• Sham

  • How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless
  • By: Steve Salerno
  • Narrated by: Johnny Heller
  • Length: 10 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 02-03-12
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4 out of 5 stars 3.9 (9 ratings)


Self-help: To millions of Americans it seems like a godsend. To many others it seems like a joke. But as investigative reporter Steve Salerno reveals in this groundbreaking book, it's neither - in fact it's much worse than a joke. Going deep inside the Self-Help and Actualization Movement (fittingly, the words form the acronym "SHAM"), Salerno offers the first serious exposé of this multibillion-dollar industry and the real damage it is doing - not just to its paying customers, but to all of American society.
Based on the author's extensive reporting - and the inside look at the industry he got while working at a leading "lifestyle" publisher - Sham shows how thinly credentialed "experts" now dispense advice on everything from mental health to relationships to diet to personal finance to business strategy. Americans spend upward of $8 billion every year on self-help programs and products. And those staggering financial costs are actually the least of our worries.
Sham demonstrates how the self-help movement's core philosophies have infected virtually every aspect of American life - the home, the workplace, the schools, and more. And Salerno exposes the downside of being uplifted, showing how the "empowering" message that dominates self-help today proves just as damaging as the blame-shifting rhetoric of self-help's "Recovery" movement.
Sham also reveals:

How self-help gurus conduct extensive market research to reach the same customers over and over - without ever helping them
The inside story on the most notorious gurus - from Dr. Phil to Dr. Laura, from Tony Robbins to John Gray
How your company might be wasting money on motivational speakers, "executive coaches", and other quick fixes that often hurt quality, productivity, and morale
How the Recovery movement has eradicated notions of personal responsibility by labeling just about anything - from drug abuse to "sex addiction" to shoplifting - a dysfunction or disease
How Americans blindly accept that twelve-step programs offer the only hope of treating addiction, when in fact these programs can do more harm than good
How the self-help movement inspired the disastrous emphasis on self-esteem in our schools
How self-help rhetoric has pushed people away from proven medical treatments by persuading them that they can cure themselves through sheer application of will
As Salerno shows, to describe self-help as a waste of time and money vastly understates its collateral damage. And with Sham, the self-help industry has finally been called to account for the damage it has done.
©2005 Steve Salerno (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By S. Rayner on 19-11-12

on and on and on

Steve Salermo has an axe to grind and boy does he grind it - Johnny Heller's voice drones on and on in the most negative tone he can muster. You'll need a self help book after you've listened to this depressing load of bitterness.

There are actually quite a few good points but they are banged home again and again until you are punch drunk. If you ever had any positive feelings about yourself, Salermo will drive them out - is he on a commission from the people he criticises? he bores you into submission so someone else can sell you a del-help program - Oh no! he's made go all negative!!!!!!

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Carolyn on 10-10-12

It Started Out Great...

I was so excited about this book, since I knew some about how self-help takes advantage of vulnerable people and wanted to learn more. I really enjoyed the first half or so, which is about the history and structure of the self-help industry, various self-help gurus like Dr. Phil, and self-help movements like "life coaching". The background and the information about them was so interesting. I was really enjoying it until I made it to the part about the effects on society.

A lot of these so-called negative effects on society caused by self-help were a stretch, at best, and are complex issues affected by many things, not just attitudes promoted by the self-help industry, such as the divorce rate and problems in education. As a teacher, I agree that the self-esteem movement didn't do education any favours, but there are certainly dozens of other, more significant factors involved in grade inflation and plummeting math scores in the US.

The author is obviously big on the nostalgia of the nuclear family and the no-sex-until-marriage, no-babies-unless-you're-married, etc. ideas of the 1950s. He outs himself as being very out of touch with modern societal values and spends a lot of time complaining about "problems" that aren't really problems, like young people living together before they marry and couples conceiving children before they get married. It will appeal to you if you think that's ruining society, but really, it's hardly a scourge on America - there are certainly more important things to worry about. The old-fashioned, "good old days/kids these days" attitude of the last several chapters ruined the book for me. The author comes across as an old man looking for a reason why people don't still have the values he thinks they had during his childhood. It's your typical "this new generation has no morals and is ruining society" mantra that every generation of aging grandparents tends to repeat.

Regardless of whether you agree with his specific and narrow definitions of how people should behave, the arguments linking self-help to societal problems are flimsy and not very compelling. There is very little substance there, and believe me, I wanted to find it and couldn't. Listen to this book to learn more about the self-help industry, not to find out how it's impacted society. I'm sure it has, but this book sure won't explain how.

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Ms Elaine K Targett on 01-11-17


Opened my eyes to what I had suspected is going on.
After reading, my daughter came home from school telling me 'did you know if I believe I can, i can be great at anything I try right away?'
ummm....no, to be great at it takes work and practice, kiddo! Not an over inflated ego.
A big chunk of teaching being reduced to feel good statements.
I will be countering some of the fluff from now on!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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