Self-Help Books and Programs Can Be Helpful – Or They Can Be Dangerous and Even Kill You

Self-Help Is Big Business, but Is It Always Good Business?

The self-help industry in the United States alone is estimated to be worth more than 12 Billion dollars. Self-help books and apps are so plentiful (more than 45,000) that the New York Times has a separate best-seller list for self-help books.

The idea is that with a little common sense and self-determination, people can improve their health, their social lives, their finances, or their lives, in part or in general, without expensive assistance or intervention by a professional.

There are success stories within the self-help sphere, and then there are the other stories. I will talk more about the not so successful stories, not to sensationalize or to be negative or dark, as some people are fond of saying, but in hopes that it will cause people to stop and think, and thereby save lives.

Yes, people have died after being persuaded to participate in programs or activities where they placed too much trust in the leaders of said activities, or where they allowed their so-called peers to pressure them into doing unsafe, unproven things.

Self-Help Disaster From 2009

James Arthur Ray, self-help guru and leader of the Angel Valley Retreat where 3 people died.
James Arthur Ray, self-help guru and leader of the Angel Valley Retreat where 3 people died. | Source
The scene at the Angel Valley retreat in Arizona where three people died in a so-called sweat ceremony in October of 2009.
The scene at the Angel Valley retreat in Arizona where three people died in a so-called sweat ceremony in October of 2009. | Source

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Some Good & Maybe Not So Good Self-Help Books

Proceed at your own risk.
Proceed at your own risk. | Source
Maybe . . .
Maybe . . . | Source
If only it were that easy . . .
If only it were that easy . . . | Source
This guy is well known and well thought of and he is a real doctor whose ideas work.
This guy is well known and well thought of and he is a real doctor whose ideas work. | Source
Might work, can't do any real harm in trying can it?  Unless you aren't just trying to learn a little bit in order to understand the game and intend to physically try some of the moves . . .
Might work, can't do any real harm in trying can it? Unless you aren't just trying to learn a little bit in order to understand the game and intend to physically try some of the moves . . . | Source
Will a person's head fit through the doorway after reading this?
Will a person's head fit through the doorway after reading this? | Source

A Well-Known Disaster reports that in October of 2009, 21 people were taken to the hospital suffering from burns, dehydration, respiratory arrest, and elevated body temperature after sitting in the sweat lodge at the Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat in Arizona.

The facility was rented as part of a spiritual retreat operated by James Arthur Ray, a “self-help expert.” Eventually 3 people died from that event. Ray promised the retreat would “change your life,” and it sure did change the lives of several of the participants. No issue with false advertising here.

“Similar to a sauna, a sweat lodge, is an enclosed space where water is poured on heated rocks to cleanse the body. Used in Native American ceremonies the traditional lodges are made of willow branches and covered in canvas or animal skins. They are not meant to be airtight and participants normally spend less than an hour inside.

However, authorities told the New York Times the James Ray’s Sweat Lodge was covered in plastic and blankets. It is believed temperatures inside the lodge reached up to 49 degrees [Centigrade -- 120.2 Fahrenheit],” ( --

This story quickly circulated around the world when it happened, and in the end James Arthur Ray was charged and found guilty of a felony, negligent homicide, for which he got 20 months in prison.

All fine and good, and perhaps satisfying for some people that Ray received punishment, but in the end the three people who died are still dead. Even a death penalty for Ray would not bring them back.

In fact, according to Maia Szalavitz, writing for Scientific American (July 2014 issue), James Arthur Ray has done his time and is back in the self-help business.

The best response in the judgment of this writer is to think hard before getting involved in some of the self-help activities and programs available.

For Best Results Avoid Group Situations That Include Stress and Peer Pressure

John Norcross, professor of psychology, and other self-help investigators of self-help books and programs say “people can better protect themselves from potentially dangerous self-help rituals . . . by learning to recognize warning signs of dubious experts and by understanding how peer pressure impairs judgment,” (Maia Szalavitz writing for Scientific American).

Self-help is especially risky and dangerous when a person joins a group and peer pressure starts counteracting one’s own better judgment.

It has happened that other members in the group of 12-step programs have recommended, even urged and insisted that another newer member stop any psychiatric medications they may be taking, saying those drugs will slow recovery.

Being especially vulnerable, some new members have given in and followed the non-medical advice of their non-trained, non-licensed fellow member(s) and relapsed into their previous disorder, depression, or psychosis, and even committed suicide.

Some program leaders use techniques on groups that leave some participants psychologically vulnerable. Some of these techniques include withholding food, water, bathroom breaks, sleep, or other, for several days. Deprivation of this kind added to emotional stress can cause even the strongest healthiest person to use bad judgment, because they are no longer able to think clearly.

Combined, the above listed stresses can leave people more susceptible to peer pressure and more obedient to authority figures who may not be telling them to do safe or healthful things.

Christine Whelan, a visiting sociologist at the University of Pittsburgh who studies the self-help industry says, “Stress reduces blood flow to regions of the brain important for planning, self-control, and reasoning. Even minor stresses such as being denied access to the bathroom can wear down one’s ability to resist social pressure,” (Scientific American).

Often the most vulnerable people are those people who are highly intelligent and well educated. They often think themselves immune to peer pressure and so behave irrationally, for example, by remaining in an overheated hut where people are losing consciousness from the extreme heat, when it would be advisable to get out, as happened at the James Arthur Ray spiritual retreat.

