A Self Help Reality Check

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In a world of burgeoning personal growth products, “quantum
physics” methods of getting rich, and instant enlightenment
intensives, it is time to strike a cautionary note, and seek a
healthy dose of reality.

There is a huge amount of nonsense being taught these days by
people who sound good, and with no qualifications to teach it,
apart from that they have read a few good layman’s books on the
subject. Worse, there are others spouting teachings that are just
plain false. And sadly, as increasing amounts of the same
regurgitated material comes on the market, our powers of
discrimination, to tell truth from nonsense, seem to decline

Almost everything we learn and deal with in the realm of personal
development, particularly of the metaphysical kind, revolves
around theories and models. A lot of it tries to makes tenuous
connections between one knowledge area and another, in order to
try to teach you how to live your life, attract wealth, or

This kind of teaching can only ever be analogy at best; a sort of
picture language to help us grasp the point being taught. After
all, we should never forget that theories and ideas, on just
about every subject, change as time passes and we learn more.

Let’s take a practical example. Quantum Physics. You’ve doubtless
noticed that everyone and his brother are ranting on about
“Quantum Physics”, especially when as related to wealth creation.

Well, I have to tell you something. I actually studied Quantum
Physics right up to Ph.D. level, and I can assure you that it has
NOTHING to do with “think positive, materialize sub-atomic
particles according to your thought waves, and loads of money is
going to come your way!”… Or whatever the latest incarnation of
the story happens to be.

Quantum Mechanics is MATHS… Horrible mathematics of a
complexity that the average person could not even begin to
fathom. Most Quantum Physicists are as so remote from the blurb
being taught in modern self-help books that it isn’t even funny.

Moreover, this whole science applies to the sub-atomic world. To
claim that we can influence any of this with “thought power” is
just bad Science. Now, I am NOT saying that “Thought Power” is an
invalid concept. However, invoking Quantum Physics as an
explanation IS stretching the limits of what has actually been
proven to date.

Now, there is some value in teaching these concepts in relation
to personal growth and wealth creation. However, we have to
understand that they are just teaching ANALOGIES. They are not
“the truth”. Even within the Physics world, we call it Quantum
THEORY; because it is precisely that, a theory. It could be
completely thrown out at some point in the future, as so many
theories have been.

We should also realize where some personal development teachers
are coming from, i.e. what their underlying philosophy of life
is. Many famous names in the American personal development field
are Bible-believing Christians and/or staunch Republicans
(without naming any names!) This immediately puts a certain
inevitable color on their material. This is not to say that their
material is necessarily incorrect. However, there is a bias
there, and it is important to know that.

As with the Quantum examples above, be wary of people who teach
their opinions, or other people’s opinions that they have read,
as if they are “facts”. They are not. They are just opinions,
analogies, and models.

I am reminded of one famous wealth mentor who frequently makes
disparaging comparisons between human and animal intelligence;
telling us that animals can see, hear, smell, taste and touch,
but that’s about it. They lack mind, they have no insight into
their inner world, they are slaves to instinct, and that is what
makes us so much superior to them!

Now, the fact is that while this may be a useful teaching
analogy, it is factual nonsense. Moreover, even modern Science no
longer supports this notion. Besides this, neither he nor anyone
else can really know the inner life of an animal without having
been one. This is typical Darwinian nonsense, souped up
(ironically) with a healthy dose of Christian theology, i.e. Man
being given dominion over the animals, and created essentially
different and superior to them, etc.

Anyone who has a close relationship to their pet cat, dog or bird
knows just how capable animals are of a whole range of emotional
inner states that we barely give them any credit for. The
light-bulb went on for me when the vet informed me that my “sick”
cat, who had stopped eating and retired to his box all day long,
was almost certainly suffering from “jealousy”! I had my father
and uncle visiting me for a few days; the first such visit he had
ever seen since he started living with me, and the first time I
had paid any serious attention to anyone else apart from him!
Once they left, he recovered immediately!

I cite this instance only as an example of how you should never
absorb everything people say, just because they have “expert”
status. Each and every teacher/guru has their own set of biases,
prejudices and plain old-fashioned errors. That’s okay. Nobody is
perfect. Don’t expect them to be. Use your own mind to sort fact
from fiction.

Also, be aware of this little-known fact: in this modern
commercialized world of ours, self-help is regarded as a “niche
market”. In marketing terms, this is a group of people who are
fanatically interested in a subject, have plenty of money, and
are willing to spend it to indulge their interest in an
irrational, almost fanatical manner, by buying product after
product, book after book, and seminar after seminar.

Examples of niche markets are Golfers, Home Business Opportunity
seekers, Model Railway enthusiasts, and…. Self Help!

What does this mean? Simply this: you and your cash are targets
for smart marketers who perceive this to be a rich lucrative
market they can become wealthy in!

All they have to do is find out the “niche” language you talk,
the kind of products you like, and they can just go out and have
them produced in order to sell them to you! There is even a
well-known system taught by one famous internet marketer where he
targets a niche market, finds out what they want, goes out and
has a product ghost-written, slaps up a sales letter online, and
rakes in the cash from that market. He does all this WITHOUT
actually knowing a thing about the subject!

