I’m a big fan of self-help. In my late teens I started going regularly to what I call, “poor man’s therapy” located in my local Barnes & Noble. Often times, I found some answers to my emotional ailment du jour between those glossy covers with catchy titles, and if I couldn’t find answers, I found solace in knowing that I wasn’t the only one looking for answers. It was kinda of like church.
It was also a main reason I chose Psychology as my major in college. Well that, and a penchant for self-destruction and a flimsy support system.
On my bookshelf you can find a historical roadmap to my psychosis. It began by wanting to understand myself. Under that category, you’ll find The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung, and Self Matters by Phil McGraw better known as Dr. Phil.
Then, I moved on to the more existential topics of meaning and purpose. In that section, you’ll find Victor Frankels Man’s Search for Meaning, Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God, and Gary Zukav’s Seat of the Soul.
After that, I got married and wore butt prints into the chair at the end cap of my local B&N Self Help section because I was in some serious trouble. Under my how-the-hell-do-I-be-married? category you’ll find, Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix and, Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey, because Please Understand Me I just didn’t leave me feeling understood enough.
In addition to these categories, you will also find books on how to be a successful sales person, how to have a healthy pregnancy and how the f*ck to get your baby to sleep–the latter is an ongoing issue in my house.
As I type this there are 18 books on Amazon’s Top 100 that could be categorized as “self-help” NOT including diet books. Among them, there are several about the brain as it pertains to habits, depression, happiness and health. It seems that the biological understanding of behavior is all the rage now. I have been doing some reading into this new scientific, self-help genre, and there are a few common themes:
1.) Our thoughts can have a real, tangible power in the world based on the energy they produce. This energy, attracts like energy. 2.) Our thoughts create habits, our habits determine our actions, and our actions create our reality. 3.) If you want to change your reality, change your thoughts.
The basic premise being thoughts first, feelings second, then reality.
This new genre of self-help is another, more scientific derivative of the principles of popular theory known as The Law of Attraction, of which the main premise is, what you think about is what you attract into your life, for better or for worse.
I have believed this for a long time, even before it became a self-help genre with a trademark name. Actually, I used to think I was a little bit psychic.
I am a thinker and a dreamer by nature. If something is important to me, I spend energy thinking and day dreaming about it happening to me. Often times, it really happens the way I dreamed it would. I get lost in these fantasies of receiving things I want–a promotion, a sought after client, a surprise–I go all the way, I fully allow myself to feel as though they are really happening. I rehearse future conversations, reactions and phone calls pertaining to the event. It used to freak me out a little when they came true right down to the minute details.
In 2004 the first of my core group of best friends was getting married. It was the first everything from bachelorette party, to wedding shower to actual wedding for anyone of the girls in my close friend group. At the time I was already living in another city, and so making every event was unlikely. Not one to miss a good party, I decided that I MUST attend the bachelorette party, but I decided that I didn’t want to just attend. My friends are very important to me, they are like my family. I wanted to contribute to the specialness of the occasion by making it even more memorable. I wanted to do something unexpected and outrageous.
I hatched this hair-brained idea that I was going to surprise everyone in some dramatic way. I planned to secretly fly into town. I thought maybe I’d pop out of the partition that separated the back of the limo from the driver’s cab while they were driving to the first bar. I thought maybe I’d write a funny poem about how I wish I was there to call shotgun one last time (which I was infamous for). I’d call them from the front seat of the limo and read it to them on speaker phone. As they laughed I’d stick my head through the partition and say, “shotgun.” They would start laughing and crying and it would an amazing way to kick off the night.
And it was, down to the last detail. Although there were a lot of variables to making that situation happen that weren’t necessarily in my control, it still happened the way I’d hoped and it was then that I started to believe.
Then there was my wedding day, my career, my awards, my children, our financial issues–all visualized, all happening very close to the way I visualized them. This belief in being the co-creator of my life is the very reason that when my life went to shit after filing a sexual harassment complaint against my boss, the first thing I did was make a vision board. I needed my visualizations made into something tangible so that I could physically look at them while going through some of the most painful months of my life. A time when I knew my optimism would wane.
I set a date in my head when I thought would be an appropriate time to start getting paid for my writing. It was a specific week for a specific reason. Actually, it was this week. Out of the clear blue visualized sky an online publication asked me to write things for them on a part-time basis. For like, real money.
I’m telling you guys right now, if I know one thing, I know this… watch your thoughts, they are who you become.
Now, before you think I’m crazy let me say this; not EVERYTHING I have visualized has come to fruition. I have yet to win the lottery or meet Oprah and I have visualized the SHIT out of those situations. In fact, the skeptic in me wants to chalk it up to coincidence, or a trick of the mind. Part of me thinks that maybe I just revise my visualizations after the fact to match my current reality. I’m tempted to think that.
But then I come across another quote, anecdote or self-help book that supports my belief in being a co-creator of my own reality. It’s a profound wisdom that has been espoused for centuries by many people, in many ways:
If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it. ~William Arthur Ward, Author
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right. ~Henry Ford
… and my second favorite:
Watch your thoughts, for they become your words.
Watch your words, for the become your actions.
Watch your actions, for they become your habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
In the latest self-help genre focusing on brain chemistry, they are getting closer to understanding this phenomenon on a scientific, physical, biological level. Although I strongly believe in science, I also believe in miracles, and faith. Because my ALL TIME favorite quote regarding The Law of Attraction is:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7