Josie Appleton in Spiked:
In SHAM: How the gurus of the self-help movement make us helpless, Steve Salerno exposes the pretensions of the Self-Help and Actualisation Movement. Gurus’ degrees are often fake, their personal lives a disaster, their advice wacky.
John Gray, of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus fame, offers instruction on the hidden meaning of women’s underwear: ‘[when] she wears silky pink or lace, she is ready to surrender to sex as a romantic expression of loving vulnerability’, while a ‘cotton t-shirt with matching panties…may mean she doesn’t need a lot of foreplay’. One ‘life coach’, Hale Dwoskin, instructs his clients to drop pens and throw chairs as ‘”symbolic” ways of letting go of impediments to happiness and power’.
Self-help gurus become famous by hitting on a catchphrase and running with it. Richard Carlson started with Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff, and graduated to Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff For Women, …At Work, …For Teens, The Don’t Sweat Guide for Couples. Once a guru makes it, they can diversify into pretty much anything: weight-loss products, relationship counselling, business start-ups, moon landings….