Sunday, 24 May 2009

Can we be happier? Yes

Well, it's not like I don't get it. When I see Paul McKenna's face, I probably have the same reaction you do. I want to attack. The guy has this look of conviction and self-assurance that is horrendously grating.

However, I'm rethinking my feelings about McKenna and 'self help books' more generally. My suspicion now is that we live in a culture that doesn't buy into the possibility that we can be told anything that might make us more productive, more prosperous or happier.

Perhaps it's not the idea of self-improvement that bothers us, but the 'self help' culture. However, if there was such a thing as a book that could make you happier and more productive, what would it look like? Answer: a self-help book.

I've been reading some of his ideas and I find them to be insightful. For example, he says that our teenage years are a critical period in which we build our self image, but for most of us it's also a period of self-doubt and insecurity. I genuinely thought that that was interesting.

With his book "Change Your Life in 7 Days", there is a hypnosis CD. I've been listening to to every day for a couple of weeks now and it really does help inject some positive vibes into your day. I've been imagining my ideal self and stepping into that guy. I'm more polite to strangers, and not getting as stressed out by the heavy workload I have on at the moment. Oh, and I have a new girlfriend :)

And no - I don't think that I'm being duped into anything, and I don't think that I'm being naive by accepting the hypnosis CD and his ideas on their own terms. There is a fine but significant line between healthy scepticism and useless cynicism. I decided that If I'm going to benefit at all, I need to be complicit. It seems to be working.

One friend of mine told me that McKenna is a fraud. Well, if this is so and he hasn't been sussed out yet, he's doing very well. Another friend who is cheerful and productive by nature scoffed at me for saying I'm getting into stuff he talks about. If someone is born hard-wired with characteristics that you want, and you're laughed at for trying to attain them, well... that aint right.

There is a defeatist mentality in this country which has to be scotched. Feel the love! Be complicit! Engage with the guy on his own terms before deciding to dismiss him.


chainsaw said...

Paul Taberham said...

Hahaha! I'm with him on the "help, not self-help" thing.

But do you think his life was getting up, going to work, eating three meals, taking a shit and going back to bed? It wasn't. He was notoriously disciplined and had a very fertile mind.

Fits in with what I said about people who are hard-wired with characteristics that others want, who discourage others who pursue it. (what a crap sentence)

Still, thanks for pointing that Carlin bit out! I thought in the back of my mind he said something or other about it...

Karen Burke said...

Someone recently recommended that I read a book called The Rules for relationship tips. For a laugh, I had a read. One of the tips was that a woman should never be too witty. "Guys don't like that," the self-help guru tells me.

A good critic on the self-help culture is Frank Furedi in his book Therapy Culture.