People often think such a thing could never happen to them, because they are too smart to let it happen, but the truth is that even the smartest people are vulnerable to the previously described techniques.

Psychology experts recommend avoiding group situations no matter how smart you are, or think you are, because the brain easily succumbs to peer pressure especially when the leader uses stress tactics.


More than 95% of self-help books and programs have never been subjected to scientific scrutiny.

John C. Norcross, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton.

Help Yourself Get Control of Your Weight and Your Life

Guidelines for Deciding to Try a Self-Help Program

First keep in mind that overcoming anxiety, addictions, depression, and other disorders requires learning new coping skills over many months, and possibly years. There is no quick fix. No matter what a self-help promoter tells you, sufficient change cannot occur in mere days or a few weeks. Intense one-time programs do not provide necessary and important ongoing support essential for a lasting change.

Good programs will have independent data showing their effectiveness. They will not be dependent on antidotes and testimonials. No matter how popular a program may be, if there is no published research that supports good results from it, that is a red flag. Think it over carefully.

Do not make the mistake of thinking you are too smart to be taken in, or too smart to be pressured by other participants, if you are in a group activity. Remember that anyone’s sense of self-preservation can be erased under the right circumstances.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Of course not all self-help books and programs are dangerous. Learning a new language or other skill may hold no dangers. Learning how to apply makeup correctly or how to cook French food, or any of a myriad of other things one can learn on their own could end up being fun and beneficial.

Unfortunately all self-help programs are not always safe. Knowing which programs and books are safe and helpful and giving the hairy eyeball to those that may not be so safe is what everyone should do -- and then avoid them.

For anyone interested in more specific details about this subject, I highly recommend getting a copy of the May 2014 issue of Scientific American. It can be found online by clicking here.


Scientific American – July 2014 issue (When Does Self-Help Actually Help?)


© 2014 C E Clark

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Comments 109 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 months ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for giving this article some daylight. Hope you don't do anymore jumping. Always give 'em the hairy eyeball.

Take care dear friend, and know how much I appreciate you.

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 months ago

Au fait, I am back to share this valuable information with people like me who tend to jump on the band wagon of the gurus who have $ signs in their eyes.

Blessings my friend

Wild Bill 8 months ago


I think you should work on feeding your mind a little more. That might help your writing.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 9 months ago from North Texas Author

ValKaras, thank you for your continued interest. Yes, I am aware of most if not all of the things you mention here, but not necessarily in agreement with your conclusion on this or anything else. But I appreciate your contribution.

ValKaras profile image

ValKaras 9 months ago from Canada

Medicine saves lives - and medicine destroys lives. In 2002 in the USA there were close to 800,000 deaths caused by doctors, and since then I suspect the number has been climbing. Wrong diagnosing, wrong treatment, mix-up of medications in hospitals, disease spreading equipment, even doctor's dirty hands.

Can you match that statistics with isolated cases of people dying from "reading wrong books", or taking up wrong programs? Of course lives are saved in the Emergency wards. And of course, lives are destroyed with toxic medications which may temporarily fix a symptom, but will cause liver or kidney failure, heart attacks, ulcers, and a long list of other things with their side effects.

I am surprised you are not familiar with the enormous "friendship" between FDA and the Big Pharma. Have you heard about the case of a pharmaceutical chemist and whistle blower who made public his boss's request that he "invent a sickness that would fit their new product"?

When I mentioned psychiatric pharmacology, I certainly didn't think of those extreme cases that you are mentioning. Yes, some poor souls have to be medicated in order to function within the range of acceptable. However, are you aware what a ridiculous number of people are using tranquilizers - just because they are mentally lazy to solve their problem in a rational way, fix their relationships, take up yoga or meditation, or some other non-intrusive modality of stress management? Go on Google and see for yourself.

What alternative medicine is doing is telling the people to do exactly that - to take responsibility for their own health. With the new and blooming mind-body approach cancers have been healed, diabetes cured, heart disease fixed. Our minds are more powerful that it has never been made public before.

Even though the placebo effect is rapidly gaining popularity through all these non-intrusive modalities, the mainstream medicine will always oppose to it - because it means less business for them. In a greatest paradox of them all - it is not in your doctor's best interest that you find a way to be healthy and stay that way for years.

I am 71, and I haven't seen a doctor for some 8 years. Feeding my mind and my stomach properly does it. Ultimately, body knows how to heal itself when we step out of its way with our stupid mind style and life style.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 9 months ago from North Texas Author

ValKaras, thank you for reading and commenting on this article and for taking the time to share your thoughts. I'm sorry if I don't always approve comments as quickly as some people on here, but I don't spend a lot of time here like I used to. It's not because the comments do not meet with my approval or with HP's. I just didn't get to it because I'm busy with other things.

I know some people who just take a handful of medications in order to function in society. They would have to be institutionalized otherwise and have proven that by attempting to kill others as well as themselves. To prevent that and allow them as 'normal' a life as possible, the medications are a great help. Are they perfect? No. Psychiatric drugs have a ways to go before they can be guaranteed to have a particular effect. Everyone is different and so the drug and amount of that drug needed may vary from one individual to another. What works wonderfully for one may have little or no effect on another.

