Self help and happiness

I was chatting with someone for about 2 minutes the other day about settling in life and on happiness in life. He brought up the fact that his mother had just read a book I am sure you all are familiar with called The Secret.  I have never read the book but I do know that it references the “Law of Attraction” principle in that feelings and thoughts, may they be positive or negative, can attract events, feelings, and experiences as they affect one’s life, or in other words, your inner thoughts affect your outer emotions and therefore your physical world. Easy enough right? He went on further to say to me as he walked out of the room looking me dead in the eye, “It’s so ridiculous and so obvious, why does anyone need to read a book to know that?” (Normally I would have punched a person in the face for saying something like that but the analytical Kara took it as a blessing because it presented to me as a thought experiment and consequentially something to write about).

Ironically enough and something this person may or may not realize is that we don’t necessarily need to read a book to know that, but we want to. And you might ask, why? Why do we feel the need to read self-help books? Why are influential speakers like Anthony Robbins so popular? Why did I fall in love with Brene Brown after listening to her TED Talk on vulnerability? And then there is Eckhart Tolle. So why have self-help books and speakers amassed millions of dollars? According to this person I spoke with, we don’t need these external sources to know about happiness and positive thought and the search for help and meaning in our lives. But I challenge his theory, as I shall call it, because of one reason, the answer to why. People don’t ask that question enough.

Human connection. We as humans want and need a connection to someone or something. We all have struggles and we all have happiness in some way shape or form but to read about it outside of our own mind ignites something within us as humans; it ignites that connection and it comforts our soul, heart and mind because we now know that we are not the only ones suffering or as may it be, not suffering. Someone else has taken the time to put into words what we feel we cannot and that is the hardest thing to do; to put into words exactly what you are feeling and then to understand what you are feeling. So we attempt to create a connection to something greater than ourselves by reading something outside of ourselves. Now I write like a fiend so I believe that I am pretty good at putting my thoughts into words and I am in a pretty positive place in my life right now but even I feel the need to read self-help books as it inspires my own thoughts and therefore my writing. It keeps me on track.

In my desire to read more about real life struggles, I am currently reading a memoir by Laura Munson.

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This book has been sitting in my bookshelf with my other hundreds of books gone unread for longer than I care to admit. But something recently drew me to it and I am obsessed. It is about her struggles within herself during her potential divorce which I cannot relate to but what I can relate to is the reason I was hooked from the first page. And that reason to relate comes in the form of the possibility of losing someone you love and the roller coaster of emotions that ensue.

Laura (I’m going to pretend we are on a first name basis) talks about finding happiness within, about not fighting what she cannot control, not letting it ruin her inner being and therefore her life, about going to Italy and essentially having a rebirth into the younger version of herself when she did feel happiness and freedom from within. The manner in which she approaches her husband when he has nothing but hurtful words for her is truly inspiring. Her writing is epically (yes, epically) transparent. I feel what she feels. I get giddy every time I open the book to read more. She gives me something to relate to, she allows me to step in to some of the inner workings of her mind and I LOVE the mind and all that goes on inside of it.

The last few months have provided me with amazing growth within myself as a person, and as a woman. The things I believe in, the things I have realized about myself and about who I am, the challenges I have faced, the things I have overcome. I have always known that I needed to find happiness within myself as I had always depended on external sources for it but I didn’t know how. Those external sources over the years have been taken away and it left me with a feeling of emptiness and despair that I could not handle. It pained me. My most recent relationship was the trigger to finally step out of my own way and my own unhappiness to find what truly makes me happy and if you have been following my blog, you probably know by now what that is. When we broke up I was empty and defeated. Where was my happiness? Who was going to provide for me the happiness he did bring me at times? How am I going to be happy without him?

The other day my therapist asked me why I like it when people read my blog. The answer is simple and is the same answer I have already touched on. Human connection. Or rather the human condition. I didn’t have a legitimate definition for the human condition other than the search for meaning and connection to others, so I thought I’d peek at Wikipedia.

“It includes concerns such as the meaning of life, the search for gratification, the sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, or awareness regarding the inescapability of death. The existentialist psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom has identified what he refers to as the four “givens” or ultimate concerns of human existence – concerns with meaning, loneliness, freedom and mortality.”

Meaning, loneliness, freedom and mortality. Loneliness is huge. No one wants to be lonely. So we reach for something to bring us out of it until we can bring our own self out of it. I write in my journal and one day plan to publish parts of it just as Laura has done because I believe that it can help inspire people. My therapist was spot on with asking me why I desire so much for people to read it. Just as much as I feel they are connecting with me, I am connecting with them. It’s that Ah-ha moment we have, that light bulb that goes off in our heads that makes us say, “oh yes, this is exactly what I am feeling and this is how this person presented it to the world and how this person dealt with it on their own.” It inspires me, makes my bones tingle, ignites my soul, puts a smile on my face, allows me to know I am not alone, that others are not alone. I want people to feel the happiness I have learned to feel over the last few months. It is such an amazing emotion to feel that took me so long to figure out. I want people to read my blog because I want to share my struggles and my accomplishments at overcoming those struggles and that if I turned out okay, they will too. I want people to read my blog so they share their experiences and accomplishments with me.

Case in point, my Beat That Bulge blog about my eating disorder. I received many responses to that post simply because it is a hard topic to talk about that many people struggle with yet it is kept hush hush. I am far along on my journey with recovering from my eating disorder but there are others that are not. They look at me now and are shocked to hear I had an eating disorder and how it affected me throughout the last 6 years. The negativity that overcame me about my body was truly destructive. But now, thanks to amazing therapists, friends, family and many realizations about myself and the world around me, I am positive about my outlook on life. Many people were proud of me for being so honest about it and working towards overcoming it and that makes me proud to share it.

The responses inspired me and touched my soul. I want to to help. That’s it. Help people and help myself. I often find myself reading back through my blogs and my journal so to inspire myself and to remember what I went through and what coping skills I used to carry on when I felt I no longer could. For me, my writing is not a read one time ordeal. For me, my writing is my own self-help that I read over and over again. And I want and need that to survive.

We as humans need to read books that point out the obvious because for some of us, it is not so obvious. We feel so trapped in our own negativity that we simply need a kick in the ass to get out of it. And for others, it is obvious but we need a reminder that what we think of ourselves projects into our soul, onto our faces, into our body language and into our physical world. When something affects our soul, it affects the energy we present to this world. And that energy can change make things happen, positive or negative.

So I end this post with a quote by Napolean Hill…

“What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”

If you can’t create a positive life on your own, take a moment to read about another’s struggles and accomplishments. Take a moment to read The Secret or to read Laura Munson’s book (or any self-help book for that matter) to truly know that what you put in to your own mind and soul is what you put out to the world.

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