Self-Help Help
September 5, 2004 5:08 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever been helped significantly by a self-help book?
posted by mecran01 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you mean DIY repair manuals, yes.

Physical fitness texts? In many respects, no.

Philosophical/Spiritual/Psychological guides seem to work better with actual related studies/conselling/theraphy, but by themselves, they can be akin to self-medication.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:16 PM on September 5, 2004

Books about sex can be quite helpful. ;)
posted by onlyconnect at 5:54 PM on September 5, 2004

I read "Unmarried to Each Other" before moving in with my boyfriend. I think it provided helpful insight. Does that count as a self-help book?

Books about budgeting teach me what I should be doing, but so far they haven't convinced me to do it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2004

I've had good luck with Philosophical/Spiritual/Psych books. The deepest questions I've had about the world and choices to make with my life, couldn't be answered by them -- they have to be answered personally -- but listening to what other people have to say about them can give you a whole toolbox of useful ideas.
posted by weston at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2004

Steven Pressfield's The War of Art helped me tremendously. An excerpt can be read here.

And though many find him to be a nut, I find William Glasser's books, especially Choice Theory, to contain some great advice.

Essentially, both of these books are telling you that you're your own worst enemy, but they do it in a way that is helpful--by teaching you how (and that) you (and only you) can be your own rescuer.
posted by dobbs at 6:34 PM on September 5, 2004

croutansoupafreak: mecran01 actually mentioned a book in AskMe a couple of months back that I found helpful on the subject of budgeting/finance.

And I'll echo what dobbs said: Glasser is awesome, not only for ones self, but when you're confronting someone else's behavior problems, which is why I suspect that a number of secondary ed texts draw heavily on him.

David Burns' Feeling Good made an impact on me years ago, as did some fluffier books by Dawna Markova. Terry Warner's Bonds that Make Us Free is excellent.
posted by weston at 7:05 PM on September 5, 2004

On preview, I'll agree with weston's nod to Feeling Good, which helped me tremendously with some depression issues. The help seems to wear off unless I keep at it though.

Some people like The Hacker's Diet, free and online, for losing weight. I can't really say it helped me since I'm still fat, but it's a dose of reason in a sea of bullshit.
posted by callmejay at 7:15 PM on September 5, 2004

I found Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" useful.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:20 PM on September 5, 2004

I've found David Allen's "Getting Things Done" unbelievably helpful.
posted by josh at 8:07 PM on September 5, 2004

Once I won an award called the "I Dare You Award" and it came with an "I Dare You Book." This is not a book you can get commercially, you have to win the "I Dare You Award"--something you can only do in high school. However, since "I Dare You" Award winners are generally charitable, I will share the self-help lessons I gleaned from the book that I find helpful. Basically it says there are four components of your life you should keep in check: the intellectual, the social, the spiritual, and the physical. I dare you to not find that helpful.
posted by adrober at 8:39 PM on September 5, 2004

When I'm in that dark place, and the weight of humanity is pushing itself down on me, I turn to You are Worthless. Dikkers would disagree, but a misery shared is a misery halved.

Let's sit down and actually count the genuine, true friends you have. It's not that many, is it? Oh, except Jesus. He's your friend. Why don't you call him and see if he wants to hang out?
posted by seanyboy at 12:28 AM on September 6, 2004

I found this pretty helpful: Pulling Your Own Strings.
posted by Blue Stone at 2:49 AM on September 6, 2004

I enjoyed Why Your Life Sucks: And What You Can Do About It but it was really just a feel good self-help book rather than a life changer.

The biggest real benefit I ever got was from excercising consistently, which boosted my energy and consequently my mood and motivation, and more recently by seriously following the diet advice in The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage. I've also cut back on coffee and switched to tea. All of this combined is really starting to kick in now.
posted by Meridian at 5:27 AM on September 6, 2004

"The Conquest of Happiness" by Bertrand Russell. Not really self help but it changed the way I think about life.
posted by paradigm at 5:47 AM on September 6, 2004

My SO reads them religiously, one after another. I have read a few, but inevitably, they do nothing for me.
posted by Quartermass at 7:07 AM on September 6, 2004

I've never had one do anything for me. In my opinion, the title is usually the only part you need to read and the rest is filler so the covers don't touch. In some rare cases, the jacket blurb adds some detail.
posted by tommasz at 7:53 AM on September 6, 2004

I found Please understand Me a great help in, first, realizing that there was nothing wrong with me, and second, understanding that other people were not behaving in completely random ways just to annoy me but could actually be understood in some fashion. Whether you buy into the whole Myers-Briggs thing or not, the book is an eye-opener in that it presents fifteen completely consistent ways of thinking that are completely unlike your own.

Did it change my life? Well, I did become a good deal more laid back and mellow in my dealings with other people, which has generally been a good thing for me, so in a small way, yes, I'd say so.
posted by kindall at 9:24 AM on September 6, 2004

I've been thinking about this since yesterday, and wondering why books do nothing for some people, and make a big impact on others, and I have one theory and a few questions.

One theory: for self-help type books to be effective, you have to be at a point in your life where you're missing information/experience on dealing some particular thing the book is relevant to. If the information/experience advantage is something you've already got, and <neo> the problem is choice <neo>, then it's likely to be useless to you. Also, if your troubles don't break down easily into a simple set of principles, or if your brain doesn't reduce them that way, most self-help books will also seem useless. I've encountered these situations myself.

Questions for those of you who rarely/never find self-help books useful:

(1) Do you ever find *fiction* helpful in getting you out of a rut, or inspiring you to a choice that helps fix your troubles? This would include movies or TV shows, too.

(2) Do you ever come up with self-improvement regimens for yourself? Do you find such regimens pointless or boring?

(3) Does most "good advice" people offer you seem trite or obvious?

(4) Do you think in terms of principles or consequences more easily?
posted by weston at 11:30 AM on September 6, 2004

yes: desiderius erasmus' praise of folly.
posted by dorian at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2004

if we're talking about books like the cheese one (can't remember the exact title, but it was about adapting to new situations, presented as a problem with cheese disappearing and, i believe, a huge bestseller) then i guess i'm in the class of people for whom they "do nothing".

to some extent it (this lack of usefulness) is going to be self-selecting since once you dismiss books like that you don't read them any more, so even if they were useful you wouldn't know.

but, to answer your question, for me (3) about matches how i feel. if there's "a problem" (ie i am not happy, or someone else is not happy, or whatever) then i sit down and think about why things are that way and then, if necessary, how to change them. this process seems fairly obvious and general - self help books seem to present particular instances and particular solutions, which generally require no more than a little time + imagination once you start thinking.

however, i will consult reference books if necessary. for example, i own and have read a book on how to be more assertive, and another on counselling depressed people. the book on assertiveness was not "are you unhappy at work? assertiveness is what you need", but rather "you want to be more assertive: here are tactics for particular situations". that difference in emphasis is, for me, the difference between "self-help" and "reference".
posted by andrew cooke at 12:22 PM on September 6, 2004

This has been an interesting thread. Ironically, there are some "self-help" books that I won't read because I'm pretty sure they're going to tell me things I don't want to know. One of the books mentioned, "getting things done" has been showing up in my radar a lot lately.

A comment in another thread has got me thinking "I went to my HS reunion and realized I had become an *hole" so I've been looking for ways to reverse my slide into becoming a complete jerk, which I can see happening. Wheeeeeeee.
posted by mecran01 at 5:01 PM on September 6, 2004

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