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Does self help even work?


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Initial post: Sep 18, 2007 5:20:15 PM PDT
blueskies says:
I'm curious because I am at an impasse. I know all spiritual facts are true but it doesn't seem to be coalescing for me in any true fashion. can you get burnt out on self help books? What if none of it works? Do you just accept yourself and everything just as it is? Bummer for all the books I've bought on the subject...

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2007 7:12:00 PM PDT
Donna Sozio says:
Hi Theresa,

I've hit that bump before or "flat spot" as I call it. This year was filled with conferences for me. Loads of them. (Perhaps, books for you.) Then I hit a point where I just said - enough. I've "learned" what I need for the moment and I'm goind to concentrate on living my life instead of focusing on what needed "fixing." The truth is - at least as I see it - is that if we can move what we know in our head into action in our lives then we become whatever it is we always dreamed ourselves to be.

My suggestion is to take a break - go have some fun! You're fabulous! You've done the work - now get out there and feel the grass under your feet. Reconnect with joy! Go out in the sun. Jump in the ocean. Eat a snow cone. Connect again with all that makes you happy.

You just might like the results!

Good luck,
Donna

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2007 7:19:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 18, 2007 7:21:08 PM PDT
T. Crow says:
If you're trying to make a serious change in your life, and self-help books aren't working, there's a simple reason for it: what you need to change is not a 'thinking' thing so to speak, it's a 'feeling' one -- one that has to do with experience. I don't know the nature of Theresa's problems, but consider looking into therapy as a means to help yourself. I don't know if you're one of the ones who is against such intervention, but you may find yourself surprised at the results after doing some real "work" in the context of another human being, notably one who is trained for that sort of thing.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2007 7:42:34 PM PDT
Niama says:
Dear Theresa,

Kudo's to you for your want to make your life better. There are a lot of people out there who don't give a rat's **s. That alone can make it challenging to garner those personal shifts that we desire. I sometimes think that after we ingest new material we kind of hit a plateau that must become the new place from which we will live our longed for life. It then perhaps becomes a matter of allowing ourself to adjust to the inner shifting we just created but have yet to demonstrate. The ego likes it where it's at and often goes kicking and screaming when we want something else. Be kind to yourself and love yourself and as another post said get yourself that snow cone. Love is always the answer. Thank you John Lennon.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2007 10:31:21 AM PDT
Stacey Foga says:
Theresa, I'm a cognitive-behavioral therapist, and T. Crow who also answered is either also working CBT or knows it pretty well.

Thinking has to change (cognitive) and then actions will change (behavioral).

When I do CBT, I use an algorithm. In other words, the client draws a box with the biggest problem, let's say "My mother-in-law drives me insane." From there we draw arrows to boxes that give potential answers. One might be "move out of town." Another might be "divorce Mike because it's HIS mother". Any that do not work, we cross out. If it MIGHT work, the arrows now come to that box; example: the mother-in-law hater decides to address the problem with her husband, which prior to this she had not done. (I swear to God I don't know why couples don't talk. If I did not talk to my spouse, I'd leave. But then, I'm a talker.

Changing thinking patterns is hard; it must be a conscious effort at first. Eventually my clients begin to do mental algorithms: "Here I am, stuck in a traffic jam downtown. I can: 1. get out and start walk, 2. Relax and watch all the upset people, 3. put my audio book in the dashboard's CD player and make some use of this time."

As for the use of self-help books, some DO work. But nothing works for everyone. My personal opinion is that when you find the book to help you guide yourself, you will know. For me it was don Miguel Ruiz's "The Four Agreements." I practically have it memorized.

And the rest of my self-help books stay untouched.

I wish you luck, truly.

ChewMouse (Stacey)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 19, 2007 11:56:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 19, 2007 11:59:32 AM PDT
Hi Theresa:
It is very possible for self help to work. There is a Proverb that says" Woe to the man who falls down and does not get up again." It's hard work and there are no secret formulas. What might work for some might not work for others. Still, you owe it to yourself to get up anyway! You are the product of all the good and bad things that have ever happened to you throughout your whole life. It's taken a long time to become who you are so don't expect change to come over night.

