Essay

The Simulacrum of Self in the Quest for Authenticity

By Duff McDuffee on August 24th, 2009

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When I was looking up clips of Fight Club for my first blog post, I found an interesting related video on YouTube. In the clip below, the pick-up artist and personal development guru “Tyler Durden” is giving a speech about the importance of having an authentic identity.

“Tyler” starts off by talking about the liberation he has experienced ever since he decided to entirely stop caring about other human beings and unleash his inner asshole (he doesn’t put it in quite those terms, of course). He implies how this was a wonderful step forward towards becoming more authentic, and now teaches men to be authentic assholes just like him, for the purpose of having meaningless sexual conquests with HB’s (pickup lingo for “hot babes”). You too can become an authentic asshole by attending one of his “bootcamps”…yours now for only $2000!

The ironies run many, many layers deep.

This very confused man has given himself the name of the fictional character Tyler Durden from the movie/book Fight Club. Certainly assuming another person’s name and identity is not authentic (e.g. an Elvis impersonator). To assume the name and basic identity of a fictional character as “Tyler” has done is to copy something that was never real in the first place (e.g. trekkies dressed up as Klingons). This man’s “authentic identity” is a copy with no original, a simulacrum.

Tyler Durden is not only a fictional character, but a fictional character who himself is a fake-authentic projected identity of another fictional character, who–even more ironically–is unnamed and unidentified (without an identity), and is searching for an authentic identity (just like the unnamed pick-up artist in the video) while also inauthentically attending self-help meetings he has no business attending. Yes, my head is also spinning.

It gets worse. This “Tyler” is teaching men how to have an authentic identity in order to pick up women. In other words, his “authentic” image is a ploy to get something from others, the very opposite of what is meant by authenticity.

Clearly the unnamed man in the video above is deeply, horribly confused about what it means to have an authentic identity. This would be a hilarious joke if he wasn’t obviously very serious, and if he didn’t make big bucks as a well-known teacher of “inner game”–i.e. how to deeply transform yourself into an “authentic” pick-up artist just like him, so that you can deeply and authentically manipulate women into sleeping with you. Chicks dig “authenticity,” or so I hear.

“Tyler” is clearly not living his own authentic life but a well-crafted illusion based on Chuck Palahniuk’s imagination and the culturally constructed notions of a badboy player. The tears at and nervous laughter starting around 7:55, and the big, phony smile at 8:24 betray the cool, uncaring identity he has adopted for himself as his “authentic” self.

The Price of Authenticity: Now for Only $997!

Like it or not, “Tyler” is a personal development guru who teaches “authenticity.” While he is focused on “authenticity” in order to pick-up women, other personal development gurus focus on “authenticity” in order to become financially successful, to sell people things, to create fame, etc. Consider this testimonial from Laura Roeder’s “Creating Fame” sales letter:

Laura reframes personal branding in a way that was exactly what I needed to hear at the time, and gave me permission to market myself in an authentic, non-salesy, fun way.

Roeder’s personal branding course costs $997. All this authenticity is getting expensive! After I get back from the $2000 bootcamp where I learn to authentically trick ladies into having intercourse with me, I’ll be sure to fork over another thousand to learn to authentically name drop and starfuck my way to social media fame. Only $3000 more for Frank Kern’s course on pretending to give things away for free in order to create cognitive dissonance in customers and I’ve got lust, pride, and greed covered for only $6000.

Seeking fame certainly has a price, but usually it is not found in your wallet, but instead in how much it costs your soul:

“If you come to fame not understanding who you are, it will define who you are.” ~Oprah Winfrey

“Fame and tranquility can never be bedfellows.” ~Michel de Montaigne

One of Roeder’s “personal mentors” is Eben Pagan. Eben Pagan began his internet marketing career writing and lecturing as a pickup artist guru under the pseudonym David DeAngelo, using a fake name not unlike “Tyler.” Indeed Pagan even interviewed “Tyler” for his “Interviews with Dating Gurus” monthly CD series. (I know all this because I am not without sin myself! I purchased Pagan’s original eBook Double Your Dating as well as several other products. They always felt a bit sleazy to me, but seemed at the time like there were some good points amidst the slime. Now I’m not so sure.)

Pagan, like “Tyler,” teaches men to be “authentic” manipulators of women. He now makes over $20 million a year teaching men that women are “secretly wanting a man that is in control of himself, his reality, and them” (pg 13 of the Double Your Dating eBook, 2003 edition). Through his information products, Pagan teaches psychological tactics for controlling yourself, your reality, and other people–especially women, but also anyone whom you could get to give you money.

I wonder if Ms. Roeder, an independent businesswoman, would agree with her personal mentor Eben Pagan that she secretly just wants to be controlled by a man. In this social media interconnected age, there is no reason to guess, so I decided to just ask her on Twitter. I am eagerly awaiting her response. UPDATE FROM ROEDER: “I haven’t read anything from his dating business, doesn’t really apply to me! ;) ” I guess Ms. Roeder is not a feminist then.

“Authentic” Marketing in a Culture of Lies

Whatever happened to simple honesty? Why the complex machinations of appearing to be authentic and “non-salesy”? I think it’s because of the ubiquitous matrix of lies our culture has become. We no longer trust marketing messages because we know we are being lied to, and we have become numb to all the lies that we no longer even get upset. Like “Tyler,” we have stopped caring.

Within marketing, the new buzzword is “authenticity.” From a review of a popular marketing book entitled Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, we learn that…

“Goods and services are no longer enough,” the authors state in the introduction. What customers want today are experiences … But in a world increasingly filled with deliberately and sensationally staged experiences — an increasingly unreal world — consumers choose to buy or not buy based on how real they perceive an offering to be.

“Business today, therefore, is all about being real. Original. Genuine. Sincere. Authentic.”

Here we see the ideal of consumer hedonism in the notion that customers want authentic experiences, experiences that are crafted by marketers to be perceived as authentic. Perception is reality after all, right? This new Starbucks that appears to be an “authentic” locally owned coffee shop has already convinced a customer that “the culture is pushing back from the corporate establishment and moving toward more organic, small business.” This is of course the exact opposite of what is occurring, which is that the corporate establishment is pretending to be more like organic, small business, and successfully fooling us!

The notion of “personal branding” is an extension of the notion of the “authentic” brand to the selling of the self. Personal branding rigidifies the projected self-image, cultivating an appearance of authenticity in order to sell a product or service. Personal branding is currently quite popular amongst those in personal development, and is usually spoken of as equivalent to authenticity, as if managing how others view you is the height of being yourself!

Like the customer of the fake-authentic starbucks, we are being fooled by fake-authentic personal brands. A brand is a carefully crafted image that a company presents to the public in order to control the responses people have when they think about the company. Branding is pure public relations, and most people know and accept that brands (and the logos and taglines that are part of them) are generally empty of any real meaning.

“Tyler’s” personal brand is “authenticity.” He looks like he thinks you want an authentic badboy womanizer to look like, based on cultural ideas of what this means. Perhaps the deep and authentic selves we are seeking to find and create are just simulacra. As Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, “the trouble…is that when you get there, there isn’t any there there.” Can we really throw off the cultural conditioning we are so desperately trying to escape?

[Thanks go to MrTeaCup for the articles on Starbucks and fake-authenticity, as well as seeding many of my recent thoughts on this subject. Follow him on Twitter for more great Zizek-inspired social commentary.]

Your thoughtful and intelligent commentary is encouraged in the comments below. Stay tuned for part 2, “Personal Branding and the Standardizing of the Self,” to be posted tomorrow (probably).

