. Living as long as I have, and learning everything I’ve learned, to date, I do tend to say, “Yeah, yeah, promises, promises,” and I long ago learned to heed the advice, “If it sounds too good to true, it probably is.”
It surely is a nice, crisp, clean, professional-looking site, and I’m not saying that a lot of what I read there didn’t *sound* good Sure it does. Who *doesn’t* want to make his or her own life better? And who doesn’t want to make it better in just three days, instead of taking years to experience all life has to offer and make all those little personal landmark discoveries in a long series of ‘ah-ha moments?(Well, I’ll take, “Rose,” for two thousand, Alex.) I love all those ‘ah-ha’ moments and I love that each one is earned by my own efforts, because no one can *make* you have an “ah-ha” moment; your mind/spirit has to do it all on its own. News flash, people: You can’t *buy* enlightenment.
Anyway, I really didn’t have to read too far in the curriculum to come across the one statement that, in my opinion, totally shoots their credibility all to hell: “The power to choose is uniquely human.”
That arrogant assertion, a false one, as scientific research now proves (do your own research, guys…I’m not about to cite all the PBS documentaries I’ve watched, or all the papers I’ve read on the subject), immediately told me that they are full of shit and worth neither the time nor the effort on finding out more about them. My own personal experience with other species has proved to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the power to choose is *not* uniquely human, so by making a statement, such as that one, they most assuredly, in my opinion, cast doubt on everything else they say. By making this statement, however, they *do* appeal to the human ego, especially the frail human ego of those who long to be acknowledged as being “special,” people who crave belonging to some mystique-enshrouded inner circle.
Oh, these people, and people just like them, have most assuredly done their homework in gleaning as much information as possible about how to manipulate others. You can be sure that they’ve studied human psychology and the elements of persuasion, to a considerable degree. And you can be more than sure that they devoted a lot of time and effort into ascertaining just how much people are willing to gamble on the idea of a “quick fix” for all that they perceive is wrong with their lives. Of course, there are no guarantees. They very carefully word everything around “possibilities.”
Well, yeah, no matter what you do or how you learn, if you make even a minimal effort towards accomplishing anything, there are always possibilities. There are myriad avenues for creating possibilities and fulfilling goals that aren’t going to cost you money…only time and effort. Start by looking in the mirror without a veil of “if onlies” between you and your reflection, and acknowledging that while you’re not perfect (look at your shortcomings with an honest, critical eye, and then look at your strengths and do exactly the same thing), you can certainly aspire to excellence. Start by reading and researching. Start by reaching out and communicating with people. Start by doing just one good thing for someone else and you’ll find that for every good thing you do for someone else, no matter how it turns out, you’ll have learned something and by learning something you’ll have done a good thing for yourself, as well. I’m giving you that advice, right here, right now, *for free,*
because I’m not trying to make a fortune telling people I have all the answers and I’ll give them to you, but first you have to pay me.
Because, make no mistake, they are in this primarily for the money. The profit motive rules. The power motive comes in a really close second. They love all that power to manipulate and getting the big bucks to do so is the gravy.
So, in addition to these folks not being worth the time or effort, except inasmuch as you get to learn something about yourself, and them, and possibly end up wiser (though poorer), they cannot possibly be worth the money. Geez, Louise…did you see their price list? Well, they do say a fool and his money are soon parted. It isn’t just the five hundred bucks for the one course…each of the courses cost about the same or more, and, of course, you’ll be encouraged to take it to the next level if you don’t feel you’ve been been enlightened quite enough in the introductory one. And, of course, once you’re “filled with the spirit” — Amen, brothers and sisters! –just as any new convert to some litany of hocus-pocus, you’ll be encouraged to spread the word and bring more potential converts into the fold. At $500.00 a pop, anyone with even half a brain can see the profit potential here. Of course, by the time you’ve finished buying into their hooey, the half of your brain responsible
for being able to reason that out will be mush. They do say that bullshit baffles brains.
