Dave's Progress. Chapter 70: Sef Help - Another Palinode?

OK, so last time I ate my words was not long ago, in a blog entitled "The Soloist: A Palinode", in which I had to retract some things I had said about the film, "The Soloist". This time, I feel I should go over some of the things I said about the self-help phenomenon of the "law of attraction", as espoused by Esther and Jerry Hicks in their various books. God, I hope this doesn't become some sort of habit!
Anyway, as I said in my previous blog, I have a friend who is somewhat taken with the "law of attraction" and the work of the Hicks', who wanted to come to The Pathways Group, a group run for the long-term mentally ill who are in recovery, to discuss her experience of this form of self-help and to see if it could, perhaps, help others as it had helped her. I was somewhat concerned about this, as having read a little about the "law of attraction" I felt it to be flawed in several ways and, indeed, went on to suggest that it may be some form of con acted out on the vulnerable and gullible. I painted my friend as an "articulate and intelligent lady", who nonetheless was naive to believe in, what I felt, was such nonsense.
As it turns out, and as my friend gave an explanation of the "law of attraction" and her own experience of it (she came to our group to give her talk earlier today), I found myself, more and more, agreeing with aspects of what she had to say. I must repeat the word "aspects", as I did not agree with all of it, but the more practical "teachings", largely to do with practicing positive thinking and behaviour, I found both harmless and indeed, helpful for those who perhaps were lacking in self-esteem and confidence as many in the group are.
Don't get me wrong, I am still not convinced by the more kooky aspects of Esther and Jerry's philosophy, like the figure of Abraham, for example (please read my other blog for an explanation of who he is). Also, I still have many lingering doubts about the veracity of the "law of attraction" itself. But, the simpler, more practical teachings I can certainly get along with.
Indeed, what came over as a veritable breath of fresh air was the fact that the philosophy espouses and embraces possibility. OK, so it goes somewhat over the top in this by suggesting somewhere that you could somehow grow another arm if you only thought about it, or rather, "focused" on it hard enough. The belief that your consciousness can actually alter reality, my other friend at the group (who happens to be at the other end of the scale and is a hardened rationalist and materialist (in the philosophical sense)) explained to me, is what a Marxist would call a highly "idealist" philosophy. But without the nonsense of going so far as to say that you can actually grow extra limbs if only you want to, the basis and more practical applications of this teaching I found quite useful, particularly in the field of mental health.
For example, in an environment where the long-term ill are often viewed as lacking in an ability to function properly, are often, when they do work, only offered the most menial of tasks and also sometimes face limiting views of their abilities from mental health services, it was refreshing to have someone come in and say, "if you want to, you can. Anything is possible for anybody". Indeed, in the way my friend described it to me, both in the group and in a later 'phone conversation, I found that such thinking is good for digging yourself out of the hole that mental ill health can leave you in. As my friend explained, when you have reached "rock bottom", you begin to say things like, "I don't deserve this. I want better. I can do better". And, to my eternal chagrin, some of the teachings of the "law of attraction" would appear to give us the tools to do this.
So, as I looked over my previous blog about this subject, I began to find it not just sceptical, but perhaps even cynical, and we all know what Oscar Wilde said about cynics- "people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing". So, as my friend klahanie might say, "go forth, embrace positivity and begin to live the possible".
That's all for now from your normal, average, delusional and paranoid man.

Comments

bazza said…
Hi David. Did it occur to you that you might think too much?
Sometimes it's therapeutic and cathartic to simply say what one feels. My guess is that you basically have a decent nature and will regret something you said that you later realise may cause offence.
Of course I may have completely misread the situation!
David said…
Dear bazza,
Perhaps you are right in some ways. I was definitely worrying about my previous blog on this subject, particularly if my friend in question came to read it.
However, our group meeting was a success, and I did, indeed, find aspects of what my friend said useful.
If I might explain a little further. I believe there is a sort of culture of low expectation in mental health services for people with diagnoses such as mine. Even with degrees, PhD's and books published, one finds oneself relegated to a very low social and economic strata where there are virtually no expectations of you. This may sound like heaven to some people, but I think to live without much stimulus can be as psychologically damaging as living with too much. To have someone come to the group, then, who, without apology, proclaimed that we can all achieve and succeed, was in many ways refreshing, and I believe, to some degree, what some in my group need to hear very much. Even if it comes in the form of the somewhat creepy Esther and Jerry, then, I think if such material provides people with a new found confidence then it is harmless, not "pernicious" as I had previously suggested.
So bazza, this was a genuine change of heart and I hope that I do say what I feel in my blogs and also have a "decent" nature. I will try, though, not to make this palinode thing a habit!
Thanks for the comment.
Yours with All the Best,
David.
klahanie said…
Dear David,
From my own perspective; I found your previous blog on 'the law of attraction' to be realistic and fairly balanced. You were speaking your mind about having reservations about certain aspects of the 'self-help' genre. I think that's fair enough.
I do believe we have to keep an open mind. If you see the more practical aspects of the 'teachings' and gain value from that; that has got to be a good thing.
I once did a blog called the 'Cynic Clinic', something tells me you wont be attending said clinic.
Wishing you well for an even happier future. We shall try to live our lives with positive realistic anticipation rather than negative speculation.
With very best wishes, your pal and sleepless friend, Gary:-)
David said…
Dear Gary,
My short-haired, sleepless, hippy pal. I wondered where you had got to, in terms of this blog, that is. You usually comment with such promptness.
Anyway, never mind that. In terms of this post, as I said to bazza, it was not entirely, as he thought, that I was simply scared of offending others, in that I did have a genuine change of heart.
You will note, that I did not go "all the way" with this, still remaining sceptical of the Abraham figure and other aspects of the teachings of the "law of attraction".
However, when our group turned out to be such a success, I began to feel I had held a somewhat premauture prejudice towards self-help perhaps in general, as well as specifically towards these "teachings", and had become a little closed-minded to the whole affair.
So, when my friend pointed out to one member of the group, who had said that her whole life seemed as if it was now "mapped out" for her, and my friend suggested that the books would say rather that one is "in control" of one's own life, I felt that this sort of knowledge was a good and empowering thing for people like her, who seem to lack so much confidence, to know.
And, as I say to bazza, mental health services do not always have all the answqers for us, so to have other alternatives of inspiration can only be a good thing. In changing my mind, then, I hope I have been thinking of others, not just me, while at the same time, as my other, rationalist friend has advised, not becoming so open-minded that my brains fall out!
I now promise to get in touch soon, it has been far too long since I spoke to you.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
David.
P.S. I hope tonight you finally get some well deserved sleep.
klahanie said…
Dear David,
And I hope you get some well-deserved sleep, also.
Thanks for you response to my response. Must dash...have a few more blogs to comment on..sleep..hmmm..maybe next year:-)
David said…
Dear Gary,
Just caught some zed's (as in zzzzzzzzzz, as in sleep) but am back up at the unholy hour of six. I do like this time of day though, with the birds a chirrupin' and the sun rising over the beautiful landscape of....Stoke. Oh well, you can't have everything. Soon, no doubt, sleep will beckon once again.
Thank you for both your comments.
Your Pal,
David.
虹玟 said…
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