Friday, 25 November 2011

When is a Cult not a Cult?

What I Read.

So, after I wrote about the Landmark Forum I had so much feedback from people that it got me doing a bit more research. Several people I know told me they did the Forum over 20 years ago in America... and both of them described it as a Cult. So, I wrote back to one friend and asked him what they defined as a Cult? This is what he said:

“It came across to me as an expensive form of therapy without the years of training. Over the years they have altered their approach to make it feel less cultish. But back then, that's what it felt like. It's no different than scientology, just without the ridiculous doctrine”.

Very interesting. But again, from what I saw and experienced the other night, it certainly didn't feel that way. Maybe 20 years ago it was a bit more hardcore. So I then googled “Cult” to try and get a definitive definition. Here's what is seemed to boil down to, in simple layman's terms.

Definition: A cult, by modern standards, is any group that incorporates mind control to deceive, influence and govern its followers. Although most people think of cults as being religious, they can also be found in political, athletic, philosophical, racial or psychotherapeutic arenas.

So that could mean that any person leading a group... could be defined as a Cult leader. That can't be right. The one thing I kept reading, over and over again, while finding out more about these self help/motivational groups is that whoever is leading the group, they have immense charisma and charm. They seem to have ‘something’ for millions to want to listen to them and do what they say. Without these leaders, you have nothing, after all. And what did I say in my last blog? The woman leading the Forum was charismatic. What did I say about Anthony Robbins? That he oozed charm and confidence. So they have ‘got it’.

Just an aside to my friend, who I went to the Forum with and has done this course... I do not believe that what you have experienced is in ANY way evil or brainwashing. I DO believe you have genuinely got something so positive out of this which has helped you. And that is wonderful. I really enjoyed myself the other night and felt really moved by some of the people's stories. I even said to you, “If I could afford it, I would do it”. I am not writing this to put down any group in particular but it seems there is a very fine line between those groups genuinely helping people and those that mess them up.

In France, they have banned the Landmark Forum. Their reason is simple. They are worried that vulnerable people are putting their trust in a group of people who have no training. The experiences people CAN go through on these courses makes them open up and reveal some, sometimes, quite traumatic events in their lives, and with no psychiatric training from the people trying to help them, it can leave people in a terrible state.

But it seems that everyone is at risk from being taken in by a cult. I found this (below) on a Cult Help website:

Are You A Candidate For A Cult? Take This Test

Goodness me, I answered yes to 6 of them!!! Come get me, cult leaders!! Then I heard from another friend in Paris who told me about this guy he knew. This is what he emailed me:

http://www.now-here.com/#!/insights/evocative-leadership/leadership-needed-now

So, there you have it... I'm not sure what I was planning to write when I first started but it's all very interesting and I found myself getting more and more into it. I am not judging anyone who finds any group helpful or inspirational and it's your life after all. Incidentally, Anthony Robbins is coming to London with his new show... it's only £800 for 3 days if you're interested! Blimey, I might start my own. Any of you like to follow me??

Here is a checklist for you to discover your vulnerability

... I am considered bright in most things
... I am a curious person about the world around me
... I have been a leader among my peers
... I have been a member of a group and consider myself a follower
... I have moments when I doubt myself and my ability to succeed
... I am afraid of the future from time to time
... I am considered idealistic by my family and friends
... I enjoy being liked by those around me and enjoy receiving compliments from them
... I sometimes like taking risks

Did you check 3 or more? Congratulations!! You are a prime candidate for a cult recruiter. If you think you can’t be taken in then you certainly can be!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Forum

Where I Went.

Last night I went to a 4-hour seminar with a good friend, who had prepared me for the evening with the words "Just keep an open mind, that's all I ask". I am very trusting.

My friend had been attending the Landmark Forum for the last few months and last night was her last session. This entailed bringing a friend along to experience what the Forum is all about, to hear from some of the members and hear what it had done for them. I do have an open mind and try and be non-judgmental so I was intrigued.

