Actually, this is a minor point. I rate the Forum as one of the most powerful educational experiences of my life.
The purpose of the Landmark Forum is to erase your identity and reduce it to nothing.
Stated so baldly, this might sound strange—even sadistic.
Actually, it’s liberating. From a state of nothingness, all things are possible.
To understand this, consider the core elements of our identity.
The philosophical perspective of the Forum (taking its inspiration from the brilliant work of Werner Erhard), is that a large part of our identity consists of rackets and strong suits.
A racket is a circumstance that you complain about—even though you receive a payoff from it.
Example: Suppose that my mother sends me money every week, even though I’m 58 years old. Every chance I get, I gripe that she’s overprotective. But if she ever stopped sending the money, I’d sure miss it.
Strong suits are decisions we make at certain crucial points in our development. These decisions might be random, hasty, irrational, even absurd. Yet they can shape our lives for decades to come.
Example: During adolescence, I didn’t belong to a group of peers that I admired. So I decided to excel academically, become a straight-A student, and master the guitar. These became sources of strength for me—“strong suits.”
How would you respond if saw straight through your rackets and strong suits? Even a momentary glimpse into how empty and meaningless they are can shift your perspective on just about everything.
That’s what happened to me at 5 pm on the second day of the Forum. I suddenly felt reduced to nothingness—a state similar to the Buddhist experience of anatta, or “not-self.” It was terrifying and beautiful.
Once you’re reduced to something resembling a psychological blank slate, you are free to reinvent yourself in significant ways. You can declare new possibilities—new values, new goals—and start to align your moment-to-moment behaviors with them. Think of it as a psychological “re-boot.”
If you’re looking for a path to behavior change, I’d highly recommend nothingness.
Image by zapota, Flickr Creative Commons