"Words are merely utterances: noises that stand for feelings, thoughts, and experience. They are symbols. Signs. Insignias. They are not Truth. They are not the real thing". ~ 'Conversations with God' by Neale Donald Walsch.
We, the people of the 21st century, are so stressed out and burdened with life, that anxiety attacks, heartbreak and depression have become common terms for us. Many of you out there, just like me would not want to spend time and money on visiting a therapist to solve such problems. And what do we have for respite, if not for words of advice from trained professionals and elders, is a multitude of self-help books. The hysteria surrounding these books is evidently on the rise, as statistics prove that self-help books are apparently best sellers. But is it worth investing your money on books that only offer advice?
Purpose of Self-help Books
A Testimonial of Change
Being an ardent reader of self-help books myself, the foremost thought that comes to my mind, with regards to these books, is that they are a testimonial. By testimony, I imply evidence of an intrinsic change, that the authors have experienced for themselves. What interests me here, is the silent urge to know that we are not alone, and like us there are several others going through a similar problem. What self-help books do best, in my opinion, is to link two relatively unknown souls on a relatively common platform, thus providing individuals a scope to know about another person's experience in a similar situation. And with self-help books being a fad these days, just about anyone, who experiences a sapience, wishes to be lauded for his/her pearls of wisdom. At a glance, these books could be works of pure fiction or they could actually hint towards a deeper understanding of oneself. After all, it's self-discovery, that these books aim at, isn't it?
Scope for Introspection
From time immemorial, saints and sages have talked about man's ardent desire to search for the ultimate truth, the truth about themselves. Even authors like Mitch Albom, Anthony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, etc., have talked about self introspection in their works. Besides, man's inquisitive nature, and thirst for his spiritual existence leads him to nirvana. Most of the self-help books are written with the sole intention of leading an individual deeper into oneself. Man's yearning to break free from all the bonds and seek solace within is known to almost everyone, and this yearning leads him to one of the self-help books that mediate him to dig deeper into the self. In the words of Neale, "The deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. You are not discovering yourself, but creating yourself anew. Seek, therefore, not to find out Who You Are, seek to determine Who You Want to Be".
A Ray of Hope
According to the trend observed in markets, individuals rush to pick a copy of self-help books especially to soothe themselves when faced with difficult situations. Books that deal with facing depression, tackling anxiety attacks, developing friendship, etc., have definitely seen a rise, but are they worth the money? Basically, what you and I do, is run to people for advice in a relatively sticky situation and what better way to do that than to open a book and read for yourself. Most of us consider these books to be the greatest source of wisdom; but a thought to ponder on is imperative. Before you venture to the store and pick up a book, ask yourself, if it is practical to apply all the implications to your situation. Or are you simply confusing yourself further by referring to a thousand books? If you look at the book just as a light in the dark, there is a possibility that it could flicker off too. It's true that self-help books are designed to guide you, but if not applied in practical life, it could be misleading too. Think about it.
Real or Placebo Effect
Heraclitus says, "Change is the only constant", and self-help books are intended to bring about a change in perception. But how far is this change perceivable? If we as seekers with a clear purpose in mind, turn to self-help books, then it can play an instrumental role to bring about the desired change. Self-help books point out the importance of our relationships with one another, which are correlated with happiness and inner well-being; it is in all cases, subjective to the individual. One question you should ask yourself when referring to a self-help book is, is this for real or a mere placebo effect? Bear in mind that what works well for your friend may not work for you, or for any other individual for that matter. As mentioned earlier, change is the only constant, and all of us are subconsciously changing every moment of our lives. As believed, self-help books can have a desired outcome, only if you as an individual implement the information in your practical everyday life.
Tread with Caution
By all means yes, this is the ultimate warning. Self-help books can offer wonderful advice, but are you ready to accept facts and make a lasting impact on your life? All self-help books talk about is, taking the step forward and being the change that you always want to have in your life. All valid confusion can be literally wiped away, if we condition our minds to think in the way, that is written about. The whole purpose of a self-help book may be lost if you do not condition your old ways and tune in to the new. Besides, it is always best to remember that, not every advice written in these books can be applied in practical life. Would you blindly trust a stranger telling you that your actions prove you insane? If your answer is negative, then you ought to give a serious thought to follow every single advice meted out in a self-help book. After all, even though we are created from the same earth, not all of us think and behave in the same way.
As for me, self-help books serve as a great tool to know where, I as an individual, am heading in life. Self-help books, for me, are a source of information and a medium for self introspection. You are free to differ in your opinion, for after all, life is what you perceive it to be and no one is born with a forced will.