Friday, January 21, 2011

A truly awful offer

A friend of mine wrote to me after learning I was terminated.

I have been meaning to contact you about this anyway, but was further inspired when I saw that you are between jobs. I think we have had a conversation about the Landmark Forum in the distant past; now I am renewing the invite.

I took the course fifteen years ago and it continues to be relevant and have a profound impact on my life: my work, my relationships, my marriage, my business, you name it. My recommendation is that you pick something (actually the registration form will ask you for three things) you want to have a breakthrough in and do the course. My brother-in-law will be in next weekend's course (though it might be full already), and my sister and mother are in the course on February 25.

I know it's a royal pain walking back and forth from 33rd street in the snow on Shabbat, and it doesn't have a very Shabbat feel, but it's worth it, and you have new boots.

Register and then call me to let me know that you did, 203-xxx-xxxx (Connecticut number; rings through in Israel). All my best (and this is really the best), Forum Fred

The Landmark Forum is a personal self-improvement cult, rather like Scientology. There are a number of criticisms I've read about it, including Inside the Landmark Forum and several postings from the Rick A. Ross Institute, an archive of information about destructive cults and controversial groups and movements. A similar program in Australia was said to lead to one woman's suicide.

I had no intention of submitting myself to their methods. Their website states, in part:

While it is ultimately your choice, OUR ADVISORS STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU SHOULD NOT PARTICIPATE in the Program if you:
(a) have a personal or family history of bi-polar affective disorder (manic-depressive disorder), schizophrenia, acute or chronic depression or other psychotic disorder, whether or not you or they are being or have ever been treated or hospitalized;
(b) are taking, have taken or been prescribed to take within the previous twelve months anti-anxiety drugs (such as Librium, Ativan, Klonapin, Xanax, Dormicum or others); anti-depressants (such as Elavil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Cipram, Prothiaden or others); anti-psychotics (such as Thorazine, Haldol, Stelazine, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Dogmatil or others); any medication to treat bi-polar disorders (such as Lithium, Gabapentin or Depakote); any drugs or medicines, whether prescription or non-prescription, intended to treat or affect mental processes or mood or to treat a chemical imbalance; or anabolic steroids;
(c) have an unresolved history of drug or steroid abuse;
(d) are or have in the past year been depressed and/or considered or had ideas of suicide, self-harm or harm to another;
(e) are currently in therapy and your therapist sees a health reason why you should not participate in the Program; or
(f) are uncertain about your physical, mental or emotional ability to participate in the Program.

I wasn't going to tell Fred why I didn't think I was right for the program, so I merely responded:

Thanks for thinking of me, but I can't afford this right now. Best, Ayelet

That didn't deter Fred:

Okay, I spoke to [my wife] and we have a solution. We'll pay now, and you pay us back when you have a job.

I was still not interested. I didn't write back right away because I was trying to think of a polite way to demur. He didn't wait for a response:

I didn’t have time to write everything I wanted to yesterday, but you can’t afford not to. At the risk of pissing you off, I am going to be straight with you as I see it.

I find your Facebook postings unbearable. The last week of self-pity, and your wonderful self-pity cheerleading crowd have certainly taken it over the top. You are powerful and intelligent and can be a force for great things to happen in this world, and you pleasure us with your most recent shopping excursions and episodes of self-pampering. You can go on as you are going, but it seems a terrible waste of a human being.

My offer stands open. You can go on as you are, and there is nothing wrong with that, or you can actually live into your greatness, which I submit you are barely present to. All my love and a Shabbat Shalom, Fred

I just wanted to unfriend and block him. But I decided to try to be civil.

Fred, I appreciate your concern. However, after reviewing the LF website, I am quite certain it is not for me. I think I'm actually doing pretty well for having been fired a few days ago and enduring several previous difficult months with difficult people. If you find my Facebook postings unbearable, please don't read them.

My best to your wife and the boys.

I hope that ends it.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

6 comments:

  1. I find your Facebook postings unbearable. The last week of self-pity, and your wonderful self-pity cheerleading crowd have certainly taken it over the top. You are powerful and intelligent and can be a force for great things to happen in this world, and you pleasure us with your most recent shopping excursions and episodes of self-pampering. You can go on as you are going, but it seems a terrible waste of a human being.

    How well do you know this guy in real life? What he wrote seems to me to be particularly rude. Backhanded compliments and passive-aggressive. It's certainly not the way I would treat a friend. I might feel the need to tell a friend some hard truths and give them constructive criticism, but I would be much more gentle about it. Fred seems to want to be hurtful.

    Also, he seems extremely overeager for you to take this particular program. That in itself seems cult-like.

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  2. We're not all that close, and yes, his overeagerness for me to do the program is very cult-like. His aggressive tone is a reflection of the program's. Another reason I would never ever do it.

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  3. While it was generous of him to offer to pay, it seems quite forward of him to be that aggressive about a program like that. Do they get paid to recruit? Do they get trained to aggressively recruit? Is Fred this way about anything else?

    At first I understood your reluctance to be straight with him. But now that he's been downright insulting, you can feel free to be blunt with him.

    I think it might be important for you to tell him that his offer was kind but his rant was overly aggressive and insulting. He should be given the chance to apologize.

    Its a mitzvah for you to tell him what he did was wrong. Even if he doesn't take the opportunity to apologize, at least you gave him the chance.

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  5. I went through Landmark in 2006 (and through an "advanced course" in 2008). I don't think it was as big a deal for good as Fred does (and as my overeager relative who talked me into signing up did)- nor do I think it is as harmful as you are afraid it will be (at least not for most people).

    It is a lot of exercises designed to get you out of your comfort zone- things like calling up friends and persuading (or, in Landmark lingo, "enrolling") them of something (I usually chose some sort of praise, but some people who are more adventurous talked to people who they had hurt or who hurt them). I had a nice feeling coming out of it (though annoyance at some of the tactics designed to make you sign up for the next program)- but I definitely felt like some people got more out of it than I did, mostly people who had suffered a heck of a lot more than I.

    Over the past few years, I have done a couple of things that were a little more adventurous than usual (e.g. taking a year off to get a extra degree)- but I can't say for sure whether Landmark deserves any credit for that.

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  6. Thanks, Woodrow. Kind of explains why Fred gave me such a hard sell ;)

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