Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Self-Help Taboo

Whenever I wander through a bookstore, I wander through a fairly wide selection of sections - medicine, graphic novels, classics, sociology, physical anthropology, zoology - but I still check the room to make sure nobody I know is around before I duck into the self-help section. I'm sure everyone does. I pick up random books from every conceivable genre to flip through them all the time, but I'll carefully inspect the book jacket to make sure the cover is easily hide-able before I sit down on a chair and flip through anything even vaguely self-help-esque.

I feel slightly the same way about this blog, and I'm working hard to steer it away from having that self-helpy connotation. Sometimes when I use the terms 'we should' and 'we do' followed by universal things that 'we should do', I feel sleazy. I feel like I'm writing something embarrassing, like recaps of a reality show that are nowhere near as funny and spot-on as these recaps are.

Hopefully behavioral psychology, which I guess this falls under, can be steered far enough away from conclusions that turn into preachy quoteables that turn into pushy slogans or cheesy recitations. I am not interested in unearthing 'the one right way to change'. I am not interested in 'finding myself and encouraging others to do the same'... in exactly the manner I did, so I can smugly boast to them when I give advice from on high. I am not interested, in fact, in discovering some sort of golden conclusion, the be-all-end-all of struggle.


eug said...

I glance at the sex books and realize, shit I'm in a public place. then going to the self help section isn't nearly as embarrassing. and then I realize most of those books are stupid anyway and I pick up a girly magazine like "real simple".

Hannah said...

See, I would rather be seen reading, like, graphic vampire erotica than your average self help book. But girly magazines?? You're a brave man.

Becca said...

a) i completely agree re: the self-help avoidance/censure from society.
b) when i read a sex book i have no shame about it, but that's bc i'm shameless
c) reaading your blog makes me wish i could write coherently instead of in a stream of thought style...alas, tis not to be

Hannah said...

Reading your blog makes me wish I had the energy to take the kind of trip you're taking! Even - especially - if it meant I only had time to write about it in quick streams. I can only write coherently because I have to sit at this damn desk for eight hours.

Dan R said...

It's not necessarily bad to talk about the moral dilemma of change especially when we speak in terms of larger social change, but it won't be difficult to separate the didactics from the message when you discuss not the why but the how.

How do we change?

Not why do we change?

Even though that's a tempting approach, and it hopefully contains insight into the change itself, but it has nothing to do with the time when we change and everything to do with the time before and after we change.

So stick to the question of "How we change?" and I think you'll avoid didactics.