Please help us become famous internet millionaire pick-up artists advocates for intelligent dialogue in personal development culture by spreading the word via Twitter, Facebook, etc. if you feel moved. Also subscribe for free if you haven’t already for more articles like this.

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103 Responses to “The Simulacrum of Self in the Quest for Authenticity”

  1. Gina says:

    That video is why women STOP dating. Does he not see how in-congruent he is?
    We women do.
    Tell the boys to save their money, it doesn't work.
    Love your willingness Duff, really!

    • Luckily many men also find this kind of thing creepy.

      The bigger questions for me are about authenticity–is there such a thing? How do we find our "true selves" without simply adopting another false one? etc.

      • Lion Kimbro says:

        By discerning.

        The moment you discover a "falseness" in a prior body, at that point, you drop it, and out of yourself you form a fresh body to wear, in accord with your sense of self.

        The true self is a formless thing that is always coming into form. That doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

    • Well, sometimes I think men in general have a harder time discerning such incongruence. I'm not sure I would have had the ability to put my observations into words (and wouldn't have trusted my intuitions) a few short years ago.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  2. [...] This post was Twitted by duffmcduffee [...]

  3. great post, duff. i see she responded, but didn't answer the question you asked. lol. new age patriarchy is just as bad as good ole manifest destiny. i think that this type of masculinity will become more and more popular as gender equality becomes more prevalent, because men have defined themselves by control for so long. interested to see the future of masculinity… if you will. this kind of goes back to what i was talking about yesterday, where is the spiritually sound/ethical work that is being done for men… or to cultivate a masculine frame of reference without dominance or conquest?

    • "new age patriarchy is just as bad as good ole manifest destiny" –> well put!

      I found Joseph Gelfer's book Numen, Old Men an interesting start into creating non-patriarchal masculine spiritualities:

      http://www.realitysandwich.com/masculine_spiritua…

    • "new age patriarchy is just as bad as good ole manifest destiny" –> well put!

      I found Joseph Gelfer's book Numen, Old Men an interesting start into creating non-patriarchal masculine spiritualities:

      http://www.realitysandwich.com/masculine_spiritua…

      • @mrteacup says:

        In many ways, Gelfer is guilty of the same essentialism that Wilber & Deida are guilty of. I actually agree with the men's spirituality movement that spirituality is, in general, "feminized", but under the influence of Jung, they interpret this by essentializing and polarizing masculine and feminine, and then applying a frame of tolerance, that everyone should be free to pursue the spirituality that speaks to them. The more common paradigm performs the same essentializing move, but regards the masculine essence as pathological and dysfunctional, all brain, no heart, associated with technology, rationality, abstraction, dominating the feminine and supposedly feminine "Mother Nature".

        Privileging the feminine through spirituality is understood as restoring the proper balance and harmony to the world and the standard response to those notions of harmony apply here: what power structures are being concealed?

        Gelfer claims to oppose these essentializing polarities, but look at how he approvingly quotes Harry Hay, the founder of the gay spirituality movement:

        "They are not, by nature, territorially aggressive and do not impose their political claims on others. They are not, by nature, competitive but are passionately interested in sharing with others. They are not interested in conquering nature but are interested in harmonious living with all of nature. They are not interested in denying bodiliness and carnality but are passionately involved in celebrating all aspects of human sexuality."

        There's two points here, and one is obvious: this description of "gay spirituality" is virtual identical to what "women's spirituality" is often claimed to be. Doesn't this repeat the same homophobic logic that equates homosexuality with femininity?

        Second, notice the essentializing claims of what gayness is "by nature". Isn't it clear, then, that Gelfer's position relative to Hay is precisely the same as what he claims Wilber's is relative to Deida? Wilber & Deida polarize masculine and feminine spiritualities, while Gelfer & Hay polarize heterosexual and homosexual spiritualities, and in both cases, it's the first step toward marginalizing what is defined as the lesser pole.

        At least with patriarchal men's movements, they're honest about what they are about. I'm less afraid of Deida and these other guys than I am of Gelfer's hypocrisy, who sets up a very nice outward appearance of non-marginalizing, & uncompetitive harmonious living and uses that to justify doing exactly the opposite.

        • While I'm enjoying your critique of the Left, I am still much more wary of Deida and the pick-up artists than Gelfer and Hay. I do recognize that we should be aware of the power dynamics hidden within ideals of non-marginalizing, harmonious living, but those fighting for gender equality are more likely to be aware of and have language for discussing such power dynamics, and actually care about them too.

          Leaving Deida out of this for a moment, Eben Pagan is explicit about his view when he states that women secretly want to be controlled by men. He does not intend to discover whether this is true or nor for all women in all contexts, nor does he seem to care whether this view leads to and encourages violence against women and perhaps should be qualified or even transformed within culture and society.

          • @mrteacup says:

            There was a time when I would have given Deida the benefit of the doubt. I don't think it's reasonable to expect everyone to supply a vigorous, philosophically thorough deconstruction of the patriarchy on demand, it's acceptable for people to "make the appropriate noises" in that direction. But his recent associations make his supposed anti-patriarchal position a lot less credible to me, so more should be expected.

            That said, it's possible — culturally and philosophically — to articulate a very robust critique of new age patriarchal men's movements, except for the fact that it relies on Jungian essentialism that is extremely common, practically a dogma, in women's spirituality and the New Age countercultural in general. The fact that a patriarchal men's movement can even arise at all today is a testament to this counterculture's insularity and immunity to critique.

          • Indeed, it isn't reasonable to expect everyone to supply any vigorous philosophical deconstruction on demand (although sometimes I wish more spiritual and personal development teachers were able to do so). And yes, Deida's recent marketing associations with Pagan lead me too wanting a stronger public comment from Deida with regards to Pagan's patriarchal views of women.

            I'm not sure I understand the Jungian essentialist statement. I've read some Jung, but I think perhaps his followers (the Jungians) are the essentialists, as Jung seemed to indicate that much every event qualified as an archetype, that archetypes could never be reduced to some finite number. I don't doubt that there are dogmas within the counterculture, but I'm not sure I understand which one you are pointing at here.

            I do think that insularity and immunity to critique is an enormous problem both in various New Age and counterculture circles (including Integral), and definitely within personal development culture.

        • Joseph says:

          If you read the rest of my book, these concerns are answered in full. I critique the essentializing nature of “gay spirit” and via the lens of queer theory I question whether any particular themes can be described as “masculine” or “feminine” spirituality (and of equating homosexuality with femininity). Yours is a reasonable concern, though, given the short excerpt provided.

  4. on the note i was just talking about… i consider myself a feminist, but know that this philosophy is more about gender equality than a true definition of masculinity. i think jackson katz is a start… http://www.jacksonkatz.com/

  5. Darren says:

    Duff, awesome article.

    This is consumer spirituality for a consumer culture. Yes, it's ugly, but horses for courses I say.

    A little like Deida, he is tapping into the frustrations of emasculated men who are so busy trying to do/say/be the right thing in today's society, they've forgotten how to be themselves.

    Of course he offers truth mixed with bullshit in large spades. But people like him only exist, and make shitloads of money, because they exploit a genuine spiritual hunger. Remember that many of these people have never meditated or had any spiritual enquiry. They cannot tell a snake oil salesmen from a genuine guru. For most people, what glitters must be gold, if it's marketed cleverly.