I don't know your situation, but most of our issues come from unhealed wounds. You might want to take some time to consider if there are things in your life that you refuse to forgive yourself for. If there are its not a crime to offer yourself more grace and learn to forgive yourself completely.

Also, you could be holding on to offenses from others and you can't seem to be able to forgive them for. When we refuse to forgive it usually hurts us more than the offender. It binds us with bitterness and resentment, while the offender remains unaffected.

The decisions we make in life ( whether it be to hold a grudge, love, be patient or be a bully) usually come from generational behavior but the negative patterns can be broken. Just knowing your weaknesses puts you half way through the battle. It sounds like you've done enough self help books, now its time to practice what you,ve learned and if you fall, it's ok as long as you continue to get back up.

You are not alone, we all suffer from "The Human Condition". We might never be perfect, but we have a choice every day whether or not to make life better.

Keep up the good work!
Sally

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2007 1:54:59 AM PDT
they don't they are based on core bunk. you wanna read a good book read no nonsense guide and too nice your for own good. forget the fitness books too obvously it hasent helped america slim down.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2007 8:15:47 AM PDT
Brian Howell says:
I think that there are some books or seminars out there that do work, but as others have said, you have to find the ones that work for you. Then it's a matter of putting action to the ideas that you've learned.

Can you get burned out on self help books? Sure you can. Sounds like you've bought a lot of them. Pick one. The one that rings truest in your head, and take 6 months to a year and work the principles that you've learned from that book.

As for me, I still like Anthony Robbins' stuff, it just makes sense to me. I re-listen to the course (on CD) once a year or so, and find that as I've grown/changed as a person, I take away something new or something different each time. Maybe a section that I didn't feel applied to me last year makes sense this year and is a huge eye opener. The real progress I make is when I concentrate on one or two ideas at a time, and really commit to making a change in those areas of my life. Those baby steps add up over the years.

For me I believe in the cognitive-behavioral approach as another poster (Stacey) talks about, as well as elements of NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) although the NLP field as a whole feels a little "New Age" to me at times.

However, reading the books on these subjects will not make a lick of difference in your life. You have to take these ideas and put them into action. It's just like getting into shape physically, you have to get sweaty, and you don't see the results overnight.

Out of all the books you've bought is there one (or two) that really struck a chord with you?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2007 6:37:19 PM PDT
sunnyangels says:
I used to read TONS of SELF HELP books or POSITIVE THINKING books. Now, i do not anymore.

I believe these books has been a real waste of money.

EG: you can change your life by thinking positive ?!? GET REAL!
You can change your life by COMMON SENSE.

If you want to be rich SAFE YOUR MONEY! live below your means!
Common Sense and Logic ALWAYS works better than Self Help Book.

Rather than buying into these books , you'd really be better of taking real course : piano course -for improving piano skills,etc

or SELF LEARN things like Pimsleur if you want tolearn language.

Just my two cents.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2007 5:16:24 PM PDT
Jim Bouchard says:
In the movie "Fiddler on the Roof", Tevia responds to some comments by a young visitor to his village. After listening to the young man's views, he says, "You are right."

One of the older men in the village responds with a countering viewpoint to which Tevia responds, "And you are right."

A third man chimes in and tells Tevia that both men cannot be right, to which Tevia replies, "You are ALSO right!"

All the posts here contain some element of truth. Alibaba_son, approaching the problem with some healthy skeptism adds some useful information as well.

The truth is that positive thinking and attitude alone will accomplish nothing. Action MUST follow thought in order to direct change in your life. To my mind, you are the only person who can effect that thinking, that action and that change. You are the only person responsible for your success and happiness.

Do "self-help" books work? I'd say they can be tremendous tools, but if you want to drive the nails you've got to swing the hammer. If you expect self-help books change your mindset simply because you're reading them, then no, I don't believe they'll help. If you use them to motivate you and help you take charge of your thoughts and actions, then they're a great investment.

