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The self-help books that worked for me


MIND MATTERS: Changing our negative thought patterns is the key to inner happiness

MIND MATTERS: Changing our negative thought patterns is the key to inner happiness

Sue Conley

Sue Conley


MIND MATTERS: Changing our negative thought patterns is the key to inner happiness

There are many self-help tomes filling the bookshelves. here is a selection of some of them and when and how they can help you

E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality by Pam Grout

Hay House (2013) €18.75


American author Pam Grout has crafted an entertaining, easy-to-read, and even easier-to-do handbook about harnessing the power of the universe to create the life you desire.

Humourous and straightforward, she's building quite cleverly on the shoulders of giants in the field of quantum reality the like of Candace Pert and Lynne McTaggart. It helps that she's a regular person, like you and I, not a scientist who is trying to walk the fine line between conventional knowledge and the new age.

Basically, Grout explains that we are all connected to the field of possibility, a field that exists as a concept in both organised religion and physics; that we are the masters and mistresses of this field; and that there is no need to defer our wants and needs, because our thoughts and desires draw them into our life.

So all those repetitive thoughts about how crap life is? Yup, that's you creating a crap life for yourself. Changing your thought pattern is no easy thing, it really isn't – so Grout has created a series of experiments that readers undertake to prove to themselves that there's not so much 'something out there' as there is 'something in here', in you, that can draw down all your good.

As much work as I've done on myself (see below!), I still had a hard time with the concept that I could just think something and it would 'come true'. Like, where's my horse? I ask that, and immediately follow that thought with, 'Well, sure, I can manifest a horse, but how I am going to keep it?' So I've already blocked myself. Gotta manifest the massive bank account required for livery and vets and horseshoes and tack – and that seems so huge, I don't really believe that I can do that.

Right! So, I've done the first two experiments and they totally worked. They are simple, and have a time limit, and can be as silly or as serious as you like.

What I noticed was that I was noticing whether or not it was working, and in noticing, I paid attention, and in paying attention, I was in the 'now' moment, and in that moment, I became so aware that there was no way I was going to miss out on what I was asking for. This is pretty amazing, and again: it's hard to be in the now all the time, unless you keep practicing. I will let you know when I manifest my pony.

The best way to approach the much-maligned genre of self-help is to understand that reading a book is not the same as applying its principles. Most of the below require that you engage not only with the material, but also with yourself, your feelings, and aspects of your past. Always seek the help of a professional therapist or counsellor should you find you need the support. These are all five star books, and I've done 'em all.

You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L Hay

Hay House (1984) €15.70

THIS is the cornerstone of the genre, and the tome that inspires all the snark about the self-help industry. The naysayers have, in all likelihood, found several of the concepts cutting too close to the bone, eh? Hay is a proponent of affirmations, which are simple phrases that if repeated are purported to do what the book says on the cover. These are accompanied by exercises that ask you to look back on your life, but not to stare: that is, you work out the aspects of the past that are interfering with your present, and in turn impacting on your future. Hay's tone is gentle, loving, optimistic, and no-nonsense. A CD version of the main themes of this book got me through post-divorce life, and I will always be grateful to Louise.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Namaste (1997) €14.30

THIS book is not easy. The concepts can be elusive, simply because we are so unused to dwelling in the present moment. The challenge is that we require our minds to absorb the words; the mind and ego interfere endlessly even with this process, constantly creating distractions, invariably trying to wrest control away from the heart and soul. Tolle's gentle and easy way with the information is helpful, but it takes some doing to quiet the controlling part of the mind and allow the concepts in.

That Tolle is funny also helps immeasurably; this is the kind of book that you'll keep going back to, understanding what you can at the time, and returning when it's time for more.

Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential by Caroline Myss

Harmony (2003) €14.30

THE contracts of the title are the agreements that your soul makes for this incarnation. Not all contracts cover your entire existence, while some very much do. Myss is an intuitive healer and teacher, and uses the rich vocabulary of symbolism and metaphor to help readers work on understanding their life purpose. Her primary lexicon comes from the world of archetypes, collectively accepted unconscious patterns of behaviour, here embodied as mythical types like Queen, Vampire, Parent, Artist ... This is creative, frustrating, humbling and exhilarating work, and it's not the work of a minute: it took me the guts of three years, dipping in and out, to figure out my archetypes and do the exercises. Well worth it, though!

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melodie Beattie

Hazelden Foundation (1986) €19.50

ANOTHER classic of the genre, a timeless and unblinking look at the behaviours and tendencies of people who are, in most cases, involved with substance abusers and how they try to control those significant others and their abusive behaviours. Written with compassion and with a view to helping the caretakers take care of themselves, this is one of those books that won't work unless you work it. It is so worth it.

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

Penguin (1992) €21.45

A journey into your own creativity, the project requires a commitment to yourself in a daily, active way. Exercises, artist's dates, activities, and daily writing comprise one of the most enjoyable, emotional and invigorating ways in which I've ever undertaken to blast through blocks and procrastination. It may seem geared to writers, but artists, musicians, actors, dancers will find much to help them.