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Description: Spank your inner child! Well that may be an extreme sentiment but what are we to make of the thriving and, at times, overwhelming self-help industry of books, websites, television shows etc etc? Is there no pushback? Well, yes, there is. Svend Brinkmann is a Danish psychologist and philosopher (nice combination!) who has written book on the subject of resisting the self-help craze. Rather than read about it, listen to (and see him) him talk about it in the recorded lecture at the first of the two links below. The second link is to a New York Times article taking a bit broader look at this same subject. How do you feel about self-help sources? Have a listen and/or a read and see what others think.

Source: How to resist the self-improvement craze, author video presentation, theRSA.org.

Date: February 23 and March 11, 2017

Cover Credit: Svend Brinkmann

Links:  Article Link — https://archive.org/details/How_to_Resist_the_Self-Improvement_Craze_Svend_Brinkmann_RSA_Replay or https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/11/style/anti-self-help-books.html

So Svend Brinkmann is essentially saying that a commitment to constant change, to constant development, to constantly changing into a better and better you runs the risk of crippling our ability to be ethical which requires that we remain continuously a single self. If we change all the time we could back out of promises by saying we are simply a different person than the one who made the promise originally. Dr. Brinkmann essentially points out that life is hard and we, as individuals are NOT special (or at least special enough to triumph over a hard life) and so we should get used to it and find happiness or fulfillment in what we have or not at all. Sound depressing? Well yes in a way. But it grounds nicely in the reality that depressed people see their place in the world more clearly than do non depressed people and perhaps this means we all need to be a bit deluded to get by in the world. If all this is too dark a view of the world and our lot in it then just ignore it and go out and find a self-help book or a trainer or guru who is ready to convince you otherwise, or relax a bit and realize that life, if not perfect, is pretty good most of the time, especially if we manage out expectations. From Svend Brinkmann we have the following 7 steps to resist the self-help craze:

  1.    Cut out the navel-gazing
    2. Focus on the negative in your life
    3. Put on the No hat
    4. Suppress your feelings
    5. Sack your coach
    6. Read a novel not a self-help book or biography
    7. Dwell on the past

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do you think about self-help books?
  2. What makes for a good and for a bad (usable and unusable) self-help book?
  3. Do we need to recalibrate our understanding of the “improvability” of our lives?

References (Read Further):

Haaga, D. A., & Beck, A. T. (1995). Perspectives on depressive realism: implications for cognitive theory of depression. Behaviour research and therapy, 33(1), 41-48. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dave_Haaga/publication/15326163_Perspectives_on_depressive_realism_Implications_for_cognitive_theory_of_depression/links/573a18b608ae9f741b2ca078.pdf

Lang, F. R. (2016). Control Beliefs Across Adulthood. The Encyclopedia of Adulthood and Aging. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Frieder_Lang/publication/262691713_Control_beliefs_across_adulthood/links/02e7e53882f4613a84000000.pdf

Brinkmann, Svend (2017) Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.

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