Monday, November 06, 2006

This and drat.

...The speaking gig, which was in Tulsa, went very, very well. Lots of enthusiastic feedback, both during my presentation and in informal meet-n-greets afterwards. Which meant more in this case than it might otherwise, since I was talking (for two hours, remember) to a room full of shrinks—folks, in other words, who know the terrain. As planned, I missed no opportunity to remind them that the self-appointed gods of SHAMdom are eating their lunch: i.e., practicing psychotherapy without a license. Heads nodded and murmuring erupted in various corners of the hotel ballroom every time I made a related comment.... Oh, and good steamship round, too.

feedback from one attendee arrived in a lengthy email yesterday. I made this same point in SHAM, but he anchors it in his own clinical experience, writing, in part, "It occurred to me that buying help is sometimes a way to delay change. I had that happen early in my career. People would sometimes come to me for help and say that they were depressed because they didn't have a job. But they wouldn't do the things they needed to do to get a job, even if I assigned them things to do as homework in the therapy. It seemed to me that they were justifying not doing the things they needed to do by saying, 'See, I am doing something, I'm in therapy.' So if I go buy a $10,000 course, I may be giving myself a reason for optimism and at the same time also delaying any real change.... So we hire magical people, shamans, who we can pay to swing the incense and do it for us, or teach us the secret mysteries that we need to know to be successful. When it is generally agreed that one shaman doesn't know what he is talking about, we go to another." He concludes, "There is an old saying about placebos: Use them quickly before they lose their effectiveness."

...My first night in Oklahoma I caught part of Larry King's long-awaited gab-fest with a half-dozen of the foremost champions of positive thinking, as featured in The Secret. (The geniuses behind this stunning viral marketing coup had related content ready to go as soon as the show's closing credits rolled.) Among the sources of the motivational glow surrounding Larry last Thursday were John Assaraf, Bob Proctor, and the surreally weird Dr. Michael Beckwith (shown), who, in dress, speech, mannerisms and overall demeanor looked as if his birth-name might really be Zormak From The Planet Woosabi-6. I was shocked at the extent of Larry's fawning. As tough as he was some weeks ago on Dr. Laura—who has her well-documented faults, but at least says something inherently worthwhile now and then—that's how obsequious Larry became in the presence of these platinum-plated jokers. And that's not the worst of it: There's actually a Part 2, skedded for November 16. The guest list this time will include our friend Joe "H'onoponowonogonomon'obona" Vitale. (But I can't get booked on these shows.... Hence the "drat," above.)

...Insightful and nicely descriptive article by a London Daily Mail writer who decided to dive headlong into the Tony Robbins mystique. Or maybe feet-first is the better phrase, inasmuch as she took one of Tony's famous firewalks. If you read the article, by all means continue on to the comments at the end, which bear all the earmarks of an organised* backlash on the part of the Robbins faithful. One of them shamelessly likens Tony to the "second coming." Check it out.

* Seeing as how we're talking about the U.K.


a/good/lysstener said...

Glad to have you back among us, Steve. I was thinking the other day that to the best of my knowledge I am the only person among my friends who doesn't have anyone in the family who's never been in therapy. (Did I write that right? Too many negatives?) I guess it's possible that I just never heard about it, but I don't think so. Everyone else I know either has been in therapy themsleves or their parents have or whatever. So does that mean I'm really the crazy one?

Anonymous said...

LOVE the placebo comment! I'll have to remember that one...

Cosmic Connie said...

Yes, Alyssa, you probably are crazy. I've never been in therapy either, nor has anyone in my family, and we're all certifiable. :-) But we like it that way.

Steve, I am very glad your presentation was so successful. As you know, I have my quarrels with the mainstream medical profession, mainly because of their frequently arrogant attitude, and the fact that they're in bed with the pharmaceutical industry. But I have an even bigger quarrel with all of the fruitcakes in the self-help/metaphysical industries. And I think your email correspondent was right on the money about the consumption of "self-help" products as a tactic to delay or prevent real change.

As for Larry King, I too am dismayed by his apparent fawning over his "Secret" guests. I'm especially appalled that he would give any air time at all to JZ Knight, who, as we know, made her name by introducing the world to her imaginary friend, 35,000-year-old Ramtha. But JZ was in "The Secret," after all. And it really looks as if Larry's two-part "Beyond Positive Thinking" special is little more than an infomercial for "The Secret" -- which itself is little more than an infomercial for the hustledorks it features. Sad.

Cosmic Connie said...

I may have been mistaken about JZ Knight being in "The Secret." She was, however, featured in "What The Bleep Do We Know." I get those two movies confused sometimes...

a/good/lysstener said...

Connie, I'm reminded of something my Mom likes to say every so often: mental health is a sickness. I'm still not sure I know what she means or even that she does, but it's always good for a laugh.

Anonymous said...

Personally I found the King Show inspiring. It always amazes me that there are people who are so eager to find the dark clouds in other people's silver linings. I will be watching again on Nov.16, Steve and I urge you to do likewise. Maybe it will make you a less bitter person than you seem to be.

Cosmic Connie said...

Anon no. 2, I can't speak for Steve, but I personally have nothing against inspiration. A little positive thinking never hurt anyone. But magical thinking, which is what the panelists on the King show often seemed to be advocating, can be counter-productive at best and harmful at worst.

