I came across this complaint on the Complaints Resolution Panel website regarding an advertisement for LifeWave “magic” patches today.

(NB: I say magic because there is no known mechanism described in science to explain how these things apparently “work”, and I place work in inverted commas because these things have no effect above placebo, so technically they don’t work either).

A print advertisement and Australian website linking to the American version was found to breach the Advertising code sections 4(1)(b), 4(2)(a), 4(2)(c), 4(2)(d), 4(2)(i), 4(7), 5(2), 7(3) (see box below) following a complaint by an individual.

The website, classified as an advertisement by the regulatory body, promoted a range of LifeWave patches, namely the SP6 patch, Y-Age patch, Icewave patch, Energy Enhancer patch, and Silent Nights patch. For a description of the apparent functions of these patches (and an interesting exchange with a believer), you might be interested in reading my previous blog about Lifewave here.

table 1

This is an interesting case for consideration, since The Panel first had to decide who was responsible for the advertisements as the parent website (lifewave.com) is based in the US and the website which attracted the complaint is linked to it from Australia. They concluded that the website was in fact the responsibility of the Australian distributor, given that the url had been personalised (www.LifeWave.com/bodyinharmony).

Information on retailer websites is the responsibility of the website publisher

Publishers of websites should be aware that they are responsible for the material they publish, regardless of whether they have copied that material from product packaging or other websites. Some online retailers appear to be of the view that it is acceptable to duplicate information from such sources for the purposes of advertising products for sale, but take no responsibility for the publication of the information.
Reproduced from the Complaints Resolution Panel website.

The Panel found that the claims relating to the patches being effective in appetite control, craving control, weight loss, detoxification, antioxidant boost, anti-aging, skin repair, pain relief, relief of pain from injuries, relief of chronic pain, relief of migraines, relief of arthritis, enhancing energy, enhancing stamina, reducing fatigue, and promoting restful sleep, had not been verified, were misleading, and could not be substantiated by the advertiser, therefore constituted a breach of the code [Section 4(2)(a)].

In the report published on the website, the Panel stated that;

“…they were not satisfied that the material provided by the advertiser constituted even minimally persuasive evidence that the advertised products could have the therapeutic benefits claimed in the advertisements”.

In particular the Panel targeted testimonials published on the website. As part of the code, testimonials are required to be documented, not misleading and be regarded as plausible illustrations for the potential benefits of the product. The concluded that claims such as “wow 20 seconds my pain was gone” and “90 seconds lower back pain was gone”, were indeed not plausible and therefore breached the code (Section 4.7).

lifewave_mikephelps

The Panel did not accept photos like these as sufficient evidence that Michael Phelps uses Lifewave patches. Funny that.

The website also made claims that the patches were used by the swimmer Michael Phelps and several AFL football players, but the advertiser was unable to provide evidence for this, apart from the following statement;

“(they had) been told by LifeWave staff in Australia who hold training sessions that Michael Phelps has used the patches and that a few of the AFL teams have begun using the patches” and “there are photos on the internet that show Michael Phelps with the patches on his body.”

Then panel deemed this insufficient evidence and therefore concluded that these claims breached the code.

In Australia it is prohibited to advertise products that claim to treat or cure serious diseases/ailments, such as cardiovascular disease. The Panel deemed that the Lifewave website breached this section of the code [5(2)], by including “research” information which referred to “heart rate variability enhancement through nanotechnology” and many other references to heart rate variability, “increase[ing] glutathione levels in the body”, and other references to health issues.

In a meeting held on April 16, 2009, The Panel ruled that the advertiser was to withdraw the advertisements from further publication; and withdraw any representations that the advertised products are safe, or that they have benefits in relation to appetite control, craving control, weight loss, detoxification, antioxidant boost, anti-aging, skin repair, pain relief, relief of pain from injuries, relief of chronic pain, relief of migraines, relief of arthritis, enhancing energy, enhancing stamina, reducing fatigue, or promoting restful sleep.

The Advertiser was given 14 days to comply with this ruling and was instructed to provide evidence to The Panel of this compliance.

Which apparently the advertiser decided did not entirely suit them, since you can still find the website, in it’s shiny misleading, code breaching glory.

