Blaming the Victim: Comments on Louise Hay

March 4, 2012

There have been some interesting comments on an earlier article about Louise Hay. Here is a link to it. I want to make some general comments here as well, in addition to the exchanges there.

It’s always a bit disturbing to find people who are obviously kind, intelligent and caring people suddenly advocating a ruthless blame the victim mentality. I’ve seen it often enough but it still shocks me. It’s nearly always expressed in tolerant spiritual sounding language, but I still haven’t seen anyone back down or shy away from the hideous implications. The relevant part of one comment:

We are not victims. If I hear something that resonates for me from an author or speaker/presenter, I can choose to take that and leave whatever doesn’t fit for me. I don’t believe there are mindless droves of human sheep who are experiencing some kind of horrendous consequences from reading her books, AND if there are, that’s not about her, it’s about each person who chooses to disregard their own inner truth.

The commenter means here that someone who dies as a result of believing Louise Hay’s cancer quackery, it’s not Louise Hay’s fault. If that person had have listened to their “inner truth” they would have known that Louise Hay’s teachings were “not right for them”.

Now the person who left that comment might still withdraw it or qualify it – I hope so, though I doubt it. But in any case it’s a perfectly representative expression of New Age ideology. (I will take it as such for now, rather than referring specifically to the particular commenter.)

By this view, of course, the most tragic and horrifying events are inevitably portrayed as something the victims somehow brought upon themselves. Now, if anyone wants to tell me that people who got burned as witches brought it on themselves with their negative thoughts, they had better have a damned good argument for advocating such grotesque ideas. And they don’t.

But it also specifically clears Ms Hay of any responsibility for any damage her teachings may cause. No attempt was made here to address my specific accusations of cancer quackery. According to these standards, Louise Hay is free to claim whatever she wants. If someone dies, then it’s not a sign that Ms Hay’s methods and credentials need to be checked, rather, another thought process automatically and instantaneously kicks in. The fault can’t lie with the teachings, no matter how spurious. The fault must lie with the victim. 

This is what consumer protection looks like in the New Age.

Got a complaint? It’s your own fault because you filtered out the positive values from your perceptions. Dead or injured? You failed to listen to your inner truth. See a possible problem? Look away and stop indulging in negative emotions.

There are absolutely no standards whatsoever in the New Age culture which has developed over the years. The only limiting factor is marketability, and that standard is adhered to religiously. Apart from that it’s anything goes, and anyone goes as long as they say the right things (if they’re a woman) and look good in a suit (if they’re a man).

Quality control or checking the validity of claims is anathema to this ideology. No one has the right to do this, and metaphysically speaking, it is not even possible. Consumers learn quickly that they are not to see themselves as consumers with rights, despite paying up front (price set by “perceived value”) and risking their health, wealth and loved ones. Risks are not to be called risks. Again, their very existence is metaphysically impossible. Perceived successes include any seemingly positive event that can be in any way connected to the teachings. Failures are, as explained by the comment above, the fault of the consumer. The mere hypothetical possibility of deceptive practices does not enter into the equation anywhere.

Has there ever been an ideology more finely tuned to to protect the salesman and disempower the consumer? 

Is there any other industry where professional standards are set so low?

Is there any other industry which is so doggedly defended by consumer loyalty?



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  1. The most interesting thing about the “There are no victims” mantra is that it simultaneously absolves the new meddler (eg LAO guru) of any responsibility, because all results are directly one’s own responsibility. In other words, these gurus are freed from accountability. It’s incredibly self-serving to have a crowd of followers mindlessly chant this over and over again.

  2. It always amazes the way the people play the same trick of attacking the motives of the critic, all think that it’s their own thoughts that makes them do that, and all refuse to acknowledge the conflict of interest involved in their teacher telling that criticism is inherently bad. And of course all fail to recognize their own criticism of the critic as itself being criticism.

    For many people it’s possible to live happily according to these ideas without ever hitting a wall. But that doesn’t mean that the teachings are safe or don’t have a downside. I guess I managed for quite some years, and was lucky enough to never hit any major walls.

    I’d always noticed people suffering in various ways – guilt that they didn’t do what “existence wanted of them”, revealed by a business venture collapsing; guilt that unidentified negative thoughts caused their child to be handicapped: loss of money in an “abundance” pyramid money game,etc etc. And always rejecting the idea that maybe the ideas themselves are flawed — of course their teacher knows what he’s talking about, other wise he wouldn’t be teaching. And he’s rich, so that’s a sign that he’s in the flow with existence.

    Admitting you were wrong, or changing your opinions isn’t so hard if one has learned not to be attached to the ego. (!!!) But doing it publicly and opening oneself to the criticism of “how could you think such things?” is not so easy. One of the reasons I started this blog was to speak up for James Ray’s followers who have done a stunning job of admitting their mistakes and describing to the police step by step how they finished up in a situation where so many of them died or suffered irreparable damage. Ray would not be in jail now if it weren’t for a group of them pushing back against his cover ups, threats and manipulations.

    Another fine example is your response to your own situation, Britt, which I didn’t realize was so severe. I think you’re very courageous for writing about it all so openly. It’s the kind of “testimonial” everyone should read.

    For the record, Britt’s story can be found on her excellent blog, “the (f)Law of Attraction”, here….


