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Is the self-help movement dangerous? Ask James Arthur Ray.



If there’s one word to describe American workers today, it’s “overwhelmed.”


We’re overwhelmed by our workloads, our to-do lists, our debt, our responsibilities. And this feeling has created an entire industry of self-help gurus who want to help us feel less overwhelmed, to feel more successful.


Enter James Arthur Ray, the self-help guru who now finds himself in a heap of trouble.


 Jamesarthurray     Just a few months ago, I was in the audience when Ray spoke to about 1,000 business women during his appearance at a Work/Life Balance Conference in South Florida. Ray positioned himself as a success strategist,  energized the audience with his personal rags to riches to rags to riches story, and tried to convince us that he could help us achieve both spiritual and financial wealth.


The charismatic Ray dished up what people wanted to hear – that they may be overwhelmed,  but with the right attitude and beliefs they could make their lives much better. The mantra has made Ray a millionaire. His followers pay as much as $10,000 for a week long retreat.


But Ray seems to have gone too far in his motivational movement.  The Associated Press reports Ray  led a group of more than 50 followers into a cramped sauna-like sweat lodge in Arizona where three of his followers died after collapsing and 19 were hospitalized.


CBSnews.comreported yesterday that detectives were focusing on the self-help expert and his staff as they try to determine if criminal negligence played a role in the tragic deaths at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona, Ariz.


To me, it’s all very sad. When I saw Ray in person, I initially felt motivated by his 90-minute speech. But then, Ray moved into his sales pitch mode. He couldn’t just leave the audience with words of wisdom. He had to convince us that we needed to come to his retreat and throw some of our hard earned money in his direction.


Ray’s followers were people who trusted him to improve their lives. They felt he had the magic bullet. If there’s anything to be taken away from this tragedy, it’s that no one has a magic bullet for balance and success. We have to figure it out for ourselves...maybe read a few books, or listen to speakers. But anytime we have to open our wallets wide to help ourselves, something is very, very wrong.


What do you think about the self-help movement? Has it opened the door for charlatans or are there people out there giving legitimate much-needed advice? 


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Brahim Derder

Hi Cindy,

I think what happened is tragic and sad, but, only an investiation will reveal the truth.
As to your question: What do you think about the self-help movement?
I believe that self-help movement is right and good; there is no law, I know of, against it, and I really believe self-help is needed by many people, especially in hard times, like our current timees. This is true, especially if one does not have any faith to turn to for strength seeking and staying the course,such as churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, or any place of worship that is viewed by its congregation as their sanctuary.
Now, has it opened the door for charlatans? Yes, I believe when the self-help movement deviated from its original intended goal (help others help themselves just like the religious groups do) by misleading their audiances when they claim that they have the answers to all our "issus", and charging their audiances a lot of money for basically nothing!
I like to think of it as a PONZI scheme.
Like Cindy said "If there’s anything to be taken away from this tragedy, it’s that no one has a magic bullet for balance and success".
I am a professor at Miami Dade College, and I give self-help talks everyday to my students, collegues and anybody who needs a psycholgical "lift", and I do not get paid. I wish I could write, and I love to write, and get paid a reasonable amount of money for my "help". I have 2 kids I impart my help to them as well for FREE, and they do not like it!

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