Which leads me to question; who is responsible for enforcing these rulings? How is it that these people get a slap on the wrist, ignore the ruling and carry on their merry way, selling products for which there is no evidence of efficacy? There should be a process whereby I can easily and quickly alert the TGA to the non-compliance and there should be substantial penalties for non-compliance.

Until there is, then the TGA Complaints Resolution Panel is about a effective as an ashtray on a motor bike = useless.


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  • http://www.conquercancer.ca/goto/laurajane Rob White

    I volunteer my time to raise money for cancer research in memory of my daughter who died from the side effects of the Chemotherapy drugs.
    .
    I just wish the Lifewave patches were around in 2002 when my daughter’s immune system was so devastated from those lousy chemo drugs we could of built up her immune system with the glutathione patch so she would not of got a super bug infection.
    .
    We are amazed how the patches have removed pain so fast on people we have demonstrated the patches too. Most of the people we showed the patches we hardly know.
    .
    Personally I have used the patches on my back to remove pain from a cycling accident I had a year ago where I was nearly killed.
    The pain went away. Amazing! No more pain killers needed.
    .
    I still find it incredible how these patches work so well.
    .
    My Wife and I are so happy with LifeWave and that is the bottom line.

  • Pingback: Ainda se lembram da Lifewave?

  • http://www.miweb.eu/acupuntura Jose Fernandez

    LO MEJOR:
    Probarlo en vosotros mismos antes de opinar,ni estudios ni nada de nada, solo probadlo, es el mejor modo de opinar del tema, estaros tranquilos, lifewave devuelve el 100% del importe si por cualquier motivo no queda satisfecho, así que no pierden nada, pruébenlo antes de hablar, es muy bonito descalificar algo sin haberlo comprobado, háganlo y después hablen, yo tenia dolor, me puse el parche y ya no lo tenía no creía en ellos por lo que nada de placebo, como yo todos los que he tenido noticias de que los han probado, escépticos 100% muchos de ellos(elimina el efecto placebo cierto?) y se les fue el dolor, funcionan y eso es lo único que importa, pueden ayudar a mucha gente, porqué algunos no quieren aceptarlo? No es nada espiritual ni tiene que ver con la fé es ciencia aplicada al cuerpo, la NASA también hizo pruebas exitosas con ellos, los mejores científicos del mundo se están equivocando ?No lo creo, además, lo que de veras me importa es que tenia dolor y ya no lo tengo y es gracias a lifewave, punto y final
    Saludos, no sean cerrados, si tienen problemas pruébenlo, nada que perder muchísimo que ganar

  • solomon

    “obviously I know in regards to my lack of work illness, there are a million different contributing variables, all I’m saying is, I know my life, I know my body, there’s a possibility the patches had an effect” – Solomon

    “I can’t think of any other option since Solomon makes it clear that no one could possibly avoid the flu without Lifewave, and he’s skeptical and everything” – AndyD

    Are you making a joke andy? or are you just thick as sh*t? Maybe if you don’t understand words like ‘contributing variables’ and ‘possibility’ you could ask Maggie to explain them for you, she’ll even post pictures so you know she’s not making it up.