Even so, without them, many people would. as I already said, have to be institutionalized for everyone's protection. Most of the time these drugs work better than no drugs, so be careful about criticizing them because this or that are not proven. It is a fact that many of these people would be downright dangerous if not taking their unproven drugs.

If these unproven drugs (according to you) can make a semblance of a normal life possible for these unfortunate people, then the drugs are better than nothing. Hopefully research is moving forward in psychiatry to improve the drugs already available and discover even better ones.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 9 months ago from North Texas Author

Pinto2011, thank you for taking time to read and comment on this article! Yes, it boils down to thinking things through and using the intelligence God gave us before jumping into something that may not be what it appears.

ValKaras profile image

ValKaras 9 months ago from Canada

Au Fait - I understand why my previous comment didn't make it to appear here, and I don't blame you one bit. Beside being so different from others, it contained what seemed like my hubs' advertisement - which is a big "no-no". I realised too late. I honestly didn't plan it that way. - Have a great weekend.

ValKaras profile image

ValKaras 9 months ago from Canada

First of all, it's a great and very informative hub, and I am going to read some more of your good stuff. As I am bragging to be of an out-of-the-box mind, it's a small wonder that my comment may be a little different.

But, before it gets "different", let me say right here and now that I certainly have no tolerance for "self-help extremism" that so easily finds victims among unsuspecting folks desperate to find help outside of medical treatments.

Now, allow me to submit that there are just as many, if not many more of documented cases of medical malpractice and incompetence, which is actually the main reason for folks to resort to alternative solutions.

Something like "brain's chemical imbalances "has never been proven, and yet psychiatry and pharmacology are feeding patients psychoactive drugs pretending to fix their lack of GABA, endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin, the "feeling-good" neuro-transmitters. And chemotherapy is a very risky business - at least judging by its low success rate. The story certainly doesn't stop here, but I have no intention to make a medical conspiracy theory out of it.

I don't want to sound like an alarmist or a proponent of self-help industry, but with stress being the culprit behind some 90% of all diseases, it may stand to reason that a good inspirational book may be a good help in stress management. If anything, much of that literature is telling people about their own responsibility to keep stress down, eat well, exercise and meditate - rather than count on "almighty doctor" to fix what they have messed up.

I have written quite a few hubs without pretending to replace medical treatments - but with a clean conscious - knowing how many times it doesn't really take much to get back to our emotional equilibrium. I just love inspiring people with the truth that they are much more powerful than they think when it's about their well being. This is not a commercial for my hubs, but a simple statement about my honest trying to inspire people to explore their own healing resources rather than blindly believe in ANY treatment. Mind can heal us, and mind can make us sick like hell.

pinto2011 profile image

pinto2011 9 months ago from New Delhi, India

It is really scary especially after reading the SWEAT LODGE experience. Yes, everything has its pros and cons and people need to make judicious decision before relying on them too much, too far, and before it is too late.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 12 months ago from North Texas Author

Audrey (Brakel2), thank you for commenting and sharing your wisdom. Everyone should be as careful as you are so that we don't have horrible stories to write and report on when it comes to self-help. Blessings to you too!

brakel2 profile image

brakel2 12 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

People are crazy that do outlandish self help. Before I try anything off the wall, I sure investigate. I never even liked saunas or hot tubs. I would like to try Reiki which is not self helf but sounds beneficial. Thank you,Au fait, for your helpful articles. Sharing. Blessings, Audrey

Au fait profile image

Au fait 13 months ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W., thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject and for sharing this article! Agree with you that some self-help programs are very good, useful, helpful, etc., and then there are the other ones. Believe I would think long and hard before I tried to over rule a doctor's recommendations especially for something so serious as cancer.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 13 months ago from Houston, Texas

I know someone now who is advising a close relative to do alternative treatments for cancer. The doctors want to do more chemo. Hopefully she will not regret the day when she was advising and second guessing the doctors because of her reading and 'research' online. As you pointed out, it can be dangerous. That is not to say all alternative treatments are dangerous. Some have great validity and have been used successfully by many people in other countries (and ours) for many years. Sharing once again.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 13 months ago from North Texas Author

gmwilliams, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this subject. Sometimes it goes beyond just books like in the case of all those people who died in the sweat lodge. It seems like an awful lot of people are gullible.

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 13 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

One has to be very discerning when reading self-help books. One has to read between the lines. An intelligent reader knows when something is authentic or why something is stated for the pure purpose of hyperbolic sensationalism. Many self-help authors write for the attention and the monetary rewards they receive no more no less.

Many self-help books are geared to those who have a modicum to low sense of self. That is what these self-help authors are writing to. There are so many people who feel that they are insignificant and powerless. They feel that they do not have any power. That is what many self-help authors are banking on-the low self-esteem of their readership.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 14 months ago from North Texas Author

MarleneB, thank you for commenting on this article! No, James wasn't inside the lodge when the disaster occurred. In fact the lodge was a free standing building of sorts and it had been covered with tarps etc., by workers of Mr. Ray's to insulate the lodge even more to prevent escape of heat and humidity. Given what happened, I don't think Mr. Ray spent enough time in the klink.

MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 14 months ago from Northern California, USA

Everyone should take heed of your warning. Anytime deprivation involved with the normal functioning of life (i.e. water and fresh air), it can't possibly have a positive outcome. I wonder if James Arthur Ray was inside that sweat lodge when the people died. Or was he sitting in an office sipping tea in an air conditioned room?

