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How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless

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Self-help: To millions of Americans it seems like a godsend. To many others it seems like a joke. But as investigative reporter Steve Salerno reveals in this groundbreaking book, it’s neither—in fact it’s much worse than a joke. Going deep inside the Self-Help and Actualization Movement (fittingly, the words form the acronym SHAM), Salerno offers the first serious exposé of this multibillion-dollar industry and the real damage it is doing—not just to its paying customers, but to all of American society.

Based on the author’s extensive reporting—and the inside look at the industry he got while working at a leading “lifestyle” publisher—SHAM shows how thinly credentialed “experts” now dispense advice on everything from mental health to relationships to diet to personal finance to business strategy. Americans spend upward of $8 billion every year on self-help programs and products. And those staggering financial costs are actually the least of our worries.

SHAM demonstrates how the self-help movement’s core philosophies have infected virtually every aspect of American life—the home, the workplace, the schools, and more. And Salerno exposes the downside of being uplifted, showing how the “empowering” message that dominates self-help today proves just as damaging as the blame-shifting rhetoric of self-help’s “Recovery” movement.

SHAM also reveals:

• How self-help gurus conduct extensive market research to reach the same customers over and over—without ever helping them

• The inside story on the most notorious gurus—from Dr. Phil to Dr. Laura, from Tony Robbins to John Gray

• How your company might be wasting money on motivational speakers, “executive coaches,” and other quick fixes that often hurt quality, productivity, and morale

• How the Recovery movement has eradicated notions of personal responsibility by labeling just about anything—from drug abuse to “sex addiction” to shoplifting—a dysfunction or disease

• How Americans blindly accept that twelve-step programs offer the only hope of treating addiction, when in fact these programs can do more harm than good

• How the self-help movement inspired the disastrous emphasis on self-esteem in our schools

• How self-help rhetoric has pushed people away from proven medical treatments by persuading them that they can cure themselves through sheer application of will

As Salerno shows, to describe self-help as a waste of time and money vastly understates its collateral damage. And with SHAM, the self-help industry has finally been called to account for the damage it has done.

Also available as an eBook

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly Review

May 30, 2005 – You! Yes, you! Are you addicted to self-help books? Do you require "empowerment" to reverse your "victimhood"? If so, relax—you're far from alone. The Self-Help and Actualization Movement (the titular SHAM) is, according to Salerno, an $8-billion-a-year industry that depends on legions of repeat customers. Salerno presents a carefully researched—and devastating—exposé on SHAM's predatory and fraudulent practices and its corrosive effects on society. As former editor of Men's Health magazine's books program, Salerno knows the terrain from the inside. With judicious delight, he exposes the grandiloquent bluster and blithe hypocrisy of Dr. Phil (who, psychologists say, shames rather than helps his guests) and Dr. Laura (the preacher of family values who didn't know when her own mother was murdered), among many others. He cites examples of junk science, such as Tony Robbins's talk of "the energy frequency of foods," and charges that untested alternative medicine draws people away from proven medical treatments. In addition to detailing the raw facts, Salerno excels at pinpointing the self-abnegating strategy the self-help industry employs: namely, tearing you down in the name of building you up. And the positivity yields questionable results in any case. The self-help industry should not be dismissed as "silly but benign," says Salerno, and he documents how it has undermined psychology, education and health care in this blistering critique.
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  • $10.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Jun 21, 2005
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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