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Why Most Self-Help Books Are Put Down Half-Way Through

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Now, while the above is tongue-in-cheek, there is more than a grain of truth in it. If we were honest most of us would wish away our problems if we could, while some of us say we want things to change but we don’t really mean it. Some of us are hooked into our problems and they become our identity or give us a way of getting attention from others. For those that feel that they haven’t got the skills to make it in life, problems are one way of opting out.

Self-help books have been all the rage for a long time and this must show that many people are looking for help to change in some way. Most go half-read and can leave us disappointed somehow. The very reason we bought the book in the first place may well be the reason it doesn’t get read. This is because at some point while reading these kinds of books we will come up against our resistance to change. If we realise what is happening, we may be able to plough on but all too often we find all manner of reasons to put the book down, possibly never to be read again.

The little voice in our heads will tell us all kinds of lies to keep us from confronting necessary emotions because its job is to keep us safe right now and not worry about the future. All kinds of messages pop into our heads such as “This isn’t for me; I haven’t got the time; this won’t work for me; it’s too hard; I’ll never change” etc

Alternatively we may just feel uncomfortable or uneasy while reading and find ourselves misplacing the book. I remember one particular tome that I repeatedly left out in plain view as a reminder for me to read it but I always forgot about it. All done unconsciously of course and I would find it weeks later in a drawer or buried under old paperwork. What it contained was stirring up things that part of me wanted left buried, thank-you-very-much. I wasn’t ready to read it.

Our own issues can seem very complicated from the inside for many reasons. Sometimes it’s because we think so many things have to be different for us to succeed when, nearly always, it’s us that need to change. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world, i.e. our thoughts, beliefs and emotions are played out in front of our very eyes.  

Change, like life, is as complicated as we want to make it. It comes down to how much we resist going with it. Those of us that over-control and can’t let go or have unrealistic expectations and want things to be perfect will probably find that life is hard, stressful and that people don’t do what we want them to do. That’s our fault, not the world’s.

If we believe that “it’s going to be a long hard road to recovery or to make a change” then it probably will be. Remember the old saying “whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re probably right”

Only by taking responsibility for ourselves and realising that the key to whatever we want is squarely in our hands can we expect to make progress. That can be a scary thought; in which case problems maybe more about how we feel about ourselves and our capabilities than anything else.

October 2011

© Phil Grant unless otherwise attributed