Au fait profile image

Au fait 14 months ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for coming by and commenting! I do self-help things sometimes too, and I'm not trying to tell people here not to engage in self-help programs, etc., but to think before they leap. Blessings to you also -- and hugs too! :)

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 14 months ago

Au fait, I came back to re-read this interesting article on the DIY things that people do all the time. I am one of the people who believes in self-help.

I hope you are well and staying cool.

Blessings and Hugs


Au fait profile image

Au fait 17 months ago from North Texas Author

Indian Chef, thank you for commenting and for the votes and shares! Some self-help books and programs are good, but one really must be careful these days.

Indian Chef profile image

Indian Chef 17 months ago from New Delhi India

A very well written hub as expected fro you. I remember reading How to win friends and influence people in school and it did help me a lot but since advent of internet every body is doctor and guru and everything. All people would Google Mesothelioma pay 40$ a click and there are over 20 million pages on it even though most writers learn about it when they tried to find which pays maximum on ad-sense. Voting it up and interesting and also sharing with my followers and on Facebook.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 17 months ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for stopping by to comment. I think you have a good idea and you could even tell them it is an old Indian tradition for removing toxins from their skin and body in general.

Some people will tolerate some of the most ridiculous things, put themselves through the most horrible things, but if that were required on their job, oh my, would they complain!

The last couple of days before today weren't too bad, but now we're back to Texas normal. :( Please do take care of yourself.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 17 months ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for stopping by and pinning/sharing this article and for the very wise advice!

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 17 months ago

Au fait, just stopped in to read this again and thinking, if people want to sweat out the toxins (as the Indian sweat lodges are for) I could charge people to come work around my house with me, they are guaranteed to sweat bullets.

Wonderful hub, voted up UABI and shared.

Blessings and hugs.

Hope you are cool and dry.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

Always a good reminder to not believe everything one reads whether it is in a self help book, online, or elsewhere. It pays to be cautious. Pinning to Awesome Hubpages and will once again share.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 17 months ago from North Texas Author

Patricia (pstraubie48), you are so right! Some people learn a little bit about something and suddenly become authorities on the subject in their own minds, and then they base decisions on that little bit of knowledge. Sometimes there just aren't any shortcuts -- or if there are, the affect isn't the same, or long lasting. Best not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sometimes the old ways are still best.

Thank you for coming by, for your kind words, for the votes, and for sending the angels.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 17 months ago from sunny Florida

Just stopping in to say hey and to reaffirm what I stated in my original comment. We can self-help our selves to death, literally. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, as you well know.

This is an important topic which you have covered so well and thoroughly.

Voted up ++++

Once again Angels are headed to Texas to your home. ps

Au fait profile image

Au fait 17 months ago from North Texas Author

Linda (Minnetonka Twin), thank you for reading/commenting on this article. Yes, Mr.Ray has been selling his wares again for about a year or so. And he's not the only charlatan out there. Everyone needs to beware of things that sound a little strange, or maybe just too good to be true.

Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 17 months ago from Minnesota

Excellent article on Self-Help Books and Programs. I find it shocking to hear that James Arthur Ray is already out of jail and back to his old shenanigan's. I can't imagine how hard this must be for the families that lost a loved one in this terrible tragedy. Nice job.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 18 months ago from North Texas Author

TIMETRAVELER2, thank you for reading/commenting on this article. I have heard of the pills that are supposed to increase intelligence and brain power, saw their advertisements. Not interested. Agree there are always side affects of some sort, and I question how a pill can make a person smarter. I think eating good healthful food and exercising will work better. Getting important nutrients and getting one's blood circulating can do wonders for one's health generally and probably improve one's brain operations too.

TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 18 months ago

Your comment about the fact that if something is too good to be true, it probably is, really hit home with me. Recently someone was telling me about a pill that is supposed to increase intelligence. They went on and on about all of its good points, claiming that it had absolutely no side effects. Really? I don't think so. Everything we put in our bodies has side effects, and some of them can be deadly. Just listen to the ads on TV about new drugs and their "side effects". People are always looking for the easy way out, but as you said, there is no easy way out...there is only the right way to do things. Once again a great article. Voted up!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 18 months ago from North Texas Author

DeborahDian, thank you for shedding light on this article again. Yes, I agree with you 100% and that is why I wrote this. I hope it will make people stop and think before they harm themselves.

DeborahDian profile image

DeborahDian 18 months ago from Orange County, California

This information really needs to be promoted. So many times people think they are doing something good for themselves, but could really be putting themselves at risk. Great research! Voted up and shared.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 18 months ago from North Texas Author

Pstraubie48, thank you for stopping in. Good to see you again. Well, I guess it's true that I have absolutely nothing else to do except write hubs, and the research is so easy . . . I really should be writing at least one a day.

There are still a few I've written that you haven't read. I don't think you've commented on, "Can Science Prove God Exists or Does Not Exist?" And there are a few others. :)

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 18 months ago from sunny Florida

Hi Au Fait Just wanted to stop and say hey. I have read this before but wanted you to know I keep watching for new hubs from you as I am always intrigued.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

Au fait profile image

Au fait 19 months ago from North Texas Author

Gaddie, thank you for reading and and for sharing your thoughts on this issue. I think some people are just so gullible. Maybe because they want something the easy way and for many things there aren't any shortcuts. You just have to do the work and put in the time.

gaddie profile image

gaddie 19 months ago from Great Missenden

A very informative hub, thanks for sharing. I had heard of the James Arthur Ray story up to him going to prison, shocking that on his release he is out and back in the self-help business. What a plonker to have such an exercise.

