"Self Help"

  • Omhu Cuspor
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21 Dec 2019 01:37 #347509 by Omhu Cuspor
Replied by Omhu Cuspor on topic "Self Help"
An old joke, to begin:

Shopper in a bookstore: "Excuse me, could you tell me where the self-help section is?"
Store clerk: "If I told you, wouldn't that defeat the purpose?"

Actually, I think there is value in some self-help books, but you have to be careful. I trust two categories of books more than others: (1) those which, in addition to advising you how to improve your life in some way, also devote some attention to ethical boundaries and behaviors; (2) those whose authors have some academic credentials relevant to the subject the publication addresses. In addition to items of value, there is a lot of tripe under the heading of self-help. Some examples:

Books promising to show you how to experience a quantum reality by authors who cannot define "quantum"
Books promising one sure way to extravagant wealth
Books extolling the author, or the author's guru, as the supreme guru of the modern age
Books making spectacular promises with mind-blowing testimonials that are less than 100 pages, each of which has wide margins
Most self-published e-books

I am currently following an author named Mitch Horowitz. He is a rare character within the community that advocates the power of the mind to influence events, as while he believes in it he also acknowledges that it has limitations. Also he is critical of the contemporary movement of which he is a part, noting that while people are publishing abundant content for its members there actually has been very little new written in over a century. Mitch also is frank about how many teachings of this type leave people disheartened and disappointed. He cites a group of letters written to author Joseph Murphy that came into his possession after Murphy's death. Murphy wrote books whose covers proclaimed excitedly how the reader could gain the health, wealth, and happiness that God intended for him/her by the power of thought alone. Mitch read the letters he obtained, which were never answered, and found them heartbreaking. Person after person wrote Murphy, saying "I have diligently practiced all of the suggestions you offered, every day for months on end, but I am still poor and sick. What am I doing wrong? Please tell me what to do!" These people made an earnest, devoted, but misguided attempt at self help, and their lives if anything were made worse because of Murphy's positive but dogmatic and oversimplified guidance.

In a nutshell - buyer beware. I recall a book by psychologist Thomas Harris I discovered as a young adult that has been of lasting benefit; Dr. Harris as an author stuck to his specialty, and the information he shared was based on careful study and rigorous experience. On the other hand, self-help leader James Arthur Ray convinced a group to participate in a sweat lodge with him some years back, and out of his ignorance of how it should be done he was convicted of negligent homicide for killing three of them; he injured 19 more. And just now, I stumbled across an article describing that he is getting back into the self-help business again.

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  • Cornilion
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21 Dec 2019 18:04 - 21 Dec 2019 18:08 #347532 by Cornilion
Replied by Cornilion on topic "Self Help"
Ironically I'm skimming this thread while watching the Joseph Campbell Myth videos for IP, and it puts a whole new lens on those videos, but that's a topic for a different thread (actually I think I saw that thread in a different forum).

As for self-help, if you ever find information that is not also available somewhere else, you have found a very rare gem indeed, and be assured that in a couple years there will be 30 other books on the shelf with that same piece in it. Typically a self help book is just someone who has been asking that same question, researched it, and having found the answers they were looking for decided to write a book to make those answers easier to find. Sometimes it just takes the ideas and puts them in a different context, sometimes it combines ideas that weren't previously all in one place, sometimes it just markets them so that the ideas are found on the bookshelf when previously they were only found in a place only accessible to those who knew where to look. Usually it will also add some motivation and encouragement that either they had or wished they had. On rare occasion you will find someone who has gone straight to the source and asked people who have wisdom they haven't put in writing.

Regardless I think pretty much all those books have value to someone. The question then becomes are you the person that this book has value to? The answer to that lies in what you are looking for. Are you looking for a motivation, a spelled out path, or information that you've been having trouble finding, or do you just want things put in a new context that is more approachable or all in one place?

My nutrition professor remarked that when he sees a new diet book, it only takes him about 10 minutes to read it, because they all have the same format, and he knows them well enough that he can get all the information out of it by flipping through it in 10 minutes and putting it back on their shelf. I'm finally getting to that point with scientific papers. I know their format and can glance through it in a few minutes (if I decide it has value, I'll dive deeper, assess the controls and bias, and evaluate the outcomes, but on a first read, I don't spend more than a few minutes if it is a general topic I understand). Self help books are a lot like that. Most have pretty much the same format, a lot of the same information, usually just one or two interesting gems. Really, though, it's pretty much never new information, but it might occasionally be information that is new to me, or might get me thinking in a new way. Sometimes I'll take whatever gems I can get out of that book and it will get me searching for more information on a topic I never even knew to look into.

In the end, it comes down to what you are trying to get from that book. If you are new to a topic and there is a lot of information in the book that it would take you much longer to find on your own, that 8.99 might be worth the time saved. If you are looking for motivation and that book will provide it, that 8.99 is probably worth you finally achieving your goals. If you are looking for someone to feed you the information in an easy to digest format, again that 8.99 might be worth it for you. If you are looking for something novel that no one else has ever thought of and can't be found anywhere else, you probably won't find it in a bookstore.

