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:
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.
©2005 Steve Salerno (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Steve Salermo has an axe to grind and boy does he grind it - Johnny Heller's voice drones on and on in the most negative tone he can muster. You'll need a self help book after you've listened to this depressing load of bitterness.
There are actually quite a few good points but they are banged home again and again until you are punch drunk. If you ever had any positive feelings about yourself, Salermo will drive them out - is he on a commission from the people he criticises? he bores you into submission so someone else can sell you a del-help program - Oh no! he's made go all negative!!!!!!
"It Started Out Great..."
I was so excited about this book, since I knew some about how self-help takes advantage of vulnerable people and wanted to learn more. I really enjoyed the first half or so, which is about the history and structure of the self-help industry, various self-help gurus like Dr. Phil, and self-help movements like "life coaching". The background and the information about them was so interesting. I was really enjoying it until I made it to the part about the effects on society.
A lot of these so-called negative effects on society caused by self-help were a stretch, at best, and are complex issues affected by many things, not just attitudes promoted by the self-help industry, such as the divorce rate and problems in education. As a teacher, I agree that the self-esteem movement didn't do education any favours, but there are certainly dozens of other, more significant factors involved in grade inflation and plummeting math scores in the US.
The author is obviously big on the nostalgia of the nuclear family and the no-sex-until-marriage, no-babies-unless-you're-married, etc. ideas of the 1950s. He outs himself as being very out of touch with modern societal values and spends a lot of time complaining about "problems" that aren't really problems, like young people living together before they marry and couples conceiving children before they get married. It will appeal to you if you think that's ruining society, but really, it's hardly a scourge on America - there are certainly more important things to worry about. The old-fashioned, "good old days/kids these days" attitude of the last several chapters ruined the book for me. The author comes across as an old man looking for a reason why people don't still have the values he thinks they had during his childhood. It's your typical "this new generation has no morals and is ruining society" mantra that every generation of aging grandparents tends to repeat.
Regardless of whether you agree with his specific and narrow definitions of how people should behave, the arguments linking self-help to societal problems are flimsy and not very compelling. There is very little substance there, and believe me, I wanted to find it and couldn't. Listen to this book to learn more about the self-help industry, not to find out how it's impacted society. I'm sure it has, but this book sure won't explain how.
"Recommend for all, but with one reservation"
This is a good read - very enlightening about scams - and their interconnections - most readers probably don't know about. I only have reservations about the last chapter or two where the author merges real, objective homeooathy-esque shams with supposed scams as seen from a far-right, libertarian economic and political perspective. I still recommend the book, but as always, keep your skeptic-hat on while reading.
"Everyone should read this book"
This book is a well articulated, profound insight into how crippling SHAM's impact is and the and the price we have paid and will continue to pay for the foreseeable future. This is an excellent book and a must read!
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