I think that many people are looking for some sort of answer to improvement and will do anything they can to achieve it, even in the face of the plain stupid.

Great hub, well worth pointing out this flaw in personal development.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 21 months ago from North Texas Author

Yes, one should definitely think things through before jumping in with both feet. If it seems too good to be true? It probably is. Get a second opinion.

DeborahDian profile image

DeborahDian 21 months ago from Orange County, California

This is such an important article that everyone should read. So many people read a self-help book and do everything it says, putting aside their own instincts. We always need to pay attention to our common sense, no matter what the books say!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 21 months ago from North Texas Author

FlourishAnyway, thank you for coming by and sharing your thoughts, and for stating what should be common sense for sensible people. Sadly, some people want an easy fix so badly they will even shush their own internal tiny voice that is trying to warn them . . .

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

I hope people remember that in group situations involving perceived social pressure having just one person be a voice of dissent makes it easier for others to disagree. The negative Nellies and disagreeable people do have a place in this world after all. Also, stop to question credentials before you go out into a desert like that. Sheesh.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 21 months ago from North Texas Author

Ezzly, thank you for reading and commenting on this article! Most of the time there are no short cuts or the short cuts don't work. Everyone wants to take a quick pill and solve whatever isn't quite the way they want it, but some things just have to be done the old fashioned way. It's always a good idea to know what you're jumping into before actually jumping.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 21 months ago from North Texas Author

Thank you for stopping by Peachpurple! Yes, not all self-help programs work as well for each of us as others. One really should think about what they're doing before diving in.

ezzly profile image

ezzly 21 months ago

Thank you for highlighting this , I agree there really is no quick fix and unfortunately people make vast amounts of money out of vulnerable people looking to feel better. Voted up.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 21 months ago from Home Sweet Home

true, some programs and self help books do help certain people but not me, i get worsen.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 22 months ago from North Texas Author

Patricia (Pstraubie48), thank you for reading this article and sharing your knowledge and thoughts on this important subject. We should indeed all do our homework before jumping in with both feet, so to speak.

Thank you for the votes, tweet and share also, and for sending angels . .

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 22 months ago from sunny Florida

It is frightening and sad that people who are desperately seeking something that they do not do their homework and find out about places such as the one described as the retreat. I watched a video about it by one of the news channels I believe it was and was totally horrified.

Hoping that many many readers see this, AuFait. It could save lives for sure.

Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

Voted up++++ g+ tweeted shared

Au fait profile image

Au fait 23 months ago from North Texas Author

Larry Rankin, thank you for reading and commenting on this article! Agree with what you say.

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 24 months ago from Oklahoma

Very informative article.

It is one thing to take someone's advice in an area of expertise. It is quite another to blindly follow. Self help is at its best, very helpful. At its worst, it is almost cultish. When looking for help, I always try to avoid the folks who hold themselves above everyone else and present their opinions and ideas as dogma.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for G+ing and sharing this article! Yes, lots of books end up in stockings and pretty packages at Christmas. Hopefully people will be kind when it comes to giving self-help books . . .

It's warmed up a bit here in North Texas, and today is to be in the low 60s. We had 74 degrees a couple of days ago and are scheduled for 75 and 76 F. over the weekend. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Techygran, thank you for reading and sharing your experience with this issue. You are welcome to write as much as you want in any of my comment sections. My comments are frequently quite long. It just depends on my mood and how inspired I am at any given time.

I hope you and my other commenters will forgive me for taking longer than usual to get back with a response. This month is horrible for me. I am having to move out of an apartment I've been in for nearly 10 years. One good thing about moving is that it forces a person to look at everything and decide whether to keep it or get rid of it, and that's what I'm doing right now -- nearly 10 years worth of 'stuff.'

Thanks again for taking time to share your experience with me and my readers!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Aesta1, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience on this subject. Agree in that anything worth doing usually takes time, determination, and persistence. For some things, there simply are no quick solutions and no shortcuts.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

Many people buy books to give as gifts with this upcoming holiday season. Hopefully they will read your hub and keep your cautionary words and examples in mind. Stay warm up where you live. Way too early for snow in Texas! Brr! Sharing this again and will also G+ this.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Vespawoolf, thank you for reading and commenting on this article! Appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this important issue that goes so awry for so many people.

techygran profile image

techygran 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

I'm not exactly sure why it is that some folks are more vulnerable than others to the various 'self-help' schemes, but I do know that I am less likely to pay for anything these days that I can find for free (or for a very small e-book cost). Some of the gurus have taken to shaming those of us who have the smarts to do this stating that we are somehow not valuing their contributions of time and expertise in lieu of getting something inferior for free, and that there are no 'free lunches', yadayadayada.

