Friday, November 11, 2005

When rageaholics rage!

Comes a press release on PRWeb November 8 announcing a new self-help product that vows to rid America of bad feelings. Yes indeedy. The Anger Busting Workbook, by James A. Baker, is a “breath of fresh air” that “actually makes sense,” which will not only provide “practical and accessible” help for brooding males, but also includes, as a special bonus, an “innovative” section written for “women who love angry men.”

I grant you that I haven’t read the book. But judging from the press release--which, I strongly suspect, was written or at least shaped by Baker himself--here’s something else that can be said about The Anger Busting Workbook: It’s a tour-de-force in the sort of specious rhetoric that has come to define SHAM--a puffed-up promise that sounds so very, very good on the surface, but breaks down just a few microns below.

Let's take one not-so-small example. "Relying on hard-nosed, no-nonsense language that is reminiscent of Dr. Phil," writes the blurb's author, apparently unashamed about making this admission, the book "proceeds to lay out a very specific, rigid recovery plan for anger addicts." Want to hear step one? Here it is: The Workbook sets forth "16 angry behaviors that men must commit to abstain from immediately..."

Question: If a rageaholic--or any "-holic"--could really commit to abstaining from any of his unproductive behaviors, let alone 16 of them, "immediately"--then for what, exactly, would he need a recovery program? Isn't this at least a little bit like going to a doctor for treatment of chronic pain and having him simply tell you, "OK, now step one is, feel better..."

I don't know. Maybe it's just me; maybe I'm the only one bothered by this crap. I sure hope not.

10 comments:

Rodger Johnson said...

If SHAM isn't the answer, what is?

Anonymous said...

A very good question.

Steve Salerno said...

Rodg, I don't know what the answer is, or if there's any universally relevant answer; I just know that SHAM ain't it. It seems to me that a true conception of "self-help" would imply a highly individualized approach to solving one's personal problems--something you're not going to find in a mainstream, one-size-fits-all program, book, seminar, etc.

ACD said...

Rodger's comment, in a way, demonstrates how the self-help gurus stay in business. People make the mistake of thinking there is an answer, because believing otherwise would lead to a grim outlook of hopelessness. People want to believe that there are seven simple steps to cure just about any of life's problems--and SHAM preys on those false hopes--but the truth is, there are no easy answers. That's life. And anyone claiming to give you those easy answers is a fraud. If there were one simple, universal way to go about solving a given problem, there wouldn't have to be an infinite number of books, programs, etc. on the subject that require you to keep buying more and more of the same repurposed material.

Basically, Steve has the right way of looking at it: there may not be any "universally relevant answer," but at least everyone should know that "SHAM ain't it." Some readers of Salerno's "SHAM" are disappointed to find that he doesn't offer answers to the questions he raises. That's a good thing. He doesn't claim to have the answers because no one truly does. It is just about time we start asking questions, instead of believing what we want to believe and, in the process, ignoring reason.

Rodger Johnson said...

My question was more of a rhetorical one, but the self-help gurus do stay in business by offering us "answers," and we are a curious and gullible lot, aren't we?

Most all of them seem to want us to be introspective. Some want us to apply some strategy, but I think the beginning of the answer comes from understanding choice. We choose to do X instead of Y when X is clearly bad and Y is clearly good. But, I have found most people like to stay between X and Y, flirting with both.

What do you think?

Rodger Johnson said...

My question was more of a rhetorical one, but the self-help gurus do stay in business by offering us "answers," and we are a curious and gullible lot, aren't we?

Most all of them seem to want us to be introspective. Some want us to apply some strategy, but I think the beginning of the answer comes from understanding choice. We choose to do X instead of Y when X is clearly bad and Y is clearly good. But, I have found most people like to stay between X and Y, flirting with both.

What do you think?

acd said...

I'm interested in your notion of understanding choice. Do you have a more concrete example to help explain your argument further? Sounds like something worth commenting on.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a trap to think that "X is clearly bad and Y is clearly good," since that's so seldom the case. If one's discussing murder or torture, yes, I'd agree that there are absolutes, but if X is eating a cream puff and Y is running five miles, what is "good" and what is "bad" are relative...

acd said...

Then there's always the concern that we don't have choice, and we're just victims of our past, destined to live a certain way and make (what we perceive to be) certain "choices."

But, escaping fundamental philosophical questions for now, I agree that the good and bad of choices are relative. How one evaluates one's own life is based on these relative concepts, concepts that vary for each individual. Ergo, we see once again that there can be no universal answers as these self-help gurus would have you believe. I would argue that there are no absolutes.

Rodger Johnson said...

Let me, as I was asked yesterday, explain why choice is the beginning of the answer to combat self-help dogma. And then, let me relate that to absolutes and relativism.

Everyone clearly can choose between X and Y. My contention is that many people choose to stay somewhere between X and Y, neither choosing something wholly good nor choosing something wholly bad. In so choosing to stay between X and Y, they have made a choice. So, everyday of our lives we are confronted with three choices, X, Y, or neither X nor Y.

Between X and Y, that’s where relativism lives and breathes. We like to think that the choices we make are inconsequential to the universal. That the universal will continue regardless of whether I choose to eat a cream puff or run five miles, rightly so. Once I have chosen to stuff is gut with cream puffs and then die of congestive heart failure, the universal will continue and I become fertilizer—pretty grim ending. My choices are based on hopelessness. I choose without hope.

Our thinking must be different. The universal should be inconsequential to our choice. Although I know the beginning of my life, I not its end. If I know not its end, then my choices in life become energized with hope—the invisible driving force of use all.

As far absolutes, there are absolutes in so far and I can perceive them. Every time I jump out of a plane (and that’s happened quite frequently) my senses tell me that I am falling to the ground quickly. That energy pulling me to the ground is an absolute law of thermodynamics in so far as I can perceive its effect. Let’s broaden the scope of absolutes.

Time is an absolute. It has a beginning, and that is when mankind sensed its presence and understood that it is a tool by which we measure our life activity. Ergo, attempting to explain that time is infinite is worthless because death changes everything. As far as we know, time begins at one’s birth and ends at one’s death; it is only our perception the pricks us to believe time existed before and will exist after. And it is only evidence of time past in history books and the perception of age that gives us clues to times existence before one’s birth.

For us to perceive time as we do it must exist within something. That is a topic for another day.

However, I have begun using the word perception. That, I did that deliberately. Our perceptions govern our choice on this continuum called time as we know it.

And there is legitimate research in the discipline of cognitive linguistics to support this notion of perception. We perceive and make sense of our environment by the metaphors we use. They govern our choice.

I’ll write more later….