Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Catch-11 billion?*

Another nice mention, and some interesting observations, from the Boston Globe's Matthew Gilbert. I realized during last week's interview with Gilbert that the guy gets it. He understandsin a way that very few of my interviewers havethat the damage wreaked by self-help goes far beyond James Ray-type disasters (which are rare, of course) and the mere billions wasted on frothy b.s. Gilbert perceives that the real trouble with self-help is that it's a catch-22 of sorts: its manifold real-world failures are inherent in its core philosophies as well as the psychological message it relentlessly sells to chronic users. (In medicine, which is due to be the next target of my journalistic skepticism, the ironic outcomes wrought by so much of self-help would be known as paradoxical effects: instances wherein your drug or treatment regimen actually causes or at least exacerbates the malady it purports to treat/ameliorate/prevent.) Far from "empowering," so much of self-help, especially in these post-Secret days, plainly disempowers.

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* Dollars, that is. That's the estimated amount spent on all forms of self-help in 2013, according to John LaRosa, who tracks the industry for MarketData. Of that, $549 million is splurged on self-help books alone.

3 comments:

Stever Robbins said...

I have a relative who has been a strict devotee to self-help, especially "prosperity consciousness." I don't think he has ever made enough to support himself without outside assistance, and he is now in his 80s living on social security. Yet he continues to swear by his beliefs. It astonishes me that 50 years into his "putting my intention into the universe," he still hasn't noticed it doesn't work.

Of course, it may produce an (irrational) feeling of control over his life, which may lead him to feel good, despite external realities.

Steve Salerno said...

Reminds me of the young guy on my ABC special about James Ray: He had gone broke attending Ray's seminars, but hoped to somehow "attract" enough money to go to another Ray seminar so he could continue the process of learning how to have enough money to pay his bills.

Can you spell i-r-o-n-y?

Jenny said...

"In medicine, which is due to be the next target of my journalistic skepticism, the ironic outcomes wrought by so much of self-help would be known as paradoxical effects: instances wherein your drug or treatment regimen actually causes or at least exacerbates the malady it purports to treat/ameliorate/prevent." Steve, you would do us a great service by exploring and reporting on some of the issues and, as you say, "ironic outcomes" influenced by medical (and especially psychological) professionals. I look forward to reading more.