Is this good or bad? Well, it depends. If the product is good and
meets your need, it’s probably okay.

My point in telling you all this is to point out that not
everyone in the self-help/personal development market are there
because they are PRIMARILY interested in helping others. They are
PRIMARILY interested in helping themselves financially BY helping
others, in what is the famously cash-rich “niche market” of
Self-Help. That is also why the marketing for “Spirituality”
products is getting ever slicker: “Instant Enlightenment”, and
the like. Why instant? Because marketers and salespeople know
that people want results (1) Quickly, (2) Simply, (3)
Effortlessly. This is what the whole dieting market is based on!

This hard marketing reality is partially responsible for why so
many people are parroting each other, e.g. Quantum Physics. The
reason is because they don’t have an ounce of originality in
their own bodies to come up with their own teaching analogies.
But why should they? The ground work has already been laid by
greater minds. Hey! Just skim through five half-decent books on
the subject, write your own based 100% upon them (or better
still, have it ghost-written – less work), and you’re off to the

In summary, the intention of this article has not been to deride
all modern personal development teachers, but simply to ask you
to use your brain as you listen to them. Don’t accept everything
as gospel. Some people – but not all – are in this business
primarily for cash transfer – from your pockets to theirs.

Remember that, in truth, we really don’t “know” anything for
certain. Hence, teachers are only teaching by the use of analogy
and models. However, a model of reality is not reality itself.

However expert a person may be, they are only human; complete
with bias, prejudice, and ignorance of many things. It may not be
evident in their teachings, but it is there. Take the good, and
reject the bad.

There is good teaching, and there is bad teaching. Often, both
can be found emerging from the same mouth. Hence, be aware. Don’t
mistake pictures and teaching analogies for the reality itself,
which is is ultimately unknowable.

Copyright 2006. Asoka Selvarajah. All rights Reserved.

Asoka Selvarajah is a writer on personal growth and spirituality,
and the author of “The 7 Golden Secrets To Knowing Your Higher
Self”. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen
their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s
purpose. Click Here To learn More

About Asoka Selvarajah

Dr. Asoka Selvarajah is a writer and teacher of personal growth and spirituality, and the author of numerous books and courses. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s purpose. Subscribe to the Aspire To Wisdom list to receive more articles and resources to your inbox.

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  1. Another great article! And a timely one at that in more than one way. I always felt the whole ‘quantum physics’ hype about finances was capitalizing on a catchy phrase. I could never see the point – except that it was marketing hype. Thanks for confirming that. I also appreciated the comment about animals. (I am a dog ‘trustee’ – I can’t feel I ‘own’ any animal companion ;>D )

  2. Your comments, Asoka, are –as usual– right on target…and your candor is quite refreshing, if somewhat surprising; we must suspect everyone who recommends in his/her newsletter that we buy this or that Book, course, eBook, seminar, etc., that they do so because they are an affiliate, receiving compensation for ‘bringing another into the fold.’ This has always disturbed me, for many of the recommendations are quite helpful, making available to us very important tools, guides, softwear products — things we ourselves would recommend.

    So, do I object so much to the ‘greed’ element involved that I pass up an opportunity to acquire this most helpful tool, or do I pass the objection off as nonsense, recognizing that you had our greater good in mind all along. I choose the latter, mosttimes — you’ve been extremely helpful to me in the past — even though you have batted down as absurb a thought or two of mine occasionally (you were accurate there a time or two, as well).

    Another note of amazement: You pronounce your name so completely different from what I have thought it to be — and, your picture suggests that you are a large, say six-foot, three-inch, 180 pound man, thus I have imagined your voice to be much deeper. Appearances certainly make fools of us all at times.

    Last thought: This (your article) is another very thoughtfully stated, logically supported bit of helpful advice, for which we all should profoundly thank you, regardless of our misguided misgivings now and then.

  3. Don,

    I’m only 5 foot eight inches, and for most of my life have been fairly thin!

    Asoka 🙂

  4. Hi Asoka

    I really enjoyed your article today.

    I’ve been a fairly devout follower of the distinguished path of Tanja-believes-it-is-ism for much of my adult life (a path that basically involves reading and listening to as much as possible, deciding what seems to work for me, keeping that and letting the rest of it go), and it’s good to be reminded that there are others in the self-help world who don’t necessarily believe in the concept of one-right-way (and to be reminded that just because one teacher might do, doesn’t mean everything else they say is worthless…)

    I’m also creating my life at the moment as someone who’s offering personal development education as a way to make my living, and I think your points that just because an ‘expert’ says something doesn’t necessarily make it true, and that people should actually think about what they listen to – not just accept it as gospel – are really important for all of us in the field.

    Best wishes and may every day bring you closer to your optimum life



  5. I’m a bit late in commenting, but I loved this article. I do love learning (at a layman’s level) about quantum theories and string theories partly because I think it is of great value to us humans to be reminded that there are levels of perception other than our own.

    However, using this material to hype so many things to which it is completely unrelated does the industries of both science, and personal growth and prosperity, a disservice.

  6. An enlightening and reminding article Thanks.

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