Posts Tagged ‘self-help industry’

2
Jun

The Two Types of Cults

   Posted by: Britt    in My Story, On Wealth Seminars

I just finished reading a fictional novel by Kathy Reichs, called Death du Jour. It’s a really well written mystery novel based on a character is a forensic Anthropologist Temperance Brennan, who divides her time between Montreal, Quebec, and Charlotte, North Carolina. (K. Reichs is also a forensic anthropologist, PhD, who divides her time between Montreal and Charlotte.)

As riveting as the novel was, what struck me the most were the definitions.

I’ll let the fictional Red Skyler explain:

Cults are not just a group of crazies who follow weird leaders.  … [T]hey are organized with a set of common features.

… A cult forms around a charismatic individual who promises something. This individual professes some special knowledge. Sometimes the claim is access to ancient secrets … sometimes it’s an entirely new discovery to which he or she alone is privy.

… In a cult, it’s this charismatic leader who eventually becomes the object of devotion.

… And often there is a double set of ethics. Members are urged to be honest and loving to each other but to deceive and shun outsiders

… Cult leaders use a variety of psychological processes to manipulate their members. Some leaders are fairly benign, but others are not and really exploit the idealism of their followers.

… The way I see it, there are two broad types of cults, both of which use though reform. The commercially packaged “awareness training programs … user very intense persuasion techniques. These groups keep members by getting them to buy more and more courses.

Then there are the cults that recruit follower for life. … They are manipulative, deceptive and highly exploitative”[1]

A little later on in the book, Tempe runs into Sam again, and they continue the conversation, focusing on the former.

“Unlike the cults we discussed [for-life recruiters], these programs don’t intent to keep people forever. They exploit participants as long as they are willing to buy more courses. And bring in others. … The coercive influence that these so-called self-improvement programs exert is amazing. It’s the same old thing, behavioural control through thought reform.

… It’s known as large group awareness training.

… They’re packaged to sound like seminars, or college courses, but the sessions are scripted to get participants emotionally and psychologically aroused.

… Most programs last four or five days. The first day is devoted to establishing the leader’s authority. Lots of humiliation and verbal abuse. The next day pounds in the new philosophy. The trainer convinces participants their lives are crap and that the only way out is to accept the new way of thinking.

… Day three is typically filled with exercises. Trance inducement. Memory regression. Guided imagery. The trainer gets everyone to dredge up disappointments, rejections, bad memories. … Then the following day there’s a lot of warm fuzzy group sharing…. The last day is fun and happy, with lots of hugs and dancing and music and games. And the hard sell.

… You take the course, then you’re told that you’ve performed so well you’ve been singled out to go to a higher level, or meet the guru, or whatever.[2]”

When asked who falls for these things, “Red” replies that it’s those dealing with depression and “broken affiliations,” those in transition who are lonely and confused.

Have you noticed that we are in the midst of an economic meltdown? That an incredibly massive number of people are in transition, broken, who are feeling they have lost everything? Is it any wonder that we are chomping at the bit to the incredible promises made by these slick snake-oil salesmen?

[Ironically, in my email today was a note from Robert G. Allen telling the tale of Matt Morris, who only 12 years ago (he must’ve been nine at the time) was broke and desperate and living out of the back of his “red beat-down honda civic” — it’s those personalized details that clinch it! Anyway, in the email, my “good friend” Robert was saying that he discovered 7 closely-guarded online money making secrets (yeah, right, sent by mass mail to thousands NAY tens-of-thousands of us) and he’ll give it to us free in return for a name and email address. I registered (with a junk email I use for these very fine special occasions) only to get the message that he’s already over capacity but will contact me for the next series of freebies. HEY, wait a minute here! My good friend Robert just sent me this email… What’s up dude?]

The common pain is an economic one. Which is why it’s so goddamn easy for the likes of Jack Canfield, T. Harv Eker, James Arthur Ray, Robert Allan, Anthony Robbins, Bob Proctor, and Robert Kiyosaki (to name just a few) flourish in these times[3]. Have you ever noticed that their messages are exactly the same? Have you noticed that no-one references the others, and seem to imply that they have by whatever god-given decree stumbled upon this notion? That when one (James Arthur Ray) gets cooked up for a legal dinner the others don’t rally around their fallen star to help him back on his feet? That their berth is extremely wide from each other, even though they sing each others songs … ALL THE TIME[4]?

It’s getting really bad. At least in my world. Many of the people I know have dabbled in these courses. One I know has done exceedingly well. The others have all dribbled, then dropped.

Even worse, copy-cat courses are springing up all over. It’s what I fell victim to. It’s how come I, at 45 years of age, have to start all over again.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve never believed that the government is there to protect us. It’s there to collect taxes and run the world’s biggest corporations (aka countries). I don’t think that regulation is the answer. Education is where I’m putting my efforts.

Listen up folks, and do the math. The guru-led self-help industry is generating billions (yes, that’s BILLIONS) of dollars of revenues every year. Since they offer up the path to wealth, the stats say that in turn there should be at least millions (yes, I mean MILLIONS) of new millionaires created each and every month. Instead, we hear of the smattering of success stories. An oasis the size of a child’s bucket in a desert as big as North America.

Whether it’s a famous charismatic guru listed earlier in this blog or some copy-cat or some poor old schmuck who is genuinely trying to impart is misguided knowledge, know the signs.

And hold on tight to your wallet.

Oh, and thanks for asking … Kathy Reichs’ book was incredible! A writer who is both knowledgeable and articulate. She knows how to write a great mystery novel. Highly recommended. Nothing was given away in this little rant, don’t worry!


[1] Kathleen J. Reichs. Death du Jour. New York:  Scribner, 1999. p. 253-254.

[2] ibid, p. 310-312.

