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The Self-Help Phenomenon

Knial Piper

Posted on June 22, 2019 10:55

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What's Up with all these Self-Help Books?

Winning two world wars pumped nations full of confidence. Western societies like America, particularly, felt nothing was short of achievable.  Following the wars, middle-class Americans began pumping the youth of the nation with the idea that they were “special.”  They told their children, from war-inspired confidence, that they could be anything they wanted to be. 

It seems evident that recent generations like the Millennials and Generation Z (iGen) have shaped reputations out of instant pleasure and the individual.  The emphasis was placed on the self-pleasing.  An individual forged his own path and did so with nothing more than hard work and self-will. Post-modern societies and culture felt the magic of individual freedom. 

Yet, way back before the change to individuation, people did not share this sentiment. In ancient times, where God (or gods) ruled all, there was a different thought about the “self.”  God connected us all in a “oneness.”  God was in charge of your thoughts and actions. As much as man might have perceived it, he was not in charge of his personal choices. Personal freedom was perhaps not a choice at all. It was all an illusion perpetuated by an ill mind but puppeteered by a larger-than-life entity. We focused on metaphysical connection.

Five hundred years passed by and Hellenism pushed ideas of personal choice into the limelight. This was shaped by philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. They reasoned that man was afforded some form of free will, as he maintained an ability to manipulate. Man was, to some degree, in charge of his mind and actions. 

Fast-forward and The Enlightenment firmly accelerated this movement. The masterful elegance of intelligence separates man completely from ideas of God. Man is completely separate from God. Individualism begins to take the form of either utilitarian (protestant ethics) or Expressive (romantic). Man becomes the master of his own fate.

This idea of an intelligent self forms a culture of self-focus and narcissism. “I”, “Me”, and “mine” rule the self. New lenses allow man to interpret previous cultures and societies in new light.  Instead of seeing past actions as God inspired, man claims to see previous rulers as being self-serving. The perceptions of history and nature are completely altered. 

With our new spectacles, postmodernism crept in to assert that we, as individuals, were in fact flawed individuals.  In a sense, our ideas of a glorious self were lost. The magic was over, and it seemed that man’s self was very out of balance. Man once more seemed small and incapable. 

It is only recently that man has come to practice self-help in an attempt to correct unethical behaviors. Evidence of this is every book store anywhere. Self-help books are everywhere. Man is in search of correcting his self and saving the collective. Ironically, in the practice of the self, man has become more collectively aware. In this search, we have found ourselves identifying metaphysical oneness, once more.

Knial Piper

Posted on June 22, 2019 10:55

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