Wednesday, November 12, 2008

self-help critic

A guy names Steve Salerno wrote a book called SHAM: the Self-Help and Actualization Movement. I read the first chapter of it online yesterday. Steve is an outspoken critic of the self-help movement in America. He views this movement as having handicapped American society and talks about some of its ramifications. Interesting stuff. Steve also has a blog called SHAMblog.

Here are a some excerpts from the first chapter of his book:

Quote from comedian George Carlin: If you’re reading it in a book, folks, it ain’t self-help. It’s help.

Recovery, Victimization theory...the message became Your needs are paramount here. It’s all about you. Recovering a healthy sense of self entailed forsaking your excessive or unhealthy concern for others—for in the twelve-step universe, such excessive concern came to constitute the pitiable emotional quagmire of codependency....

In his brilliant book Fat Land, Greg Critser points out that more than a generation’s worth of faddish weight-loss programs have served only to produce the fattest generation of Americans on record (Not insignificantly, weight-loss programs have become, in essence, self-help programs...

Divorce in 1960 claimed about a quarter of all marriages. Today it claims about half. Although thankfully that statistic is trending back down, American marriages have the highest known failure rate in the world...But how many Americans walk out the door because they no longer feel compelled to suffer so-so marriages in silence? Worse, how many Americans has SHAM conditioned to think their marriages are so-so, when in reality they’re pretty normal?

Nowadays, young marrieds of both genders may be a tad too focused on their own fulfillment, with catastrophic effects for domestic tranquility. I first interviewed David Blankenhorn for a magazine assignment in 1988, and he told me, “I think people today are less forgiving in relationships, and more inclined to walk at the drop of a hat.” He made an interesting point about the famous JFK quote “Ask not what your country can do for you . . .” and its relevance to a wholesale change in society’s perspective on the institution of marriage...

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