A couple of years after I retired early and was feeling the financial pinch, I heard a very persuasive "life and business coach" present and was absolutely sure that my "investment in myself" et al would result in what she said it would... well, let's cut to the chase here: I went into credit card debt of $5,000 to learn to be a coach. Perhaps I did learn some good life skills, but I was completely unsuited to replicating that system-- the whole "build your list, engage your prospects, etc." was stressful for me and in my relationship with my partner, and certainly didn't impress any of the "friends" I tried to 'recruit'. It was a good lesson, and along with a few other forays into similar marketing hucksterism, I have learned that I am much happier living outside that arena. Thanks to evolution of the Internet, I see fewer instances of outright high power hucksterism and the ones that do come up are generally greeted with a volley of disdainful remarks and negative testimony from past "victims".

Sorry for the length of this response. Voted up, useful, interesting, shared, and pinned! Thank you. ~Cynthia

aesta1 profile image

aesta1 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

It is really sad that people become victims of these self-proclaimed self-help gurus. I have gone through some of these self-development courses and I know that once you have developed awareness of what you need to work on, it takes time. It is the daily choices and decisions to take on growth that matters not some of these promised cure all schemes. I am so sorry for these people and I know how easily I can also get into it.

vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

This is timely and useful information in this self-help age. I agree that with a little willpower, under certain circumstances, a person can help themselves. But certainly not by going off of necessary medications and doing so under the pressure of so-called experts. What sad experiences. Some people have learned the hard way. Thank you for sharing.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for sharing this article! Blessings to you and your family also.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Bethperry, thank you for reading and commenting on this article! Agree with what you say.

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Au fait, I came back to share this again.

Blessings my friend.

bethperry profile image

bethperry 2 years ago from Tennesee

Au fait, you offer some very sage counsel on this subject. It amazes me how often folks get duped into taking advice from people who are plainly more interested in fame or making money than anything else (and inevitably people with backgrounds that contradict their professional "qualifications".

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

I've never been a fan of self help books and I'm thinking that it must be hard to differentiate between the reliable and the dangerous. You've given us a lot to think about. (voted up and shared)

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Billy Sky Eagle, thanks for stopping by. Not clear on your 'need new news' comment, but appreciate that you left a comment.

Billy Sky Eagle 2 years ago

interesting about the sweat lodge, need new news.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

RTalloni, thank you for your continued interest in this subject! Some people are very gullible for some reason and some of these people know how to manipulate them. I've given guidelines in this article on how to protect yourself. I hope people read them and take them to heart.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

The gift of life is something to be a good steward of so this look at using discernment when seeking to improve oneself in some way is useful. Not knowing how our deepest need is met and/or refusing to seek it when we hear of it can lead us to seek trust people who talk themselves and their methods up as they hide their selfish motivations.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Thevanzicode, thank you for stopping by!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Susan Deppner, thank you for reading and commenting on this article and for the follow! Most 'business opportunities' are scams, or the info to do some of them is available free online. No need to send them $239 or whatever the usual payment usually is now. They aren't going to be as easy as they would have you believe. If they were easy money we'd all be doing it and getting rich.

It's fairly easy to do an online search about any self-help activity, health promotion, business, or food, etc. Just takes about 5 minutes or less. Take the time to check it out.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Carter06, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important issue. Yes, one definitely needs to follow the guidelines included in this article on how to determine if something is a good idea or not. More than shame on James Ray -- people died. Ray has served time and is not out again promoting his wares . . .

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Learn Things Web, thank you for reading this article and sharing your experience on this issue. I have used a lot of self-help books over the years, but if I come across things that don't seen sensible I just skip that part of close the book. They can be useful for some things, but as you already know, they can be downright dangerous if people do not use some common sense when thinking about what they are recommending a person do.

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 2 years ago from Arkansas USA

Interesting topic. It's hard to understand why so many people (myself included) are so trusting of strangers, especially when money is involved - and it seems there's almost always money involved (book sales, seminars, retreats). I am trying very hard to trust my instincts first when it comes to self-help topics including "can't fail" business opportunities.

carter06 profile image

carter06 2 years ago from Cronulla NSW

This is another great hub full of useful info Au fait and valuable to anyone looking to improve their life in any way..I think two things are necessary when doing so 1 Don't be gullible and follow anyone's advice and 2 Check out the author's credentials, is the material backed with credible research..

Shame on that James Ray & fakes like him..

Hope you are keeping well..Cheers

Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 2 years ago from California

I got a book a while back for my daughter called "What to Do When You Worry Too Much." I looked into the background of the author first to make sure she had credentials. I didn't want to be following advice from some random person who set themselves up as an expert to make money. Other than that, I've never used self-help books.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

DeborahDian, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this important subject. Indeed, people sometimes make no sense when they are manipulated by someone like James Ray, whose true gift is exactly that -- manipulating other people. He definitely knows hot to play unsuspecting people.

Yes, I read your profile on this page and was surprised both of the DeborahDian's I'm following are the same person! Both sites have a lot of interesting and useful information. I tried doing 3 sites and I just can't find enough time for them all what with having to work a 'real' job too. :)

Thanks again for reading . . .

DeborahDian profile image

DeborahDian 2 years ago from Orange County, California

Too many people suspend their common sense when they read a self-help book. They believe that the person writing it is an expert who can "fix" them, even though they have never even met the author in person. In other cases, such as the sweat lodge incident, they do meet the author, and they trust him more than the sensations they must have been getting from their own bodies. Frightening. (Sorry I haven't been around much lately on this account; I just had another 153 articles transferred over here from Squidoo and I have been working on fixing them. They are written under my DeborahDian account!)

