Help In Word & Deed

self-help

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR

Most of us have a penchant to read a self-help book, or at least carry one around. The best part is best-selling self-help authors are happening wordsmiths. So, what’s so great about this, you may well ask. The fact is — the publishing world is abuzz as and when a self-help author launches a new book, because our age of instant nirvana is keyed to such type of books.

Here’s why.

The self-help collection covers a broad spectrum of publishing, or dizzying range of topics, that gets marooned under its own weight, yes — business, management, self-improvement, psychology, health and fitness, including fiction. Interestingly, the self-help assortment is also used to link philosophy, religion, and other disciplines that reflect a particular process of thought and understanding. They are all part of a counterculture — a step within, or outside, core publishing.

The self-help mix is also thought to be a holistic mesh of knowledge, with a fundamental principle of conscious evolution, or spirituality running through it — of ideas integrating people and disciplines. It includes many diverse subjects, traditions, and practices — Eastern and Western — that appeal to a host of cultures. Ultimately, it all filters down to a question of liking — of making a choice from the surplus based on personal beliefs. This also explains for its subjective frame: what strikes one as ‘rubbish,’ maybe prophesy to another.

Boom Effect

The self-help boom has been the biggest publishing phenomenon in the West. It’s now catching up elsewhere — even in India. There’s not a single educated individual who hasn’t heard of the likes of Dale Carnegie, N V Peale, Joseph Murphy, and Napoleon Hill, of yore, or Stephen Covey, James Redfield, Kenneth Blanchard, Deepak Chopra, Shiv Khera et al. By the same token, the widening acceptance of complementary health practices is manna for many publishers: acupuncture, Ayurveda, biofeedback, herbal medicine, homoeopathy, I-Ching, qi-gong, mind/body medicine, reflexology, Reiki etc. You name it, and you’ve a book on the subject.

It’s true that identities, in the category, are also changing all the time, thanks to a select group of authors who do not want to carry the self-help label on the blurb. You now have more standard categories on the back cover: psychology, yoga, spirituality etc., Because, some people are driven to self-help books for the sake of guidance, even curiosity, or counselling and improvement? Yes. Also, a few are just overexcited. They may go to any extent to follow every detail explained in a book, no matter the given situation, or context.

One may admit that there are several self-help books that could be more than useful to the novice and professional. But, only thing is one has to choose, and not get carried away with endorsements, or tall claims. For example: new books on spirituality are dime a dozen — and, not without reason. Don’t we all know of people, especially the rich, who find comfort in them, because they often lead ‘difficult’ lives? As one self-help-enthusiast put it, “There’s nothing wrong with this. If a book can provide a ray of hope to anyone in distress, why not?” He adds: “Isn’t it a wonderful way of doing social service, in print/audio/electronic/Web mediums?”

The Renewal

The self-help/New-Age concept is as old as the hills. Today, the idea is nothing short of a renewal of everything that is old and new, a back-to-the-future sort of integrated vision. It has a meaning of its own too, because people would like to know about what you know put differently. It has progressed, and now you also see people moving beyond popular insights to a far profound plane — a hunger for old texts, or inputs, with a new thought, or twist.

The quest for in-depth meaning is sure a rage of our times. Most people, thanks to a frantic speed of life and immensely stressful existence, are only too excited to jump on to the self-help movement. Take for instance, the Chicken Soup series — bestsellers all. They are decent books, all right. A great brand equity, in the West. Not so much for an Indian audience, or so you thought. You’d be wrong.

The fact is — they’re selling like hot cakes, in most of our own major and/or regional languages, because people want to be associated with the badge of such inspiring stories sticking on their face.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360. 

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