Monday, January 11, 2016

Are Self-Help Books Self-Helpful?

Thinking of reading a self-help book?

Will it ease your back pain?
Will it make you thinner?
Will it help you find true love?
Will it endanger your life?
My first self-help book was Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit, the Bible of food back in the 1970s.  I recall making Adelle Davis's nutritional booster of brewer's yeast, wheat germ, raw eggs, and fruit juice.  Check it out!

I've had some transformational insights due to self-help books, particularly Co-Dependent No More which showed me that my situation was typical of many people and not unique to me.  The book described my then (way-back then) partner's behaviours and my responses as if there had been a camera in our home for the previous five years.

This realization enabled this enabler to pry herself loose from the cycle of fleeing and returning.  After reading the book, I was able to see the cycle as a typical pattern.  The book sucked all the unique drama out of my experience.  I was a cliché.  I had the book, though, for many months before being able to read it.  The book was screaming its blue cover at me - and finally, at the right time, I was able to listen.

Difficult Conversations helped me see my own responsibility in all the difficult conversations I found myself in. This had the powerful impact of reducing anger.  How can I be mad at you and disappointed in you if I knew how disappointing you would be from the beginning?

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has been a very useful book for anyone working in groups. The key message of that book is that trust is essential for teams to be effective.

The other four dysfunctions follow from absence of trust.

A friend of mine said this, "Life is too interesting and too complex for self-help to be worthwhile."
I would say the opposite:  Life is too interesting and complex for self-help and any other kind of help not to be worthwhile.  There is no one answer.  There are many answers, and the right book at the right time can sometimes be just what we need. 

At least it was for me.  

1 comment:

  1. The right self-help book at the right time can be very powerful. For the contrary view about our relentless drive for self-improvement listen to Michelle Parise on CBC's Spark about "Why I'm taking a break from on line self-help":