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

WriterJanis, thank you for coming by and commenting on this article. I hope lots of people have learned from this tragedy too, and they will think hard before involving themselves in anything like this again.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Seafarer Mama, thank you for reading, and sharing your thoughts on this issue. People are overly trusting I think, somehow imagining that someone is looking out for them making sure these programs are safe and credible. In fact, no one is.

Agree there are many different ways people are misled and that we all need to be a little more skeptical until we see reason to be otherwise.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Hezekiah, thank you for stopping by!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

PegCole17, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I agree that for many things, especially the things that matter most it would seem, that there are no short cuts. Also agree that these people who are so successful at promoting things that may not be in a person's best interests have the same talents and skills as the cult leaders you named. It's as if some people are mesmerized by them somehow. Even people with good educations and presumably capable of thinking things through are taken in. It's very unfortunate. Appreciate your seeing through all this and realizing the things all of these 'gurus' seem to have in common.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for reading and commenting on this article and for the votes, Tweets, and share!

There are some things that make sense to use a self-help program or book to help oneself learn and improve, and then there are the ones that at best accomplish nothing and at worst cause permanent harm and even death. The guidelines included here will help people make better decisions and hopefully save a lot of unhappiness or worse.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Writer Fox, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts on this issue. It seems that some people are just very gullible and overly trusting. The so-called gurus are just very good at recognizing people who are vulnerable and persuading those people to trust them when they shouldn't.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Mary615, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I agree with you. For some things there are no shortcuts, no easy way, and no pill that will cure/fix/or change whatever it is. Thanks for the votes too!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you for reading and commenting Shyron. I read that Ray was in the sweat lodge for a while but left.

Glad John's test came out well and that you have your computer back. Yes, anyone who calls on the phone and says such a thing is a wacko. If he called me I wouldn't even answer the phone.

Take care and have a blessed week . .

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

OldRoses, thank you for stopping by and commenting on this article, and for the vote too! Well, reading is probably not dangerous but if one decides to follow some of the advice in some of those books things might get a little more risky. Always good to think things through and see if there's any information about whatever it is they're trying to persuade you to do.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Matt Jordan III, thank you for taking time to read and comment on this article. Yes, people really need to stop and think things through before they jump in with both feet. Often times just thinking things through will tell a person something is fishy and doesn't seem quite right. Anyway, there are some good guidelines for making one's judgment in this article that may hopefully save some lives.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Diogenes, thank you for coming by! So good to hear that all is going well for you!! Agree that just about everything is on the Net now and no reason to have tons of lineal feet of shelving weighted down by books that must be dusted and moved and insured and taking up space.

Yes, some books are still worth having, but for the most part recipe and reference books are now mainly a heavy burden. Yes, it is easier to do a search for specific information online than digging through a book that may not even contain the wisdom you're seeking.

Thank you Sir, for your high praise and your gift of time that is the most valuable thing any of us has, and take care of yourself. XX

word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Okay Au Fait, I'm with you :-)

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Word55, thank you for coming by. After the fiasco in the sweat lodge lots of people, the survivors, did refuse to participate further. The idea is not to wait until people are dying, but to prevent those deaths in the first place by taking care to investigate before participating in something that may indeed change your life forever.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Moonlake, thank you for reading this article and for sharing your thoughts here, and voting on it. Yes, one really needs to think things through before accepting the word of someone like Ray. The only thing he really knows is how to persuade people. He's a great con, and what he does is unfortunately legal for the most part, though this event got him some jail time. Even so, a lot of gullible people are already lined up to trust him again.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Nadine May, thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts. There are some very good self-help programs and books out there. All I'm saying is that people should use some common sense and give 'em the hairy eyeball before jumping in with both feet. Appreciate your input!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

JayeWisdom, agree with you completely. There other not so good reasons why people are so gullible too, but the ones you mention are at the top of the list. Sometimes there are no shortcuts and the sooner a person realizes and accepts that and then gets down to business, the quicker they will see results.

Anything that is going to make a big change in one's life or the lives of one's family if undertaken, it should be given the hairy eyeball, and you might even want to squint a little. :)

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

DealForALiving, thank you for stopping by. Yes, Ray does have a creepy look about him, but what he does best is persuade people. Even though he's been to jail for doing just that and causing the deaths of people as a result, he's out of jail now and back in business. It isn't just the gurus that can be dangerous, but any book or program may give bad advice that can harm a person. It's always a good idea to check them out for good sense and safety, especially if they deal with health and well being, children, finances, etc.

WriterJanis profile image

WriterJanis 2 years ago from California

That's horrible what happened to those three people. As for the others, it sounds much more like torture. I hope this gets a lot of traffic and helps to prevent any of these things happen to another person.

Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 2 years ago from New England

Great hub, and an awesome reminder that we are all more empowered when we use our own common sense and trust our own gut instincts. I think that many who try to write books and lecture about self-help "programs" are in it to get rich quick, and were told that what they are doing is the way to go about it. They are soooo using the people who "buy into" the method(s) they have proposed. They want many people to not think about what they are hearing/presented with and just hand their money over.

(p.s. I appreciate your endorsement of Andrew Weil as one who sticks out as a "professional" who knows what he is saying/doing)

I was abused when I was young, but have been in recovery, and I have developed "abuse" radar that usually sends up a red flag when someone is approaching me with less than noble motives...and by extension my child. To an extent, this radar has become my "mama bear" radar, too.

