For the past year, I’ve railed against the self-help industry for valid reasons BUT I wanna take this moment to clear something up. And that is — I have to admit that a lot of the criticism the industry receives is invalid. Why do I say that? The reason is this: most people who criticize the self-help industry start from a false premise in their critique. Stated another way, they don’t properly recite the self-help author’s message when they’re criticizing them. The way that I see it, if you’re going to argue or debate a point and can’t properly recite your opponent’s point, nothing else you say even matters.
FYI: When I say “self-help,” I’m referring to new age authors who discuss things such as thought manifestation, law of attraction, etc. IE: Esther Hicks, Rhonda Byrnes and others of that type.
Many critics of the self-help industry will say something along the lines of “you can’t just think about a thing and have it magically appear.” That’s usually the position that self-help critics take….they’re right to a certain extent. HOWEVER, I’ve read tons of self-help books and not once author has ever said that thinking alone is what will make one successful, not even in The Secret. The Secret takes a lot of beatings and while I do believe that The Secret was rubbish, the author didn’t say that thinking alone will achieve one’s desired results. The fact that people assume that the author is saying such a thing tells me that they’ve never read any of these books…and if they’ve never read any of these books, they have no room to make any critique.
On another note, let’s be serious and admit that a lot of these books do in fact place heavy emphasis on thought manifestation. That by itself isn’t the problem and I’ll explain why in a few. Even on the most basic level of psychology, one understands that if you desire a thing bad enough, you’ll find a way to attain it. By thinking about a thing constantly in a state of desire, faith and belief, it conditions one’s mind to seek opportunities to attain that which they desire.
Have you ever noticed that when you take on a new belief, the first thing you seek to do is find evidence to validate that belief? It’s the same as is everything. If you believe that you can be successful, becoming success-conscious, you begin to see opportunities. Let’s take the famous glass half empty/half full example. If you have two men walking in a desert and they see a glass with water at the half-way point. One man says, “I don’t want that glass because it’s half empty! That’s not enough to quench my thirst.” The other man says, “I found a glass that is half full and it should quench my thirst enough for me to continue on my mission.” When you think of it in that way, it’s about perception.
Let us now get to the problem I said I’d address earlier. The problem is that many self-help authors have resorted to including pseudo-science and spirituality into their teachings in order to provide validation of some sort to their claims of thought manifestation. If they were to simple say that thinking about one’s goals is a method by which to condition one’s mind to seek and seize opportunities, I doubt anyone would criticize them but they added a bunch of garbage in between. In other words, if the authors were to admit that it’s all psychological, that’d be fine (IE: Psychocybernetics). When self-help authors decided to go that route, that’s when they muddied the waters. I guess they figured that the inclusion of religion and pseudo-science would sell more books…and it did, but they also awakened the skeptics. Unfortunately, the skeptics, who have every right to criticize this crap, have misinterpreted the authors badly.
The skeptics have even misinterpreted the meaning of “positive thinking.” Before I delve into that, let me explain something to you. There are two types of positive thinkers.
Type #1, who unfortunately makes up the majority of “positive thinkers,” are usually out of touch with reality and use positive thinking to pretend that everything is rosy. This type of person will accuse you of being “negative” if you present them with any type of legitimate information that could interfere with their idea of a Utopian world.
Type #2 is fully in touch with reality but won’t let the harsh reality deter them. This type understands that there are problems which will arise but they also understand that with every problem comes a solution….and with every obstacle, there’s the seed of an equivalent benefit. In other words, this type uses positive thinking to find reasons to keep their heads high and to keep pursing their goal(s) while remaining fully in touch with reality.
Unfortunately, the skeptics have group all “positive thinkers” into group #1. In all truth, you can be the most negative person in the world but if you can spot and opportunity and seize it, you will more than likely become successful.
Conclusion: As I stated previously, if you can’t properly recite and understand your opponent’s argument, then you have no room for debate or criticism. If you’re one of the types who criticize the self-help industry from the false premise that they teach that you can think and have things magically appear, you are in no position to offer criticism because you’re arguing against something that was never said.