How to Recognize the Biggest Cons of Self Help Books and Find Good Self Help Literature

Self-help books are intended to help people to help themselves. That’s why they are called that. Self-help works without reference to real situations from counseling and psychotherapy are mostly written from the perspective of the author. The author of a self-help work logically has a different history and a different internal order than the reader. This can lead to interesting and very valuable ideas being offered in the book – but they do not fit the reader’s problem.

In this post, you will learn how to recognize the typical disadvantages of self-help literature and how to avoid disappointment while reading.

Some people think that self-help books are a waste of money. Others have high expectations in books of happiness recipes. Here, too, the healthy path lies in the middle. Self-help literature can be an affordable and short way to bring life into positive change.

One of the main risks of problematic self-help books right away: Some readers ask: “If this point of view or the solution approach has been helpful for other people, why am I still not able to help myself?”

This could be because the proposed solution just doesn’t fit. This is not a problem, but it can become a problem if you ask yourself to be able to solve problems after reading.

Which book should I read? Clarification of order before purchase

In systemic counseling and therapy, the following applies: first clarifying the assignment, then counseling. Only then can a good solution in the interests of the client, i.e. the person seeking advice, develop. Consulting situations in which the consultant tries to realize his idea of ​​a solution and to sell it to the client can hardly succeed.

What do you expect from a self-help book?

What is the anticipated mandate to the author?

Based on your goals and expectations, read the titles and cover texts of the books. Here you can usually distinguish the quick promises of salvation from the realistic change concepts.

  • Here’s a quick way to spot problematic book titles:
  • Terms and promises like “never fear again” or “never again arguments” are problematic. Because they pass life.
  • Titles such as “An invitation to deal with XY” or “Your first steps on a lasting path to …” promise a realistic approach to life, which in turn writes its stories.
  • Who is the author Does he have professional experience in what he writes about?
  • What shows that there is real therapeutic experience in the author of a book on anxiety? Does the author have his own practice? Can he point to clinical, psychotherapeutic or other experience?

The problem of patent recipes in self-help

A particular intervention hardly fits all of humanity. One person can relate to an example given by the author, the other has no relation to it. The more closed the offers in the book, the fewer people they fit. Assertions prevent change because assertions are static in nature.

Some of the major drawbacks of many self-help books

  • Hardly any scientific review of the offered works. In principle, anything can be published that does not violate the law and good morals
  • Trivialization of psychological pain and grief
  • Promises of salvation that are not fulfilled: “Never fear again …”
  • Devaluation of supposed errors of thought by the readers. Often, problematic life situations are associated with intense value conflicts, conflicting goals and conflicts of loyalty
  • Self-devaluation of the readers, because the offered thought concepts and happiness recipes do not help them
  • Loss of diversity in the selection of possible solutions
  • Creativity waning because the author of the book attributes to himself the knowledge and competence of what would be best for the reader
  • Authors’ lack of psychological, technical competence – someone who has lost his job or has experienced a crisis of meaning is not automatically a good book author
  • Short duration of effect when the hope of a quick and final solution to all problems is associated with a book
  • Overestimation of the book with regard to the importance of rational insight. Most people know when certain thought patterns or behaviors are unfavorable. Without education about psychosomatic relationships and conflicting solutions, reading a rationally informative book can even be counterproductive

What can self-help writers do to reach their audiences?

When writing a self-help book, it is important to sit down mentally in the reading chair. As long as the author is mentally at his desk, he is trapped in his world. Because everyone is different, there are no patent remedies for all of humanity. Not even for a specific problem group (depression, anxiety, etc.)

Self-help authors should therefore keep asking their readers. Since most readers cannot answer them themselves, the book must contain a sufficient number of answers. In many cases, one answer is not enough. When it comes to weighing the consequences of change, multiple answers to one question are often required. In this way, readers can find themselves in situations of ambivalence and thus active change.

  • The quality of a self-help book therefore arises from the type of questions the reader is asked.
  • The moment the reader of a book reads a question, their attention shifts from the book to their life.
  • Through questions and different draft answers, the readers learn that there can be different points of view and degrees of their problem.

How to recognize the characteristics and benefits of professionally written self-help literature

You can recognize professional self-help literature e.g. B. on the following properties:

  • Manageable amounts of text, because a thick book can be a negative intervention just by its size and weight. “If I have to read so much to solve my problem, then my problem is sure to be a difficult one.”
  • Professional, appreciative writing style. The readers realize that the author treats you with respect: respect also for the attempted solutions that have failed
  • Mention of the author’s education and professional experience
  • Expressive illustrations: Images address the areas in the brain that are below the rational, judgmental consciousness. An example that could even work without a real picture, if you imagine it: the sketch of a brain that lies like an iceberg in the sea. The seeing and supposedly knowing cerebral cortex protrudes from the water. The brain stem and midbrain are under water. The areas under the water can be reached by diving down to them. Nobody speaks or argues in this area. Gestures and images are in charge here.
  • Questions about the effects if you as a reader z. B. presents a situation A or B and how a change would affect him (here a psychosomatic reaction can often be observed in the counseling, e.g. taking a deep breath or relaxing the facial muscles
  • Invitation to a meta perspective: Imagine climbing a small ladder and looking at your life from this elevated point of view. How do you see yourself How do you see the people with whom you have a relationship: in private life, in work …?
  • Reference to evidence on proposed interventions. An author’s personal opinion is not enough to propose a useful change to an audience seeking advice
  • The reference to real counseling situations and to studies on a topic and the interactions of change can strengthen the readers’ trust in the book
    Quotes from demonstrably successful self-help literature show that the author also has confidence in his fellow authors. This frees you from the suspicion of a claim to sole interpretive sovereignty.

Summary of self-help literature

Professionally written books on the topics of self-help, life support and coping with everyday life can provide valuable relief in difficult life situations.

It is crucial for the quality of written self-help offers to get the readers into an active thought process and to weigh up alternatives.
You should develop an appropriate expectation of yourself, learn to think realistically, treat yourself with respect and empathy.
Realistic thinking by no means means limiting thinking, on the contrary. Anyone who agrees to maintain a diet change that has been proven to be effective for a few weeks is very likely to experience a desired change. The promise of an effortless miracle diet for three days is more likely to lead to disappointment.
There are limits on the physical level for the miracle diet with food. There are also rules for a miracle diet on a mental level. Long-established habits usually need some time to change in a stable manner.

Pragmatic, simple, evidence-based self-help literature can be of great help to many people. A good book can also lead to the realization that a reader should sit down with a person to discuss their situation in a professional manner.

With this type of self-help literature, readers can get out of their problematic cycle and look at their life situation from the outside

The minimal change in perspective is in many cases a great step forward on the way to a good handling of phenomena. With the abandonment of the exclusive idea that a supposed problem must be solved and deleted.

The radical solution orientation “Use this book to solve all your problems once and for all” is linked to the idea of ​​an end. Many people come to counseling with the idea of ​​ending or switching off so-called symptoms (fear, circling thoughts, sadness, etc.). This absolutism is often the first to create problems. Rigid solution thinking can lead to permanent problem stabilization.

Active, conscious ambivalence, on the other hand, often leads to a new, relaxed approach to problematic situations.

Professional self-help literature opens the mind, it gets people’s thoughts and feelings in motion, arouses creativity and ensures positive restlessness and impatience, a confident departure to the decision to start the change now and always remain true to it, day after day.