Let’s face it…if they were truly interested in making people’s lives better, why wouldn’t they just use the local non-profit community center, or other community resources, such as a library or a school, for a small nominal fee, and impart their knowledge, for way less money, to smaller groups of people, in say, weekly sessions, with that more personal one-on-one feeling? Why is it essential to spread the Landmark gospel in a “hotel conference room or one of our meeting facilities in major metropolitan areas” in a “casual environment with 75 – 250 people?” (Doesn’t sound very casual to me.) That’s an easy one (besides the $500/head and making sure you don’t give people time to go home and cogitate on a weekly workshop or seminar); the herd instinct.
There is more of a desire to conform, in a large group, to follow the lead of the “leaders,” and to think in terms of “I don’t necessarily agree with [insert doubted statement here], but no one else seems to doubt it, so maybe I’m wrong.” In a large group, even the individual who thinks for himself or herself tends to not want to make waves, and to not want to impede the flow of the group activity. In other words, a large group of people, ostensibly all seeking the same goals, tends to discourage shit disturbers, whereas in a much smaller forum (say, 20 – 25 people, or even fewer), the individual is encouraged to question, and much back and forth discussion ensues. In a large group, no matter the superficial civility, the mob mentality kicks in. It’s no different from a religious revival meeting, or “the wave” at a baseball game.
Of course, I’m not making any pronouncement, one way or another, on whether or not they are cultist, since I have no direct experience with them.
What I am saying, as a skeptic and pragmatist, is “Hold onto your wallets, guys, and don’t let anyone use your gray matter as Play-Doh.'”
Note: *After* I visited the Landmark site and *after* I composed this commentary, I visted this site: http://www.skepdic.com/landmark.html
Seems I’m not the only skeptic.
A little bit more and I’ll try to bury this dead horse:
I said somewhere what I was reading about Landmark was more of the making people self-absorbed, self-centered, etc..through the isssue of ‘self-actualization’.
Reading some on Landmark practice, I came across this from a writer in Bangkok.
“Three things bothered me about this presentation (I walked out as organisers were preparing to register guests).
First was the presentation “style”. There was a lot of effort to be emotional, to put out a lot of energy, and some of the techniques used were clearly manipulative. There was no opportunity for questions to be asked.
Second were the testimonials. In each case, the description of behaviour prior to the programme and what life changes had been made afterwards sounded strikingly like someone who had gone through psychotherapy. As a matter of fact, the programme is considered “large group psychotherapy” in the various studies that have been done on it in professional literature. Yet, as far as I can determine, none of the trainers are trained psychologists, psychotherapists, or psychiatrists.
The third thing that bothered me was the part about the tearing down of who you are, giving you a blank slate to create a new you. I’ve heard this before too, in studying Communist re-education systems under Lenin, Stalin and Mao. This sounds suspiciously like the process used by the Soviets in preparing confessions for their show trials or the first stage of the brainwashing process.
It’s a very powerful place to take someone, but also a very dangerous place to take someone. As a training professional, I think that the risk of taking participants to that place requires significant safeguards – safeguards that I do not believe are in place with this programme.”
Perhaps it’s the times: we have the luxury to jump from one philosophy to another, to navel-gaze endlessly, to ‘prepare to start our lives’ (even in our 70’s, 80’s…) and I do wonder at the stickwithitness of all these programs.
And I wonder about these ‘breakthroughs’. Just how much are they really ‘ah-ha’ moments? Are they possibly a collapse of our brains with the overload of 3 day, 12 hour sessions where you can’t go pee at will, where there are so many restrictions on what you can do (the issue of taking meds, the control of time and you get one lunch break….that would put diabetics in a sling..) well, these issues are ways to make infants of adults…one way to make the behaviors more malleable to someone.
I am not impressed with the ‘mindspeak’ of my friend. He keeps using the same words but I don’t see the progress….nor do I see any real understanding or practice. He’s had 22 months of this and one would think there would be more ‘differences’…….but I am afraid that these things are like rabbit holes….or the ‘refining’ of the ‘ah-ha’ moment makes real movement impossible….and not applicable.
Something isn’t working. Are these people attending Landmark Forums really that stoppered up in life? Or are they just convinced they are by Landmark? And who sez that our individual experiences don’t have a truth, a beauty, regardless how scattered, different, chugging along, uneven, maddening, unreliable…..they express all the individuality of the human race.
Why are we attempting to march in lockstep?