Monday, January 05, 2009

Self Help

Nice article on the growing menace of self-help books. I liked this comment about the "law of attraction", a very common motif in these books:

"This law posits, quite simply, that thoughts become things. If you ask the universe for what you want, focus on having it, behave as though it's already there and are open to having it then the universe will deliver, whether the object of your desires is a new dishwasher, clear skin, a baby or a million dollars. Guaranteed. Thousands of books now exist based on this simple principle, many of which have spent months on the New York Times bestseller list.

Offering structure and guidance in an increasingly secular society, these bibles can easily be regarded as merely repackaging the same inspiration historically provided by our languishing religions; to consider the Law of Attraction as merely a new, benign, more digestible name for prayer. But there is a crucial difference between the two - while prayer by its very definition acknowledges that ultimate control lies outside of the self (and atheists can equally substitute fate, destiny, gravity or particle physics for a deity in that construction), positive thinking and the Law of Attraction invest ultimate control in the individual, suggesting that by using thought, said individual can effect seismic shifts in their outer world, with nothing whatsoever attributed to social structures, cultural roles, interaction, genetics or dumb luck. The Law of Attraction posits that thoughts create reality, investing in the individual both extraordinary power and extraordinary responsibility. Egocentricity is central. Craving becomes having. Wanting becomes deserving. "


Anonymous said...

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tom said...

not to mention that those self-help authors are essentially snake-oil salesmen (and women), no different really than any other garden-variety con artists and grifters.

what i always enjoyed in my years as a bookseller was all of the failed self-help authors, the ones whose 'you can have it all if you only want' books never sold many copies at all - you'd think that they would all be best sellers since their authors clearly wanted them to be, and shouldn't that have been enough?

Anamay said...

Life would indeed be easy if wanting guarantees tangibility. The "law of attraction" seems a good marketing strategy.