    The Tyler thing is just toying with people's perceptions. He's associating himself with the nerve that film struck with a lot of men. It's a transparent bit of branding, but then branding exploits the fact that for most people, perception is larger than reality. Honestly, if people want the spiritual equivalent of a cheeseburger, then the market shall provide. You gets what you asks for.

    If these guys can't see past their next orgasm, then there will always be a "Tyler" to cash in on their myopia.

  6. Darren says:

    actually "Tyler" looks like he does a lot of coke.

  7. Update from Laura Roeder via Twitter:
    "I haven't read anything from his dating business, doesn't really apply to me! ;) "
    http://twitter.com/duffmcduffee/status/3507712550

    I guess patriarchy is not something that concerns Ms. Roeder.

    • UPDATE #2. She found my reply "Hmm, I guess you aren't a feminist then" as "incredibly rude. I attempted to apologize and correct the situation, but she has already blocked me on Twitter. Sorry! Just thought you'd like to know about your personal mentor's opinion on women.

    • Yea, on second thought, an email would have been more useful than Twitter to provide appropriate context. I thought it would be fun and bold to have a conversation this way, but it created confusion and hurt feelings–not my intention. I attempted to apologize, but she had already blocked me.

      I sent her this quote from Pagan and asked her what she thought: women are “secretly wanting a man that is in control of himself, his reality, and them” (pg 13 of the Double Your Dating eBook, 2003 edition).

      She said she hadn't read Pagan's dating advice because it didn't apply to her. What I thought she meant by that was that she thought that the view that "women secretly want to be controlled by men" didn't apply to her, which I found very strange, hence my reply.

      Roeder says Pagan is her "personal mentor" on her Creating Fame sales letter. This might be BS or it might be true, I don't know. But I thought she might find it strange that her personal mentor has such opinions of women that might apply to her as a mentee.

      I thought this might stir up some challenging and interesting dialogue. It did not. I'm sorry I hurt Laura's feelings and sincerely apologize.

    • I should also add that having viewed Roeder's 10-minute Twitter video, I found it not at all what I'd like to see more of on Twitter (i.e. a strict focus on maximizing one's social interactions for personal profit). I am very critical of more people turning Twitter into a means only for commercial activities. It is one of my favorite public commons and I intend to defend it's non-commercial use.

  8. LionKimbro says:

    re: Feminism: I do not believe in the visions of either feminism or masculinism. Both men & women commit great evils against one another, and both men & women have great gifts for one another. Men & women both are fully complicit (and generous) in the definition of the other.

    But the main reason I'm writing here is to write about authenticity.

    Are you for or against authenticity? It seems to me like you argue against it, but when you argue against it, you are always doing so by appealing to just how inauthentic it is. That is, you judge authenticity by the standard of authenticity.

    So it seems to me that you are not against authenticity — in fact, it seems to me like you champion it. It's this fake thing (inauthenticity) that you are upset about, especially when it poses as authenticity.

    Do I understand rightly?

    Authenticity is not the highest virtue to end all virtues; But it is a virtue, and I don't think it deserves attack.

    • "Are you for or against authenticity?" This very much depends on what is meant by authenticity! I am less arguing for or against authenticity, more exploring what is meant by authenticity in our culture. I am very much opposed to the "authenticity" of "Tyler," and of the fake-authentic Starbucks, which are clearly deceptive and even unethical. I do not have a fully fleshed out positive view of authenticity or it's role amongst other values that I wish to put forth as of now, but perhaps you are right that I am championing authenticity.

      Authenticity appears to me to be a value (perhaps also a virtue) of our Western culture, perhaps equivalent to the value of "enlightenment" in the East. One common line of argument is to argue that certain things are bad because they are inauthentic, that we need more authenticity. I do think that some of my statements fit this line of thinking. Another line of argument is that authenticity itself is a misleading and problematic quest for multiple reasons (perhaps there is no true self to express, not all that lies deep within is good to express, authenticity leads to excessive self-focus which harms culture and community, etc.). I think there is merit to exploring each.

    • Re: feminism, it is usually understood that feminism is not opposed to "masculinism" but promotes full gender equality, especially exposing patriarchal views such as Pagan's (women secretly want to be controlled by men) which justify violence towards women. Certainly men and women are fully complicit in the definition of each other, and both women and men are fully complicit in the cultural construction of notions of gender which either promote or discourage patriarchy.

      • LionKimbro says:

        <shaking my head>

        This characterization is too simple to match reality; The fierce debate around the kitchen table will continue, and tears and shouts and shaking persist. I strive for the words that allow us to see the great rain forest of desire, and we need to understand what our ideals actually are. I find "full gender equality" simultaneously an aim to strive for, a profound and ever-present joyful truth of reality, and a horrific nightmare to even imagine.

        • Which characterization? My characterization of feminism or authenticity?

          Re: feminism, such a medium as threaded comments necessarily limits the possibilities for the incredible flexibility and complexity of the debates around sex and gender in society. Of course the dialectic will continue, as it should, and part of this dialectic is to expose the assumptions of various teachers of masculinity in our culture for all to examine.

          • LionKimbro says:

            (sigh) It is nearly impossible to talk. It is not just threaded comments, but threaded discussions in real life, as well. Full-blown theatre is insufficient as well.

            This is why gender is intrinsic to the universe. Not because we couldn't hypothetically genetically engineer it out of existence, and not because we couldn't perform the even **harder** work of sociologically engineering it out of existence, but because we can't even talk about it.

            Yet we must try.

            To most directly answer you, I am referring to the rain forest of desire. That is, that there are countless sexual desires within the human being, and part of that body of sexual desire is the desire to control and to be controlled. This is readily apparent if you read through women's romance novels, and this is readily apparent if you flip through asstr.org.

            The rainforest of desire has every creature in it, and if we say things like "it is not true that women secretly want to be controlled by men," then we are declaring emphatically that there are no frogs in the rainforest. But there are.

            Furthermore, as long as our going story frame is "men are hurting women, men are hurting women, men are hurting women," then we are very very stuck, and the blow-back has been pre-determined.

    • @mrteacup says:

      This is a great point – the inauthentic illusion is only possible because we believe it is authentic, so attacking inauthenticity only moves the goal posts. It creates a new standard of authenticity, and that in turn creates a new possibility for it to be faked. Instead, we should dismantle the ideal of authenticity itself.

      One useful way of thinking about it is to consider the famous Cinderalla Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom (seen here: http://bit.ly/fHVLE). In the animated film Cinderella, Walt Disney's inspiration came from Neuschwanstein Castle in Barvaria, Germany which was built in the 19th century (seen here:http://bit.ly/4zVVgW). We can quickly point out the inauthenticity of this fake, alongside other romanticized Disney attractions such as "Main Street U.S.A." But is it so clear? It turns out Neuschwanstein Castle is itself a fake, commisioned by King Ludvig II and designed by a theatrical set designer rather than an architect, which speaks to it's true purpose as an object of imagination and entertainment. At this point we might say "OK, so maybe Neuschwanstein is also a fake, and we need to go back further to find the authentic original." But haven't castles always been a spectacle for an audience, designed in part to elicit emotional reactions such as shock, awe, fear & wonder?

      These copies of copies are by no means identical to the original, and certainly the ways in which they are different (or the same) are an opportunity to illuminate their ideological content. A crucial difference: Cinderella Castle doesn't represent itself as "authentic" (although it is, at the level described above) but Neuschwanstein Castle does. Ludvig II wrote, "It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin at Hohenschwangau near the Pollat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights' castles." But then he hired a theater set designer, not an architect versed in Medieval building methods.