The movie "The Secret" seems to be a primary focus of the King interviews. And I have a feeling that the vast majority of the people who are currently talking, blogging and just generally gushing about "The Secret" are going to go on to something else once they get bored with the movie and the attendant hype. After all, there will always be another truly amazing breakthrough, another ancient, recently rediscovered "secret," another money op for another hustledork.

Furthermore, the people who are realizing the greatest benefits from "The Secret" -- and perhaps the only real benefits -- are those whose pockets are being lined, directly or indirectly, by sales of the DVD. These, of course, are the folks who are actually featured in "The Secret." I have a feeling that most if not all of them made a monetary investment in this film, and in return they were granted free rein to advertise their workshops and products in conjunction with the DVD.

OTOH, I have a feeling that the legions of minions -- the Canfield and Assaraf and Vitale wannabes who are lining up for their piece of the pie -- are ultimately going to be disappointed. All the brown-nosing in the world isn't going to ensure that they too will become self-help/spiritual superstars.

I am not completely discounting the ideas behind the Law of Attraction, but I'd be willing to bet that very few of "The Secret" sycophants are going to "attract" $150,000.00 sports cars, or palatial homes in Maui, just by virtue of fawning over those who have obtained these things. They will, however, be helping their idols buy yet another luxury car, home or whatever. This will allow said idols to blog/brag about their latest acquisitions, with the implied promise that such riches are very real possibilities for everyone.

At best, that will result in another brief burst of hope and optimism for the sycophants. Kind of a SHAM trickle-down phenomenon, you might say. Ultimately, of course, the result is more money in the pockets of the SHAMsters.

OMT -- just because someone doesn't wholeheartedly embrace the inspiration package du jour, doesn't mean they are "bitter."

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve -
I don't know if you've noticed it, but a significant number of these self-professed "gurus" got their training in the MLM movement a few years back, and seem to be plying the same tricks of the trade with their "positive thinking" schtick. The only difference between the then and now is that during their previous incarnations, the hucksters (occasionally) actually had an actual product to sell, while nowadays, all they can offer is the promise of an undefinable something for (a costly) nothing.

I can remember a time, several years ago, when I was still on one of their e-mail lists, and received weekly doses of wholly unrelated promotions for products, seminars, and whatnot. Without fail, the hustledork would claim that his newest "discovery" left his hands shaking with excitement, or was so exhilarating that he was unable to sleep until he let us all know about the newest "secret" to success, health, enlightenment, or whatever. Ironically, the e-mails stopped once I publicly confronted him on the inappropriateness of some of his actions. I guess he figured I was too far gone to be worthy of his vast arsenal of life-changing goodies. And he must be right, because I'm obviously not evolved enough to hunger for more automobiles than I can drive, and would feel foolish begging people to send me gifts, especially when I don't even know them.

As to Larry King's inexplicable fawning, it might be interesting to see if there's an Amway-style connection somewhere in his past, or buried deep within his own investment portfolio.

And you... you bitter spoiler, you. Next, you'll be telling us there's no such thing as the Tooth Fairy.

Cosmic Connie said...

And regarding the London Daily Mail piece on Tony Robbins... I thought it was good too. Yesterday I actually tried to comment on that piece, thinking it might be a nice touch to have a naysayer in the bunch. But for some reason the system wouldn't let me do it. I filled in all the blanks -- my screen name, email address (which they don't publish), city and country, along with my comment. When I clicked "submit," I was sent to the spam-filter section, where I had to "fill in letters and numbers as they appear on the screen." But once I did that, I was transported to a new screen that said, "Now fill in your comment." So I had to do the comment part all over again. Then I was sent back to the spam filter, then to the "fill in your comment"...and my comment never got posted. (Unless there's just a delay, and some day in the future my comment appears in quadruplicate on the site.)

What I was trying to communicate was that I thought the writer of the piece really summed things up quite nicely when she wrote of the moment during the Robbins “event” where she realized, “I am just being emotionally manipulated by a cheesy soundtrack and some manufactured drama." I couldn't have said it better myself. In that one sentence, she just described the powerful but totally calculated emotional appeal of a typical Robbins event -- and of virtually every other major personal-growth workshop you could name.

I remember one workshop that I attended about 20 years ago. It wasn't Tony Robbins, but was similar in many ways. The leaders played the theme from "Chariots of Fire" and other overplayed "motivational" tunes to get us inspired. And there was lots of absurd hugging, jumping around, crying, self-confessing, etc.
Some things just never change. Sigh...

I'll probably have to blog about it, eventually.

Jodi said...

1. If you are going to compare Mr. Beckwith to an alien, my I suggest the creature from the Ahhhhnold movie "Predator"? It's the hair....

2. Larry King fawns over everyone, which is why he is so wonderfully annoying.


Reverend Krull said...


RevRon asked, "As to Larry King's inexplicable fawning, it might be interesting to see if there's an Amway-style connection somewhere in his past, or buried deep within his own investment portfolio." [Emphasis mine]

Years before CNN, Larry King was the host of the biggest late-night/early morning radio talk show in the country. The program was carried over the Mutual Broadcasting Network. Mutual was owned by Amway during King's radio heyday (from 1977 through 1985).

So there is at least a little connection between Larry King and Amway. I am shocked.

(no relation to RevRon)