About How Self-Help Books kind of Piss Me off

I recently finished, in terms genre, quite a classical self-help book for smokers to help quitting – Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I had heard some good things about the book, so my expectations were probably higher than they should have been – it did have some good and valuable points, but these were coated in a very thick layer of bullshit and one had to maintain a high level of benefit of the doubt and good will to keep reading it. It was like trying to get drunk through your anus – it can be done, but it is not the best idea.

But as I said, I did like some of the core points of the book. The idea that quitting smoking ultimately depends on how we think of smoking and the whole process of quitting. If we think that quitting is very hard and that smoking is something really valuable to us – much of which is an illusion – then not smoking indeed will be hard and one probably will not succeed in that. But if we think of it as something fairly easy – which it just as well can be – and as something through which we are not giving up something too valuable (which indeed can be true), then it will be a piece of cake. It also helps a lot to be more aware of how the impulse to smoke, the addiction, works within us, what triggers it and how we rationalize it to ourselves. So, convince yourself that not smoking is easy and that you do not lose absolutely anything. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy – reinterpret smoking for yourself and so it will be.  

However, in addition to the rancid style of self-help books (not very intelligently written, appealing to your desperation and willingness to believe whatever kind of crap as long as there is a chance that it might help you), there are some other, more deeper issues I also have with the book. It paints you the picture that smoking is pure evil and not smoking is pure good, that the only choice that any person could ever make is to do everything in his or her power (and that includes not smoking) to live as long and as healthy a life as possible. Its message is that smoking is never a legitimate choice. Why not?

I believe that any person should have the choice to introduce a bit of misery into their lives and it is nobody’s business to be judgmental about it. Maybe the idea of smoking and everything that is or can be associated with that, even the things that are normally considered ‘bad’, goes better together with a sense of being in this world for some people than the sterile ‘let’s live happily forever after’ bullshit. Maybe there is something to be gained in the fairly mild struggle with addiction, some experiences that are worth having and that most smokers go through. Life and our existence, let alone the society and culture we live in, can be rather surreal, pathetic and delusional – maybe for some smoking with all its ‘evils’ is one of the ways to go through it, to fit in better, to be in sync with the world around them. 

So the bottom line for me still is that smoking and non-smoking should both be legitimate choices. If you want to smoke, smoke, but do it with a sense of awareness. Or quit, if you want to, because having that awareness can be much harder than quitting and not smoking. And whatever you do in this regard – don’t whine about how hard or bad or good it is. Just keep to you choices. 

Ah, and another thing – how the hell can I take this guy seriously in general when he has built a whole EASYWAY business around this and when much of the book to quit smoking is the promotion of that business. Apparently there is an EASYWAY to do anything (gambling, alcohol, eating…) and what he wants from you is to buy his books and visit his ‘clinics’ (a ‘seminar’ in a clinic in Estonia would cost EUR 220). It seems that he wants to make money more than he wants you to stop smoking.