      What I find interesting about Disneyland is that it actually isn't how people usually describe it, as an attempt to escape into a fantasy world. It's actually much stranger, because you never actually suspend the reality that you are at a theme park, and I think they even don't really try. They call the people who work there "cast members", and I think what that reveals is that it's one level removed: what you fantasize about at Disneyland is that you are at a place where they are trying to create a fantasy world for you to escape into. You know very well that the life-sized Mickey is just a cast member in a costume, the fantasy is that the cast member (& Disney) are benevolent and caring, dedicated to delighting children and adults, etc. And this lets them get away with all kinds of cynical manipulations, marketing techniques on children, etc.

      This exactly parallels the difference between Starbucks' fake, Disneyland "local coffee shop" and the supposedly authentic local coffee shop it copies. Everyone knows it's a Starbucks, the manipulation is public knowledge. The problem is we let them off the hook _because_ we know that it's a fake, and they are trying to create a cosier, less branded, corporate store, moving to a more organic, small business style, etc. But the local coffee shops are directly complicit in this by focusing on critiques of superficial, experience ideals of authenticity and far less on actual moral concerns. (Notice activists' marketing logic: this is done because the consumerist messages are what gets people on the anti-corporate bandwagon.) I think the fact that a comparatively benign coffee chain, of all things, has become a symbol of corporate evil is a sign of how activists conflate the consumerist lifestyle concerns of a privileged Western minority with the much more pressing problems of the 3rd world, frequently at the expense of the latter.

      Framing it like this, I think we can also place "Tyler Durden" in the same category as Neuschwanstein/local coffee shops, all of which represent themselves as authentic. "Tyler Durden" is interesting, a bit like rebuilding Neuschwanstein, but basing it off of Cinderella Castle (Palahniuk fictional character) and claiming it's authentic, directly realizing Baudrillard's description of the post-modern society where the copy precedes the original. On this level, maybe the man in the YouTube video is being authentic, which underscores the need to dismantle authenticity as an ideal, in the way that it is accepted as a demonstration of the truth of a position.

      • Excellent reply. Lots to chew on here. I think you are probably right, that we need to go deeper into dismantling the notion of authenticity as an ideal (which is probably not what Lion intended, as he said that authenticity does not deserve attack–but attack is not what is needed, but deconstruction).

        Which reminds me that I need to actually go and read Baudrillard.

      • LionKimbro says:

        "what you fantasize about at Disneyland is that you are at a place where they are trying to create a fantasy world for you to escape into."

        That doesn't speak to my feeling; At Disneyland, I see a place where my (and my broader society's) hopes and ideals are given form. I perceive that Disney magic merges in with Real magic.

        Fantasy isn't where we escape to; Fantasy is where we live.

        It's when we start thinking that the world we live in is "the REAL world" where we really get into trouble, because we did and do imagine it into existence; It's only as real as we let it be.

  9. JR Cline says:

    Isn't it great. LOL I can sell you a book that shows how to live forever for only $1,400. hahahaha Or you can get it free in most hotels rooms.

  10. [...] post:  The Simulacrum of Self in the Quest for Authenticity | Beyond Growth Categories : [...]

  11. EricSchiller says:

    Duff I hope you have an affiliate account for that Real Social Dynamics link. :-) LOL.

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  13. Gordon says:

    Dude, I've read your post and your twitter dialogue with Laura Roeder (I think she blew you off because you were being a jerk as opposed to the way you see it) and to be totally honest, you take yourself WAAAY too seriously!

    Just because someone doesn't respond to something the way you like doesn't mean they're not a feminist and if I were in her position, I'd block you as well.

    In fact I sense a bit of a performative contradiction because you are taking partial things that people have said and then twisting them into a blog post in much the same way that a lot of the personal development industry does to consumers who are looking for a solution to life's overwhelming problems!

    My two cents take it or leave it

    • EricSchiller says:

      Gordon,
      I just looked back at Duff and Laura's twitter exchange, and while Duff was slightly short with her, I do not think it was out of line. Unless by out of line you mean not over-the-top positive like everything else in marketing and self-help. Rather, I think you (Laura) are taking this much too seriously. He did not STATE she was not a feminist, but did suggest it. Why she couldn't respond to his questions I don't know. I found a similar response when I asked Jonathan Mead tough questions too.

      While I think our approach could use some polishing, there is great value in questioning those who would call themselves gurus, and I don't think we will be stopping that practice any time soon. There are plenty of them out there.

      If you knew Duff personally, you wouldn't say Duff takes himself that seriously. This is a serious blog confronting serious subjects, of course we are going to come off as taking ourselves seriously. Would you expect any less from your gurus?

    • EricSchiller says:

      Gordon,
      I just looked back at Duff and Laura's twitter exchange, and while Duff was slightly short with her, I do not think it was out of line. Unless by out of line you mean not over-the-top positive like everything else in marketing and self-help. Rather, I think you (and Laura) are taking this much too seriously. He did not STATE she was not a feminist, but did suggest it. Why she couldn't respond to his questions I don't know. I found a similar response when I asked Jonathan Mead tough questions too.

      While I think our approach could use some polishing, there is great value in questioning those who would call themselves gurus, and I don't think we will be stopping that practice any time soon. There are plenty of them out there.

      If you knew Duff personally, you wouldn't say Duff takes himself that seriously. This is a serious blog confronting serious subjects, of course we are going to come off as taking ourselves seriously. Would you expect any less from your gurus?

    • Hi Gordon, please see my response to Clay above. I did try to apologize to Laura, as I never meant to offend but only to challenge and stir up debate. I think perhaps Twitter is a poor medium for such things, even though the medium seems to encourage replies but makes things appear out of context and thus more "angry" than they are.

      Honestly, I found Laura's response very strange, especially because she brands herself as a Twitter expert, but I guess everyone is still working out the social norms for what Twitter is and how to use it "properly."

      That said, I'd love to hear more about where specifically you see my arguments engaging in performative contradiction. Can you provide a specific example? Especially tying it to where the personal dev industry does this to consumers? I would love to hear more.

      • Gordon says:

        Hey Duff,

        One of the horrible things about social media is that body language and voice tone don't communicate through text. I am sure this is the case here!

        As for the performative contradiction here it goes:

        Laura's reality: "Here's some dude asking me questions regarding my mentor, fine I'll answer him … Oh he's trying to stir debate and he's labeling me, I've got better things to do with my time, such as work on my business than engage in debate" and then she blocks you. It's nothing personal against you. I'm sure some people would be willing to debate you on it, but she's obviously not one of them. I see you tried to apologize which is good, but those types of people will judge you on first impressions. It's just the way they are.

        The Eben Pagan stuff also is partial. From what I know, he broke off from Ross Jeffries because of some personal dispute as well as his ethics towards women and I also know that he is firmly against misogyny. There's a big difference between being misogynistic and being dominant in a social situation (One is abusive and malicious, the other is being a leader of the dynamic).

        As for Owen Cook (Tyler Durden), I think your probably right about him, but I don't have enough information to make that judgment. He is what he is.

        The performative contradiction is that you're taking partial perspectives and incorporating them to tell a story of these people being inauthentic when there isn't enough evidence to back up the claim (you need to get the complete picture from the people you're criticizing before you can say it). Self help gurus do this all the time my favorite example being The Secret where they say if you believe in the law of attraction, you will get everything you want and then they show all sorts of historical examples when in fact there were many other factors involved rather than just thinking something into reality.

        I can see your intent, and it's not malicious but you've got to be careful when you engage in this sort of thing because some people can interpret it that way!