  3. Grin. My life is a bit of a rubber-neck-worthy accident scene. Courageous or stupid, I haven’t figured it out yet. Thanks Yakaru for pointing readers to my story though. Back to your blog, you nail it when you say it has the lowest bar. I personally love it when they throw “metaphysics” around like it was a baseball or something, to prove whatever point they are making. Even the world’s greatest scientist don’t yet understand metaphysics. But when the bar is so low, it’s easy to jump on the band wagon. (BTW, the company that dragged me down learned marketing and sales from T.Harv Eker, one of the leading gurus. I’d suggest readers brush up on cold reading specifically “Barnum Statements” – http://coldreader.web.officelive.com/barnumstatements.aspx – and Robert Cialdini – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cialdini -one of James Arthur Ray’s favourite marketers – as it’s the combination of these two tactics that make their sales so damn effective.)

  4. As Cialdini and others point out, the nature of the brain is also a main culprit in this. Funny isn’t it that in all the vast new age/ New Thought literature about how the mind “constructs reality” there’s absolutely nothing at all about things like false positives, confirmation bias, or other misfirings.

    Well I guess it’s not funny at all really. It shows they know which side their bread is buttered on.

    Then add a few classical psychopaths for whom its second nature to exploit all these kinks in our mental armor, and, well, it finishes up like it is. A ruthless culture where the sweetest smelling scavengers rise to the top and set the tone and the ground rules for everyone else.

    Salty Droid sums it up pretty well too.


    Worst of all they recruit genuinely good and considerate people as followers-cum-word of mouth promoters.

    Backing out of a situation like that (or climbing out!) isn’t so easy, and I’m glad you’re documenting the steps you’re taking. These are all important skills which need to be shared, I think….

  5. I’ve really been enjoying your blog! This is a fantastic article, and is right on. I am a former follower of Abraham-Hicks. (It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that, but there you have it.)

    Another comment to your bolded comment above. There ARE people who over ride their own guidance in the case of listening to someone like Esther Hicks. She claims to speak for GOD, for God’s sake, and when people believe that, they tend to overlook the numerous red flags. At least for a time.

  6. “There ARE people who over ride their own guidance in the case of listening to someone like Esther Hicks. She claims to speak for GOD”
    Yes – that’s rather the whole point of going to such people in the first place, isn’t it!

    Teachers like Esther Hicks are happy to receive the credit(-card) for their “successes”, but failures are always due to the person “disregarding their own inner truth” as the commenter (and the whole ideology) says.

    There is no place in that highly marketable ideology for the idea that it’s a risk to follow the advice of a supposedly all-knowing disembodied invertebrate.

    Strangely, however, critics of this ideology are subjected to all possible forms of criticism. Instead of believing that the critic is saying what is “true for them”, different standards suddenly apply. Our motivations and character are questioned – we are “full of rage”, “negative and judgmental” etc etc. It’s utter hypocrisy.

    Anyway, I appreciate your comment very much. And looking at your excellent blog reminds me I must get around to making a page of links.

  7. Thanks, Yakaru? I believe I will be quoting you in the near future on my blog.

    I was recently accused of shoving my beliefs down people’s throats!! With a blog! By someone who supposedly believes in the law of ATTRACTION and that there is no insertion! OK….

    What are they protecting or trying to protect? For some it’s money, maybe all, for others it’s their precious beliefs. It really is an odd phenomenon.

    By the way, you are a GREAT storyteller.

  8. P.S. That was supposed to be a ! not a ? lol

  9. It is an interesting phenomenon, isn’t it.

    I often get people saying “What’s it to you if people believe this stuff?” To which I reply, “What’s it to you if I have opinions about people believing this stuff?” They never really know what to say to that.

    What I think is behind a lot of it is that success for a new age teacher is defined by their position in a hierarchy, and their actions are aimed at maintaining their status. Consumers are at the bottom of the hierarchy, but promised that they might get to the top if they apply the teachings (even though no one has ever made it to the top using such teachings). And an implicit “law” in the hierarchy is that people at the top are not to be criticized. For those at the bottom (and outsiders), different rules apply. We can be criticized till the cows come home, and that criticism doesn’t count as negative or judgmental, and won’t attract the bad karma that criticizing a member of the upper echelon does.

    …Thanks for the compliments – very happily received!

  10. […] discover Yakaru has a blog! It’s got a good post on the front page right now: Blaming the Victim: Comments on Louise Hay. It deals with one of the familiar tropes in both religion and newage that serves to protect the […]

  11. As I said in a previous comment [here -ed.], I have been at the receiving end of this.
    It’s not at all nice when you are throwing up blood, sweating profusely, struggling to breathe and being given nervous glances by nurses (that “I hope he doesn’t on my shift” type look), to be told that it’s all your fault for thinking selfish thoughts! Talk about brainwashing!
    There was a movie released a couple of years ago where a guy set himself up as a new age guru for an experiment. He got a lot of followers who claim he changed their lives. He got sucked up into it too.
    When the deception was revealed they didn’t quite believe him and even managed to convince him there was some higher purpose for the deception. I guess cold logic won’t dispel these notions. I know it won’t with me. I’m going to have to repeat the truth to myself a few million times to get over this illogic bomb.

  12. Louise Hay talks as if we are as ignorant about that which goes on under our skin, as we were back in the times of Jesus. (This is not a coincidence – she’s a fanatical Christian.) In fact brain function and the action of hormones on brain and body are extremely well researched.

    It is true that thinking certain thoughts can make your heart race, etc, or over the long term can cause stress which in turn can affect health. But there is no way that the specific mix of neuro-chemicals that are involved in behavior that others might term “selfish” can produce the extremely complex medical condition of TB.

    And as I say, the number of TB sufferers is not identical to the number of selfish people in the world!

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