Why we shouldn’t have a self-help movement

Lynne McTaggart

I’m having major doubts about the benefits of self-help after observing the effects on the people in Power of Eight® groups who don’t intend for themselves but intend for someone else in the group.

For a long time, I puzzled about the healing effects of the Intention Experiments and Power of Eight® groups and why participants doing the sending would overcome long-standing conditions of their own until I came across perhaps the most compelling piece of research of all.
The unhealthy effects of the good life
It had been carried out by psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who wanted to examine the difference in likely future health between healthy people who live a fulfilling life of pleasure—what we’d normally define as the good life—compared to those who live a life of purpose or meaning.
The researchers examined the gene expressions and psychological states of 80 healthy volunteers in both groups. Although the members of the two groups had many emotional similarities and all claimed to be highly content and not depressed, their gene expression profile couldn’t have been more divergent.
Among the pleasure seekers, the psychologists were amazed to discover high levels of inflammation, considered a marker for degenerative illnesses, and lower levels of gene expression involved in antibody synthesis, the body’s response to outside attack.
If you hadn’t known their histories, you would have concluded that these were the gene profiles of people exposed to a great deal of adversity or in the midst of difficult life crises: a low socioeconomic status, social isolation, diagnosis with a life-threatening disease, a recent bereavement.
These people were all perfect candidates for a heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, even cancer. In a few years, they would be dropping like flies.
Those whose lives were not as affluent or stress-free but were purposeful and filled with meaning, on the other hand, had low inflammatory markers and a down regulation of stress-related gene expression, both indicative of rude good health.
If you have to choose one path over the other, the researchers concluded, choosing a life of meaning over one just chasing pleasure is undeniably better for your health.
The rebound power of helping
This all sounds counterintuitive to us in the West, with our emphasis on material success at any cost, but it has to do with what exactly constitutes “meaning” in our lives, and the best way to gauge that is what ultimately helps ill people get better—the one aspect of life that will turn around a serious illness.
Scientists from Boston College discovered this when trying to figure out why patients suffering from chronic pain and depression markedly improved in both disability and mood once they began helping others in the same boat.
As they repeatedly noted to the researchers, it was all about “making a connection” and being provided with “a sense of purpose.” Our need to help other people is perhaps the one element that gives our life the greatest meaning.
This research has led me toward a heretical thought. Maybe the endpoint of the “I want, I get” good-life scenario promoted as ‘the power of intention’ is that it ultimately kills you. I want, I get—I get sick.
The key to a long and healthy life is living a life that concerns itself with a meaning beyond satisfying the needs of number one.
I’ve now considered how dangerous some tenets of the “self-help” movement might ultimately be. All that focus on the self could ultimately be terrible for your health, and highly unnecessary.
The quickest route to rewriting your own life’s script was simply reaching out to someone else. And if that is true, the entire New Age premise of intention—using the universe as essentially a restaurant with you the customer ordering whatever dinner you happen to fancy—was wrong.
Getting what you wanted in your own life started with the readiness to give.
As my husband once wrote, Jean-Paul Sartre was mistaken. Hell is not other people. Hell is thinking there are other people.
Bryan was talking about the fact we are simply a single consciousness and the falsity of thinking that we are separate. I would just add a little coda. In seeing yourself in the other, in joining together as one, other people, it turns out—particularly a small group of them praying with you—are your salvation.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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8 comments on “Why we shouldn’t have a self-help movement”

  1. That means that Marx was right - capitalism erodes a meaningful life, for both the capitalists and the workers!
    But is it worth a revolution? That can get violent - are we past the point where it is possible?

  2. I'd say it's about balance...I have spent most of my life as a "helper" wanting to save, teach, coach, and make others lives better as I have up levelled my own life. But recently, in my 60s, my spiritual guidance says it is time to spend more time on my own self-care...and rest and relaxation doing what gives me joy...painting and swimming and golf...this is not something I find easy and as part of my Power of 8 group I thrive on my role of sending intentions and bonding in love with my group...and it's becoming part of my learning to RECEIVE and let them focus on me when it's my turn (last time I offered up my place to a member of my family I felt needed the blessing of my session rather than me!!). I was a mother, wife and householder for so many years and have until recently still seen my self as helping my grown children with all my heart. But circumstances showed me to STOP and pause and refocus on my physical body. So maybe it's different stages of our soul journey that we need to be altruistic and other times to play

  3. Always good to hear your research and thank you for so generously sharing your purpose of helping us help each other, as One! Namaste

  4. I have two forms of cancer and have experienced healing spirituality and emotionally while having the greatest compassion for others. With pleasure I speak with people with great love. I will keep up this loving experience as it makes me feel happy and truly grateful.

    1. Hi Ann, thanks for being in touch. If you would like to be nominated for our intention of the week, please send over your full name/ age/ location/ photograph and short description of health issue to Laura (laura@wddty.co.uk).

  5. Lynne this is a fabulous analysis of why not to be self-centered. Once we get over ourselves and live a life of purpose and servitude, it impacts our emotional well-being and health with positive repercussions. Thank you Lynne and Bryan!!

  6. Lynne,excellent article and for me so true! My question to you...considering ones's personality type...of which I believe there are 7.....helping, advising could be crucial, eg type 2 personality, thrives on helping and advising, and must refrain from this?

  7. The whole dilemma relating to separation and oneness of us all is beautifully covered in The Course of Miracles by Helen Schucman and William Thetford. Separation is an illusion.

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