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I want to share one of the most significant things I have gotten out of my work with Landmark and the Curriculum for Living… an amazing relationship with my father that I didn’t even know was a possibility a couple years ago. I think it is important for me to share it because I’m going to guess I’m not the only person here who has had a difficult or just non-existent relationship with a family member that you would like to see change…and I’m here to tell you…it is possible. My relationship with my father for most of my life was just superficial conversations about school or work. We never talked about our problems or anything of much depth or substance. That has completely changed and he has told me that even though we now live on opposite ends of the country, he feels closer to me than when we used to live under the same roof many years ago.
I’m writing this on the plane on my way to Los Angeles to support my Dad as he goes through the Landmark Forum for himself and there’s a good chance I could cry on this plane as I’m writing this because of how significant this is for him, for me, and for our whole family. I’ll let you know by the end of this, whether or not there were waterworks and if the people sitting next to me look at me like a complete weirdo.
For my entire life, I viewed my father as a stoic, emotionally unavailable man. The traditional Chinese father. And my perception of him was that he was a ghost father, that he was there, but he wasn’t really there. He didn’t participate in my life, such as going to my swim meets, or taking me shopping. He didn’t seem to care. But that was the story I created about him, which might not have been the real case. And I blamed him for why I was attracted to emotionally unavailable men and why I had issues sustaining a long term relationship, which I thought I had overcome in therapy a long time ago and was able to to have a long relationship of 3.5 years.
Years ago before my work with Landmark, I established in therapy/EMDR that when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, an event happened in my life that made me feel like a disappointment of a daughter. My father wanted me to take this Chinese waterpainting class. I didn’t want to do it and I avoiding telling him that until the very last minute and when I finally worked up the courage to tell him, I thought he was sooo disappointed in me. And that was just the beginning of the end for us. We didn’t have much of a relationship after that. And that was the root of all my own problems with men…or so I believed.
It wasn’t until I went through the Landmark Forum, that I realized that was just a story I created about him being emotional unavailable but it was also a story about myself. The story I told myself was that I was a disappointment of a daughter, I was unworthy, unloveable…a story, a 7-year old created in her naïve little head, that I was still carrying with me well into my adulthood. A lie I believed for a very long time until I did therapy/EMDR. It was so deeply seeded in me that and I was completely unaware of it and I probably sabotaged myself in a lot of ways in many MANY dating experiences in my 20s.
When I did the Forum back in June 2017, one of our homework exercises was to write a letter, so I decided to write a letter to my father and rather than blaming him for our lack of closeness, I took ownership of the situation and explained how I created this story about him being emotionally closed off. I told him about the water painting class and how it affected me and do you want to know what he told me? He didn’t care that I didn’t take that class I thought he really wanted me to take. I was like, oh shit, the root of my problems never even existed, it was all in my head. He never saw me as a disappointment. I just thought he did. And because I thought I was a disappointment to him, I pulled away. And I realized that perhaps I was the emotionally unavailable one, not him. When I act closed off around a person, guess what, they will probably act closed off towards me. Mind blown.
Sunday night after I get home from the forum, I read him this letter to him over the phone. He cries. He is more expressive than I could of ever imagined or thought possible. And in that moment, I realized wow, this man is not emotionally unavailable at all. It’s been there the whole time. I just needed to open my eyes and realize that I just needed to create the space for it and learn the skills to become more emotionally open myself.
Time goes on, and we do start to talk on the phone more frequently. And somehow, we actually get into 2 major conflicts, which proved to have a positive impact on our relationship. We never fought before, but the conflicts had come out of some clear misunderstandings about each other. He thought I was insulting him, when in my mind, I was just standing up for my mother. But in talking through it and understanding each other’s perspective, we were able to quickly work through and come out of it feeling closer than ever.
