Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Self-Help Industry. Use With Caution.

By Comiclife

There they are. In the self-help book section. Which I have to walk through, pass by or climb over to reach the science fiction section. Which, in some bookstores is located in the back, next to witchcraft, obscurities and uncategorized miscellany.

With dismay, I have watched this section grow over the economic crisis, promising the achievement of happiness in a certain number of steps or habits.  Sometimes they are no more than an oversimplified version of how to practice Buddhism. On occasion, I follow a link only to find myself confronted with yet another one of those lists; different version, same thing. Banal advice with little application or truth.

In RL, I occasionally have to listen to summaries of such books, when a friend is excited about the possibility of self-improvement only to discover the disappointment of being marketed to. Secrets are not revealed, but maybe his life did not need improving to begin with.

I have a habit of looking at people's bookshelves when I am invited to visit their homes. Seeing 10 books on the shelf on organizing, makes me wonder if de-cluttering would not be more easily achieved by donating them. Just wondering.

This is not to suggest that some of these books do not offer value or great insight or that one cannot find useful (why did I not think of that) ideas and suggestions in a select few.

It is the heavy-handed approach of homogenization rather than accepting individuality that bothers me.  I have flipped through a few and what appears to be ubiquitous is the following promise:

Self-help: This is what is wrong with you. If you follow this 52 week program and 365 steps you will be the deliriously happy person you have always wanted to be. If you cannot complete it, no wonder you are miserable. You are as useless as this book. Thank you for making us wealthy. No refunds.

There are no instructions for life or living it. No one provided us with the blueprints of the outcome of choosing option A versus option B. The insightful fellow blogger Marylinn Kelly put it aptly when she described us all as amateurs at life in her post named "Community Theater". Now. That is useful.


  1. I loathe self help books. For one, practicing common sense will get you farther than any self help book. For two, because my mother sends me self help books that she thinks I could use. This falls under that whole "this is what is wrong with you" category. Yeah.

  2. Never really bought into the whole self help phenomena. If you need a book to tell you what's supposedly wrong with your life then you need more than a self help book.

  3. Likewise. Never took the time read a whole self-help book. I was forced to endure a recording of a session by one of those self-help "gurus" once. The bank thought it would motivate us to sell more credit cards. That's as much as I want to endure.

  4. I think that group support in a social circle of family and friends is where if you are open, help is there. Go ask Joe. He's been there or maybe this happened to my older sister or I see you did this how do you do this? It takes time...but it is life. The self help is for those probably who don't get out much or are not open. The book or even a pill is the quick panacea to what ails them. Maybe that is it, but not that I know. Maybe I can seek advise on how I actually stand on this...oh yeah sheesh I could go to Facegook lol. There is all sorts of suggestions on who to vote on. I could put it in my status! How many comments would I get? Good idea. See ya. LOL oh course just kidding.

    Great post!

  5. Great topic. And I agree! I don't have one self-help book in my library, but what I *do* have are a ton of sci-fi books. I should open my own bookstore! And if I did, the sci-fi section would be front and center. :)

  6. In a sense all of life is an exercise in self help.

  7. @Meg, I am sure she means well, but what if there's nothing wrong with you? That would make a great self-help book: "There's nothing wrong with you.";)

    @Sprite, it's a very successful category, if it worked there would be only one book. True.Lol.

    @Vinny, motivational speakers are like Grackles; run Vinny run.

    @Bluezy, there is nothing wrong with seeking advice or support based on someone's experience, even in book form.
    :)I gathered as much. We could just flip a coin.

    @David, I know, right? Front and center are all the supernatural teen books right now. Couldn't they throw some sci fi in the mix?

    @Laoch, good point.

  8. Well said. Oddly though, I have to recommend a book: You are Not so Smart by David McRaney. Finding out how stupid you are? Now that's some useful self-help IMO.

  9. @dbs, according to the big A warehouse your recommendation falls into the humor/philosophy category, not self-help.

    *whispers* I think he's onto me.*furtive glance*

  10. Great blog!!! I haven't been really much into the self help books. I have read "The Secret" and that is about the jist of it. Thanks for commenting on Brett's blog.

    We might have to start a reality show that would be funny.

  11. Thank you for your generous mention. Our personal evolution is a process, not like stopping to fix a leaky faucet and moving on. On another subject, I was just thinking this morning that I haven't read DUNE in years and no longer own a copy - don't ask me how that happened. Not looking forward to clambering over the self-help section to find it. :)

  12. I heard somewhere that over 90% of these self-help books are written by people who have NO experience or expertise in the field they are writing about.

    I once was given the book "The Power of Now". My impression was that the ideas conveyed in the book could have been better published as a pamphlet.

    But then I strongly feel that self-help books are, in reality, designed to self-help the author's bank account.

  13. @Train, thank you and thanks for stopping by.
    Did they keep the secret a secret?

    I think it would be hilarious watching your adventures.

    @Marylinn, most welcome.
    Personal evolution does seem to require a considerable amount of maintenance.
    I'm not sure how favorite books disappear either. Hopefully you won't have to.

    @Robert, those statistics wouldn't surprise me.

    I watched him in an interview once, it did start out as a pamphlet that he passed around to his friends. Have not read it, but heard much about it. Appears to be more philosophical in nature.

    Yes, particularly when a celebrity name is attached to it.


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