        If I come off being a jerk, I apologize. I just want to make the perspective a bit more whole!

        Thank you

        • @mrteacup says:

          This is totally pedantic and unnecessary, but I can't resist:

          What you are alleging is just an inconsistency (or maybe hypocrisy), not a performative contradiction. A performative contradiction is when the statement you make is contradicted by your articulation of it. For example, "I do not exist" is a performative contradiction.

          OK, carry on!

        • You're not coming off as being a jerk to me now! :)

          I've been too careful in the past–I'm willing to risk a little tussle now, which I think is part of any political or religious debate (which I believe this is). Pissing people off from time to time isn't necessarily a problem–indeed, every guru I am criticizing pisses off lots of people–not taking in the feedback could be very problematic.

          Your hallucination of what you think Roeder might have experienced seems quite possible to me. It is an example to me of the problem itself though–there is no room anywhere for public critical discourse in personal development (which includes marketing). Where can we begin to talk about these things? Do you have a better suggestion than this blog and Twitter where people involved will actually see it and participate? (I'm not letting you off the hook for being "critical" of me either! You must also hold yourself to your same standards or else create performative contradictions of your own.)

          I realize that Pagan broke off from Jefferies due to conflicts in values. But Jefferies is pure evil! I see Pagan's views and attitudes as less evil, but more pernicious due to their subtlety. For example, you seem to indicate that what I've said about him isn't a problem! You haven't responded to my quote, where Pagan explicitly says that women want to be dominated (although they'll never admit it even to themselves). This is not "leadership"–it is plain and simple dominance of women! It is "good patriarchy" perhaps, like the Promise Keepers instead of abusive husbands. But it is not nearly far enough.

          I think it is very reasonable to have criticisms that are partial and even open to debate. How else can I correct my imperfect views except to explore them with others? If I wait until I totally understand the individuals who's work I'm criticizing, I will recapitulate the problem of lack of critical discourse, which perpetuates cultish ingrouping and insularity. And not just me, but you too, and everyone else involved in our communities is also under similar obligations. There are sins of commission and of omission.

          • Gordon says:

            Whoa, we're talking about you here, not me! LOL

            Keep in mind that I am making my assumptions going off this post and your twitter dialogue and not the purpose of this site, which I am now discovering and I agree with the premise entirely!

            The problem you've got is that the people who you are trying to reach, don't want to get involved in debate, they are too focused on making their own businesses more profitable so the only way you can get through to them is by packaging your message in something they find valuable (which is difficult because they don't want to listen to you if you try to debate them).

            I'd suggest you find these people in person and then work out a way to convey your message that sees things from their world view while subtly shifting their perspective, i.e put the pill in the meat.

            Again I think the problem doing this online is that if you can't hear the voice tone and body language and it comes off malicious and annoying rather than constructive (which it is).

            To respond to the quote, if you learn anything in marketing, it's that "People are silently begging to be lead." Whether you agree with this statement or not or think it's misogynistic or not, there is an element of objective truth in it. Now from what I've seen, Eben Pagan has an ethics element to what he teaches which is the key distinction in my point of view. It's a paradoxical issue that guys face, how do men respect women at the same time not act like a needy ass kisser (that tends to be the target market for this stuff). Sometimes you have to say something like that to get men to snap out of it and by pushing it to the extreme more often than not you'll find the healthy middle ground! It's just as disrespectful to be a needy ass kisser than it is to be a misogynistic jerk and I think that's the point he is trying to make! (I'm sure you'll disagree with that)

            I hope that makes things clearer

            Thankyou

          • Glad you agree with the premise entirely of our site! I hope you'll come back and challenge the hell out of future posts too, or maybe even submit your own article for publication.

            You are totally correct that the views we are challenging are held by people who are busy building businesses and thus not interested in debate. This is why there is no critical discourse in personal development, as opposed to academia where people engage in discourse as a large part of their jobs, and have secure tenured positions.

            I'm not sure I agree with you at all regarding communication strategy. We seem to be doing quite well so far in attracting some dialogue. Meeting in person is impractical as most personal development gurus would not be interested in such a meeting, and the smaller-time gurus all live and work in different locations (and sometimes are vagabonds or "location independent" and thus live their social lives out online). I'd be open to in-person public debate, on video for broadcast on a website though!

            In addition, most of the gurus are communicating their messages online primarily, therefore this is the perfect medium in many ways to critique the messages as they can be directly quoted and linked to.

            I consider this discourse to fall in the realm of politics. You wouldn't expect political candidates to meet up together and somehow come to total agreement, yet we hold politicians to standards of civility. But have you seen the political discourse in the blogosphere? I'd say BG and Twitter posts so far in this discourse are amazingly more civil and respectful on all sides compared to even many op-ed pieces.

            In nearly all other contexts, I totally agree with you though. I generally seek strong rapport and subtle invitations to change perspective, but I think this context requires a different approach. I'm open to considering other ways of communicating however, and we plan on doing other types of articles that are less controversial.

            Pagan uses the word "controlled" not "lead." David Deida says things like "women want to be lead," but Pagan is more explicit as to his views on the secret dominance of women. Of course, Pagan is a Deida supporter now too, helping Deida put on $3000 weekend workshops. I also think Deida is promoting dressed-up patriarchy. Joseph Gelfer's book Numen, Old Men does the argument better than I could.

            I think you are giving Pagan too much credit. Even if meant "lead," nearly all men I've seen who get into his work and/or other PUA materials end up doing some really nasty, awful things.

            While there might be some partial truth to the statement "people are silently begging to be lead," this statement does seem to be the kind that would justify concentrations of power in the hands of the few. Similarly, certainly there is some truth to the idea that "women secretly want to be controlled," but this secret (or even not-so-secret desire) is still be something to expose and question. Women participate in patriarchy, but that isn't a justification for it! Similarly, people in societies participate in their own dominance, and even willingly give up power to corrupt governments, but this doesn't mean the corruption is thus legitimate.

            Indeed I do disagree that it is *just* as disrespectful to be a needy ass kisser as a misogynist jerk–but even this view is better than Pagan's! Pagan implies that being a jerk is *better than* being a needy ass kisser. I think ass-kissing and misogyny are part of a binary that can and should be transcended (and can be pretty easily done with available techniques from NLP and elsewhere), but Pagan implies that being a jerk (a funny one) is the solution (also using principles of NLP to make his desired changes).

            Again, thanks for your comments. Enjoying the discussion,
            ~Duff

          • Gordon says:

            Great points. There is a difference between what he says and the way people take it! I think some of his later inner game programs address those issues surrounding what maturity is and isn't which is another key part of the equation. I think he made the distinction between the way a boy acts and a man acts and the difference being integrity and ethics. I can't entirely remember.

            I haven't seen enough of David Deida to comment, but from what I've heard there's a bit of controversy surrounding him (he was involved in a bizarre cult in the late 80's early 90's I think).

            Anyway, my fingers are getting tired! LOL

            Enjoyed the discussion.

            Thankyou

          • Picara says:

            Duff,

            I was just sent a link to your article here and I enjoyed it very much! I would love to throw in my female perspective on the topics of Pagan, Deida, and the pick up community

            Long story, but I have had more exposure to the pick up community than any women I personally know. And in my experience, the community is teaching men horrible techniques, ideas and beliefs about women, dating, and social interactions. The inconsistencies, incongruities, and insecurities coming from the so called "gurus" in the PU community is also appalling.

