Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Magic of Instant Feel Good in the Self Help Section

At least once a week, I find myself walking the isles of the local Barnes & Noble.  Yes, I still browse through sections of book stores and thumb through collections of words printed on a product that forced the unwilling sacrifice of a tree.   There are some books I prefer to have a physical copy of  (I have nearly everything written by William Gibson sitting on my book shelf).  Don't get me wrong, I still also have a growing collection of e-books that I read across devices ranging from a third generation kindle to my Google Nexus 7.  E-books tend to be competitively priced and convenient to download.  I can grab my tablet and with a few clicks and a quick charge to my credit card, I instantly have a copy of whatever literature I have the urge to read.

Instant gratification has gone from a marvel of modern technologies to a demand of the American public.  Don't have the time to cook, McDonalds can have a cheese burger and fries in your hand in just a few minutes.  No need to hit up the local Blockbuster in hopes that the copy of whatever movie you want to watch is in stock when any number of services and devices allow you to rent a video from the comfort of your recliner.  Sometimes, instant gratification is a nice thing to have, but at what point does that expectation end up being misguided and even inappropriate?

After I had looked through several art and photography books, I came across the "Self Help" section.  I imagine some of these books may have useful advice for certain individuals, and I really have no problem with that.  For some, a few of these publications may provide assistance, incite, and advice on how to solve issues and move forward with whatever they are dealing with.  The thing I found disturbing was the large number of books that promoted "instant happiness".

I've had my own personal low points and bouts with depression.  I was never to the point to cause myself self harm or felt suicidal.  For an extended period, I never took the time to properly deal with those feelings, and over time they built up and became overwhelming.  I was fortunate that I was able to work through it both on my own and with the help of a couple of friends who were good enough to listen and not be judgmental.  Having someone who can listen and have something constructive to say is extremely important, and offered advice that was not "cheer up", "get over it", or whatever clueless shit that some dispense at the drop of a hat.  If it were that simple for someone to just "cheer up", don't you think they would have already?

There is no magic answer.  Some people can deal with it own their own, and others may have to seek out professional help.  I'm willing to bet that a true professional will never tell you that they will make you all better instantly.  To think that a book can give you the secret to get over being sad immediately pretty much indicates that it was written by a quack, someone like Dr. Phil (a loudmouthed quack who is very good at self marketing) or some dipshit who uses their writing talents to score a quick payday.  A parasite of the self help publishing world.  They dispense generic advice on how to feel good about yourself probably falls in the same category as someone telling you to just "be happy".  I simply do not think you can change your entire state of emotional being using a method that obviously can fall into the same category as instantly downloading a book to a portable piece of technology.

I just think it's a little pompous to sell a product marketed "to people who just need to cheer up" and not treat it the same as any other medical condition.  I know I don't have the key to instantly turning how you feel around, it just takes time and sometimes, it takes help.