Anti-Guru Therapeutic Myth

I particularly enjoyed Oliver Burkeman’s column ‘This column will change your life’ in the Guardian. You can read the full article here.

Oliver draws attention to the incongruency that some people perceive in self-help guru’s not apparently following their own advice. One example being Scott Peck; “whose The Road Less Travelled counsels self-discipline and deferred gratification, was serially unfaithful to his wife, who then divorced him?”

I propose that the problem is the perception that it is possible to lead a ‘perfect’ life. How boring would that be to be honest? I’m personally far more convinced and moved by people who use their own vunerabilities as examples of ‘acceptance’ and lessons to learn from. Milton Erickson being a fine example of overcoming personal frailities to become an inspirational teacher and outstanding therapist. The wheelchair-bound Erickson who spend hours a day using self hypnosis to manage pain so that he could teach and see clients once said, “I like to find out what I can do, and enjoy doing it”.

What a better way to live a life. Finding out what you can do and enjoy doing it rather than modelling yourself on others who you perceive as better than you in some way. Nobody is perfect and we all have wisdom to share. It’s the reason that in the work I do I focus far more on creating a safe place to explore rather than being perceived as a clever trainer, coach or teacher.

I’ve tried it the other way round. No one actually learns when your the smartarse at the front of the room even though it may feel good at the time. It’s far more gratifying to see people learn for themselves and make permeanent changes that stick rather than rely on you for their feel-good top-up.

I’ll leave Oliver Burkeman to close this entry:

…but it needn’t mean all advice is worthless. The problem, surely, isn’t with self-help, but with attaching ourselves to gurus and believing all they say: the opposite of self-help. The best advice throws you back on yourself, leaving you in no doubt that the decision to pursue any course of action is always only your own, and the best advisers shun the role of guru. Here’s psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp: “It is as if I stand in the doorway of my office, waiting. The patient enters and takes a lunge at me, a desperate attempt to pull me into the fantasy of taking care of him. I step aside. The patient falls to the floor, disappointed and bewildered. Now he has a chance to get up and try something new… He may transform… his bid for safety into a reaching out for adventure.”

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