The Self Help boom & the Happiness Cult
In Sunday’s Observer, journalist Carole Cadwalladr, discussed the increase in the huge profiting market of selling happiness: the world of self-help. Self help books used to be something my dad talked about in the early 90s that made me think he was a little strange and that it was just a way to fake his real self.
Yet in some ways I have become to realise that there is some good in enabling people to self administer happiness much like how self medication has become more and more common with the help of the internet. Whether that actually increases paranoia and hypochondria is another matter.
Creating The FATE Institute, a fictitious personalised futures institute was a comment in some ways on the way we all want to have someone/something/somewhere to believe in and have the answers and know more about us than ourselves. For there to be someway to control and manage the unknown and know how to get what we want out of life using techniques, methods and knowledge from the diverse fields of ancient divination, corporate forecasting and personal genomics & genetic futures.
This Observer article describes how this common feeling we have has created an opportunity for psychologists, counsellors, hypnotherapists and entrepreneurs to use their skills and speak to a wider audience by creating their brand empire with books, weekend courses, DVDs etc and in doing so turn self help into a huge money making genre.
Self help means investing time and money to listen to a 3rd party agency describe our potential risks in the future and then explore ways to control it to essentially make us feel happy in the now. We will join societies, buy memberships, read the horoscope, hire foresight consultancies and futurists, read horizon scanning reports, subscribe to predictive gene testing services, listen to counsellors,
This article also reminded me of Adam Curtis‘s doc, The Century of The Self and the way Edward Bernays applied Sigmund Freud’s understanding of the subconscious to create the practice of public relations. Finding ways to understand and explore the self and introduce techniques to persuade and encourage consumption and self obsession. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.
See also The World of Happiness post