Rhonda Britten has found, apparently, commercial success. Her Web Page is an advertisement for her books, personal appearances and other services and merchandise. The testimonials on her Web page indicate that she has been hired by companies and organizations as a motivational speaker. She is a writer, and a “coach”. She counsels people to buy her books and to form support groups to work her system.
Her professional persona is built around a theory, called fearbusting or Fearless Living, which was the title of her breakthrough book.
There are a few biographical hints on her Web page about her having overcome personal tragedy to become an inspiring person. The implication is that her system made her what she is now – beautiful, successful, inspiring. She presents herself on her Web page autobiography as a survivor. She tells some of her own story in her first book, “Fearless Living.” She witnessed her father kill her mother, and commit suicide. Her life and career went up and down for years. She was a good student and had a business career. She was an actress. She also worked as a waitress, and spent time in rehab and recovery. She doesn’t say if she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or any other particular illness. She isn’t too clear on her addictions and weaknesses. She isn’t clear on what therapies she tried before she became successful.
But she has become successful. She became a personal coach, and founded a public relations firm. She wrote books. Her career has become very successful. What’s the secret of successful life according to Rhonda? It’s fearbusting.
In Chapter One of “Fearless Living,” she tries to define fear. She starts with the view that people are incomplete, wounded, separated from the ground of their essential being and want to be whole, or better or self-actualized. She says people are this way because of “fear”. She refers, loosely, to a quote from the high priest of humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow, to the effect that people are afraid to face the fact that they are not whole. Maslow tends to get quoted more by Alternative therapists and coaches than by mainstream psychologists, but I’m going to leave him for another day.
Britten doesn’t have a lot more to say about her theory, and she never gets around to a real definition of fear. Fear seems to be whatever you can identify as making you feel bad.
The rest of her books are about working her system. She starts by saying that you have to work the system in secrecy, without telling your family and friends what you are doing. Her first rule is don’t tell anyone. Her explanation is that until you have identified the people who are holding you back, and know how to defeat them, you are at risk of having them undermine her system before it can work for you. This sounds more controlling than empowering, and it’s pretty typical of the therapy techniques of coaches and alternative therapists.
She teaches exercises to help people identify their fears and the people who inspire fear. The exercises seem to be pretty loaded. Everything comes out the same way. Everybody has the same problem – fear, and fear is whatever you can identify as causing a bad feeling. Fearless living is a slogan, not a therapy system.
We get to the heart of the matter in Chapters 4 and 5 of “Fearless Living,” which are titled Fear Junkies and Fearbusting. These chapters start with the basic observation that you can only change yourself, and that you can’t be responsible for someone else’s feelings. She discusses being aware of your reaction to negative content of interactions with others, and taking responsibility for directing the interactions in a positive way. Within the wisdom of addictions counselling theory, co-dependency theory, and 12 step recovery programs, you accept that you are powerless over another person’s addiction, and that you may have to disengage from life with an addicted person who is harming you.
Britten twists this into something new – disengage from people who inspire fear in you. By itself, that makes sense. You avoid dangerous and risky people and situations. The question is, what is it that makes you afraid?
In her system, anyone who makes you feel bad is a fearsome person. So in her system, if people around make you feel bad, dump them. This is partly an adaptation of the techniques of business networking where you cultivate useful friends and dump losers. It is partly a feel-good psychology of surrounding yourself with people who build you up and make you happy.
It is mainly very controlling. She counsels people to bust fear by blaming others, and making themselves impervious. You protect yourself by controlling your relationships. There is very little about taking responsibility for yourself. She empowers people to feel good about blaming others for their fear.
This system should appeal to people who see themselves as being held back by being afraid to assert themselves, and I think it might help shy people to overcome their shyness and to present themselves better. However, a system that works by blaming the people who make you feel bad is a system to help narcissists feel good about blaming other people for their feelings.
There’s not much more to her system. She must have a powerful presence as a speaker and great skills as a publicist to sell it.
I would suspect that her coaching is aggressive and that she tells clients to make changes. Then she praises them for the changes they are making. Coach and client both go away happy with their work. Meanwhile the client’s family, co-workers, friends, spouses and lovers must be wondering where the hell that emotional train that just hit them came from.
Self-help books should come with a consumer warning, but perhaps people addicted to tuning up their feelings would be oblivious to any warning.
She’s not a therapist or a healer. She hasn’t had any great insight. She’s reworked some very basic psychology into her own oddball narcissists’ cult. She’s a coaching, marketing, selling machine. She’s a fakir.