    Maggie, I’m a bit confused, why are you talking about homeopathy? I can’t find anything on the lifewave website about homeopathy. We just had a conversation about acupuncture because the lifewave patches include a small bead which you place under the plaster which exerts pressure on the skin, this is a recognized acupuncture technique. Not only have you not registered a huge chunk of our conversation, you don’t even know how the manufacturers claim their product works. I like your pictures, you held up the packet, it even says on the outside of the packet “place a plastic bead (included) in the centre of the adhesive side of the patch”…….so, I guess that’s how they’re claiming to stimulate the acupuncture point yeah? Do you follow now? We did discuss this, acupuncture through stimulation of pressure points. Why are you wasting your time writing a blog discrediting a product when you don’t even understand how the manufacturer is claiming it works?
    “Nothing enters the body. LifeWave Energy Enhancer is NOT a transdermal patch. The patches are designed to apply a mild and temporary pressure to acupuncture points that are known to improve the flow of energy through the body. No magnets or needles are used.” – Taken from the lifewave website.
    You then pasted a link with the statement that acupuncture could be as young as 300 years old, now I’ll admit that saying 5000 years is just a generalization, but what the article you pasted actually says is – “acupuncture was invented by a Frenchman in 1957”. There is no arguing with ignorance of that magnitude, and frankly, who would want to even bother trying to anyway. I did like the bit in the article were the author implies that it was Chairman Mao who made acupuncture mainstream, but even he didn’t use it because he didn’t believe it worked. An authoritarian Marxist who also didn’t believe that 60 million of his own people deserved to eat, but yeah if he doesn’t believe then I’m convinced. But in all seriousness as a student of psychology articles like this are bread and butter to me. At the start of the article the author makes the statement “Almost everything you’ve heard about acupuncture is wrong”. If that doesn’t immediately raise a red flag in your mind then you shouldn’t be reading it. The author has no idea what the reader has heard about acupuncture, does or doesn’t know about acupuncture, or does or doesn’t believe. It is a catch all statement used to remove information ready to be replaced with a new belief system, this kind of language is more akin to cult mind control than scientific analysis, you are told a blanket statement about how you are wrong about everything and then told the “correct” way to think. The rest of the article is a mixture of fact and opinion woven together to produce an argument against acupuncture. But most staggering of all, is when the author, without any sense of irony or a double standard, discredits all positive studies of acupuncture due to biases towards positive result, when she is doing exactly the same thing towards negative results. I had to laugh at this, how could such an obvious conflict exist in the same piece of writing? Maybe she could have gotten away with it if she was being completely objective and weighing up pro’s and con’s, but considering she started her article with the statement “It’s time the acupuncture myth was punctured”, she unfortunately revealed her own bias for too easily. I don’t know anything about the author but I get the impression she’s a ‘hanger on’ rather than a member of the scientific community.
    Anyway I think I’ve said enough and won’t bother writing on this blog again, I’m sure you’re sick of my opinions, and as we can see by reading comments like the one from AndyD, this is a place for anti intellectuals, (that means stupid motherf*ckers in layman’s terms in case you wondered andy). The funny thing is I’m not even pro lifewave, I used them, I believe they had positive results but there’s no way of knowing, I think they’re a rip off and don’t see anything that can’t be recreated by people for a fraction of the cost. But when I see people trying to knock something that they don’t even understand, and they are talking out of their arse, it’s pretty clear that what they’re saying has more to do with their own beliefs than anything based on fact. I don’t think some people understand that when you look for the pro’s and con’s of a subject, and the argument against it is about as water tight as a sieve, it will encourage people to lean towards the other side. Especially when you start up with that peer review mantra, you sound like creationists with that shit, except instead of “If it’s not in the Bible, it doesn’t exist” it’s “If it’s not peer reviewed, it doesn’t exist”.
    Take care Maggie xxxxxx

  • AndyD

    My WIFE had full on flu for over a week and I didn’t get as much as a sniffle. I’m not exactly a shining example of exemplary health (too much fat and sugar and not enough exercise) so I wonder what warded off my illness? I don’t own a Lifewave patch. Hmmm? Maybe Solomon’s patch was so strong that some of its amazing power wafted my way? I can’t think of any other option since Solomon makes it clear that no one could possibly avoid the flu without Lifewave, and he’s skeptical and everything.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    BTW, do you have evidence that acupuncture is “5000 years old”? Apparently it might be as young as 300 years old. See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=252

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Hey Solomon,
    Sorry it took me a while to get back to you – head up arse etc. Glad to see you know what homeopathy is. Me directing you to Wiki for the homeopathy page was not a joke. Actually the homeopathy Wiki is quite a good introduction for people unfamiliar with this stuff, so I wouldn’t be so hard on it. I would have suggested you read the Science and Technology Committee report but it is long, boring and requires commitment. In any case, it’s not necessary since you already know that homeopathy is bunk. Good to see we are on the same page in that respect.
    .
    So with respect to your patches, you do know they are homeopathic right? So therefore there is nothing in them? So can you explain then, how they can stimulate acupuncture points (I’ll assume they exist for the sake of argument) when the patches are essentially a piece of gauze with a sticky bit around the edges? There is no active ingredient in them, it says so on the package.
    .
    I took a picture of my glutathione ones so you don’t think I’m making it up. See here and here. Click on the images to embiggen.
    .