Over the course of the past year, I have been strongly encouraging my father to do the Landmark Forum for himself…with a side caveat…that my mother said she would do it if he does it (and how huge and amazing would it be if my mother did it). He made excuses. “I don’t have the time right now.” “I don’t have the money right now.” “I don’t want to do it just so your mother does it. She needs to do it independent of me.” “My life is fine.” I of course told him it also took me 9 months to sign up for the forum after I first heard about it. I thought my life was ‘fine’ too…I liked my relationship, I liked my job, why did I need to do it? I had done my share of personal development work for years. I thought I was in a good place in my life. It was not until I saw the transformation of my own brother from a somewhat depressed, low self-confident person into a happy, positive, inspiring one…that moved me to try it out for myself to see what I could get out of it. And I am so thankful I did. And I feel happier and more alive now than I ever have because I have learned to let the baggage go.
In June of this year 2018, I was in LA for a few days and it was my first opportunity seeing my father in person since I had completed the Forum in June 2017. So of course I talked it up more to him and shared many of my stories of what I’ve accomplished in the past year for myself. And I listen to him as he shared things about his own life. Even still, he made excuses to put it off. But on that trip, I did have a major breakthrough with him in that he finally admitted it wasn’t about time or money, those things could always be figured out if you want it enough. He told me he was afraid it might make him do something he doesn’t want to do. I was like, Dad, it’s not about forcing you to do what you don’t want to do, it’s about getting whatever you want out of life for yourself. Still didn’t sign up. Oh well.
On July 2nd, my father texts me, “Urgent. Can I call you right now?” I call him back immediately. He’s in a complete breakdown. He’s extremely distressed about another conflict he has had with my mother. So stressed out that it has significantly raised his blood pressure. I talk to him and somewhat calm him down. And again I push Landmark on him because I know it will help him deal with these vicious cycles of conflict he has her. He’s like, no thanks. Next day, he calls me again. I’m sitting in the parking lot of Target and talk to him for a half hour. Then I call my mother and talk to her for a half hour. Call my father back, and talk to him for another 20 minutes. I help them understand each other better and understand that both are acting in a way that makes sense based on what they are feeling. Both of them feel better. My parents have been separated for 10 years (though not divorced…that’s another can of worms), and I know they still care about each other, but honestly I’m fully in support of them getting divorced, but it’s been a long standing struggle for various reasons and causing a lot disharmony in our whole family, which I was getting tired of. I was kind of yelling at both of my parents that night (but in a loving caring way because I want them both to have peace and happiness). This was super invigorating because I was so worked up from standing for both of them. Pushed Landmark again because it’s fucking breaking my heart that there is so much pain and suffering they are experiencing, and if they both did it, they could find some peace of mind and freedom from it. Both of them are like…NOPE. Uggghh… my parents are soo stubborn. It had been easier convincing perfect strangers into doing the Forum than my own parents.
The next day, on the 4th of July, my mother texts me this: “Alice. I talked to your dad this morning peacefully. Now both feel much better. He is okay from ER and I worried about his health so much these few days. He never told me about the credit line, now I understand. After talking with you last night, I start to see things different. Both Dad and I always blamed each other for wrong things in the past. I have depended on him so much and now I should less because I have Jimmy around me. Now he and I can talk it out is a good start and try to make our relationship better even if we are divorced or not in the future. I am happy now and won’t get made and let my health go down hill. Your dad and I have seldom such good talking. Thanks Alice.”
And same day, I email my father this:
I’ve been thinking so much about our conversations yesterday, and I just want you to think, what do you think my intention is by asking you and mom to do the Landmark forum so much? I know both of you are getting tired of me talking about it, and I don’t care if you’re tired about me talking about it because the reason why is because I care and I don’t want either of you to suffer in the cycle of pain and hurt anymore. I am standing for both of you to live a life full of peace and happiness and neither of you are right now.
