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Lost in the Self-Help Section

December 21, 2014 by Diane


Stacks of books

I spent an afternoon in the self-help section in the library, searching for a fix for whatever was broken inside me, and I got lost. I got lost in books that offered advice on how-to, and why-not, and what-if. I got lost in books about how someone’s cat or dog or horse helped them overcome whatever it was they overcame. I got lost in the channeled texts and the autobiographies and the manifestation manuals; in the advice from Buddhists and Hindus and Christians and Athiests; in books on mindfulness and compassion and stress relief and figuring out one’s purpose. And if that weren’t enough, I then wandered over to the creativity section, to the books on how to plot and revise and overcome writer’s block and open the mind and dump out the contents.

I gorged on all of this information. I pigged out. I greedily sucked it up. And like the dry soil in California that is suddenly inundated with rain, I couldn’t take anymore in. Like the soggy earth that bleeds water, I needed to find a metaphorical leech to release some of the pressure.

But I kept grazing. In a bookstore.

I’m a book buyer, after all. The books come to me.

I continued to stuff in every crumb of wisdom from people other than myself, and then I wondered how I could stuff some of my wisdom into other people; add to the mass of information that’s already out there in the world. I wondered how I could help others through my blogging.

So I gorged some more. On the internet.

I visited blogs about blogging, and blogs about gaining followers, and blogs about the proper way to tweet, and finally, finally…I couldn’t take in another word. I couldn’t open another book. I couldn’t click on another email about how to (fill in the blank). I couldn’t read another tweet directing me to another self-help site.

I needed to back away from the table and put down my fork.

I lost myself in the voices of others. I had shut out the puny voice within me that was shouting, “Hey!” and “Yoo-hoo!” and “Listen up!” I had forgotten: what did Dorothy and her gang learn from the wizard? Whatever we are seeking is already inside us, in that place called “home.”

So my advice, if the world needs another piece of advice, is this:

Go home.

It’s fine to look for answers elsewhere–from books, television shows, your mother, your best friend, your spouse, your significant other, your minister, your therapist, your doctor, the stranger on the bus bench. It’s fine…up to a point. But eventually, you need to go home.

However you get there–via a stroll on the beach, a walk in the woods, in an empty church; on a meditation bench or couch cushion or the back of your father’s pickup truck–make a point of spending time in that still, quiet place within.

Ask your questions.

And then listen.

The answer might not come immediately, but keep checking in and eventually you’ll get that twinge, that shot of instinct, that certainty, that knowing. It was there, all along. Sometimes we don’t trust it. We need validation from outside. That’s okay too. That’s what other people are for; and books.

But if you’re among the lost souls in the self-help section, look up. It’s called self-help. Go home.


  1. Charli Mills says:

    Go home! Yes, I’d agree with that. I think it is what we are ultimately looking for.

  2. Joan says:

    Wow! You’ve been busy!!! You came away with some great insight, though!

  3. Michael says:

    Just as an aside, I recently encountered a book on How to Get a Divorce in the Self Improvement Section. ~ @unrefuted

    • Diane says:

      Is there any better way to improve one’s self than to get a divorce? Yikes. I’d hate to see that book lying around on the coffee table if I was married.

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