  • solomon

    Hey Maggie, just to clarify I only used the terms thicko and told you to get your head out of your arse as buzz words to rile you up because you seem a bit stubborn. In reality I respect your opinions as your own and realize they have no bearing on my understanding, so don’t take that personally (I’m sure you didn’t anyway). I was hoping to get blasted with scientific fact from you actually but some of your arguments seem a bit flakey. Of course I know what homeopathy is, but telling me to research it through wikipedia!!??
    .

    I’ll just assume that was a tongue in cheek joke (I hope it was), in England wikipedia has become a slang word synonymous with ‘flakey information’ (being a website anyone can just edit freely) and is a bit of a running joke. Anyway obviously I know in regards to my lack of work illness, there are a million different contributing variables, all I’m saying is, I know my life, I know my body, there’s a possibility the patches had an effect.
    .
    Also, I didn’t say “why doesn’t acupuncture work if the NHS supports it”, I said “in England even the government run NHS (National Health Service) offer acupuncture as a legitimate treatment option”, meaning that its use is so widespread that a country half way round the world from its origin, with a completely different philosophy on medicine, still have its government offering the treatment. In response you start talking about homeopathy?? Homeopathy has nothing to do with acupuncture. Saying because the NHS offer homeopathy which they prove doesn’t work implies acupuncture doesn’t work is about the least scientific thinking I’ve ever read, you could use that argument against everything the NHS do.
    .
    Millions of people believing the earth was flat or the sun was traveling around the earth have absolutely no bearing on what we’re talking about, these are optical illusions of visual perception. Using acupuncture is a direct experience to a person’s physiology, with fully experienced cause and effect results. In this context can you think of any medical treatment that doesn’t work and has as much widespread use today as it did 5000 years ago? Fair play if you can, perhaps there is but I can’t think of any. I sometimes wonder if people like yourself studying acupuncture even understand it at all? Just like any treatment it’s not a guaranteed panacea due to variables of the situation, and just like all medical treatments, there is a hierarchy in which its effectiveness is going to be dictated by. If you have a muscle strain then acupuncture can reduce swelling and heal the wound more rapidly, but if you have muscle inflammation due to a bone fragment coming away from the bone and sticking in to your muscle, aggravating it, then obviously acupuncture may help the symptoms but it will be impossible for it to cure the problem. This does not mean it doesn’t work.
    .
    One other thing if you can hear me with your head up there (joke!), this is something I’ve always found perplexing. It’s widely recognized that the placebo effect can cause something to work when obviously it’s actually the persons belief that heals (pretty incredible in itself), but never is it mentioned that a persons belief that something won’t work will stop a valid treatment from working (hypochondria). It seems that the scientific community love to use the placebo effect to disprove that something works, but never acknowledges it when results go the other way. I hope this letter finds you well, love you babe xxxxxx

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Hi Solomon, welcome to my blog. I would be the “thicko” with my “head up my arse” which you refer to in your post.
    .

    If you will permit me to pull my head out for a moment I would like to address some of your comments.
    .
    Firstly, you are smart to be skeptical of Lifewave. I have written another more detailed post here if you are interested. The pictures have dropped out since I brought this over from another blog but the text is fine. I have done a fair bit of research on this product and I can confidently report there is no science to it. Sure they use big sciencey words like nanotechnology and glutathione (I think this is the one you are referring to) but that is a far as the science goes. You might have also noticed that the patches are homeopathic. If you don’t know what homeopathy is then I recommend you take a look at Wikipedia.
    .
    To the illness in your colleagues that you didn’t contract. Of course it is natural to assume that if you don’t get sick then it must be they patch, but why couldn’t it be as simple as you just didn’t catch it? Your immune system fought it off? Not everyone will contract a flu, just as not everyone gets food poisoning from the same bad food. Your immune system (despite your late nights etc) might just have beat it this time.

    .
    You also ask why doesn’t acupuncture work if the NHS supports it. Just because they pay for it, doesn’t mean it works. Another example of this is homoepathy, which their own investigation proved not to work. The Evidence Check of 2010 from the Science and Technology Committee report concluded that 1) UK National Health Service should cease funding homeopathy 2) No further clinical trials of homeopathy. 3) Evidence shows homeopathy doesn’t work 4) Explanations for why homeopathy works are “scientifically implausible” 5) Committee views homeopathy as placebo. Despite this the NHS continues to pay for homeopathy. So just because the NHS supports it doesn’t mean it works.
    .