I thought I already knew a little about the Forum, reading about it from years before. I imagined it to be a sort of giant group-therapy, lots of hugs and tears and whooping! I thought it might be in the same vain as Anthony Robbins, the hugely popular American motivational speaker who claims to “Unleash the Power Within”. I met Anthony Robbins back in 1992, when I was living in San Diego. I designed the banners for his first shows, probably when he only had a few hundred in the audience and possibly only a few hundred in the bank but he was already being talked about. People said he was inspiring and had changed their lives and so when I had the chance to hand deliver the banners, I jumped at the chance. I met him in his office and was greeted by this 6'6" giant, all tan and teeth and the biggest hands I have ever seen. He shook my hand and I swear I just grinned. He exuded this charm, this wisdom and unbelievable confidence. I would have believed anything he told me. He just said "Thank you Juliet. These banners are great,” and I felt like I had won the lottery. It sounds ridiculous but some people really do ooze “magic”. I wasn't surprised when he became one of the most famous men in the country or when he became a multi-millionaire or when he appeared on Oprah. He HAS helped millions of people find their confidence so I do believe it can happen.

I knew my friend had turned things around in her life with the help of this Forum, that she was full of confidence and everything had sort of slotted into place for her. She hadn't been brainwashed or joined a cult, she reassured me, she had just found a way forward.

We went to a large building near Euston and then up four floors to a large open plan room with about 150 people in it. There were members with printed name tags and their guests with hand written name tags. "Promise me I won't have to get up and share," I said to my my friend, looking around at all the smiling people. She laughed "no... well, not unless you want to". Don't say that to a closet actress... I see a stage and want to be on it!! The evening began with an introduction from a very charismatic woman, the Forum leader. She explained what the Forum could do for you, how it could teach you ways of dealing with things. Their official tag line is: Landmark Education, Innovative programs for living an extraordinary life. She told us her background and then invited members up to share their stories. They were honestly really really inspirational and my God, what a mixed bag!

The first man to speak was a Rabbi. He had fallen out with his brother over money issues in regards to supporting their Father, who had fallen on hard times. The brother refused to pay towards helping their Father. They hadn't spoken in 6 months. He attended the Landmark Seminar and he said it had taught him how to approach the problem differently, to say what he thought, to be honest etc. Now he was able to talk to his brother and just that morning, he had received a cheque from his brother.

Cool. Everyone clapped.

The second man was a gay business man who hadn't spoken to his Father in 20 years. He admitted his biggest problem was procrastinating and there were so many things he kept putting off doing. He said the Forum helped him get more organised and be more procreative and he had, with their help, spoken to his Father and also chosen his new sofa! Ha.

We liked him. We all clapped.

And so it went on... really great stories. Not all were emotional about family feuds and fall outs but the ones that were... blimey, I got choked up! There were people with confidence issues, actors who wanted to be better performers, businessmen who wanted to go out on their own but didn't have the courage, a retired Doctor whose house was a mess. All kinds of people with all sorts or reasons for being there.

I fully embrace anything that helps people feel better. And these people were more confident, less fearful and were very happy and excited about getting a new lease of life. There were lots of happy, smiley people there which is slightly disorientating but that may be just because I'm used to British people walking around looking miserable for the most part! I think maybe the French are not used to looking happy either because they are the only country that has banned the Landmark Forum! Weird.

I used to say to myself "Jump.. and the net will appear." I used to be less afraid to try new things and I guess maybe with age I feel I have more to lose and so don't go for it as much. I'm not saying that this way of doing it is for me... the Landmark is a very very expensive way of doing it. But my friend feels great and that's wonderful.

There was one exercise that we all did last night that I thought was really good. Write on a piece of paper something you want in life but feel there is an obstacle. And always use the word BUT. So it could be:

I really want to change my job BUT I'm scared I won't find another.
I really want to get fit BUT I never seem to find the time to exercise.
I love my husband BUT we argue all the time.

Anyway, you get the idea. I wrote:

I really wish I could see my friends more BUT they are always busy with their lives and kids

It sounds a bit pathetic doesn't it, a bit poor me, oh no one loves me sort of thing. It also sounds like I'm blaming my friends for not seeing me. So, then we were told to write the same sentence out but change the word BUT to AND. So my sentence would now say:

I really wish I could see my friends more AND they are always busy with their lives and kids

The emphasis completely changes because now its not a dead end. Yes, my friends have busy lives but it means I may have to fit in with them a bit more and not blame them for it. Make it happen yourself, be more proactive and change it. Anyway, it seems to work with any sentence. Try it.

What I Wore.

What I Wore.

When someone tells you they've posted a picture of you on Facebook, there is a momentary panic as you realise you have no idea who it will be with, where you are, what you're doing and when it's been taken. So I was relieved and hysterical simultaneously, when I saw two pictures of myself from when I was at university in America, aged 19! Perm and lace... say no more!