            I have my own personal development/dating coaching company and have had former PUAs (and PUA coaches) as my clients… most of them are lost, depressed, and incredibly confused individuals who have no idea who they are anymore.

            That said, I have followed the work of Pagan and watched some of his live seminar work and I have to disagree with some of your interpretations of his views.

            My undergraduate work was in neuroscience and sexual psychology and there is some question about women desiring to be dominated by men. This theory is based on biophysiology of women and in and of itself, I don't think this theory is misogynistic at all – It's purely academic, based on studies of what women have done and what they say they want. Women have been known to have rape dreams or other fantasies of domination and for some women, a man who can physically dominate them can make them feel safe.

            These desires have NOTHING to do with a lack of respect for women or misogyny. They are biological drives that women have. Understanding them may help all of us better understand women. Women have lots of interesting reasons for why they have sex – and some may not appear to put women in a positive light either: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/2…
            That doesn't mean that women are "bad" or that we are insulting them.

            The problem is that most PUAs mis-interpret this information that way and lump it in with a whole lot of other misogynistic ideas about how to TREAT women.

            I find that Eban Pagan is NOT like other PUAs in that regard. I don't think he's really telling you to be a jerk to women, he's telling you that, yes, "women secretly want to be dominated." And in this day and age when women have more responsibilities than ever, I'm not surprised if many of them do want to be dominated. It's easy to think that when you hear Pagan say that sentence in the context of the community, that he has evil intentions because most of the community is spewing misogynistic crap with more evil intentions.

            I agree that he perhaps has not presented it in the best of ways in his community materials. But, I don't think his intentions are to put down women or to encourage men to treat women poorly.

            I find Pagan's marketing seminars to be much more personal development based. I haven't found any misogynistic attitudes in his other work.

            As for Deida, I actually enjoyed his book "The Way of The Superior Man" and gave it to a few males in my family.

            It is my view that we all deserve certain equal rights as human beings. As a woman, I deserve equal pay as a man in the same position, for example. But, equal rights do not mean that we ARE equal. Because we aren't. Men and women are different and that's part of what has been forgotten in the women's liberation movement. There is a reason women and men don't compete against each other in the Olympics, for example. Would it be "fair" to have women compete with men in a power lifting competition?

            In a society where most men are being raised by single women, they aren't being taught how to develop the strengths that they have as men (and women are grudgingly taking on both the role of male and female in the relationship, which isn't working well it seems either). I think that Deida is just trying to help men understand themselves and the dynamics of relationships that have been lost with the "equalizing" of men and women in society.

            I believe we can respect and honor our differences and the different roles we play as men and women, while still treating each other with respect, honoring our rights as human beings.

            Just my thoughts….
            Picara

          • Thanks for your thoughts and perspective, Picara.

            The debate between evolutionary psychology and social constructionists certainly is complex and interesting. To what extent do we interpret rape dreams as having a biological vs. cultural basis? Images (and experiences) of rape and domination of women are everywhere in our culture. Furthermore, how much can we change this, and should we?

            I'm not sure anyone has evil intentions here. But have you heard Pagan's "Interviews with Dating Gurus" audio series…that he continues to sell?

            On one interview, Pagan (or David D) interviews a man who several times a week has different women over to his apartment. He cooks the same meal, has the same conversations, moves the couch at the same time, watches the same movie, and has sex with the woman-of-the-day in the same way and sequence. Pagan showed no "judgment" of this man's clear and obvious objectification of women, instead celebrating the fact that romance has a structure that can be learned, and that this man was a kind of romance scientist that we can all learn from. Pagan still sells this interview, and has not made any statements that I am aware of that would indicate he believes this approach to be unethical or objectifying of women. To the contrary, by continuing to sell such materials, he seems to say "treating women as interchangeable objects for sex is an acceptable stage of healthy masculine sexuality."

            I believe Pagan's current, more "conscious" views are consistent with this objectification, as are David Deida's. Pagan and Deida have recently worked together to promote a $3000 weekend workshop ($5000 for couples). When money flows like this, corruption is almost always occurring, and egos are as big as the Universe. Deida and Pagan both promote the idea of becoming "alpha," which is to say dominant over other women and men, the top dog in a patriarchal structure.

            Having seen many men involved in Deida's community and having been deeply into his materials for a time as well, I will say that they don't use the cheesy manipulation of PUA's, but do seem to use spiritual language as a cover for getting what they want sexually and justifying power over women (although with more heart and care usually than stone-cold PUA's). It's less the player, more the "authentic asshole." When two alpha Deida-ites enter a bar, you'd better believe there will be some kind of conflict. And as a man who prefers to avoid petty games of power and status in favor of treating everyone as an equal, I can't stand being around a man who is currently studying the art of being alpha.

            Joseph Gelfer has a fabulous critique of Deida and Ken Wilber in his academic book Numen, Old Men which I highly recommend for a critical perspective.

            I agree that he perhaps has not presented it in the best of ways in his community materials. But, I don't think his intentions are to put down women or to encourage men to treat women poorly.

            I think Pagan has presented the same ideas as the PUA's but done it well, rather than presenting more egalitarian ideas poorly. I have no idea as to his intentions–to guess would be mind-reading. But clearly his words convey games of power, dominance and submission, being alpha, and winning at the game of patriarchy. There is no even slight hint that perhaps such power dynamics could be changed, dropped, or avoided in any way whatsoever.

            I believe if we are to truly treat each other with respect, we need to get beyond trying to dominate each other. To do that, we need more than nice language to describe how to be alpha, but actually some different premises that presume equality as best as is possible.

            ~D

  14. Gordon says:

    I had that coming! You're right, I don't know Duff personally, so I can't say he takes himself too seriously, but at the same time I'm not too sure Duff knows Eben Pagan personally either because from what I've seen of him recently he is the complete opposite of a misogynist! (and of course you don't know me personally so you can't say I take myself too seriously either)

    I too questioned the gurus for a while and I came to one big conclusion which is that if you don't offer an alternative or an improvement to what's being offered, it's mainly a waste of time trying to destroy it. A great example is Ken Wilber's AQAL theory, there are tons of critics of it and they accuse him of all sorts of things, but most often the don't offer something that is better than AQAL and the criticisms that suggest improvement tend to be incorporated. (Wilber has all sorts of other problems but they mostly tend to be subjective rather than objective)

    The other main problem with criticism is that when it's overdone it can eradicate all the positive stuff and expand all the negative stuff which is just as bad as highlighting all the positive stuff and eradicating all the negative stuff.

    I've also found that when you criticize someone objectively and offer improvements, they will respond to you and I am sure this case is no exception.

    Again, my two cents take it or leave it!

    • If someone writes "women secretly want to be controlled," whether or not they act in an apparently misogyst way or not to you, this view is the basis for misogyny and justifies violence against women. Whether or not Pagan appears misogynist to you based on your experience of him is not what I proposed, but whether his dating and men's products and men's work is fundamentally based on ideas like "women secretly want to be controlled," which from my reading of his texts is indeed the case.

      I think it is important to consider what impact this has on his mentees (assuming Roeder is not bullshitting when she says Pagan is her "personal mentor"), as well as his marketing, as marketing is based also on understanding of human psychology. He may have changed his mind, but he still sells the original book Double Your Dating, and all of his other products are consistent with his original views: http://www.doubleyourdating.com/

      As Schiller said, Pagan is a public figure–a powerful public figure who is influencing a generation of men and internet marketers. All public figures in all other domains have open critics, yet personal development and online marketing somehow escapes criticism, usually due to the "negative thinking" defense, a powerful frame of rhetoric that gurus have used for ages to avoid critical thinking amongst their devotees (not aware that attacking "negative thinking."

