Is self-help helping?

Aug 03 2012 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

Who among us has not been on some type of self-help journey at one point or another? Who among us bemoans the fact we're not experiencing inner peace, balance or harmony in our lives - or that we can't seem to bring about the change and transformation we're seeking?

Why self-help doesn't help

Many of us will be familiar with the nagging feeling which says, "heck, the more I read, attend lectures, seminars and workshops, meditate and chant, pray and say affirmations, the less I seem to be getting anywhere."? What's operating here?

The problem is that much of what is considered to be "self-help" doesn't result in any real change or transformation. By that I mean the type of change that sees the 'old you' die and a 'new you' born, that means you're not the person you used to be, that people you used to know wouldn't recognize who you are now

Positive thinking, affirmations, willpower, chants, praying, meditating and reading seldom leads to this sort of profound change. That's because most of what passes for self-help goes no deeper than engaging your mind and (in this case, your spiritual) ego. But real transformation requires a conscious connection with your higher self, not just your intellect – it can't be realized by thinking and doing alone. It requires the work on a deeper level that you experience when dealing with your unconscious and with the darker forces within you.

Self-awareness is the key

Self-awareness is the key building block of real change. Self-awareness - and a conscious understanding of who and how you - are forms the basis of becoming "conscious".

Critically, becoming conscious is not about rationally exploring who you are. Rather, it's about "not knowing" who you are. It's about turning inward and exploring yourself from the deeper recesses and dimensions of your being, from the perspective of your unconscious self.

Paradoxically, self-awareness can only arise from an exploration of what you don't know about yourself.

The truth is you're more often influenced by what you are unaware of (in yourself) than what you are aware of. True change and transformation cannot evolve from "playing it safe" dealing only with the parts of yourself that you know, or feel safe or comfortable with.

Deeper questions lead to self-awareness

Do you ever dream about people you dislike or with whom you have a contentious relationship? Do you ever wonder why you take an immediate dislike to someone you've never met? Do you ever think about rash judgments you make about people, places, events or circumstances? Do you ever wonder why people trigger your control, recognition or security buttons?

The "rational" person, of course, has all the answers and reasons why. But rather than trying explain these feelings by rationalizing them, if you begin to appreciate what's operating in your unconscious you can start to understand why you are the way you are.

Often, doing this will reveal the uncomfortable, fearful, resistant or angry parts of yourself that exist on an unconscious level – parts that need to be explored, and worked with, (not suppressed, repressed or denied) if you choose to truly change and transform.


  • Do you consider yourself a "self-help junkie?" If so, how is this working for you? Are you behaving differently? What would those around you say? Honestly.
  • Do you explore your emotions and your darker side? If not, why not?
  • To whom or what are you strongly attracted? What aspects of your subconscious might account for this?
  • Do you feel a strong prejudices or hatred towards someone or something? What might account for this?
  • Do you ever explore your dreams?
  • Is your experience with self-help more about "information" than behaving differently?
  • How much do you spend on "self-help" a year?
  • How often do you engage in deep self-reflection (not thinking) exploring not "the way I am" but "why am I the way I am?"


For example, if you become curious about why you need to soothe your anxieties by shopping, eating, drinking or controlling, you may discover that part of you is an insecure child within who feels abandoned, lost or ignored and is searching for safety and security in materialism.

Rationally, many will agree (based on the "self-help" stuff they've read or heard), that materialism represents "comfort food" when deeper love, appreciation, or acknowledgement is lacking. But many of these same folks are reluctant to go deeper to explore "why?". They can't or won't tolerate exploring the unconscious addictions that drive them to behave in ways that bring them a false sense of comfort or ways that help them avoid or deny their feelings.

It's all about the truth

Real self-help is not about dancing around the truth of who you are – with all your fears and the discordant music playing within. It's about trusting your Innate Intelligence to deal with what's really "up" with you. That means being open to, aware of and reflective about your subconscious self when your behaviors, thoughts, words and emotions are triggered in your daily life.

When you approach your life with curiosity, without judgment and welcome the truth of your unconscious, you embark on the journey to wholeness and begin to discover who you are in the greater context of healing yourself. This is the real self-help journey of change and transformation.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.