And don’t just do the Forum because then Mom will do it too (although that would be huge and amazing if she does do it). DO IT FOR YOURSELF TOO. This conflict that you keep having with Mom is going to KEEP happening until one of you is willing to break that cycle, and doing the Forum is how you can break the cycle of hurt. You say your life is fine, but it’s not. You’re suffering. You allowed this last conflict with mom to raise your blood pressure. This is not good for your health. The stress of all this is HURTING you and I cannot stand to allow you to keep getting stressed out and hurt over this and again doing the forum will give you the skills to be able to handle your emotions around mom when she attacks you. So yes, you can refuse and make excuses why you won’t do the Landmark forum now, but it doesn’t matter, I am still going to bug you to do it until the day you die (and I don’t want you to die anytime soon).
Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. It will help everyone, but you most of all.
Trust me on this. It will.
I love you.”
He responds with this:
“I promise to take it. I don’t want to be conditional take it.
I take it for my own willingness. I take it without any give force behind.
I decide my own schedule to take it.
I want independent and I would like to you to talk to mom she needs to independent.
Today happen to be independent day. Please tell her be independent.
She want to be happy and start a new life she need to be independent.
For example, her life is control by herself. She never will be happy if she wants to control other’s life.
Alice, I love you. You don’t know how much appreciate all the support from all 3 kids means to me. I want to cry. Monday I am at a moment to see hopeless. I feel a lot better.”
I write back this:
I hear what you are saying. I want you to do the Forum only when you are ready to do it for yourself. I don’t want to force you. I don’t want you to do it just so mom will do it.
Regardless of if you do it or not, I’m committed to helping this family move towards becoming more peaceful so I may often bring up Landmark because that is the most powerful tool I know that will help get us there. It is helping in ways you might not even realize, even though you haven’t done it yet. The way I am able to talk to mom and talk to you, are skills I learned from the work I’ve done with Landmark. I want you to have these skills too so you don’t have to keep going through me to get through to Mom. This is paying a toll on myself, to be the peace maker in the family, I want everyone in our family to have the tools to create their own peace so they don’t have to use me to figure it out. I WANT so much for both of you to be happy and at peace. And it’s frustrating for me because I have the tools to create peace, but nobody else wants to learn the tools that I have that I know will make a difference.
I am so thankful for Landmark because it has given me an amazing relationship with you that I didn’t even know was possible. That fact that you were able to call me and open up to me about the conflict you are dealing with right now means so much to me. Before Landmark, my relationship with you was just talk about school or work. Now we have a great relationship where we can talk about anything. And you can always talk to me about anything. But if both you and Mom just want to talk to me to complain about each other, that is not productive for anyone here. I only want to talk if you are open to hearing ways I think might help make this family more peaceful, to take action…maybe that action might be Landmark, but maybe not, we can try other ways and I’ll think of other options, but you know Landmark is my favorite tool so I will always suggest this.
But it seriously pains me to see you feel hopeless and suffer when Mom attacks you. You can have the skills to deal with and communicate with mom in a more effective way if you did Landmark. Your conflicts with mom are killing BOTH of you and I can’t stand it sometimes. I want you both to live a long and happy life.
I’m here for you. I will support you. I will listen. However I can’t be the peacemaker all the time. You have to take action to find your own peace and happiness. I can’t do it for you. You have to do it for yourself.
I love you so much.”
He writes back:
I raise my hand I like a small student say to the teacher, “I want to learn”.
Yeah…I totally tear up every time I read that email. And yes, right here, right now, on the plane as I write this…it’s happening.
I FINALLY broke through to him. My heart swells up with so much joy and pride. I’m so proud of him for being so open and vulnerable with me to tell me when he was struggling. I mean it was not an overnight occurrence. Building and strengthening our relationship was work but now he confides in me all the time. And now we are one step closer to having a transformed family, one of peace and harmony. And none of this would have been possible without Landmark: The conversations I have with him. A closeness with my father that I never dreamed of (which DOES NOT happen typically in a Chinese family…we were sooo NOT the expressive type before). So when the time comes when he’s no longer in the world, I can feel at peace knowing that we had built something that defies what a stereotypical Asian family looks like (and maybe what a lot of families look like).
