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Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helplessby Steve Salerno
Synopses & Reviews
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
Presents a critique of the self-help movement, explaining how the notion of victimization has blurred the concept of personal responsibility and how the idea of empowerment emphasizes belief over the need to develop personal skills.
A critique of the self-help movement assesses the pervasive damage that it has done to every aspect of American society, explaining how the notion of victimization has blurred the concept of personal responsibility and right and wrong, and how the idea of empowerment teaches that the belief that we can do something is more important than developing the skills to accomplish the task. 35,000 first printing.
About the Author
For the past two decades, Steve Salerno has been a freelance feature writer, essayist, and investigative reporter, writing on business, sports, and politics, and their wider social ramifications. His articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Playboy, Reader’s Digest, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Good Housekeeping, and Sports Illustrated, among other publications. He has also served as editor in chief of American Legion magazine and as editor of the books program associated with Men’s Health magazine. In addition, Salerno has been a visiting professor of journalism and nonfiction writing at three colleges. An accomplished musician, he lives in Pennsylvania.
Table of Contents
Introduction : Hopelessly hooked on help — The culprits — How we got here--wherever here is — False prophets, false profits — Dr. Phil Mcgraw : absolute power — Tony Robbins : leaps (and bounds) of faith — "Ya gotta want it!" — Put me in, coach, I'm ready to pay — Killer performances : the rise of the contrepreneur — The consequences — You are all diseased — Looking for love-- on all the wrong bases? — I'm OK, you're-- how do you spell OK again? — Patient, heal thyself — Conclusion : a SHAM society.
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