This is really about the critical importance of wording. Suggesting that a do-it-yourself approach to “self help” is most likely to be effective if the image in your mind is not of somehow getting “cured” of an “illness” or “problem,” but more akin to the way they talk in sports psychology or coaching: seeing yourself as striving for “higher performance.”
That and the idea that most self-help approaches basically work alike, regardless of the particular “illness” you are treating. While the particulars of treating depression may be different than those in treating agoraphobia, the core template or skeleton of the treatment amounts — for the most part — to the very same thing.
I was writing a note about this blog in my other blog in Tumblr (which is sort of a place I use for quick posts on random topics, tweeting but longer), and said this:
My second realization was about the nature of self-help approaches: that basically, whatever the problem you are addressing, there is really just one main schema or approach or way to do them. If you break it down, it’s about studying and defining your problem behaviors. The first thing is learning to view your problems as caused by your “behavior” (mental as well as physical), instead of seeing them as caused by, say, the idea that your spouse is a jerk or that the universe hates you. Next is learning to take small, simple steps to chip away at that way of thinking and feeling and doing, until you gradually have a greater sense of control and well being.
My third realization was related to something I was recently discussing with my own physician: that most medical care, I think, starts off from a wrong premise. Instead of seeing health and wellness as flowing from a very active, vigorous mindset and lifestyle (like Teddy Roosevelt’s “strenuous life,” say), our culture reinforces a model, drummed into us at every medical visit, that yeah, while you’re supposed to be “living healthier,” basically you get buried in pills until you die. The assumption is that medicine is a sort of slow hospice death, with gradual deterioration as pills are applied. Versus the model I have come to see as much more helpful: a self-directed striving toward “higher performance”, as they put it in the coaching or sports psychology fields.
So I wanted to do a blog that integrates self-help and high-performance notions, that you can apply to phobias or depression or improving your social intelligence or career productivity or running time. To show that the basic tools are the same, that psychological self-care is really a set of common techniques much like a “swiss army knife of the mind.” Not always, sure, but that’s the general idea. And it’s the general idea of the blog.
Of course one’s mileage will vary depending on the problem, their skill at problem-solving, and so on. And sometimes you really do need the meds, the shrinks, the “whole catastrophe,” as Zorba said. But basically, I think we can cover a lot of self-help topics in a simple, 80-20 approach (more on that later, in the blog), with just one blog. Sort of, the “last self-help blog you’ll ever need.”