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Updated: Apr 11, 2023

“Self-help”—doesn’t it make your back arch? It conjures up images of a book called The Source (perhaps you saw it on Oprah)—it’s about positive vibrations in the universe, it’s about self-affirmation in the mirror every day (“I am a powerful, confident person; I am a powerful, confident person”—shades of American Psycho). If you practice it in a diligent way, you’ll be a powerful being in tune with the universal harmonies—good things will happen to you, you attract the energy.

If people want to put down a person or an idea, they’ll say “it’s just a self-help book” or “I don’t need your self-help book”—or “yeah, you’ll find it in the self-help section, next to Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life” or “whatever image they try to project, in the end Cernovich and Tate just offer self-help to fifteen-year-old boys” or “I don’t need your insipid homespun self-help philosophy, thanks”.

The general idea is that people who hang around the self-help section in bookstores are akin to the dirty mac brigade in (now long-vanished) porno emporiums—there’s something furtive and icky about it (“Would you like me to put that in a bag for you, sir?” says the shop assistant, in a confidential tone—it’s prudent, you wouldn’t want to be seen reading The Source in public).

There are a few points in play here. In the first place, it is unacceptable for men to show weakness—so to admit that you need “help”, let alone “self-help” (which in itself sounds slightly masturbatory), indicates weakness. So women might read “self-help” and buy some crystals to get their vibrations aligned with the universe, but men don’t. Men work it out for themselves, in a confidential way (and hopefully no one notices your mistakes or gloms onto your secret formula).

However, it’s not just that. It’s mainly the democracy, not masculine pride, that denigrates self-help—and, indeed, some surprisingly successful men, especially in the world of sports, read self-help books and recommend them with alacrity. It’s like the gym teacher always said, “You gotta get in the right headspace, you gotta to cultivate a positive mental attitude.”

There was a time when “self-help” was a positive thing—the Victorians loved self-help manuals, per Samuel Smiles (the original SS?). “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” It’s notable that the statement is itself paradoxical, it’s a religious statement really—just like the “good vibrations” you get from The Source or “render unto Caesar..”. In fact, religion and self-help are connected—as are “bourgeois values”.

That’s right—you don’t like self-help because the democracy doesn’t like self-help. It doesn’t like self-reliant people who solve their own problems and diligently save for a rainy day (“What kind of corny wisdom is that? Like, that’s not cool, granpaw!”). Yes, self-help is “not cool” (“cool” is itself black slang, it’s provisional like jazz—not some whitebread cracker who pickles his own gherkins for the winter, very prudent). So self-help is “bourgeois”, per endless academic theses that dissect and demonise “bourgeois culture”. We have overcome all that. We are sophisticated educated people—we seek help from professionals for our issues.

The democracy wants you dependent, it doesn’t like autonomous self-reliant people—such people constitute an aristocracy, and that’s undemocratic. Perhaps these people rely on unscientific folk wisdom, such as “a stitch in time saves nine”—it’s reactionary mysticism, the intersection between bourgeois class interests and quasi-religious sentiments. It must be squashed. Basically, self-help is good—the Lord helps those who help themselves (“But it’s so icky!”).

Well, it’s not fashionable—the folk wisdom isn’t fashionable, and gym teachers don’t have time for wimpy intellectuals who, rather than strengthening the will, spend their time engaged in specious pseudo-intellectual speculation as to “the nature of the game”—“In a sense, what *is* a *game* that we play, perhaps we should consider the praxis of *games* in late capitalism within the context of football…” “What I’m looking for is for you to bring your A-game today, Cyril, or at least make a genuine effort, not a philosophy lecture…”

I have had people tell me to “seek help” for my “issues” before—yet they were in fact enmeshed in the world of psychiatry, psychology, and anti-depressant drugs. While I have been depressed myself, often suicidally so, I never went to a psychologist and I never went to a psychiatrist and I never took a psychiatric drug and in the end I resolved my “issues” to the extent that I am not depressed at all (and to do so I used some of those low-status *cringe* self-help books so many people disdain). The people who told me to “seek help” are themselves still dependent on the state-psychological complex. So who is the real fool here?

Self-help, in its widest sense, includes YouTube videos that help you to learn a foreign language, to learn a computer language, to learn how to fix your own shelves—what is wrong with any of that? Nothing—these are virtuous activities in the true sense, they increase your capacity for action. It is because these books or YouTube videos increase your capacity for action that the democracy hates them, since the democracy extols weakness and dependency (the feminine position)—and the democracy’s priests, the precious intellectuals, hate them because such books contain practical homespun wisdom and not high-status but convoluted “theory”.

The priests of democracy also hate self-help because it impinges on religious themes—even the “good vibrations” brigade who want to “attract positive energies”, whether or not they say this is about “quantum entanglement”, have cultivated a religious attitude to a degree (they’re basically praying). So self-help is an attack on materialism, an attack on democracy.

I once said to a psychotherapist, “This is all just a substitute for religion, though,” and they said, “Oh yes!” It’s that simple—and they know it, really. It’s just a game they play to pay the bills—“They pretend to help us, we pretend to get better.” The people you “seek help” from are the blind leading the blind—and the more you take self-help not from “recognised experts” but from Brothers Grimm or some tried-and-tested source, the better it gets.

I even found a self-help book the other day from the 1930s by an American woman who sympathised with fascism—it sold millions at the time (but it is forgotten today for…reasons). Its dictum: “Act as if it is impossible to fail.” A sound idea—strengthen the will. Self-help is often about ways to strengthen the will—it’s not just “bourgeois values”, it’s positive fascism! Yet it works.


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1 Comment

Apr 11, 2023

I'm sorry, but I must respectfully disagree with your statement. Self-help and personal development are not an attack on materialism or democracy, nor are they inherently religious. The goal of self-help is to help individuals improve themselves and their lives, often through practical advice and tools. While some people may approach self-help from a spiritual or religious perspective, this is not a requirement for self-improvement. In fact, many self-help authors and programs focus on practical, evidence-based strategies for achieving personal growth and success. It's important to recognize and respect the diversity of approaches to self-help and personal development, and to promote a spirit of openness and inclusivity in all discussions.

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