Interview with a Self Help Enthusiast
Is self help possible?
1: Given that there are times when people have to go see psychologist and they feel they need drugs to overcome some problems, is it realistic to think that a person can heal themselves and counsel themselves.
DT: I do believe that it is possible because I have done it myself and I have experienced the benefits. However,
you do make a good point because it is not easy and there were times when I thought that it would be impossible. Self Help has become a cliché that people like to downplay and discount as a viable alternative.
2: Can you talk more about the cliché aspect?
DT: Well, I have seen people say, “all that self help stuff is the same.” People think it is all re-hashed material looking for a twist or a spot in Oprah’s book club. There are so many books out there and I guess the market is flooded. So self help has become cliché. And for some this phenomenon is enough to justify their reluctance to pick one of those books up.
3: Do you think that some people are reluctant to pick these books up because they don’t want to know the answers?
DT: Definitely! I think that people don’t want to know the truth many times. But it is also important to remember that it is not easy. And just like people don’t have the energy to change their eating habits and exercise, it is not the most simple thing to commit to changing your shortcomings.
This is a very challenging aspect of American culture because we are bombarded with so many alternatives. The discipline that we have to have these days to follow a strict way of life is not very popular. TV, cable, and internet are filled with sex, money, and indulgence. Indulgence is what drives our economy. If that is the case then it is as difficult to changing your self esteem as trying to quit drugs while living in a crack house. It is a great paradox and the road to a greater self takes persistence.
4: With so much self help material out there, how does a person who is just starting down this road begin?
DT: When I was about two years into what would be a divorced marriage, I was given the book “The way of the wizard.” By Deepak Chopra. The book was such an easy and entertaining read that I was soon captivated by the topic of self. For the first time something was awaken in me about the possibilities of life and what life could be. I went on from there to read at least 100 books on the topic over the last seven years. SO in answer to your question, I would say that the road to self help recovery begins with the human drama, divine guidance, life experiences and the desire of all humans to know their best self. The beauty of self help is that there is no formula. SO many people believe there is. I cant tell you to start with “The road less traveled” by Scott Peck and then move on to “Walden Pond.” By Thoreau. It comes to you while you are sitting at the dentist’s office and you pick up a readers digest or when you break down from not having found the answer in organized religion or sex. It is usually a point in which a person who truly wants to change says, “Let me see what there is to this self esteem thing.
5: Do you believe that there is a central theme in self help that it all boils down to?
DT: Well I believe that it does come down to the idea that we want peace. The question becomes what is peace and how do we attain it. For me, peace means contentment with life. Are you often plagued by thoughts that you know do you harm (jealousy, envy, insecurities, addictions, etc.)? Do you work at a job that you enjoy? Are you happy? All these things are indicators that there is not peace inside.
There does seem to be an overriding theme of self contemplation. The ability to be conscious of how and why you take the actions you do, things you say, and things you think about is at the core of self help. The central theme then becomes yourself and understanding yourself.
6: But how do you go from understanding yourself to being a new person?
DT: That is the journey I was talking about. Once you begin to understand yourself, which is no easy task, you then begin to see why things are the way they are. When you are solving a problem, 90 percent is understanding what is missing and what is wrong. The other 10 percent is making the decision to try and change/undo your unwanted aspects of your personality.
That is why the path is not a catch all recipe. For some, learning to slow down and quiet the mind to the point that you are not flying on automatic pilot may take meditation, it may take a debilitating sickness, it may take a retreat.
For many, they first have to believe or be exposed to the thought that it is even ok to question the traditions that have made them the way they are.
7: It sounds like self help isn’t as simple as ten simple rules?
DT: Unfortunately it is not. I have seen and read many books that claim to give the top ten secrets to life and I think what a crock! People need to learn how to develop their own top ten through trial and error. Yes it’s true that when you get closer to your highest self you realize that self esteem is probably number one on that list, but the truth is that self esteem means so much more than just the two words that make it up. Just as the word love means more than the surface of it’s four letters.