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Self-help books don’t help

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“SHAM exposes the duplicity of self-help books…”

In Sham : How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless Steve Salerno makes a blistering critique of self-help books, gurus and “programs” – claiming that the predatory and fraudulent practices of self-help books have corrosive effects on society, and that they cause more harm than good.

Salerno has a great point. Self-help books don’t help. Putting faith into self-help books to “empower” your growth away from “victim-hood” is a not a path at all, rather its an addiction.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
— Budda

SHAM which stands for The Self-Help and Actualization Movement, is a $8-billion-a-year industry that depends on legions of repeat customers. I think that statement is true. You buy one book, you feel good — for a while — then you feel bad again and go out and buy another one, or buy the audio-program because you feel, in some-way, in-efficent.

One of the many people Salerno exposes is the the “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.

Salerno argues, quite rightly, that self-help does not cover the real problems underpinning our problems – we never really solve the problem, rather self-help books bate-and-switch us into believing that our solution is that we don’t take responsibility, or that we don’t accept accountability, or that we don’t feel loved.

Some of the stuff in the book is laugh out loud hilarous and Salerno arguments are well structured and documented clearly and understandably. One of the many problems with this book is that some of the arguments have a “yes, but…” tangent to them.

For example, I don’t believe Napoleon Hill should be blamed for all the self-help books out there. He wrote his book in the middle of the depression and is an excellent read. I don’t believe that all self-help books are junk, Krishna, Qur’an, and Budda’s teachings are excellent — but they aren’t called self-help books, rather they are based on teachings, ideals, faith and religion.

SHAM is a good read, and has good arguments on the “faith” people put into the SHAM industry and how it exploits them.

One of the things I wondered when I read SHAM was whether SHAM, just another self-help book in disguise? Is SHAM a sheep in wolf’s clothing? To be honest, I do not know — it is certainly has some good, worthy arguments – and is probably worthy of a better read one day.

In the end, self-help books don’t help people – people help people. You don’t *need* a self-help book to get help, if you need help – ask for help!

If you still need help but didn’t ask – and still rely on self-help books to get you where you want to be then you’ll never get there.

Overall: 6/10.

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