I'll also add that it is rare that I find a self help book to be so packed with information that I can get more value out of actually reading it than I did just by reading the table of contents and maybe skimming the most interesting couple of chapters, something I can do in a few minutes while walking through the book store, or even just reading the reviews on Amazon, but again I usually am just mining it for the couple gems it might have and using it for inspiration for new topics to research.
Last edit: 21 Dec 2019 18:08 by Cornilion. Reason: Added last paragraph instead of double posting.

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21 Dec 2019 19:25 - 21 Dec 2019 19:31 #347538 by JamesSand
Replied by JamesSand on topic "Self Help"

In the end, it comes down to what you are trying to get from that book. If you are new to a topic and there is a lot of information in the book that it would take you much longer to find on your own, that 8.99 might be worth the time saved. If you are looking for motivation and that book will provide it, that 8.99 is probably worth you finally achieving your goals. If you are looking for someone to feed you the information in an easy to digest format, again that 8.99 might be worth it for you. If you are looking for something novel that no one else has ever thought of and can't be found anywhere else, you probably won't find it in a bookstore.


The first half of that seems to be almost in tune with the dustcover....for just 8.99 this will solve all your problems! Can you put a price on happiness?!

The second half suggests that book stores are a waste?

Nothing new under the sun and all, but there are still plenty of great books that are not yet turned into streaming TV series...so you might still find something you didn't know in a book store ;)


I guess you never really see anyone with just one self help book - if they're likely to buy one, they'll probably buy another - which means, it's never about the information actually working or changing anything is it?


Not that I'm to judge, I am looking at twenty four cookbooks on my shelf, and I'm sure I have others around the place. I could cook a new recipe every day for the next ten years and probably not get through them all, and sure as santa is a fat white guy in a red suit, I am really only going to cook the same fifteen odd meals I usually cook, making thousands of dollars worth of hardcover cooking tomes more or less useless.
Last edit: 21 Dec 2019 19:31 by JamesSand.

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  • Cornilion
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21 Dec 2019 19:52 #347539 by Cornilion
Replied by Cornilion on topic "Self Help"
My point wa that they all have some value and if the value they provide happens to be exactly what you are looking for, than it is probably worth the price, but if what you are looking for is something new and unheard of, it probably hasn't made it's way to the self help books yet. I'm not saying books are without merit, but self help books in my experience tend to be putting a fresh wrapper on information that is already out there. If that wrapper is what you need (and sometimes it is) then get it, but if you are looking for information you won't find anywhere else than it's not the section to be looking in.

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  • Eqin Ilis
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18 Aug 2020 00:57 #353910 by Eqin Ilis
Replied by Eqin Ilis on topic "Self Help"
I can get behind what Cornilion said. That was my understanding of self help books as well. My introduction to self help was my mother getting books about parenting and specifically helping a child of my particular needs. As a nurse, she would also sometimes read books that had helped her patients, such as self-help books on grieving, dealing with addictions, etc. Browsing in the bookstore or library, there are always a lot of low-quality books that market primarily with flashy covers and pull the eye, but it took little more than cracking the cover to realize how little substance some of those books have. (Nothing against flashy covers. It's just not a good reason to buy.) From my experience, it is helpful to get recommendations for self help books from others who have dealt with whatever issue is the cause for concern. As for how much it costs to find the book that calls to you, I am a big supporter of libraries. I own very few self help books. I have also read more of them than I needed at the time. However, if you mean specifically the sort of self help that promises to change your life rather than help with a specific problem, I recommend not wasting your time unless it really calls to you.

As for the quality itself, even low quality help with only a few inspirational quotes might help someone if that's where they are on their journey. I'm currently in a phase of my life that requires a deep reflection. But I have been in phases characterized by burnout where what I really needed was just some uplifting pictures and inspirational quotes to remind me where I came from and why I was powering through for just a little longer. Basically a book version of the cat poster that says, "hang in there." The most interesting thing about self help is that it is just that. Whether you take inspiration from something an author said or they were able to point you to a deeper source of meaning by referencing something, at the end of the day, it is your personal effort of taking that information and using it to transform yourself that really matters. What resonates with me might not resonate with you. But if it resonates with you, rest assured there's someone else out there who also feels that.

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18 Aug 2020 22:20 #353923 by rugadd
Replied by rugadd on topic "Self Help"
Think about what your goal is and get a book that explains how to do that. When selecting a goal, be specific: No "be a better person" or "get healthy". Then, get instructions on how to do what you want to do.

If you think your whole life is a mess, consider it much like a messy room: take one thing at a time and put it in its place at a reasonable pace. It should take about 2 months to establish a good habit(or banish a bad one, minus addiction which is a whole other animal)

If you think particular behaviors are a problem, "self help" can get very specific.

At the end of the day, I personally believe that there are more than enough resources for ANY problem just a few keyboard clicks away, most people simply lack the self discipline to act on a clear cut goal. The only thing that has helped me with those issues is a teacher I respect keeping me in line. Books won't pressure you or encourage you when you need it.

If you just want to feel better about yourself go to youtube and play some confidence building motivational speeches: they do work for that, though I wouldn't count on them for lasting change.

rugadd

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