What I really hope people get out this story is to help redefine masculinity. That true strength lies in the ability to be vulnerable and to reach out to others for help when there is an emotional or mental struggle. Our society and culture is so geared towards men not showing emotions, to “tough it out.” And I honestly feel like that is so detrimental for their own wellbeing, as well as everyone around them. To be silent sufferers does not solve anything. Male suicide is the number one killer of men under 50. And it is NEVER too late to learn these skills. If my father, a Chinese immigrant in his 60s, can do it, so can you. I have talked to a lot of men and I like asking them if they have ever done any personal development work like counseling, meditation, courses like Landmark, etc. Most are like…NO. OR they say something like, “Oh I just like to reflect on my own. Figure it out myself.” I’m like, yeah that’s what my brother did for a long while and that didn’t get him to where he wanted to be, he still struggled with his own self worth. It would be like trying to learn how to fly a plane on your own with zero guidance. Yeah maybe you could do it on your own, the self awareness thing, but you’d probably get more accomplished if you got help with classes or therapy. And Landmark, of course, is my favorite course of all time. And it’s only a 3 day weekend, plus one Tuesday evening session! There’s no shame in it. And it can open up things in your life that you didn’t even know was possible. It can help you with any area of your life that just isn’t quite working for you the way you want whether that is a romantic relationship, family issue, work, business, health…any of it.
And I just don’t want men to start becoming more vulnerable and emotionally open and expressive, I want EVERYONE to. It has opened up so much for me in my own life. I feel more connected with people. I feel more connected with myself. I am way more expressive, excited and happy than I used to be. I feel like I can process my emotions more easily and quickly.
I write about these experiences because I just hate to see people suffering as they try to navigate their own life, when it doesn’t have to be. As a doctor, I know depression and anxiety is running rampant in this country, maybe the world too. I truly want everyone to win at the game of life. Thanks for reading.
If you feel inspired to try out Landmark, here’s the website:
If you do it, I hope to hear about it and what opens up for you. They are in most major cities. I’m not saying everyone needs to do it. If you are perfectly happy with your life, you don’t need it. But if one person who reads this says to themselves, “I’d like to have that type of relationship with my own father. Or mother. Or sibling. Or child. Or significant other. Or myself.” Then consider it.
Even though I finished the Landmark Curriculum for Living in May of this year (it’s 3 parts: Landmark Forum, Advanced Course, and Self Expression and Leadership Program), I want to further my impact in the world so I have decided to coach the Self Expression and Leadership Program starting August 25th! Oh boy, new challenges, but new skills. Guest event opportunities for this program if you’re interested will be on October 6th and/or November 10th, 10am-1pm. I’m excited to get back into playing a big game of life and I have already starting thinking about my next project, which will be redefining masculinity. My father has been a huge inspiration for this project.
Love to all,
UPDATE: What my father got out of the Landmark Forum….
Even though he resisted going to the Landmark Forum for over a year, once he was finally enrolled…he did not walk, he RAN with what he discovered for himself. The forum leader told us last night, that my Dad would ALWAYS sit in the front row with a huge smile on his face…such a good student…eager to learn. One of his biggest breakthroughs that he had was realizing that he was pretending to be a nice guy because he kept saying he never said anything mean to my mother, when in fact..he was lying and hiding, being inauthentic. He finally owned up to the fact that he was a big part of what caused her to act “crazy” and angry. He also discovered that he has not been self expressed most of his life because he didn’t want to lose face, or “look bad” to other people so never told anyone about his problems and struggles, but he realized that it made him feel disconnected and isolated. HE HAS DISCOVERED THE POWER OF SHARING! The Monday morning after the Forum when he was sharing with me, I was so moved and inspired. He is now the abundance of love and light. And he wants to help heal the world too now. This was WAY more than I ever expected from him doing the weekend course, and I am filled with so much happiness. My father has been unleashed and he is going to have a HUGE impact for SOOO many people!!