Rebecca Davis just released her latest book “Self-Helpless”, here’s what you can expect
I knew I’d like Rebecca Davis’s latest book Self-Helpless when I read the excerpt on the back. So much for not judging a book by it’s cover. Truth is, eight times out of ten I’m usually right about my first impression, the other two I’m either pleasantly surprised or unpleasantly disappointed.
This time I was right. It was good, really good. According to her current pinned tweet it’s funny. It is, I literally laughed out loud at numerous points. When it comes to wellness trends and ideas, I like to think I’m open minded and will try almost anything; and while there are things she tried that I too have ventured a toe into (floating pods, check; meditation, check; exercise, most definitely check); there’s others that I wouldn’t go near and some I had never heard of. She tried some crazy things (but you’ll have to read the book to find out). It’s funny, while being relatable and honest. Rebecca has a knack for throwing in truth encased in humor, penning what we’re all thinking. Like her observation of minimalists living in perfect houses, with curated art collections and bespoke shirts. It touches on issues in the world we live in, the money-making machine that has become wellness, social media, a self-help industry focused on self and the search to live a better life and connect.
If you’ve hopped on one too many wellness trends, have a notable collection of self-help books or just looking for an entertaining read, I’d tell you to find your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Self-Helpless (preferably paying for it on your way out).
But before you do that, I asked Rebecca Davis a few questions on her book “Self-Helpless”, her answers are below. We’re also giving away 3 copies of “Self-Helpless” to 3 readers, entry details below.
How did you choose the things you tried? Did you have limits as to what you wouldn’t do or were you more or less open to anything?
I was open to pretty much any experience, with a few constraints and personal caveats. The constraints were logistical: firstly, that it obviously had to be something available in South Africa. There’s a bunch of stuff overseas that hasn’t reached here (yet – no doubt they’re on their way): from the Japanese swaddling therapy (Otonomaki) I mention briefly in the book, to “sound baths” and pretty much everything endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow.
Secondly, it had to be something I could actually arrange to do. For instance, I was keen to try fire-walking, but I couldn’t find anywhere offering it to individuals rather than as part of a (weird) corporate day out.
Thirdly, there’s probably loads of stuff out there that I just never became aware of – so I was also obviously constrained by my own ignorance 🙂
And then more personal caveats – I didn’t want to do anything too creepy (eg nudity with strangers) or too physically brutal. I was asked a couple of times by friends when I was going to do ayahuasca, but after watching an episode of Chelsea Handler’s show where she and her friends did it and just spent a whole night vomiting and crying, I wussed out.
I also didn’t want too much repetition of similar kinds of experiences – so I thought one drug chapter was enough, for instance.
To be honest, I also looked for experiences which were likely to make for good writing fodder. Some stuff just doesn’t. I went for a tarot reading, but didn’t include it in the book because, frankly, it was too boring. Ditto for keeping a gratitude journal, even though I actually found it quite effective.
What was the biggest lesson you got out of your year that has made an impact on where you’re at today?
That’s a difficult one. I think I was reminded – because I sort of knew this before, but was taught it more forcefully – that mental health requires as much attention and maintenance as physical health. I went in with an attitude of kind of default cynicism, but by the end of it I really found far less to scoff at than I thought. Ultimately everyone I dealt with was trying to find a way to live in a healthy and happy way – and even if their methods were unorthodox, I admired the fact that they were being proactive about it.
What was the most life changing experience you tried and why?
People keep asking me this, and I keep saying “you’ll have to read the book”! But given that you have read the book, I’ll allow it. It depends how you define “life-changing”. If you mean it in the sense of “something that irrevocably scarred me”, it would be either taking magic mushrooms or attending a sweat lodge.
In terms of something that was transformative in a positive way: as I write in the book, I was really not expecting to find meditation as effective as I did. And, to be honest, exercise! It’s such a boring one, but in my experience nothing affects my mental health as positively as exercise.
After a year researching and trying much of what the self help industry offers, what do you think is the biggest problem with it; and conversely what do you think is the biggest positive?
I think the biggest problem is probably the obsessive focus it places on ourselves. I just feel that we already live in an era of unchecked narcissism, and self-help is quite literally all about you: you are the problem and the solution all in one. And sometimes that’s just not true: sometimes the reason we aren’t rich or happy or successful isn’t because we’re not visualising our futures clearly enough, or whatever, but because there are very real external circumstances and social conditions messing with us.
I also think that certain forms of self-help, or wellness, run the risk of turning mental health or happiness into a kind of competitive sport: where if you’re not “being your best you” you’re failing in some way. I think that’s dangerous bullshit.
The biggest positive: I guess I think it’s generally a positive thing that the self-improvement or wellness industries offer alternatives to mainstream religion in terms of making meaning of life. I also found in some cases that they provide secular spaces of community – where people can come together to share experiences in a way that is clearly needed in our dislocated modern lives.
Self-Helpless by Rebecca Davis is published by Pan MacMillian and is available at various retailers and bookstores nationwide as well as online here
Win One of Three Copies of Self-Helpless by Rebecca Davis
To win answer the following question in the comments below
What’s the craziest wellness or self-help trend have you tried?
By entering this competition, you accept our t’s&c’s. Competition ends Thursday 20 September, 2018. Only valid for South African residents.
This competition is sponsored by Pan Macmillan, opinions are our own.
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Main image by Feige Lewin