Until 2010, Texas-based psychologist Brené Brown was an obscure professor working in what academic researchers call “the field of shame.”Then she gave a ted talk called fragile power, became one of the five most-viewed Ted talks of all time. Since then, she has published six books, all of which are bestsellers. her latest work, Atlas of Hearts, came out last year. Now, she’s made a five-part documentary of the same name, which is currently streaming on Binge.
Self-help is a very lucrative industry.according to Forbes magazine, Americans spend more than $10 billion a year on self-improvement equipment. Brown is one of the genre’s rising stars, and her promo series shows she’s invented a whole new form of entertainment: binge-worthy “interactive” TV shows that’s good for you, too.
In reality, there’s nothing groundbreaking about Brown’s program format. Standing on stage in front of a studio audience, she uses slides and film clips to illustrate her points and deliver lessons from her book. There is a lot of talk about “related learning” and traveling together. Thank you so much for sharing.
But under schmaltz, Brown had something substantial to say. She believes that humans can experience nearly 100 different emotions. The problem is that we don’t know it, because our language about emotions is hopelessly impoverished.
To prove her point, Brown shows how visual artists and filmmakers have evoked a variety of emotions over the years. She also offers money quotes from various poets and philosophers, which will prompt you to learn an important secret of the self-help genre. The work done by people like Brown was once literature—and still is, for some readers.
Helping you live your own life has always been one of the aims of books. Now the store has a separate section for books that claim to only do that. But it seems important that these cutting-edge manuals for life are always filled with quotes from old-school imaginative writers like Shakespeare and Jane Austen.
The truth is, writers have been in the self-help business for thousands of years.This meditation Marcus Aurelius came into stores around AD 180 and started out as a self-help book, in the sense that Marcus wrote it for his own instruction and didn’t expect it to be read by others.
But in addition to being a philosopher, Marcus was a successful Roman emperor. As a result, other dignitaries always look to his book for tips on ethical leadership. Frederick the Great was his fan. So did Bill Clinton.
In fact, the most recent modern library edition meditation Works classified as “Philosophy/Commercial” on the back cover. In a modern American translation, Marcus does sound like a 21st-century self-improvement guru. “Give yourself a gift: the moment,” Marcus wrote. No doubt it sounds so much better when a million other writers haven’t written it before. “It’s all about how you look at it. You’re in control.” That’s what Marcus is saying, but also easily Deepak Chopra.
Self-help as an independent genre began to emerge in 1859, when a Scottish doctor named Samuel Smiles published a book titled—appropriately— self help. Smiles was a scrappy newspaper editor who had long campaigned for women’s suffrage and parliamentary reform.
But after years of trying to improve Victorian Britain from the top down, Smiles decided to try to improve it from the bottom up, one person at a time.Therefore this book self help“The spirit of self-help is the root of all true personal growth,” Smiles writes. “Help from the outside tends to weaken its effect, but help from the inside always brings vitality.”
self help Internationally popular, establishing its author as the Victorian Dr. Phil. But when the book was reissued in 1866, Smiles said he wished to give it a different title. Too many people thought he was writing a “selfish eulogy” when he intended to do the opposite. “In the highest sense, the duty to help oneself includes helping one’s neighbors,” he stressed.
Now, it seems odd that Smiles is against his title. It’s not every day a writer comes up with a title that launches a whole new genre, a whole new industry, a whole new section of the bookstore.
The genre is bound to be a hit in America, a land that promotes individualism. America’s first homegrown star was a bearded go-getter named Orison Swett Marden. As a teenager, Madden found a dusty copy of Smile self help in the attic. That “big day,” Madden later said, “marked a turning point in my life.” From the moment he read Smiles’ book, an “inner voice” had been telling Madden “you can become a big man”.
First, Madden became a celebrity by buying a bunch of luxury hotels. But he really wanted to be an inspirational writer, like a smile. He spent 15 years drafting his inspirational masterpiece. But in 1893, one of his hotels burned down and the only copy of his manuscript was destroyed. In the spirit of self-help, Madden bounced back instantly. Remember one of the slogans of smiling – will – He bought a notebook and started rewriting his book from scratch, when the ruins of his hotel were said to be still smoldering.
Madden’s book is on fire again, this time in good ways, when it comes out the following year with a slightly aggressive title push to the front. People call Madden the “American Smile.” His celebrity fans include Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. “It is doubtful that any other book than the Bible has been a turning point in more lives,” Madden’s publisher claims. Self-help is no greater than Jesus, but it is coming.
In 1921, critic HL Mencken observed that Americans seemed to have an insatiable appetite for the “canned wisdom” of writers like Madden. Mencken noticed that these writers had begun to explore the possibility of pairing inspiring merchandise. “The fruits of their fantasy,” he wrote, “are not only sold in books, but displayed on a variety of calendars, banners and wall cards.”
When Dale Carnegie published, the self-help craze reached new heights, or maybe new depths How to Win Friends and Influence Others 1936. The book sold 250,000 copies within three months of publication. It has now sold 30 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 36 languages.
“This is an action book,” Carnegie declared in the introduction. In other words, Carnegie didn’t have time for any nonsense about self-cultivation and the importance of community. His book is a manipulation manual. His chapter titles include goofy things like “How to Get People Like You Instantly,” “How to Get Collaborations,” and “Make People Happy to Do What You Want.”
Carnegie believed that the key to success was figuring out what others wanted and then using that knowledge to get what you but want. “Start in a friendly way,” he advises. “Make the other person feel important… The only way in the world to influence the other person is to talk about what he wants and tell him how to get it.”
Carnegie’s notable followers over the years have included the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett. But he also has some less tasty devotees. In 1957, a young Charles Manson enrolled in a Carnegie course in prison while preparing for auto theft. Manson found that Carnegie’s teachings formalized many of the manipulation techniques he instinctively used over the years.
Later, Manson applied Carnegie’s teachings to a cult setting. He won the disciples and influenced them. Apparently, his favorite Carnegie motto is to convince other people that your ideas are indeed theirs.
Reading Carnegie today, you can see what Manson saw in him. There must be something soulless about Carnegie’s worldview. His book has a chapter on “How to get people to accept your way of thinking,” but doesn’t offer any advice on what your way of thinking should be. Carnegie doesn’t promise to make you a better person, just a more successful person.
The best self-help writing isn’t like this. At its best, the genre always has a moral dimension—a consciousness, as Marcus Aurelius put it, that “we came to this world for each other.”
Brené Brown’s work has this dimension. In fact, it bends back to promote its commitment to interpersonal respect. Brown was nothing like Carnegie, except she was also very American. Her work showcases a range of tics and tendencies that originated in America and should ideally stay there: a relentless intimacy, a continual succumbing to the nervous impulses of current piety, and above all a tendency to see life as endless group therapy courses.
In the spirit of emotional openness that Brown encourages, I must say I find these aspects of her show more intimidating than the rave. On the other hand, her basic message seems to be more than just voice. The meaning of life, she says, is to make “meaningful connections” with others. After two years of lockdown, who would object?
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