I've spent most of my life studying self-improvement and self-perfection. I've learned to have some fun with the process! Sometimes that means taking a break, but more often it simply means to find some activities that induce a positive mindset and provide opportunities for successes, even small ones. Alibaba_son's advice about learning the piano would fit the bill nicely.

Best thoughts and I sincerely hope you continue your quest. "Perfection is not a destination, but a never ending process."

Jim Bouchard
www.JimBouchard.org

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2007 2:51:53 PM PDT
Reading about Jungian psychology has shown me that personal change requires becoming familiar with our "shadow" selves. Only through examination of the things we struggle so desperately to repress can set us free. Give it a try.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2007 9:10:48 PM PDT
If you want to understand your shadow side and heal, please have a look at The Feeling Soul -A Roadmap to Healing and Living... based on alot of personal work and experience and understanding oneself.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2007 6:50:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 27, 2007 6:54:56 AM PDT
J. Plihal says:
Theresa,
Knowing more can make a difference, and often we have so much knowledge and monolouge happening that your time may be put to better use. Consider how often when we (humans as a whole) act in the face of our better knowledge... so what to do?

Sure, keep reading -- and know that getting into dialog with people will serve you. For results, consistency of this dialog is key. Consider what or all of time with a therapist and/or coach and/or group of similarly committed travelers will serve you best...

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2007 3:06:20 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 1, 2007 11:05:38 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2007 12:39:36 PM PDT
Mike LeFan says:
Theresa -- You write, "I'm curious because I am at an impasse. I know all spiritual facts are true but it doesn't seem to be coalescing for me in any true fashion. can you get burnt out on self help books?"
I'm not sure what information you mean by "all spiritual facts" are true. Some of the self-help material is baloney. Some is priceless. Take the "law of attraction," for instance. Basically, it says that if you visualize a thing earnestly enough it will come to pass. But that is clearly not so. As an example, I am a post-polio quadriplegic. I can visualize about strong muscles from now on, but the effects of my polio in 1954 will remain largely unchanged. An impasse. The "law of attraction" says you can have anything you can imagine. But my experience suggests that "you can have anything you can imagine--as long as you know what to imagine and are willing and able to work for it."

"What if none of it works? Do you just accept yourself and everything just as it is?" you asked. As strange as it seems, the answer is a qualified "Yes." You've got to perceive present reality for what it is; isolate and identify the changeable; and then formulate some do-able plans for making changes.

The Bible mentions folks who are "always learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth." You can sure get burned out on self-help advice. As someone suggested, find an advisor who seems real to you and then spend six months or a year implementing practical plans.

Does that sound workable to you?

Thanks for reading,
Mike

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2007 2:57:37 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2007 5:32:08 PM PDT
J. Gardner says:
Good post from Mike LeFan - intelligent, thoughtful and realistic advice, something that's not always easy to find in all those self-help books!

Jon (Oxford, England)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2007 6:59:06 PM PDT
T. Kendrick says:
There came a time when I had to stop evaluating and start doing. I have been there. You will be okay

-Timothy Kendrick
PTSD:Pathways Through the Secret Door
ISBN 1430313196

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2007 8:11:22 AM PDT
Brad Teare says:
It could be that you are trying ideas that actually don't work. I have learned that there are many self-help ideas that are actually bogus. It is disappointing hoping a certain technique will help you only to find it doesn't. Use the ideas that do help and abandon those that don't. The so-called Law of Attraction is one idea that definitely does not work as typically described by self-help gurus. I have wanted to be a full-time professional artist since I was 6 years old. I still have not fully attained that goal after 44 years. I'm not giving up but sitting around wishing for it to happen does nothing. It takes hard work. I am getting very close to my goal but I had no idea how hard it would get before I started "attracting" success.

