Don't Mock It

On Self Help, Mutual Help and Positive Thinking...

Seek your own road to not only survive but thrive in a difficult era.

Today I read an article in the UK Telegraph titled "Why self-help still flies off the shelf" essentially mocking self-help books and referring to them as "shelf-help." The article was laden with that condescending view of many so-called intellects who write in the mainstream media. "I'm smarter than you and if only you would emulate my thinking than you and the world would be so much better off." Her derision was directed mainly at the "Chicken Soup" series of books as she swept all of self help into the dustbin as rubbish, with a few exceptions at the end of the article for "balance."

It was interesting since in this economic period it seems to me that, as the saying goes, "whatever gets you through the day" is worthwhile. Far better pop psychology books than sinking into despair with alcohol and drugs or other problematic behavior. People deal with things on different levels, some deeper than others. If "Chicken Soul" books or Deepak Chopra work for some people, I'm all for it. What is pabulum to some is salvation for others just as what is too cerebral for some is the solution for others. The key is finding what works for the unique individual that is you.

The self help movement started in the mid-1800s, but in its current incarnation started in the depth of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when Roosevelt's social interventions were not helping a lot of people. As the "Depression within a Depression" of 1937-38 (today referred to as a "Double Dip") was starting, people were in need of something to look to for help that was not being satisfied by government programs. Their human need was to rise above their current situation on their own accord. It was then that Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" became a top bestseller. It focused on self confidence and improving attitude, which in turn would lead to better relationships with other people, resulting in less stress and a positive attitude. A few years prior to that "Bill W" (William Wilson) discovered a way out of alcoholism through the premise of mutual help, today's 12 Step Program for addiction recovery. Later in another bad economic era, the 1970s, the phenomenon of pop psychology took off with the book "I'm OK, You're OK" by Dr. Thomas A. Harris using Transactional Analysis.

We are in another economic downturn that doesn't seem to be getting better and no end is in sight in many people's thinking. My belief is that now, more than ever, people need to prepare themselves psychologically for not only surviving but thriving in a difficult era. Our ability to cope with adversity is what will separate us from those who succeed, whatever that may be for an individual, from those who fall into permanent despair and never recover.

Your oppression is in your own mind.

It is irrelevant to me what other people might think of the tools I personally use, developed from having lived through other difficult times, ranging from self talk, mutual help and self help along with large doses of optimism and positive thinking. They work and generally keep me out of the trap of negative thinking. Everyone must figure out what works for them and they might find some solutions in self help books. There are many other ways to do this and I'm not a guru or the best person to ask since what works for me may not work for you. I can only offer suggestions. The most important one is do not let others discourage you from seeking peace of mind, whether they are media writers or people in your life, persevere and seek your own road to what keeps you in balance. Work at it as if your life depends on it...because it does.