15 Dark Secrets of Self-Help Gurus
It’s pretty hard to be a person in the modern world, and though you can mostly figure it out from The Good Place, people who need a little more guidance and/or suffer from inferior media taste often turn to the self-help section of their local big box bookstore. Just who are these people who claim to know the way, though? How can we trust that they know what they’re doing and have our best interests at heart? It turns out we can’t.
The author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus got his PhD from a diploma mill. That must explain his severe misunderstanding of astronomy.
Nine former followers and employees have accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Suddenly, his cameo in Shallow Hal has gone from the only good thing about the movie to somehow one of the worst.
Even if you keep an open mind about quantum meditation or whatever, you’re probably not aware of Chopra’s even wackier beliefs, like that AIDS patients only get sick because they think they will or cancer patients are dooming themselves if they don’t practice mindfulness alongside chemotherapy. (Tony Robbins has also dabbled in AIDS denialism, incidentally, in case he needed to be grosser.)
There’s a lot to dislike about the author of Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing, including those titles, but her scammiest scam was hosting expensive couples conferences even though her own marriage was falling apart. She and her husband charged couples $1,800 to fix their relationships long after, by their own admission, they began having problems despite the fact that their only qualification was their supposedly “exceptional” relationship. More like “girl, start apologizing,” right?
When the talk radio host and Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives author got her own TV show in 2000, it completely flopped thanks to some bigoted remarks she’d recently made, to the point that it appears she had to use her employees as fake guests. Seems like a prime opportunity for a sequel book, but alas.
It’s a good thing that, according to the California Board of Psychology, nothing on Dr. Phil’s show has anything to do with counseling because he hasn’t held a license to practice since 2006, which just happened to be two years after the executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill called his conduct “incredibly irresponsible” and possibly criminal. Now, it’s just really bad advice.
Everyone knew Dr. Oz profits from peddling snake oil that probably won’t even oil your snake properly, but no one realized just how much until he was required to disclose his personal finances when he ran for the Senate. His filings revealed that he had million-dollar stakes in some of the companies he promoted, so at least one useful thing came out of that.
If you assume Bikram yoga (the kind where you make standing on one foot even harder by doing it in a sauna for some reason) could only be the product of a depraved mind, you’d be right. After being accused of running what amounts to a cult and sexually exploiting its members, Bikram Choudhury was forced to flee the country, though he somehow still teaches yoga instructors abroad.
Believe it or not, there are actually two yoga gurus who have been accused of operating weird cults in the last decade. In 2012, it came to light that Anusara Yoga founder John Friend was the head of a secret sex coven. He also committed a bunch of financial fraud, but that just doesn’t grab headlines like “secret sex coven.”
The author of How to Win Friends and Influence People may have been a little too good at winning friends. Around the time he wrote his bestseller, he had an affair with a married woman who happened to give birth to a daughter during their relationship who Carnegie kept in touch with for the rest of his life. Yeah, he probably had a secret child.
Dyer’s 1976 manual Your Erroneous Zones is one of the bestselling books of all time. It was also mostly cribbed from famed psychologist Albert Ellis’s practice of Rational Emotive Therapy, a fact Ellis pointed out to him a decade later. Ellis later said he was just happy his work was reaching so many people, though it might have been a different story if he’d actually needed the money.
M. Scott Peck
It’s not necessarily notable that M. Scott Peck had lifelong habits of drinking, drugs, and infidelity -- you can’t swing a dead cat in a bookstore without hitting an author in the same packed boat. But Peck’s bestseller, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, was uniquely preachy even among self-help books on these very topics. One publisher even rejected it as “too Christ-y,” although to be fair, that guy did love him some wine.
It’s not exactly a secret that the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is a former pickup artist -- he wrote an article about it five years before his bestseller was published. There’s an argument to be made that people change, but he was still being gross and wrong about feminism a year later, so if you were on the fence about this one, maybe don’t.
Belle Gibson’s secret is also pretty far out there at this point, but for a few years, she ran an empire based on the assertion that she’d cured her own cancer with nothing but clean living. If that sounds just a little dubious, brace yourself: She never had cancer to begin with.
The author of The Secret must have accidentally made a nice courtroom vision board because she’s nearly drowned herself in lawsuits. She reportedly burned a whole bunch of people who helped her produce her movie (the original documentary, not the weird Katie Holmes drama), but she was also accused of plagiarizing not one but two other books, apparently not without merit (though it’s possible it’s just not a very fresh idea). Here’s hoping she manifested herself some good lawyers.
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