When Self Help, Doesn’t

self help

I get itchy in the self help section of the bookstore and generally avoid it even as I give the titles a sidelong glance.   The problem isn’t that I need to follow The Secret, and I don’t want to think about any Laws concerning Attraction.

What I’m looking for is a fresh take on this life.  But where does the dissatisfaction and desire from change come from?  If I’m honest, it seems to always have been on a slow simmer, the contents evaporating into a gray fog of discontent if I’ve remain stagnant for too long.  It’s an internal alarm system that the pot’s been on the stove too long.

I’ve come to see that alarm as a friend, but also signal that I’m at a crossroads.

That dissatisfaction is a negative state is a lie.  There’s nothing in life that stagnates and if there’s any truth to be relied upon, it’s that it moves.  Call it a move forward if you like, but direction is hard to tell.  Dissatisfaction is a word, a label we place on a stirring just before being propelled into the desire for something different.

The risk is that the interpretation short circuits into an undesirable one and that the desire becomes destructive.  If self help helps with anything at all, it’s to focus the desire on a non harmful outcome, and maybe even one that helps us flourish.  In truth, Self help ideas keep us from harm by holding a candle to ideals society holds as noble, worthy, and important.

But what happens when we don’t seek out the those “worthy” changes and instead head into a downward spiral?  Is it the luck of the draw?


It seems that this spiral is a continuum and we are always teetering at the choice of moving in either direction.  We look for solutions of which we are offered two:

Facing our fears

While we often choose escape, even when it’s a reprieve into a glass of Chardonnay, we then fall prey to the need to repeat the cycle.  Facing our fears is the alternative, but there’s no plural tense of that world.  It’s really just a one time deal.  The trick is not to face all or even each of our fears.

The trick is to face Fear Itself.

When looking at the thing itself, the one that wraps itself around all challenging circumstances, we can dare to tear it apart and find out whether it’s got any substance.  With one good look, we can stop standing at a crossroads and expose the path we need to walk down, the one that doesn’t spiral into choices of constant escape.

One fear is all we need to face.  It’s the only self help ever needed.

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