I’m Nothing, You’re Nothing—Further Reflections on the Landmark Forum

My previous post on the Landmark Forum criticized the organization’s ban on taking notes during the three-day workshop.

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.

Seriously.

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

13 Replies to “I’m Nothing, You’re Nothing—Further Reflections on the Landmark Forum”

  1. This is an important distinction. I attended the Forum 7 years ago, so my memory on this point is hazy. The important point, as you mention, is that you can create a new future.

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  2. What I took from it was that, you cannot change your strong suits -strong suits are one’s fundamental and automatic ways of being that produce results yet leave him/her unfulfilled. – eg.analytic,compassionate
    But apart from that you can create new values,new things you believe in, new definitions integrity etc…

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  3. Hi,I would like to know if anonye who stay in Bangladesh and who has done landmark forum from anywhere of world. I have done my curriculum from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India in 2010.

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  4. Doug, from Landmark Education website, this comes pretty close to being the stated purpose:

    “The Landmark Forum is specifically designed to bring about positive and permanent shifts in the quality of your life. These shifts are the direct cause for a new and unique kind of freedom and power—the freedom to be absolutely at ease no matter what the circumstance, the power to be in action effectively in those areas that are important to you.”

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  5. What I know was not said in your or my Landmark Forum was “erase your identity” and that was what I piped up about. It is just not one of the purposes of The Landmark Forum nor one of the outcomes of it. No one I knows Identity was erased or has the experience of it being erased nor was told it would be erased.

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  6. You are describing a different Forum than the one I experienced. The stated purpose was to reduce your identity to a state of nothingness, according to the facilitator. Of course, what you actually take away is your own creation.

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  7. “The purpose of the Landmark Forum is to erase your identity and reduce it to nothing.”

    Doug, was your identity “erased”? Mine wasn’t and nobody know’s was. We all saw that we each wound up a certain way and now had room to choose something other then just the way we had wound up, but none of us have been in any way indelibly separated from our personalities or past ways. We just shined light in certain importnat areas that had been unexamined and unseen till those three days. It might be nice if some things were erased, I just did not find that to be the case for myself and my family.

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  8. Yes, there are other ways, thank God. Meditation, yoga, art, exercise, therapy…. The Forum is quite yang in its approach, and it’s not for everyone.

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  9. Yes, but do you think there are other ways to attain anatta, or nothingness, without being beaten into it? I say this without knowing anything about the Landmark Forum and only a little bit about Werner Ephard, so take it with a grain of salt.

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