Self Help as Bad Medicine

or The Value of Self-Help Books?

Is bad medicine the result of poor intentions, or good intentions that end poorly? A person may not start with the idea that he/she is using (or taking) bad medicine, it may just end up that way. But I don’t want to discuss medicine in the traditional sense of the word today. I want to scribble a few lines about advice as medicine and how bad advice can be just as harmful as bad medicine.

I noticed a co-worker with a self-help book the other day, and I thought of George Carlin’s bit regarding self-help books. I can’t do the bit justice so I suggest you open up another window on your interwebs and give it watch to get some context (I’ll be here when you’re done). … You’re still reading so I’ll assume you watched it. Funny stuff, yeah? Carlin’s idea is self-help books aren’t self-help because you are listening to and following the advice of somebody else. Carlin says this isn’t self-help, it’s just help. In think this insight can be tied to bad medicine (or how we use/misuse medicine). We buy, read, and study self-help books with the intentions of bettering ourselves. Like my co-worker, we have the best of intentions when we begin, but what of the advice these books provide? These self-help books are written by people we do not know and more importantly do not know us. These authors may have experiences similar to ours but their experiences are not our experiences. Although we may get useful information from a self-help book we must remember these books are only offering advice and not all advice is good advice, especially if that advice can’t be applied to our lives. Good intentions can have poor consequences if we try too hard to live a life based solely on somebody else’s advice

I’m not saying you should avoid self-help books (Hell, that would make me just another person giving out advice). I am saying that bad advice can be just as dangerous as bad medicine, and like bad medicine bad advice can be given (and taken) with the best of intentions.

-K-

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