It's funny that so many so-called evangelical "Christians" work hard to get others to doubt themselves, and doubt whether they are saved. I think that is as destructive "peer pressure" as any other self-help cult behaviors. too.

In the 21st century, any writing that gets people to think for themselves is a good thing!

Hezekiah profile image

Hezekiah 2 years ago from Japan

I got one for Android smart phone programming, very useful indeed.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

It's interesting that people look for quick fixes rather than take the well traveled road to wellness or self enrichment. There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:10) I'm often amazed at people who follow a cult type leader such as this James Arthur Ray who propose unhealthy things for people to do. Reminds me of the Reverend Jim Jones.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

You have made a very valid point in that many of these so called self help books are not backed up by scientific research nor are the authors experts in their field in many cases. The example of that tragedy you gave is an eye opener for many who may not have heard of it. Many of these self proclaimed gurus can do much harm. Up votes, tweeting and sharing with HP followers.

Writer Fox profile image

Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

I remember the news story about Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat. It's hard to believe that so many people never objected to what was happening to them.

Some of these self-help gurus make so much money doing what they do. This is what encourages more of them, I think.

Voted up!

mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

I personally am too much of a skeptic to be taken in by all these "self-help" experts. Sorry, I don't believe any of them.

All they are interested in is the almighty dollar, and they get plenty of those without mine.

Great Hub. Voted UP, etc.

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Au fait, this is very interesting, I would first of all find out if James Arthur Ray was in the sweat room, if he is not that means he is not legit.

That would be like a man standing on a cliff to teach people to fly and collects the cost of the lessions and then tells the people to jump while he stays behind to collect the money.

voted up, UAI and shared.

I just got my computer back Saturday night and then yesterday it crashed again and took it back this morning before Hubby's stress test and this evening when I turned it on, I got a phone call and the caller ID showed 1-000-000-0000. He said I had illegal windows operating software and my windows would be shut down. I asked the man who could not speek good English, what is the name of your company and what is your name and phone number. He hung up.

I called Office Depot who had just fixed my computer. The Tech said that is a scam and you should ignore it.

I knew that but I want to find a way to find out who called so they can be shut down.

I hope your day went smoothly. Ours was choatic as usual, will not know results of stess test until Friday.

Blessings and hugs.

OldRoses profile image

OldRoses 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

I think I'll stick to just reading self-help books. Other than a little eye-strain and lost sleep when I get caught up in one, there is no risk of injury. Thanks for pointing out the dangers of a lot of these "programs". Voted up.

Matt Jordan III profile image

Matt Jordan III 2 years ago from Gulf Coast

Excellent. Hopefully this will speak to the simple-minded credulity of some before they do something silly or worse. Voted up, useful and interesting.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico

Still churning out these good hub articles I see, mi amigota. I swore off self-help books after deciding the bones within them - the facts that may help - are all available on Google and free. I mean, as a recently diagnosed diabetic, there are hundreds of publications available to "help me." But I would have to read all day just to discover information on, say, "changing insulin amounts when sick and unable to eat." What I didn't know until the Mayo Clinic told me after a coupla clicks is that I often would need to "raise my injected insulin amounts," rather than lower them as I had thought logical. And, wisely, the site told me to double up on my finger pricking to see just where my blood sugar levels were through any episodes of ancillary sickness. I haven't checked, but I bet this is missed from many self-help books and why should I read all day to find it, if covered at all?

So many self-help books are written by authors with no apparent professional skills...look at all the damage done in the books touting "meat" diets, for example...goodness knows how many thousands of people suffered from strictly obeying these high - or all - protein diets which are largely out of favour now.

Good article

Bob x

word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Hi Au Fait, When death happens within small groups such as the JAR situation, people should refuse self-help after seeing such bad results. Thank you for such a drastic story of an article.

moonlake profile image

moonlake 2 years ago from America

I think Oprah's show caused so many people to believe in James Arthur Ray. It seems no matter what she says people are taken in. It's sad that people died because of this jerk. Your right many self-books and programs can kill you. Great hub voted up.

Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Thank you for this interesting hub. Today with the internet so many people are offering workshops and courses, you wonder who is who. We have published several self help books, but we are only interested in the topic if the author is qualified to back up what they write about. Most of them do hold workshops during which they sell their book, and so far our self help titles have not harmed anyone. Great hub!

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

There are too many people who want positive change in their lives but aren't willing to do the things they know will bring it about. These things seem too much like 'work' or they must give up something that isn't good for them and aren't willing to do it. The person with this mindset is vulnerable to any charlatan or program which 'promises' to do it for them fast and easily. The wish for instant gratification has been around for decades, and it's made a lot of 'gurus' wealthy. Unfortunately, if a scheme sounds too good to be probably is. The tried-and-true methods for improvement may not be easy, but are more likely to work and the results be maintainable.

I love that expression 'hairy eyeball'--one I'd never encountered before. Now I will want to use it in a sentence! Ha-ha.

Voted Up++ and shared


DealForALiving profile image

DealForALiving 2 years ago from Earth

That photo of James Arthur Ray is so creepy. It's true, you should really do your homework before embracing one of these self-help gurus, because ultimately I am the best self-help guru for my life.

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