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Assessing Your Self-Help Needs
Self Help is itself a broad category from which to choose resources for your personal benefit. It is wise to assess yourself first, in terms of "needs" and/or "problems" to be solved. Because as you work through this process you will find that more than one Online Resource may fit the bill. Then you are in the unsavory position of having to test a number of things to see what works best.
Now this isn't a bad thing all by itself. Life after all is a sequence of trial and error, followed by trial and success and so on. You're going to hit the jackpot sooner or later, so eventually you'll get what you need. Ideally of course, you want to get your needs met sooner, rather than later.
This brings us to our first important distinction in this assessment process. To keep things simple we are going to identify two broad categories in the pursuit of self-help. These we will call: 1) Categories of Distress; and 2) Categories of Achievement. Under categories of distress we may find symptom problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, negative thinking and so on. These are the types of symptoms or problems that consistently have an adverse effect on your sense of well-being. We can sum these up as "Negatives we want to get away from or eliminate.
Under "categories of achievement" we may find personal growth, self-improvement, positive thinking, goal setting, success conditioning and so on. All of these "targets" or "goals" tend to have a positive effect on our sense of well-being. We can sum these up as "Positives that we want to embrace. So our two broad categories are: "Distress," which we want to move away from and: "Achievement, which we want to move toward. This is our beginning point. Your problem area or achievement goal will fall under one of these two.
Now, is it likely that you will have more than one problem area to deal with, or more than one achievement goal to pursue? The answer, of course, is quite likely. But before you begin feeling overwhelmed, consider the following. As an example, under Categories of Distress, you may be experiencing anxiety and low self-esteem. Which do you tackle first? Or, do you tackle both of them at the same time? The answer is: you tackle the one that troubles you the most, because the other one will quite likely be beneficially affected as well.
Think about this for a minute. If you learn to effectively reduce your anxiety you will likely also experience a positive increase in self-esteem. Conversely, if low self-esteem is the dominant issue, then improving your self-esteem will likely reduce your anxiety. In either case, the lesser problem will be positively affected. That doesn' t mean it will not need focussed attention of its own. But as the dominant problem recedes, the next one needing most of your attention, will step up to the plate. This may sound like simplified psychology, but it is what 25 years as a therapist has shown me.
Let's move over to "Categories of Achievement" and see if this may be true here also. Suppose our goals are to increase "Positive Thinking" and apply some "Success Conditioning" to our work attitude. Well, we can still make the same choice. Which of these goals do we most desire at this particular time, given our current stage of development? You can be assured that whichever goal you choose, the other will be positively affected as well. After which, that secondary goal may now press for attention, or some other as yet unseen goal could materialize. You can't see what's around the corner, until - you actually turn the corner!
Now for some of you, all of this may seem rather straightforward; others of you may be feeling overhwelmed again. So it's time to make another important distinction. Just as we've identified two broad categories of Self-Help requirements, I must now distinguish between two broad categories of "Persons seeking Self-Help." Category 1, will be those persons who have done some work on themselves and have a sense of what "problems" or "goals" they want to deal with NEXT. Category 2 belongs to your basic "Newbie" who has little or no experience in seeking self-help and/or doesn't trust their ability to make good choices for themselves.
We can readily see that these 2 groups are radically different, but only on the experience scale. Their goals, and/or problems to be solved, are part of their desire to "improve" their lives and their sense of "effectiveness." On these points, they are the same as category 1 individuals, who also want to improve their lives. So the fundamental question for both groups at this point is essentially the same: "Where do I start?" And the answer for both groups is also the same: "Start from where you are right now!"
Let me explain. If you are a newbie, then look for resources and programs that have "newbie" written all over them and address your current "main" problem or goal. For example, if that's anxiety, phobias, or low self-esteem then pick a program, book(s) or audio course that addresses the dominant concern. On the other hand, if you've been at this personal development thing for a while, then trust that your instincts will take you where you need to go next. The most pressing need or desire, for persons in either of these groups, will make its way to the front of the line. That's just the way we are built!
Maurice Turmel has a PHD in Counseling Psychology and was a practicing therapist for nearly 25 years. Self-Help issues are dealt with regularly in his monthly Ezine "The Self-Help Advisor." Dr. Turmel likes to use parable stories to illustrate important points. He has authored 3 books and is also a performing songwriter. He can be reached through his Website at: http://www.mauriceturmel.com
Illustration by Kevin Van Aelst for The Chronicle Review - Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription)
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