I read something yesterday that reminded me of some details about the Landmark Forum that I actually hadn’t thought about it in a while. It was about the discussion in the Landmark Forum about how we get to be the people that we are – or, as it’s called here, ‘The Genesis of Identity‘. In the Landmark Forum, as this post reminds me, there is a discussion about the first time you saw that something was wrong; with yourself, with others or with the world. The course also looks at the first time you really felt like you didn’t belong, and the first time you felt completely on your own. The forum takes the case that each time one of things happens, we compensate for being unable to just ‘be with’ what is happening, and we develop a way of acting, or ‘strong suit’, to compensate for this ‘break in belonging’. In other words, we develop an effective personality trait designed to compensate for what is perceived to be wrong with us, with others or the world.
These strong suits are extremely useful for effectively getting through life and being successful. There are two potential pitfalls that the Landmark Forum points to:
1) you don’t really have a ‘choice’ about how to act – a situation comes up and automatically, one finds oneself being that particular way, whether it’s appropriate or not. For instance, I fall into being determined, even when that isn’t what’s really called for. This prevents creatively looking outside the box for what’s called for in a given situation.
2) The other pitfall (which is really more of a caveat than a pitfall), is that no amount of success achieved through one’s strong suits will ever be truly satisfying, in that it will never really handle the initial concern – the thing that was wrong with myself, others or the world. For instance, if someone tells me that I’m stupid when I’m growing up, and I compensate by being hard-working, no amount of success achieved through being hard-working will ever handle the issue of being stupid. That initial ‘failure to be’ will still be there.
I find this to be an extremely interesting notion, and also point to why we are sometimes so uncomfortable going outside of our fixed notions of who we are – if we aren’t those fixed personality characteristics that we’ve always used to get by in life, then who are we?
Perhaps this, more than anything, is why I often find the programs of Landmark Education so inspiring – getting outside of one’s notions of who one has always thought oneself to be can be one of the most challenging things one can ever do, and yet the most rewarding. And it is what it will probably take to move us forward as a society – new ways of being and acting are going to be necessary for unpredictable progress in the world. As a notable Indian man once said, to argue that what has not occurred in human history will not occur at all is to argue disbelief in the dignity of man.