The Self-Help Industry

I’m currently pinned to the sofa waiting for the boiler man to show up, which is my excuse for watching Paul McKenna’s “I Can Change Your Life”. The expert self-publicist is currently featuring people with deeper problems – a middle-aged female agrophobic who can’t be alone in the house for more than 10 mins who has 9 kids (well if you don’t get out much..!) Coming up later is a compulsive gambler and a bloke with a flying phobia.  (Update – McKenna: “The good thing about ringing agrophobics is they’re always in”)

I don’t have any deep-rooted problems – I’m reasonably adept at understanding myself and what is rational thinking and what isn’t. Having said that, I’m not some super human, there is room for improvement. People exist who run marathons, are superb musicians and heart-surgeons in their spare time. Good for them.

But while we’re all wise to the wiles of the diet industry, making women (and increasingly, men) feel ugly and fat, there is a whole self-help industry dedicated to making people feel generally not good enough. It fills ranks of shelves in bookshops, and the internet is cluttered with it. Like all advertising, it creates a fear – that we’re not successful enough, fit enough, attractive enough, rich enough, loved enough. Then it promises the solution, but its a mirage. Mostly we will stay as we are, but why? Most would benefit from some improvements, so what stops us? The books say fear, I suspect it’s more laziness. I am incredibly lazy. But it’s more complex than that. Why do I (and again, I’m pretty sure, its not just me) not do things I positively enjoy? What is the psychology behind that?


3 Responses to “The Self-Help Industry”

  1. Martin Redford Says:

    You deserve recognition for bringing light to this topic.
    On a certain level I do agree with you, but maybe the reason you do
    not put your mind to do things which positively add to your
    character is because, well for the simple reason that you enjoy
    being lazy just as much. I believe the whole trick to it lies it
    creating a routine. When something has developed as a habit in your
    persona, then it is a lot easier to get things done. To me, this is
    the truly challenging part of change. If you live your life in an
    organized manner, when you no longer get to choose at that specific
    moment in time what you want to do, then you just basically go and
    do it. At least that’s what I think.

  2. Mags Says:

    Ah, the impact of habits. They can be incredibly strong. I was about to argue that changing one’s habits until they become thoughtless was to condemn oneself to the level of automaton, until I realised that I was already there. The habit of morning coffee, of watching rubbish tv at a certain time, of a hundred things that each of us do every day are habit, not conscious choice. So what is the psychology behind bad habits being so much easier to form than good?

  3. Martin Redford Says:

    I would have to say that most bad habits are usually based on a short-term, instant gratification, whereas good habits usually are based on a long-term series of results.

    For example it feels good to lay down all day watching t.v. without having to put much of an effort in it. Exercising, on the other hand, is not as gratifying in terms of a process. It is the end result which is satisfying.

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