Americans, whether religious or not, often actively seek personal growth and self improvement. Numerous groups, leaders, books and courses exist to help them attain that personal growth. Charismatic public speakers like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Zig Ziglar, Anthony Robbins, Steven Covey and Dr. Robert Schuller have become best-selling authors and fill large arenas by giving professional lectures about human growth.
Most bookstores have personal growth sections. There are basically two types of personal growth books. The first is the general positive thinking type of inspirational success book. The first great book of this type was Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking which came out in the 1950’s. The second type is geared toward “adult children of alcoholics,” “women who love men who can’t express love,” people having to suffer through a particular type of disease, and hundreds of other related human difficulties. Experts write books, sell tape seminars and give live presentations to large audiences on their particular self developmental subjects. It’s big business.
Organized self-development groups also exist to help people reach their potential and give them therapeutic help. Some groups are simply support organizations for people with a particular need, as for people trying to cope with a relative who is a drug addict or who has cancer. Other groups, which usually make a profit for the people who run them, work almost like religions. Scientology is one of the oldest, EST one of the most controversial. Like religions, these groups seek converts, engendering extreme zeal and devotion among their members. Many use high pressure tactics to find adherents and to keep them. High membership fees are the norm.
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