    I mean you seriously don’t believe it works despite millions of people over thousands of years using it!!??

    Millions of people used to think that the sun went around the earth and that the earth was flat. But guess what? We discovered science as a tool to quantifying if something works and this meant we no longer had to believe because we had evidence.
    .
    Millions of people are also using Power Balance as well but it doesn’t work – even the company admitted that.

    You think that past cultures experimenting with treatments would turn their noses up at something because not enough people from the village believed it was theoretically possible?

    No they wouldn’t but they didn’t have the scientific method then to calculate if it worked or not.
    .

    The plural of anecdotes does not equal evidence but it can lead to it. If you tell me that acupuncture worked for you for X then I might do a study with lots more people and if I get a positive result – when I have eliminated a placebo effect – I can confidently say acupuncture works for X. This has been done for acupuncture for many conditions and except for some mild lower back pain and headache there is no evidence that it works better than placebo.
    .

    Righto, back to shoving my head up my arse.

  • Solomon

    I recently tried Lifewave and seemed to have good results, although I was highly skeptical after reading websites like these (once the seed of doubt has been planted it’s hard to remove). I know there was no chance of placebo because when the patches arrived and I looked at them I was just like “oh man, I have been tucked up and put to bed like a chump, they’re just plasters and plastic beads”. The patches I ordered were anti-oxidant increasers.

    .

    So over the last few months, probably about three quarters of the people I work with (I work with about 120 people, also the public) have been getting ill with this horrible flu like bug that’s been going around this winter (I live in England, it’s even been reported in the media that winter flu and gastro-enteritis have reached epidemic levels). Really horrible chesty coughs, stomach bugs and all the works, some people seem to have had it for weeks, and being a smoker, a drinker, (especially over Christmas and new years) and someone who has to get up early (4.00am some days) and goes to bed late, I usually end up catching all the colds and whatever that go around each year.
    .
    So a few weeks ago I was wondering why I seem to be one of the few who wasn’t getting sick, then I remembered I’d been wearing the patches and thought “well if they are legitimate then I shouldn’t be getting sick”. I know this is purely anecdotal and won’t change anyone’s opinion but I just wanted to say that I’ve had positive results using them after pretty much believing they were going to be useless.
    .

    I also completely agree that proper testing should be conducted, if it works why wouldn’t/shouldn’t results be scrutinized. I also want to add that my mother practices acupuncture part time, so I quizzed her about using a bead to stimulate an acupuncture point as I was familiar with techniques which involve tapping on points with your fingers (EFT). She said it’s perfectly viable and that occasionally she’ll get a client who doesn’t like needles so she’ll do a treatment on them just using pressure. So taping a bead to stimulate acupuncture points on my body is something I will be experimenting with in the future as I am not willing to pay the frankly extortionate prices lifewave are asking.
    .
    Finally to the person who asks for evidence of acupuncture working because they don’t think it does, in England even the government run NHS (National Health Service) offer acupuncture as a legitimate treatment option, saying you don’t believe in it makes you sound like a complete thicko (no offence), and it casts everything else you’ve said in to doubt.
    .
    I mean you seriously don’t believe it works despite millions of people over thousands of years using it!!?? Come on, pull your head out of your arse and take a look around for a minute. What do you think mankind was doing before ‘peer reviewed publications’? You think that past cultures experimenting with treatments would turn their noses up at something because not enough people from the village believed it was theoretically possible? Of course they didn’t they used things that had positive results and if enough people experienced positive results they treatment remained, if not it would be discarded, no clipboards and double blind studies, just pure anecdotal evidence.
    .
    The fact that acupuncture has been used effectively for thousands of years across hundreds of generations by millions of people should prove to even the most self righteous doubters that its validity is self evident.

  • Dave of Sydney

    Disclaimer: I have tried Lifewave – it did nothing for me.
    .