      As Eric has said, there is no reason one must give positive solutions when criticizing something. You might want some, in which case I urge you to join the folks who are looking for solutions to these problems! Environmentalists in the 60's had no solution to the problems of pollution, deforestation, etc. Was highlighting all the negative stuff just as bad as highlighting all the positive stuff of business as usual?

      • Gordon says:

        Hey Duff,

        I don't want to get into semantics and temporal context so I'll just leave my point of view where it is.

        I appreciate your position even though I disagree with some aspects of it.

        Thanks for the discussion!

        • Thanks, Gordon. I'm also appreciating your participation in the discussion.

          I would still like to hear what you think specifically about the quote from DYD that says "women secretly want to be controlled." If you think this isn't problematic, I'd like to hear why. Perhaps tomorrow?

    • An interesting side note, I worked for Wilber for 2 years. Working for that organization opened my eyes to the corruption that occurs with power.

      I am also critical of AQAL theory itself for many reasons. I don't think there are any possible replacements, for our postmodern condition is such that there are and always will be competing metanarratives. Neither AQAL nor any other metanarrative can account for competing metanarratives by definition, thus the quest to understand everything in a grand, unified theory is fatally flawed. (That's the short version of my argument.)

      I do still find components of AQAL helpful as guidelines, but dangerous as ideology.

      • Gordon says:

        The last thing you said there is very important! As an ideology, it's dangerous! Totally agree! As soon as you take it to be everything it screws you up in all sorts of terrible ways! Like I said Wilber has all sorts of subjective problems and he is not immune from the shadow elements of his theory. (I personally think he's beginning to see that in himself, but Integral Institute as an organization doesn't see it)

        • Nearly everyone involved in the integral community takes AQAL as an ideology and reject competing ideologies by labeling them "green," from what I can tell, including Wilber. I see the same thing in the personal development community, if indeed the two are actually different (there is much overlap, as Tony Robbins is considered "an integral friend" and teaches spiral dynamics and Deida-based relationship models in his workshops now).

    • EricSchiller says:

      Gordon,
      As a critical blog, we take the texts that people such as Eben Pagan put out there and then go from there. By being a public figure, Pagan opens himself up to articles such as this one. While I can tell you Duff doesn't take himself that seriously, it is in a more personal context, simply because he is my friend, and we are all having a dialogue here. Just because Pagan's work has changed over time, does not mean we cannot critique the previous stuff. People change their tune, their market and their mind. We are not trying to essentialize here, but instead open up dialogue about what is going on in this field. We are opening hot issues, we get that.

      It is a fallacy to think one must offer something better or it is a waste of time. Ethics becomes a huge issue in this and a cult is a good example. Am I to offer something better than an existing cult leader to bring them down? Should I create a cult with new and interesting rituals, which will drive the masses to my compound? Is it a waste of time for us to try to bring more responsibility to personal development gurus? While these are different issues, I want to illustrate the fact that even if there is not a "better" alternative to something, there is great merit in offering a critique of it.

      I strongly believe that many gurus in the personal development field use marketing as a tool to hook their customers into an unhealthy addiction to self-help which does not actually help them. I think this is unethical. I want it stopped. Is that wrong? Is it too much of a buzz-kill for the self-help addicted masses who live on crippling positivity?

      Tell me this; have you ever read a personal development book and thought, "I think that this will be the last self-help book I'll ever need to read?" Likely no. That is because they never offer finality. While you could offer that personal development is never ending (and I would agree with you) each and every author sets up their reader to purchase their next book, seminar, or audio program. When will it stop?

      • Gordon says:

        Hey Eric,

        Forgot to mention ethics! Yes ethics are very important to the discussion and you are completely correct to make that assessment!

        I also agree with your comment about the personal development books. I've read a ton and the new ones become worse and worse every time. I think there are a lot of authors out there who have very low levels of moral development who keep selling the same rubbish (Joe Vitale immediately comes to mind)

        The point I am trying to make is "What would you suggest the Mother whose Husband died in a tragic accident with 4 children on Welfare, thinking of committing suicide do instead of reading a personal development book?"

        Hope that makes it more clear!

        Thanks for your insight

        • EricSchiller says:

          Gordon,

          When Duff and I chose the name Beyond Growth, we saw it fitting because we hope someday, somehow, to help grow this field into something which is responsible to itself, and the people it purportedly helps. I read and enjoy several self-help books which I feel "get it" or are specifically targeted at specific problems. For example, I have a book "Its Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be" which is a short inspiring read, and always reminds me of what I want to get done. It does not make me addicted to additional books, and doesn't make me feel somewhat empty after I've read it.

          In regards to you last comment, I completely get that. Self-help has its positive uses, I just wish the gurus (who are often marketing gurus first, self-help gurus second) would take into account the negative behaviors their products and services cause.

          The tone on BG has been somewhat negative lately, but Duff and I have found that the more we get into this with a perspective of holding gurus to a higher standard the more depressing the whole field gets. We are keeping each other honest, and are looking forward to creating more content in the future which offers better possibilities for the growth of this field. I hope to write about exactly what that means as we understand more about what we are dealing with as a society.

          • Gordon says:

            Hey Eric,

            I am going to end my discussion by saying that the personal development industry needs more people like yourself who hold it to higher ethical standards and recognize the shadow elements of what they are doing! :-)

            Thankyou

          • EricSchiller says:

            Gordon,

            I appreciate the dialog with you tonight.

            Till next time…

  15. Darren says:

    this is just a general comment on gurus. i think anytime someone claims to be any kind of authority on the spirit, the ego is involved. the true gurus attract followers not through cynical marketing campaigns, but through the truth and grace in their actions and words.

    spiritual materialism is rife in the west. everyone wants another feather in their spiritual cap. most are still in the competitive and acquisitive mindset of the culture they grew up in.

    i think the question of culture is intrinsic to this debate on gurus in the west. the real gurus should be culture shapers and changers, not products of the culture.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BAgnFnmxtE

    • Right on, Darren.

      I'm not sure that we should totally discount claims to spiritual authority as ego-based–it depends on the claims, I'd say. Claims of moral perfection should be highly suspect. Claims of specific meditative attainments can be more or less verified, and may not be that important depending on the goal of the particular seeker. I do think some teachers have more spiritual authority than others, but it is notoriously difficult to figure out.

      Spiritual materialism is indeed everywhere in the west, and increasingly in other cultures too wherever consumer culture spreads.

      I agree that the question of culture is highly relevant. I'm unsure whether anyone is beyond culture though–still something I'm thinking about.

  16. [...] Havi Brooks, a popular personal development and marketing blogger, writes in a specific style that she claims she developed (and I believe her), having found her authentic voice as a writer. Her writing style includes making up silly words, writing “stream of consciousness,” often being sarcastic and cynical about personal development/spirituality/marketing, talking from various voices within herself and to parts of herself, using various font sizes for emphasis or de-emphasis, and sharing her “process” of personal growth. Is it then inauthentic that many of the people who read her blog have adopted very similar styles? I’ve seen many of the same stylistic elements in other quirky countercultural people, long before Ms. Brooks was writing online. Does this mean she isn’t being authentic, or hasn’t developed an authentic style, or that her version of authenticity already existed in the surrounding culture? It is worth noting that Brooks charges nearly $500 an hour for her 1-on-1 marketing and life coaching services. As noted I before, all this “authenticity” is expensive. [...]