Glean what you can from self help, throw away the dross, and roll up your sleeves and work with persistent and never dying resolve. Never give up.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2007 9:05:44 AM PDT
Mike LeFan says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2007 11:17:36 AM PDT
Jim Bouchard says:
Scott,

Yours was a very interesting post. I'm going to defend, somewhat, the "Law of Attraction."

Of course, the "Law of Attraction" is nothing new. First of all, the Law of Attraction is simply that, a law. Laws can be broken, ignored, interpreted or bent to suit particular needs and agendas.

The Law of Attraction does, generally, work. If you're generally in a positive frame of mind, you're likely to attract other positive people to you. If you're a negative person, well, misery loves company. Think about it, do you like to be around someone who is miserable and negative all the time?

It's very difficult to be open to opportunity, or to perservere in the face of adversity when one has been cultivating a negative outlook.

On the other hand, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. The universe is very big, and we're very small. It's a shame that too many people take this idea too literally. It's a greater shame that so many teachers exploit this idea at the expense of others.

You hit the nail on the proverbial head: it takes hard work to succeed.

Positive thinking opens the mind to possibility, such as your ambition to be a professional artist. Too many people stop right there telling themselves it would be impossible for any number of reasons. It takes positive ACTION to increase the probability for success.

It takes hard work, motivation and discipline over TIME to realize success.

I sincerely hope you achieve your goal!

Jim Bouchard
Dynamic Components of Personal Power
www.JimBouchard.org

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2007 6:37:56 PM PDT
Theresa,

I can sympathize very much with where you are, knowing something intellectually and actually getting it to work in your life are two very different things. I feel like I read self help books for a living(I'm a life coach), and I am telling you that yes, you can get totally burnt out and discouraged with all of the advice, techniques and metaphysical woo woo. I suggest you set them aside for a little while and just concentrate on what IS going good with you right now in this red hot minute, focusing on what you want so desperately to change and looking for ways to change it will most likely only make you feel even more out of sorts. The truth is that self help DOES work, and it's true you do have to change the way you think about things, this can be a tricky thing when we're talking about long held beliefs though, these take a little longer to change (my understanding is that beliefs are just the same thoughts that we tell ourselves over and over every day). I also believe that what you think about you bring about, so although it may seem like nothing is happening, most of the work is done before you even notice a change. I do believe that the law of attraction works, I also believe that you have to ALLOW the things and events into your life that you are asking for. Unlike some of the previous posts though, I know through personal experience and those of many of my clients, that it is not hard work, or a no pain no gain mentality, it IS just consistent, self edifying work.Feel free to contact me if you feel stuck, melissapierce.com

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2007 6:54:44 PM PDT
Yes, accept yourself as you are now, but don't ever give up wanting more for yourself. Needing to evolve and grow is a great part of the human experience, and I think self help books can be a valuable tool for growth. The problem comes when you try to apply the new knowledge by yourself. We all get deeply embedded in our habits of both deeds and thoughts; conscious and unconscious. Without another person to help us, we tend to stay stuck where we are. I read self help type books all the time, for my work as a life coach. Different things work for different people, and I like to have a variety of tools at hand to help people get unstuck. Life coaches can be a great help in getting people across the divide between where they are now, and where they want to be. In addition to uncovering subconscious beliefs and behaviors that hold people back, coaches have techniques for breaking down the journey into small, non-threatening steps. A life coach provides accountability so that you will move forward each week. I am also a big believer in therapy, but not everyone needs that experience to move forward. If every action step you attempt gets blocked by your childhood "stuff", therapy is probably a good idea. But if all you need is a cheerleader, and someone else to help you structure your path, and keep you on track, then a life coach is probably your best bet.
Life coaching is less expensive than therapy, and the agenda is all about you. It can also be done a month at a time, when you are feeling stuck and need a little help to get moving again.
The new ideas and knowledge that you have gotten from all your reading will probably be helpful in your desire to grow, but you may need a little outside help for everything to come together.