    The scientific method is an empirical once. The significance of any statistical test is to provide a measure of the reliability of the stated outcome within a particular population or sample. Let’s assume for a moment that the placebo effect of lifewave products is idiopathic. Let’s assume that those people that have experienced a positive effect when using these patches. It is intimated that thousands of people have experienced such a positive effect. Why not provide some measure of the reliability of such effects of this population? It would be like asking, “1000 atheletes have used this and it works, why does it work on them and what are the particular characteristics of this group that make the particular lifewave patch product work for them?” Why hasn’t this sort of data been provided? Providing anything short of this sort of “evidence” would provide some semblance reliable, empirically derived, data. Why not do some baseline research on the “populations” on which this treatment has had a positive effect? It seems illogical to provide anecdotal l evidence, mentioning a case here or there, when you could gather real data from the “thousands” who claim a benefit from the patches? Is this too hard to do.

  • http://scepticsbook.com Maggie

    Hi John, nice of you to drop by. I’ve have studied the “science” behind Lifewave and there is none. Perhaps if you wish to engage in a discussion about the evidence for and against Lifewave you might like to drop the abusive language.
    .

    [The chips work, proven, period.] Evidence please
    .
    [Meridians exsist, proven scientifically, period.] Evidence please
    .

    [Accupunture WORKS, proven over THOUSANDS of years, period.] Evidence please. I’ve just written a review on acupuncture for peer review publication and there is some evidence it works better than placebo for lower back pain and mild headache but nothing more. I take it you have read all the peer reviewed literature which is why you know it works?
    .

    [Do yourself a favor, educate yourself if you are going to speak, if you don’t, the EXPECT to be questioned & proven stupid, period.]
    .

    But you haven’t proven me to be stupid. All you’ve done is abuse me and provide no evidence for your claims. Kinda makes you look a bit silly doesn’t it?

  • http://seantheblogonaut.com Sean the Blogonaut

    Just wondering if I line up all the CAPITILSED words if they spell out some secret code that will reveal the secrets of the Freemasons?

  • http://www.myjbm.com John

    Maggie, what are you thinking? These are not placebos (!), how rediculous!! You seem to have the whole scientist mentality, in that you think you are one & therefore you are incapable of seeing the forest for the trees, so to speak. So, you need proof in some pulished journal…then it will be ok? Then they will “work”? Who are YOU, like your opinon is the only one worth listening to. You approach your “arguement” like a stubborn child who resorts to trying to bully or ridicule the opposing person. You have OBVIOUSLY not done any personal research with a hologram so therefore you say its ONLY “medicine” if it cures a previously uncurable disease or ailment, correct? COPD seems like it qualifies then, would you say? How about ADD or ADHD or any of the other letters that all kids are? How about a car accident victim that has spent 2 years/multiple doctors/multiple meds and has been in agony the whole time? I have seen them do that & more…in person. Tell me how you, on your reliance of “modern” medicine, thinks that side effects are “OK”, even when many of them are worse than the ailment? I LOVE that you said there are no such things as meridians!! You are OBVIOUSLY not much of a scientific mind now are you?!! YOU, Maggie, are the ONE scientific knowledgebase repository, aren’t you! YOU figured it all out now, didn’t you? I bet you think a double-blind test, the most stringent one available, is WRONG when it proves you wrong, don’t you? Well, get ready…there has been one just recently that shows there is a definitive positive result that is measurable & recordable against placebo. As for your rantings, please explain why you feel the need to spew baseless negative? The chips work, proven, period. Meridians exsist, proven scientifically, period. Accupunture WORKS, proven over THOUSANDS of years, period. Maybe you do not “believe” we are electrical either? Maybe you do not “believe” a hologram cannot be a data storage medium? Or even that, as electrical energy beings, that our electrical field could not possibly be the power source for a data medium to run a program embedded in the hologram that has done things that “modern” medicines have been able to do yet! Do yourself a favor, educate yourself if you are going to speak, if you don’t, the EXPECT to be questioned & proven stupid, period.
    http://www.cieaura.com will show you how this is possible. Oh BTW, there are “real” doctors quitting pharmacals & using these as MEDICINE!
    I just really find you offensive by your tone & attitude, you ARE a spoiled little bratty kid with a title & no brains outside an office, if you even have a title or an office. I will check out your other bashing blog, it is interesting to me how some people MUST have negativity in their life to feel like they are making a difference somehow, pulling others down.