Thursday, April 28, 2011

SHAM: How the Self-help Movement Made America Helpless / by Steve Salerno

There are a lot of self-help books out there, hoards of them. To so many Americans they seem like the answer while to others they are simply, well, a joke. But the validity of the psychology, or pop psychology, in the pages of said texts isn't even the real issue according to author and investigative reporter Greg Salerno. Characterizing his subject matter as the Self-Help and Actualization Movement (SHAM), Salerno illuminates the world behind all of the redundant fads and energetic slogans to reveal multi-billion dollar industry which has basically sprung up overnight, an industry which does as much damage as productivity.

The author shows how pretty much anyone, credentialed or not, accredited or not, can become a motivational speaker, an expert or guru and proceed to dispense advice on anything and everything from mental health to relationships, getting fit to getting rich, and other things. It's no secret that the countless dollars Americans spend every year on self-help programs and products can lead to financial problems, both at the personal and corporate level (private companies annually pour billions of dollars into motivational programs for employees). The author's key points revolve around how these motivational products can hurt quality, productivity, and morale as much as they may potentially help it. Recovery movements, rehab programs and get-out-of-debt schemes, operate in much to the same way, shifting the burdens of personal responsibility by labeling just about anything as a disease or dysfunction. As Salerno shows, to describe self-help as a waste of time and money vastly understates its collateral damage. The solution he says is for the individual to wake up to the fact that personal growth shouldn't require so many outside influences and that achieving goals or objectives, more often than not, are almost never a singular solution. (155.2 SALERNO)

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