  17. [...] that interviewed all the other pick-up artists which Pagan speaks very highly of, including our confused friend “Tyler Durden.” Pavlina writes… Man Transformation has a very empowering attitude throughout. This program [...]

  18. Fraser says:

    Yeah, being authentic IN ORDER TO GET SOMETHING is a paradox.

    I think you're assuming the worst in people though. This post is full of slander and hate.

    • What specifically did you see as slander or hate?

      • Fraser says:

        Not exactly a fair trial is it? ;)

        You call Tyler an asshole, say he advocates not caring about anyone and that it's all about getting meaningless sex. That's just the second paragraph.

        Does your back hurt? You have to really do back flips to get that interpretation.

        So, you basically say RSD de-humanizes and objectifies women, while you yourself de-humanize them. And you wildly misrepresent them.

        Your post brought some of my unconscious limiting beliefs to the surface so for that, my eternal gratitude. I can't ask for more.

        • The first thing "Tyler" says is the above video is "one of the things that really helped me was when I took a lot of criticism in the media, and I just stopped caring."

          He goes on to repeat that "not caring" was one of the things that really took his life to the next level. He does not ever qualify this statement.

          A friend of mine defines "asshole" as someone who doesn't care, and doesn't care that they don't care. I think "Tyler's" description of himself (in this video) would fit this accurately. I am only critiquing the video.

          I made no comments about the company "Real Social Dynamics" except that they charge $2000 for "bootcamps," which they do.

          Does that interpretation make sense now?

          You might not agree with me, and that's fine. But that was my reasoning.

          • Fraser says:

            OK, perhaps you should do your research before slamming the man, because whatever interpretation you got from that, he makes it explicitly clear elsewhere he means not caring in the Buddhist sense. (If it wasn't clear enough there).

            That is Non-attachment. They say genuine compassion arises when you stop caring. That's what he's talking about.

            Now, kindly correct your article you brute!

          • I'm not slamming the man, just this video. I think his understanding of "not caring" is opposite of the understanding of Buddhism, which is non-grasping—very different. If you know of a Buddhist author or sutta that disagrees, I'd be happy to debate these points with you.

          • I'm not slamming the man, just this video. I think his understanding of "not caring" (as presented in this specific video) is opposite of the understanding of Buddhism, which is non-grasping—very different. If you know of a Buddhist author or sutta that disagrees, I'd be happy to debate these points with you.

          • Fraser says:

            Nah, I'll pass on the debate.

  19. Koushik says:

    Suggestion for some future posts : You seem to have gone through a vast array of PD "theories" and implementations. I was not aware of Ken Wilber and the AQAL theory before I went through the comments here. Maybe you can write some posts about a few "controversial" PD theories you have come across–giving a breif introduction about them and then pointing out the flaws you found in those theories. The gurus might be pissed off though :) Very well written and informed criticism from the posts I have read till now.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Koushik. A full treatment of Ken Wilber and AQAL would take at least a book, and probably many years of research and writing! Some aspects of AQAL theory I'm still in agreement with, but I do have my reservations about much of it having worked for Integral Institute and read and discussed lots of Wilber's work for many years.

      I will consider writing more about the various frameworks for personal development and their relative usefulness and validity.

  20. aussiebear says:

    Pagan (aka: David DeAngelo) is a salesman. He used to do real estate and stocks…The fundamentals are the same, the applications change: Now he sells help tips/guides/courses for men, and courses on how to develop your own on-line business.

    There’s one thing one should notice about these “seduction gurus”…They rarely have a long term girlfriend, partner, or wife. A quick research shows of the 8 “pioneers”; only one has a girlfriend, while another was recently divorced…All the others (including Pagan) are single…What does that really say about the material they’re selling?

    Its pretty simple, (if you see it in context to Stephen Covey’s 7 habits book): They’re selling you short term quick fixes (techniques) by showing you how to change your personality.

    But this does NOTHING for your character. (Your true character shows when you are placed under pressure…And no amount of personality tricks will be able to cover that up!)

    I don’t feel sorry for all the other guys who blindly follow this “seduction nonsense”…The problem with techniques is that they only work for specific scenarios or on a particular type of woman. As time goes by, women will pick up on these techniques (as they get overused), and eventually these “cool tricks” will become useless.

    Sure, I’ve read their material…But I won’t use it. Integrity to myself and to the women I’m dating is more important than playing deceitful games/tricks. I want her to trust me without hesitation…You just can’t have that if you follow a seduction guru’s play book. I make it very clear of what I want from a woman. So there is no expectation or confusion…This is me, take it or leave it.

  21. [...] written several articles here on Beyond Growth critiquing pick-up artist gurus who teach men how to transform into [...]

  22. @stephenlark says:

    Duff, I just came across this article via your Twitter feed. Something that has been on my mind since I discovered this blog is your name: you call yourself Duff McDuffee on this blog and elsewhere online (http://www.google.com/search?q=Duff%20McDuffee) and yet you are referred to as Mr. Andrew McDuffee on Bill Harris's Cease and Desist letter (http://www.scribd.com/doc/24601890/McDuffee-Cease… Did Bill Harris (via his lawyer's nastygram) get your first name wrong or is calling yourself Duff McDuffee part of your "personal brand"?

  23. This article is really well written I'll give you that.

    99% of the pickup industry is a fraud and is full of ego defense mechanisms of men TRYING (it doesn't prove to be successful) to hide who they are in order to get girls. All they get is button pushing reactions from girls.
    The 2 people i've found who are AMAZING with teaching success with women are: Tyler Durden & Zan

    Due to those 2 people – espically Tyler, I became successful with women. Period. You can't argue it.

    IF TYLER WAS NOT ALIVE I WOULD NOT BE SUCCESSFUL WITH WOMEN

    He deserves a nobel prize – i'm being completely serious. His product the Blueprint is RIDICULOUS.

    Tyler durden will make you not care what anyone thinks and also be successful (or as i know call it "being normal") with women. The man is some hero.

    • I'm glad that you found some relief from your suffering. But what does "successful with women" mean? Do you have a long-term, committed relationship that has survived over two years, though ups and downs? Have you learned what it is to love another person with all your heart?

      Most of these so-called "successful with women" seduction gurus cannot maintain long-term relationships, precisely because their "success" is based on a lie, on a false persona or character that they have developed and stepped into. This is in my opinion the biggest failure of them all.

      Not caring what anyone thinks is itself an ego defense mechanism–it is overcompensating for taking things too personally. Caring about others and yes, what they say, is a wonderful, important part of being human.

      We probably won't agree on this, but at least we do agree that "Tyler's" approach to life and love is ridiculous.

  24. justadude says:

    You guys are right, but just scratching the surface with the insanity that is the "seduction community."

    Here's a sad example (I don't really encourage people to dig deeper), many including 'Tyler' himself, were inspired by a guy who used the name "Gunwitch" and made money selling books / mp3s to guys about being an extreme "alpha male" to put women in a "sexual state."

    He summarized his teachings with this handy rhyme, "Make the ho say no," meaning to push women up to (and past) their sexual limits, somehow without crossing into the legal definition of rape, I guess.

    Sadly, the lines were blurred in his own mind (maybe being such a famous "guru" went to his head). He recently shot a young woman in the face at a party, it's rumored to be because she rejected his advances.

    While this guy is totally unknown outside the insular "pua" circles, this event was horrifying enough to be covered even on women's interests sites: http://jezebel.com/#!5726841/noted-pick+up-artist…

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