Cyndi Safstrom
My Best Life Coach
http://www.mybestlifecoach.com

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 5, 2007 7:01:26 PM PDT
LoneHermetic says:
I went through a period of scratching around in the maze of the self help market wondering if there was going to be 'the' book . Like many people I felt that all this stuff - pop hypnosis, NLP, new age affirmations was just scratching at the surface of something much deeper and was only giving me unsatisfying partial truths.

Many people who feel this seem to end up at the Eastern spirituality of Buddhism, Yoga, Zen, Tao, or the like by their mid 30's or later- often via various combinations of jung/nlp/cognitive behavioural approaches. Its understandable because this stuff has more publicity these days and is more cohesive. Far be it from me to criticise peoples' individual paths but i'm with those who argue that the eastern arts are generally not suitable to the western mind which lacks mental discipline and is too hopelessly emboiled in the here and now for the rarefied metaphysics of eastern systems. At the same time the modern psychological techniques are, for many people, poor substitutes for a 'spiritual' path. which is basically what all impulses towards 'self development' are: spiritual (even if our materialist philosophy of life prevents us from using that mis-understood term). To make matters worse much of the 'new age' material seems justifiably fluffy and sentimental or just plain kooky.

Personally i've found that the earthy roots of the western mystery tradition and the kabalah have sparked up a chord key-note me. It seems to be more suitable to my dulled western brain than eastern spirituality and infinitely deeper and richer than the psychological self help peddlers. The Kabalah in particular (once it has been disentangled from Hollywood celebrity nonsense) has showed itself to be a true Yoga of the west. In fact i'd go so far as to say that it is from the wellspring of the western mystery tradition and 'occultism' that much of the depth psychology and 'law of attraction' literature comes from.

However it is not an area to be dabbled in flippantly so i'm not about to start 'selling' this path to you as if its a bar of candy. Needless to say alot of unhelpfull disinformation has arisen aroud this shadowy subject and should you feel a calling towards it you'll have to first pass through the twin guardians of orthodox materialist science and Christian fundamentalism (this took me 15 years alone). One side will laugh at you for even daring to believe in such superstitious nonsense and the other side will warn you that you begin to invoke the devil within yourself. Once you've done this you've got to cope with your whole map of the world turning upside down whilst maintaining a normal life and not being seduced by the snake oil salesmen offering you their useless or dangerous products. But for me now there is no anxious waiting for the book that might change me or 'fix' me into whatever vague notion I have of what i'm supposed to be. I'm happy with myself and eagerly developing myself at the same time.

The main thing that coming into contact with this vast area of knowledge taught me is that its no good flitting a round like a butterfly from one hope to the next like you're in a shopping mall choosing a product: something has to be stuck with consistently to show results- for decades, for a lifetime (and, once you start understanding the concept beyonf superstition, for several lifetimes). Its too much to expect one author or one 'guru' to provide this solid base hence my preference for the rich flexibility of a 'tradition' interpreted sensitively and in an appropriately modern way.

If you haven't touched upon it- the book 'the life you were given' is a good place to start sorting out how you might develop a sustained path and free yourself from the tyranny of hoping that the next book, guru or scientific theory might be the one that solves all your problems. In matters of the western mystery tradition 'walkers between worlds' is a good overview. For more everyday practical self help Mark Joyner's Simpleology courses are unbeatable and refreshingly free of nonsense (and the first 3 month course '101' is free also)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 6, 2007 5:39:50 AM PDT
Reginleif II says:
Self-help books are very seldom anything but hucksterism. (Oh, and to the people flogging their own books in this thread? You're hucksters, too.) Read Wendy Kaminer's "I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional" for a take-down of them.

And, as an atheist, I disagree that "all spiritual facts are true." In my opinion, "spiritual facts" itself is an oxymoron. If something works for you -- religion, ritual, whatever -- and you don't push it on others, that's fine. But let's not elevate it to the same level as gravity or relativity.
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Discussion in:  Self-help forum
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Total posts:  103
Initial post:  Sep 18, 2007
Latest post:  Feb 5, 2013

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