Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Self Help with a Sense of Humor

So, I was in Borders today, spending my post-Christmas madly turning gift cards into actual gifts, when I saw a new magazine -- Going Bonkers?. I conceded that maybe I was, so I sat down with my cold-brewed marble mocha to give it a read. (Oh, how I long for the days of the simple, yet elegant, mocha freeze!)
Going Bonkers? styles itself "the self-help magazine with a sense of humor." And it does have a sense of humor, too. It has New Yorker-style cartoons (one pictured a patient on a therapist's couch saying, "Actually, I just came here to lie down. I can't get any rest at home") and Reader's Digest-style reader-submitted jokes. You can submit your own at the Going Bonkers? site.
Oh, and there are self-help articles, too. The basic formula is that they lay out a common problem -- your kids are too demanding, you have low self-esteem, you have a crush on a friend -- and then give you some not-too-specific, common sense solutions. For instance, "The Radical Cure for Self-Deception" is, you guessed it, honesty.
Speaking of self-deception versus honesty, an excellent self-help book dealing with that topic is Martha Beck's Finding Your Own North Star. Its theme is letting go of the false, socially constructed self and the life it has built for you, in order to embrace the true self and the life you crave. It's also really funny. For instance, early on in the book, Beck is talking about encouraging people to quit jobs they hate, and she realizes that her readers might feel some resistance to this idea. So, in the voice of that resistance, she writes, "Thanks for sharing, Yoda, but I have a real life. I have to pay my rent. I have a cat to feed."
To see how she responds, you'll just have to read the rest of the book. I suspect that Martha Beck is a 3. Her body of work (including a wonderful memoir, Expecting Adam, about giving up a success-driven lifestyle in order to find bliss in raising a child with Down syndrome) pretty much constitutes a recovery manual for 3s (and anyone with type 3 issues).
Click here to read Beck's columns for O Magazine.

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