[3] Anthony Robbins released his first book, Unlimited Power in 1987;  On Black Monday of October 1987 a stock collapse of unprecedented size lopped 22.6 percent off the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The world mourned, and a guru kindly stepped up to the plate.

[4] Just a brief disclaimer here. I think that there is valuable information offered by each of the gurus mentioned here. Robbins has is “four classes of experience” (a handy word doc download available here) which I find extremely useful to personal growth; Ray has an excellent handle on marketing techniques (which all belong to Robert Cialdini by the way). But I don’t think that any guru has a singular claim on the whole truth (as throughout the times, it is up to the reader to sift through the claims to get at their individual truth), and I don’t think that it’s worth two to twenty (to infinity and beyond) thousand dollars to access the information. Nor should you need to walk on fire or walk into an arrow tip or suffer in a desert or a sweat lodge to get there.

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19
May

Remember Willy Loman?

   Posted by: Britt    in On Wealth Seminars

Willy Loman is the protagonist of Arthur Miller’s famous play, Death of a Salesman. Remember him? Anyone?

In brief, Willy lives the life of the successful businessman. He walks the walk, talks the talk, and believes in his imminent future success without fail. This is what he knows: He knows that all salesmen who become great are charismatic and popular. Essentially, Willy believes himself to have the potential of becoming a great man.

His fatal flaw is that he is in fact an ordinary man. A very ordinary man, trapped by the  unshakable conviction that greatness stems directly from personal charisma or popularity. His conviction is unshakable, and his entire being is emotionally convinced that if he plays the role, he will undoubtedly get to play the part. NLP’ers may say he is set for life. Alas, in the recesses of his mind, he knows that he is a fraud, that he is playing a game to which he was never invited. And instead of facing the ultimate truth of his inability to “think” himself to success, he draws the ultimate final curtain kills himself. A perfect snap-shot in time of the law of attraction gone awry.

There is a mass of “ordinary” men out there touting that they thought their way to success (and by that they don’t mean personal happiness, physical soundness, spiritual restfulness, or ecological harmony; no sirree bubba… they mean cash. And wads of it).

Vaguely reminiscent of the hordes of charismatic motivational speakers who all tout the similar story:

I wasn’t always like this. Before this extraordinary life, I was an ordinary person (typically without higher education). I then learned the secret, I learned how to attract wealth into my life. It comes from within; we all have it. I learned from the masters, and if I can do it, so can you. You too can unearth the fountain of wealth that lies just inches beyond your fingertips right now.

Eventually, they all quote the much-touted self-help book written by Russell H. Conwell, Acres of Diamonds. It’s the story of an African farmer who owned a plot of land. At that particular time, diamonds were being discovered in abundance in Africa. So the farmer sold his plot and headed out to find his fortunes. Sadly, he did not find them and he eventually died, poor and miserable. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the fellow who purchased his plot discovered that it housed a diamond mine beyond compare. Moral of the story: you need not look to far beyond your own existence to unearth the abundance that is available to you.

I know we are all compelled to hearing the success stories. But who is listening to the failures? To those who owned the plot beside the acre of diamonds that came up empty? The Willy Loman’s of the world who have learned the formula of sticking to your story without wavering, and if you just do this you will succeed.

Yes, there are gems in failures. But not all of them can be cashed in.

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16
Mar

What’s Your Story?

   Posted by: Britt    in General Information, My Story

I’m thinking of documenting my experience with the (f)Law of Attraction in the form of a book.

If you would like to add your story, I would love to hear from you. Your anonymity is guaranteed, as is anyone mentioned in your story. No real names will be mentioned in the book. The point is not to “get back” or “get even” with another person or organization; rather, it is to inform the millions out there to whom this has happened (or is happening) that there is life beyond this particular chapter in the story.

Our stories are familiar to many, but we tend to hide behind the mantle of shame (I can’t believe this happened to me….). It’s time to step out and step up. Let’s help others learn from our experiences!

Click here to contact me and to get your story out there.

Thanks to those who visit, read, and register at this site!

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There’s an article on today’s CNN website called “Good, bad and ugly self-help: How can you tell?” by By Jason Hanna, (CNN Living, December 7, 2009 1:18 p.m. EST). It talks about the unregulated multi-billion dollar self-help industry and suggests that there are a few tell-tale signs of things to look for in identifying the bad and the ugly. “Self-help is a multibillion-dollar-a-year unregulated industry in the United States, according to John C. Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton.” Norcross goes on to say that

… a lack of scientific evidence isn’t the only thing to look out for. Other characteristics that should make consumers wary, he says:

  • Authors or speakers who don’t have formal training in the featured topic. “They should look for someone with rigorous training at an accredited university and who has spent years investigating and conducting these treatments,” Norcross said.
  • Programs that don’t screen consumers for problems. For example, Norcross says, certain programs might be harmful for a person with bipolar disorder.
  • People who reject conventional knowledge and instead imply a revolutionary secret. “It’s marketing, essentially,” Norcross said.
  • People who propose solutions for all problems instead of particular problems.

While I don’t necessarily agree with the list in its entirety (I strongly disagree that spending years at an accredited university automatically assumes proper authority), I do think he makes some valid points. When considering a program, yes, talk to someone who has taken the course at least six months ago. But do more than ask for a reference. Ask them how that course has impacted their lives.

And, yes, anyone touting “a revolutionary secret” that will resolve all your problems and make you rich and let you “find your bliss” is bullshitting you.

You should really familiarize yourself with Robert Cialdini’s persuasion principles. Once you become aware of that sales formula, you’ll start seeing the pitches for what they are: marketing.

(Oh, and by the way, “marketing” is not a bad word. It is what it is, a tool. Being aware of this tool’s use is what will help guide you to making decisions in your best interest.)

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