The self-help industry is worth more than billions of dollars in the US alone. Books, tapes, DVDs, all claim to take your life from mediocrity to nirvana — promising inner and outer wealth! And who wouldn’t want those? The question is, to what extent do self-help resources help the seekers? What responsibility lies with the individual? And can too much investment in self-help actually cause you ‘real’ danger (and not just the danger of losing money and time in endless seminars and workshops).

The answer unfortunately is ‘yes’. Participants in a recent retreat in the US conducted by a teacher featured in the famous self-help documentary ‘The Secret’ paid $10,000 and got a little more nirvana than they bargained for! During a Sweat Lodge ceremony (a traditional American Indian ceremony to cleanse the body) three people died and 18 were injured. They could have left when things started getting hot but were egged-on psychologically by the teacher, so say the ‘survivors.’

Does that mean we label all of this as rubbish? The question bears a little more reflection.

Shujauddin who frequents a lot of these workshops says, “Some of us, unsatisfied with our lives become addicted to the buzz of self-help. Not finding any answers, we visit endless seminars of local as well as visiting ‘gurus’ to get a hint on how to improve our present state of being.

The search does reveal important tips, but after returning home we fail to practice them in our life due to work pressures, time-shortage or just our routine procrastination. Thus nothing happens. Seeking continues.”

Leon Menezes, an HR professional says on self-help addiction, “Those who are addicted really only wish to give the appearance of ‘doing something’ to improve themselves. There will always be a market for self-help. I was also one of those seeking help from the outside (I still do) but when I realised that all the resources are actually within me, the results started to flow.”

According to Sidra Zaidi, a London-based energy coach, recently in Karachi for a workshop, the solution is really very simple. Everything is about thoughts and energy, and if you can find a way to clear the energy and shift it to a new direction, your life will begin to flow and new experiences will show up in your reality. “It doesn’t really have to be complicated. You can do whatever works for you as long as you are feeling good about it — that is the acid test. What feels good, ends up giving good results. Be it any tool. So shop around and choose what calls out to you. Then practice it with your heart and soul.”

Her own system is the Energy Optimisation System (EOS). “It’s a combination of all the techniques I have learnt over the years. EOS helps a person optimise their energies by releasing everything that’s blocking it.”

The main technique is a tapping system based on the old Chinese system of acupuncture which works on the energy meridians to optimise the energies. “It’s simple. IDENTIFY the feeling, ACCEPT the message and RELEASE the energy! The benefit of self application — helping yourself, and others — gives people a sense of empowerment and responsibility and they don’t need any guru or therapist to heal them. They can actually do it themselves should they choose to and apply the tools. The tools work; it’s the application part most people miss out on!

“People should realise that the key element in personal growth is self-awareness and self-communication says Sidra. “Once you become aware of the issue, it’s half solved anyway. Most people don’t even know what the actual problem is — and go on course after course without knowing what they really are looking for.”

And what if you do everything and the results don’t come? How about God’s will? “Well” says Sidra, “my take on this question is God helps those who help themselves! It’s knowing that doing my best is what matters. When fear of failure creeps in remind yourself of the times when, in the past, things didn’t work out the way you planned yet it all worked out for the best. Tell yourself that even if things don’t work out there must be a good reason behind it which you will eventually discover.”

Hence, in conclusion, to make self-help really help the self, the keys are finding what calls out to your heart and then practicing it. Watch out for slick marketing that promises to take care of every financial, emotional and mental problem you may have — the sadhu baba promising to use jadoo to get the mehboob at your feet. Positive thinking doesn’t guarantee results but is surely the best shot.

As Leon sums it up, “Let me put it another way the best sportsmen in the world also need coaches. The talent and drive are internal while the external help is there to bring out the best.”

And if this is how we intend to use self-help then indeed we are on the right road to inner and outer success.

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