After awhile a person just needs to toss the self-help books and programs aside. So, I did. I had shelves full of books. There was a stack of cassette tapes and CDs. I was awash in pop psychology, auto-hypnosis and motivational material. Self-help became self-addiction.
My interest in self-help stuff began in the early 1980s, when I decided to quit smoking cigarettes. I had tried the “cold turkey” method, but I felt all fuzzy, cranky, and out of sorts. I wanted a painless way to stop smoking.
I found books in the library and book stores that promised relief. Most of them seemed to be written with a template. Much of the first half of each book relayed “case histories” of sufferers who had ubiquitous names like John, Jane, Anne and so on. At the ends of the chapters, the reader was asked questions about his/her own similar experiences and how the reader related to the material. Then some sort of technique was presented. All a person needed to do was to generate a need to change. A need to become a new person.
I eventually did quit smoking, but it was not because of any painless technique out of any of the self-help books. I simply consulted my physician and he put me on a plan that got me unhooked from tobacco.
But, in the background, I had another compulsion. Self-help and motivational literature. I gave away my stack of stop smoking books and tapes to make room for the nifty techniques to become a better person.
There were books on how to boost ones income. Books and tapes about improving ones self-esteem. I wanted more friends, so I bought material about personal relationships. I had notebooks full of answers to the questions at the ends of chapters. Charts and timelines were filled in about every possible aspect of my life.
One quiet summer night in my back yard I sat in a chair to just listen to the sounds of bugs and amphibians. It hit me like a ton of books. I was getting really wrapped up in myself. Certainly, some introspection and reflection is a wonderful thing. However, all of these books and programs were leading me down a maze that was filled with back alleys and dead ends. All this stuff was taking up a lot of my time and money. My precious free time away from my job didn’t feel very free and liberating.
That began one of my periods of decluttering. I went through my entire collection of audio and print self-help and motivational material, boxed most of it up, and dropped it off at the Goodwill Store.
I felt a little guilty about passing it along. I rationalized it by acknowledging that addiction to self-help is like addiction to television, food, gossip, pulp fiction, booze or any number of things. At least the other self-help addicts might find something useful in the donated materials.
It was time to climb out of my head and breathe in the nitty gritty of living. It was time to dip my toes into the pool of relationships. It was time to get into the world and make some mistakes. It was time to rejoin the human race.
I’m still working on personal growth. This time I’m using my powers of observation and meditation.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says to look at the desire to become someone or something else and then just loosen that urge a little.