Mind in Mind – The Book
Mind in Mind and Self-Help
Having just published my latest book, Mind in Mind, I’ve been thinking about the role and value of self-help books.
Although Mind in Mind will appear in the ‘self-help’ section of bookshops (and in that category on Amazon), it actually has a two pronged approach, firstly, gaining insight and understanding about yourself and secondly but not least, to provide an increased knowledge of the subject of mental well-being, which can be of real value if any form of ‘talking therapy’ is being considered. Therapeutic outcomes are greatly improved if people know more about what’s involved.
It’s rare that a self-help book, by itself, will provide any lasting changes. It’s all too easy to speed though the chapters, agreeing that it’s helpful and insightful, and then return the finished book to the shelves, forget the message and resume old bad habits of thinking and behaviour.
Self-help books do, however, clearly fulfil a need and certainly would not sell in their millions if there was not a real and growing demand. That demand is being boosted by the increased pressures of modern life and the lack of easily available alternative sources of help – G.P.s haven’t got the time or the training.
It’s a very successful and productive industry – over 500,000 titles are available on Amazon. Several high-profile authors have made themselves fortunes through their books and, in some cases, have come to be seen as ‘gurus’.
But there are downsides to self-help. The first is that reading a book ought not to be an easy substitute for taking action. Change and improvement will only ever come through closing the book and doing something.
A reader can kid themselves that reading a book will improve their life (yes, some rare, outstanding books can), but the reality is that the contents of the pages needs to be translated into actually doing tangible things like adopting small, daily habitual changes even if the first steps are uncomfortable.
The second danger is that reading self-help books and the compulsive need to buy the latest one just out, can become addictive in its own right.
The self-help world can be prone to passing fads and fashions. Whether it’s the latest short-cut to professional success or a new interpretation of old ideas — the addicted reader will always need the hottest take on self-improvement. (Seven Easy Steps to the New You…etc).
It is, of course, exactly the same with diet books. Readers are permanently hungry for the next big thing in losing weight or improving health, even though they often contradict each other (or themselves). Newspapers are full of dietary advice or the latest superfoods that will ‘add years to your life’ or prevent cancer. Snake oil has always sold well – and expensively. Meanwhile, the obesity crisis worsens, and diabetes costs the NHS billions.
The desire to lead a ‘good life’ has motivated mankind for thousands of years. Indeed, the best and simplest self-help advice has been around since the time of the Ancients.
The emphasis in my book, Mind in Mind, is on becoming aware of what, in life, we can control and what we can’t. It’s about learning to accept, with calmness and serenity, what cannot be altered while at the same time identifying what we can change, improve and take responsibility for. A chapter is devoted to the philosophy of the Stoics as exemplified by Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus and how it can be applied in modern life.
Self-help books can be of greater value if they are combined with direct and planned action. That action could involve talking to someone – particularly a person who listens with real, focussed attention, in a safe space and backed by professional training and experience.
The McKeown Clinic can provide that opportunity and has done for many years. Mind in Mind gives the reader useful background on how it all works and what you can expect to get out of it. Talking therapy is a collaborative process and increased background knowledge and preparation increases the likelihood of a positive and lasting outcome.
Being aware that things are not going well in your life from a mental health point of view no longer attracts the stigma it used to – thank goodness. It’s now widely accepted that wanting to be in the healthiest state of mind (along with bodily health) is fundamental, natural and highly rewarding
Mind in Mind is available on Amazon, my website and many bookshops, please click the link below to purchase your very own copy.