Thank you for reading thecheers.org's thoughts about the world articles.

Self-help or self-knowledge?

 article about self-help

This article belongs to Self-help theme.


The United States was founded on principles of individualism and a seemingly inherent right to pursue happiness. Sometimes, individuals make choices that don't appear to align with the path to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But I've always believed we all have the right to f**k up. Besides, who is to say what I consider to be liberating and fulfilling will be of value to the next person?

Yet, there is a paradox in notions of self-help. Particularly in my very profession: social work. In a way, in order for my profession to thrive, I *need* people to make mistakes; or rather, I need them to *need* me. Interestingly, social work evolved out of the era of industrialization and the concept of the "welfare state" was born over a century ago. As a rural, agricultural way of life shifted toward an industrial society, public programs developed as a way to provide relief and assistance to those who were now faced with the reality that they could no longer "help themselves". Public or social assistance became a means for protecting those in need. Suddenly, private charity and family support were no longer enough to aid people through difficult times. Self-reliance was a lofty aspiration and becoming a pipe dream for some.

"
We need people to have problems they can't solve on their own.
Nowadays, social work means a lot of different things and is performed in a myriad of ways. Social workers could hardly exist if people had the resources to do certain things for themselves. We need people to have problems they can't solve on their own. Ironically, The Social Work Code of Ethics emphasizes client self-empowerment. A client comes to me because he can't figure out how to deal with a particular issue and I've been trained to help. At the same time, I'm not supposed to do the work for the client; I am to empower him to do it himself. Yet, if everyone could help themselves, what would happen to my profession? The thing is, as society becomes further entrenched in bureaucracy and is complicated by increased specialization, citizens are going to lose their way easily. I doubt the helping professions are going to become obsolete anytime soon. We want to believe we are all independent but the truth of the matter is, the more complex and advanced our society grows, the more we rely on help from others. What if the the idea we are "masters of our own fate" was nothing more than an illusion?

Earlier this year, an article slamming the "self help movement" appeared in the Washington Post. Niesslein wrote: "What self-help really does is provide a step-by-step distraction, a nice set of blinders to help readers maintain the illusion that they're masters of their own destinies. Really, that's all self-help can do. But when your eyes are focused on you, your flaws and the path toward some measure of perfection, it's easy to avoid looking at those quality-of-life issues that an individual can't change alone."

"
Are we not the best equipped to figure out what is best for each of us?
Is that really such a bad thing? On one hand, interdependence seems like a positive and perhaps even desired outcome. No man is an island. In fact, I'm quite fond of encouraging people to participate at a collective level as a way of helping themselves solve their issues. On the other hand, are we not the best equipped to figure out what is best for each of us? No one else can technically solve my problems but me. I can get all sorts of information, guidance and support from other people, but in order to actually change or accomplish something, it ultimately is up to me, isn't it? Or, perhaps it becomes more of a discourse on self-knowledge rather than self help.
"
If one accomplishes something by themselves, they didn't need help to begin with

I have to question whether there even really is such a thing as "self help". George Carlin was very perceptive indeed when he remarked that the idea of self help or self help books itself is contradictory and "if one is looking for help from someone else, it is not technically "self" help; and if one accomplishes something by themselves, they didn't need help to begin with". Maybe all I can really do is work on knowing myself. There are going to be times when I can't do it alone, and perhaps the true power lies in knowing when I do need guidance or help from another source.


have your say
thecheers.org

Welcome to TheCheers! We've been around for a long time now, since 2004, publishing articles by people from all over the world. Roughly 300 people from 30 different countries have written for us over the years. Should you want to become a volunteer contributor, be sure to contact us!

get in touch

You can contact us via the email you can find on our contact page, via telegram @thecheers, or through our The Cheers Facebook page. No real point in contacting us through The Cheers Twitter account.